Labour falls to lowest ever poll rating

Party tied with Liberal Democrats on 18 per cent

Labour has recorded its lowest poll rating since modern records began, with the party falling 10 points to 18 per cent in the latest Ipsos MORI poll. The rating was well below those achieved under Michael Foot after the establishment of the breakaway Social Democratic Party.

The Conservatives were unchanged on 39 per cent, while the Liberal Democrats were tied with Labour on 18 per cent.

As with other recent polls, minority parties achieved a higher than usual level of support. The UK Independence Party continues to appear the main beneficiary of protest votes, supported by 7 per cent of those polled. The Green Party is also winning more support than usual, backed by 6 per cent of respondents.

The British National Party was on 4 per cent, although some voters are known to conceal their support for the far-right party from pollsters.

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.