Leader: The German model

In praise of the Bundesliga and more besides.

As Jonathan Wilson writes on page 25 [of the 3-9 May New Statesman] , there is much for British football fans to admire in the success of German clubs in this year’s Champions League. However, it is not just the thrilling football of “quick transitions” with which Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have swept all before them that makes the German game so attractive. Supporters of Premier League teams, who are charged eyewatering amounts to watch clubs owned by Russian oligarchs or Middle Eastern petro-plutocrats, must look longingly at the Bundesliga. Their German counterparts pay modest sums to stand on the terraces (something the English are still not allowed to do) to watch sides full of native talent. Many supporters also have a financial stake in the clubs they follow: the “50+1” rule requires that club members must own a minimum of 51 per cent of its shares. Leveraged buyouts by foreign owners of great sporting institutions cannot happen in Germany.

This model of club ownership is a microcosm of the structure of the German economy more generally. As Maurice Glasman argues on page 24, German economic success is a function of a system of institutions that promote partnership between labour and capital, proper vocational training and focused regional investment.

The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, who struggled so miserably to explain his party’s economic policy in a recent BBC radio interview, could do worse than start learning from the Germans.

 

Bayern Munich's Philipp Lahm, like Germany, is on the ball. Photo: Getty Images.
Photo: Getty
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The big problem for the NHS? Local government cuts

Even a U-Turn on planned cuts to the service itself will still leave the NHS under heavy pressure. 

38Degrees has uncovered a series of grisly plans for the NHS over the coming years. Among the highlights: severe cuts to frontline services at the Midland Metropolitan Hospital, including but limited to the closure of its Accident and Emergency department. Elsewhere, one of three hospitals in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are to be shuttered, while there will be cuts to acute services in Suffolk and North East Essex.

These cuts come despite an additional £8bn annual cash injection into the NHS, characterised as the bare minimum needed by Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England.

The cuts are outlined in draft sustainability and transformation plans (STP) that will be approved in October before kicking off a period of wider consultation.

The problem for the NHS is twofold: although its funding remains ringfenced, healthcare inflation means that in reality, the health service requires above-inflation increases to stand still. But the second, bigger problem aren’t cuts to the NHS but to the rest of government spending, particularly local government cuts.

That has seen more pressure on hospital beds as outpatients who require further non-emergency care have nowhere to go, increasing lifestyle problems as cash-strapped councils either close or increase prices at subsidised local authority gyms, build on green space to make the best out of Britain’s booming property market, and cut other corners to manage the growing backlog of devolved cuts.

All of which means even a bigger supply of cash for the NHS than the £8bn promised at the last election – even the bonanza pledged by Vote Leave in the referendum, in fact – will still find itself disappearing down the cracks left by cuts elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.