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NHS Direct... The Gurkhas... Crossrail... The cuts get real

By Tim Montgomerie

With the exception of Sheffield Forgemasters and the schools buildings programme the cuts programme has been largely academic so far but this weekend we began to get a better idea of the political pain that will begin with the autumn spending review. Three examples stand out:


The axeing of NHS Direct was urged by GPs but the decision of Andrew Lansley to actually replace it with an alternative more cost-effective '111' service has already produced a Save NHS Direct campaign from that great class war warrior, Baron Prescott.

Andy Burnham, leadership contender and former Health Secretary, was at 100mph outrage in seconds: "It is yet more evidence that Andrew Lansley is on a vindictive mission to break up the NHS, ruthlessly dismantling services before alternatives are in place."


Patrick Mercer MP, within an Observer story, warns that the Gurkhas may be unaffordable under the spending review:

"The first people to go will be the Brigade of Gurkhas, probably in their entirety. In the past, the Gurkhas' existence was guaranteed by the fact they are cheaper to run than British troops, and that there was a shortage of British troops. Recent changes mean they are now just as expensive, and recruitment is extremely healthy at the moment. I am afraid the writing is on the wall."

Another campaign for Ms Lumley? This time against Clegg and Cameron.


Thirdly, and most interestingly, there's Crossrail and a story on the frontpage of The Sunday Times warning that Boris may not run for a second term as London Mayor if he doesn't full funding. Harry Phibbs writes about this on the Local government pages. Harry urges Boris to cut the "wasteful" Transport for London budget if he wants credibility with the Treasury.

There will be many who will see this confrontation with the Treasury as a sign that Boris wants to duck a second contest with Ken Livingstone (the frontrunner to be Labour's candidate in 2012). Paul Goodman tweets this morning: Is Boris searching for an excuse not to re-stand as Mayor?

I haven't been able to raise a spokesman for Boris so far this early on a Sunday morning but it's just as easy to see this Boris v Treasury skirmish as a necessary part of a re-election strategy. Boris can only win if he is seen by Londoners as standing up for them, putting London and not his Tory affiliation first.


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