Blair's memoirs nominated for Bad Sex Award

Blair's "animal instincts" earn him a nomination for the annual Bad Sex Award.

When David Cameron wrote that one of the lessons of Tony Blair's memoirs was that "politicians should keep quiet about their animal instincts", I found myself in rare agreement.

For those of you yet to enjoy (or endure) Blair's prose, here is the offending passage:

[T]hat night she (Cherie Blair) cradled me in her arms and soothed me; told me what I needed to be told; strengthened me; made me feel that I was about to do was right ... On that night of the 12th May, 1994, I needed that love Cherie gave me, selfishly. I devoured it to give me strength. I was an animal following my instinct, knowing I would need every ounce of emotional power to cope with what lay ahead. I was exhilarated, afraid and determined in roughly equal quantities.

Blair's efforts have earned him a nomination for the Literary Review's annual Bad Sex Award -- the first time a work of non-fiction has made the cut. Other nominees for the prize, which celebrates "poorly written, redundant or crude passages of a sexual nature", include Ian McEwan for Solar, Jonathan Franzen for Freedom and Martin Amis for The Pregnant Widow: "Keith imagined her buttocks as a pair of giant testicles (from L. testiculus, lit. 'a witness' -- a witness to virility), not oval, but perfectly round."

Last year's award went to Jonathan Littell's The Kindly Ones for such cringe-making lines as: "I came suddenly, a jolt that emptied my head like a spoon scraping the inside of a soft-boiled egg".

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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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.