Web Only: the best of the blogs

The five must-read posts from today, on Palin, Iran and petition power.

1. Hypocritical Cameron voted against proposals to reform parliamentary privilege

Left Foot Forward's Shamik Das reveals that David Cameron voted No to measures that would prevent MPs invoking parliamentary privilege to avoid prosecution.

2. What President Palin's foreign policy would look like

Andrew Sullivan says Sarah Palin is now hinting that she favours a full-scale war with Iran.

3. CCHQ is watching you as Tory high command co-ordinates right-wing bloggers

Political Scrapbook looks at the right-wing blogosphere, and evidence that there is someone at Conservative Central Office who monitors every single mention of David Cameron on Twitter.

4. Iran: will they, won't they?

Channel 4's Lindsey Hilsum wonders whether Iran's ambiguity over its nuclear policy is part of a cunning plan, or a sign of chaos at the heart of the regime.

5. Petition power

Paul Waugh blogs on pros and cons of Cameron's pledge to implement direct democracy.

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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.