Ever since the financial crisis struck, British people have been told by consecutive Conservative governments that there is no such thing as a magic money tree.
Initiating his age of austerity in 2013 David Cameron told a West Yorkshire delegation that there is no alternative to taking ‘tough, difficult decisions’ to fix the country’s debt problems, promising to reform the banking system so the taxpayer does not pay for its mistakes.
Continuing the agenda in 2017, with no such reforms ever have been made, Theresa May had the temerity to tell a nurse who hadn’t had a pay rise for eight years that “there isn’t a magic money tree that we can shake that suddenly provides for everything that people want”.
And I could go on.
But the oft-touted magic money tree seemed to have been mysteriously found this week after the government announced an extra £2.1 billion pledged to help UK prepare for no-deal Brexit.
It comes on top of a total of £4.2 billion which has already been allocated by the Government to prepare for the UK’s departure from the EU bringing spend on the exit to over £6 billion, an extraordinary amount given how stringent the public purse has become in other areas.
So where does the money come from?
Well, you could argue that necessity dictates the need to loosen the purse strings. Brexit D-Day is only months away and if the unthinkable was to happen, expensive preparation is inevitable.
But you could also argue that it is a political choice.
When the UN’s expert on poverty and human rights visited Britain he concluded that “the imposition of austerity was an ideological project designed to radically reshape the relationship between the Government and the citizenry”.
The expert added that “UK standards of well-being have descended precipitately in a remarkably short period of time, as a result of deliberate policy choices made when many other options were available.”
In other words, the magic money tree wasn’t there because politicians didn’t want it to be there, and it is as simple as that.
The Brexit legacy
Brexit, on the other hand, has become a matter of principle for certain Tory politicians.
Our current Prime Minister was behind the campaign from the off and so were many of his cabinet members too.
So faced with the political choice of freeing up money to get Brexit over the line and protect their legacy they ultimately will do it.
It doesn’t matter that £2.1 billion could pay for 45,000 nurses, 28,000 doctors and six entire NHS hospitals.
It doesn’t matter that 60,000 teachers could be employed, 50,000 police officers and 40,000 council houses built.
What matters to them is that they become cemented as some sort of Churchillian saviours of the Brexit process, defeating our European foes and freeing Britain from the shackles of the union.
And that, regrettably, is something worth paying for. At least in their minds.
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