Andy Burnham has put in a request for an urgent question on the A&E crisis, I have learned. The question, which the Speaker has yet to decide whether or not to grant, is as follows:
Rt Hon Andy Burnham MP
To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the major incidents that have been declared at a number of hospitals and on A&E performance in England.
This might seem rather unsurprising at first glance, and it would be on any other day of the week. Today Ed Miliband will face David Cameron at PMQs and as I blogged earlier, it would be extremely odd if he didn’t use his questions to the Prime Minister to ask about the NHS. But if Burnham does get his UQ, it’ll come straight after PMQs, and that means that David Cameron can spend the whole session deflecting Miliband’s attacks by saying that the Health Secretary will address this fully in his response to the Shadow Health Secretary.
There are three things that could be going on here. The first is that Labour wants to turn the main Commons business today into a really sustained session of pressure on the Conservatives over the NHS, in which case they will need to make sure that their attacks at PMQs are razor sharp. The second is that Burnham hasn’t cleared his UQ request with Miliband’s office and is on a freelance operation, which would be deeply disloyal but perhaps not surprising given the extent of the Shadow Health Secretary’s ambition. The third is that Miliband doesn’t want to talk about the NHS at PMQs. Whichever way you look at it, it’s going to be a fractious day in the Commons.