Theresa May must have thought that pledging another £20 billion - perhaps - for the NHS over the next five years would win her, if not plaudits, at least a breathing space before the next welter of criticism, perhaps from her own side, comes along. But as so often, she had miscalculated, and it was one phrase in her interview for The Andy Marr Show™ that kept on coming back to haunt her - the “Brexit Dividend” that won’t be happening.
He's desperate, Dan
She was unequivocal in telling Marr where the money would come from: “We’ve got to find that money … that will come through the Brexit dividend”. Problem was that it was soon made plain that not only would there be no Brexit dividend, the Government that she at present is heading has accepted that there will not be one. Another own goal.
Who would ride to her rescue? We did not have to wait long to find out: step forward the Mail on Sunday’s not even slightly celebrated blues artiste Whinging Dan Hodges, floor crosser extraordinaire and low moaning sound supreme, who had the answer. At first, he was all optimism: “Can't remember the last time the Government got such a clean hit with a Sunday announcement. NHS pledge across the board. No.10 will be delighted … Whatever you think of the NHS pledge, Labour are all over the place with their response. And they knew it was coming”. But then the pledge fell apart, and his mood darkened.
“Think people are slightly missing the point. Debate about whether more cash for the NHS come from 'Brexit dividend', borrowing, tax rises or a combination of all three is politically irrelevant. Voters won't care. They will support all of these … Also, what is Labour's attack line going to be. ‘Evil Tories have a secret plan to raise your taxes to pump billions into the NHS’”. No Dan, Theresa May said “Brexit dividend” on the Marr Show. That was all.
To no surprise at all, Desperate Dan’s answer to that was to claim that Jeremy Corbyn was the one wot done it. “Another problem for Labour is this line from Corbyn's Coventry speech in February: ‘We will use funds returned from Brussels after Brexit to invest in our public services and the jobs of the future, not tax cuts for the richest’ … When Corbyn claimed in February Labour would use a Brexit dividend to invest in public services, Labour anti-Brexit Moderates were tearing their hair out. The Corbynites were cheering him on. The Moderates were right”. This is irrelevant. It was Mrs May making the pledge.
She told Marr the “Brexit dividend” would pay for part or all of the NHS spending increase. Jezza isn’t in power, and didn’t make any specific spending commitments on the back of anything returned from Brussels. But do go on. “Can we have a sweep on the first Corbynite to begin to peddle the line today that Labour will enjoy a Brexit dividend, but the Tories won’t”. Also irrelevant. Try again.
“And another problem for Labour. Idea there is no 'Brexit Dividend' is predicated on agreement with IFS that Brexit will have medium to long term negative economic impact. But Corbyn backs Brexit”. But the assertion that there was no “Brexit dividend” came not from Labour, but the Government’s own agreed figures. Oh, and the IFS.
Still, if at first you don’t succeed, just suck some more seed, eh? “Not only did Corbn give a speech claiming there would be a Brexit Dividend to invest in the NHS, he pre-briefed the line to the Sunday Mirror”. Again, irrelevant. Theresa May is the one making the claim, she’s in Government, and she knows the claim can’t be stood up.
It’s nowt to do with Jezza, except in the strange world of Dan Hodges. But still he wanted one last go, a final attempt to claw back a little credibility. “John Ashworth, (18.6.2018): ‘No one credible believes Theresa May’s claims that her offer can be funded from a “Brexit dividend”'. Jeremy Corbyn, (26.2.18): ‘We will use funds returned from Brussels after Brexit to invest in our public services’”. And still irrelevant.
But good to see exactly where Desperate Dan Hodges’ loyalties now lie, as if anyone were still in any doubt. The floor crossing is complete. He is prepared to go into battle on the lamest of pretexts, and behave as wilfully and pointlessly as humanly possible, in order to demonstrate his support for the Tories, however ill-thought-through their policies.
His problem now, though, is that nobody who matters believes him any more. Sad, really.