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Either David Cameron is suffering a touch of sunstroke left over from his foreign holiday, or he is suddenly happy to admit he is a braying buffoon.
That is what we learned from his determination to continually harp on about Labour’s policy on child benefit during this week’s Wednesday Shouty Time (Prime Minister’s Questions).
Also that he has no answer to any questions asked of him about the Coalition’s failure to manage the NHS, or indeed, the national economy.
Ed Miliband’s first question today was about Accident & Emergency waiting times, but Cameron responded about child benefit. To the general public, that makes him a man with no answer.
Pressed on the issue, Cameron resorted to his old standby – waiting times in Welsh hospitals. The last time Mrs Mike was at a Welsh hospital, she waited maybe 15 minutes, between the time she arrived and the time of her appointment. More recently, I had to take a neighbour to hospital for some emergency medication for a mouth abscess. She was seen immediately.
And we live in Wales.
(I’m not denying that the health service could be better but improvements are constantly taking place – and what’s more, over here, they make changes in consultation with the public! I mention this to make the distinction between it and, say, coming out with hugely unpopular plans, halting the process for a so-called “listening exercise”, paying no attention to the results of that exercise and pushing through the original plans regardless. That’s the Cameron method).
We had no sense from Cameron about A&E – but was he making a good point about Child Benefit? Was Labour now supporting the Coalition’s decision to change it from a universal to a means-tested benefit, despite its bitter opposition when the cut (and don’t think it’s anything else!) was first announced.
Of course not. That would be silly.
The fact is that, if Labour comes back into office in 2015, the party’s leaders believe it will be extremely unlikely that enough money will be available to fund the restoration of universal Child Benefit.
That’s not a U-turn by Labour – it’s economic mismanagement by the Conservatives (and their little yellow enablers, the Liberal Democrats).
When George Osborne became Chancellor in 2010, he vowed to eliminate the national deficit by the next election in 2015. Some of you might have forgotten that; he said he would balance the books by then, making it possible for the (poor people of the) country to start on the national debt (because the rich people have parked £21 trillion in foreign tax havens and the Tories are determined not to do anything about it, even though collecting some tax would solve our problems in a stroke).
The 2015 election is now less than two years away. You might think the Coalition has done well, as it continues to claim the elimination of a quarter of the deficit. That was announced in 2012. In the year to 2013, it eliminated something like a quarter of one per cent of the deficit – maybe even less!
Borrowing continues to increase under this Coalition government. It has failed in its reason for existing.
That’s why Labour won’t be able to restore universal Child Benefit.
And that’s why David Cameron is a babbling buffoon.