No Green in a rainbow coalition

Caroline Lucas outlines the Green Party’s ambitions for the next parliament and beyond.

Those who are still hoping beyond hope for a Labour-led "rainbow coalition" to challenge the Conservatives' attempts to form a government should probably give up the dream now.

Some optimistic souls had suggested that Labour could reach a majority by joining forces with MPs from the Social Democratic Labour Party, the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party. But, in an interview for the New Statesman's post-election issue, Caroline Lucas -- the Green leader and the newly elected MP for Brighton Pavilion -- has confirmed that her party won't be forming an alliance any time soon, though she didn't rule out support completely.

As Lucas told me:

I think we would rule out a formal coalition, but we're very interested in talking about ways we might co-operate.

But now that the Greens have a presence at Westminster, they seem to have their sights set on more ambitious goals:

It's only one seat -- but it's the first seat. It was only 24 years between the first Labour MP and the first Labour government.

Read the full interview in the next issue of the New Statesman, out on Wednesday.

Special offer: get 12 issues for just £5.99 plus a free copy of "Liberty in the Age of Terror" by A C Grayling.

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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.