Tom Watson has The Sun in his sights

Labour MP says that the tabloid was involved in phone hacking.

After his role in consigning the News of the World to the dustbin of history, Tom Watson has the Sun in his sights. Watson, who is interviewed by Jon Bernstein in this week's NS, alleged that the tabloid had been involved in phone hacking during an emergency motion debate at the Labour conference.

"Do you really think that hacking only happened on the News of the World?" he said. "Ask Dominic Mohan, the current editor of the Sun. He used to joke about lax security at Vodafone when he attended celebrity parties. Ask the editor of the Sun if he thinks Rupert Murdoch's contagion has spread to other newspapers. If he gives you an honest answer, he'll tell you it's only a matter of time before we find the Sun in the evidence file of the convicted private investigator that hacked Milly Dowler's phone."

It's worth noting that Watson has previous with the Sun. In 2009 he received substantial libel damages from the paper after it falsely claimed that he was involved in Derek Draper's plan to smear Conservatives. Given Watson's cross-party respectability (David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt feel obliged to praise his tenacity when he speaks in the Commons) it will be worth watching to see how many join him in his renewed assault on Murdoch's citadels.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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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.