NHS dividing lines: Cameron returns to Offa's Dyke

Offa's Dyke
Image caption Last year, David Cameron called Offa's Dyke a 'line between life and death' due to Welsh NHS funding cuts

To no-one's surprise, the NHS dominated the first prime minister's questions of 2015*. To some slight surprise, it took four questions from Ed Miliband before David Cameron decided to deploy the Welsh card.

Annoyed by the Labour leader's questions about the NHS in England, the prime minister accused Mr Miliband of having no solutions on the NHS: "Presumably if he had any solutions he would have implemented them in Wales."

Mr Cameron did strike a (slightly) conciliatory tone - when faced with criticisms of the NHS in England - in acknowledging there were "challenges" facing the service across the UK. (Funnily enough, "challenges" is the word Ed Miliband uses when asked about Labour's NHS record in Wales).

He added: "If Labour has an answer to the NHS can they explain why they cut the budget in Wales by 8%. That is where Labour is in charge. All parts of the United Kingdom face a health challenge but the real risk to the NHS is the risk of unfunded spending commitments bringing chaos to our economy which would wreck our NHS."

Later, he told MPs the NHS in England was outperforming the NHS in Wales, although - possibly to the relief of Conservative MPs - there was no mention of Offa's Dyke. in the House of Commons even if there was in his Radio Wales interview this morning.

Just before Christmas, Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb told the Western Mail that he had asked cabinet colleagues to mind their language when talking about the NHS in Wales.

One can only imagine Mr Crabb's frustration over the way the prime minister's defence of his remarks has generated headlines that overshadowed what the secretary of state saw as his most significant political and economic speech since taking the job.

*(News from Paris emerged in time for the party leaders to condemn events there although there was little debate on the issue).

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