“The British people have spoken, we are listening.” That’s No.10’s mantra when any questions about a second EU referendum are discussed. It’s what has given the government the conviction to play hardball on immigration control, and wag a finger at the City elites.
But the Autumn Statement suggests the government may not have caught another part of that message. Which is strange, because it was plastered on the side of the Leave campaign bus. What was it again?
“We send the EU £350m a week. Let’s fund our NHS instead. Vote Leave.”
Of course, some voters opted to quit the EU purely because they wanted to end freedom of movement, or they felt we were losing our sovereignty. But for these voters in the crucial Leave city of Sunderland, the most important thing was to put more money into our health service.
In his Autumn Statement, the Chancellor Philip Hammond made just one reference to the NHS. He said the government would back the Five Year Forward plan (drawn up in 2014) which includes an extra £10bn already pledged in 2015. But no new funding was announced.
Maybe Hammond was just being coy, and there was something in the small print. So The Staggers searched the full Autumn Statement document. There was no reference to the NHS at all. In fact, the only repeated reference to health we could see was “return the public finances to health”.
Luckily for the forgetful Brexit government, the Labour MP Chuka Umunna, who is behind Vote Leave Watch, is on the case. “We’re going to keep campaigning for Vote Leave ministers to keep their promises and deliver the £350m-a-week cash boost they promised,” he declared after the statement.