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Magic money tree

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Magic money tree – phrase

We’re kind of done with the magic money tree. There are no more free rides. (article on US congressional elections 2012).

There isn't a magic money tree that we can shake that suddenly provides for everything that people want. (Theresa May, UK General Election, 2 June 2017)

Only a few weeks ago Theresa May was telling a nurse that the reason she couldn't get a pay rise is that there is "no magic money tree". Now that magic money tree is growing freely in Northern Ireland. (27 June 2017)


Back in June during the general election campaign the Prime Minister Theresa May (well-paid politician) was widely criticised for telling a nurse (no real-terms pay increase for eight years) that there is ‘no magic money tree’ to provide funds for pay rises for NHS workers or anything else. The reason Mrs May’s use of the term to a hard-pressed, underpaid public service worker caused such a furore is its patronising tone. After all, only children and idiots believe in magic, so to suggest that someone believes there is a magic tree that rains down money at will is to insult their maturity and intelligence.


Mrs May went on to win the election by the skin of her teeth and, finding herself without an overall majority, reached an agreement with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party that their 10 MPs would support her legislative programme for two years. In return, Mrs May somehow found an extra £1 billion to be spent on Northern Ireland’s roads, healthcare and education. It seems there is a magic money tree if you know just how to shake it.



The term magic money tree has been around for a few years but was very infrequent indeed until it was used by Theresa May. Back in 2013 there were only a few dozen instances of it in a large Internet corpus, while at the time of writing a Google search brings up almost 15 million hits. That’s quite a lot for something that doesn’t exist.


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