New poll puts Labour ahead for first time since 2007

A major psychological boost for Ed Miliband.

Ed Miliband's big day has got off to a good start, with a poll putting Labour ahead of the Tories for the first time since the election that never was in 2007. The latest daily YouGov poll has Labour up two to 40 per cent, the Tories unchanged on 39 per cent and the Lib Dems down from a post-conference high of 15 per cent to 12. If repeated at the election on a uniform swing, the latest figures would give Labour a majority of 10 seats.

New Statesman Poll of Polls


Hung Parliament, Labour 16 seats short

All political parties usually receive a poll bounce from their conference and, indeed, when a new leader takes over. But this is still a major psychological boost for the party and Miliband. It highlights why the right are entirely wrong to dismiss Miliband as Labour's William Hague or even Iain Duncan Smith. It took three and a half years and the fuel strike for a poll to put Hague's Conservatives ahead. We'll get a better idea after today's speech of the Miliband dividend Labour can expect to receive.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.