Coffee House

Miliband snipes, Cameron deflects, Bercow bobs

22 February 2012

3:59 PM

22 February 2012

3:59 PM

Let’s be honest. I shouldn’t say this but I can’t help it. I’m
fed up. The NHS reform process has been dragging on for months, and still there’s no end in sight. Ed Miliband brought it up at PMQs for the third week running.

The position remains the same. Miliband loves it. Cameron lives with it. The PM claimed that 8,200 GP practices are now practising his reforms and the Labour leader replied with a list of
professional bodies — nurses, doctors, midwives, radiologists — who oppose them. And that’s exactly the trouble, for me, at least. If the issue were a race-horse some crazy
campaigner would plunge beneath its thundering hooves. But it’s not. It’s a set of abbreviations. It’s a lot of indignant medics writing narky letters to newspapers. It’s
one series of acronyms being replaced by another. Here’s what I mean. Let’s try a snippet — just a short one, I promise — from today’s debate.

In Homerton hospital, in east London, said Mr Miliband, HIV care is currently commissioned by one organisation. Under the reforms it’ll be commissioned by three.

See my point? If you can turn that into a winning slogan you’re a political genius. All Miliband can manage is hoity-toity sniping. And for a man committed to fairness he’s far too good
at sounding superior.

[Alt-Text]


He called Cameron’s big NHS meeting on Monday an ‘emergency summit’ and he mocked the PM for claiming to listen to nurses and doctors while seemingly unable ‘to be in the
same room as them.’

Cameron didn’t correct Ed’s ‘emergency summit’ slur. Instead he said something calculated to enrage Labour voters. ‘Our NHS,’ he called it. That’s
blasphemy, of course, but it conceals a curious truth. As Cameron rattled off his NHS agenda — more choice, less bureaucracy, fewer managers and all that — he mentioned that Labour once
shared these goals too.

A weird policy-swap is in progress. Cameron is pursuing his opponents’ initiatives and his opponents are busy disavowing them. But Labour are enjoying the fight too much to admit that.

They can’t get enough of it. The bust-up casts them as rebels and outlaws. It revives cherished memories of their grandparents as street-fighters and heroes devoted to the common man and the
overthrow of the evil Tory establishment.

So they’ll keep the racket up for as long as they can. Not least because — amazingly — this issue has woken the Lib Dem rank-n-file from their slumbers. Those fearless militiamen
(and militia-women and militia-transgender individuals) are on the march. The grassroots are aflame. More Lib Dems have quit over the NHS reforms than flounced out over tuition fees. Most of them,
one assumes, are heading for Labour.

So whatever else Cameron is up to he’s certainly effecting a top-down re-organisation of his opponents’ movement. They haven’t looked so chipper since they flunked the last
election.

A bad day for the PM. And even worse for the Speaker. He kept bobbing up at the slightest kerfuffle and inflicting his regal pieties on the house. ‘I ask members to think of what the country
thinks of how we conduct ourselves,’ he said.

‘Tranquil and statesmanlike,’ he declared at one point, ‘is the mode members should strive for.’ That’s how he talks. Adjectives first. Like a public health
announcement written by Cicero. I wonder how Mrs Bercow finds him in bed. Tranquil and statesmanlike there too I expect. Having halted the session more times than I could count, he finally made
this bizarre observation. ‘There have been lots of interruptions today but I’m interested in hearing backbenchers.’ Absolutely, old chap, and but for you we might.

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Show comments
  • Guru McKenzie

    Cameron visibly losing it over last few weeks

    Being beaten by such a weal opponent as Red Ed is extremely embarrassing

    The Bill wasn’t necessary – reform could have continued without it – Lansley was jealous of IDS and Gove with their high profile bills – unfortunately he didn’t have the political skills to see it through

    As Cameron so rightly put it this bill will “F**k” him and his chances of an outright Tory majority at the next GE

    So another Coalition most likely outcome and Cameron gone 18 months after that

  • David Smart

    Dorothy Wilson is right we are going to reach the point where we have to make choices sooner than we think,the ageing population,the increasing birth rate now due in large part to the immigrant population and there culturally led history of large families,as well as a society with expectations of what should be part of NHS services being led by wants rather than need.
    Charging for spurious services may bridge a gap, but increasingly extra demands must be rationed.The amount of waste endemic to Public Services will have to be passed to the Private Secctor which will give patients what they need,this is the battle ground, the unions and their entrenched opposition to patients requirements– efficient and speedy outcomes, against what the Government is doing giving the public a chance to get effective treatment.the fight is similar to the Education fight with Unions. Come on ,let’s fight for for it

  • Sir Everard Digby

    Forgive my amusement. Telemachus rages at the Conservatives but believes the Labour Party would beb better….such naivety is touching.

