Theresa May’s Brexit at any cost means sending the NHS over a cliff

PUBLISHED: 14:39 19 May 2017

May has one priority – to deliver Brexit at any cost, says editor-at-large Alastair Campbell.

May has one priority – to deliver Brexit at any cost, says editor-at-large Alastair Campbell.

Archant

Because of the success of the £350m Big Lie, Tory politicians now feel free to make any promise without feeling a matching pressure to keep it.

One of the most effective things Theresa May’s Leave trailblazers did was to make a direct link to health with their claim that if we left the EU we would have £350m per week more for the NHS. This was not just an aggressive campaign tactic. It was a straight forward lie. Normally when people in politics get called out on a lie, they stop. The Leavers carried on. It worked for them. The liars won, and our new ex-Remain PM elevated the chief liar to the role of Foreign Secretary.

That £350m promise has come and gone, and now another stack of promises is being made, equally focused on the here and now needs of the campaign, not the future needs of the NHS. Nobody is likely to get elected by saying openly they want to spend less on the NHS. But whichever party is in power, that is the reality that lies ahead. The poor cyber security systems, the return of the annual winter crisis, the lengthening waits for treatment, patients waiting for hours on trolleys in A&E, doctors and nurses seeing strike action as the only way of being heard … we are already seeing the signs of under investment and failure properly to reform. But once the Brexit economic shrinkage comes, as it will, government will have less to spend, more people to treat, and so more and more cuts to make. Brexit is the word that dare not speak its name in the debate on public services. But they are inextricably linked.

There is a bizarre, unspoken conspiracy going on in this election, between the Tories, Labour and the media, all for their different reasons pretending that it is not really a Brexit election… (though watch May claim the opposite if she gets the huge majority she is after.)

For the Tories, it is the Theresa May election, the first known building of a personality cult around a non-personality. On the day she called the election, it was clear that the prime motivation was a dislike of any opposition – ‘the country is uniting (sic) but Parliament is not’ (as though the role of Parliament was to agree on everything); but since then it is clear she wants to exterminate not just external opposition, but any internal contrary forces too. Hence the near invisibility of all but Amber Rudd, allowed out for a day to front the NHS cyber security mess, and of candidates who are merely extras in ‘Team Theresa’.

For Labour, though Jeremy Corbyn can claim to have something of a cult following, it is not sufficient, so the leadership is desperately trying to persuade itself that if only people outside the cult could see beyond the media hostility to the leader, and study the Party’s policies in detail, all would be fine.

For the media, though most are doing all they can to help May, they also need to try to keep the campaign interesting, which is not easy when the polls are stubbornly suggesting a Tory landslide.

These three strands came to mind in a conversation with a group of Burnley fans outside Bournemouth’s ground at the weekend.

Fan 1: ‘What do you reckon to Labour’s manifesto then?’

Fan 2: (before I could reply) … ‘why don’t you ask him what he thinks of our Champions League squad?’

Fan 1: ‘We’re not in it.’

Fan 2: ‘Exactly, and Labour’s never going to implement its manifesto either.’

Of course, post Brexit, post Trump’s win, post Emmanuel Macron emerging from nowhere to the French Presidency within a year, we are definitely in the ‘anything can happen’ era of politics. Though as Ben Page of Ipsos Mori rather inappropriately put it (mental health campaigner hat on here), if the polls are wrong about this one, ‘there will be a mass suicide of pollsters’.

So the main parties have to keep setting out their policies, and the broadcast media have to cover them as though there is an equal chance of them happening. Yet though we are only having this election because of the new political reality created last June 23, and May’s decision to interpret the referendum result as a vote for a hard Brexit, the debate is being conducted along the lines of old political realities hard wired into the brains of activists and journalists involved in elections of yore.

This means the questions constantly thrown at Labour tend to be in the area of ‘but how will you pay for it all?’ For the Tories, it is all about whether they really are capable of governing for anyone but the people at the top, and whether, to go back to one of Mrs May’s early soundbites, they can shake off the ‘nasty party’ image and go into traditional Labour territory.

But there is a gigantic elephant in the room. It is called Brexit. To flesh that out, it is called ‘the smaller economy that Brexit will deliver’.

We heard a lot about the pound from Leavers, did we not? Always having our own currency, and control over its workings, was a big part of their argument for greater sovereignty. Since when the pound has suffered the kind of devaluation that might easily have brought down governments in the past. This fall in the value of sterling is not some vague technicality. It is a signal of what the world thinks is going to happen to our economy in the future. Shrink! Yet none of the parties seem to want to talk about it.

