Jack Straw endorses David Miliband for leadership

Former justice secretary says that David Miliband has the “strength and depth” to lead the Labour Pa

Jack Straw has announced that he is backing David Miliband in the Labour leadership contest.

The shadow justice secretary said that Miliband Sr "has the strength and the depth to stand up to David Cameron at Prime Minister's Questions week after week, and he can stand up for the people who will be most badly hit in our communities".

Miliband said he was "honoured" to have the endorsement, commenting that "Jack Straw has worked with Labour leaders since Harold Wilson".

It is no surprise that Straw -- the "great survivor" of the New Labour project, first in the Blair camp, then in Brown's -- has made this endorsement. If nothing else, his nomination for Diane Abbott was a giveaway. Her votes came mainly from Socialist Campaign Group members and from supporters of David Miliband whom he lobbied to help her get on to the ballot paper.

However, the man whom Barbara Castle said she hired for his "guile and low cunning" is a consummate politician, known for his canny judgement. In an interview with him, the New Statesman editor, Jason Cowley, noted that he has been "a kind of political weathervane, always knowing in which direction the wind was blowing".

Miliband-D will be hoping that the judgement of this old-timer, who is soon to step back from front-line politics, is still on the money.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for 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.