    More amusingly, Cameron is under fire for standing his ground.On past evidence Milliwit would flip-flop at the slightest opposition. Labour have proven they are good at only two things:

    Negative campaigning
    Spending money

  • Dimoto

    I think RKing is spot on.
    Cameron needs to return to ‘calm and measured’ mode.

  • RKing

    xenophon
    Did you ever see the late John Smith perform in parliament?

    The best labour PM they never had.

  • xenophon

    RKing: shouting is the inevitable response of any PM to the wall of sound which reaches its crescendo as soon as he rises to his feet to give his response.

    Very little he can do about it.

  • Simon Stephenson.

    telemachus : 4.33pm

    “Remember George Osborne who had to sign off on this bought his Bupa insurance after his Bullingdon subscription lapsed”

    Is there a connection between the Bullingdon club and BUPA – you know, some reason why it is informative to couple the two together in this way? Or is it just routine Leftist smearing and negativity that causes you to see the need to mention the Bullingdon at every opportunity?

  • 2trueblue

    It is incredible that Cameron is not using details of the PFI deals that were run up in the 13yrs. whilst Libore were in power. One of the reasons we are in such a mess is lots of layers on managers were inserted who added little value to providing a proper service. I am amazed that the lazy media, as Paddy says, are not helping us to learn what Liebore really did.

  • Mr L

    Isn’t it time the Health Service was properly privatised and all the dead wood cleared out? It should be run for the benefit of patients, not those horrible medical trade unions. “Royal College” of Nursing indeed. National Union of Nurses, more like.

  • telemachus’

    Ruth
    In truth I wish DC would listen give us a joined up health sevice and get back in 2015. Make no mistake the other lot from Milburn on showed that they could not be trusted with the NHS. Health Secretaries cannot stop tinkering and the sick and the poor suffer

  • RKing

    A bit of advice to Cameron.

    If you are sure you are doing the right thing with the NHS reforms then for gods sake……….
    STAY CALM
    STAY COOL
    DON’T SHOUT
    DONT GET EXCITED
    KEEP YOUR REPLIES MINIMALISTIC

    It’s coming across that you are rising to the Milliband bait.

    Kepp it low key and let Milliband do the shouting… he’s not very good at it!

  • Ron Todd

    Any reform is going to have the entrenched interests of the public sector and in particular the unions to overcome.

    To balance that he needs to give a clear message to the wider public explaining the benefits of the changes.

    If he cannot do that perhaps they are not the right changes.

  • Cynic

    ‘I ask members to think of what the country thinks of how we conduct ourselves,’ The country knows how you conduct yourselves. On past actions, you appear to be out of touch, make decisions to the consequences of which you are largely immune and are not averse to lining your pockets through expenses should the opportunity arise.

  • lloydj

    They (the red eds) claim that 65% of the ‘public’ (ie.those who were asked) were against the changes BUT how many of the responders know what these changes are? Does anyone?It is impossible to take the health service unions opinions as their job is to protect their members interests, ie not the public’s interests.

  • Cynic

    Cameron is pursuing his opponents’ initiatives and his opponents are busy disavowing them.” Exactly. I thought these were the reforms that Blair wanted but didn’t pursue.

  • geoffm

    @Tele
    Do you take afternoon tea with young George, one does seem to know an awful lot about his personal business.

  • dorothy wilson

    Isn’t it time we had a rational debate on the NHS rather than one based on Labour’s emotive negativity.

    Sooner or later we are going to have to take some really tough decisions that will make those being discussed at the moment look like a tea party. Quite simply, in the future, the country is unlikely to be able to afford a demand led health service to everyone who wants it when they want it. Somewhere along the line we’ll have to make choices about just what should be supplied and what should be cut out.

