William Hague arrives in Downing Street earlier today. Photograph: Getty Images.
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William Hague resigns as Foreign Secretary

Former Tory leader will step down at the next election and serve as Leader of the House of Commons until then. 

Government sources promised a shock cabinet change as part of the reshuffle, and they weren't wrong: William Hague has resigned as Foriegn Secretary. He will also step down as an MP at the general election, after 26 years in parliament, and will serve as Leader of the House of Commons until then. In addition, David Cameron has said, he will remain his "de facto political deputy" and play a "key campaigning role". 

The move was not expected, but it also does not come as a complete surprise. Hague had hinted in recent months that he was preparing to step down and he appeared to have lost some of his passion for the frontline. In an interview with The House Magazine in June, for instance, he said: "I came back into politics specifically to do this job and I regard it as my last big job in politics."

Speculation has immediately turned to who will succeed him, with Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, regarded as the likeliest candidate. Other possible replacements, such as George Osborne (who has been tipped to become Foreign Secretary after 2015), Theresa May and Michael Gove, will all remain in their current posts. 

Here's Hague's statement on his decision: 

By the time of the general election next year, I will have served 26 years in the House of Commons and it will be 20 years since I first joined the cabinet. In government there is a balance to strike between experience on the one hand and the need for renewal on the other, and I informed the prime minister last summer that I would not be a candidate at the next general election.

Accordingly I am stepping aside as foreign secretary, in order to focus all my efforts on supporting the government in parliament and gaining a Conservative victory in the general election – after four years in which we have transformed Britain's links with emerging economies, significantly expanded our diplomatic network and the promotion of British exports, restored the Foreign Office as a strong institution, and set a course to a reformed European Union and a referendum on our membership of it.

And here's Cameron's:

William Hague has been one of the leading lights of the Conservative Party for a generation, leading the party and serving in two cabinets. Not only has he been a first class foreign secretary – he has also been a close confidante, a wise counsellor and a great friend. He will remain as first secretary of state and my de facto political deputy in the run up to the election – and it is great to know that he will be a core part of the team working to ensure an outright Conservative victory at the next election.

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.