Miliband ally Peter Hain heading for the exit?

"His departure will open up the way for new blood in the shadow cabinet."

The Sunday Telegraph's Patrick Hennessy has some interesting quotes on the immediate future of shadow Welsh secretary Peter Hain. Labour sources tell Hennessy:

Peter wants to leave the front bench on a high. We did very well in local elections in Wales this month and he can take a large part of the credit for that.

He is one of the biggest fans of Ed [Miliband] and what he is trying to do, but his departure will open up the way for new blood in the shadow cabinet.

Hain, 62, is one of Miliband's closest advisors, backed him for the leadership in 2010, and has been intimately involved in the party's policy review. 

If Hain does leave, will Miliband use the opportunity to overhaul his shadow team or simply swap Hain for another Welsh-based MP such as Chris Bryant or Owen Smith? Just how much "new blood" is Miliband willing to risk?


Ed Miliband with Peter Hain during Miliband's leadership campaign, 9 June 2010. Credit: Getty Images

Jon Bernstein, former deputy editor of New Statesman, is a digital strategist and editor. He tweets @Jon_Bernstein. 

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.