On course for a Green MP...

The Green Party's Caroline Lucas responds to their performance in the 1 May local elections

Any election count is a rollercoaster ride, and this one has been no different. But as the final results come in, the Greens are five seats up, and have gained enough firsts and new records in Norwich to make Charles Clarke extremely nervous.

Norwich City Council is the first in the country to have a Green opposition, with parliamentary candidate Adrian Ramsay leading the second-biggest group on the council, two seats behind Labour. In the popular vote, Labour have fallen in Adrian’s target Norwich South constituency to third, with the Greens 2000 votes ahead. Greens are also leading in vote share across the whole city.

This is a very similar story to my own constituency of Brighton Pavilion. In each case, Labour votes have collapsed at the almost exactly the same rate as the Green vote has advanced, and since the last general election, we have overtaken Labour in both.

Interesting parallels can also be drawn between today's excellent result in Cambridge, where Margaret Wright has won the city's first ever Green councillor seat, and my council win back in 1993 when I became the first Green councillor in Oxford - and only the second Green county councillor to be elected in the UK. It would be great to think that the Cambridge win might spark a surge of voter interest in the party of the kind witnessed in Oxford in recent years, thus breaking the mould and moving towards greater Green representation.

Last night Labour lost out to the Tories in almost exactly the same way as they did in 2004, before going on to win the most boring general election in modern history. So far so inconclusive. But the real story for the sharp election-watcher is the clear indication that the Green Party is on course for its first gains at Westminster.

Caroline Lucas is the MP for Brighton Pavilion.

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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.