Boris Johnson came up early in PMQs. The Cabinet’s new ‘shadow chancellor’ has called for extra money – five billion quid – to be lavished on the NHS. Jeremy Corbyn asked Mrs May if she agreed. She dustily replied that the real chancellor had promised more than five billion last autumn. He’d pledged six!
Six billion didn’t satisfy Mr Corbyn. He called the Prime Minister out by cutting her pledge in half and subtracting £200m. This gave £2.8bn which, he, said, had been ‘spread like thin gruel over two years.’
Good word, gruel. Evocative of prison-hulks and Dickensian poor-houses. It adds colour to Labour’s dream-picture of the Tories as a set of stuck-up, over-privileged, fox-hunting tramp-stranglers.
Mr Corbyn then delivered a revelation about the NHS. This originated from some hard-working A&E doctors who published a letter noting that patients have died on trolleys in hospital corridors. (Might they have survived if the doctors had looked after them rather than writing letters?). What’s revelatory here is that a hospital death is worth quizzing the PM about. The passing of every citizen is now a charge against the government’s handling of the NHS.
So Mr Corbyn has redefined the NHS. It’s not just there to heal us but to establish immortality as a human right. And until it meets this new target, every death is proof that the NHS has been betrayed. And this betrayal is proof that voters owe the NHS more money.
Obviously Mr Corbyn won’t write his new policy into a manifesto, (‘vote Labour and live forever’) as it might not be believed. But he keeps it hidden and uses it as a weapon to clobber the PM.
And Mrs May accepts her role as victim. Secretly the government seems to enjoy being embarrassed by the NHS. It hankers for more and more punishment. It even sets up ‘whiplash quangos’ which exist purely to inflict pain on the government over its health policies. No one asks how much money is spent on these flagellation exercises. Tens of millions? Maybe hundreds.
And a new form of punishment has been created. Waiting in a parked ambulance has been labelled a health risk. Any delay over 30 minutes is ‘life-threatening’, said Mr Corbyn. He stated that 100,000 patients have recently survived this perilous ordeal. Wow, that was an expensive statistic to compile. A hundred thousand patients. Think of the stop-watches, the clip-boards, the Biros dangling on bits of string, the translators required to quiz patients with poor English. The NHS may lack cash but it’s never short of pointless research programmes.
Ian Black, of the SNP, got his turn to grill the PM. Some people wonder why the SNP is represented in two parliaments. Answer: their enormous workload. They need one member in Holyrood to perpetuate Scotland’s woes. They need a second member in London to blame Westminster for perpetuating Scotland’s woes. But Mr Black has exposed a flaw in this reasoning. He can find no woes in Scotland to blame on Westminster. His career in London consists of raising two issues every week. First, our departure from the EU. (Dealt with by the referendum). Second, the closure of RBS branches in rural Scotland. (Dealt with by RBS). Poor Mr Black and his team have scoured the country looking for a crisis to dump at Westminster’s door and they’ve discovered nothing. Worrying times for Mr Black. But if he can’t find problems, he could just join an NHS research group and start inventing them.