One in five US voters would not vote for Mormon president

Iz it coz I iz a follower of da Latter Day Saints movement?

Mitt Romney has a commanding lead among the already-declared Republican candidates. The only man who can stop him (some argue) is Jon Huntsman, who is announcing his candidacy today. While the punditocracy are getting hot and bothered over these two candidates, one rather startling poll by Gallup out today could throw cold water over this excitable analysis.



Both Romney and Huntsman are Mormons, and this gives poll will give them both a headache. God-fearing they may be, but they fear the wrong God. Well, the wrong interpretation of the right God, at least. It turns out, according to the poll, that being a Mormon is more of an electoral hindrance than being either black, woman, Catholic, Jewish or Hispanic. Only gay people and the godless are more off putting for US voters.

Romney and Huntsman both have an uphill battle with one in five voters unwilling to back them based on their religion. Skin colour no longer matters, but religion - or the lack of it - still does. Ali G needs updating: Iz it cos I iz a follower of da Latter Day Saints movement? In this case, yes.

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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.