Labour’s latest offensive on the NHS has been blown off course. Former Health Secretary Alan Milburn isn’t convinced by his party’s plans, telling Wato that the Opposition risks being seen as more able to fund the NHS “but not necessarily put its foot to the floor when it comes to reforming”. It’s a “pale imitation of 1992, and maybe it will have the same outcome, I don’t know,” Mr Milburn warns. Another Blairite former minister, John, now Lord, Hutton, has also chimed in: saying the party “ought to win” the next election but mustn’t avoid the “really difficult, hard choices”. (In today’s FT, the two men strike a more supportive note, calling for Labour to do more to defend the last Labour government’s reputation for fiscal competence.)
Elsewhere that word “weaponise” continues to cast a heavy shadow, with Ed Miliband tellling 5Live that he “can’t remember” whether he used the word in question. The Labour leader has set tongues wagging by refusing to say whether Andy Burnham will be made Health Secretary if Labour form the next government and refusing to confirm whether he’ll keep Andy Burnham in post after the election in an interview with the Health Service Journal.
“Labour election chaos over NHS” is our splash, while “Labour NHS strategy will bring ‘poll catastrophe” is the Times’. “Lightweight” is the Sun’s verdict on page 2, with Ed Miliband’s head photoshopped into a light bulb aka Neil Kinnock in 1992. “The Sun was never a fan of Neil Kinnock,” its leader thunders, “But against today’s Labour leader the Welsh windbag looks like Churchill. Winston – not the nodding dog.”
Is it 1992 all over again? Mr Miliband can take some comfort from the fact that it was bad polling, not a sudden loss of support, that meant Lord Kinnock was unexpectedly defeated at that election and if the electorate in 1992 had looked like the one in 2015, the Conservatives would have been the largest party, but without a majority. But if 99 days from now David Cameron is still head of the largest grouping in the Commons then that will be a fairly thin comfort.
LET’S DO THE TIME WARP AGAIN
Ukip will bring back smoking in pubs and introduce a 35p rate of tax, Lucy Fisher reports in the Times. But that the pledge is to introduce a 35p rate between £42,285 and £55,000, “taking many public sector workers out of the top rate of tax”, suggests that Ukip is unaware that the top rate kicks in at £150,000. It’s not just Nigel Farage who is het up over smoking; up to 100 Conservative MPs will vote against the Government’s plain packaging plans, Chris Hope reveals.
VOTE DAVE, GET NIGEL?
Britain would be “a better, stronger country” if net migration fell to tens of thousands, David Cameron says. People recognise that immigration is “good for the UK” but feel it has not been “controlled properly”, the PM told Radio 2. Steven Swinford has the story.
The University of Essex will count many senior figures among the leading party in the new Greek government among its alumni, with Yanis Varoufakis, the finance minister, the most prominent. Tom Rowley speaks to one of his lecturers, Roy Bailey. “I wouldn’t say he was always scoring top marks,” Mr Bailey tells Tom, “You wouldn’t say this is a stellar individual we should send to Harvard. But he shone when it came to independent thinking.”
STOP AND THINK
In a letter to the Telegraph, 47 academics have warned that the amendment to the Serious Crime Bill to prevent gender-selective abortion would “undermine the professional integrity of those who work in an already overstretched abortion service”, “risks encouraging doctors to enact some form of ethnic profiling” and seeks to erode women’s reproductive rights through construing abortion “as an offense against the unborn child”.
GODOT: “IT HAS BEEN A WHILE, YES.”
The Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war has taken “longer than any of us expected would be necessary”, Sir John Chilcot, who will be grilled by the Foreign Affairs Committee on the progress of the report next week, has said.
Sir Steve Smith, the University of Exeter’s Vice-Chancellor, has appealed to Ed Miliband to stop considering a £3k cut in fees as it subsidises the middle class and could put higher education funding in jeopardy, Greg Hurst reports in the Times. Also unhappy with the planned policy is Briefing alumnus Tim Wigmore, who rounds on the policy over at the New Statesman.
A FÉIN MESS YOU’VE LANDED ME IN
Sinn Féin and the DUP are considering legal action in order to secure a place in the two televised election debates, Henry McDonald reports in the Guardian. Labour have held “secret talks” with Sinn Féin in order to secure that party’s support in a hung parliament, Kevin Schofield reports in the Sun, although Labour spinners deny they are planning for anything other than a majority government.
WITH FOUNDERS LIKE THIS
Douglas Carswell “lacks the backbone” to confront Nigel Farage and “has the charisma of a wet turd”, Ukip founder Dr Alan Sked tells the Huffington Post’s Asa Bennett.
AARD TIMES FOR ED?
A character in the new Aardman Animations film bears a startling resemblance to Ed Miliband, the Mail reports. I’m told that Labour spinners did consider a party political broadcast with an Aardman-designed Ed Miliband using a freeze ray to keep energy bills under control some time ago, but the idea was mothballed. It may be that the design has been re-used by Aardman. Or it could be a coincidence.