Watching brief - Amanda Platell

What would be the point of singling out some granny with a shopping trolley for a search? So that th

From a sluggish start, Gavin Esler is having a particularly good war on terror with Newsnight. Esler is one of the few BBC interviewers not in thrall to political correctness, as evidenced on the evening of the second and failed day of attacks on London. Discussing the introduction of spot searches on the Underground and the New York subway with the director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, he repeatedly challenged her view that these were permissible for Muslims provided there was no "racial profiling" involved.

This is the kind of PC nonsense that flies in the face of facts. Fact 1: we are under mortal attack. Fact 2: these murders of our citizens are being carried out by definable racial groups, and exclusively by young men. Fact 3: our police are stretched to breaking point. With limited resources and an urgent need to catch and to deter those who would murder us, the police should be profiling racially, and we should be supporting them.

What would be the point of singling out a granny with a shopping trolley for a bag search? So that the wider racial group from which these murderers come could feel better about itself?

I was astounded a few weeks ago when I was spot-searched before a Turkish Airways flight to Istanbul. As far as I am aware, in the history of terrorism there has never been a white, fortysomething, Australian female bomber. Yet the flight was full of young Muslim men who walked past unchallenged.

Perhaps many of us would feel more sympathetic towards the feelings of Britain's Muslim communities if it weren't for the fact that, nearly a week after the second bombings, the police were still calling out for co-operation from those same communities to identify the terrorists in their midst.

No newspaper has been more concerned with protecting the feelings of British Muslims than the Sun - understandably, as it has a huge Asian readership. So it was not surprising the paper ran a survey heralding the fact that "91 per cent of Muslims say suicide bombs are anti-Islam".

Which means a staggering 9 per cent - 144,000 out of a population of 1.6 million Muslims - or almost one in ten, do not. The Telegraph ran a poll the same day claiming "6 per cent of British Muslims think the suicide bombings were justified".

When, as reported in the Sun, 7 per cent of Muslims say they not only know an Islamic extremist but would not inform the police, we must realise we have an even greater problem than anyone is prepared to admit.

Impartial observers may have been confused when they saw Andrew Pierce's normally scintillating People column replaced in the Times of 26 July with something that looked about as interesting as the instructions on my home waxing kit.

The clue was in the copy, which contained the word "guardian" in most items. I am reliably informed that the Times had seen a dummy for the much-heralded Berliner-style redesigned Guardian, to be launched some time this year. If this sleep-inducing display of journalism is anything to go by I hope, for the Guardian's sake, that it was a one-off spoof based on a very old dummy.

Publicity stunts don't come much cruder than from the increasingly beleaguered Coleen "Three Bellies" McLoughlin, fiancee of the footballer Wayne Rooney. Intimate pictures of her £10,000 private holiday with her adopted sister Rosie mysteriously appeared in the red tops. Rosie, six, suffers from a degenerative brain disease and is wheelchair-bound. With all those millions, the least Ms McLoughlin could have ensured was some privacy for the poor little girl.

Now I know I'm in a minority, but I like David Aaronovitch, and I like him even more for having had the guts to bare all on the cover of the Guardian's Weekend magazine. The headline, "How fat camp saved my life", sat on top of his naked, Santa-like stomach and butted his breasts. His critics say it takes a great ego to expose oneself in this way. I think it takes great courage, at more than 18 stone.

And finally, headline of the week went with the marvellous Michael Hanlon's rendition in the Daily Mail of the albatross-eating killer mice of Gough Island. "Gnaws!" did it for me.

Insult of the week came from Roman Polanski with his successful libel case against Vanity Fair. He is still wanted in the United States on charges of having sex with a 13-year-old girl. That a man of that sort was able to sue any publication for libel successfully, whatever the slur, was beyond decency.

Shock move of the week? The BBC's Breakfast girl Natasha Kaplinsky is rumoured to be replacing pregnant Sophie Raworth on the ailing Six O'Clock News. The lovely but stiff Sophie has fewer facial expressions than Joan Collins these days, so the change really should come as no surprise.

This article first appeared in the 01 August 2005 issue of the New Statesman, Why Britain is great

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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.