A lack of respect as Theresa May blames Labour for social care impasse – Tom Richmond

JUST-published research from the University of York suggested that Theresa May answers as few as 11 per cent of questions posed to her at Prime Minister’s Questions by Jeremy Corbyn.

Theresa May dodged a question on social care at Prime Minister's Questions this week.

Even this appears to be on the optimistic side after the Prime Minister demeaned herself, her office and her party this week with her contempt over social care.

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The question she faced from Labour backbencher Eleanor Smith – who heads the All Party Parliamentary Group on this issue – was so straightforward that even 10 Downing Street should have foreseen it (The Yorkshire Post even suggested it in an editorial following publication of York’s academic analysis).

The Government's Green Paper on social care has now been delayed on at least five occasions.

“I would like to know when the long-awaited Green Paper on social care will be published. We have been waiting years for this,” said Ms Smith before referring to statements earlier this year that the strategy would be published “before April”.

Mrs May’s reply, to gasps of incredulity? “She complains that it has been delayed for a matter of months, but may I remind her that the last Labour Government had 13 years to deliver a sustainable social care system, and they did absolutely nothing?”

What absolutely contempt when Matt Hancock, the PM’s own Health and Social Care Strategy, had earlier admitted to a House of Lords inquiry: “I am afraid it has been delayed due to Brexit and the need for bandwidth. We continue to work on it and we continue to improve it.”

Sorry – but such levels of disingenuousness, when this document has already been delayed on at least five occasions, must not suffice.

Why couldn’t the Prime Minister be truthful in her reply? Does she not realise that the issue has escalated significantly since Labour last left office nine years ago in 2010? And does the PM not understand that the effectiveness of the NHS Long Term Plan will be compromised unless social care is put on a sustainable footing?

Until there is joined-up communication – and care – between hospitals, occupational therapists, local authorities and social care providers, patients will continue to be let down by the inability of Mrs May and her Ministers to do anything productive other than argue about Brexit – and mislead about their shortcomings.

SOME great reflections by political commentator Michael Brown on his election 40 years ago this month as the Conservative MP for Brigg and Scunthorpe.

“A week later at a No 10 reception for new Tory MPs, the new Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, asked me how I had done. ‘I got over 31,000 votes and a 486 majority’, I told her proudly. ‘No, Michael, I got the 31,000 votes; you got the 486’,” he recalled.

And then his unforgettable exchange with former Labour premier Sir Harold Wilson outside the fabled Members’ Smoking Room, pretending to read the Press Association ticker machine.

He recalls the famous gravelly voice asking: “What’s Yorkshire’s cricket score, laddie?” They then had a drink before Mr Brown had to reveal that he was, in fact, a Conservative MP. “Tories won Scunthorpe! Well done – have another drink lad,” said Sir Harold.

If only Britain had leaders today who could dominate like Margaret Thatcher or Harold Wilson – and think on their feet too.

YOU could not make it up. For years, driver shortages have exacerbated delays and disruptions on the North’s antiquated railway network. Yet, in London, hundreds of train drivers are being employed by Crossrail on salaries of up to £59,000 a year – even though the much-delayed line won’t open for another two years as its budget soars to £17.6bn.

I appreciate that drivers do require specific training for the new route, but how about deploying some of them to the North for the interim period when there are no trains for them to drive? Or is this also beyond Chris Grayling? Oh, I forgot. He’s the Transport Secretary who does not run the railways because he likes to think that he is Minister for Road Signs.

PRESSURE on the next Tory leader to scrap HS2 is likely to grow after Shipley MP Philip Davies explained why he did not sign a letter, written by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, pressing Chancellor Philip Hammond to commit to high-speed rail in the region.

After I pointed this out last week, he texted to say: “I said I would sign the letter if it removed from it the implied support in there for HS2 which I believe is a spectacular waste of money. They wouldn’t remove the support for HS2 in the letter so I couldn’t sign it.”

Even though it is the use of HS2 infrastructure which underpins the business case for Northern Powerhouse Rail, the likes of Mr Davies – and David Davis who is backing Dominic Raab to be the next PM – appear unmoved.

GEOFFREY Boycott was left stumped by social media after tweeting a personal endorsement of a new book exploring “how the culture within Australian Cricket has gotten worse over the last 20 years”. It prompted this rebuke from Ian Wheldale: “Good grief Sir G, when did ‘gotten’ become part of Tyke vocabulary? Have they moved the county of my birth west across the pond?”

MPs did find time this week to debate the Wild Animals in Circuses Bill. I did check – and the discussion was focused on welfare matters rather than Brexit.

THE Queen’s delight was self-evident when she was introduced to her new great-grandson on Wednesday. I can only assume Her Majesty was telling baby Archie about how her horse, Gold Stick, was a runaway winner at Wetherby the previous day. I wouldn’t bet against it...