With Theresa May promising MPs that she will not lead the party into another election (so long as it’s not imminent), the race is on to be her successor. Numerous ministers have been accused of being on manouvres in recent weeks – and playing up to the Tory base. One such politician is Jeremy Hunt.
The Foreign Secretary has been burnishing his newfound Brexiteer credentials of late – something that ought to appeal to the eurosceptic Tory membership. On a trip to Singapore, Hunt heaped praise on the country’s economic model, and suggested that Britain could learn lessons from it after 29 March.
Hunt’s rivals, meanwhile, are quick to snipe that such efforts are insincere given that he used to be Remain. To clear up the matter, and let readers decide for themselves if it’s a genuine journey Hunt has been on, Mr Steerpike is happy to present: Jeremy Hunt on Brexit, then and now:
Hunt’s post-Brexit vision
Then: As many of his colleagues have pointed out last week, it wasn’t so long ago that as health secretary, Jeremy Hunt persistently lobbied the treasury for a whopping £20bn extra for the NHS, funded by increased taxation. Or, as he said back in May last year, when calling for additional tax to fund the health service:
‘Poll after poll shows that [people] do recognise that through the tax system we will end up having to contribute more and there is a willingness to do that, providing they can see the money going to the NHS and providing they can see that it is not being wasted.’
Now: Hunt has praised the Singaporean economic model, which is based on low taxation and a small government, saying:
‘But there is much we can learn from Singapore, not least the excellence of its education system, the long term investment in infrastructure and a strategic approach to how a nation sustains competitive advantage in the world.’
Then: During the referendum, Hunt was not exactly upbeat about Britain’s prospects after we left the EU. In an Observer column penned in 2016, he predicted that Brexit would mean less money for the NHS and wrote that:
‘A series of studies from the likes of the London School of Economics, Oxford Economics and the CBI have shown that the impact of an exit could cost the UK more than 5 per cent of the size of our economy.’
Now: Since then, he has become a devoted Brexiteer and even argued that Britain ‘WOULD survive and prosper without a deal’ with the European Union.
On a second referendum
Then: While he might like everyone to forget about it now, weeks after the referendum result Hunt made a pitch to become Prime Minister by suggesting that Britain should have another Brexit referendum. In a column for the Daily Telegraph, he argued that:
‘before setting the clock ticking, we need to negotiate a deal and put it to the British people, either in a referendum or through the Conservative manifesto at a fresh general election.’
Now: Since then, readers will be glad to know he’s had another change of heart, and said last week that he thought asking the public to cast their verdict on leaving the European Union again would be ‘incredibly damaging’ – which makes Mr S wonder why he suggested it in the first place.
Now it may be of course that Hunt’s views have naturally evolved over time, as many people’s do. But it may not be a matter of pure coincidence that such changes of heart are on issues that likely to appeal to the Tory grassroots.