Comments to the FT from one of the most important figures in the NHS this morning ask the most fundamental question that can be asked about the NHS: in an era of austerity can a universal free health service survive?
Malcolm Grant, chairman of NHS England, told us that he thinks a future government will have to consider more widespread user charges in the health service unless the economy picks up.
Grant made clear that he would not support any departure from the defining principle of a free-at-the-point-of-use NHS. But that doesn’t matter – these are macro-economic decisions for government that fall beyond his remit. Read more
The UK government has revealed the planned route of the second stage of the proposed high speed rail link from London to the north of England. Lex’s Stuart Kirk and Oliver Ralph discuss who’ll invest in a project where any returns would be a long way off.
For Tony Blair, they were the “forces of conservatism”. For Margaret Thatcher they were an inefficient bureaucracy that needed to be scaled back. British civil servants have been described as the envy of the world but to many ministers they are little more than a block on their most coveted policy ambitions.
Yes, Prime Minister, the sitcom that personified the devious and obstructive mandarin in the character of Sir Humphrey Appleby, returned to British television this week after a 15-year gap. And, for many ministers, the world it depicts, in which officials prevent them from carrying out manifesto promises and protect the status quo at all costs, is as true today as it was in the sitcom’s 1980s heyday.
Being prepared for big economic statements, such as tomorrow’s Autumn Statement, is a must, given the quantity of information released in such a short time. Even though this will be the 41st Budget, Autumn Statement or pre-Budget report I have covered, I try not to be complacent.
Here’s what I think is important (sorry about the length), what type of analysis is relevant to understanding Britain’s economy and public finances, and at the bottom is a moan about the way in which George Osborne has decided to follow Gordon Brown down the road of playing games with numbers.
Anyone who reads Sir Howard Davies’s acerbic regular diary column in Management Today magazine will know that the former head of the CBI and London School of Economics is extremely well-qualified to lead an independent inquiry into UK airport capacity. He seems to spend much of his time travelling by air between international destinations – dropping in the occasional barb about the airports he passes through.
Some have attributed Nick Clegg’s proposal to give every British voter a share in the UK’s state-owned banks (floated during a trade visit to Rio de Janeiro) to a combination of jet lag, domestic political calculation and Copacabana sunstroke. But the UK deputy prime minister’s suggestion has a long pedigree – longer than perhaps even he recognises. Read more
Britain went to the polls on Thursday in a mix of local elections in England and national polls for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Voters also have their say in a referendum on changing the electoral system to the alternative vote. Read more
Two tests await Ed Miliband, Labour leader, and his party: polls across the country, and a referendum on the alternative voting system for which he is a principal campaigner. George Parker, political editor, talks to the leader of the UK opposition about the upcoming ballots, his call for a cultural change in the City o f London, and the coalition government’s deficit reduction strategy. Read more
Nick Clegg has been warned by senior Conservative MPs that they will wreak revenge on him for the Liberal Democrats’ “Easter uprising”, including frustrating his plans for elections to the House of Lords. Read more
Jim Pickard is the FT's chief political correspondent, having joined the lobby team in January 2008. He has been at the FT since 1999 as a regional correspondent, assistant UK news editor and property correspondent.
Kiran Stacey is an FT political correspondent, having joined the lobby in 2011. He started at the FT as a graduate trainee in 2008, working on desks including UK companies and US equity markets before taking over the FT's Energy Source blog.