Andrew Mitchell, one of the Coalition's major players in the early years, now faces a career on the fringes. (Photo: Getty)
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Plebgate: Andrew Mitchell agrees to pay £80,000 in damages to PC Toby Rowland

Andrew Mitchell's two-year legal battle has ended in the Sutton Coldfield MP paying £80,000 in damages.

Andrew Mitchell, the former Chief Whip and International Development Secretary, has paid £80,000 in libel damages to PC Toby Rowland, the police officer at the centre of the "Plebgate" affair. 

At the end of a libel trial last year, brought by  Mitchell against the Sun, a judge ruled that Mitchell had used the "politically toxic word pleb" in his altercation with Rowland and other officers at th gates of Downing Street.  Rowland’s solicitor, Jeremy Clarke-Williams, told Mr Justice Warby: “The payment of £80,000 damages by Mr Mitchell sets the seal on PC Rowland’s vindication, as well as providing compensation for the injury to his reputation and the distress caused to him and his family over many months.”

He added: “PC Rowland never felt that the events in Downing Street were anything more than a minor incident. He was not responsible for the publicity which followed and would have much preferred that the whole matter had never entered the public domain. He now simply wishes to be left in peace to continue his police career.”

It is estimated that Mitchell's legal bills will reach about £3m.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.

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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.