Queue-jumping Mickey Gove is in the soup

The cabinet dunce, Michael Gove, continues to struggle.

Is there a more jingoistic Tory than the flag-waving Andrew Rosindell? The brains behind his 2001 election to parliament, a Staffordshire bull terrier called Spike, canvassed in a red, white and blue Union Jack waistcoat. Rosindell makes John Bull look like a republican internationalist. The Romford royalist wraps himself in the flag, demands the full bunting on St George's Day and campaigned for next year's holiday to celebrate Her Maj's Diamond Jubilee. The anti-immigration former Monday Clubber appears to have little time for Johnny Foreigner. So MPs and peers were puzzled when he invited them on behalf of what is called the British-Liechtenstein All-Party Parliamentary Group to a Carlton Club bash to celebrate the nuptials of Wills and Kate. My snout queried the patriotism of promoting a German-speaking tax haven. Perhaps the Windsors pine for their Saxe-Coburg-Gotha roots.

One of Cameron's landed gentry is embroiled in a toff v worker class war that Citizen Dave will find uncomfortable, reminding voters that we're not all in this together. Frederick Richard Penn Curzon, the 7th Earl Howe , a junior health minister in the House of Cronies, faces a trip
to an employment tribunal. A tractor driver once of Earl Howe's employ is claiming unfair dismissal after losing a job on his lordship's stately inheritance, the Penn House Estate in Bucks. Cameron will be familiar with the 250-year-old Penn mansion. The red-brick pile has featured on Midsomer Murders, a TV favourite of the People's Premier.

The cabinet dunce, Michael Gove, continues to struggle. An informant watched him march to the front of a Pret A Manger queue to inquire loudly what was in the soup. Ignored by staff who saw only a pushy customer, the Education Secretary sheepishly retreated to the back, none the wiser. Yet maybe Mickey deserves a smiley-face sticker for getting his own lunch, unlike Labour's Liam Byrne, who memorably instructed civil servants in writing to deliver soup to his desk between 12.30pm and 1pm.

Fans of the flash-in-the-pan David Laws maintain that he is not expecting to return to ministerial office any time soon. Odd, then, that a snout reported rumours that he's lined up Julian Astle, director of the Lib Dumb think tank CentreForum, to be his special adviser. Laws intended to take Astle to the Treasury last year. The future of both depends on the verdict of the inquiry into Laws's publicly funded rent arrangements.

Revolting Conservative backbenchers are growing increasingly frustrated that Nick Clegg has instant access to Cameron, but Tory MPs asking to see the PM must wait months for an audience. I sniff trouble after May's elections.The ever-so-grand Nicholas Soames moans that the Commons is no longer a tight-knit public school. The Old Etonian told tearoom sippers that everything said in the place seems to leak. The final straw was "Gobblegate", when the Cameron cutie Claire Perry asked if she needed to give the Speaker "a blow job" to be called. The answer, thankfully, was no.

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 25 April 2011 issue of the New Statesman, Easter 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.