Class conscious

The thing that really bothers me, as I approach my 39th birthday, is the way that people talk. If you happen to be holding forth, and I happen to be listening, here are ten things you shouldn't say. If you do say them, you will provoke in me my dad's old lament: "Dead common!"

1) If you're in a shop, don't say, "Can I get a pint of milk?", unless you actually are an American idiot, in which case it's OK. Say: "Can I have a pint of milk?" Then say: "Please."

2) If you must praise something as being "cool", don't say, "How cool is that?" and then pull a sort of goggle-eyed, incredulous expression.

3) Don't say: "He's really, really clever" (or whatever). Say: "He's very clever."

4) A really, really difficult one, this: if you have a bad experience, try to think of some way of describing it other than "it was a total nightmare".

5) If you are a compere at a comedy club and you are introducing the next act, don't say, "Give it up, please, for . . .", but say, "A round of applause, please, for . . ."

6) This one applies particularly to my two sons. If your brother says, in response to some proposition of yours, "No way!" (which he shouldn't, but probably will), don't reply, "Yes way!" and then keep shouting, "Yes way!" every time he shouts, "No way!", until your father intervenes.

7) If somebody seems about to say something embarrassing, don't say: "Don't go there!"

8) Having broached some perplexing scenario, don't then say: "What's that all about, then?" before pulling the sort of facial expression described in 2).

9) If you are a Formula One racing driver, don't always say "for sure" when you mean "yes".

10) If, six months ago, you gave a man a paint pot and he passed you a ladder, don't say, "So I've given him the paint pot, and he's passed me the ladder", because that suggests these things happened very recently. Say instead: "I gave him the paint pot and he passed me the ladder." I should be able to identify the two tenses concerned by name, but I never had lessons in grammar. Dead common, you see.

This article first appeared in the 09 July 2001 issue of the New Statesman, Just you wait until I grow up

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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.