March 12: PMQs is now an insult to voters

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EVEN by the depressing standards of Prime Minister’s Questions, yesterday’s unedifying exchanges marked a new nadir in politics – and offered a grim foretaste of a general election in which personal attacks will inevitably drown out any meaningful debate about the country’s future.

With the exception of David Cameron’s warm tribute to David Blunkett as the pioneering MP prepares to take his leave of Parliament, this was Westminster at its worst thanks, in no small part, to the volume of scripted questions pre-arranged by the party whips.

And, frankly, many armchair observers will now question the actual wisdom of staging TV election debates, after the House of Commons came to resemble a bear pit as baying MPs cheered and jeered Mr Cameron and Opposition leader Ed Miliband in equal measure – the Government’s chief whip Michael Gove was admonished at one point.

This antagonistic atmosphere – far removed from the respectfulness that characterised party politics in the post-war years – was made even worse by the insulting language deployed by the two men as they traded verbal blows. Mr Cameron said his opposite number was “weak and despicable” because Labour has failed to rule out the possibility of a coalition with the Scottish Nationalists before Mr Miliband claimed that the Tory leader is a “useless prime minister”

Coming 24 hours after Mr Miliband’s wife Justine warned that the personal attacks during the election will get “really vicious”, it is ironic that her well-intended desire to uphold the “principle of decency in public life” is now as remote as ever because the two men vying to be prime minster in the coming weeks are under the misapprehension that they are auditioning for pantomime roles rather than the most important job in the land. As such, it is time that they stopped insulting the intelligence of voters and brought some maturity and substance to domestic politics.

Put patients first

NHS is a bureaucracy gone mad

WHEN ARE the bureaucrats running the National Health Service going to start treating patients with the dignity that they would expect if they had the misfortune to be diagnosed with a terminal illness? It is a question which becomes even more relevant in the wake of the distressing case of North Yorkshire grandfather Ian Lawson, who has won a battle with officialdom to secure an assessment for adaptations to his motorised wheelchair.

After being diagnosed with motor neurone disease, these improvements are critical to the 59-year-old’s quality of life. Just being able to use his wheelchair to walk his Alsatian dog Ash clearly means the world to Mr Lawson – the loving pictures published by The Yorkshire Post today speak for themselves – and it is not his fault that the necessary decisions have been delayed for so long because NHS England, the body responsible for commissioning such improvements, failed to make sure services were available to patients in Whitby, Hambleton and Richmondshire.

Such an embarrassing oversight, however unintentional, fails to inspire confidence at a time when more people like Mr Lawson will require wheelchairs and home adaptations to assist them in the latter stages of their lives. They need assurances that such cases will be treated speedily – and not left at the mercy of a bureaucracy that becomes more unfathomable with every set of changes. It is, after all, a public service – a fact which is overlooked all too frequently.

Family values

Meals are key to domestic bliss

IT is indicative of the changing expectations of families that wi-fi access is now an everyday essential if children are to grow up in a happy home. This, after all, is the age of the computer when the latest mobile devices are omnipresent morning, noon and night.

Yet today’s survey on the constituent components of domestic bliss is equally revealing for the quality that does still top the list – families coming together for their main meal of the day on a regular basis. Despite changing lifestyles, it is significant that the happiest homes are those where parents do, in fact, spend quality time with their children.

All they need to be persuaded to do is switch off the television at meal times and press the ‘silent’ button on mobile phones, and there’s a greater likelihood of today’s young people prospering from those family values which served previous generations so well. It is food for thought, even more so at a time when many perceive that society is becoming more selfish.