The lines in Iain Dale’s blog post about the EU referendum yesterday started to gnaw at me. Here are the lines in full:

They don’t even really take on the argument that the £350 million a week “promise” wasn’t in any way a promise. The words on the bus actually said “We send the EU £350 million a week. Let’s fund our NHS instead.” Now you can argue if you want that this is a promise to spend £350 million extra every week on the NHS, but it didn’t actually say that, did it?

The problem is that this, like much of the rest of that post by Iain, actually is rather economical with the truth.

Iain is correct about the slogan on the bus – this is a picture of it:

The thing is that this was just one version of the slogan. The version on billboards was this:

Here is the ITV News story announcing the billboard launch. The tweet with the graphic in it is still on Vote Leave’s Twitter feed here.

And here is Gisela Stuart standing in front of the billboard (source):

And here is Andrew Marr debating it on television with Iain Duncan Smith (source):

And here are both Johnson and Fox in front of the same slogan (source):

So, as I see it, there was enough of a connection made between the £350m figure and the NHS to imply that money would be spent on the NHS.

How then, I wonder, is Iain’s assertion that the NHS spending commitment does not hold, while some politicians (but by no means all) in the Leave campaign saying Britain must leave the Single Market means that a Hard Brexit is obvious? It is not. All of these things were grey during the referendum campaign – the NHS ‘pledge’, commitments about Turkey and the EU, and commitments about the Single Market. Iain is over interpreting what was said prior to 23rd June.

14 Comments

  1. Johnny Mans

    Can anyone tell me where we can see or hear a recording of someone saying we would give £350 million a week to the NHS?
    The bus never announced it either.

    • Matt Gibbons

      Here’s what Boris actually said in the article (it’s on the Telegraph website behind a paywall, but reproduced in full on his Facebook page).

      “And yes – once we have settled our accounts, we will take back control of roughly £350 million per week. It would be a fine thing, as many of us have pointed out, if a lot of that money went on the NHS, provided we use that cash injection to modernise and make the most of new technology.”

      Boris…. His own words.

  2. Geoffrey

    So perhaps remainders should become “don’t Leave-ers?

  3. The words on the Leave Bus actually said “We send the EU £350 million a week. Let’s fund our NHS instead.”

    It was merely a suggestion, an example of what COULD be funded if we stopped paying that to the EU!
    Who started the lie that it was a promise?

    WHY don’t the vote leave group contest this untruth? It’s about time they did!

    • William Barrett

      Merely a suggestion on how to spend money that doesn’t exist? We do not send £350m to the EU so any debate on whether it’s a promise or a suggestion is secondary to this.

  4. Mortimer Duke

    Why are the only ones clinging to the supposed assertion literally those who claim to have rejected it at the time, and as if it hadn’t been subjected to endless discussion prior to the vote during which not one Brexiteer claimed it to be literal.

  5. Poor grasp of the English language. Let’s is only ever used for a suggestion. In none of those images is there any reference whatsoever to a pledge/promise. It is worded as, and was marketed as, a suggestion.

    • So you feel there is a version of Brexit that people voted for that would mean they voted for that specifically to NOT “take back control”?
      “Let’s take back control” was used in other posters, so “Let’s” is clearly used in the conventional voting sense of “conditional on us voting for this party or cause”.

      Sorry mate, there is no weaselling out of it being an unfulfillable promise.

  6. Mrs B Bowles

    Regardless of the wording, only the government can make promises about the spending of public money, since only the government has power to spend it. In an election scenario, parties standing for government can make promises about what they will try to do if elected – though they are not always able to follow through. Lobby groups cannot make promises, only set out their position and what they want to persuade government to do.

    Referenda are not elections. The two – in this case, three – sides are lobby groups. Even if one of the two leave groups worded it as a promise, which they did not – no-one begins a promise with the word “let’s”; it is a suggestion – they have no power to do anything more than suggest it to the government.

    It amazes me that so many apparently educated people seem to be totally ignorant of very basic facts about how democracy works, or cannot distinguish an election from a referendum. If some of these extremely ignorant people accepted anything either side said as a promise rather than an aspiration, their lack of education is to blame.

    • john houlihan

      Mrs B Bowles, funny how the Brexit brigade are all grammatically correct now that the lie has been used. Indeed no side could make promises, it didn’t stop Leave doing just that and mugging the stupid Brexiteers.

      As an example of Brexiteer double speak, you now have leading leavers claiming that the people voted for hard brexit and we must leave the single market. That was not the question, but apparently it is now the only answer. A super example of Brexiteer double speak and dishonesty.

      Your faux amazement about a lack of Remainer understanding of democracy makes you look foolish, bearing in mind that the Leave government was taken to the high court on this very matter and lost. Boris, Gove, David Davis, Duncan Smith, Grayling all lined up and called the legal challenge and affront to democracy. Ignorance of democracy or a complete lack of respect for our democracy.

      Be careful of justifying lies, it undermines our democracy, the very democracy you proclaim to understand.

      • Maybe there’s a clue in the campaign organisation “Vote Leave”. Possibly it suggests that we should leave something.

      • In the EU referendum the official Vote Leave campaign used the strap line: “Take Back Control”. They frequently unpacked this as “take back control of our borders, our laws, and our money”. The EU Commission have consistently stated that none of those three can be achieved whilst a member of the EU Internal Market (the ’single market’). Both the UK government and Britain Stronger In concurred, making the claimed disadvantages of leaving the so-called single market the central plank of their campaign…

        ‘Brexit vote was about single market, says Cameron adviser’ [November 2016]:
        http://www.politico.eu/article/brexit-vote-was-about-single-market-says-cameron-adviser/

        “Leaving the European single market was “the instruction from the referendum,” according to one of David Cameron’s closest advisers.

        Ameet Gill, who served as the former prime minister’s director of strategy until earlier this year and campaigned for a Remain vote, said the Brexiteers’ commitment to leaving the free-trade bloc was the key issue of the campaign and Downing Street spent “months trying to hang that round Leave’s neck.”

        He said it was “a bit weird” for Labour and the Liberal Democrats to now claim that Prime Minister Theresa May doesn’t have a mandate for a “hard” Brexit outside the single market.

        Gill is particularly damning about the attempt to rewrite the history of the campaign by those who, like him, supported a vote to Remain.

    • Eva Stevens

      Boris Johnson, I dont remember you ever stating, in response to the oft repeated claim that your leave bus showed a promise, that it was only ever a suggestion! Defend yourself and the suggestion please!

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