Sunday, 5 June 2016

Vote Brexit and get progressive Tories! It's brilliant.

Shock. Horror. Amazement.

One day I hear John Whittingdale, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport in the British government, carefully explaining to the BBC that leaving the European Union – which would save, he assured us, £350 million a week – would allow us to invest far more in the National Health Service.

Now, that would be wonderful news. I really have only two minor cavils about it.

Firstly, and I don’t want to sound too sceptical or anything, but doesn’t that £350m a week figure fail to take into account the rebate negotiated by none other than Whittingdale’s great mentor, Margaret Thatcher? Doesn’t it also leave out of account the grants the EU makes to Britain? Wouldn’t those two effects reduce the net figure to something more like £160m a week?

Just asking.

Secondly, aren’t NHS finances being rather squeezed by the very government to which Whittingdale belongs? Aren’t we looking, right now, at a position where two out of three English acute hospitals ended last year in deficit? That in total the deficit is £2.45bn, the highest figure on record, and nearly three times higher than the figure for the year before? 

I’m only quoting the Daily Mail, a newspaper generally well enough disposed to Whittingdale’s party and government.

Is the EU the only thing stopping the government sorting this whole mess out?

Then, the next day, I read the words of a still more senior member of the same government. Michael Gove, Secretary State for Justice, tells the Observer:

The EU works for big banks, multinationals and the undeserving rich. They spend millions lobbying bureaucrats in Brussels to rig the rules in their favour. It is clearly in their interests that we remain. Leaving the EU would liberate us to invest in public services and support struggling communities. We could also supercharge support for education and science. Outside the EU we could more easily fulfil our shared ambition to have progressive, one-nation policies.

Call me na├»ve, but I’ve always had the impression that Gove’s government was perfectly relaxed about the undeserving rich. They’ve cut their taxes, after all, while heaping burdens on the poor and reducing any benefits they might otherwise receive. Meanwhile, again, given the falling finance for the NHS, local councils, schools and police, it’s not obvious to me that this government’s all that enthusiastic about spending more on public services.

The dastardly EU: all that stands between the Tories
and their natural progressive instincts
Of course, I may be wrong. I’m not at all joyful about the prospect of Brexit – which, it has to be said, seems seriously on the cards, if I believe what I’m hearing from people rather than the polls (and does anyone believe polls?) Still, it would be a huge comfort to know that it only took freeing ourselves from the deathlike grip of the EU for this government to set out – as Gove promises – in pursuit of “progressive, one-nation policies.”

Was the EU all that held them back? Underneath it all, were they champing at the bit to be progressives? To build a single nation and heal all divisions?

Sorry if I’ve maligned them in the past. But, in my defence, I have to say that if these were their true inclinations all along, they’ve been hiding them pretty well.

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