Andy Burnham at ranting speed

A quick thank you to the health secretary from a grateful Tory MP for his recent visit to Erewash, followed by a request from a Labour backbencher for a review of the safety of polypropylene transvaginal mesh implants and Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, had heard enough.

Burnham is one of the few members of the Labour shadow cabinet with the stage presence and experience to go head to head with his coalition opponents in the Commons.

He is also a man who can see a Tory plot in the small print of a train ticket. The Conservative tentacles are everywhere if you know where to look and Burnham knows where to look. Which always adds a little spark to his exchanges with Jeremy Hunt at health questions. Burnham took a little time to get going. "People ringing their surgery this morning only to be told that no appointments are available for days will be listening to the secretary of state's answers today and thinking that he is living in a different world," he said.

Within a few sentences he was in full rant. The NHS was in a state of complete collapse. People were literally dropping dead while waiting to speak to a receptionist at their GP's surgeries. Undertakers were having to prise the mobile phones from the hands of corpses in which rigor mortis had set in. Is this what the health secretary meant by being kept on hold? The blood of a whole nation was on his hands while he just stood by …

And smiled indulgently. Hunt has heard all this before from Burnham and has learned not to take it too personally. "We are taking measures to ensure we do not affect patient care," he said, leaving open the possibility the measures he was taking were actually to ensure patient care wasn't affected for the better. Burnham's look of triumph suggested he had expected nothing else. Yet another Tory conspiracy had been ruthlessly exposed.

After that Burnham was content to bide his time for a while before erupting into a diatribe about care homes. "I am sure that, like me, the secretary of state will have been shocked to the core by the serious case review into the Orchid View care home. It spoke of institutionalised abuse and of residents dying of sheer neglect." he said. The NHS was in a state of complete collapse. The health secretary was complicit in the mass murder of the nation's geriatrics. Several Tory MPs looked expectantly at Dennis Skinner. Jeremy Hunt just stroked his cat.

The one person whose health wasn't mentioned was that of Fiona Cunningham, Theresa May's special adviser who was pushed on to her sword last weekend. The home secretary, who was back in the chamber for the second time in two days – this time to debate the Queen's speech – wasn't minded to provide any updates. Dead or DNR are the most likely outcomes.

Instead, May was on a mission to prove her stroppy and patronising performance of the previous day had been an aberration; that she was really a sweetheart who found being goaded by the Labour benches quite charming. Except she couldn't quite manage it. She is still extremely pissed off and someone is going to pay for it soon. David Cameron should keep a close eye on her.

Powered by article was written by John Crace, for The Guardian on Tuesday 10th June 2014 19.12 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010