The boys of Eton College stand as headmaster Tony Little arrives for morning assembly. Photo: Getty.
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Leader: Education’s Berlin Wall

This week, the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, joins our debate on the dominance of the privately educated in public life and the correlation between poverty and educational failure. (Thank you to all readers who have contributed excellent letters on the subject; our postbag continues to overflow.) In a bold article, starting on page 25, he declares that our “segregated” education system is “perpetuating inequality and holding our nation back … From the England cricket team to the comment pages of the Guardian, the Baftas to the BBC, the privately educated – and wealthy – dominate. Access to the best universities and the most powerful seats around boardroom tables, influence in our media and office in our politics are allocated disproportionately to the privately educated children of already wealthy parents.” These are good words and true. Mr Gove then explains why he believes the “Berlin Wall” between private and state in education is beginning to crumble.

Meanwhile, our shadow education secretary, Tristram Hunt has announced that, if Labour wins power in 2015, he hopes to introduce “behaviour experts” into schools to stop children misbehaving.

This article first appeared in the 13 February 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Can we talk about climate change now?

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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.