Web Only: the best of the blogs

The five must-read blogs from today, on Miliband, Tory co-ops and Muslim Trots.

1. Is Miliband being a bit premature about the leadership?

David Miliband's reported plan to tour the country in an effort to build support for a leadership bid is highly dangerous, argues PoliticalBetting's Mike Smithson.

2. Will Tory co-ops take off?

Conservative co-operatives are a bold idea that few workers will want to take up in practice, writes the FT's Alex Barker.

3. The Tories don't understand co-op values

Elsewhere, in a guest post at LabourList, Tessa Jowell argues that the failure of the Conservative Co-operative movement proves that the Tories have no idea what co-operative values mean.

4. My response to Fraser Nelson

Daniel Finkelstein says the Spectator editor underestimates how politically and technically difficult it would be would be for the Tories to carry out major spending cuts. "The party is not the paramilitary wing of an op-ed column," he writes.

5. Hizb ut-Tahrir and "Muslim Trots": reply to Ed Husain

Dave Osler responds to Ed Husain's New Statesman article and rejects his comparison between Islamism and Trotskyism.


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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.