- Gove says money spent on document should have gone to health
- Premier tells students that mailshot is `money well spent'
The rift in U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron’s cabinet over the European Union deepened as one of the leading campaigners to quit the bloc described a government leaflet setting out the case for staying in as “Euro propaganda.”
Cameron announced a 9.3 million-pound ($13 million) plan late Wednesday to send the leaflet to every household in the country ahead of the referendum he has called for June 23. The document aims to “set out the facts” and show “some of the choices the country would face if it were to leave,” according to the premier’s office. The government has also set up a website with the information.
“I just think it’s wrong that at a time of austerity, 9 million pounds of taxpayers’ money is being spent on a one-sided piece of propaganda,” Justice Secretary Michael Gove told BBC Television Thursday. “That money should be being spent on our NHS and the people’s priorities,” he said, in a reference to the state-run National Health Service.
With polls suggesting the vote will be close, Cameron is trying to persuade Britons that the country will be “stronger, safer and better off” in the 28-nation bloc. The referendum has split his Conservative Party, with Gove, a personal friend of the premier, and London Mayor Boris Johnson among the most prominent members of the “Leave” campaign.
Cameron defended the move at a question-and-answer session with students at Exeter University in southwest England on Thursday. “I don’t want anyone to go to the polls not knowing what the government thinks, and I think that is money well spent,” he said.
The dispute comes as the prime minister is also being forced to deal this week with questions over his family’s links to an offshore tax scandal. Over the course of four separate statements about his financial affairs, Cameron said neither he nor or his wife and children stand to benefit from an offshore investment fund set up by his late father. The prime minister’s office said Wednesday night that a 2013 letter written by Cameron pressing the EU to water down rules for trusts was aimed at ensuring action was taken on the “areas of most concern” surrounding tax evasion.
Gove is enjoying increasing popularity among Conservative supporters as a possible successor to Cameron when the premier steps down before the 2020 election. He topped a regular poll of activists published Wednesday for the first time.