Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. A welfare crisis engulfs the nation, but Labour sits idly by (Daily Telegraph)

Caution has served Ed Miliband well so far, but the time has come for more than rhetoric, says Mary Riddell.

2. Why China’s economy might topple (Financial Times)

As Japan has shown, shifting to a lower-growth model is risky, writes Martin Wolf.

3. Tunisia and Egypt need the Arab revolutions to spread (Guardian)

Conflict over religion and identity risks diverting attention from the battle for social justice and national independence, writes Seumas Milne.

4. The Ed Miliband experiment has been tried before. Remember Gordon Brown? (Independent)

The worst outcome of the next election would be for Labour to win it so ill-prepared, says John Rentoul.

5. Welfare state can be cheaper and popular (Financial Times)

To satisfy deficit hawks and social justice doves a radical reshaping is needed, writes Graeme Cooke.

6. European Union: time to get aboard (Guardian)

Britain ought to be playing a more active role than this self-isolation permits, says a Guardian editorial.

7. North Korean missile crisis? Remember Cuba (Times)

It’s easy to dismiss Pyongyang’s threats as empty rhetoric, says Daniel Finkelstein. Postwar history should teach us to take the noise seriously.

8. Tell youngsters the truth: the UK needs you to work not go to university (Daily Telegraph)

The decision to massively increase the number of school-leavers going to university ranks as one of the greatest social and industrial policy blunders of recent decades, argues Allister Heath. 

9. A gurning DG and the question of bias (Daily Mail)

Seen through the BBC prism, every modest attempt to trim public spending is a wanton act of cruelty, says a Daily Mail editorial.

10. The religious side of Easter seemed to pass almost unnoticed (Independent)

Not so long ago almost everything shut down on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, notes Mary Dejevsky.

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.