What is the BBC's motive?

NS revelations lead the debate

It's great to see that my colleague James Macintyre's revelation that Question Time producers were discussing inviting Nick Griffin on to the programme long before his election as an MEP is still making waves. The questions his piece raised about the BBC's motives are now at the centre of the debate.

Mark Thompson restates the BBC's official line in the Guardian today, insisting that Griffin was invited on for no reason other than his party's increased support. But suspicion that the corporation is actually focused on creating what Peter Hain described as "a great big beanfest of a show" is likely to persist. Even if Griffin is successfully exposed and ridiculed tonight, the record donations his party has received in recent days would make this a most pyrrhic of victories.

You can read James's piece on the BNP and Question Time here and his new column on the programme's "grotesque stunt" here.

 

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.