The now infamous £350 million-a-week promise:
a promise set in 2016 by the then-Conservative party backbench MP and Brexit-campaigner Boris Johnson. It had alluded, entrapped and exploited working class concerns for their majority public-owned health care, as the NHS.
The promise was straightforward: a British exit from the European Union it would supposedly result in a £350 million-a-week budgetary surplus that would be directed to the NHS, which at the time was burdened by austerity measures. The message was plain, simple, and plastered onto the sides of an infamous campaign bus. Advertisements on streaming sites were sent to devices nationwide. It struck a chord with the working class whom suffered at the hands of an era of austerity set by the Conservative party themselves, who cut £30 billion in spending for welfare since 2010. Austerity measures upon the NHS have caused 130,000 preventable deaths, according to a 2019 IPPR study, where the Kings Cross organisation had reported extensively on manners in which austerity had impacted the patients of the NHS. This pledge therefore emboldened and drove a working class turnout to vote in favour of Brexit under false impressions.
When the "£350 million-a-week" was exposed as a lie during the campaign by the UK statistics authority, Boris was sent a public letter by that authority which reprimanded him and pleaded that he stop espousing his pledge in order to stop ‘‘a clear misuse of official statistics.’’ Nonetheless, 47% – the majority in this case – of people within a survey believed it to be true during the campaign, and even following a confession by a lead Brexit campaigner, Nigel Farage, who acknowledged the pledge to be false on the eve of the referendum result, it is still widely believed, as a 2018 study showcasing 43% – once again the majority of people surveyed – regarded this pledge and its statistics to be truthful.
Boris Johnson hopes to continue to stoke up the anxieties of the working class surrounding their public healthcare by proposing a new budget for the NHS that will offer £1.8 billion in ‘new money’, as stated by Boris in a BBC interview, and a phrase that he would consistently repeat. The Shadow Secretary of State for Health Jon Ashworth has said that ‘‘...the Tories are preparing for a general election, that’s what today’s announcement is all about’’, thus supporting the argument this is a mere morally apathetic ploy to re-engage the working class voters whom supported the Brexit campaign to be once again stoked by fears surrounding the NHS.
The figure is also disputably minor for the NHS with the Nuffield Trust health think tank purporting it to ‘‘only be a fraction’’ for the necessary upgrade of 20 hospitals – a ‘first day’ promise by Boris during his succession to become PM. The figure itself is less than 6% of what was promised to be handled with the £350 million a week. Therefore this pledge was not dealt by the Prime Minister or his Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock, due to welfare concerns nor for a humane consequence, but instead to catch the eye of media attention and vie for votes, to manipulate the working class of Britain who have been crushed by the same people who claim to offer a hand for their basic necessity that is their healthcare.
But those criticisms regarding the inconsequentiality of this figure and the manipulation by the Prime Minister of the public and the media, for a future snap election, should be further strengthened as the trusts who handle the budget for hospitals throughout the United Kingdom have revealed that the ‘‘cash injection’’, otherwise ‘‘new money’’ – a phrase to be repeated fourfold following the annunciation of the budget – would instead be permission by the government to remove the freeze on savings of certain NHS hospitals. The annunciation of this pledge was a three-year running treasury department scheme in which NHS hospitals would cut day to day expenditure – spending that would save lives, annual spending that was cut by 50% in almost 90 hospitals – the lack of spending would be rewarded with permission for £2.3 billion to be put into construction and renovation costs. This has now been permissed by Boris who has manipulated this scheme to tirade the Tory government as a beneficial outcome for the working class. When instead it meant that public healthcare hospitals had to abide to a bottom line of spending, endangering and possibly costing lives, in order for them to be able to receive adequate funding that they had otherwise raised themselves by reducing expenditure. This was no ‘new money’.
But the time has come where facts don't matter to political discourse in an era dominated by nationalist populist rhetoric, and the face of such discourse has now been plastered with the face of Boris, the UK's newest Prime Minister.
And this was his first week.