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Police arrest man for posting image of burning poppy on Facebook

Kent police say the man was detained on suspicion of "malicious telecommunications".

Police in Kent have arrested a 19-year-old man for posting an image of a burning poppy on Facebook. In a press release published on its website, the force said that the man, from Aylesham, was arrested last night on suspicion of "malicious telecommunications" following "a posting on a social network site of a burning poppy". He is currently in custody and is due to be interviewed by police this morning.

The police said that officers were contacted at around 4pm on Sunday and alerted to the picture, "which was reportedly accompanied by an offensive comment."

The news of the arrest prompted strong criticism from civil liberties campaigners.

Nick Pickles, the director of Big Brother Watch, described the arrest as "utterly ridiculous".

He said: "Kent Police need to urgently release this man and drop an utterly ridiculous investigation into something that has harmed no-one.

"It is not illegal to offend people and, however idiotic or insensitive the picture may have been, it is certainly not worthy of arrest.

"This case highlights the urgent need to reform a law that poses a serious risk to freedom of speech after several ludicrous prosecutions in recent months."

David Allen Green, a solicitor and the New Statesman's legal correspondent, wrote on Twitter: "What was the point of winning either World War if, in 2012, someone can be casually arrested by for burning a poppy?"

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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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.