Half-measures for Little Ted, big escape for pint-sized Bercow

Tippler of the Year

Cameron had a serious drink problem: deciding his favourite drop. Focus-group research required Citizen Dave to alternate between bitter, Guinness and wine: a people's toff must steer clear of port and bubbly. Gordon Brown is a real champagne socialist, or at least a former Labour leader who prefers champagne.

Tony Blair feared a whisky and half a bottle of wine put him on A Journey to alcoholism, until John Reid, who knows a thing or two about it, scoffed drily that it wouldn't wet a budgie's beak in Glasgow. And, in a heroic effort, the Tory new boy Mark Reckless collapsed inebriated in Strangers' Bar two months after the election, missing the Budget vote. But legless Reckless was pipped to the tippler title by Edward Miliband. The fresh-faced leader swept into Strangers' with an entourage, determined to prove he's a man of the people. Little Ted, my snout reports, was still nursing his half of bitter an hour later.

Sack-Me-If-You-Dare Challenge Cup

Delighted to contradict Citizen Dave on Afghanistan and Trident, the Tory gunboat HMS Liam Fox has continued his friendly fire since surviving the leaking of a memo, headed "For the Prime Minster's eyes only", which condemned ConDem cuts.

Black ops by alliance enemies, including a party boy smear about Fox enjoying the good life, have failed to moor him to the No 10 line. The right-winger, recounted a flappy-eared informant, issues mock warnings to rebel Tories disobeying orders that they'll be sent to "Coalition College" for re-education. Would Cameron dare in 2011?

The Chuckle-Less Certificate

Bullingdon Boy George "Oik" Osborne denied himself a laugh at the Speaker's expense by dropping a heightist joke from December's Press Gallery lunch. Perhaps mindful of the fuss when Citizen Dave, his Bully-don senior, likened the matchbox-sized John Bercow to Happy in Snow White and the Seven Speakers, Oik bottled it.

My Tory snout muttered that a global warming quip was submitted when the Chancellor's cronies asked for funnies. The baronet's son intended to say he hoped the UN talks in Cancún would succeed, otherwise Bercow would be the first to suffer if sea levels rose. Or maybe Oik doesn't want to save a party colleague accused of abandoning Cut-servatism.

Oscar for Best Body Double Performance

No competition here. Voters should demand a DNA check on Nick Clegg. Tory central casting has seated a right-wing clone in the back of the chauffeur-driven Jag. Cameroonies speak of retaining the Lib Dem's services on a permanent basis. The whisper is that Clegg is not averse to the idea.

In-Denial Shield

Gordon Brown may suffer moments when he fears he's still PM. Bumping into the former sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe on the eve of Fifa awarding Russia the World Cup, Broon demanded to know why his former charge wasn't in Zurich supporting England's bid. That could be dismissed as a misunderstanding, with Broon unaware, for instance, that Sutcliffe has moved to the shadow home affairs team. Except that Broon also asked Labour's Ian Stewart about his constituency. Startled, Stewart reminded the ex-PM he is no longer an MP, unable to run in May because he was the victim of a Labour boundary stitch-up in Greater Manchester.

The Kevin Keegan Prize for Blowing a Big Lead

David "Two Brains, No Sense" Miliband repeated the Labour leadership equivalent of Kevin Keegan's Newcastle losing a 12-point lead over Manchester United in the 1996 Premiership. The real reason the elder Milibrother lost to young Teddy wasn't union members, but MPs who knew he was refusing to transfer their votes. David Mili had looked over too many shoulders or arrogantly dismissed the arguments of others. Your correspondent's favourite out-of-touch Miliband story is the failed leader declaring the New Labour project will have succeeded when South Shields - my home town, his constituency - had a bookshop with a coffee bar inside it. That was a new one on me. l

Kevin Maguire is associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 20 December 2010 issue of the New Statesman, Christmas Special

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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.