We've said it here before, and it won't go away. When trust fades, the effect is like dry rot. It creeps into corners of the infrastructure, including the politics of resource allocation with the NHS, and becomes very hard to drive out. It ceases to be a matter for Tony Blair alone.

We've said it here before, and it won't go away. When trust fades, the effect is like dry rot. It creeps into corners of the infrastructure, including the politics of resource allocation with the NHS, and becomes very hard to drive out. It ceases to be a matter for Tony Blair alone.

I have not been able to establish the truth of what follows, but the allegations remain.

It is a tale, all too familiar this summer, of deficits and ever-changing policy plans, of lost services, motorway congestion and the failure of NHS services in Hertfordshire to command an annual allocation of just£34m a year more than it actually does. Such a modest sum would solve the county's problems - at least it would according to local Conservative MPs.

This column has talked about Herts' problems before when Hemel Hempstead's new Tory MP, ex-firefighter Mike Penning (his skills came in handy when the Buncefield fuel depot caught fire in his patch), raged against the threat to the status of the town's popular acute hospital.

Those fears have come to pass. Most of Hemel's acute services have closed and been moved to Watford, which SW Herts's Tory member, David Gauke, calls 'a poorly designed site with outdated buildings and has very little capacity' - even though Mrs G gave birth to two children there, as did the other day the town's Labour MP, Clare Ward.

As non-locals who drive can confirm, the county contains some important arterial roads that clog up, the M25, the M1 and A1(M), the A41 and others. To add to MPs' alarm, Watford General Hospital is next to Vicarage Road football ground, whose team is to return to the Premiership this season.

Saracens also play rugby there. It is not always easily accessed, even with a blue flashing light.

A common complaint

All these are familiar problems from Land's End to the Pentland Firth, you may argue. Yes indeed. When health secretary Patricia Hewitt unveiled her plans to sort-of-revive community hospitals the other week, Herts MPs were there to say 'Hey, what about us?'. Red House and Potters Bar hospitals, to name but two, are losing beds to ease the budget crisis.

A few days later they staged a Commons debate to gang up on health minister Rosie Winterton. Here is where the trust issue raises its corrosive head.

Amid all the allegations of short-sightedness, of threats to mental health and sexual health budgets, of new plants closed and jobs lost, the lurking charge in this debate was bad faith.

Namely that the county's post-2005 election winners in the reconfigured plans turn out to be Watford and Stevenage. What do they have in common?

They elected the only two Labour MPs, Ms Ward and Barbara Follett, to survive the Tory revival in what is classic swing territory: Labour before 1979, Tory until 1997, now slipping back to blue as Labour lost three seats last time.

One such winner was Grant Shapps, a very sharp Tory, an entrepeneur, still only 37, who defeated health minister Melanie Johnson at Welwyn Hatfield by 5,946 votes on a hefty swing of 8.1 per cent. He claims to be one of very few Tories to take a Labour seat by campaigning on Labour's sacred issue, the NHS.

'I campaigned on what now seems a relatively trivial matter, the closure of the paediatric assessment unit at the Queen Elizabeth II in Welwyn. I was told it was scare-mongering, but one year later the day unit, A&E and maternity are now closed,' the MP told me.

Meanwhile a pre-election promise by then-health secretary John Reid to help Ms Johnson to build a£500m new hospital at Hatfield seems to be receding fast.

It was Tory ex-Cabinet minister Peter Lilley who called it 'a crisis of trust' in the Commons. But Mr Shapps is happy to go further and say it is down to 'raw politics,' decisions made for crude party advantage. He admits there is a structural deficit problem which has required regular dollops of extra cash to resolve, but says it is absurd to try and fix it as 'ludicrously' quickly as Ms Hewitt now demands.

Naturally the Hewitt camp denies a party political motive and say they have picked the best sites with the best long-term options. If Mr Shapps knew that Liz Kendall, Ms Hewitt's special adviser, was a Watford girl he might require hypertension pills.

Michael White is assistant editor (politics) ofThe Guardian.