Labour don’t want to say there will be a smaller economy and less money for public services post Brexit, because it begs the question why they didn’t fight harder to stop it; added to which the questions about how they fund the big changes in their manifesto become even harder. The Tories don’t want to talk about it because it challenges their La La Land claims that we are going to come out of the single market and the customs union and retain ‘the exact same benefits’; that we are going to get such a good exit deal, and even better trade deals around the world, that far from shrinking we are going to grow as ‘Global Britain’ (how long before we get a strong and stable book of her vacuous clips?) takes shape.

One thing I will give May … she is bloody good at saying convincingly things that she must know deep down are, to quote Emily Thornberry, complete bollocks. Like the line that every vote strengthens her hand in negotiations with the EU. Nonsense. Merkel, Macron et al couldn’t give a damn about the size of the majority. They deal with whoever the PM may be. Like the line that out of the EU we can have greater workers’ rights – when so many of the Hard Brexit MPs she is trying to bring in fought for Leave precisely because they want to get European protection, of workers, of the environment, of lots else besides, off their backs. Like the line that Brexit will strengthen the Union, a claim which both Scotland and Northern Ireland are putting severely to the test.

Because of the success of the £350m Big Lie, Tory politicians now feel free to make any promise without feeling a matching pressure to keep it. It’s why May felt no qualms at all about tearing up her predecessor’s Fixed Term Parliament Act, so as to be able to welch on her oft-stated commitment not to call a snap election; and why she has recommitted to the same promise David Cameron made on getting immigration numbers to the tens of thousands, even as Cabinet colleagues and business warn her that like him she won’t be able to keep it.

As for her claim to have mental health as a ‘priority’ – don’t get me going. She has promised £15m for pilots on mental health first aid in schools, £10m to fund graduates going into mental health work as part of the Think Ahead programme, £67.7m for digital mental health services – all welcome, but these sums are minuscule set alongside the need, and the 8% fall in mental health funding during the austerity years.

The refrain that it is ‘not just about the money’, while right given the importance of attitude and understanding, is nonetheless a useful cover for under investment, while her central pledge that WITHIN FOUR YEARS no young person would have to travel far from their own area for psychiatric treatment was a signal of woeful under-ambition for something described as a ‘priority’. Two years to deliver Brexit, she claims. Four years to stop your child having to travel from one end of the country to another for a psychiatric bed. Ludicrous. Shameful.

May has one priority – to deliver Brexit at any cost. We have already seen some of that cost in the falling pound, and rising inflation (though hats off to the media for barely mentioning the B for Brexit word in most of the coverage). As she steers the economy towards the cliff-edge, we had better understand she is taking our NHS and other public services along for the ride. I’m not sure anyone voted for any of that last June. But it seems like they’re sure as hell voting for it now.

Support The New European's vital role as a voice for the 48%

The New European is proud of its journalism and we hope you are proud of it too. We believe our voice is important - both in representing the pro-EU perspective and also to help rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.

  • Become a friend of The New European for a contribution of £48. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish)
  • Become a partner of The New European for a contribution of £240. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish) and receive a New European Branded Pen and Notebook
  • Become a patron of The New European for a contribution of £480. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish) and receive a New European Branded Pen and Notebook and an A3 print of The New European front cover of your choice, signed by Editor Matt Kelly

By proceeding, you agree to the New Europeans supporters club Terms & Conditions which can be found here.



Supporter Options

Mention Me in The New European



If Yes, Name to appear in The New European



Latest Articles

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

New Ukip leader Henry Bolton named the party's new 'shadow cabinet' today - and what a bunch they are

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Catalonians against self-rule came out in their thousands the weekend before last.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

It might seem quixotic, at a time when Spain looks like it is falling apart, but could the country’s future lie in a union with neighbour Portugal? DAVID BARKER investigates ‘Iberism’

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

ALEXANDRA HADDOW on the Nordic trendsetters who have style sussed

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A second referendum that reverses Brexit would have a "positive" and "significant" impact on the UK economy, which is on track to be crippled by its EU divorce, an influential think tank claimed today.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Making money is no longer enough for firms, say ANGELA JAMESON

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The question, in a quiet voice, came from a woman in the audience at the Henley Festival’s Brexit debate, in a quiet voice: “So what do I tell my children now? They planned to live and work for a time in Europe. What now?”

