The Sketch: Dave gives Labour a dose of the Blair medicine they loved

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The last two weeks before the recess, the dog days are on us. The place is full of chihuahuas.

Coalition backbenchers yappily urge their leader to resist calls "from whatever quarter" to cut the NHS. And to thank the Royal Anglian regiment for their professionalism. And to condemn the Raoul Moat memorial page on Facebook. And to denounce some local Labour council for not building some school.

The lifelessness is unusual even by the standards of the day. They have the vitality of beagles in a 10-year smoking experiment. They're exhausted by the fag end of a dead-end premiership, then by an election, and then by Labour leaderlessness, and now by the Speaker's rulings on noise in the chamber. There's no point in making a noise, and anyway they're not allowed to.

I'm still in honeymoon mode, stretching langourously across the bed and – I can't continue with that, I'm sorry. I'm still in an entirely uncritical frame of mind. Cameron does things that used to drive us all nuts and yet we just smile indulgently and say: "How funny, that's what Tony Blair used to do. How it must annoy Labour to taste their own medicine."

Thus Harriet asks whether patients will, in the light of abolished targets, still be able to see their cancer specialist within two weeks. Cameron replied, "Let sunshine win the day!" Or more exactly, that they'll only keep targets that "contribute to clinical outcomes".

It may be that this target is met by doctors waving at their patients from a window within two weeks (you can't put anything past them).

Harriet demanded a less ambiguous answer. Would the two-week guarantee remain, yes or no? Cameron said, ingeniously: "For some people, two weeks is too long!" And then he followed that up with another favoured technique of Prime Minister Blair: interrogating the Opposition for their policy, and in the absence of an answer, fabulously misrepresenting their plans.

Labour's core purpose, he said, was defending the salaries, pensions and entitlements of quangos, PCTs, SHAs and all the panoplistic bureaucracy of Labour's client state. Harriet responded pretty well with a Cameron quote about how damaging these reorganisations were.

"We're not reorganising the bureaucracy," Cameron cried, "we're abolishing it!"

Yes, well, good luck with that.

The battle lines are laid out for the new leadership in the autumn. By then, there'll be so much confusion – creative and chaotic – that we'll just have to remember where the lines were.