Boris invites Murdoch to the Olympics

News Corp head will be the Mayor's personal guest at Rebecca Adlington's swimming final.

Boris Johnson appears determined to live up to his reputation as Rupert Murdoch's greatest remaining ally in British politics. The Evening Standard reports that the Mayor of London has invited Murdoch and his wife, Wendi Deng, to be his personal guests at Rebecca Adlington’s swimming final this Friday.

It's a further act of political differentiation by Boris, well aware that no cabinet minister could afford to be seen with Murdoch. The pair have long admired each other, with Murdoch recently declaring on Twitter that the Mayor "writes like a dream", and Boris hailing Murdoch as a business genius during his appearance on Charlie Rose last month. That Boris is prepared to maintain their friendship, even with several of Murdoch's former lieutenants soon to stand trial over phone-hacking, is evidence of what he regards as his political invincibility.

Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and CEO of News Corporation, and his wife, Wendi Deng. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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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.