PMQs: Why didn't Miliband probe Cameron on the NHS? Waffling on about Pfizer won't help the polls

He could have said the Labour government had been solving the problem when the coalition came in and top-down-reorganised our health service back to the Dark Age

 

Share

I didn’t understand that Question Time at all. I thought Ed Miliband would ask about his plan to guarantee everyone an appointment with a doctor in 48 hours. That is what David Cameron expected too. He turned a later question from Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, to give the answer he would have given Miliband, namely that the Labour government in Wales had abolished the 48 hours target there. Meanwhile the Number 10 press office put out a statement saying that “93 per cent of GP appointments are convenient but I want to see more, so we're training 5,000 more GPs and have 1,000 GP centres open 8am-8pm and at weekends”.

But no. Miliband stood up to the recent tradition of the two-part cheer. First the Labour benches cheer because they have fallen behind in the polls and they feel sorry for their leader. Then the Tory benches cheer, more loudly, because Labour has fallen behind in the polls and they want to show that their morale is higher. This is followed by ironic calls of “More, more!” before Miliband has even started. Then the Labour leader had to preface his questions by saying, “I welcome the fall in unemployment.” The Tories cheered even more noisily and delightedly.

Then after a terrible link - “talking of high-skilled jobs” - Miliband asked all his six questions about the Pfizer takeover of AstraZeneca. Nobody’s interested in that. I mean, most people tell pollsters that they don’t like foreign companies buying other foreign companies that happen to be based in Britain, but they don’t really care.

So we got Cameron saying that what the pharmaceutical industry needed was for the Government to “get stuck in”. He was so pleased with this he said it three times, almost as many times as he said “long-term economic plan”. Miliband said: “He’s not powerless, he’s the Prime Minister.” Which sounded more like a question than an argument. This job I’m hoping to take over: it does come with some levers and perks, doesn’t it? Miliband said he wasn’t going to take any lectures from the guy who did something. Cameron he was going to “get stuck in” and that he will take absolutely no lectures from the people who brought something else to its knees.

I can confirm that, in the House of Commons yesterday, no lectures were taken, because no one really listened to anyone else. What a waste of time. Especially when Miliband could have asked about something that people do care about. Everyone has a story about how difficult it is to get an appointment with a GP now, how you have to try to get through the surgery switchboard at precisely 8am or 9am and then you are offered something in the middle of next month.

He could have said the Labour government had been solving the problem when the coalition came in and top-down-reorganised it back to the Dark Age. He could have said that Labour saved the NHS and that satisfaction with the health service was at record levels in 2010. He could have swept aside attempted point-scoring about Wales by saying that the House of Commons is not the Wales Assembly and that Cameron is responsible for the NHS in England. I doubt if Miliband has the long-term solution to the problems of primary health care, but a top-down target would be popular and a good start.

But no, he wanted to make abstract points about markets and ideology. So he got nowhere on Pfizer and Cameron, although he shouted too much, pointed out that Miliband hasn’t asked about the NHS since November.

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Polish minister Rafal Trazaskowski (second from right)  

Poland is open to dialogue but EU benefits restrictions are illegal and unfair

Rafal Trzaskowski
The report will embarrass the Home Secretary, Theresa May  

Surprise, surprise: tens of thousands of illegal immigrants have 'dropped off' the Home Office’s radar

Nigel Farage
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum