IT was nice to see Prime Minister's Questions get back to something like normal yesterday with government and opposition policy positions being tested across the floor. When all the grand schemes for parliamentary and constitutional reforms have been tabled and debated in the coming months it is still probable that the key issues at the next election will be spending on the nation's public services. The National Health Service will be at the forefront of public concern and there is a need for a clear picture of the party's respective approaches to keeping care free at the point of need. Unfortunately an early encounter on this subject between the shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley and John Humphrys on Radio 4's Today programme caused considerable confusion. Lansley said that the Conservatives were committed to real-term increases in the NHS and when Humphrys asked where the billions and billions would come from Lansley said that except for the NHS, schools and development aid after 2011 there would be a 10 percent reduction in expenditure limits for other departments. Within an hour or so Conservative Central Office were claiming that Mr Lansley's remark referred to Labour spending cuts - but as the day developed it was clear they were the only ones thinking so. As the Daily Telegraph said later, Lansley had gaffed and actually put Gordon Brown on the front foot at PMQs for a change.
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