Ed Miliband speaking in the target seat of Thurrock last month. Photograph: Getty Images.
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PMQs review: Miliband plays it safe by going on the NHS

In Labour's "economy week", its leader avoided the subject.

After a fraught week for Labour, Ed Miliband returned to a scene of past glories at today's PMQs: the NHS. His exchange with David Cameron soon descended into the kind of amorphous stats war that voters loathe, but Miliband came out on top as Cameron dodged each one of his questions. When Cameron, as usual, sought to turn the subject to Labour's record on health in Wales, he delivered an effective rebuttal: "We know why he wants to talk about Wales - because he cannot defend his record in England." Since the latter accounts for 85 per cent of the UK population, it is a line that will resonate with voters at the election.

Cameron waited until Miliband's final question to produce the inevitable flurry of critical quotes from Jon Cruddas ("no interesting ideas will emerge from Labour's policy review") and Maurice Glasman ("absolutely no vision"), but his barbs fell rather flat. This was not the drubbing that the Tories expected. But as CCHQ was quick to note on Twitter, in what Labour has designated as its "economy week", Miliband failed to ask a single question on the subject. Labour is arguing that it has already devoted enough attention to the issue this week, but the impression left was one of Miliband playing it safe (Labour has a bigger lead on the NHS than on any other policy area, but trails the Tories by a double-digit margin on the economy). Had Miliband gone on the economy, after a series of impressive announcements, it would have rebutted Cameron's charge that he is desperate to avoid the subject at PMQs.

Labour has every reason to raise the sailence of the NHS, ensuring that it is one of the defining issues of the election (as I recently revealed, Lynton Crosby has ordered the Tories not to talk about it), but if it wants to pledge to save the health service again, it will soon need to explain how it would solve the funding crisis.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The House of Lords must give EU citizens the right to remain

The government has used more than 3m UK residents as pawns. But the Lords could put a stop to it. 

Theresa May, David Davies and Boris Johnson like playing games. They are well versed in moving around a board, measuring their opponents and using pawns to lure them in.

It is a great relief, then, that the House of Lords are expected to put an end to the game the government is so desperate to play, and stop it from using people as pieces in a negotiation. 

It is my hope the Lords will do this by tabling an amendment to unilaterally secure the rights of EU nationals living in the UK, forcing the House of Commons to think once again.

It will be a welcome move by the Lords, with the country once again relying on an extra level of scrutiny to make sure the government's reckless actions do not risk ruining the lives of people who have lived here for decades.

And if the Lords do so, it will be to support the will of the people: an ICM poll after the referendum found some 84 per cent of British people support letting EU migrants stay, including 77 per cent of Leave voters. And a more recent Opinium poll found that only five per cent of Britons think EU nationals currently living in the UK should be asked to leave.

But those who lead us into the biggest negotiations of our time have said they simply cannot guarantee the rights of more than 3m EU citizens living in the UK until the rights of the 1.2m British citizens in the EU are reciprocated.

Constituents tell me they fear a situation where the government sits contemplating the different ways it can implement its policy of mass deportations.

Indeed, millions of people who are active in our communities and play a vital role in the economy are now worried about exactly that. My own constituents - and those of my colleagues in Westminster - are scared their lives will be torn apart if the government is not given a reciprocal gesture of goodwill.

Migrants make up 10.9 per cent of the workforce. These are people who have added to the sciences, to innovation, to the NHS and social care. These are people, not collateral.

Not only immoral, this approach seems fundamentally flawed. Would it not, as our Prime Minister said, be a good thing to approach the negotiations as friends with our European neighbours? Would it, therefore, not be the greatest gesture of friendship to afford EU citizens their right to reside in the UK at the soonest possible opportunity?

Already a leaked document has indicated the government’s approach making it difficult for EU nationals in the UK to acquire permanent residence is likely to mean British nationals living on the continent can expect a backlash of their own.

So, as the government prepares to quash any amendments proposed by the Lords to its bill, the onus will shift onto MPs on all sides of the house to accept this crucial amendment. 

Before the next vote Democratic Unionist Party and Conservative politicians must all ask themselves, are they happy to use people as “negotiating capital”?

Catherine West is the Labour MP for Hornsey and Wood Green.