Good morning. The Mail’s investigation into the Welsh NHS enters its third day – “Condemned To Die By Waiting List Shambles” is today’s splash. Nearly 1,400 patients are waiting at least a year for an operation annually, compared to just 574 in England, which is 17 times larger than Wales.
“Tory bully-boy attacks”, Welsh Health Secretary Mark Drakeford tells the Guardian. Labour strategists on both sides of the border think they’re the victim of an organised campaign to blunt their advantage on healthcare. It’s a bid to distract from the unpopular Health and Social Care Bill, they say. On the other side, the Conservatives feel that the chaos in Wales is the best argument yet for Lansleycare; Wales is “what you get if you do not reform” as one Conservative put it to me last night.
Who’s right? Elsewhere, the Government is under fire for plans to pay family doctors £55 for every patient they diagnose with dementia. It’s an “ethical travesty”, Iona Heath, former president of the Royal College of GPs says – Laura Donnelly has the story.
It does seem to be drawn from the same bag of politically popular but intellectually bankrupt ideas as Labour’s “a cancer test within seven days” pledge. (The objections are remarkably similar: what test? Starting from what admission date? And what about the perverse incentives thrown up for doctors by the scheme? Etc, etc.)
Is the trouble in England too much reform and the problem in Wales too little? As neat as that seems it’s probably unlikely. Wales is one of the biggest losers from the Barnett formula – government funding breaks down to £9.8k per head compared to £10.1k for Scotland, although that country is far richer – coupled with additional demographic pressures, it’s no wonder that their health service is buckling under pressure. Ditto, for all the political heat that Mr Lansley’s reforms generated, the greatest problem in England is that the above-inflation spending increases increases that kept the NHS going under New Labour aren’t financially possible these days.
Meanwhile our politicians compete to find new ways to remind us that they love the NHS. Absent a grown-up conversation about our ageing population and our anaemic public finances, love may not be enough.
THE COMPANY YOU KEEP
Ukip “do a lot of stuff that is absolutely vile”, Chuka Umunna told LBC last night. But enough about the Ukip calypso, what about their new allies in the European Parliament, eh? The Board of Deputies of British Jews says they are “deeply concerned” that Nigel Farage’s party has aligned itself with Robert Iwaskiewicz of the KNP. “I have found nothing at all in this guy’s background to suggest he is a political extremist at all,” says Mr Farage. Try page 2 of today’s Sun, Nige: “If Hitler had survived it would have been difficult to pin the Holocaust on him” is one winning line.
TAX CUTS, CUT?
“Osborne’s tax cuts pledge in doubt as borrowing rises” is the FT’s headline. Despite the recovery, tax receipts continue to be disappointingly low, jeopardising both the timeline to get Britain back in the black and the revenue for the promised £7.2 billion tax cut thereafter. Robert Colvile explains what’s going wrong and why it’s so worrying for the Chancellor.
QUIET BAT PEOPLE
The first pages of the Liberal Democrat manifesto have been caught on camera after the party’s strategy supremo, Ryan Coetzee, was photographed carrying a copy as he left a meeting. The pledges include – a further increase in the personal allowance, waiting time targets for mental health, the deficit eradicated by 2018 and a qualified teacher in every classroom. “This just isn’t good enough,” Caron Lindsay, co-editor of LibDemVoice, writes on her blog. More “planet-saving, establishment-busting” stuff is required, she says.
WHO’S AFRAID OF THE BIG BAD WOOLF?
“A sheep in Woolf’s clothing?” quips the Indy this morning. Fiona Woolf, the new head of the official inquiry into historic child sexual abuse, is under facing calls for her resignation after it emerged that she had attended dinner parties with Lord Brittan, the Tory grandee at the centre of the scandal. Speaking to the Commons Select Committee, Ms Woolf insisted she was “not a member of the establishment”, before insisting that her dinners with Lord Brittan were networking, not social affairs. “I was building my City network,” she explained. Simon Danzcuk’s not convinced: “In the world I come from, if you have people round for dinner you consider yourselves friends.”
THE STREATHAM QUESTION
The PM’s move to exclude Scottish MPs from voting went “against the spirit” of the campaign to save the Union, Chuka Umunna told his monthly radio show on LBC. The Shadow Business Secretary argues that prohibiting Scottish MPs from talking about devolved issues in Westminster is the same as preventing London MPs from discussing issues such as transport, which are devolved to the Mayor of London.
Sir Iain Lobban, the outgoing head of GCHQ, has warned that the Internet has become a refuge for the “worst aspects of human nature” in his farewell speech, Steven Swinford reports. The “Utopian dream” that the Internet remain a “totally ungoverned space” is flawed and that presenting it as a “sort of binary option – security or privacy – is to represent a false choice.”
BUSINESS VS EVERYONE
David Cameron is more concerned with Ukip than doing right by the economy, while Ed Miliband has “zero interest” in helping businesses, according to 23 of Britain’s most successful businessmen. The comments come in a report by YouGov CEO Stephan Shakespeare, Sam Coates reports in the Times.
RUB OF THE GREEN
Sir Andrew Green of MigrationWatch will join the House of Lords as a crossbencher. Credit to Sir Andrew for turning the conversation his way, says James Kirkup, now, how about a peerage for someone willing to make the positive case for immigration?
An Out vote would be defeated in the In/Out referendum as things stand, Out supporter Michael Fabricant has warned in an article for the Guardian. The In campaign would be led by a “consensual, passionate businessperson” while the Outers have “no leader who commands popular support”. The campaign would be led by “angry looking grey men who have been arguing the toss on Europe for years,” he says.
Frank Field’s having a pop at Ed Miliband again, the Indy reports. “A sizeable part of ex-Labour voters have been repelled by the policies promoted by a largely non-working class party elite with whom these ex-voters find it difficult to sympathise and vice-versa,” Mr Field says.