The running of England’s National Health Service (NHS) is expected to come under criticism on Tuesday, with figures to be released expected to show waiting times have fallen to their worst level in a decade in A&E. The data, which covers the quarter of October to December 2014, is expected to show that the target to treat 95% of A&E patients within four hours will not have been met, while some hospitals have recently reported experiencing major incidents, such as cancelling non-emergency care, to meet demand. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has admitted that the NHS faces a high degree of pressure, and insisted that the target of a four-hour wait was being met in 90% of cases. Hunt’s further comments praising emergency care in Britain clashed with those of his Liberal Democrat colleague Norman Lamb, who had criticised the NHS as failing to meet targets. The target of four-hour waiting maximum waiting time has been met in just one week since August 2014, according to figures published weekly. Experts have warned that the high levels of pressure on NHS staff could further strain the service.
Rallies have taken place across Germany, with marches campaigning against what some feel to be the ‘Islamisation’ of Europe being met with counter-rallies attempting to promote tolerance. Protests were held in Berlin, Stuttgart, Dresden and Cologne, with right-wing group the Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West (Pegida) continuing its policy of weekly protests in Dresden. Counter-protests sprung up to denounce Pegida across Germany, with Cologne Cathedral turning off all lights in solidarity with the counter-protests against Pegida. While anti-Pegida protesters outnumbered Pegida protesters by thousands in most cities across Germany, the number of Pegida protesters in Dresden vastly outnumbered the number of other protesters. Dresden is known to have few immigrants or Muslims in its population. Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans to stay away from the protests in her New Year’s address, painting Pegida as xenophobic, while Pegida has attempted to distance itself from the far right.
China reported stronger-than-usual property sales in December, with analysts noting a recovery of positive sentiment in the markets as a result. The rise in sales, attributed to looser housing and monetary policy, is expected to continue into 2015. Chinese residential developer Vanke reported a rise in sales of 129 percent in December 2014 on the same period a year earlier. However, the problem of oversupply continues to cast a shadow over any hopes of China’s real estate market helping China’s economy deal with the slowest period of growth since the 2008 financial crisis. Healthy growth is expected in the property sector, rather than a dramatic rebound.
Political stories continue to make a few headlines today. The Daily Telegraph leads with news that the Labour Party’s proposed ‘mansion tax’ in England would “fund Scots nurses”, with money raised by the tax being spent “north of the border”, according to Scottish Labour Leader Jim Murphy. The Times leads with the same story, writing that the Labour Party is targeting southern England “to woo north”. The paper writes that Murphy did not consult party Leader Ed Miliband before making his claim that money from the mansion tax would help fund nurses in Scotland, but quotes Murphy as stating his belief that Miliband would “probably” approve the policy. The Labour Party is also the top story for The Guardian, which leads with a report on Labour’s plans for a “squeeze on pay” in the public sector. The report centres on comments from Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls that he would stick to “coalition spending pledges” and could not reverse the public sector pay freeze or council cuts. The Independent, meanwhile, leads with news that some migrants in Britain could be held in custody for five years “before we decide if you can stay”. The paper cites Home Office figures showing that at least 20 people have been held without trial for two years, with one migrant awaiting deportation being held for 1,701 days – nearly five years. The Financial Times leads with news of the price of oil’s drop to a five-year low of under US$50, sparking fears of another global economic slowdown as “spectres of deflation and low growth stalk markets”.
British Media on China
On Chinese politics: the BBC reports in a blog post that the Chinese Communist Party is “bearing down on ‘cliques'”, with its admission of the existence of political cliques “a rare public admission of the existence of factions” in the party. The admission came in an editorial in the People’s Daily, according to the piece. China’s international politics earned coverage in The Guardian, with the paper carrying an agency piece reporting that China has protested against the de facto Taiwanese embassy in the United States raising the Taiwanese flag in Washington DC. The event marks the first time the Taiwanese flag has been raised in the United States in 36 years.