Daily catch-up: winter crisis for the NHS – Miliband and Burnham don’t know how to fix it

If the NHS is Labour’s strongest issue in the election campaign, the party will need to do better than this

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The Independent Online

1. Another of Claudia Massie’s lovely drawings. Winter sun near Muthill, charcoal, 31 x 25”. “Done to the accompaniment of Djokovic v Raonic”, not composers of whom I had heard.

2. Instead of reviewing Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday I used my time more profitably to write about the launch of William Keegan’s new book, Mr Osborne’s Economic Experiment.

3. Not that PMQs lacked interest. As Lloyd Evans said, and (told-you-so warning) I predicted, “a complete non-issue [turned] into an astonishingly useful defence” for the Prime Minister. “A true gamesman (or cheat if you prefer)”, David Cameron broke “the soft rule that a prime minister may not interrogate his opponent” and demanded once again to know if Ed Miliband had said he wanted to “weaponise the NHS”.

Miliband failed to respond and looked lost. He has played politics with the NHS and Cameron has played politics with Miliband’s playing politics, and the Labour leader has been completely out-played. I predict that Miliband’s memory will miraculously improve before next week’s PMQs, and he will say he recalls that he probably did say something like wanting to weaponise the NHS – because he is so angry with what the Government has done to it.

4. In disputing that Andy Burnham’s interview about the NHS with Kirsty Wark on Newsnight on Tuesday was a “car crash”, I made two decisions. One is that “car crash” as a description of an interview has been added to the Banned List (thanks to Malcolm Redfellow).

The other is that the problem with Burnham’s interview was not that he performed badly but that he is wrong, and I therefore need a quick and easy way of reminding comrades that the Labour Party is essentially Blairite, and therefore believes that what matters is what works, as Liz Kendall said the other day. It believes in reforming the NHS as much as in spending more taxpayers’ money on it, and that the more independent providers of NHS services the better, if they can do a good job.

In order to have at my fingertips the facts that 54 per cent of Labour Party members and 53 per cent of Labour MPs voted for David Miliband, I have collated the figures here.

5. It is also worth noting a new study by Professor John Van Reenen at the LSE, which finds that competiton from more hospitals leads to better NHS outcomes.

6. And finally, thanks to Ian Leslie for this line from Johnny Carson, on being asked what made him a star: “I started out in a gaseous state, and then I cooled.”

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