How the Buller Boy was brought to book

I hope Osborne: the Book isn't all Laffer and no laughs.

Chatter about the leadership intentions of George Osborne is rising several decibels. The must-have accessory for ambitious politicians is a biographer. And the Chancer of the Exchequer, I hear, has acquired a scribe. Joey Jones, Sky News's deputy political editor, is to chronicle the life and times of the Trust Fund Tory. Given that the Chancellor's a spotty 39-year-old, yet to toil in the Treasury a full year, a slim volume would suffice.

The lofty Buller Boy, muttered my snout, believes he deserves a more substantial tome. So George is co-operating. I hope Osborne: the Book isn't all Laffer and no laughs. After all, Cameron's Old Etonians nicknamed George "Oik" in the Buller, and then there's that photograph with an arm around a prostitute in front of a line of white powder. Cameron, by the way, may be worried by the frequency with which the self-aggrandiser entertains friendly hacks at Dorneywood. He's a busy boy, is our George.

The Scottish MP Thomas Docherty is earning himself an unpopular reputation among Labour comrades. Insisting the police analyse CCTV film to identify two trade unionists who allegedly swiped his half-drunk bottle of wine from Strangers' wasn't a first offence. Docherty, who since he began his short spell in the House has criticised jeans-wearing women MPs and proposed a statue of Tony Blair, had security question a man and woman with a baby in the cafeteria. A parliamentary sister didn't take kindly to Docherty setting the police on her daughter, son-in-law and grandchild. The hapless new boy from Dunfermline is being referred to as the school sneak.

Every MP was invited to a TUC reception sponsored by Grahame Morris, County Durham lefty, in a Commons dining room a couple of days before the March for the Alternative. This column's informant with the maths GCSE counted 50 Labourites. A sole Liberal Democrat, Southport's John Pugh, was spied. And the Conservatives? The Tories weren't in it at all.

To Bishop Auckland for the local Labour party's annual shindig. The Treasury mandarin-turned-local-MP, Helen Goodman, should propose a men's quota, as the old mining constituency is dominated these days by feisty women. During the raffle, a lucky ticketholder departed clutching a fine bottle of GMB whisky with the union's logo on the label. The GMB contingent was curiously unamused when your correspondent inquired if it was from a distillery organised by Unite.

How history is made: the west London MP Andrew Slaughter told Hammersmith Rotarians the real reason he is shadow justice minister and Ed Miliband is Labour leader. In Hamburg with his Ealing neighbour Stephen Pound to watch Fulham in last season's Europa Cup final (they lost), both got calls from Mili Minor. During the same trip, the duo were rung not by David Miliband, but by an MP acting on his behalf. The personal touch scored and the pair backed Mili Minor. Had Mili Major climbed down from his ivory tower to deign to speak to a few MPs, he'd probably be leader. Incredible but true.

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 04 April 2011 issue of the New Statesman, Who are the English?

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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.