Has Yvette Cooper ruled herself out of shadow chancellorship?

Shadow welfare secretary backs her husband Ed Balls on the deficit

Westminster rumour has it that Yvette Cooper, the shadow work and pensions secretary, is being lined up to be shadow chancellor. The logic is that Ed Balls has made it impossible to serve in that role, certainly under David Miliband, having said he disagrees with Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling -- and David Miliband -- on the need to halve the deficit in four years. Balls has stated:

I told Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling in 2009 that - whatever the media clamour at the time - even trying to halve the deficit in four years was a mistake.

Some say, too, that Ed Miliband, who has been more ambiguous about the deficit reduction plan, would anyway be reluctant to put Balls in such a senior position after the two men's relationship has suffered considerably during this campaign. Cooper is seen as a sensible choice because, insiders say, "you get some of Ed in there" without having Balls himself, while Cooper is an economics expert and former financial journalist in her own right.

But in a little-noticed interview on the BBC's Daily Politics today, Cooper backed her husband's position and not that of Darling and David Miliband. In Labour-land, that is significant because it means that on the logic of Balls being ruled out of the shadow chancellor job, Cooper now is out of the running too.

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.