Trade unions turn on Vince

Invitation to Cable to address TUC conference is withdrawn.

David Cameron handily managed to avoid a slow handclap from the trade unions, because the TUC conference will coincide with the birth of his fourth child in September. As a result, Vince Cable was called up to represent the coalition in front of the brothers.

But now comes news that the TUC has withdrawn its invitation to Cable, citing his support for the coalition's savage cuts.

A senior union figure said: "He's become the king of hatchets. Before the election he went through a Keynesian phase, so we temporarily had a little common ground, but for some reason that is no longer the case."

Cable's full-throated support for the part-privatisation of Royal Mail, which he will oversee as Business Secretary, can't have helped, either. But the unions' snub to Vince is another sign of how bad relations between them and the coalition have become.

There was once a time when Cameron was keen to win over the labour movement. He became the first Conservative leader in more than a decade to meet the TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, and even appointed an emissary -- the former Labour MEP Richard Balfe -- to spearhead secret negotiations with the unions.

But it now seems likely that the coalition will face the most concerted period of strike action since the Thatcher era.

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.