Ed Miliband delivers his speech at the Labour conference in Manchester last month. Photograph: Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Miliband sharpens NHS dividing line with one-week cancer test guarantee

Pledge will be funded through £750m raised by new windfall levy on tobacco firms. 

There is no policy area on which Labour enjoys a larger lead than the NHS (12 points according to the most recent YouGov poll). If the party can ensure that health is one of the defining issues of the election campaign then it will benefit at the expense of the Conservatives, who were this week revealed to regard their reorganisation of the service as their biggest mistake in government. 

Ed Miliband's conference speech, in which he pledged to spend £2.5bn more a year on the NHS (funded by a mansion tax, a windfall levy on tobacco firms and a crackdown on tax avoidance), was the first part of Labour's plan to create a clear dividing line with the Tories. Tomorrow, Miliband will begin setting out how this money will be spent by pledging to ensure that patients in England wait no longer than one week for cancer tests and results by 2020.

The guarantee, made possible by £750m of new investment over five years, funded by the tobacco levy, is aimed at allowing patients to begin treatment early, saving the NHS hundreds of millions a year in costs incurred due to late diagnosis. Miliband will declare his ambition for the health service to have the best cancer survival rates in Europe, something which could save up to 10,000 lives a year. Since May 2010, the number waiting for more than six weeks for key tests used to diagnose cancer has risen from 1,900 to 10,600. Labour described the plan as a first step towards achieving one week access for all urgent diagnostics by 2025. 

In an interview with tomorrow's Times, Miliband says: 

Labour has different values on the NHS than this government. We believe in collaboration rather than free-market competition, in prevention not picking up the pieces, and accountability rather than undermining patients’ rights and guarantees.

Labour has different priorities from this government. We would raise taxes on the most expensive homes worth over £2m  in our country, hedge funds which avoid paying their fair share, and the tobacco firms whose products cause so much ill-health and suffering. This money will help pay for the investments we will make with our NHS Time to Care Fund.

And, unlike this government, Labour has a plan for the NHS so that it can meet the challenges of the 21st century. We have already said we will guarantee GP appointments within 48 hours. And we have already shown how our Time to Care Fund will ensure the NHS has 20,000 more nurses, 8,000 GPs, 5,000 home care workers and 3,000 midwives so they have the time to care for you. 

Some have dismissed Labour's focus on the NHS as part of a "core vote" strategy, but party sources point to polls such as this week's ICM survey, which showed the public rate health as the most important issue, as evidence that there is a large audience for their proposals. One strategist told me: "We're going to come back to it again and again and again for policy and political reasons." Andy Burnham will make a speech in a few weeks' time setting out further details of Labour's ten-year NHS plan. 

There is an obvious political logic to funding the cancer guarantee through the tobacco levy, modelled on one introduced by Barack Obama in 2009. A Labour aide told me that it was time for "those who have contributed so much to the ill health of our nation to contribute to the health of our nation". The party can also draw attention to the long-standing links between Conservative election campaign manager Lynton Crosby's lobbying firm and the tobacco industry. Of the windfall tax, one aide said: "I don't think that's a choice the Tories are either willing or able to make". 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Show Hide image

Let's talk about Daniel Hannan, Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler

The downside of Godwin's Law.

One of the enduring mysteries about Daniel Hannan is why he deletes so many of his tweets. The other is why, when he deletes so many, he leaves so many other absolutely clunkingly braindead observations on the internet for all to see. It's like he isn't ashamed of them. It's like he doesn't even know.

Anyway – one advantage of these lapses in Hannan's online hygiene is that it allows me to find out about particular highlights weeks after the event. So it was that Twitter user @eurosluggard tipped me off to this absolute gem from 31 January.

It's worth actually expanding every individual image there, just so we can really revel in the fact that Hannan chose to tweet so many lovely memes showing senior politicians as Nazis. (I'd embed the tweet, but I’m frightened the bugger would delete it.)

And, my personal favourite:

This is quite ludicrous enough in itself. That both the left, and online debate in general, are a bit quick to call people Nazis is not in dispute (Godwin coined his Law for a reason). That Daniel Hannan chose to highlight this by tweeting a picture showing the man who led his party for 11 years dressed as a Nazi is, nonetheless, objectively hilarious, and not in the way he presumably intended.

However – to really understand the full insanity of this tweet you have to scroll back a bit. Here's the tweet that kicked the whole thing off:

Which is some rather spectacular point-missing in action. Nobody, best I can tell, is talking about banning President Trump from the UK altogether (in stark contrast to his administration's policies, which genuinely would ban certain countries' citizens from the US). The argument was actually about whether he should get a full state visit with all the bells and whistles and posh dinners and the Queen.

Declining to lay out the red carpet for someone is not the same as preventing their visit altogether. This is the same sleight of hand that happens when the Brendan O’Neills of this world conflate "no platform-ing" with "the erosion of free speech". Nobody has so far offered me a $250,000 book deal, but sadly, I don't think this is because I am being deliberately censored.

Whether Hannan is being consciously duplicitous, or is merely a bit thick, is, as ever, an open question. At any rate, other Twitter users decided to point out that he was being a little bit cheeky.


And that's where we came in:

There's another sleight of hand here – another elision between two related, but distinct, concepts. Can you see it?

It's this: he's leapt from gerenic accusations of fascism to the specific one that Donald Trump is like Hitler. But Hitler wasn't the entirety of Nazism, which was in turn only one form of fascism. Something can be fascistic without necessarily looking anything like Naziism.

Donald Trump is not Adolf Hitler. But some of his policies, and much of his rhetoric – the rallies, the demonisation of outsiders, the attacks on the media, the swing to protectionism, "Make America Great Again" – contain enough echoes of fascism to, at the very least, make "Is Donald Trump a facist?" a question worth discussing.

Consequently it’s being discussed, rather a lot, by the American media. Hannan’s tweet implies that it is only silly hysterical lefties that could possibly be concerned with such matters.

There's another elision at work in Hannan's tweet. Comparisons between Barack Obama and Adolf Hitler are quite obviously ridiculous. So are those involving Mitt Romney, and John McCain, and David Cameron: none of them was a fascist, or anything like.

Donald Trump, though, might be. By placing him in that company, Daniel Hannan is implying that he is just another centre-right politician, being unfairly demonised by the left. He isn't.

I don't believe for a moment he's done this deliberately: Daniel Hannan is many things, but a fascist he is not. But in his heartfelt belief that everything must be the fault of the left, he's ended up implying that all liberal criticism of Donald Trump as an extremist is illegitimate.

There is a real downside to the tendency for online political debate to leap to words like fascist, as expressed in Godwin's Law: it deprives us of the language to describe the rise to power of something that genuinely looks like right-wing extremism. But just because we often cry wolf, that doesn't mean there's never a wolf at the door.

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Daniel Hannan. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.