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It was during a BBC Question Time election special that the public was first informed of the fact that a "magic money tree" did not exist by Theresa May.
The PM was responding to a member of the audience who naively believed that the fact her "wage slips from 2009 reflect exactly what I'm earning today" was down to political ideologies and not to horticultural developments.
Yes, there was £130 million to spend on a failed general election designed to give her a landslide victory. Granted, the government then found £1 billion down the back of the sofa to buy back that lost support to give May a majority. Agreed, there is money to give the Queen an 8% pay rise.
But there is no magic money tree!
In fact, those who think one exists are just "selfish" according to David Cameron, a man who spent £25,000 on a shed.
So those workers can just explain to their landlords that although they haven't got this month's rent, the PM values them. And Tesco is bound to accept the PM's value in payment for food, right? If not, there's always those food banks the Tories are "really pleased" exist.
Some experts in horticulture, such as Chancellor Phillip Hammond, recognising the absence of money trees, say that MPs need to be "brave" and resist the urge to pay workers enough to feed themselves.
However, some Tory ministers have now flirted with the idea of ending parts of austerity, clearly concerned about the terrible hardships suffered by their poll numbers.
Boris Johnson is one such compassionate MP, calling for end to the pay cap. He said he wants this done in a "responsible way." We therefore shouldn't expect to see him anywhere near this issue.
The majority of Tory MPs, however, are still wedded to the idea of austerity and 'saving' money. Every penny counts.
Yes, it would have cost the same as just five pairs of Theresa May's leather trousers to make Grenfell Tower's cladding non-combustible, for example. But as we know, there is no magic money tree.
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Article dated 6 September 2017
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
Lessons from history
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