On the BBC’s Daily Politics this afternoon , the Tory-turned-Ukip MP for Clacton, Douglas Carswell, backed the idea of increasing spending on the NHS.
We are going to have to spend more as a society, for the simple reason that people are living longer, technology means that we can spend more, invest more in health. We’re going to have to do it . . . I think we are going to have to increase spending because the fact is that people are living longer, people expect better health care and they are not getting it. And they are going to have to have, I think more of our resources as a country spent on health care.
Carswell also admitted on the programme that he had “got it wrong” by voting in favour of the government’s NHS reforms in 2012.
On the surface, Carswell’s comments are unsurprising, considering all the other main Westminster parties have made pledges on health spending, and that A&E departments are suffering their worst period in a decade. However, it is telling that the MP’s comments do not toe Ukip’s party line.
Nigel Farage has in the past called it “ridiculous” to protect the NHS budget from spending cuts. In January last year, he told the Telegraph:
We take the view that the greatest boom in Britain has been the growth in the cost of the public sector. The growth of the public sector has placed a massive cost on this country. We will come up with a plan, a fairly radical plan, about how government spending should be cut.
He said the ringfencing of certain budgets, such as on the NHS, is based on “ridiculous arguments”. And he would not support protecting the NHS budget when speaking on BBC News later last year, because, “I want to see us get better value for money”. Recently, in an interview on Sky News’ Murnaghan programme, he dismissed “all this nonsense about ringfencing” the NHS, saying the service could be “more efficient” and that money can be saved on it, “without any shadow of a doubt”.
This is just the latest development in Ukip’s protracted confusion over its stance on the health service. Spreading its wings to envelope former Labour supporters, it has had to come up with a more left-friendly stance on health spending, and this new direction has caused key party figures to contradict one another. It is also another instance of Carswell swerving away from the party line, a recent example being his call for Ukip not to tolerate “pejorative comments about people’s heritage” and for the party to start showing it has a “serious internationalist agenda”.