The modest Miliband

He doesn’t even mind being called the wrong name.

Everyone I've talked to whose working life owes nothing to Westminster or the media has voiced reservations about how David Miliband comes across.

"Arrogant", "too sure of himself", "acts as though his interviewer is stupid" are some of the comments I've heard about the shadow foreign secretary. His younger brother, Ed, however, has produced nothing but expressions of interest (albeit sometimes quite mild interest).

The shadow energy secretary demonstrated this afternoon the modesty, almost diffidence, that makes him such a refreshing change from most of the overly cocksure New Labour luminaries.

Twice during an interview on Sky News just before 3pm, the presenter, Anna Botting, mixed him up with another of the Labour leadership contenders. "Come on, Mr Balls," she said first, a misidentification that Miliband merely ignored.

She then signed off the interview, which lasted some minutes, by thanking "Ed Balls" for appearing on the programme. In the half-second Miliband had to respond with the usual mutual thanks, he did just that, having the good grace to look slightly startled but amused, rather than cross, to be referred to by a rival's name not once but twice.

Can you imagine any of the other contenders resisting the temptation to correct the presenter in a very firm tone of voice? If I had one, Ed M would get my vote.

Sholto Byrnes is a Contributing Editor to 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.