Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. Benefits: taking money from the poor (Guardian)

A historic wedge is being driven between rich and poor, says a Guardian editorial.

2. Labour believes George Osborne will be snared by his own welfare benefits trap (Daily Telegraph)

The Chancellor’s caricature of welfare claimants as slobs on sofas bears no comparison with reality, writes Mary Riddell.

3. Cameron holds the aces. He should sit tight (Times) (£)

In the struggle between Europhiles, Eurosceptics and Europhobes, the middle ground is stronger than people think, says Daniel Finkelstein.

4. Don't mock Nick Clegg – he may stay in power for a generation (Guardian)

Since 2010 the deputy PM has been dismissed as politically crippled, writes Simon Jenkins. Yet his cunning could leave him kingmaker again.

5. Signs of trouble to come for China's new leader (Independent)

Protests over press freedom will test Xi Jinping's reformist image, says an Independent editorial.

6. There is a problem with welfare, but it's not 'shirkers' (Guardian)

This economic model isn't delivering jobs or decent wages, says Seumas Milne. The real scroungers are greedy landlords and employers.

7. A trade deal for Europe and US (Financial Times)

Timing for transatlantic talks is as good as it will ever get, says an FT leader.

8. Does a rise in borrowing mean a return to normality? (Independent)

There are several potential benefits to higher interest rates, says Hamish McRae.

9. Withdrawing child benefit is like sticking two fingers up to stay-at-home mothers (Daily Telegraph)

The coalition is signalling it believes there is nothing to gain from women bringing up their own children, writes Judith Woods.

10. American industry is on the move (Financial Times)

Manufacturers using ‘big data’ are setting the scene for a revival, says Sebastian Mallaby.

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

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.