Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham speaks at the Labour conference in Manchester earlier this year. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Labour to turn focus to health with 10-year NHS plan in January

Having addressed the deficit and immigration, the party plans to focus on its greatest strength. 

Labour has spent much of the last fortnight addressing its political weaknesses. Ed Miliband has made high-profile speeches on the deficit and immigration (the two subjects he forgot to mention in his conference address) and has announced general election pledges related to both. On the former, Labour has promised to reduce borrowing every year and to avoid unfunded manifesto commitments. On the latter, it has pledged to control immigration with "fair rules", to ban migrants from claiming benefits for two years after their arrival and to make it illegal for employers to undercut wages by exploiting workers. Both are aimed at providing the party with the protective cover it will need during the election campaign. 

Having "cleared away the undergrowth", in the words of one strategist, Labour now plans to focus on maximising its strengths: living standards and the NHS. January will be the party's "health month" with the conclusion of its mental health taskforce and the publication of a 10-year plan for health and social care by Andy Burnham. The party rightly regards the NHS, the issue on which it enjoys its biggest poll lead, as central to election victory. Voters consistently rank it at as one of the most important policy areas (or even the most important) and the role it played during the Scottish referendum (despite health being a devolved issue) was a reminder of the public's affection for our national religion. 

The Tories' recent panicked pledge to spend £2bn more on the NHS was aimed at neutralising Labour's attack. But the deteriorating state of the health service, and the blame the Conservatives have incurred as a result of their reorganisation, means they will struggle to reduce the opposition's advantage. Labour's lead on the issue has remained stubborn despite the Tories' repeated attacks over Mid-Staffs and Wales. Indeed, one aide recently told me that every time Cameron mentions the NHS, Labour benefits as the subject rises up the agenda. Expect Miliband to now focus on ensuring that the health service, as he put it at a recent PMQs, is "on the ballot paper" in May. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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New Digital Editor: Serena Kutchinsky

The New Statesman appoints Serena Kutchinsky as Digital Editor.

Serena Kutchinsky is to join the New Statesman as digital editor in September. She will lead the expansion of the New Statesman across a variety of digital platforms.

Serena has over a decade of experience working in digital media and is currently the digital editor of Newsweek Europe. Since she joined the title, traffic to the website has increased by almost 250 per cent. Previously, Serena was the digital editor of Prospect magazine and also the assistant digital editor of the Sunday Times - part of the team which launched the Sunday Times website and tablet editions.

Jason Cowley, New Statesman editor, said: “Serena joins us at a great time for the New Statesman, and, building on the excellent work of recent years, she has just the skills and experience we need to help lead the next stage of our expansion as a print-digital hybrid.”

Serena Kutchinsky said: “I am delighted to be joining the New Statesman team and to have the opportunity to drive forward its digital strategy. The website is already established as the home of free-thinking journalism online in the UK and I look forward to leading our expansion and growing the global readership of this historic title.

In June, the New Statesman website recorded record traffic figures when more than four million unique users read more than 27 million pages. The circulation of the weekly magazine is growing steadily and now stands at 33,400, the highest it has been since the early 1980s.