Cabinet today was not the dramatic showdown over NHS funding that some expected. Boris Johnson was, unsurprisingly given that Theresa May knew what he wanted to say, not called on to speak first. Those Ministers who went before him emphasised that it would be better if these debates took place in private, not public. When it was Boris’s turn to speak, I am told that he slightly pulled his horns in. He made the case for more money for the NHS but he didn’t argue for a specific figure, I understand.
Interestingly, and in a sign of how May still views the International Trade Secretary as her bridge to Brexiteers, Liam Fox was called to speak early. Fox, a doctor himself, stressed that these arguments should take place behind closed doors not in the newspapers. Fox’s intervention, I am told, helped prevent the issue from becoming another Leave versus Remain debate.
Boris Johnson might not have got his way today. But he is right that the Tories will only beat Corbyn at the next election if they can reassure the public on the NHS. It is also true that whether Cabinet Ministers like it or not, the Tories are seen by the voters as the party of Brexit. If Brexit promises fail to be delivered, it will be the Tories who end up getting the blame.