PMQs: Ed Miliband plays it by numbers - processology and the health service

A rapid-fire taunt about "the LibLabCon establishment" off Facebook might have been more interesting

Share

I love Prime Minister’s Questions so much that I recently started a petition against Mumsnet’s petition to change it in unspecified ways. Unspecified ways that might possibly include “quickfire Q&A”, whatever that is, and questions from internet trolls. My campaign is not going well. My petition has 46 signatures. Mumsnet’s has 60,000. And today’s PMQs was a soul-deadening experience that had even me wondering whether a rapid-fire taunt about "the LibLabCon establishment" off Facebook might have raised the quality of democratic accountability.

Ed Miliband did his Questions By Numbers. Three serious bipartisan ones about process, process, process of inquiries into allegations of historical child abuse. No one knows precisely what is being alleged, but everyone can agree that it is very serious and that we should ensure that “no stone is left unturned”. David Cameron, never one to avoid a cliché worn dull by overuse, used that one first. It always depends on how many stones there are, really.

Then three comfort-zone questions about the NHS. Last week he and Cameron had traded statistics with the enthusiasm of Panini football-sticker collectors, and independent adjudicators such as Full Fact concluded that they were both right because there are different ways of measuring waiting times.

It didn’t work last week, except to enthuse people who are already absolutely convinced that Cameron is more right-wing than Margaret Thatcher and has already secretly privatised the entire NHS for the express purpose of ensuring that poor people die before they can vote. So Miliband returned to the scene of his defeat in the hope of a better result this time.

Unfortunately, he had only dull Panini stickers that everyone else already had, and Cameron had a shiny holographic rarity. He read out the numbers of those waiting more than 18, 26 and 52 weeks for treatment before the election and now and they were all lower.

Not even Miliband’s cliché counter-attack could better that. He said the Prime Minister had been “called out” on his statistics last week by researchers in the House of Commons Library. Politicians feel they have to speak how they imagine teenagers speak because it proves that they are in touch, and “in touch” is the only positive opinion-poll attribute Miliband has, so he thought he was playing to his strength.

On the face of it, Miliband’s performance wasn’t a disaster. But we are 10 months away from an election. He urgently needs to establish that the country is heading in the wrong direction, and that his front-bench team is better than the team on the front bench opposite. Today, all we got was that he would “far rather” have Andy Burnham as health secretary than Jeremy Hunt.

It is an interesting proposition. I think Miliband may be right, although Hunt has done a remarkable job of clearing up the mess made by the other side, namely Andrew Lansley. And I think Cameron is unpleasantly cynical to call Burnham “the man who presided over Mid Staffs”. The scandal had already been exposed by the time Burnham became Health Secretary in 2009, and he appointed Robert Francis to investigate it.

But really that was another PMQs wasted, and Miliband cannot afford to waste those chances. Football analogies, as opposed to football sticker analogies, are banned from political commentary for the duration. But I can only report the verdict of one Labour frontbencher: “7-1 to Cameron.”

READ NEXT: Richard Ferrer: The truth about my 'attempt to entrap Muslims'
Britain and France have very different strengths, but only one of their economies is thriving
The daily catch-up: association football, Posh's beauty secrets and why Harriet wasn't DPM  

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Sales, Milton Keynes

£70 - 90K OTE £125K. Plus Car,Private Healthcare and Pension: Charter Selectio...

Head of Sales, Bristol

£70 - 90K OTE £125K. Plus Car,Private Healthcare and Pension: Charter Selectio...

Head of Sales, Birmingham

£70 - 90K OTE £125K. Plus Car,Private Healthcare and Pension: Charter Selectio...

Head of Sales, Manchester

£70 - 90K OTE £125K. Plus Car,Private Healthcare and Pension: Charter Selectio...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Prostitutes face a high risk of contracting HIV, yet they are offered little help from the Government  

Want to rid the world of HIV? Then you can start by decriminalising prostitution

Pamela Das
 

Are we politely looking the other way when it comes to Kate, the ever-shrinking Duchess?

Grace Dent
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game