Why Cameron must remove Grayling

If Cameron wants to prove that he has changed more than just the Tories' poll ratings, Grayling must

It looks like the Tories have ridden out the row over Chris Grayling's extraordinary defence of the right of B&B owners to turn away gay couples. But the fear that the "Nasty Party" still lives and breathes has been implanted in the mind of every floating voter.

The Conservatives' attempt to defend their shadow home secretary, claiming that his words were merely a recollection of his previous opinion, does not hold water. Instead, the only credible option, as Chris Cook, a former Tory economics adviser, argues in the Financial Times, is for David Cameron to sack Grayling.

If the Tory leader is to dispel the suspicion that his modernisation of the party was a purely tactical manoeuvre, designed to reconstruct the election-winning machine of old, then there is no alternative.

Grayling's comments are unacceptable for two essential reasons. First, as both Johann Hari and Peter Tatchell point out, had Grayling supported discrimination against black or Jewish couples, Cameron would not have hesistated to sack him. To suggest that different standards apply to gay couples is merely to replicate his original sin.

Second, this man, who hopes and expects to become home secretary in a few weeks' time, in effect suggested that it was acceptable for people to break the law. It would now be risible for Cameron to allow him to take charge of the Home Office.

In fact, it is now likely that Grayling will be disposed of quietly, or at least demoted, after the election. As I've pointed out before, his serial gaffes (that comparison of Britain with The Wire, his unwitting attack on General Richard Dannatt's appointment, the manipulation of crime statistics) made him a vulnerable figure long ago.

Still, if Cameron wants to prove that he has changed more than his party's poll ratings, Grayling must go now.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The big problem for the NHS? Local government cuts

Even a U-Turn on planned cuts to the service itself will still leave the NHS under heavy pressure. 

38Degrees has uncovered a series of grisly plans for the NHS over the coming years. Among the highlights: severe cuts to frontline services at the Midland Metropolitan Hospital, including but limited to the closure of its Accident and Emergency department. Elsewhere, one of three hospitals in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are to be shuttered, while there will be cuts to acute services in Suffolk and North East Essex.

These cuts come despite an additional £8bn annual cash injection into the NHS, characterised as the bare minimum needed by Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England.

The cuts are outlined in draft sustainability and transformation plans (STP) that will be approved in October before kicking off a period of wider consultation.

The problem for the NHS is twofold: although its funding remains ringfenced, healthcare inflation means that in reality, the health service requires above-inflation increases to stand still. But the second, bigger problem aren’t cuts to the NHS but to the rest of government spending, particularly local government cuts.

That has seen more pressure on hospital beds as outpatients who require further non-emergency care have nowhere to go, increasing lifestyle problems as cash-strapped councils either close or increase prices at subsidised local authority gyms, build on green space to make the best out of Britain’s booming property market, and cut other corners to manage the growing backlog of devolved cuts.

All of which means even a bigger supply of cash for the NHS than the £8bn promised at the last election – even the bonanza pledged by Vote Leave in the referendum, in fact – will still find itself disappearing down the cracks left by cuts elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.