Morning Call: pick of the comment

The ten must-read pieces from this morning's papers

1. Cuts and tax divide Labour, but could sink the Tories too (Guardian)

Martin Kettle says the election could really open up if voters fear George Osborne is planning cuts of anything like £75bn a year.

2. Can Apple's Jesus Tablet deliver a miracle? (Times)

Antonia Senior says that publishers struggling to find new sources of revenue view Apple's tablet computer as a potential saviour.

3. Only the US has muscle to make banks behave (Independent)

James Moore praises Barack Obama's plan to break up the banks and says that a US president alone has the tools to haul them into line.

4. Cross of Goldman (Times)

But a leader in the Times argues that Obama's plan will contribute little to financial stability and will also make it more difficult for banks to turn a profit.

5. The age of the killer robot is no longer a sci-fi fantasy (Independent)

Johann Hari warns of the rise of military robots, with the US now using 12,000 as part of its force.

6. The prince charms us, but he hasn't moved us (Times)

The former Australian Liberal Party leader Malcolm Turnbull says that Prince William may have received a warm welcome to Sydney, but the desire for a republic remains.

7. Death by chocolate (Guardian)

Andrew Martin says that the sale of Cadbury to Kraft marks the regrettable death of the Quaker model of capitalism.

8. Flaky thinking from those who scream foul over Cadbury (Daily Telegraph)

But Jeff Randall argues that the outcry over the US takeover is driven by crude political imperatives.

9. Don't be surprised if a protest movement flowers in Britain (Independent)

Andreas Whittam Smith predicts that hostility towards the political class could lead to the creation of a new protest party in Britain.

10. We can turn Haiti around (Guardian)

Kofi Annan says the lesson to learn from the Haitian tragedy is that fragile states require concerted and sustained support.


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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.