A tale of two apostrophes and a dubious ‘dividend’…

Whoopie, looks like I’m in the money.

You see, there’s this thing called the ‘lottery dividend’ and here’s how it works. No need to check your results, you just assume you’ve won and spend the money anyway.

We could do with a holiday and I’ve seen a car or two I fancy. If only someone had told me about the ‘lottery dividend’ before.

Now it doesn’t take a leap of imagination to guess that I am not really writing about the lottery, or at least not that one. My true topic is the ‘Brexit dividend’ – often to be seen, like my ‘lottery dividend’, wearing a pair of apostrophes. That grammatical garment suggests the word or words being clothed might not be all they seem.

This is certainly the case with the ‘Brexit dividend’ – an uncertain amount of extra money to come Britain’s way at an uncertain time, quite possibly the third Tuesday after the apocalypse.

Yet this neverland bonus is being waved in the air by the government as a reason why we can afford to pay more money into the NHS.

If your memory is long and scarred, you will recall that this ‘Brexit bonus’ is a shameless echo of the old and discredited Boris Johnson lie about the extra £350m a week we’d have to spend on the NHS once we’d left the EU.

A promise so threadbare that in the end even Ukip’s Nigel Farage gave up believing in it.

In other weary words, Mrs Maybe’s 70th birthday present to the NHS is an old idea found squashed under the Foreign Secretary’s shoe. It’s a political punt and a grubby gamble.

Oh, and we will all have to pay extra taxes as well to cover this £20bn annual boost to the NHS. Nothing wrong with extra taxation to fund the NHS but wrapping it all up in a ‘Brexit dividend’ gamble is just shabby. Even with such a welcome cash boost, the NHS will be standing still, thanks to barely adequate funding in the post-Labour years (the Blair/Brown tug-of-war government may have ended in disappointment, but at least the NHS and education were turned around after years of neglect).

Linking the extra NHS funds to the ‘Brexit dividend’ has been denounced by Tory rebels as a cynical distraction. One unnamed Tory nailed it in a quote for the Observer: “It is sickening if this money is being linked in any way to Brexit. It is truly pathetic.”

The good old Obs also mentions that the Institute for Fiscal Studies reckons that “Brexit has reduced rather than increased the funds available for the NHS (and other public services) both in the short and long term.”

In that cold light, a ‘Brexit dividend’ looks as likely to come about as my ‘lottery dividend’. It will pay to be wary on this, as the ‘Brexit dividend’ will surely be dragged into play more now as the negotiations with the EU – and within the squabbling Tory party – continue to go nowhere much.

At this rate, I’ll be running out of apostrophes.

Incidentally, I’ve not checked my lottery ticket yet. If you see me driving off on holiday in a shiny new car, you’ll know that the ‘lottery dividend’ is true.

But I suspect that ticket will sail into the bin on a sigh. That’s what happens every Wednesday.

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