Cameron’s concerns lie more with the ever-growing splits in his own party at the moment, and Corbyn wisely avoided discussing the European Union and focused on health. Junior doctors have announced three 48-hour strikes in March and April, in response to the imposition of an unfair and dangerous new employment contract by health secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Responding to Corbyn’s questions, Cameron made three mistakes.
The first was to keep harping back to the Tory claim that the UK needs a “seven-day NHS”. We already have one. People seeking treatment on a Sunday aren’t asked to “come back tomorrow” – they receive help immediately. The Tory lie is putting people off asking for help – and in fact creating the situation Cameron and Hunt say they want to end.
The second was to support Jeremy Hunt’s claim that thousands more people died at weekends due to staff shortages. They don’t. They die because they have serious health issues and have delayed bringing them to doctors, according to research.
Corbyn made it clear that Cameron and Hunt have misrepresented the research, and quoted the researchers saying it would be “rash and misleading” to say increased death rates at weekends were due to staff shortages – but Cameron ignored this. His response was to say the true figure for excess deaths was 11,000 – more than the 6k quoted by Jeremy Hunt originally.
It was an answer that completely missed the point. It doesn’t matter how many deaths are quoted – they aren’t due to staff shortages so the Conservative Government can’t use them to justify its health hazard of a new contract.
Incidentally, cowardly Cameron ran away from discussing the scandal of Hunt quoting unverified figures in order to ramp up public feeling against the doctors last year – and then allegedly ‘leaning’ on civil servants to hide this fact, including lying in response to a Freedom of Information request, to cover up what he had done.
Oh, and Cameron’s claim that we don’t have a seven-day NHS in Wales is a lie. This Writer has personally benefited from weekend healthcare here in Powys. When will Cameron stop lying about the NHS in Wales?
Finally, in response to a heckle from the Labour benches, Cameron had to bring his mother into the debate. Mrs Cameron (Snr) was recently reported to have joined the struggle against cuts to public services that have been foisted on the people of the UK by her son.
Cameron’s response to the jibe was an entirely irrelevant soundbite: “Smarten yourself up, do up your tie and sing the national anthem.”
That is what sealed the victory for Corbyn. Nothing that was said afterwards – even the references to Aneurin Bevan – could have changed the verdict.
Snap responses on Twitter, quoted by the Guardian, were as follows:
Bertha Mason: “Not a good idea… given that his own mother and aunt are against his policies.”
Sarah Champion MP: “Cameron has reached an all time low… Criticism of Corbyn’s dress sense when challenged on Junior Doctor contracts. Pathetic!”
Chris Evans MP: “Cameron should be ashamed of himself – since when did Corbyn’s dress sense have anything to do with junior doctors?”
Paul Waugh: “It’s the battle of the mums between Corbyn and Cameron today. Has politics really come to this?”
(For the sake of balance, let’s also include Robert Peston, letting the BBC down again with this: “Oh god, hard not to feel sorry for Jeremy Corbyn. Never a good idea to bring mums into any argument.” Just a couple of points, Robert: Jeremy Corbyn didn’t mention mums in the first place, David Cameron introduced them into the debate after a heckle; and, you do realise that Corbyn was speaking up in support of a media investigation? Just because you don’t work at the BBC any more doesn’t mean its output is entirely worthless.)
The result: Utter defeat for David Cameron – although some ignorant ‘lame-stream media’ hacks might try to convince you otherwise. Cameron was once again reduced to a miserable display of ignorance and disrespect.
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