The Returning Officer: Soapboxes

Charles “Jim” Simmons was Labour MP for Brierley Hill (1950-59), having been MP for Birmingham Erdington (1929-31) and Birmingham West (1945-50). During the First World War, he served in Egypt, Gallipoli and France, where he lost a leg at the battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917. He was one of 40 Primitive Methodist MPs in the history of parliament. His 1971 autobiography was called Soapbox Evangelist.

The New Zealand Labour MP John A Lee served with the Wellington infantry regiment, winning the DCM in 1917; he had an arm amputated the next year after being wounded at Mailly-Maillet. He was elected for Auckland East (1922-28) and Grey Lynn (1931-43) but was expelled in 1940 for criticising the dying Labour PM Michael Savage. His 1963 memoir was called Simple on a Soapbox.

 

This article first appeared in the 03 April 2014 issue of the New Statesman, NEW COLD WAR

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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.