Cruel, cruel Tony Baldry. He told the House about the 1983 election and Labour’s anti-Europe commitments of the time. And how a 13-year-old boy had delivered a leaflet through his letterbox on behalf of Michael Foot. “That boy, now leader of the Labour party,” he said in his large, deep, fat-uncle manner.
“That boy, now leader of the Labour party.”
Little Ed’s pain was visible. And for those who have an appetite for that sort of thing, palpable.
There he was on the front bench, shoulders down, smiling wanly, slightly angling his smooth, young face towards the big bruiser next to him. He had grown up by four or five years since 1983 but was clearly the junior partner as Big Ed joined in the joshing and rollicking that Cameron was dishing out.
“Not my idea of fun,” Cameron laughed about delivering leaflets at the age of 14. “What was your idea of fun?” Big Ed kept jabbing. “Not hanging out with the shadow chancellor,” Cameron said. “I feel sorry for the Leader of the Opposition who has to hang out with him all the time!”
Tories were entering a stage of pre-climactic pleasure, Big Ed was pointing, pouting, heckling, laughing back.
Little Ed sat shyly, too young to join in the game.
The Labour leader had done his six rounds with the prime minister. If you are of the loyal left you will claim he won on the NHS. You will like it when he said, “He talks about Wales because he can’t defend his record in England.”
But you may also feel his statistics were kicked back in his face – there are no rules in a statistical fight – that he lost his way, that his delivery was wild, and that the flesh and blood story he needs to tell has to be left to others.
This is how it went.
Q1) Has the number of people waiting for more than two months for cancer treatment got better or worse?
A1) The number treated for cancer is up by 15 per cent. The key waiting targets for A and E have been met (in April).
Q2) Two cancer charities disagree, is he really saying things are getting better not worse?
A2) The Coalition introduced a cancer drug fund which has treated 50,000. A million more patients are being treated. In Labour-controlled Wales, they haven’t met a cancer target since 2009.
Q3) In Wales, more cancer patients start cancer treatment within 62 days than in England. In four years, has the number of people waiting four hours in A&E got better or worse?
A3) We have met our waiting time targets. The average wait has gone from 77 minutes to 30 minutes. And Wales hasn’t met a target since 2008.
Q4) The four-hour waiting target has gone from 353,000 to 939,000. An increase of 300 per cent.
A4) The average waiting time is down by more than half. And the shadow health secretary recently said the NHS is the best health service in the world.
Q5) What is the number of people waiting for four hours on trolleys?
A5) They are waiting for less time than under Labour. And what about mid-Staffs? We are spending £12.7bn extra which Labour said was irresponsible. Wales. People are dying under Labour.
Q6) Trolley waits up from 61,000 to 167,000. There is worse access to cancer treatments, A&E waits are longer, GP access is worse. It’s all his fault.
A6) The NHS was named best health service in the world by an independent authority, for the first time. Labour lacks policy, misquotes figures, was accused by his host of planning a bureaucratic nightmare.
Who won that?
Whatever the summary looks like, in the flesh it was David’s younger brother against Goliath’s younger brother. And the noodle had forgotten his slingshot.
“Honestly,” the PM said, “if he can’t do better than that on the NHS, he is in trouble.”
Quite daring to tempt fate like that, on the NHS.