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Social care

Taxing times for the Tories

“Shame on Boris Johnson, and shame on the Conservative Party,” says Allister Heath in The Daily Telegraph. With their new £12bn-a-year tax hike to clear the NHS backlog and fund social care, the Tories have “disgraced themselves”. They have abandoned their deepest principles, treating millions of voters with “utter contempt”. And it’s electoral idiocy. Promising lower taxes was always the one weapon Labour couldn’t match, a powerful reminder to voters that the “socialists would steal their money”.

The “utterly untrustworthy” Johnson’s shift to the left is staggering: his tax increases are the largest in half a century. And even in the short term, the extra spending won’t be enough to fix the shattered NHS. Soon we’ll have to raise taxes again, but the blatant unfairness of hammering younger generations priced out of the housing market will make even more destructive taxes, most likely on wealth, impossible to resist. “What fresh hell will Britain’s beleaguered Tory voters face next?”

Of course, under ordinary circumstances raising taxes would be “unthinkable” for the Conservatives, says former Tory chancellor Norman Lamont in the Daily Mail. But “extraordinary times call for difficult decisions”, and Johnson is doing the right thing. Yes, these new measures strike a line through the odd manifesto pledge, but that manifesto could hardly have foreseen the global pandemic and its “catastrophic consequences” for the public finances. We can’t go on borrowing for ever, and nobody wants a return to austerity, so the only option left is tax. The British public is grown-up enough to “recognise that harsh truth and accept it”.

Fine, but it’s who you tax that matters, says Fraser Nelson in The Spectator. Boris has chosen to hit young workers to prevent older folks having to pay for expensive care. But one in four pensioners is a millionaire. Isn’t Conservatism about providing equal opportunities, “a ladder for everyone to climb”? Why would any Tory want to make life even easier for those already at the top of the ladder, at the expense of people on the lower rungs? And it’s not as though the old are all in favour. “The biggest problem with all of this is that we’re misjudging the elderly,” says one minister. “They don’t want bribes: they want a better country for their grandchildren, the ones we’re now taxing to death.”

He’s taking a beating today, but in the long run Johnson’s “sixth sense” for politics might be leading him to the electoral sweet spot, says John Rentoul in The Independent: the “blue Labour” territory left vacant by Tony Blair. Rather than the “middle-class socialism” of Jeremy Corbyn, Johnson is offering a brand of “socially conservative, working-class politics” that leaves Labour with nowhere to turn. The Tories just announced a tax hike to fund the NHS. How could Keir Starmer possibly argue with that? So, while Allister Heath rants into “the void where Johnson’s very similar columns used to be”, Johnson has those blue Labour voters under lock and key – “and he’s not going to let them go”.

🗳 📉 📈 Tory support has today dipped to its lowest level since the election, according to YouGov’s daily poll for The Times. Backing for the Conservatives is down five points to 33% and Labour is on 35% – putting it ahead for the first time since January, when a Covid lockdown was in place. It breaks a run of 149 straight leads for the Tories in YouGov daily polling.