Andy Burnham slips up on the BBC

Labour leadership candidate puts his foot in it as he condemns the BBC for being too “London-centric

Andy Burnham has long been a staunch supporter of Top of the Pops, so when he was asked at a Labour leadership campaign event in Nottingham this week whether he still planned to lobby for the programme to be returned to the BBC, his answer was a foregone conclusion, according to today's diary in the Independent.

But as well as praising the show, he went on to complain that the BBC was too "London-centric", perhaps referring to the ongoing controversy over the reluctance of certain BBC bosses to relocate to new premises in Salford. According to Burnham, the Beeb has also lost touch with "ordinary people" -- and he went on to rachet up the rhetoric, saying that "they'd never hire someone like John Peel now".

Unfortunately for Burnham, the BBC hired someone very like John Peel just a few months ago -- his son Tom Ravenscroft, in fact. Tom has a weekly show championing new music on the recently resurgent BBC 6 Music.

However, as a colleague of mine here at the NS has just pointed out to me, the son of John Peel isn't exactly an "ordinary person", as the Independent seems to imply -- in fact, he's a quasi-celebrity who surely had a rather extraordinary upbringing. But the slip-up is something of a blow to a candidate who has campaigned relentlessly on his "ordinary" credentials, going out of his way to demonstrate the "elitist" qualities of his opponents and seizing every opportunity to present himself as the choice for "ordinary people".

"Ordinary" or otherwise, looking out of touch on an issue that he's campaigned on for several years isn't going to provide the last-minute boost his campaign so sorely needs.

Read the recent NS interview with Andy Burnham here.

Caroline Crampton is assistant 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.