Wednesday, 19 October 2016
PMQs Review 19th October 2016 - The Reality of Bone's Birthday Edition
A slightly truncated review this week, for which apologies. This is owing to my own brush with the NHS. I have to report that, barring the usual problems with appalling administration, I always get excellent treatment. Note to politicians, the NHS would be fine if only you could get in some half competent people to run the bloody thing.
Before we get underway this week we should of course point out that Boris Johnson yesterday spoke in Italian in the Commons. This has excited much comment in the papers this week, albeit in a week in which Chauncey has had little to say and so politics has seemed rather sensible and boring.
Theresa May has not yet adopted this approach, she prefers her own rather more pedestrian way of dealing with answering questions in the Commons, or indeed of not answering them: an approach in which she is masterful. Yet this week we did get a rather risqué moment. The first question came from Peter Bone, bete noir of Mrs May's predecessor. He proclaimed himself happy. This was not just because it was his birthday today but because of recent Europe related events that have made the Bone household as cheerful as an Italian at a White House state event able to look on with appreciation at the outgoing first lady's magnificent Versace outfit.
Mrs May wished Peter Bone many happy returns of the day and expressed the wish that Mrs Bone, who was often a party in her husband's questions to David Cameron, would be doing her wifely duty to give Mr Bone a happy birthday too. The House chuckled in a kind of dry Sid James like manner and Mr Bone himself had the decency to look embarrassed. It was all a bit Ooh Err for a full minute, with the cuckolded Speaker getting in on the act too as is his wont.
Fortunately then Chauncey got to his feet to kill the mood. He wanted to talk about dead children and the NHS. Actually the dead children were those who died 50 years ago at Aberfan, something the Commons was commemorating. Chauncey went full on on the issue as only he can do. You felt he wanted to blame the Tories for it but couldn't quite find the words.
Then he proceeded to talk about the NHS, starting with mental health. This is said to be the Cinderella part of our NHS, but then mental health issues are something of a Cinderella aspect of health at the best of times. Psychiatrists are just people who couldn't be proper doctors after all. These days stress is supposed to be a mental health issue. Students probably claim stress and mental health issues if they are not given safe spaces and trigger warnings about Enid Blyton books, or if old colonial statues are left in place. Anti-depressants are handed out like sweets or even like antibiotics. Perhaps our mental health system is breaking down because we cannot decide what is and is not a proper mental health issue and thus those in genuine need of help and a mental health beds are crowded out by those just in need of few days off or a stiff talking to. This probably makes me sound unsympathetic. But then this is why I didn't become a politician. I come from Birmingham. We have an accent that makes us sound as if we have mental health issues.
The PM made a stout if not particularly inspiring defence of the Government's record on the NHS. It's always about funding of course. The Government line is that they are pouring ever more money into the bottomless pit. Those of us who would like honesty on the issue and so cannot as a consequence be politicians would point out that the NHS is never going to operate in anything other than a crisis because it is trying to do what no other system in the world does funded purely by tax and being free at the point of use. It is routinely abused and overused and pouring ever more money into it will not work. We have a system that tries to keep people alive when suffering from cancer whilst trying to wean them off cigarettes, not being nasty to fatties and giving cosmetic surgery to women who want bigger boobs due to mental health issues.
Mrs May did say all of this in a roundabout way, well not all of it obviously. She said that Labour always make terrible claims about the NHS or of what the Tories are going to do to it. And so they do. If only the Tories would or could take the lefties on over the NHS and point out how doomed it is without reform. But then this is the great unsayable in politics. Much like delivering a new runway for the southeast.
Mrs May is never going to be a great performer at these sessions. But she does seem curiously unprepared and hesitant at times, her innuendo about Mrs Bone notwithstanding. It's either that or she just cannot bring the facts and figures to mind. Are her powers of recall not up to the job? She is succeeding in making Chauncey look half competent, even when he spouts his usual socialist claptrap about funding and bottomless pit economics. Fortunately he is sufficiently hapless, even on the issue of the NHS to still come off second best. Today he kept talking about the reality of things. The reality? When did reality ever intrude on Chauncey's mindset? He cannot even conduct an inquiry into his own party's brazen anti-Semitism problem without handing out peerages to buy himself an acquittal. Maybe she should address him in Italian, if not in an Italian dress. He might not even notice.