NHS tax

The Guardian reports on LibDem plans to introduce an NHS tax.

An NHS tax is being examined by the Liberal Democrats as a solution to the current crisis in funding for the health system. The plan is regarded by senior figures within the party as a necessary step towards filling a forecasted £30bn black hole in the NHS’s finances over the next five years. With senior figures within Labour in favour of such a move, an NHS tax is likely to be high on a list of areas on which both parties could agree should there be coalition negotiations in 2015. The government has ringfenced the health service budget from cuts and raised funding in line with inflation, but has largely relied on efficiency savings to pay for a growing demand for its services. Yet a recent report from the healthcare thinktank the Kings Fund found that a quarter of trusts are already in deficit as population growth outstrips the NHS’s ability to supply care. The main ways of reducing costs – holding down salaries, reducing the prices paid to hospitals and cutting management costs – are now close to being exhausted, the Kings Fund report claims. A former coalition health minister, Paul Burstow, is just one senior Lib Dem who believes a hypothecated tax to be the best way to secure the NHS’s future. The current Liberal Democrat health minister, Norman Lamb, is also understood to be sympathetic.

Rigged election?

In the Telegraph, Andrew Gilligan reports that the election of an extremist-linked mayor was rigged ‘on an industrial scale’.

The extremist-linked mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, benefited from ‘industrial-scale’ postal ballot fraud and may also have been helped by ‘organised fraud in the counting of the votes’, according to his Labour Party rival. John Biggs, who was narrowly defeated in May’s highly controversial election, said he and party colleagues had seen a number of ballot papers at the count where a vote for him, or candidates supporting him, had been crossed out and a different vote written in. He accused Mr Rahman’s supporters of a “considerable amount of election fraud, principally centred around the manipulation of postal votes” and said there were “very significant doubts about the integrity of the ballot”.

EU helps drug addicts in Peru

In the Express there’s another story of how Eurocrats waste our money.

Big-spending Brussels Eurocrats came under fire last night after giving £25million of taxpayers’ money to help rehabilitate drug addicts…in Peru. The donation has been dubbed “barking mad”. Critics argue the money would have been better spent tackling addiction at home while pointing out that Peru is wealthier than 14 of the 28 member states of the European Union. Only last year England was branded the “addiction capital of Europe” in a report by the Centre for Social Justice. According to official figures, there are 300,000 registered drug addicts, though this is thought to represent a small proportion of the number of Britons who use drugs, including so-called “legal highs”. While two thirds are getting treatment, the report warned, some 40,000 drug addicts in England have been stranded on the substitute methadone, which is used to wean addicts off heroin. Funds for the EU anti-drug programme will be used by Peru to provide treatment for drug addicts, bolstering rehabilitation programmes to help get users back into society and prevention measures to raise awareness of the dangers of using drugs. The donation was confirmed during a trip to the Latin American country last week by Andris Piebalgs, the EU’s Commissioner for Development.

World cup

Several of the papers report on Nick Clegg’s call for the World Cup to be taken away from Moscow. The Times says:

Nick Clegg has demanded that Russia be stripped of the right to host the 2018 World Cup following the shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines jet by Moscow-backed rebels. In an interview with The Sunday Times, the deputy prime minister said it would be “unthinkable” for Putin to enjoy the prestige of hosting the global football tournament and called for “tougher sanctions” on Moscow. He said the Russian president’s behaviour had “reached a tipping point” and was “beyond the pale in this day and age”. He warned that failure to “pull the plug on the World Cup” would “make the rest of the world look so weak and so insincere”. “After this terrible, terrible downing of that jet, it is essential that the European Union gets tough on Vladimir Putin,” said Clegg.

But The Guardian claims Fifa will not move the tournament.

Nick Clegg has joined calls for Russia to face the axe as hosts of the 2018 World Cup as part of tougher sanctions over the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine. The deputy prime minister said it was ‘unthinkable’ at present that the tournament could go ahead in the country blamed by the west for supplying arms to the separatist rebels accused of causing the deaths of all 298 on board. Football’s world governing body Fifa this week ruled out calls from some German politicians for Russia to be boycotted, insisting the tournament could be “a force for good”. But Clegg told the Sunday Times that allowing it to go ahead without a change of course by president Vladimir Putin would make the world look “so weak and so insincere” in its condemnation of Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and support for the rebels.

EU policy ‘nonsense’

Telegraph columnist Janet Daley calls EU foreign policy ‘a total nonsense’

Well, now we know what a common EU foreign policy would look like: an unedifying charade of bickering, followed by mutual recrimination, ending in paralysis, with only Britain prepared to take any genuine action. Why does this not surprise me? As Russia swaggers across the world stage, stopping just short of firing a revolver in the air in belligerent defiance, the great fellowship of European nations descends into ineffectual procrastination, laced with internecine sniping and name-calling. The French will go on selling their warships to Putin’s rogue empire, and the Germans will remain his faithful gas customers. It seems that not even the deaths of hundreds of their fellow Europeans will cause them to rethink those arrangements. So much for being a model for the preservation of peace and social solidarity. In a speech in Glasgow last week, David Cameron was still somehow maintaining that being a member of the EU allowed Britain to “punch above its weight in the world”. Seriously? We scarcely seem able to hold our own in the ring with our European partners. When Mr Cameron suggested that it was unacceptable for France to be providing warships to a Russian regime that was militarily undermining Ukraine, a democratic sovereign state that once saw the EU as its friend, he was publicly accused by the French of “hypocrisy”.

Miliband and ‘that’ bacon sandwich

And Sky News refers back to the pictures of Labour leader Ed Miliband eating a bacon sandwich.

Ed Miliband has told people if they wanted a Prime Minister who could look good while eating a bacon sandwich then they should “vote for the other guy”. In a frank speech to party members, the Labour leader effectively conceded he was “weird” – and at times appeared to encourage people to vote for David Cameron. He highlighted the moment he was pictured awkwardly grappling with a bacon sandwich during the local and European election campaign.

Children’s holidays

Sky News claims parents have said the government is ‘out of touch’ on the ban on taking children on holiday in term time.

New rules banning holidays during school term time are penalising families who have no choice but to take their children out of school, some parents have told Sky News. Maxine Ingrouille-Kidd, whose son Curtis is severely disabled, said she was threatened with a fine when she asked for permission to take her son on a cruise during term time because it was the only time accessible cabins were available. “A cruise is a good sensory experience for Curtis … and it is important for us to have family time together,” she said. “We did try to go at half term and they didn’t have an accessible cabin. We’re really limited by what Curtis needs. “We didn’t think (the school) would refuse us because he has a life-limiting condition and we thought they would appreciate that it was important for Curtis to be with us. Despite having up to 40 seizures a day, he’s actually quite healthy and has had very few absences.” Curtis, who is quadriplegic, epileptic, blind and has cerebral palsy, was refused permission by his school in Somerset under new rules which came into force last September.

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