There’s little to celebrate on the NHS’s birthday

Birthday celebrations for the NHS this year are relatively quiet. In recent years the health service has received multi-billion pound top-ups from the taxpayer, not to mention high praise from politicians across the political spectrum. This may be in part because the government has already seen to the big NHS pledges, including the 2.5 per cent National Insurance hike, split between workers and employers, which is bringing in roughly £6 billion to pay for Covid catch-up. But no doubt this year’s notable silence is also linked to just how bad that catch-up is going. It’s never been credible to claim the NHS is the ‘envy of the world’; the health

Is this the end of borrow and spend?

Since the spring statement last week, Rishi Sunak has been dealing with complaints from all sides: the right have been arguing he should have been bolder with tax cuts, the left insists more support is needed to help people with the rising costs.  With the Office for Budget Responsibility projecting the biggest fall in living standards since records began, rumours of U-turns and further announcements started bubbling over the weekend. The media, the opposition, and even some Tory MPs have been asking Treasury representatives over and over again: is that all? In a keynote address hosted by the Institute of Economic Affairs this morning, chief secretary to the Treasury Simon

Will Rishi Sunak stick to his ‘golden rule’?

Here’s the Rishi Sunak paradox: he proudly defines himself as a low-tax Tory but under his watch taxes are reaching a 71-year high. There are plenty of Tories who want to ditch next month’s National Insurance increase but Sunak is firmly opposed – mainly because he wants to link up in people’s minds that more money for the NHS and social care doesn’t manifest out of thin air. But pressure is on at tomorrow’s spring statement to make clear what kind of Chancellor he really is. Does he come from the long line of Tories who like tax cuts in theory but not in practice – or does he have

Is Rishi ready to splurge?

Is Rishi Sunak losing his battle within the Cabinet to promote fiscal responsibility? We’ll find out this week, when he unveils his Budget and three-year Spending Review on Wednesday, but there were hints this morning that more spending is coming down the track. Speaking to Andrew Marr on BBC One, Sunak laid out the principles that guided his Budget process this time round: ‘Strong investment in public services, driving economic growth by investing in infrastructure, innovation and skills, giving businesses confidence and then supporting working families. Those are the ingredients of what makes a stronger Budget and that’s what we will deliver next week.’ This is not the language of

Boris should keep copying Blair

Having written here at least once before that Boris Johnson is the heir to Blair, my first thought on the Prime Minister’s tax-to-spend announcement on the NHS and social care is a petty one: I told you so. The striking thing about making the Boris-Blair comparison is how resistant some people are to it. Among Bozza fans on the Leave-voting right, there is often fury at the suggestion that their man, the hero of Brexit, is anything like the Europhile they used to call ‘Bliar’. On the left, there is an almost pathological determination to believe that a Tory PM must, by definition, be a small-state free-marketeer intent on starving and

Will the economy really rebound after lockdown?

Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane last week described the UK economy as a ‘coiled spring’ waiting to rebound just as soon as lockdown restrictions are eased. But is it a spring like the one on which Zebedee from the Magic Roundabout used to bounce around, or is it like a Slinky – the toy you place at the top of the stairs and watch, fixated, as it furls and unfurls itself right down to the bottom? Haldane, it is fair to say, sees it much like the former. He describes the economy as full of ‘pent-up financial energy’. While the bank sees lockdown number three causing output to