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Lib Dem website goes off message with new attack on Labour

The party's new 404 page features Ed Balls and the message "Just like Labour's plan for the economy, this page doesn't exist."

It looks like the Lib Dems' web designer didn't get the memo about going softer on Labour. While searching for the party's Spring Conference papers (not available at the stated address), I discovered its new 404 page which features Ed Balls (despite his recent rapprochement with Nick Clegg) and the message "Just like Labour's plan for the economy, this page doesn't exist."

It might be a humorous innovation (and look what happens when you click on Balls) but the Lib Dems would have been wiser to enjoy a joke at the Tories' expense. As defeated deputy leadership candidate Lorely Burt rightly notes in an interview with the Huffington Post today, to hold most of its seats, the party needs to focus on winning tactical votes from Labour supporters. Of the Lib Dems' 57 seats, the Tories are in second place in 37 and in 14 of the 20 most marginal.

Burt observed: "What we also need to do is talk to Labour supporters, who have lent us their vote in the past, to keep the Conservatives out. Because the message is stronger now than ever. In places like Solihull, you’ve got a small Labour vote but it will make the difference between winning and losing."

Meanwhile, with Burt's status as one of just seven female Lib Dem MPs in mind, Guido Fawkes's Alex Wickham has designed the alternative below. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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The big problem for the NHS? Local government cuts

Even a U-Turn on planned cuts to the service itself will still leave the NHS under heavy pressure. 

38Degrees has uncovered a series of grisly plans for the NHS over the coming years. Among the highlights: severe cuts to frontline services at the Midland Metropolitan Hospital, including but limited to the closure of its Accident and Emergency department. Elsewhere, one of three hospitals in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are to be shuttered, while there will be cuts to acute services in Suffolk and North East Essex.

These cuts come despite an additional £8bn annual cash injection into the NHS, characterised as the bare minimum needed by Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England.

The cuts are outlined in draft sustainability and transformation plans (STP) that will be approved in October before kicking off a period of wider consultation.

The problem for the NHS is twofold: although its funding remains ringfenced, healthcare inflation means that in reality, the health service requires above-inflation increases to stand still. But the second, bigger problem aren’t cuts to the NHS but to the rest of government spending, particularly local government cuts.

That has seen more pressure on hospital beds as outpatients who require further non-emergency care have nowhere to go, increasing lifestyle problems as cash-strapped councils either close or increase prices at subsidised local authority gyms, build on green space to make the best out of Britain’s booming property market, and cut other corners to manage the growing backlog of devolved cuts.

All of which means even a bigger supply of cash for the NHS than the £8bn promised at the last election – even the bonanza pledged by Vote Leave in the referendum, in fact – will still find itself disappearing down the cracks left by cuts elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.