PMQs: The NHS raises its head again as “Yoda-Prescott“ Ed presses on

It’s the NHS once more as Miliband and Cameron find themselves trapped in a rhetorical rut, writes our UK Political Editor Harry Cole

This one is going on, and on, and on...and on
Harry Cole
On 29 February 2012 13:56

Only the most avid followers of every twist and turn of the Health-care Bill could have found today’s tiresome Prime Minster‘s Questions interesting.

The Prime Minister and his shadow spent most of the weekly duel trying to “out list” each other, both throwing out the names of reams of supporters for their side of the argument.

One imagines most people watching were left scratching their heads saying: “Who?”

Before you ask, yes the argument was about the NHS reforms for the fourth week in a row.

This is safe ground for Ed and you can expect him to try to make this an issue at every single PMQs until the next election, unless he manages to bore his opponents into submission before that happens.

Apparently there are 8,200 GP practices supporting the Government; Miliband produced just one against. Ed had a longer list of “Royal” medical groups, aka posh trade unions that opposed the bill.


But Cameron had more flourish and better quips. On and on went the ping pong game.

After last week’s fireworks and a sermon from “Father“ Ed, this week we were treated to “Yoda“ Ed – attempting to demonstrate his wisdom with reverse order phrases of the type: "Answer came their none". And then there was an almost Prescott like mangled jibe at the Tory benches, who he said were “Digging their own burial”.

The Prime Minister can say “we all know what he's against, but what is he for?” over and again, but the NHS reforms are a burden and we should prepare to hear this sort of thing week in week out ad infinitum.

The Prime Minister is certainly benifiting from being able to know exactly what the lines of attack will be every single week, but Miliband’s perfomance is improving as well.

Interestingly, as soon as Miliband goes off script his performance improves. Unfortunately for him, he only really managed to do so properly once this week in his impromptu question about Nick Clegg’s support for the Health Bill.

The word in Westminster is that Ed’s advisers have told him to do this more and more as a point scoring tactic, and it seems to work.

Picking up on every intervention and heckle from the government benches would be a much better tactic for Ed however, if his Shadow Chancellor wasn’t constantly chuntering from a sedentary position and trying out yet another curious hand action.

It’s possible that the latest was meant to symbolise digging a hole, but you could be forgiven for think Ed Balls was tossing a giant imaginary salad.

We seem to be in a rut at the moment with no clear winners and losers. Miliband seems to have found a fomula that avoids defeat. But try though he will, he cannot rely on the single issue of the NHS forever. Oh, how he will try though...

Harry Cole is the UK Political Editor for The Commentator and the News Editor for the Guido Fawkes Blog. He tweets at @MrHarryCole

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