Editor's blog Monday 29 March 2010: Chancellor wannabes and bits and pieces
How do? Good weekend, I hope?
So. What did you make of the Ask The Chancellor ting on Channel 4?
What a quiet room it was: you could hear presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy turn pages of his notes. The audience was certainly thoroughly focused on the contenders.
The three had clearly been briefed not to gurn and wince at each others' comments, which is a refreshing change from the Question Time tradition of mugging it up. The format (reasonable timed periods for response; lecterns; chaired in a schoolmaster-but-not-hectoring style) worked okay - I could have hacked a longer overall duration, but I'm more interested than most.
How did they come across? Fairly mature and moderately civilised, overall. Each put their points across effectively in the opening and closing remarks. Cable managed to avoid seeming smart-arsed over his reputation for calling things right on the property-and-debt-bubble, and probably pulled off the Everyman-cum-Statesman of the evening award. He got more laughs and spontaneous applause than the others.
Darling Chancellor Darling wants to watch out: he could end up being one of those 'loved-as-in-respected' politicians. He fudged the specific question on details of the oncoming cuts, but did not deny his 'deeper than the eighties' remark. And his "cross-party consensus" comeback to Osborne's accusation of pinching the sub-£250,000 stamp duty cut was effective.
Osborne had clearly been briefed to hold the sneer down, and did a manful job of trying. He mentioned David Cameron a lot when replying on the reasons to ring-fence NHS spending, and led the call for cross-party consensus on public sector pensions (Cable swung in behind this, seeking a cross-party consensus on a framework for the economic recovery - he clearly thinks the next Parliament should be like a male porn star: bloody well hung). I did rather like his concept of a "death tax ... that kicks in on death", though. What else might trigger it? Heavy cold?
The NHS question was from Don McKechnie, an A&E consultant wanting assurances that no services in his or any other hospital would be cut. He did not receive it.
The other health-ish bits were about ring-fencing "front-line" funding and of course funding social care (AKA the "death tax").
So who was the 'winner'? The quick and easy response would be Vince Cable. He certainly did himself no harm. Perhaps it is most accurate to say that there was no clear 'loser'.
And finally ...
Conservatives promise to save the NHS millions as an employer, and will make the lost revenue up from fictional efficiency savings.
Brian Jarman is concerned about mortality figures from 2007-8. Of the 25 hospitals he lists, 12 are foundation trusts.
Surgeons don't want cuts as in rationing.
The CQC registers another 10 trusts with conditions, alongside those notorious bad boys Mid-Staffs and ... erm, Milton Keynes? (COI declaration - I'm doing a bit of comms work for MK)