PMQs: Since when is the NHS a “micro” issue?

A bit of a surprise at Prime MInister’s Questions. I expected Ed Miliband to ask about public sector pensions and the strike tomorrow. It was a bit odd when he asked about the NHS. Cameron later said that Miliband couldn’t fire off questions on the strikes subject “because he is in the pocket of the unions.” He also rather cheaply accused Miliband of fighting shy of Greece “because his plan is to make Britain like Greece.”

Then, Cameron reach his climax with a line which must have been honed over much midnight oil in Downing Street:

He has to talk about the micro because he can’t talk about the macro.

Slam. Dunk. Not.

Somehow I don’t think that’ll be appearing in the same collected quotes’ volume as “I have a dream” or “We shall fight them on the beaches” or even “I will announce the results in reverse order”. (Or indeed “Now wash your hands”). Perhaps someone should have added a note to this pre-prepared quote: “Don’t say this if Miliband asks about a big issue”

However, Miliband’s questioning on the NHS was reasonably sharp. We learnt all sorts of facts and figures. There are 163 organisations in the NHS now. After the government reforms there will be 521. Miliband said this was the opposite of Cameron’s “bonfire of the quangoes”. It hardly seems like an attack on bureaucracy.

Miliband’s other point was that the government is spending £852 million on NHS redudancies but many of the people being made redundant will be re-hired by the many new quangoes. Cameron could not deny this.

When you look at it like that, the reorganisation is a bit of a mess.

Other snippets were:

  • Trivia quiz answer alert: Sir Peter Tapsell is Father of the House.
  • MPs will have to pay 5% increased pension contributions – the top figure for public sector workers.
  • Dr Julian Huppert (LibDem) asked:

    Does the Prime Minister believe that drugs policy has been failing for decades as he said in 2005 and does he agree that the Government should initiate a discussion of alternative ways, including the possibility of legalisation and regulation, to tackle the global drugs dilemma, as he voted for in 2002?

    Cameron replied that he does not agree with the legalisation of drugs, focussed on the role of education and treatment.

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7 Comments

  • Malcolm Todd 29th Jun '11 - 11:15pm

    “When you look at it like that, the reorganisation is a bit of a mess.”

    Is there any way of looking at it where it isn’t?

  • Cameron really is becoming a bit of a joke at PMQ’s

    Again he avoids the question asked, and instead, goes on an tangent about Labour this and Milliband that, which has no relevance whatsoever to the question asked of him.

    It really does say something when the Speaker of the House had to call order and cut the prime minister off in mid flow.

    The sooner people realise this party is being ruled by a weak minded loser, who resorts to school playground retorts of insults and bullying the better.

    If this sham, is what is running our country, supported by that half Witt, Osborne, who has about as much about as much intelligence and charisma as a dung beetle.

    God help us all

  • Nice question from Julian Huppert….

  • Paul Walter Paul Walter 30th Jun '11 - 9:56am

    @Malcolm Todd

    Probably not…

  • Peter Chivall 30th Jun '11 - 12:22pm

    As well as increased contributions, will the MPs have to wait until they are 68 to collect their pensions, and will they accrue at 1/80th p.a. of their salaries?

  • A locally accountable health board is not a quango though, so Miliband’s figures were false. The only reason Cameron couldn’t answer was because he doesn’t believe in locally accountable health boards either, that bit is Liberal Democrat policy (so depressingly only we understand why eg a local authority is not a quango either).

    Also, Miliband’s questions and tactics are far better now: a) ask some detialed questions which Cameron does not and cannot be expected to know the answer to [eg can he confirm no-one will be re-hired] then b) conclude with a broad sweeping statement which works rhetorically because Cameron is on the back foot. V. effective, and I’d love to see how it is dealt with next week.

  • The figures refer to new public bodies not quangos and the arguement is about a masssive increase in bureaucracy – something the NHS is facing at the same time as management costs are being cut by 45% (see http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmpublic/health/110628/pm/110628s01.htm Col 58 for the origin of the gigures – DoI I work for the RCGP)

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