Bitter and twisted

Drink - Victoria Moore shows her Campari credentials

Imitation is said to be the sincerest form of flattery, but my moments of originality are so rare that I am never particularly pleased when people start copying me and reduce me to a commonplace again. But nothing compares to the cold fury I felt when I heard that August's Tatler is trumpeting the "discovery" of Campari and orange as the fashionable drink of the summer.

How dare it! Campari and orange is my drink and my discovery. After first extolling its virtues in these pages in March last year, I have spent the past 16 months on an evangelical crusade to persuade the world to see the translucent red light. When friend after friend sipped, puckered and all but spat, I felt as angry as if they'd told me that they hated my mother's cooking. It was personal. It seemed like nothing I could do would convert them to the cause. The more my friends and acquaintances spurned my taste, the more bitter and twisted (funnily enough, these are the tag words of the current Campari campaign) I became. Was my example not good enough?

In time, however, I began to relish their refusal to be converted, because it be-stowed on me the delicious status of being "The Eccentric Campari Drinker". This pleased me very well. Every time a barman asked, "What and orange?", I felt a prickling of pride at my own esotericism.

Then, last week, catastrophe struck. I was eating dinner at my parents' house when my boyfriend phoned claiming to have some "exciting news". From the loud background noise, I could tell that he was in a pub.

"Guess what?" he yelled. "Tatler says that the hot drink of the summer is Campari and orange." There was a long pause, into which I attempted to pour silent irritation, punctuated here and there by "Can you hear me?" (from him).

Then followed a sentence that revealed a supreme failure to read my reaction. "Yeah, when I got to the pub, my friend had this drink. I thought I recognised it, but I've never seen anyone but you drinking it, so I asked her what it was. She said: 'It's my new secret. Campari and orange.'"

On a scale of being annoyed by petty things, this was off the meter. It was like discovering that the indie band you had followed at gigs in dingy polytechnics and town halls around the country for years was suddenly being plugged by Radio 1 and in danger of soaring to the top of the charts. It was like finding another woman parading your laciest little scrap of transparent lingerie in front of your rapt boyfriend. Is there no way of patenting unusual tastes? The people of the world have had ample opportunity to follow my Campari lead, and they have spurned it. How dare they, now and en-cloddish-masse, assume its cultish appeal. I was so cross that, when I put the phone down, my mother rebuked me for unkind behaviour towards my boyfriend.

So look here. I want to set the record straight. Here are my Campari credentials. 1) In March, I lugged four litres of Campari on to the plane back from Rome and I have already drunk it all. 2) It is one of only two spirits from which I will not be separated, to the extent that I keep a bottle in my desk drawer at work (the gin is in the filing cabinet). 3) When my mother and I first ordered Campari and orange at Kensington Place, a London restaurant oozing with media people trying to be at the forefront of trends, the waiter had to climb up the back wall and remove the display bottle to serve us, so unusual was the request. I could go on.

But now that Campari and orange, thanks to Tatler, is set to become as vulgarly and exhaustively everywhere as vodka and cranberry was a couple of years ago, I suppose I'll just have to content myself with getting "I was drinking that before you could even spell it" tattooed on my right knuckle. And by the way, the new Sauvignon blanc (itself the new Chardonnay) is going to be dry muscat. You heard it here first.

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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.