Campaign

Every week we give you something to while away the quiet hours at your desk. This week a knock-about

Games about politics are notoriously tricky to pull off. With so many variables in a campaign to model, an election provides a compelling challenge for artificial intelligence designers. Notable entries in the genre include Elixir Studios with their thrillingly overambitious Republic: The Revolution, and Elixir alumnus Cliff Harris’s Democracy and Democracy 2 over at his progressive indie studio Positech. Infact, the only digital element that seems to be missing from the 2008 campaigns seems to be candidate videogames - although campaign managers are still probably recalling the lonely hours they spent playing Howard Dean for America …and look what happened there.

Enter Campaign, a knock-about and stylish mix of Political strategy and turn-based warfare. In this special election edition, you can elect to play as either Obama or McCain and fight it out across the states. Having chosen your side you’re required to choose your staff making them up from a selection of skills. Fund-Raisers and Operatives are there alongside those essential Spinmeisters and Hatchet Men - all of which have their own strengths and weaknesses for you to pit against the opposition.

It’s a good looking game, but don’t let the amusing caricatures of the campaign staff fool you into thinking this is a simple pleasure. Whilst it might not be the most sophisticated political simulation on the net, it is a challenging and compelling real-time strategy game.

Playable either against the computer or an online opponent, Campaign is well worth a few clicks.

Play Campaign

Iain Simons writes, talks and tweets about videogames and technology. His new book, Play Britannia, is to be published in 2009. He is the director of the GameCity festival at Nottingham Trent University.
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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.