It’s the standard unit of measurement for top football signings – and can be usefully applied to political expenditure too
There’s no point demanding a retrospective VAR review on the footage of Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak clapping for the NHS last year. Footballers can be booked for sarcastic applause, but ministers can’t. Even so, news the government proposes a mere 1% pay rise for NHS workers – a real-terms pay cut – suggests the prime minister and chancellor weren’t so much clapping for the NHS as clapping back at it. Or maybe they were doing the sort of begrudging we-pay-your-wages clap that you sometimes see in the stands, a reminder that the NHS would be nothing – NOTHING – without the fans.
Either way, it’s right that top-flight football is the only profession where the figures involved are perpetually discussed in terms of how many nurses’ salaries they could cover. A new club signing who you’d hope would bring pleasure to countless fans of all ages must always be tutted at as though he is being paid out of the critical care budget, as opposed to by some Delaware investment banker. But the fact we’ve just blown 13 nurses’ salaries on Priti Patel’s right to be a shit to her staff must escape similar comparisons. Incidentally, that tally is without the legal costs. If you add those, we could scare you up even more hospital staff. (Not literally scare them, of course – we’re not the home secretary.)