In this week's New Statesman: Lucky Dave

David Miliband | Alistair Darling interview | Giles Fraser on "Thatcher's bishop," George Carey | Vi

lucky dave

Witney GP: "Nobody supports the NHS changes"

In an exchange over the government's controversial health reforms during Prime Minister's Questions last Wednesday, David Cameron cited "a supportive GP . . . who hails from Doncaster" - Ed Miliband's constituency.

In this week's New Statesman, Sophie Elmhirst travels to David Cameron's own constituency, Witney, in west Oxfordshire, where a senior partner of a local GP practice tells her:

"I would say very few GPs are happy with [the NHS reform] at all . . . Not a question of supporting it, it's a question of going along with it.

"In my practice, nobody supports the changes . . . people think there should be more clinical involvement in commissioning. But I don't think many people think that GPs are the right people to commission. They need input into it - but if we wanted to be managers we would have trained to be managers, not doctors."

The GP adds:

"Most GPs are incredibly worried about conflict of interest. How can you be a patient's advocate and look after the money? A lot of people think the whole thing's designed to fail so they can bring private providers in. It's the one big bit of the economy that hasn't got private money in it."

Of the effects of the health-service overhaul on patients, the Witney GP says:

"The public have just got no idea what's hitting them . . . Things are going to fail, hospitals will close, because the money's not going to be there. Things will get taken over. And if you're going to have to make a profit out of it, you're not going to have the same service."

Exclusive: David Miliband's challenge to his party

In his most significant intervention since the Labour leadership contest in 2010, David Miliband uses a New Statesman essay to lay out a seven-point plan for the party.

Calling for a renewal of the radical, reforming spirit that Labour felt in 1994, he begins his essay with a critique of Roy Hattersley's reactionary definition of social democracy, and denounces the faction he describes as "Reassurance Labour":

For some, [Hattersley's stance] will be seductive. It is what I shall call Reassurance Labour. Reassurance about our purpose, our relevance, our position, even our morals. Reassurance Labour feels good. But feeling good is not the same as doing good - and it gets in the way when it stops us rethinking our ideas to meet the challenges of the time. And now is a time for restless rethinking, not reassurance.

Read the article in full here

Alistair Darling interview

In an interview with the New Statesman, the former chancellor Alistair Darling says the economic crisis "turned out to be worse than even I thought it would be". Of the eurozone, Darling says:

"You particularly need to resolve this problem where you have a rich core around Germany and you have a poor core around the Mediterranean countries. Those imbalances are just not sustainable. If you don't do that, you are consigning yourself to maybe two decades of stagnation in the southern part of Europe, and that would drag down northern Europe . . . [Germans] are worried about inflation, although I don't actually think that's a big problem.

"They would do well to remember that what precipitated the rise of Hitler was deflation, high unemployment and hopelessness, and it's that hopelessness that is beginning to permeate the body politic in Germany. The last quarter of German growth was pretty disappointing. If you start to hit people's aspirations you end up with a pretty lethal combination."

Of Ed Miliband's leadership, Darling says:

"In politics if you make an assertion that something needs to change I think you have to have an example of how you do it . . . In relation to growth . . . I think that's absolutely critical. Do we have to do more to present this in a sharper way? Of course we do.

". . . I'm not arguing that you should publish your manifesto three years before the event. [But] people want to know roughly where you're going with it. You remember in the run-up to the 1997 election we were quite careful about what we promised and when Tony [Blair] took over in 1994 we didn't have the entire thing spelt out. But I think . . . ending assisted places and giving national education to three- and four-year-olds was one of the early ones because that was an indicative promise . . . It sent a clear message that what we were talking about in crude terms was the many against the few. That's the sort of thing that we need to be doing now."

Of his former cabinet colleague, David Miliband, Darling says:

"I would like him back on the front bench. For his knowledge, and his judgement. When I've seen him on various programmes talking about foreign affairs he talks with authority. I understand his reluctance. There's always comparisons. He is probably right to take a rain check. Certainly he would be a gain."

Giles Fraser: George Carey's outlook is "straight from the Thatcherite self-help handbook"

The former canon chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral, Giles Fraser, responds to the recent intervention in the debate over welfare reform made by George Carey, Rowan Williams's predecessor as Archbishop of Canterbury. Carey, Fraser writes, showed "all the intellectual subtlety of Jason Statham trying out ballet" when he inveighed, in an article in the Daily Mail, against a benefits system that rewards "fecklessness and irresponsibility".

