Fraser Nelson

Blowing the Tory budget

Blowing the Tory budget
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Eight years ago, Tony Blair sat on Sir David Frost’s sofa and pledged that Labour would spend 8% of GDP on health. Brown called up afterwards in a fury, saying “you’ve spent my f**king budget”. One wonders what David Cameron said to Andrew Lansley after his Times interview where he says 11% of GDP should be spent on health. A number of responses spring to mind:-

1) Please explain to me why you considered it helpful to come up with this 11% figure. Please. I’m interested.

2) Did anyone authorise this 11% figure? Or was it in the faxed instructions the BMA send you each morning in large type?”

3) How am I supposed to handle the rest of the Shadow Cabinet who all want spending on their departments? Davis wanted extra cash to say he’d pay the policemen, a pittance. George denied him – and he shut up. That’s called “discipline”, and it wins things called “elections”. Heard of them? 

4) Have you learnt nothing from the Labour failures of seeing spending as a virtue in itself? Is this how you’ll govern the NHS? Or sorry, I forgot, you’ll make them independent – so they’ll govern themselves; your role confined to writing the cheques.

After the Frost debacle, the Treasury described Blair’s NHS pledge as “an aspiration”. The Tories need the same get out clause – and one better than their line that Lansley is a very clever chap was talking in general terms about a 25-year horizon and the wicked Times newspaper distorted his words.

I have some advice for the Tories. They should get on the phone to that numbskull Lansley and tell him that he was talking about consumer spending trends – not state health spending. That his 11% figure was a total one, public and private, and that the rise he envisages over the next generation or so will come from people buying health care with the extra money they will have from the tax cuts of successive Conservative governments.

Lansley is very lucky Cameron has said he’ll stay in his job until the election. He’s a major risk factor. If he slips up like that during an election campaign, the Tories will be finish. Time to deploy him to the Outer Hebridean “get out the vote” campaign.

Written byFraser Nelson

Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. He is also a columnist with The Daily Telegraph, a member of the advisory board of the Centre for Social Justice and the Centre for Policy Studies.

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