Yesterday’s post commented about the febrile nature of the relationship between the two major political parties. There is a major problem of discipline of both their MPs and Whips’ offices and because of this a further problem emerges from these odd political times which may impact the NHS.
Back in June when Simon Stevens triumphed in obtaining the promise of more money for the NHS over the next 5 years I, and others, commented on the brilliance of persuading the right wing of the Tory Party to not only find it but also, and for the first time since the NHS began, to get them to join a campaign for it.
Of course this came about principally because for most of the right wing of the Tory Party politics are currently completely determined by the importance of Brexit. And because the Brexit campaign promised £350 million a week for the NHS from the ‘Brexit dividend’ it was straightforward to draw them into the campaign for more money for the NHS.
Getting them to support the NHS was skilful politics.
But come October there may be a problem. Most people involved in real world budgets don’t think there is any such thing as a ‘Brexit dividend’. and even if there were it certainly won’t be paid out in October.
So the October 29th budget is most likely to have to raise taxes to obtain the extra money for the NHS. Those of you that follow me closely will recognise that I have felt all along that the public will be asked to find the extra NHS money by paying extra taxes, so repeating this possibility here will not come as a shock.
But linking this with the main thrust of yesterday’s post (which argued that come autumn we are likely to see the biggest breakdown in discipline between party leaderships and individual MPs voting decisions we have ever seen), this eventuality could have severe implications for gaining the necessary votes for the extra taxes.
It is the same right wing of the Conservative Party that argued for the extra NHS money from the Brexit dividend, that are the ones who pledged to bring down the Government’s line on Brexit and it is this that is more important to them than anything else. For many of them the vision of post Brexit Britain is one that has a low tax, low regulation economy and government. A so-called “Singapore in the North Sea” future.
Given this is their vision it is difficult to see them agreeing with a rise in taxation of any kind. Almost certainly they will be against that for its own sake (and will continue to suggest that the extra money will be found from the Brexit dividend), but they would also have an interest in undermining the Government’s flagship domestic policy.
Given the Government’s non majority it would only need 20 of these rebels to cause a problem and undermine the Government (The Brexiteer organisation of the European Reform Group is 70 strong).
The Labour Opposition would be the next to have a problem here. They agree that the NHS needs more money, but usually would vote against the Government budget proposals. If there were 20 rebels on the Government benches, all of the opposition MPs with those 20 could defeat the Government and bring the budget down. For any opposition party – especially one that is trying to create the conditions for an election this would be tempting.
But it would also mean that the NHS, despite having been willed the money, would have no means of raising it. So the money wouldn’t be there.
Granted, there are a lot of ifs in this scenario, but thinking about it, I think they are all more than possible.
I am not saying the NHS shouldn’t be preparing to spend the extra money by drawing up a new contract, but at the moment politics is so over-excited that come December, the money just might not be there.