Here resides the Sacred Cow which must not be touched …
Whenever I start the morning scanning the headlines, my coffee not yet spilled and mug not yet thrown against the wall, I ask myself why our Westminster MSM are literally drooling over ‘news’ of spats and strife between cabinet ministers, faithfully reporting the spin produced by certain ‘insiders’, instead of first reporting the facts. A futile question, I know.
This morning a ‘hot dispute’, allegedly a fight between Sunak and Johnson, is being served up. How titillating: bad Sunak has blocked an announcement by the PM, to hand over more money to yon Sacred Cow! This is interesting for several reasons. Here’s the DT’s headline:
“Treasury blocks Boris Johnson’s plan to clear NHS backlog – Multi-billion-pound programme put on ice amid tensions between No 10 and Rishi Sunak” (paywalled link)
Cripes! Is now the Treasury making war against Johnson, or are they only doing their duty, holding departments to account? The Times reports:
“A long-awaited plan to tackle backlogs of routine care caused by the pandemic has been delayed as ministers press the NHS to accept tougher targets for cutting waiting times. The Treasury intervened over the weekend to block publication of the plan, in an increasingly acrimonious dispute about how quickly waiting lists can be returned to pre-pandemic levels.” (link, paywalled)
So now it’s not ‘bad Sunak’ alone who is blocking more money for ‘Our NHS’, it’s also ‘ministers’? Interesting. Far more intriguing is that one name is conspicuously absent in all reports: the actual head of the whole kaboodle, a certain Mr Jabbit. Has he no say in this? Are his mandarins running the show without his say-so? Why then is Sunak held responsible for this ‘hold-up’ when it’s ‘the Treasury’, i.e. Treasury mandarins who are doing their job? Your guess is a s good as mine! Here’s more gossip, or rather spin:
“Health service insiders suggested Chancellor Rishi Sunak was dragging his feet, as he views Mr Johnson as a lame-duck Prime Minister. Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: ‘Increasingly getting the sense that Johnson now faces the same (but more intense and short-term) challenges Tony Blair had in his third term, namely that HMT (HM Treasury) is loath to agree to any No 10 plans involving money, as the Chancellor sees these as opportunistic and wasted on a dying administration.’” (link)
Are we now to understand that Johnson and Sunak have made a ‘pact’ similar to the one between Blair and Brown, and that this pact is what this fight really is about? What excellent spin! There’s more:
“Mr Taylor worked as head of policy in No 10 under Mr Blair. A Treasury source last night denied that Mr Sunak had blocked the publication of the plan. They said: ‘We didn’t block, the NHS agreed with us it’s not ready yet.’” (link)
This Mr Taylor, one of the NHS’ many head honchos, is a former Blair crony. How intriguing! Is he spinning in order to stir up muck so as to help Blair’s comrade Starmer? He certainly is a prime candidate for being a ‘health service insider’. The ‘other side’ in this war between Whitehall departments is also given a say – much further down the pages:
“Government sources denied that the Treasury had vetoed the plan because Sunak did not want to bail out a prime minister struggling to reassert his authority over rebellious backbenchers. “The NHS are the ones who didn’t want to announce any targets,” one source said.” (link, paywalled)
Too late! The first spin-master invariably wins. It’s always bad when one has to try and re-spin what one side has come up with first. Here’s a rather revealing remark – revealing in that it demonstrates the zeal with which the Westminster MSM would rather play politics than report facts:
“However, a senior source insisted the delay was down to disruption caused to the NHS by the omicron surge, which meant hospitals would not now be “able to deliver quite as much as quickly as it was thought it could three months ago before the variant arrived. That needs to be reflected in the national recovery plan. I am sure the Treasury would wish to double check whether the NHS was sufficiently up to the mark. So it’s less political, more the Treasury doing its job of holding the NHS to account.” […]The Government has already provided an extra £5.4 billion to the NHS to Combat covid up to April. “ (paywalled link)
Holding the Sacred Cow to account? Outrageous! Once one’s waded through all this obfuscation and has disentangled the spin, it appears that the NHS bureaucrats were not doing their job properly, blaming the ‘Sunak blockage’ of the plans they’ve been working on since November so as to deflect from their failings, the “Omicron Surge” being a second handy excuse.
We’re informed that these NHS bureaucrats were reluctant to provide the Treasury with any targets to cut the waiting lists, “arguing that it was impossible to make such commitments before it was clear how far waiting lists would rise.” (link, paywalled). Translated, this means: ‘we are the Sacred Cow, normal financial considerations don’t apply to us, just give us the money’.
It is clearly of no importance to them whatsoever that these £££bn are coming out of our pockets, that these sums are a hefty extra burden at a time when the cost of living is rising. As for the Chancellor of the Exchequer doing his job? How dare he! See this:
“Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, also wants to hold the NHS more firmly to account for the extra money as he comes under increasing pressure from backbenchers for raising taxes to levels not seen for 70 years.” (link, paywalled)
The spin of this ‘news story’ is already discernible. It’s hands off ‘Our NHS’ which must never be held to account for wasting our money. It’s a re-issue of ‘Tory Austerity is killing the NHS’, now garnished with the welcome ‘look – Sunak is knifing Johnson’. The MSM, the NHS and by extension Javid seem to believe that we peasants will always be on the side of Our Sacred Cow, that painting Sunak as an NHS killer will work wonders for Javid’s campaign to succeed Johnson.
However, the Westminster MSM are overlooking the far more important and interesting fight between two Whitehall giants: the Treasury in the blue corner and the Sacred Cow, the one entity swallowing ever more of our money, in the red one.
In these post-covid times, with the cost of living rising, I know which side I’d bet on winning if I were a betting person …