Theresa May’s NHS Funding Con
By TruePublica Editor: Make no mistake, anything the Conservatives do from here when it comes to the NHS, is a strategy to do one of two things – stay in power and divert attention from the total disaster called Brexit.
It is interesting that just a few weeks ago at PMQs, opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn reminded Theresa May that in the period of 1947/48 when NHS legislation was going through parliament it had been roundly opposed by the Tories. The fact that Corbyn’s reminder of this fact still echoes through parliament 70 years later only highlights the ongoing vulnerability that the Conservatives have on the National Health Service and that they have never been wedded to the idea of a taxpayer-funded health service.
One of the most comprehensive surveys undertaken by the Kings Fund found that:
- Around 90 per cent of people support the founding principles of the NHS, indicating that these principles are just as relevant today as when the NHS was established.
- Seventy-seven per cent of the public believe the NHS should be maintained in its current form. This level of support has remained consistent over almost two decades despite widespread social, economic and political change.
- A clear majority (66 per cent) of adults are willing to pay more of their own taxes to fund the NHS, underlining growing support among the public for tax rises to increase NHS funding.
- Sixty-seven per cent think that treatments and services should only be available on the NHS if they are available to everyone
From the rubble that represents the chaotic Brexit negotiations, both within the Tory party, where no-one in the Tory party can agree what Brexit should actually be and with the EU itself – we now have a totally unexpected announcement from Theresa May using a non-existent ‘Brexit windfall’ to distract everyone from the real immediate problem facing the country.
“At the moment, as a member of the European Union, every year we spend significant amounts of money on our subscription, if you like, to the EU,” Theresa May said in an interview on BBC One’s Andrew Marr show. “When we leave we won’t be doing that. It’s right that we use that money to spend on our priorities, and the NHS is our number-one priority.”
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said, however, that even the government had accepted the idea of an immediate post-Brexit boost to coffers – would not happen. Leaving aside what the IFS actually said it also made mention that the NHS needed a 5% real-terms increase for proper change to help the NHS. The institute’s head, Paul Johnson, noted that the 3.4% being proposed was higher than recent increases, but still below the long-term average.
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However, as you would expect, Boris Johnson was quick to make political capital from the announcement – obviously. But wait a moment. He’s already said that the Brexit dividend was never going to materialise. He told BBC1’s Sunday Politics that the EU money for the next few years had already been allocated and that the government’s Office for Budget Responsibility said Brexit would initially erode public finances by about £15bn a year. This is a U-turn to his original U-turn of his initial statements during the EU referendum campaign.
The money is coming from increased government borrowing, something the Tories said they would reduce, which is why we were all sold the ‘austerity’ story and from increased taxation – something else they said they wouldn’t do.
The Independent wrote yesterday: “This is not a generous 70th birthday present to the NHS. On the eve of another frantic week of Brexit votes in the Commons, it is about hijacking what she knows to be a transparently fake claim, and making it her own.”
The Independent thinks that this is May’s way of keeping Jeremy Hunt on a leash, whilst gaining much needed political capital at a crucial moment. Let’s be fair, what else could possibly go wrong for Theresa May?
The reality is that this is nothing of the brave personal choices Theresa May would have us believe she is making. This is about attempting to recover the narrative continually going against her and an imploding Tory party due to non-stop infighting over Brexit, which has destroyed every Tory leader since Thatcher.
For Theresa May, the NHS is a way of gathering at least some support.
A quick look at the YouGov chart below has all the answers. Which political party would best handle the problem of the NHS asks YouGov. It’s not a trick question. Needless to say, that would be Labour. Cynically, Theresa May is using taxpayers money to shore up her own position in the face of what Political Betting sees as the next existential challenge to her dwindling authority. Sanjid David and Jeremy Hunt is where they would put their money – even though Michael Gove is way ahead in opinion polls.
Theresa May has pledged a £20bn annual real-terms NHS funding increase by 2023-24
Theresa May can play the NHS and Brexit windfall card as much as she pleases, she has little else up her sleeve that is positive news and given the general public’s history of being conned by Europe’s most right-wing press, her ratings may even increase. But in the end, as Matthew Norman at the Independent says “this is an act of manipulative opportunism primarily designed to save not the NHS, but herself” – I would put it more simplistically than that. Having been conned with the phrase ‘the NHS will be safe in our hands” – We’ve heard it all before. May is lying. Again.