Has the Spectator backed down on HIV/Aids?

Rumour has it that the screening has been cancelled

I blogged here about the Speccie editor Fraser Nelson's strange decision to screen the pseudoscientific and propagandistic film House of Numbers as a "Spectator debate".

Ben Goldacre and Sunder Katwala claim, on Twitter, that the Spectator has now cancelled the event. Sunny Hundal, over at Liberal Conspiracy, says:

Update: Just got off the phone with someone in Spectator magazine's events department.

The screening of the film House of Numbers has been cancelled as of today because several panel members pulled out at the last minute. They said that would have left the discussion "unbalanced".

"Unbalanced?" That's an understatement. The whole thing reeked of pseudo-contrarianism and a hopeless attempt at mischief-making, rather than any serious desire to debate scientific theories.

I note that the link for the event on the Speccie website is now broken, but here is the cached page.

And I await the next round of "denialism" by the folks over at Old Queen Street. Sunder Katwala speculates on the Next Left blog:

Forget Aids. Forget climate change even. There is surely one yet bigger question where the science seems entirely settled -- yet is ideologically contested -- and where those attempts to question the consensus then generate a vociferous scientific backlash.

"Whenever any debate hits this level, I get deeply suspicious," writes the editor.

So how long, I wonder, before we might now expect the Spectator to ask another question:

Is the theory of evolution really all it is cracked up to be?

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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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.