Web Only: the best of the blogs

The five must-read posts from today, on TV debates, electorial reform and British society.

1. Ten things you'll learn from David Willetts's new book

The Tory frontbencher's new book has been widely praised. Andrew Sparrow picks out the ten most interesting statistics and facts about British society.

2. Ready for government

John Rentoul blogs on Philip Hammond's complete confusion over the number of quangos the Tories will cull.

3. What will a short election campaign mean for TV debates?

A debate every week might be unfeasible during a very short campaign, says Gary Gibbon.

4. Refocusing Washington's policy lens on Iran

At the Huffington Post, Ali Safavi argues that it is unjust for America to continue to ignore the Mujahedin-e Khalq, Iran's main opposition group.

5. How can we sell the single transferable vote to the public?

Liberal Democrat Voice's Stephen Tall outlines his three-point plan to sell proportional representation to the voters.


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The big problem for the NHS? Local government cuts

Even a U-Turn on planned cuts to the service itself will still leave the NHS under heavy pressure. 

38Degrees has uncovered a series of grisly plans for the NHS over the coming years. Among the highlights: severe cuts to frontline services at the Midland Metropolitan Hospital, including but limited to the closure of its Accident and Emergency department. Elsewhere, one of three hospitals in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are to be shuttered, while there will be cuts to acute services in Suffolk and North East Essex.

These cuts come despite an additional £8bn annual cash injection into the NHS, characterised as the bare minimum needed by Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England.

The cuts are outlined in draft sustainability and transformation plans (STP) that will be approved in October before kicking off a period of wider consultation.

The problem for the NHS is twofold: although its funding remains ringfenced, healthcare inflation means that in reality, the health service requires above-inflation increases to stand still. But the second, bigger problem aren’t cuts to the NHS but to the rest of government spending, particularly local government cuts.

That has seen more pressure on hospital beds as outpatients who require further non-emergency care have nowhere to go, increasing lifestyle problems as cash-strapped councils either close or increase prices at subsidised local authority gyms, build on green space to make the best out of Britain’s booming property market, and cut other corners to manage the growing backlog of devolved cuts.

All of which means even a bigger supply of cash for the NHS than the £8bn promised at the last election – even the bonanza pledged by Vote Leave in the referendum, in fact – will still find itself disappearing down the cracks left by cuts elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.