Mystery over Ed Balls’s claim that the Miliband brothers are briefing against one another

Difference between accounts in Total Politics and the Sun.

Earlier, I mentioned that Ed Balls had accused David and Ed Miliband of briefing against each other, saying:

Between the brothers there has been a little bit of off-the-record briefing going on. Hopefully, the two of them will say to their supporters to stop it. It is pretty unedifying.

Now, it appears there is something of a mystery surrounding the fascinating interview, which is by Amber Elliott, political editor of Total Politics. The piece is officially under embargo until tomorrow, so I won't reproduce it here (I have read it, though, and I recommend that others do so when it's out).

However, the Sun received some of the words from the interview in advance, and reported it thus today:

THE Miliband brothers are waging a bitching war against each other as they battle for the Labour leadership, another rival has revealed.

Ed Miliband's supporters have been slagging off his brother David's "eccentric personality".

And David's fans are mocking Ed's "dodgy decision-making", according to former Education Secretary Ed Balls, who is also in the running.

In a plea to the other candidates to keep it clean, Mr Balls told Total Politics magazine: "Between the brothers there has been a little bit of off-the-record briefing going on.

"Hopefully, the two of them will say to their supporters to stop it. I think it is pretty unedifying."

Seizing the moral high ground, he added: "There will be no off-the-record briefings from anybody involved with me." His revelation is likely to provoke fury among rank-and-file party members. Labour's 13 years in power were plagued by cabinet ministers feuding behind the scenes -- speeding its downfall at the polls last month.

What is odd is that the "dodgy decision-making" and "eccentric personality" lines are not in the text of Elliott's piece. So, where did they come from? A source close to Ed Balls is adamant that they did not come from him. Perhaps the paper can explain.

James Macintyre is political correspondent for 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.