It's early 2010 and Cameron is a worried man. That 22 point lead of last year has slipped away, slowly and inexorably until a poll or two show the two main parties with just a 1 or 2 point gap.
Not only is a majority looking less and less likely, but another Labour win is now a real possibility.
Only one thing will turn it around and at the start of a brand new year, Cameron plays the only card that might allow his party a shot at power. "I'll cut the deficit, not the NHS" he claims and promises to ring fence NHS spending. Focus groups have told him that Conservatives are still not trusted on this issue and unless he changes it, he won't win. There will be no "cuts to front line services" and there will be no "top down re-organisation."
If the public had forgotten everything else about '97, they still remembered the elderly patients dying on hospital trolleys through lack of beds, they remembered 18 month waits for surgery and Care in the Community. They remembered closed wards and leaky hospital roofs and endless cuts to trained staff.
Cameron spoke of his disabled son Ivan, who died the year before, to persuade even people like me that he understood the NHS, understood how vital it was, understood how much we rely on it and treasure it. He talked of the worry and fear and the great relief of knowing that the incredible NHS staff were there when his family needed it most. He staked his future on persuading us that he valued the NHS just as we do.
Today, False Economy and the Telegraph reveal that over 50,000 jobs will be lost in the NHS and that these jobs will include doctors, dentists, nurses, paramedics and other vital front-line staff. The headline will run all day on every channel. It will be seen by every cyber-campaigner. It will be run in every newspaper.
Andrew Lansley's "reforms" have already been a nightmare for Cameron - GPs are against it, consultants are against it, nurses, patients and hospitals are against it. The news has run in a loop ever since the true extent of his plans was revealed and most people believe the NHS is being privatised through the back door. With this scheme, the government has pitted itself against the NHS and has almost no allies to see its reform through.
Soon, people will be served an endless diet of dying babies in overstretched maternity wards, lengthening waiting lists, cancer patients dying before they are referred for treatment, hospital closures and horror stories about mistakes made by overstretched, exhausted staff. There will always be these stories when the NHS is squeezed and they're a deal breaker.
It won't matter what arguments they counter with, it won't matter how unjust the criticisms, this is the NHS and you attack it at your peril. To stake so much, to allow statements linking your appreciation to a dead child, to make promises about top down re-organisation and staffing levels that you had no intention of keeping is total and utter political suicide.
Trees and libraries and students all pale into insignificance when the NHS lumbers into view and politicians that haven't learnt this yet must have spent their lives living in a bubble. Sure, improve it's structures to make life easier for staff and patients alike, cut management and support jobs if you can be 100% sure that they will be the only jobs to go, but if the public even sniff a threat they will reject you.
Not only do the public sniff a threat, but the stench is getting so strong after just 10 months, that no-one can miss it. This NHS albatross will never leave Cameron now and if he's not careful, it will destroy any credibility that he won for his party on public services.