Published: 18/08/2005, Volume II5, No. 5969 Page 10

One might expect The Daily Telegraph and The Times to come out all pens blazing over Royal College of Surgeons' president Dr Bernie Ribeiro's pitch for the NHS to move to a 'continental-style', insurance-based funding system. But surely not the Mirror, that voice of the traditional labourvoting working classes?

It seems one's presumptions about a newspaper's partisan values must be set aside during the August silly season, along with regular newspaper reporters.

Both the Sunday Mirror, which ran the story along with The Sunday Express and The Independent on Sunday after it was broken by The Times on Saturday, and its daily sister, threw their weight behind the calls.

'Labour hangs on to its belief that healthcare should be free for all at the point of delivery as an article of faith. But what was good, right and visionary in 1947 is now hopelessly out of date.' proclaimed the 'Voice of the Sunday Mirror'.

The Daily Mirror had Tony Parsons wrapping it all up in old Labour values, declaring that 'an NHS paid for by taxpayers is not working.

[Healthcare insurance would mean] the poorest pay nothing and the rest buy health insurance.' He added that having 'BUPA for all' seems 'fair and wise', finishing off with the provoking punchline that the 'first beneficiaries of the NHS: the men, women and children who endured the horrors of the second world war' were deserving, but, in short, modern Britons are not.

In case one was beginning to question whether the leftish papers know something about forthcoming health policy that we do not, The Sunday Express moved to quash such speculation. In an 'exclusive' interview, Patricia Hewitt insisted, as she has in almost every interview since becoming health secretary, that the government 'would never abandon the founding principles of the NHS by forcing patients to pay for treatment'.