Chris Grayling was accused of “teasing” voters on Thursday evening when he appeared to backpedal in the space of two minutes on a pledge the government would spend an extra £350m on the NHS a week.
Appearing on BBC Question Time, the transport secretary and leading Brexit campaigner, was asked why the promise made by the Vote Leave campaign had not been fulfilled.
“Well thats because we haven’t left the European Union yet,” Grayling said.
Grayling’s aside was seized on by presenter David Dimbleby. “Is it going to come? is it going to happen?” he asked.
But Grayling walked back the comment. “The government will take decisions about public spending, what to do with the money we save who we have left the EU, but we haven’t left yet.
Dimbleby replied: “You are teasing us. You sat here before the referendum and said it would be £350m into the NHS - now you’re saying what?”
Grayling repeated: “The government will take decisions about public spending, what to do with the money we save who we have left the EU, but we haven’t left yet.”
Dimbleby told him: “Well that’s a fat lot of good telling us that. What does that mean?”
Lib Dem Alistair Carmichael told the audience: “If backpedaling ever becomes an Olympic sport, you’ve just seen a gold medal performance.”
During the referendum, some in the ‘Leave’ campaign suggested the UK could spend £350m a week extra on the NHS if the country voted to exit the EU.
In the immediate aftermath of the vote, Nigel Farage admitted it was a “mistake” for the Leave campaign to make the pledge - though he was never formally part of the official Leave campaign.
Other Brexiteers also distanced themselves from the idea. Iain Duncan Smith claims he “never said” the NHS would get the money - even though it was emblazoned on the side of a bus.