Editorial Monday 12 October 2015: In character as Ralph from 'The Fast Show', Ben Gummer refutes an un-made allegation
Health Policy Insight has long had a a soft spot for junior health ministers in what passes for our hearts.
The greatest was of course the legendary 'Fancy A Burger?' Gummer) Ben Gummer is, to channel Ralph from The Fast Show.
The hesitancy of speech and manner; the failure to address the key issue: it's all there.
who had verbally requested Monitor and the TDA to delay the financial data (as revealed by The Guardian's Denis Campbell).
Mr Gummer "refuted her allegation": an interesting tactic, because Mrs Alexander hadn't actually made an allegation.
She had asked a question.
And Mr Gummer did not answer it. He blustered and bullshitted instead.
The Labour party is not living through its finest hour at present, but as a minimum, it must re-learn the skills of effective opposition. A healthy democracy needs an effective opposition.
Labour must get used to effective heckling. The effective heckle is short and to the point. In this case, the effective heckle would have been 'Answer the question!'
Eventually, Labour backbencher Teresa Pearce pointed out that Mr Gummer had not answered the question about who had leaned on regulators to suppress data.
Again, Mr Gummer chose to "refute that allegation".
Yes, the one that had not been made.
The First Law Of Holes
Cowper's First Law Of Holes: when you are in one, stop digging. There is more to come here. A mildly competent Labour health team should pursue it.
Elsewhere, Mr Gummer was no more effective in decrying "playing politics with the NHS", while citing the NHS in Wales and the Mid-Staffs care scandal (which is apparently responsible for the NHS's financial position).
Mr Gummer's other culprits for the blown-up money include agency staff rates (it's as if the laws of supply and demand are difficult for Conservatives to understand), and very senior managers' salaries. Not to worry on the latter: the vacancy rates of chief executives will soon save the NHS a fortune.
Gisela Stuart called the minister about the excellent University Hospitals Birmingham being overwhelmed by demand from GPs and patients on the patches of their less clinically and financially successful neighbours. Mr Gummer could not even essay a serious response to the question, other than to praise UHB.
Mr Gummer mumbled the line about the Conservatives being "the party of the NHS" with a supreme lack of conviction. A cruel sort could probably splice together various MPs' efforts at making this work into an entertaining video.
And the session got its bingo "House!" moment when Chief Homeopathy Officer David Tredinnick suggested that compelemntary and alternative medicine could ease pressure on the NHS. The idea that the NHS's funding becomes more powerful by diluting it relative to demand and population does appear to be the guiding principle behind current plans.
Ben 'Ralph' Gummer was truly, startlingly poor at the Urgent Question. You never know: he might be able to replace Jeremy Hunt, once the money blows up good and proper.