David Cameron appoints the Sun's deputy political editor as his press secretary

Graeme Wilson will take up the post, with Gabby Bertin becoming director of external relations.

David Cameron has hired the Sun's deputy political editor Graeme Wilson as his new press secretary. The Spectator's Coffee House reports that he will replace Gabby Bertin, who will become director of external relations when she returns from maternity leave. According to James Forsyth, she will be "responsible for forging – and maintaining Downing Street’s – relations with business, pressure groups and charities." The well-regarded Wilson should help to improve Cameron's relations with the press, which have suffered since the departure of Andy Coulson and his replacement by the broadcast-focused Craig Oliver. 

After the hiring of Lynton Crosby as campaign manager in November 2012 and former Obama staffer Jim Messina as a campaign strategy adviser earlier this month, the appointments are further evidence of the Tories getting battle-ready for 2015. Labour is shortly due to recruit a deputy director of communications and a replacement for Tom Watson as campaign co-ordinator. But the appointments will add to the sense in Westminster that the Tories have stolen a march on Miliband's party. 

David Cameron arrives at 10 Downing Street earlier today after returning from his summer holiday to respond to the Syria crisis. Photograph: Getty Images.

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.