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Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, who in 2008 famously said that recession can be good for us, today expanded his theory to include dying:

I’ve been reading up on the impact of fatal diseases on our health. And interestingly I’ve discovered, on many counts, dying can be good for us. People tend to smoke less, drink less alcohol, eat less rich food and spend less time doing dangerous things, like driving and shopping.

Fellow Conservative MP Kenneth Clarke disagreed with his cabinet colleague when he said:

Dying is not going to be good for anybody.

But furious Tory MPs and activists demanded Mr Clarke’s head. One Tory backbench MP said:

Ken Clarke is a persistent offender in undermining the Government and now he is openly undermining our policy on dying. The PM has to sack him.

Labour said the remarks showed the Health Secretary was “out of touch”.