100 days. Yes, today is Theresa May’s 100th day as Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party, and it would be right to ask what exactly she has done for the country since she took her throne.
One word can sum up her first 100 days: confusion.
Her MPs are talking about teeth-checking for migrants while she wants to open more grammar schools. And let’s not even talk about her plan for Brexit, as there is no plan yet.
But, there’s another hot topic that needed to be discussed urgently – the looming NHS funding crisis.
On Wednesday 19 October, at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) and in a series of exchanges that wholly concerned the NHS, Jeremy Corbyn went on the attack and has exposed May’s true weakness: the PM is clumsy and unprepared.
Corbyn said that the government is “disguising the extent of the [NHS] crisis with temporary bailouts”.
Instead of reassuring the chamber, clueless PM May used her favourite trick. She didn’t answer the question and attacked Labour’s own records on the subject.
She said there was a “record level of investment in our National Health Service” and then added “there shouldn’t be a “top-down approach” which is “typical of the Labour party”.
But Corbyn wasn’t impressed by May’s response and retorted back:
“Wow – top-down is what we got. It cost £3bn for a top-down reorganisation that nobody wanted”.
He also called on the PM to say there will be “no downgrades and no closures of A&E departments” in a statement due next month which, of course, the PM refused to answer.
But today Corbyn came armed with grim statistics on the true state of the NHS. Some 40% of mental health trusts have seen their budgets cut, 80% of hospital trusts are facing a budget deficit this year and 400,000 fewer people are receiving social care. All of these demonstrate that the NHS is underfunded and is facing a huge crisis.
Are the Tories preparing for the privatisation of the NHS? This was what Corbyn implied today. This also explains why May decided to hit back Corbyn with a “poor line of attack” and said:
“at every election Labour claims the Tories will cut NHS spending, at every election we increase it”.
She then added:
“there is only one party that has cut funding for the NHS – the Labour party in Wales”.
But let’s be fair to the PM. She can make us laugh too. May made a hilarious innuendo during PMQs about MP Peter Bone’s birthday.
May said she hoped that Mr Bone’s wife “will mark the occasion in the appropriate manner”, after the Tory MP asked her if she would support the reopening of Wellingborough prison or “rather just sing happy birthday”.
But this was her best line – and quite frankly we would have preferred that the PM answered the serious question asked by the leader of the opposition, instead of cracking a joke with her frontbench friends.
As Corbyn said today:
“I started out by asking about parity of esteem, all this government has produced is parity of failure.”
We can only agree with him.
Well, the Tories fail to answer any serious questions:
Tories fail to answer the question on Accident and Emergency departments and closure, with winter coming my constituents need answers #PMQs
— Angela Rayner MP (@AngelaRayner) October 19, 2016
— Imran Hussain MP (@Imran_HussainMP) October 19, 2016
And as Labour MP Wes Streeting suggests, you can’t trust the Tories with the NHS:
At every election Labour warns you can't trust the Tories with the NHS and every time the Tories win they prove us right. #PMQs
— Wes Streeting MP (@wesstreeting) October 19, 2016
The NHS is weak territory for the Tories and there is a presumption the Labour leader should always win on health. Corbyn was good today and challenged the PM efficiently on the lack of funding of our health services. But Corbyn also exposed the true weakness of May’s government. She is unprepared, doesn’t know what to do and always relies on bullish tactics – like her predecessor, but with less talent.