Assange faces possible US indictment

Plus: rival site to WikiLeaks set to launch on Monday.

In a report from ABC News, Julian Assange's lawyer Jennifer Robinson has said that Assange could face indictment by the US authorities under the Espionage Act.

Robinson said: "Our position of course is that we don't believe it applies to Mr Assange, and that in any event he's entitled to First Amendment protection as publisher of WikiLeaks. And any prosecution under the Espionage Act would in my view be unconstitutional and puts at risk all media organisations in the US."

Meanwhile, protests have been planned around the world in defence of Assange, who is still in detention at Wandsworth Prison in London. Demonstrations calling for his release are happening today in Spain, the Netherlands, Colombia, Argentina, Mexico and Peru.

In yet another twist to the story, the LA Times reported yesterday that a rival to WikiLeaks, OpenLeaks, is due to launch on Monday. The site is run by original WikiLeaks staff members who resigned because of Assange's controversial methods. The crucial difference between the two organisations is that OpenLeaks will not publish information on its own, but will only make it available for others to publish.

In a statement, OpenLeaks organisers said their purpose was to be "without a political agenda except from the dissemination of information to the media, the public, non-profit organisations, trade and union organisations and other participating groups".

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

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.