Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Crisis, what crisis?

It's the first PMQs of the year today and Ed Miliband couldn't have wished for a better backdrop. 

"A & E Crisis Worst For Ten Years" is the Mail's splash. The pressure on the NHS has reached breaking point with at least 14 hospitals declaring major incidents and cancelling operations.  "In Critical Condition" is the Indy's take. "Hospitals Just Can't Cope" wails the Express. "Third World A&E" booms the Sun. Not to be outdone, the Mirror opts for "Our NHS Is Dying".     

It all comes down to the cuts to social care and local government budgets forcing more people into A&E and leaving the NHS unable to cope with the increased pressures, Labour say. The Times has details of how the low-cost 111 service, far from easing the pressure on frontline services, may be adding to it - "Helpline blunders led to NHS meltdown" is their splash.

Labour will seek to keep the Government on the back foot - they're calling for an emergency summit on the crisis.  Our leader finds the Opposition's attempt to "play politics" over the issue "hard to stomach". But the big problem for the Government - as Tim Montgomerie warned at the time - is that passing the Health and Social Care Bill means that every problem in the Health Service, fairly or unfairly, is laid at the door of Andrew Lansley and by extension the PM, just as Barack Obama's healthcare law continues to define his presidency. 

There's a crumb of comfort for the PM there, though. After all, despite the many problems with his healthcare law, President Obama was, at least, re-elected.  




George Osborne has launched an investigation into whether companies are properly passing on the drop in oil and gas prices onto consumers. "Energy bills must start to fall now" is our splash. (Brent Crude, which was at $115 a barrel just six months ago, is now at $51 a barrel.) It's hoped that lower prices at the pump and to heat people's homes will contribute to a feel-good factor, easing Conservative pains over the Health Service.  But the fall in the price of oil is less good for Scotland, and Jim Murphy is calling on the Holyrood administration to set up a "resilience fund" to protect towns and cities from economic disruption caused by falls in the oil price. Matt Dathan has the story in the Times


Angela Merkel is over to discuss the situation in the Ukraine, the ongoing Greek crisis and the tricky topic of David Cameron's renegotiation. But Labour are angry that the FCO didn't inform them about Frau Merkel's visit, although that courtesy is usually extended only for state visits. But it's being seen as a snub to the Opposition - "Merkel gives Milliband a miss" is our headline. The PM has confirmed reports that Barack Obama calls him "bro". "It's just like a greeting," Mr Cameron helpfully explained. 


Jim Murphy butted heads with Diane Abbott over his plan to employ 1,000 extra nurses using the proceeds of a mansion tax, Simon Johnson reports.  Mr Murphy wants to take "money from Londoners to win an election in Scotland", Ms Abbott opined. Tax revenue from North Sea oil has been similarly spread around the UK in the past, Mr Murphy replied. 


Jim Pickard has a profile of the Labour leader in today's FT. He works until close to midnight on the fine detail of speeches and policy announcements, has little interest in fine dining, rarely drinks wine - "like receiving Communion", says one ally of the small amounts served at his home - and takes solace in the cricket scores and the Red Sox baseball team.


Vince Cable will be axed today as the Liberal Democrats' lead economics spokesman in the general election campaign, Chris Hope reports. Danny Alexander will take the reins while former Liberal ministers Nick Harvey and Michael Moore will return to the senior Liberal team speaking on defence and Europe respectively, while Tim Farron will be handed the foreign policy brief. Charlotte Henry has the details over at the Spectator


David Miliband still gets the fashion vote over his brother, Lauren Cochrane coos in today's G2. Among those politicians getting the G2 seal of approval: "GQ man" Chuka Umunna, whose grey or blue suits ensure "reliable levels of sauveness", Justine Greening - "hair matters in politics, and Greening's is superlative" and Andy Burnham. "An offbeat choice but a strong one, owing to his delightful cocktail of integrity, navy suits and massive eyes," Morwenna Ferrier says of the Shadow Health Secretary. Read the full list here

You can get in touch with me by pressing "reply" or on Twitter. Our cartoon is the work of Christian Adams - a gallery of his work is available here. 


YouGov:  Conservatives 33% Labour 33% Liberal Democrat 7% Ukip 13% Green 8%


@jameskirkup:  @HackneyAbbott is on #wato attacking @jimmurphymp for planning a tax raid on people in £2m houses. Labour politics is upside down.


From the Telegraph 

Mary Riddell - Mr Miliband must first find the funds he needs to save the NHS

Robert Colvile -A beginner's guide to the A&E crisis

From elsewhere

Rafael Behr - Power without purpose: the tragic rule of David Cameron (Guardian)

Alice Thomson -A better NHS is about attitudes, not money (Times)


0900 CARDIFF: Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb speech on the economy.

0945 LONDON: Education Secretary Nicky Morgan gives evidence to the Commons Education Committee on careers guidance.

1000 LONDON: Energy Secretary Ed Davey gives evidence to the Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee on the Lima Climate Change Conference.

1030 OXFORD: Liz Truss speech to the Oxford Farming Conference.

1200 LONDON: Prime Minister's Questions.

1500 LONDON: Angela Merkel visiting London for talks with David Cameron.  


Commons: 1130

Cabinet Office Questions.

Prime Minister's Questions.

A ten minute rule motion: Alcohol Labeling (Pregnancy).

Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill - report stage and third reading.

A short debate on the regulation of the hairdressing industry.

Westminster Hall:

0930: Diverted Profits Tax.

1100: Healthcare provision in Newark.

1430: Treatment of benefit claimants in the North East.

1600: Effect of short let deregulation on residential neighbourhoods in London.

1630: NHS funding in York and North Yorkshire.

Lords: 1500


House of Lords (Expulsion and Suspension) Bill [HL] - third reading.

Pension Schemes Bill - committee of the whole House.

A debate on improving the level of medical competence and skill in the NHS.