Labour divided over tactical voting

Blair and Brown say “Vote Labour” and former PM rejects idea that electoral reform is key to progres

The fallout from Mehdi Hasan's interview with Ed Balls, in which the tribalist-turned-realist joined Peter Hain in urging Labour supporters to vote tactically, continues today with something of a backlash among senior Labour figures.

Gordon Brown has called on the electorate simply to "vote Labour" and Tony Blair has said: "It is simple . . . Vote for what you believe in. If you think their polices are good, vote for them, but if you don't, don't.

"The Lib Dems are not going out to people and saying, 'Vote Labour'; they are trying to take seats off us."

The internal backlash over tactical voting is probably, as I said yesterday, because vote share is suddenly a factor in this election after years of accepting the madnesses of our discredited first-past-the-post electoral system.

Talking of which, the Independent today refreshes its long-standing campaign for electoral reform, calling for tactical voting to ensure that the one party which still backs FPTP -- the Tories -- is kept out of office. The paper identifies the issue as crucial for progress.

In contrast, Blair hits out at that view, saying: "There is no perfect electoral system. By all means choose the system you prefer, but the notion that it is the defining progressive cause is completely ridiculous."

Many in Labour -- including, paradoxically, Blair's old nemesis Balls -- may agree. But others could be forgiven for feeling that, had Blair and Brown done more to take forward electoral reform -- including AV+, proposed by the late Roy Jenkins in a report commissioned by the former prime minister -- Labour would be in a much stronger position to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats this week.

 

 

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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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.