Labour miss out on majority in Wales

Wales fails to provide any consolation for Ed Miliband, as Labour miss out on majority by one seat.

UPDATE: Labour have failed to gain a majority in the Welsh Assesmbly. With 30 seats, Labour fell one short of a total majority. Looks like Ed Miliband's day is not going to get much better.

Labour's struggles in Scotland and the Liberal Democrats' battering in England will dominate the news today. In Wales, however, the election is on a knife edge.

With nine constituencies still to declare, Labour is seven seats away from a clear majority and being able to dump its coalition partner, Plaid Cymru. Surprise Conservative gains have, however, put these hopes on ice.

The results in Wales seem to be a microcosm of attitudes towards the coalition. While the Liberal Democrats have fallen out of favour, the Conservatives have quietly made gains. The Liberal Democrats have taken all of the flak at the ballot box, and the Teflon Tories have got away with it.

Any gains in Wales are a relatively surprising bonus for the Tories. They won't care, though. Labour's defeat in Scotland, and winning the AV vote, are both far more significant for the Conservatives' cause. For Labour, on the other hand, Wales is the last ray of hope for today.

A Welsh majority, however, will do little to heal the damage of the party's failure in Scotland. But on a day like today – with a very poor showing in Scotland, a looming defeat on AV and so-so results in council elections – Ed Miliband will take what he can get.

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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.