Where is money coming from?

THE promise by Labour to create “the best health service in the world” for cancer sufferers is unlikely to be the last of its kind 
prior to the next election.

The party knows that the NHS is still the Conservative Party’s Achilles’ heel and Andy Burnham, the Opposition’s health spokesman, is never afraid to make emotive statements which do not stand up to scrutiny because they have been cynically calculated to tug at the heart-strings of patients. It is his preferred modus operandi.

His newly-announced £330m cancer fund to improve access to cutting-edge surgery and radiotherapy is a case in point. Even though this work is already undertaken, Mr Burnham continues to treat the NHS like a political football and accuses the Tories of prioritising certain patients over others, a claim denied by the Conservatives.

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Yet, while Mr Burnham does say this initiative will be funded by adding £50m to existing budgets, he was less forthcoming on where this money will come from – and whether it is a one-off item of expenditure to woo voters in an election year. To paraphrase his leader, Ed Miliband, Britain deserves better.

For, while most people would be happy to prioritise cancer care, it is irresponsible of Mr Burnham – and his shadow cabinet colleagues – to continue to make unfunded promises on a daily basis when Chuka Umunna, Labour’s business spokesman, dodged 11 questions in a tetchy interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr about how the Opposition would cut public spending.

In fairness, Labour are not the only culprits – last week’s £15bn roads revolution in the Autumn Statement was a rehash of previous spending announcements. It is a state of affairs that only serves to undermine trust in politics and places the onus on the electorate to ask the profound question that Mr Burnham and his like have been allowed to ignore for too long: where is the money coming from? For, if they cannot provide a satisfactory answer, they don’t deserve to be entrusted with the nation’s finances. It’s that simple.

Tesco’s turmoil

Store’s £500m profits warning

HOW TIMES change. Tesco’s financial fortunes – the supermarket issued a £500m profits warning yesterday – could not offer a greater contrast with the countdown to previous Christmases which were dominated by high street institutions going to the wall because they could not compete with the major out-of-town superstores and the retail industry’s changing dynamics.

Now it is Tesco which is paying a heavy price for an expansion programme which has seen the firm lose touch with the most important people of all – its customers. It is a salutary lesson which is likely to have long-term repercussions as consumer-savvy shoppers take advantage and look for outstanding value for money and service.

Even though Tesco still constitutes a British success story and is responsible for employing tens of thousands of staff, it is unlikely to regain the dominance that it enjoyed a decade ago. Shoppers are far more discerning – their loyalty has to be earned – and this means that Tesco, and its rivals like Morrisons, are going to have to adapt their business models.

The worry is that the pursuit of profits by the major supermarkets is likely to see them exert even greater pressure on their suppliers to cut costs, Yorkshire’s dairy farmers being a prime example. This must not be allowed to happen. For, despite the profits warning, Tesco is still a profitable business and can afford to pay the going rate for a pint of milk.

Cold comfort...

Britain’s obsession with weather

what is a “weather bomb”? Many people will have been pondering this question when they awoke yesterday to news that Britain was bracing itself to be hit by a new meteorological phenomenon.

According to reports which confirm that the weather is still Britain’s number one national obsession, the advent of this fairly apocalyptic term is supposed to signify the possibility of 80mph winds, blizzards and below freezing temperatures in the first cold snap of winter.

Yet, despite the hyperbole which predicted an “explosive” icy blast in one over-the-top report, it should be pointed out that these are not unusual climatic conditions for the second week of December.

However one serious point should be made in conclusion. Such alarmist predictions strike fear into the elderly who are already reluctant to heat their homes in winter, and may make them less likely to do so in the future. Was that really the intention of those who came up with the “weather bomb” terminology?