Last week saw Starmer accuse the Tories of ’breaking the NHS’, and the latest head-to-head saw Starmer challenge the PM on ongoing strikes and issues with the health service once again.
But who came out on top? Here’s what happened.
Starmer - “If someone calls 999 now, when would an ambulance arrive?” 7/10
The leader of the opposition starts things off by asking a direct question to Sunak, highlighting the chaos that the health service is currently facing. It looks like the crisis in the NHS will be the big talking point of the day again.
\u201cKeir Starmer goes on ambulance waiting times at #PMQs \n\n12.03pm - somebody calls ambulance with suspected heart attack\n\n12.20pm - govt says ambulance should arrive by now. \n\n2.10pm onwards - ambulance actually arrives under average wait. \n\n\u201cThe NHS is in crisis, isn\u2019t it?\u201d\u201d
Sunak - “We’re doing everything to improve conditions” 3/10
Sunak claims the Tories are acting rapidly to improve conditions in the NHS without offering any specifics, before asking why Starmer won't support the minimum safety legislation.
Starmer - “Stop blaming others” 8/10
“When will that ambulance arrive,” he asks again, provoking more non-answers from the PM. Sunak instead talks about increasing funding, claims it's because they’re “recovering from the pandemic” and the “pressures of this winter”.
Starmer goes on to detail the extensive wait times for ambulances across the country, and “someone who fears a heart attack fearing a two and a half hour wait” as an average across the UK. After a slightly unsteady start, he is on firmer ground when asks Sunak to ‘stop blaming others... take responsibility and admit the NHS is in crisis’.
Sunak - 'Things are worse in Wales' 1/10
Sunak begins by saying that wait times for ambulances in Wales are even worse than in England, and it’s really not the slam he thinks it is. He also highlights the impact of the pandemic and an early flu season before asking why Starmer won't support the minimum safety legislation in a bizarre response.
\u201cNot sure the PM\u2019s line that ambulance times in Wales are \u201ceven worse than they are in England\u201d is necessarily the zinger he might think it is. #PMQs\u201d
Starmer - “He won’t answer any questions and he won’t take any responsibility” 7/10
The Labour leader brings it back to the question of ambulance wait times and does well to quiet down shouts from opposition benches, reminding them that the hypothetical heart attack victim he’s talking about is “one of their constituents”.
Sunak - “We’re investing more in urgent care” 7/10
A stronger response from Sunak, finally answering a question put to him.
“The specific and practical things we are doing to improve ambulance times are clear,” he said. “We’re investing more in urgent and critical care to add more bed capacity. We’re ensuring that flow of patients through emergency care is faster than it ever has been. We are discharging people at a record rate out of hospitals…” Sunak says, finally offering a direct answer to a question.
Sunak ends by accusing Starmer of being “in the pockets of his union paymaster,” which is the strongest he’s been so far.
\u201cThat was quite an interesting #PMQs in that every question from Keir Starmer was trying to get Rishi Sunak to concede something that the entire public knows it true but that the PM can never admit: that the NHS/ambulance services are in crisis. Was effective.\u201d
\u201cKeir Starmer very effective in highlighting what he describes as the "lethal chaos" in the NHS under this government and the life and death impact it is having. Rishi Sunak's attempts to blame Labour, who have now been out of power for 13 years, are increasingly jarring. #pmqs\u201d
Sunak - “People are working as hard as they can” 3/10
The PM begins by reeling off the same stuff about people working hard in the NHS, which of course they are, without offering any further answers or solutions. He then asks yet again about the minimum safety legislation, and enquires why Starmer is against the “guarantee of emergency life saving care”. Weak from Sunak.
\u201cRishi Sunak - "It was the Labour Party that showed their cards, this week, when it came to backing working people,\u201d \ud83d\udc4d\n\n#PMQs\u201d
Starmer - “Deflect, blame others, never take responsibility” 7/10
The leader of the opposition goes in on Sunak’s lack of accountability, before saying: “He won’t say when he will deliver the basic service levels that people need”. He ends by pointing out that 700 people will call an ambulance during the length of PMQS, before asking whether Sunak will “apologise for the lethal chaos under his watch”.
Sunak - “We are delivering on the people’s priorities” 4/10
“The honourable gentleman will just say anything if the politics suits him,” the PM says, before going on to discuss the “broken promises” that Starmer has made including “promising to nationalise public services and promising to have a second referendum”.
It turned out to be one of the feistier affairs between Sunak and Starmer so far, as Sunak was clearly a little rattled by the line of questioning on ambulance wait times.
There were some strong moments from Starmer, who did well to bring back the alarming numbers to real human experiences. He was also able to get Sunak to effectively concede that the NHS is in crisis, without saying so explicitly.
If we were working in Sunak’s office, we’d be trying to get together a few more points of attack to be used against Starmer next week. His retorts seemed more feeble than usual this week, returning to the minimum safety legislation point a total of three times.
Ultimately, it was another unconvincing display from Sunak, and a solid if unspectacular week for Starmer in the commons.
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