Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Osborne’s got his story – and he’s sticking to it (Independent)

Balls will recognise Osborne’s strengths, writes John Rentoul. He shares two of the most important of them.

2. Things could get gloomier for Britain (Financial Times)

Osborne should veer towards caution – the recovery is liable to be snuffed out by events abroad, writes Janan Ganesh.

3. Who’s keeping tabs on the undercover cops? (Daily Telegraph)

The family of Stephen Lawrence are not the only ones concerned about their activities, says Philip Johnston. 

4. Sri Lanka summit taints Commonwealth (Financial Times)

Leaders should feel sick about accepting hospitality from a government with so grim a rights record, says Gideon Rachman.

5. Osborne's comprehensive spending review puts society in intensive care (Guardian)

As Osborne plans ever deeper cuts, Labour has to resist, says Polly Toynbee. The deficit can be shrunk by means that don't hammer the poor

6. The NHS must treat patients, not statistics (Times)

The last thing the health service needs is another big shake-up, writes Rachel Sylvester. Instead it must rediscover its heart.

7. The countryside’s children are being betrayed (Independent)

While the government's drive to improve education has transformed schools in London's inner-city, young people in rural areas are largely missed out, writes Terence Blacker.

8. Don't be fooled by Richard Branson's defence of Virgin trains (Guardian)

Richard Branson didn't like my column about his rail company – but he can't deny that taxpayers are piling up debts to subsidise his profits, writes Aditya Chakrabortty.

9. We’ve got to be less secretive about secrets (Times)

The real lesson of the Snowden affair is that the public need to be told what sort of surveillance is going on, says Hugo Rifkind.

10. Marriage vows (Daily Telegraph)

If Cameron is convinced that promoting marriage in the tax system is worthwhile, he should have the courage of his convictions, says a Telegraph editorial. 

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.