PMQs: Someone call a doctor

Written by Total Politics has a free weekly Friday email bulletin. Follow this link to register. on 27 April 2011 in Diary
David Cameron is accused of 'sexism' after telling Angela Eagle to 'calm down dear'. You couldn't make it up

"Calm down dear. Calm down and listen to the doctor."

And with that nod to Michael Winner, the prime minister became engulfed in a sexism row.

It all started quite innocently. Ed Miliband had a go at David Cameron for his "costly" health reforms.

Cameron replied that Miliband should be "constructive" instead of "frightening people" (basically citing the Bambi defence – 'If you can't say anything nice, don't say nothing at all')

Waiting times have gone up as millions are diverted to this costly reorganisation, declared Ed Miliband.

David Cameron retorted with a quote from Howard Stoate, a former Labour MP who is now a GP. Stoate has shown support for the coalition's healthcare reforms and believes GPs have overwhelming enthusiasm for helping shape service delivery.

Then it all started to go wrong.

Cameron claimed that Stoate had been defeated at the last election by a Conservative candidate, when, in fact, the Labour MP had stood down. A mis-brief from No 10 perhaps?

Angela Eagle, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury tried to point the mistake out to Cameron from across the floor. It was more of a heckle than a polite 'excuse me'.

"He stood down!" she shouted indignantly at the prime minister.

"Calm down dear," Cameron replied. "Calm down and listen to the doctor."

It could have been worse. He could have taken the Michael Winner persona a step further and started making allusions to her breasts (unlikely).

But Ed Balls was having none of it. He called on the prime minister to apologise to his colleague. From the colour of Balls' cheeks and the way he perched on the edge of his seat, he looked like he was close to punching some parliamentary procedure into Cameron's face.

"I said to calm down. I'll say it to you if you like," Cameron turned on Balls.

"I am not going to apologise. You do need to calm down," he added, although a little less assuredly.

At this moment, the Speaker waded in. "I think the prime minister has finished," Bercow said, cutting Cameron off.

The Speaker hurriedly called Bill Cash to speak (an unusual choice if his aim was to calm the chamber).

One Labour MP later called the incident "pure Bullingdon".

Ed Miliband's spokesman described it as "patronising, sexist and insulting".

Mumsnetters shrieked: "WTF?"

And Michael Winner? He tweeted that he's waiting for a private jet. 

Puts it all in context, really.

Tags: Angela Eagle, David Cameron, Ed Balls, Michael Winner, PMQs, Sexism

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