Coulson detained on suspicion of perjury

Former News of the World editor's woes continue.

Andy Coulson's woes continue to multiply. The news broke this morning that the former Screws editor had been detained by Strathclyde police on suspicion of perjury. Under Scottish law, police now have six hours to question Coulson and then either charge or release him.

The latest allegations date back to the Tommy Sheridan trial in December 2010, a period when he was still serving as David Cameron's director of communications. As I've previously noted, Coulson was asked by Sheridan (who acted as his own counsel): "did the News of the World pay corrupt police officers?" to which he replied: "Not to my knowledge."

It's a further blow to Cameron's attempts to relaunch his government. Every piece of bad news about Coulson provides Labour with another chance to remind voters that Cameron hired him.

For the record, Coulson was arrested last July on suspicion of phone-hacking and corruption and had his bail extended earlier this month.

Former News of the World editor and Downing Street communications chief, Andy Coulson, leaves the High Court in central London on May 10, 2012. Photograph: Getty Images.

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.