How much does Britain still ‘love’ the NHS?

‘Of course I support the NHS. Everybody supports the NHS, or says they do,’ poked the comedian Frankie Boyle in one of the many campaigns promoting the health service. To admit you don’t believe in this national institution is as taboo as not caring about Britishness, about goodness, about people. The public is keen to find evidence for this collective belief. Nigel Lawson famously said that ‘the NHS is the closest thing the English have to a national religion’ – words which tend to be heard as praise. But his comment was laced with criticism. He continued, ‘with those who practise in it regarding themselves as a priesthood. This made

Why we must defend Radio 3 from threatened cuts

Who doesn’t love Eurovision? All that razzmatazz. The ghastly frocks and gloopy pop songs, the false bonhomie and bare-faced bias when the voting comes around. It’s an irresistible annual event, guaranteed to put a smile on your face and provide the pretence that we are all one happy European family. But all that showbiz comes at a cost (€6.2 million, and rising), with the host country’s broadcaster expected to cough up about one-third of that. What might have to be lost by the cash-strapped Corporation in the next year, or curtailed, to ensure that we put on the biggest and best show ever next year? The BBC budget has become

Javid’s cash boost can’t fix a battered NHS

The new £5.4 billion cash boost for NHS England is the easy bit of a very tricky situation for the health service and the politicians trying to work out how to deal with it. As Health Secretary Sajid Javid made clear on Monday, while the money will help deal with the backlog in treatment caused by the pandemic, it won’t do so immediately. He said that waiting lists would go up before they started to go down because people are still coming forward for treatment. Javid has been pitch-rolling for a dreadful winter ever since he took on the job, warning almost immediately that waiting lists could reach 13 million.

Is Covid really to blame for HS2’s runaway costs?

Covid has doomed the public finances — not just because the cost of mitigating it has been high in itself but because it has normalised high public spending. When you have just allocated £37 billion to Test and Trace and spend £54 billion on the furlough scheme, a £106 billion high-speed railway to Manchester and Leeds looks relatively good value — at least taxpayers will have something lasting for their money. And who would even notice if the budget for that railway quietly crept up by a further £1.7 billion? That is exactly what has happened today. The construction costs of the first phase of the railway, from London to