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Millions of families already struggling with soaring prices could end up being another £500 worse off if Britain crashes out of the European Union without a deal, according to a report.

Monday, October 16, 2017

A day of action across the UK saw thousands of people take to the streets to demand Brexit is stopped.

Friday, October 13, 2017

People have been asking me if I know Simon Brodkin, the character-comedian/prankster who interrupted the Prime Minister’s conference speech to hand her a mock redundancy notice.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Angela Merkel’s power has taken a blow in the wake of the German election. Here Tony Paterson reports from Berlin on the new shape of German politics.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Roland Garros had every intention of pursuing a career as a concert pianist. An air show outside Reims during the late summer of 1909 changed all that.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Chancellor has admitted no Brexit deal could leave planes grounded in March 2019.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Catalonian crisis has put Europe, as well as Spain, in jeopardy, says PAUL KNOTT.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

It’s not a stretch to say that the economics of digital advertising are to blame for disasters like Brexit and Trump.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Boris Johnson is desperate to get into Number 10 – but it seems the Prime Minister has other ideas.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

We’re living in the Age of Cool Dad, with politicians obsessed with burnishing their pop culture credentials, says SAMIRA AHMED.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Theresa May has claimed “the ball is in their court” in a statement to the House of Commons updating MPs on the Brexit negotiations. Brussels, however, disagree.

Monday, October 9, 2017

By attempting to quash the result before it was even known, Madrid has made the case for Catalan independence all but unanswerable.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Lawyers have told the Government that Article 50 is not binding and can be scrapped at any time before the March 2019 deadline, it has been claimed.

Monday, October 9, 2017

The deluded fantasies of Leavers must have been inspired by the big screen says Have I Got News For You writer NATHANIEL TAPLEY. Here, he brings you the most Brexity films of all time.

Monday, October 9, 2017

France might be home of its most famous race, but Italy is the country with cycling in its DNA. To find out why, Patrick Sawer makes a tearful pilgrimage to its shrine to the sport.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Trieste, the city which has survived centuries of seductive illusions.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

As ambitions go, Lee Humphries’ is an unusual, if lofty, one – to ascend the highest points of 100 different countries. As he crests the halfway mark in his quest, he explains all to Julian Shea.

Friday, October 6, 2017

PETER TRUDGILL traces the clockwork progress of the word ‘orange’ from southern India to northern Europe, and finds the odd detour.

Friday, October 6, 2017

JUSTIN REYNOLDS on the Thomas Mann novel which tried to make sense of the descent of Europe’s most cultured nation into Nazism.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

In the days before Stephen Paddock reignited America’s gun control debate by raining down rapid fire carnage on the Las Vegas strip, a familiar voice was again calling the shots inside Donald Trump’s head.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Ahead of the return to London of arguably his greatest work, Glengarry Glen Ross, Charlie Connelly considers the craft of polymath and playwright David Mamet.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

As with other such tragedies, the Las Vegas massacre quickly brought out the worst of the internet, says JONO READ.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

They have a new leader, but do they have a new purpose? RICHARD PORRITT went behind enemy lines at the UKIP conference and found a party on the brink.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Spain is facing an existential threat, says JASON WALSH, with the country’s fragile compromise – which has held since the end of Franco’s dictatorship – now in tatters.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

What does it say about the Conservative government that Boris Johnson, a man whose record for lying, cheating and disgracing himself on the national stage stands alone in our political history, is not only tolerated in government, but actually holds one of the great offices of state?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Steve Anglesey rounds up the losers and losers (because there are no winners) of another crazy seven days on Planet Brexit.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

RICHARD PORRITT with this week's big stories.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Now the hype is over, what can we expect next from the king of hygge? As our culture correspondent Viv Groskop reports, it’s time to like lykke.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Gin has undergone a remarkable resurgence in popularity in recent years, with many new brands and flavours emerging. There are some older producers, though, with a heritage even stronger than the gin they create.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

There's good news and bad news for online news publishers: The good is that people are increasingly willing to pay for digital news subscriptions. The bad is that news often takes a back seat to entertainment services like Netflix and Spotify.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Peter Trudgill on a remarkable discovery which transformed the way we think about languages.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Jack Lang meets the football coach who has eschewed the English game to carve out a career in the dugouts of Latvia.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

How the 'Flying Finn' dominated distance running during the 1920s through sheer dogged determination more than natural talent.

Podcast

Trending

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter