David Cameron speaks during a joint news conference with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Downing Street in central London on June 19, 2014. Photograph: Getty Images.
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PMQs review: Cameron scrapes a dirty win

The PM's blast at Miliband over tomorrow's strike secured him victory. 

As so often, David Cameron left it until the end of his exchange with Ed Miliband to play his trump card. In reference to Labour's contorted position on tomorrow's public sector strike, he observed that the party had briefed that it would not support the walk-out, but also that it would not condemn it. It was pure opportunism from the PM (Miliband had asked him about A&E waiting times) but in an otherwise evenly matched contest it was enough to give him victory. The Tories intend to make Miliband's alleged indecisiveness and weakness one of the central themes of their general election campaign and Cameron offered a succinct preview today: "Is he remotely up to the job? No."

The session began with Miliband asking the PM three statesmanlike questions on the child abuse inquiries, having chosen not to query the appointment of Elizabeth Butler-Sloss (whose brother was attorney general at the time many of the allegations were first made) to head the independent panel. After Cameron promised to consider the NSPCC's call for a new mandatory reporting law he moved on to the NHS, Labour's main campaigning issue for the summer. 

Miliband brandished the House of Commons Library's correction of Cameron's claims on A&E waiting times, but trying to win an argument on statistics at PMQs is like trying to win an argument on the internet: it never works. The most notable moment came when Cameron declared that Miliband had made "a massive mistake keeping a failing health secretary as the shadow health spokesman", prompting Miliband to say of Andy Burnham (one of those regarded by Labour MPs as positioning himself for a future leadership contest): "I'd far rather have the shadow health secretary than their health secretary any day of the week." 

As well as his blast at Labour over tomorrow's strike (he later confirmed to Tory MP Dominic Raab that a minimum threshold law would be included in the Conservative manifesto), Cameron used his final answer to plunge the depths of political combat as he said Miliband still "has to defend the man who presided over the Mid-Staffs disgrace." Though it is now hard to recall, when the Francis Report into the hospital scandal was published, Cameron endorsed its conclusion that Burnham bore no blame. That he has now been forced to deploy this ad hominem attack is evidence of how weak the Tories' position on the NHS has become. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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