Today’s newspapers have managed to catch up with our cover story from last month: Theresa May has agreed to a massive cash splurge on the NHS. Rather than wait until the spending review to announce this, there will be a political stunt presenting the cash as a 70th birthday gift to the health service. But it is instructive nonetheless: it underlines how this is not a serious assessment of the health service’s needs but a politically motivated gesture.
Once it would have been opposed by the fiscal hawks in the Tory party but now these people tend to be keener the Brexit bus pledge of £350m a week for the NHS being honoured – which, by the time of the next election, it will be.
The biggest question is how to fund this. Philip Hammond is dead against this and was briefing (at the time of our cover story) that it was not true and that nothing had been decided. In fact, it had been decided, but he was not given a veto. He’s not happy and has been left working out how to pay for it.
A headline tax increase appears to be off the table. Instead, it looks like the tax side will be covered by lots of tweaks designed to ease more money out of people. But with the tax burden at a 30-year high it’s rather dangerous: if the Tories are not the party of low taxation then what are they for? He has until the Spending Review in November to come up with an answer to that question.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, will be in conversation with Andrew Neil on Thursday 28 June in Westminster – on the future of the NHS and more. More info here or click the image below.