Thursday, 28 February 2008

Tories and the NHS

At 7.42am this morning just as I was spitting out my Sultana Bran in complete surprise, somewhere in Mannings Heath, Norman Tebbit was spitting out his cereal in absolute horror (an aside: what do you suppose Norman has for breakfast? Iron filings in Castrol GTX?).

Andrew Lansley, Shadow Health Secretary, has committed the Tories to increase health expenditure somewhere in the region of £30 billion! Fine. Maybe. But I just don't see how they can. They want to 'share the proceeds of growth', i.e. constrain public expenditure to a level less than the growth rate and use the remainder to fund tax cuts. To increase health expenditure by around 2% of GDP there would have to year on year increases greater than the growth rate to get there.

So what gives? Well, a Tory Government wouldn't be able to reduce expenditure on defence or law enforcement- there would be blue rinse flowing into the Thames Estuary before they could. Social security is sensitive to the economy and we are now into the base expenditure that is really hard to cut without leaving many people in penury. They could get rid of tax credits but that would hit families really hard. Education? Transport? All the big line items are pretty tough to significantly cut. Will they borrow more to spend locking in unsustainable debt?

No something will have to give: either economic competence, tax cuts, or expenditure pledges. Whichever one it is, they are going to look pretty incompetent. Which one it is will say a lot about where the Tories' real heart is. Norman Tebbit is probably chewing on scrap metal in anger as we speak.

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