Andrew Mitchell caught with cabinet papers on show

International Development Secretary photographed holding confidential papers on Afghanistan.

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The International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, has become the latest cabinet minister to be caught walking out of Downing Street with confidential papers on show (Danny Alexander was another recent victim). Sky News has blurred out the text but the notes reportedly refer to the government "welcoming" the news that Hamid Karzai will not seek a third term as Afghan President. His departure means the country's politics will be in "a better place," the papers state.

The government's distaste for Karzai is hardly a state secret but it's still an embarrassing gaffe by Mitchell.

Update: It's also worth noting that the papers refer to the endemic corruption of the Afghanistan financial ministry. It's a boon to those who argue that we shouldn't give any aid to the country.

George Eaton is political editor of 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.