David Axelrod attends a Gala Benefit For Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago on April 20, 2012. Photograph: Getty Images.
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David Axelrod: victory for Miliband will "send a message around the world"

What the Obama strategist told Labour during his visit to London. 

Labour's star signing David Axelrod has been in Westminster this week for his first face-to-face meetings with Ed Miliband on the role he will play in the party's general election campaign. Claims that the former Obama strategist will give Miliband a "makeover" are, I'm told, wide of the mark. A Labour source said: "You don't hire David Axelrod to tell you what colour tie to wear." 

Instead, his discussions with Labour have focused on strategy, polling and messaging. After a one-on-one meeting with Miliband yesterday, he met with other senior shadow cabinet members, including Harriet Harman, Ed Balls, Douglas Alexander, Michael Dugher, Sadiq Khan, Jon Cruddas and Yvette Cooper. He later had dinner with Miliband and his wife at their home accompanied by fellow Obama staffer Larry Grisolano. 

After a meeting this morning with the full shadow cabinet, he held further talks on digital and field operations followed by a Q&A with Labour staff at Brewer's Green. 

He told the party that victory for Ed Miliband in 2015 "would send a message around the world" and that was why he was "proud to have been asked" to do the job. He added: "There is a lot of alienation and anger among voters because of how the economy is working...We need to offer solutions."

Noting that he could earn far more working elsewhere, he said he was attracted to Miliband as a progressive radical who understood the need to break with "trickle-down economics" in order to restore the link between the growth of national economies and of family finances. "People are working harder and getting nowhere," he told the shadow cabinet. 

The Democrats and Labour have "different visions" to their opponents, he emphasised, and, for this reason, 2015 would be a "big, important election". Axelrod, it is clear, would not be here if he did not believe Miliband could win it. 

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.