Goats - and then there was one

Gordon Brown has received news of another blow to his leadership as Lord Darzi, one of the five non-political figures enobled and brought in shortly after he became leader of the Labour party in 2007 as part of his "government of all talents" (Goats), announced his intention to step down as Health Minister.

Lord Darzi's departure comes soon after that of Lord Malloch-Brown who was seen as one of the Prime Minister's closest allies yet delivered a stinging attack on Mr. Brown's policies - which he compared to those of Latin American nations - soon after quitting. Lord Carter also plans to go, and Lord Digby-Jones left last year, reducing the Goats to just one surviving member in Lord West, the Security and Counter-Terrorism Minister.

"As you know, I have maintained my busy clinical practice and research contributions during my time as a minister," he says. "The time has now come for me to return to care for my patients, lead my academic department, and continue my research on a full time basis." He will continue in an advisory position and Mr. Brown thanked him for his "outstanding contribution" to the Government.

However, there are suggestions that the decision was
not entirely amicable from both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley says: "This was surely coming for a long time. Ara Darzi's laudable focus on quality was increasingly at odds with the Brownite fixation with targets and command and control." LibDem health spokesman Norman Lamb is of a similar opinion. "Losing yet another minister will be a massive blow to Gordon Brown," he claims. "As a respected doctor, Darzi led the initiative on the NHS for Labour and questions must be asked on whether there is more to his resignation than meets the eye."

Perhaps if the Prime Minister fed his goats as generously as Boris Johnson feeds his chickens they'd stick around.

Niall Dickinson, who heads health think tank organisation the King's Fund, drew attention to what he called Lord Darzi's "personal commitment" to improving the British health services which, following his 2008 ten year NHS plan, have focussed on improving patient care and finding ways to cut costs without reducing quality. Dr. Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, also speaks of the Minister in glowing terms: "He [Lord Darzi] leaves a lasting legacy on the health service and it will be important to continue to focus on quality and safety and not to let financial pressures take centre-stage over the coming months and years."

As a
surgeon committed to his work, and as a minister who was committed to improving the NHS, many of us will be wondering if Norman Lamb is right in suspecting we're not being told every aspect of Lord Darzi's decision.

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