David Cameron was evasive and engaged in distraction at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday. I’ve started seriously wondering wether he’s intellect-challenged.
- Conservative election poster 2010
A few recent news articles concerning the UK’s Conservative and Liberal-Democrat coalition government – the ConDem’s – brutal attack on the National Health Service.
On 5 May over 9,500 council seats will be contested across England, as well as elections to the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies and the AV referendum.
Millions of people will see these elections as an opportunity to express their hatred for the axe-wielding Tories and Lib Dems. However, while there is no mass party through which working class people can effectively fight the cuts, Labour is likely to benefit from this desire to punish the government. But this will not be done with great enthusiasm – Labour’s slogan of “cuts too far too fast” is not a rallying call and their record of implementing brutal cuts in local government means huge suffering.
But as the working class in Britain begins to flex its muscles, the need for an independent political voice is increasingly urgent.
HUNDREDS of hospital beds are to be cut at the region’s main hospitals as health officials battle to save millions of pounds.
Hull And East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Hull Royal Infirmary and Castle Hill Hospital in Cottingham, has 1,514 beds on more than 50 wards.
The move will cut 300 beds by closing two wards per year for the next five years and comes as the trust has to make £95 million in efficiency savings by 2015.
It could also see the trust scaling back its estate, knocking down empty wards and cutting back on costs.
Trust chief executive Phil Morley said reducing the number of acute beds by 300 will save £10 million.
He warned the move was a reflection of the challenges and pressures facing the NHS nationally, not just in East Yorkshire.
The Chamber is well used to extraordinary displays of boorishness during prime minister’s questions but even hardened MPs were taken aback by David Cameron’s performance on Wednesday, when (to recap, in case you have somehow missed a moment that within minutes was swamping the Twittersphere and within an hour had spawned nearly 400 news stories) he was challenged by Angela Eagle, shadow chief secretary to the treasury.
It was not a particularly earth-shattering challenge – he had said former Labour MP Howard Stoate (whom he was enlisting in his increasingly ragged defence of Andrew Lansley’s NHS reforms) had been defeated by a Tory at the last election; she was pointing out, in the vociferous way required when a roomful of supposed adults is shouting at each other like sleep-deprived six-year-olds, that Stoate had in fact retired, rather than been defeated, in order to return to his job as a GP. “Calm down, dear,” said Cameron, failing only to pat her gently on the head as he said it. “Calm down. Calm down and listen to the doctor.”
In terms of levels of offensiveness, where to start? The imputation that Eagle, being a woman, was just being hysterical, over-emotional? The further imputation that nothing she said was therefore worth listening to? The belittling “dear”? The arrogant superiority? The paternal order to listen not just to him, but to “the doctor”, these men who know best? Frankly, he only failed to pat her gently on the head.
“Calm down,” he said yet again, in case anyone had missed it. They most definitely hadn’t: even the Daily Telegraph, which could not resist an en passant dig at the “frighteningly feminist” Eagle, noted that: “The wind whistled around the Commons chamber in the seconds after he said it.” There was some laughter: George Osborne, unsurprisingly, guffawed, but Nick Clegg, sitting to the prime minister’s right, went completely, unsmilingly still, as though by doing so he could somehow will himself invisible, or at least somewhere else.
CONSERVATIVE leader David Cameron yesterday used Prime Minister’s Questions to launch repeated attacks on Labour’s plans for the NHS in Wales.
Mr Cameron waded into one of the most contentious issues in the Assembly election when he claimed that a Labour-led Government would leave patients worse off than those in England.
He launched the assault on the party led in the Assembly by Carwyn Jones during a question session which threatened to descend into farce when he appeared to tell a female Labour MP to “calm down, dear”.
The heated exchanges came after Labour Cardiff West MP Kevin Brennan asked if Conservative Health Secretary Andrew Lansley was safe in his job.
His plans for sweeping NHS reform in England are now subject to a “pause” and have been emphatically rejected in a no confidence vote by the Royal College of Nursing.
Advertising standards authorities have launched an investigation into the Department of Health’s promotion of the NHS reforms during their ‘listening exercise’, after they received a number of complaints about a patient leaflet on the health bill.
The pamphlet ‘Working together for a stronger NHS’ was published earlier this month to explain the rationale behind the Government’s NHS reforms, but after a number of complaints – including from one from John McTernan, former political secretary to Tony Blair – the Advertising Standards Authority have launched an investigation.
The leaflet suggests that the NHS perform better if it has more competition between providers of healthcare, including private companies.
The Department of Health says the leaflet is based on ‘a wide range of reputable sources’, but Mr McTernan claims that the information presented in the leaflet is misleading.
The National Audit Office (NAO) has criticised central government for pushing local state sector bodies, including NHS trusts, into using the private finance initiative (PFI) rather than other methods of finance.
In a new report, the central government watchdog concurs with parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, which in January noted that some organisations chose the PFI route due to a lack of other options.
It said the committee had seen “no clear evidence to conclude whether PFI has been demonstrably better or worse value for money for housing and hospitals than other procurement options,” adding: “In many cases local authorities and NHS trusts chose the PFI route because the departments offered no realistic funding alternative. This led to the committee’s recommendation that departments should prepare and publish whole-programme evaluations.”
The NAO adds that under national accounting rules, privately financed projects will often still be off the government’s balance sheet, which it says may act as an incentive to use PFI.
The report says that lessons from the experience of using PFI schemes can be applied to other types of procurement and help government achieve major cost savings, but it warns that Whitehall must do more to act as an “intelligent customer”.