Carey's attack, according to Fraser, was "entirely predictable. His outlook comes straight from the Thatcherite self-help handbook. But in the current Church of England, he represents a very limited constituency." Much more representative, Fraser thinks, are the bishops who presented "a common front against legislation that would affect some of the most vulnerable in our society".

The clergymen routinely dredged up by the right-wing press to fulminate against benefit cheats, homosexuality or multiculturalism are, Fraser goes on, "all yesterday's men. It is significant that the go-to bishops - Carey and the former bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali - are both retired (though neither in the golf-playing sense, unfortunately)."

As for Dr Williams's likely successor in Lambeth Palace - the Bishop of York, John Sentamu - Fraser insists that he is:

. . . not a right-wing cleric from Central Casting. For all his instinctive conservatism about homosexuality, [Sentamu] was at one with his fellow bishops on welfare reform. The truth is that there is no longer a plausible George Carey-type candidate in the Canterbury stakes. And that says a lot about whom Lord Carey speaks for. He has become a one-man band, peddling a narrow version of Christianity as old-school as the Iron Lady. So, come on, George, do us all a favour - take up golf.

Elsewhere in the New Statesman

All this plus Rafael Behr's Inside Westminster cover story, "Lucky Dave", in which he asks how much longer voters will give Cameron the benefit of the doubt as his policy failures continue to mount; Vivienne Westwood talks to Jemima Khan about the dark side of fashion, her least favourite politicians and why Prince Charles is her hero; in the Critics, the poet David Harsent writes about the reality of sleeplessness, and the Irish author William Trevor pays tribute in a substantial essay to the short fiction of V S Pritchett.

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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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Commons Confidential: Dave's picnic with Dacre

Revenge is a dish best served cold from a wicker hamper.

Sulking David Cameron can’t forgive the Daily Mail editor, Paul Dacre, for his role in his downfall. The unrelenting hostility of the self-appointed voice of Middle England to the Remain cause felt pivotal to the defeat. So, what a glorious coincidence it was that they found themselves picnicking a couple of motors apart before England beat Scotland at Twickenham. My snout recalled Cameron studiously peering in the opposite direction. On Dacre’s face was the smile of an assassin. Revenge is a dish best served cold from a wicker hamper.

The good news is that since Jeremy Corbyn let Theresa May off the Budget hook at Prime Minister’s Questions, most of his MPs no longer hate him. The bad news is that many now openly express their pity. It is whispered that Corbyn’s office made it clear that he didn’t wish to sit next to Tony Blair at the unveiling of the Iraq and Afghanistan war memorial in London. His desire for distance was probably reciprocated, as Comrade Corbyn wanted Brigadier Blair to be charged with war crimes. Fighting old battles is easier than beating the Tories.

Brexit is a ticket to travel. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority is lifting its three-trip cap on funded journeys to Europe for MPs. The idea of paying for as many cross-Channel visits as a politician can enjoy reminds me of Denis MacShane. Under the old limits, he ended up in the clink for fiddling accounts to fund his Continental missionary work. If the new rule was applied retrospectively, perhaps the former Labour minister should be entitled to get his seat back and compensation?

The word in Ukip is that Paul Nuttall, OBE VC KG – the ridiculed former Premier League professional footballer and England 1966 World Cup winner – has cold feet after his Stoke mauling about standing in a by-election in Leigh (assuming that Andy Burnham is elected mayor of Greater Manchester in May). The electorate already knows his Walter Mitty act too well.

A senior Labour MP, who demanded anonymity, revealed that she had received a letter after Leicester’s Keith Vaz paid men to entertain him. Vaz had posed as Jim the washing machine man. Why, asked the complainant, wasn’t this second job listed in the register of members’ interests? She’s avoiding writing a reply.

Years ago, this column unearthed and ridiculed the early journalism of George Osborne, who must be the least qualified newspaper editor in history. The cabinet lackey Ben “Selwyn” Gummer’s feeble intervention in the Osborne debate has put him on our radar. We are now watching him and will be reporting back. My snouts are already unearthing interesting information.

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 23 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump's permanent revolution