Boris Johnson faces a 100-strong Tory protest over his controversial £12 billion social care programme amid claims it could cost him the next Election.
Former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith spearheaded mounting protests last night at a ‘chaotic’ tax hike plan, which set the Government adrift from true Conservative values.
But party MPs in seats seized from Labour in the North and Midlands went further to brand the National Insurance rise a disaster that spelt ‘doom’ for the party at the next Election.
One said privately: ‘This is a Red Wall tax in all but name and it’s a gift to Labour.’
The fears come amid research from the TaxPayers’ Alliance that the new NI levy will disproportionately affect workers in the North and Midlands, as well as working people compared to the retired.
Former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith spearheaded mounting protests last night at a ‘chaotic’ tax hike plan, which set the Government adrift from true Conservative values
Rebels now claim there are as many as 100 Tory MPs in a so-called ‘awkward squad’ organising against the plans. And they warned that revolts in further votes on the plans this week could surpass last week’s, where five Tories voted against and more than 35 abstained despite being warned they could bring down the Government if the measure was defeated.
Senior Tory MP Marcus Fysh last night warned: ‘Without much greater explanation and concessions, the Government faces a potentially much greater rebellion from the Tory benches this week.’
Branding the tax rise plans ‘ill-thought-out’, he added that the Tories abandoned their ‘hard-earned’ reputation as the party of low taxes ‘at our peril’. Leaders of the group are set to meet Chancellor Rishi Sunak tomorrow ahead of further votes on the NI proposals on Tuesday in a debate on the Health and Social Care Levy Bill.
In a hugely controversial move last week, the Prime Minister ordered Tory MPs to vote though a 1.25 per cent rise in NI from next April, initially to raise £36 billion in three years mostly to combat Covid-related NHS waiting lists and then to fund radical reforms to help spare people having to sell their homes to fund social care.
Mr Johnson justified the move by insisting his Government ‘will not duck the tough decisions needed to get NHS patients the treatment they need and to fix our broken social care system’.
Senior Tory MP Marcus Fysh (left) last night warned: ‘Without much greater explanation and concessions, the Government faces a potentially much greater rebellion from the Tory benches this week’
But the NI rise – breaking a clear manifesto pledge in the 2019 election manifesto that delivered Mr Johnson an 80-strong majority in the Commons – has plunged his party into a bitter civil war and identity crisis. Writing in the MoS today, David Mellor – who served in Margaret Thatcher’s government – criticises Mr Johnson for committing a ‘fundamental breach’ of Conservative principles.
There were also complaints that last week’s vote was only won because Tory whips ‘bullied’ new MPs into believing the measure amounted to a ‘vote of confidence’ in Mr Johnson and the Government could fall if it was defeated.
And there was anger over claims that No 10 had deliberately fuelled rumours of a reshuffle to deter rebels hopeful of a ministerial job or promotion.
Last night, party insiders said the PM may have made an ‘error’ by not holding the reshuffle last Thursday as widely trailed.
They warned Mr Johnson risked becoming ‘the boy who cried wolf’ if reshuffles were endlessly mooted without actually taking place.
However, one Minister warned that Mr Johnson ‘doesn’t like sacking people’ and knows they ‘create more enemies and only make a handful of people happy’. No sooner had the Government won last week’s vote than rumours of the shake-up subsided – only for some to forecast that it would now take place this week, once the care levy Bill had got through the Commons.
Last night, another Minister dismissed talk of a further major rebellion this week, claiming that Tory rebels had made their protest last week and were unlikely to repeat it.
MARCUS FYSH: Tories are the party of low tax – we lose that reputation at our peril
By Tory MP Marcus Fysh
Marcus Fysh is Tory MP for Yeovil
The Prime Minister deserves praise for his energy and compassion in putting care for those who find it hard to look after themselves at the top of the national agenda.
But the ill-though-out tax rise plans foisted on Conservative MPs last week are deeply flawed and have caused deep upset in the party.
The scale of the rebellion in the Commons last week, with nearly 40 Tory MPs abstaining, was proof of that,
We are, by tradition, the party of low tax.
We abandon that hard-earned reputation at our peril.
In the last few days, I have spoken to many other Tory MPs who share my deep concerns at the approach the Government is now taking.
And I must warn that without much greater explanation and concessions, the Government faces a potentially much greater rebellion from the Tory benches when we vote on the full Health and Social Care Levy Bill this week.
Of course, it is vital that we get our response to these challenges of reforming social care provision right.
But I believe that reaching for big tax levers is risky, as the broad drag on people’s incomes and spending might well hinder the way they can help us pull through.
It could well depress tax revenue that we need to grow fast to match demand for public services and repair our groaning balance sheet.
Homes law shake-up axed after backlash
Ministers are set to drop controversial changes to planning laws that would have stripped homeowners of the right to object to new houses in their area.
Following a backlash from Tory MPs, reforms to build 300,000 homes a year by 2025 will be diluted, according to The Times.
In a consultation, the Government suggested ripping up the planning application process and replacing it with a zonal system forcing local councils to meet mandatory building targets.
But the overhaul – the biggest shake-up of planning laws for 70 years – met strong opposition in rural areas. Tory MPs blamed it for the party’s defeat to the Lib Dems at the Chesham and Amersham by-election in June.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick will reportedly ditch mandatory targets and the zonal system. Instead, councils will identify ‘growth sites’ with a presumption in favour of development so applications are fast-tracked. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: ‘We will not comment on speculation. Our response to the consultation will be released in due course.’
We also need actually to fix social care, and get it more capacity now to enable the NHS to discharge patients into the community, recover and clear the backlogs. The current plan in that respect needs more work, and it would be fairer for the wealthiest retirees, who sometimes have assets that have risen greatly in value and high pension incomes of types no longer available to those of working age, to make more of a contribution to their outsized generation’s need.
There is a way through, but it needs honest clear eyed thinking about the big picture as well as practically detailed measures.
People believe National Insurance contributions have been about pooling resources to provide for the future, but this has not in fact been the case for a very long time. They have rather been used as soon as they are collected to pay for present spending on current year “entitlements”, and to obtain credit against future generations for even more, in the form of debt.
Most western Governments have spent the last decades running such arguably Ponzi-like schemes, while pretending that all is OK. It is not.
The debt is increasingly having to be bought up with central bank money to be affordable, and the purchasing power of the pound in most people’s pockets – unless they are lucky or have worked hard enough to have assets – keeps ebbing away.
In my view we must look to the roots of the modern social construct and its radical and Christian traditions. to find inspiration for modern Conservatism and indeed liberal, social democracy in how to deal with this.
The philosophy, if not always best execution, of looking after each other responsibly is right before our eyes, in the first trades unions, the mutual and friendly societies, the cooperatives that Disraeli recognised as important innovation in help for each other and young Churchill crossed the floor to support as the Liberal government looked to provide them with national assistance.
They pooled resources, in one way or another, to look after each other and themselves in the future, not by taking on debt but by cooperating and investing.
So if we are going to expand National Insurance now let’s reform it so it actually means what it says.
The most powerful weapon we have against the debt problem we have is the power of compounding investment returns.
The modern digital world offers new ways of pooling savings, investments, insurance, and help for each other without middle men, counterparty or management risks and costs.
We should be imaginative in engaging or subsidising these for social care, and rebate any currently proposed extra levies to those who participate and are adequately provided for in such ways.
Above all, let’s make providing for ourselves and our parents and grandparents cheap for those who can least afford.
Marcus Fysh is Tory MP for Yeovil.