    Tough yes, but that is reality.

  • Maggie

    Lloyd, you don’t want to believe what Ed Miliband says. He makes things up. As far as I can see he’s stopped asking questions at all. He just delivers meaningless homilies and excitable claims designed for repetition on post-match TV and radio. Politics is always going to be dull and boring until he goes way.

  • Paddy

    You should have stuck around Lloyd and watched the full debate on the publication of the NHS Risk Register.

    It has been quite breathtaking!

    It showed Andy Burnham and the Labour party for the opportunist hypocrites they really are.

    But that’s the problem. You journalists only listen to lazy sound-bites….and don’t give the public the full picture.

    This Conservative government should take out full page adverts every week….to inform everyone of the mess the Labour party left behind…..68 billion on PFI’s ….the deaths at Stafford Hospital. I could go on and on.

    But why don’t Joe Public know about these things.

    It’s all very well having these public inquiries…..but they never get published. They are just a waste of money.

    The Labour party are now trying to pin the problems at Stafford Hospital on the Tories. Well they would wouldn’t they.

    We need journos to do their job….be honest and tell people the facts.

  • Paddy

    You should have stuck around Lloyd and watched the full debate on the publication of the NHS Risk Register.

    It has been quite breathtaking!

    It showed Andy Burnham and the Labour party for the opportunist hypocrites they really are.

    But that’s the problem. You journalists only listen to lazy sound-bites….and don’t give the public the full picture.

    This Conservative government should take out full page adverts every week….to inform everyone of the mess the Labour party left behind…..68 billion on PFI’s ….the deaths at Stafford Hospital. I could go on and on.

    But why don’t Joe Public know about these things.

    It’s all very well having these public inquiries…..but they never get published. They are just a waste of money.

    The Labour party are now trying to pin the problems at Stafford Hospital on the Tories. Well they would wouldn’t they.

    We need journos to do their job….be honest and tell people the facts.

  • Ruth

    Telemachus’. You will be proved wrong. Go and post on one of your lefty blogs and you’ll be in your comfort zone.

  • Ruth

    Apologies—-hadn’t finished! We’ve only heard about those who oppose the reforms so let’s hear from those who support them. Having worked in the NHS for 30yrs it’s clear to see there is huge waste and top- heavy
    bureaucracy . The targets imposed by the last Labour govt contributed to the continual lowering of standards. They are utter hypocrits to be shouting now.

  • Jeremy

    Lloyd Evans:

    ‘He (The Speaker) kept bobbing up at the slightest kerfuffle and inflicting his regal pieties on the house. ‘I ask members to think of what the country thinks of how we conduct ourselves,’ he said.’

    The rowdier the bear pit the better, so far as I’m concerned. PMQs is far and away the best drama on television since the days of Dennis Potter. At its best, it’s like watching a Hogarth print in action – priceless and unmissable.

    I’m glad that Jo Johnson MP raised the bare-faced iniquities of the UK/US Extradition Treaty with the Prime Minister. The thought of ‘federal agents’ stalking up and down our green and pleasant land, in search of Britons to ‘escort’ from their own country into the tender embraces of a Texan prison – presumably until Hell freezes over – is enough to turn the stomach of every Englishman. Although I also noted the diffidence of Cameron’s reply. He still cannot bring himself to criticise the United States, even when the crooked iniquities of the place are staring him in the face.

  • telemachus’

    Don’t be fed up nor even bored
    This is a classic exercise in beating down a dishonourable government with dishonourable designs on health
    Remember George Osborne who had to sign off on this bought his Bupa insurance after his Bullingdon subscription lapsed
    This is how it is playing in the country
    Should DC choose to ignore it, it will throttle him in 2015

  • Ruth

    Bercow is like he is because of the massive chip on his shoulder but he now has top place of the most irritating Speaker yet, and that takes some beating after the dreadful Gorbals.
    Milibland has nothing constructive to offer regarding NHS reform. How about having a balanced poll and show those that do support the Bill
    ,which would include thousands that have worked in

  • Airey Belvoir

    Thanks for the mental picture of the Bercows in bed. At least a gallon of mind bleach needed.

  • geoffm

    Why did labour give the PM a copy of their briefing sheet

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