Lloyd Evans Lloyd Evans

PMQs sketch: Cameron and Miliband squabble over the NHS, while saying nothing

It didn’t work. But it was a good idea. David Cameron prepared an ambush for Ed Miliband at PMQs today. The trouble was he attacked the Labour leader for a vice he himself has mastered with conspicuous aplomb: question dodging.

Miliband is clearly in trouble. He’s using his only remaining strength, the NHS, to prop up his burgeoning weaknesses. Expect this to continue till next May. There’s always a calamity somewhere in the NHS and for Miliband, ill tidings are like gold dust. He painted a picture of a basket-case health system that would have shamed a failed state in the Middle Ages. Cameron, he said, wasted billions on a massive inter-departmental rejig when he came to power. Since then the Tories have delivered ‘five years of crisis’ and left social care ‘at breaking point.’

Anyone feeling poorly will have postponed their trip to A&E.

Cameron countered that the NHS is thriving. Millions of happy patients are being treated bang on time, every day of the week. And NHS England recently topped a poll of health services in industrialised countries.

Did the ailing viewer smile with relief and summon a cab to the local hospital? Probably not. This was a spat with no new facts or angles of attack. It began at a standstill and slowed down from there.

Up popped NHS Wales. Cameron loves the Welsh health service, run by Labour, as he believes it can always get him out of a tight spot. And he had a booby-trap ready: the OECD has announced its desire to embark on a box-ticking odyssey around the hospitals of England and Wales in order to pronounce a winner.

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