Hilton’s like-a-Virgin moment

No publicity, please, we're lobby hacks. Speaker John Bercow, it is whispered, believes it would be a jolly good idea to allow a TV crew to follow gentlemen and gentlewomen of the press in the Palace of Westminster to produce a fly-on-the-wall documentary. Markedly less enthusiastic, however, are political journalists, who - correctly - reckon that an MP or minister is much less likely to divulge interesting information in a corridor or bar if it's half a shandy and "Lights, camera, action!". The inspiration for Lobby: the Movie is the US film Page One: Inside the New York Times, which interspersed eavesdropping with formal interviews. The British version could be titled Page Nine: a Bit of British Politics After More Interesting Stories.

The Thatcher-on-a-bike garrulous guru Steve Hilton is considered by hitherto sympathetic Cameroons to have lost the plot after barking, "Fly Branson, he is the upstart" at the Educashon Secretary, Michael Gove. The privately educated Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson has a £3bn fortune that makes him Britain's 19th-wealthiest man, according to the Sunday Times Rich List, and the Virgin patriot makes extensive use of trusts and overseas tax havens to minimise a contribution to public services while draping himself in the Union flag. Not so much upstart as shark.

Ian Stewart, the bearded ex-member for Eccles, is the latest Labourite to chuck his cap into the ring for a mayorship. The one-time chemical plant operative fancies his chances in Salford. Round-robin emails from Liam Byrne boasting of his activity fuel speculation that he fancies a run in Birmingham, now that - to borrow a phrase - there are no seats left in Brum after the boundary commissioners abolished his Hodge Hill fiefdom.

To South Shields, where a member of the audience grumbled that when Jo Brand spoke in the town at an event organised by David Miliband, the funny woman confided that the local MP had asked her not to be too dry or - wait for it - intellectual. The aggrieved lady wondered aloud if that was a sign the brainbox former foreign secretary thinks Sandancers, as inhabitants of that stretch of Tyneside are called, are slow on the uptake. Perish the thought.

Catering staff want a supermarket-style cheap shelf installed in Commons cafés for nosh nearing its sell-by date. Nearly £44,000 of food was chucked out in the eight months up to last December. A snout in a chef's hat remarked that that could feed a small parliamentary party, or one Eric "the Hutt" Pickles.

Could the urgent text sent by the right-whinger Aidan Burley during a talk in Auschwitz by a concentration-camp survivor really have been a reply to a British hack's inquiry about dog-chipping? That's the gossip in Westminster. We may never know, because the Tory party and the former parliamentary aide, sacked by Cameron over the hiring of a Nazi uniform for a stag do in France, won't discuss the text.

Kevin Maguire is associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

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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.