Morning Call: pick of the comment

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

1. Suddenly, grumpy old Gordon Brown doesn't look such a lost cause (Daily Telegraph)

The PM is an unlikely trump card for his party, says Mary Riddell, looking at recent polls. There is no way that Labour could win the next election, but David Cameron should be wary.

2. Mock this campaign if you like, but how else can Blair be held to account? (Guardian)

George Monbiot defends his campaign to pay a bounty to anyone who arrests Tony Blair. He says that with the limits of power in Britain so ill-defined, the only way a reckoning for Iraq will ever come is through a citizen's arrest.

3. A misreading of Iran that risks a fatal replay of Iraq (Independent)

Mary Dejevsky takes issue with Tony Blair's take on Iran, and US action in the area, as there is no sign that Tehran harbours malign or expansionist intentions, or even that a nuclear Iran would pose a global threat.

4. Tories should be most afraid of their own fear (Times)

David Cameron is at his best when he is at his boldest, argues Rachel Sylvester. But as the election approaches, a dangerous timidity is taking over.

5. Leaderless Nigeria could spin out of control (Financial Times)

Louise Arbour and Ayo Obe discuss the mounting political crisis in Nigeria in the absence of President Umaru Yar'Adua.

6. Afflictions of liberty (Guardian)

Tristram Riley-Smith notes that the word "liberty" was absent from Barack Obama's first State of the Union address -- he may have grasped that the ideal of freedom Americans cling to so fiercely is fracturing their society.

7. The peculiar urge to sack the England captain (Times)

Is adultery sufficient reason for sacking John Terry, asks David Aaronovitch? We are blasé about adultery; perhaps Terry's real crime is betraying a team-mate.

8. The Tories have had it easy too long (Independent)

Steve Richards says that he cannot recall an opposition that has changed its approach to tax/spend so often, and welcomes a new period of intense scrutiny of Conservative policy.

9. Companies need to recruit the older woman (Financial Times)

Women are now more educated than men in every age group up to 45, so why are there so few of them in the boardroom? Michael Skapinker looks at gender discrimination, and says older women should be reintegrated into the corporate world once their children are grown.

10. Free care sounds nice, but why redistribute to the rich? (Guardian)

Polly Toynbee discusses the personal care at home bill, saying that in pursuit of a gripping headline, Brown has scuppered a fair, sensible and long-term plan for care of the elderly.

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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.