New York mayor Bill de Blasio meets with shadow London minister Sadiq Khan before addressing the Labour conference in Manchester.
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Exclusive: Bill de Blasio and Sadiq Khan meet to discuss fight against inequality

New York mayor met the shadow London minister for 45 minutes before he addressed the Labour conference. 

Bill de Blasio, New York's first Democratic mayor since 1993, was the star turn on the final day of the Labour conference, delivering a well-received speech on the global fight against inequality.

Before addressing the conference, I can reveal that de Blasio met for 45 minutes with shadow London minister and shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan. A source told me that the pair discussed plans to tackle rising inequality in London and New York and how to make politics more relevant to people's lives. De Blasio invited Khan, who is often spoken of as a potential future London mayor, to visit him and see the progress his administration has made. 

Khan has long described inequality as the biggest challenge facing London, making it one of the central issues of Labour's election campaign in the capital last May (where it enjoyed its best results since 1998). In a speech at the GMB conference in June, he said: "Growing inequality is a global problem seen across the world. And the forces of conservatism will fight tooth and nail to protect their vested interests. We will need everyone who believes that inequality is a problem working alongside us."

But while Khan has publicly expressed interest in becoming de Blasio's equivalent in London ("If the ball came loose at the edge of the box and I thought I had the best chance of scoring a goal I'd probably shoot," he has said), he is not planning to follow David Lammy in declaring his candidacy before the general election. A source recently told me: "Sadiq is working his socks off to get Ed Miliband elected Prime Minister. He will continue to focus all his effort on winning 12 extra seats in London as shadow London minister and articulating Labour's radical alternative to the government's prison crisis as shadow justice secretary."

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.