The Observer has reported that Labour Leader Ed Miliband is facing pressure by all wings of the Party to support an increase in National Insurance contributions to secure funding for the NHS. Former Education and Home Secretary Charles Clarke, considered to be a “Blairite”, as well as MP Frank Field, who is viewed as having the support of the Party’s left, both favour a “hypothecated” increase in NI to cover what experts believe will be an annual funding shortfall of £20 billion by 2020, largely due to an ageing population and the increasing cost of drugs and treatment.
Elias from PSI: With 8 months to go until the General Election and the Party Conference season starting in a week, pressure on Miliband to define Labour’s policies on the NHS will likely increase. The idea of a tax, despite having wide support, has been ruled out by Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls in a recent interview and is also unlikely to tie in well with Labour’s “cost of living narrative”. At the same time, Labour needs to pre-empt any big announcements by the Conservatives by fleshing out some key proposals for the NHS to show it has a clear plan, particularly as the Party has been trying to put the issue in the spotlight as an area where it is ahead in public trust.