How many NHS trusts will Lansley allow to go bust?

The decision not to bailout South London Trust sets a significant precedent.

For the first time since the NHS was founded, a hospital trust (South London) has effectively been declared bankrupt and placed in administration. But who's to blame? Andrew Lansley has already moved to pre-empt a Labour attack by pointing the finger at the "unaffordable" private finance initiative (PFI) deals signed under the last government. For good measure, Ed Balls has responded by noting that the original PFI scheme for the South London Trust was set up under the Major government. All are agreed, then, that PFI is largely to blame. Two of the three hospitals in the trust signed ruinous agreements at a cost of £61m a year, 14.4 per cent of the trust's income. Worse, as former health secretary and Tory MP Stephen Dorrell noted on the Today programme this morning, "agreements were signed that effectively paid private sector cost while the public sector took the risk". PFI firms privatised the profits and socialised the losses.

The other explanation for the trust's woes is that there have long been too many hospitals with too little funding. In the past, financially troubled funds were simply bailed out by other parts of the NHS. But with the health service now required to make unprecedented efficiency savings of £20bn by 2015, that's not an option. The response of Dorrell was to argue that there needs to be "a shift away from overdependence on hospitals into improved care in the community". In other words, hospitals will have to close. For Lansley, this is, to put it mildly, a political headache. There are currently no fewer than 22 NHS trusts at risk of bankruptcy due to unaffordable PFI contracts.

Lansley can argue that the crisis is the result of historic problems but this won't assuage voters furious at the closure of their local hospital. Why, they will inevitably ask, can the government bail-out banks but not hospitals? The problem for the Health Secretary is that he was the one left standing when the music stopped. He must now explain his actions to the voters.

You can see a map of the trusts at risk here.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley blamed "unaffordable" PFI agreements. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Will Jeremy Corbyn stand down if Labour loses the general election?

Defeat at the polls might not be the end of Corbyn’s leadership.

The latest polls suggest that Labour is headed for heavy defeat in the June general election. Usually a general election loss would be the trigger for a leader to quit: Michael Foot, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband all stood down after their first defeat, although Neil Kinnock saw out two losses before resigning in 1992.

It’s possible, if unlikely, that Corbyn could become prime minister. If that prospect doesn’t materialise, however, the question is: will Corbyn follow the majority of his predecessors and resign, or will he hang on in office?

Will Corbyn stand down? The rules

There is no formal process for the parliamentary Labour party to oust its leader, as it discovered in the 2016 leadership challenge. Even after a majority of his MPs had voted no confidence in him, Corbyn stayed on, ultimately winning his second leadership contest after it was decided that the current leader should be automatically included on the ballot.

This year’s conference will vote on to reform the leadership selection process that would make it easier for a left-wing candidate to get on the ballot (nicknamed the “McDonnell amendment” by centrists): Corbyn could be waiting for this motion to pass before he resigns.

Will Corbyn stand down? The membership

Corbyn’s support in the membership is still strong. Without an equally compelling candidate to put before the party, Corbyn’s opponents in the PLP are unlikely to initiate another leadership battle they’re likely to lose.

That said, a general election loss could change that. Polling from March suggests that half of Labour members wanted Corbyn to stand down either immediately or before the general election.

Will Corbyn stand down? The rumours

Sources close to Corbyn have said that he might not stand down, even if he leads Labour to a crushing defeat this June. They mention Kinnock’s survival after the 1987 general election as a precedent (although at the 1987 election, Labour did gain seats).

Will Corbyn stand down? The verdict

Given his struggles to manage his own MPs and the example of other leaders, it would be remarkable if Corbyn did not stand down should Labour lose the general election. However, staying on after a vote of no-confidence in 2016 was also remarkable, and the mooted changes to the leadership election process give him a reason to hold on until September in order to secure a left-wing succession.

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