In this week's New Statesman: The NHS 1948-2011, so what comes next?

Helen Lewis-Hasteley on sexism online | Mehdi Hasan on nuclear Iran | Andy Burnham on NHS and the ma


In this week's New Statesman special on the National Health Service, practitioners and health-care specialists describe the ways that Andrew Lansley's reforms to the NHS in England -- focused on reducing expenditure at all costs -- will dismantle the public service and affect the quality of patient care.

Phil Whitaker, an NHS GP for more than 20 years, explains how the overhaul will leave doctors demoralised; chief economist at the King's Fund, John Appleby, uncovers the full extent of the budget cuts and former health minister and surgeon, Lord Darzi, describes how the coalition's reforms are wholly misplaced.

Elsewhere in the magazine, Labour health spokesman Andy Burnham -- now shadowing a role he held in government -- lays out his objections to Lansley's NHS plans and explains what Labour would do differently, meanwhile Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of GPs tells Sophie Elmhirst how the reform ("so large you can see it from outer space") will extend waiting lists and reduce patient choice.

All this, plus Mehdi Hasan on a nuclear Iran, Rafael Behr on Nick Clegg's suicidal Europeanism, a new NS Food column by Felicity Cloake, Condoleezza Rice's discretion on Iraq, Sarah Churchwell in defence of Marilyn Monroe's artistic achievements, and a profile of War Horse author, Michael Morpurgo.

Alice Gribbin is a Teaching-Writing Fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She was formerly the editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.