Michael Portillo 1, Sarah Vine 0 Photo: Youtube screengrab
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WATCH: Daily Mail columnist and Michael Gove's wife Sarah Vine slammed for her "Mr Spock" Miliband comment

Michael Portillo lambasts Sarah Vine's comparison of Justine Miliband to the late Mr Spock in her Daily Mail column this week.

Sarah Vine talked about newspaper ethics with Michael Portillo and Alan Johnson yesterday evening on BBC's This Week. Andrew Neil, sat back, with a smile on his face. Why? Just watch this fascinating takedown: 

Here's a juicy extract: 

Portillo: "Well, Sarah in her article about Mrs Miliband compared her to an alien - compared her to Mr Spock and said that a government under Ed Miliband would bring a Stalinesque situation. I mean that was pretty tough talk, particularly from someone who's in a position to know how vulnerable you are..." 

Vine: "It's interesting because when I started out in the process I was - well not exactly a sensitive flower - but certainly a much more nicer person than I am now. You just get tough. You have to get tough, otherwise you just can't survive it. 

Portillo: "Yeah but there's something else going on: the corrupting influence of newspapers. Newspapers want you to write that sort of vile stuff. I mean that lady has done nothing wrong in life except that she happens to married to the leader of the opposition. To compare her to alien or Mr Spock in my view is not justified." 


Here's an extract from Vine column in the Daily Mail yesterday: 

The one thing that was totally lacking from her [Justine Miliband] interview [with BBC on Tuesday], however, was humour. That and any sign of warmth, empathy or fallibility.

Intellectually, I’m certain she understands these concepts. But, like the late Mr Spock, one gets the impression she considers them unnecessary, inconvenient and wholly surplus to requirements.

I'm a mole, innit.

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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.