George Osborne booed at the Paralympic Games

Chancellor greeted with boos as he awards medals for the men's 400m.

He commented at the weekend that it was "not surprising" that he was unpopular, but George Osborne still probably wasn't expecting to be greeted by a chorus of boos when he presented the medals for the men's 400m at the Paralympic Games. His initial laughter soon gave way to a grimace as his hopes of ever leading the Conservatives disappeared (parties don't elect people who are booed in public).

By contrast, Gordon Brown was greeted with cheers when he arrived at the Aquatic Centre earlier today, while Osborne's future rival for the Conservative leadership, Boris Johnson, received the warmest welcome of all at the Olympic closing ceremony.

I suspect some Tories will try to make a virtue of Osborne's reception, arguing that it demonstrates his ability to take "tough decisions". But they'd be wrong to. There's a difference between decisions that are seen as "tough" but fair ("it's hurting but it's working"), and those that, in addition to being seen as tough, are also seen as wrong.

 

Chancellor George Osborne. 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.