Fraser Nelson

Now Labour would cut by 10 percent too

Now Labour would cut by 10 percent too
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Andy Burnham has just let the cat out of the bag on Channel Four News: Labour would cut by 10 percent too. Our new Health Secretary has just been given a robust interview by Jon Snow and was asked if he would say there would not be cuts elsewhere if health is protected.  His reply:

"This is the big difference, Jon, because Andrew Lansley will not commit to the budget we have set for the NHS in 2010-11. I am committing to you that this budget remains and I am also committing to you, in the way that the Prime Minister has, that we will continue to maintain growth in health spending in the following period."

Except the Prime Minister has given no such commitment. But Mr Burnham has. And explicitly. Emphatically. Unmistakably. The stated Labour and Tory position on post-election cuts is now identical. The Institute for Fiscal Studies analysis is clear: Budget 09 proposes 7 percent public service spending cuts from Apr11-Apr14, and if you exclude health from the cuts everything else falls by 10 percent. There is no other interpretation of what Burnham has just said, within the parameters of Budget 09. And if we are to believe the Health Secretary - and I will call the Department for Health to make sure what he just said is accurate - Labour has just matched Andrew Lansley's pledge that health spending will increase in real terms. The Labour axe and the Tory axe would fall in the same way and any criticism Brown makes of this policy is criticism of his own Budget.

Faisal Islam's Ch4 report, incidentally, was superb and quoted Gemma Tetlow, the IFS researcher who uncovered this in the first place. I do hope they put in on later: I'll link if they do.

P.S. Classic question from Snow to Burnham: "There is no one who doesn't know the parlous condition of our finances. We have borrowed five times our own GDP. It beggars belief that there are not going to be swingeing cuts and all sorts of alteration to taxes to pay for that. How otherwise are we ever going to plug the hole in our finances? Surely what the Tories are doing is telling the truth - and what you're doing is trying to disguise it?" Exactly.

UPDATE: The Department of Health calls back. "The Prime Minister told the Royal College of Nursing recently that 'the NHS will continue to benefit from real-terms increases year-on-year.'"  I'm sure he did, I reply, but was he referring to the rather faraway period after April 2011? Because that's the timeframe that Burnham was indicating to Jon Snow. Pause. Reply: "As far as Andy Burnham is concerned, yes." So there we have it: a new Labour budget commitment is born.  Today really is a day for health spokesmen bouncing their party leaders into making spending commitments. When Blair did this to Brown over the health budget on the Frost sofa in 2000, Brown responded by shouting at him "you spent my f**king budget". But I doubt  Burnham will get the same treatment. Both know they won't be in office to implement it.

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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