Ed Miliband is facing growing pressure from all wings of the Labour party to face down his shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, by backing a rise in national insurance contributions as a way to fund the NHS for future generations.
A week before the Labour party conference opens in Manchester, the issue of how to finance the health service is seen as a key test of whether Miliband will offer bold solutions that will set his party apart from the Tories in May 2015 or opt for safety first.
Figures from the right and left of the party, including former education and home secretary Charles Clarke, have put their weight behind radical plans to increase NI and guarantee that the money raised would pay for spiralling NHS and social care costs.
The idea, championed by former Labour minister Frank Field, also has the backing on the left of the party. Neal Lawson, chair of the centre-left thinktank Compass, said: “A hypothecated tax for the NHS could do three things: provide essential extra funding, get round the loss of trust in politicians and provide confidence that the one national institution people still believe in has a future.”
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