Cameron hits back at Boris

"We will see what happens the next time he comes around with the begging bowl," says No. 10.

Boris Johnson's intervention over this week's cabinet reshuffle was his most striking yet. Not only did he condemn David Cameron's decision to remove Justine Greening as Transport Secretary (an extraordinary show of dissent), he added that it would be "simply mad" to build a third runway at Heathrow and vowed to "fight this all the way", even refusing to rule out fighting a by-election on the issue.

The Prime Minister, to put it mildly, might have hoped for a more helpful contribution from the Mayor as he sought to refresh his government. But Boris, still basking in post-Olympic glory, was determined to seize an opportunity to burnish his credentials as an alternative Conservative leader and reach out to those Tories alienated by Cameron.

It is unsurprising, then, that the Prime Minister felt it necessary to retaliate. "We will see what happens the next time he comes around with the begging bowl," one Downing Street official told today's FT. "He might need us one day." Cameron is reportedly considering withholding government support for projects such as "Crossrail II" (a new rail line from Chelsea to Hackney) and and a tunnel under the Thames at Silvertown.

If Boris and Cameron's power struggle leads to a mutually destructive war then it is Labour that will be the likely winner.

Boris Johnson has angered Downing Street with his criticism of a third runway at Heathrow. 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.