Is it appropriate to say, “I told you so”?

15th Apr 2024


One of the charms of our country is that we tend to be modest individuals.

We queue not barge to the front; we steer away from histrionics; we favour the underdog. Modesty is a great virtue. And bearing that in mind, should we ever say, “I told you so”? To do so suggests a degree of immodesty that is not natural, so I suspect we would rather think it but not say it, for fear of breaking this very British code.

Last week, one of the political parties that will contest the general election made a pitch to the electorate suggesting that money spent on net zero should all go to the NHS instead. Now I fundamentally disagree with the premise of the statement, there is nothing to stop us having a first-class NHS and working towards net zero by 2050. But the framing of the debate has now been set, whether we like it or not.

So why make the case of net zero or the NHS?

I suspect that this party is trying to tap into genuine concerns that the transition to net zero is anything but fair, while reflecting public opinion on the current state of the NHS. It is dangerous territory for those who want to tackle climate change and improve the NHS. If Treasury funding is in short supply, voters will back the latter over the former. You just have to look at YouGov’s tracker on this issue. When asked “what sector should government spend more on?”, the NHS wins hands-down 73% v 23% for Environment and Climate Change.

So, to those advocating net zero action, paid for by government, be careful. For those who prioritise “early-adopters” over those at risk of being left behind, think again. The advocates who want to tell the public what they need to do, stop it now. You are all playing into the hands of those who ultimately are climate sceptics and can read opinion polls.

Now you might think, hasn’t he said this before? Didn’t he warn us this would happen? You might think that; I couldn’t possibly comment.