Published: 16/05/2002, Volume II2, No. 5805 Page 21

My friends in government always talk an optimistic game when discussing their reforms and the extra cash that will make them possible.

That is how it should be because optimism about the possibilities of bringing about change is one of the crucial ingredients that keep politicians going.

So it was no surprise that Yvette Cooper, the junior minister for Commons adjournment debates, rattled off statistics about extra cancer consultants since 1997 (560), extra costly MRI scanners (29), new computerised tomography scanners (81) and falling waiting times for treatment of this most anxiety-inducing ailment.