NHS Tax Rises: Would You Prefer to Be Pickpocketed or Mugged?

Which one arrives quicker? An A&E doctor or Jeremy Corbyn’s first question at PMQs? At least the former is subject to a target and to monitoring, and – more often than not – when doctors arrive, they come baring sympathy and hard drugs. When Jezza’s opener finally landed, it was more of the ‘men in white coats’ flavour, in that it only served to confirm the reinforced, double-glazed looking glass through which we have all passed. Jezza quizzed May on tax, accusing her at various points in the exchange of introducing “phantom” and “mystery” taxes in order to pay for the NHS funding increase (which he himself has been demanding since homo sapiens evolved from homo erectus). It’s more than a brass neck when a socialist lectures on tax, Jezza’s must be made from reinforced kevlar…

Watching the PM and JC both interminably trade NHS stats across the despatch box, the realisation dawned that the question being asked of the public is now essentially as follows: how would you prefer your money be taken from you? By a pickpocket wearing soft (leopard print) shoes, or by a mugger who will come and do the same with all the phantom subtlety of a particularly capable moped gang? Jezza should have pressed the PM harder on where the tax rises would fall – but he isn’t surgical enough. May should have parried harder on the nuclear apocalypse of a Corbyn-run health service – but her strikes weren’t clinical enough. In reality, and entirely as is usual with these exchanges, PMQs descended into platitude and inexactitude: ideal for both leaders, whose precise plans for the NHS remain deliberately obscure and impenetrable to the average voter. At least we’ll all be able to complain about the health service whatever happens…

Much the best action came when dexterous Labour backbencher Lisa Nandy rammed a freight train full of surprise into May’s buffers over Northern Rail. Much like one of their trains, her question turned up unexpectedly. She had obtained emails demonstrating officials knew of the crisis in advance and had dismissed the concerns of commuters – and, in fact, had deliberately planned to dupe them. In short, these were among some of the most Home Counties emails ever written. May’s voice pitched up as it does under pressure and she intoned that no government ever comments over leaks at the despatch box. Light touch response, dripping with sympathy rather than being overly defensive, perfect…

The SNP are back, and they’ve had a week to think about what to say. As such, Ian Blackford actually raised a fairly sticky one over Trump and the ongoing immigration scandal in the US. He was shown up by Labour’s Gavin Shuker who later formulated the question better (asking what Trump would have to do to get his invitation revoked), but it was somewhat eyebrow-raising that Jezza didn’t even mention, let alone bash, the big, bad, democratically elected President of the United States, our closest ally. May – banter afterburners set to Warp Nine –  joked that it was good to see Blackford back in his place and expressed some mild criticism of Trump’s practices. Keeping Brexit rebels in cages, on the other hand…




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