PMQs this week was a rough ride for David Cameron, who faced a sustained and effective attack from Ed Miliband over the NHS reform. The Health and Social Care Bill returns to the Lords today, and Ed Miliband used all six of his questions to reel off a list of those within the health sector who oppose the reforms, as well as castigate Cameron for reneging on his pledge for no "top-down reorganisation."
Commentators immediately seized on what was fairly limpid support from Cameron for the health secretary Andrew Lansley, who has had a torrid week of alleged briefings against him by Downing Street. All the PM would say was that Lansley's prospects were better than Miliband's. Hardly an enthusiastic backing, frankly.
The PM was expected to throw his weight behind Lansley today - is this his idea of doing so? HuffPost UK came away from PMQs convinced that Lansley was a prime target for either the chop or a reshuffle move.
Lansley was in the chamber - but only just! He was obscured by the Speaker's chair for most MPs. But at least he showed up.
Speaking of limpid support, we weren't bowled over by the PM's backing of Sarah Teather, who didn't vote in favour of the welfare benefit caps when they returned to the Commons last week. She was apparently on departmental business in Sheffield, but the voraciously independent Tory MP Peter Bone basically called for her to be sacked. The PM would only say that Teather was a government minister and as such supported government policy.
The PM was just as vague on Wednesday as Theresa May was the day before on Abu Qatada. All Cameron would say was that the situation was unacceptable, and promised to resolve the Qatada problem. But he didn't have any details about how this would happen, except to say that they were working with Jordan to ensure deportation.
All in all, not a good week for David Cameron at all. Ed Miliband seems to be finding his groove - and his improved performances at PMQs don't seem to have been just a blip. Now we'll have to see if Labour can keep it up on the NHS in the Lords later.
Highlights from PMQs below:
08/02/2012 12:32 GMT
Peter Bone on Sarah Teather's failure to vote
Reports today that the Childrens' Minister failed to vote on the Benefit Cap.
Why does the PM not sack Teather?
Cameron: The hon lady is a government minister and supports government policy.
08/02/2012 12:30 GMT
Labour's Barbara Keeley on PIP implants
She's on the Health Committee, which took evidence on the implants scandal yesterday.
She manages to spin into a Drop the Bill question...
The PM says the NHS will do everything it can to help women affected, and says that private clinics should feel the "maximum pressure" to help women as well.
But as the evidence session showed yesterday, the industry has no proper record of the women who've had the implants.
08/02/2012 12:28 GMT
Cameron red-faced and shrill
Maybe feeling like it's been a tough half-hour, the PM accuses Labour of failing to stand up for British interests and british jobs. But he's yelling, partly because it's noisy in the chamber, and he's very pink.
08/02/2012 12:26 GMT
Twitterati consensus: The PM is struggling today?
@ adamboultonSKY :
COMMENT And that one fell flat too. DC sinking in mud this week. EM reminds that a No10 aide wants Lansley ' taken out and shot', no wonder
08/02/2012 12:23 GMT
Cameron on Lansley's prospects ...
He only said that Lansley's prospects were better than Miliband's. Not sure that's an enthusiastic backing, really. Bound to raise speculation that Lansley will be reshuffled.
08/02/2012 12:21 GMT
Did the PM really back Lansley fully? Some aren't sure
@ iainmartin1 :
@SamCoatesTimes right, Cam backing of Lansley was pretty threadbare
08/02/2012 12:20 GMT
Labour's Geraint Davies on Abu Qatada
He suggests the abolition of control orders leads to the 'disgusting' prospect of the suspected terrorist walking the streets of Britain.
Cameron admits it's unacceptable, and pledges the government will do everything it can to make sure Qatada is deported.
But as with Theresa May's statement yesterday, it's not clear what's being done exactly.
08/02/2012 12:17 GMT
Instant reaction: A win for Ed Miliband?
Cameron's last answer was pretty weak, just insisting the NHS will get better. Ed Miliband broke with recent form and went hell-for-leather on the NHS and it was a pretty robust takedown by the Labour leader.
Not sure the PM was as flustered as Miliband claimed, but in an exchange which was littered with claim and counter-claim about stats and performance figures, it felt as though Ed Miliband made more of an impression...
08/02/2012 12:15 GMT
Ed Miliband last question - who's moving the goal-posts?
Cameron has just laid into Miliband, saying "even when he moves the goal-posts he can't get it in the back of the net."
Miliband comes back saying it's the PM who's shifted the goal-posts.
"Every day, trust of him on the NHS ebbs away."
Cameron says the career prospects for Andrew Lansley are better than Miliband's
08/02/2012 12:14 GMT
Ed Miliband defends Labour's record on NHS
He says Labour achieved the lowest waiting times in the history of the NHS and goes back on the attack over the PM's trustworthiness regarding 'top-down' reorganisation.
Miliband claims a load of performance stats are worsening. Drop the Bill, he says.
Cameron says if Labour were so competent, why did they lose the election?
The Speaker intervenes and tells Labour MPs to calm down.
Cameron continues saying plenty of NHS stats are improving, especially the number of people on the waiting list.