Over here we're watching them over there...

Andy Bell explains why our politicians will be keeping an eye on those Medicare reforms.

Over here we're watching them over there...

 

For twenty years British politicians have looked across the Atlantic for inspiration and guidance. New Labour went to the Clinton camp to find out how to reassure voters who might instinctively be suspicious of a centre-left party. And it was a pre-Iraq George W Bush who popularised the term "compassionate conservative", a label which David Cameron still applies to himself. This year's Presidential election is starting to throw up issues and dividing lines which may have lessons for politicians here. Take welfare reform. This has just been sharply defined by Mitt Romney's selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate. The young Congressman from Wisconsin has made his reputation through saying the unthinkable on social security and particularly Medicare. Ryan says Medicare, the system of publicly funded health insurance for the elderly, needs to be reformed. Specifically he says  it should be opened up so that private companies can provide health insurance alongside the Federal agency. The Obama camp are already making the most of this, warning that pensioners' entitlements are in danger. This could play particularly well for Democrats in Florida, the biggest swing state. But early signs are that the Romney-Ryan camp are going to go on the offensive, insisting that the current system of Medicare is heading for bankruptcy unless it's reformed.  This is precisely the message from the Conservative part of the coalition here, as exemplified by the reforms being championed by Iain Duncan Smith at the Department of Work and Pensions. Labour, after initially sounding supportive on reform, are increasingly trying to make the case that people will suffer through changes to the welfare system. So for instance they are resisting a nation-wide cap on the amount of benefits a household can receive. In America, the Republicans think they can win with a message that the best way to save social security entitlements is to reform them. Politicians on this side of the Atlantic will be watching.