British politics and policy updates
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The self-given cliché about Boris Johnson is that he is pro cake and pro-eat it. This week was a moment in British politics when the Prime Minister was forced to vote.
In the breach of his election promise not to increase National insurance To prevent catastrophic NHS backlogs and address long-term social care issues, Johnson took action and confronted skeptics in his party.
This is the good news, even if conservatives are worried he may have chosen the wrong fight. They fear he’s a ‘read my lipsMoment and also chose the wrong tax vehicle to raise the money. It is not only a tax on workers, but also a tax on employers.
The bad news for Johnson is that this is only the first of a number of challenges that are all supported by the fact that this government is borrowing and taxing much more heavily than it wants to. The public finances may provides more headroom as predicted in the last budget, but the Chancellor will no longer borrow; the party is nervous about spending cuts and its voters do not want higher taxes. Although the tax burden according to European standards is not particularly heavy, it is according to him a 70 year high in the UK. Business leaders ask why a conservative government views the cost of trade as a victimless crime, rather than a brake on economic prosperity.
The most urgent question is at the end of the temporary increase of £ 20 per week universal credit. Ministers can use part of the £ 6bn savings to improve payments in other ways. But at a time when they have raised taxes on working people to protect the heritage of those with property, it is not a good look at welfare.
Reviewing the budget and spending for October is likely to be difficult. Even as the government plows more money into the NHS, it faces similar demands for more money for schools to tackle the lost class time and more money to alleviate the backlog in the criminal justice system. Local government supply is hungry for resources.
The new levy will do little to address the chronic underfunding of social care. In the first three years, only £ 5.4 billion of the £ 36 billion raised goes into improve sector. Ministers promise that the number will rise after the health backlog is eased, but few believe that the commitment to take money away from the ever-popular health service is credible. Many Tories also question whether there is a plan to expedite these extra amounts in a way that would improve NHS efficiency.
There are other political headwinds – rising energy bills, the cost of net zero liabilities, supply chain and labor shortages and the continuing costs of Brexit.
The government is only fueled by the weakness of the opposition. If Johnson is to go through the difficult political and economic storms that lie ahead, he will have to address fundamental shortcomings in his government, including a cabinet full of poorly performing ministers.
Too many of Johnson’s core missions of the green industrial revolution for equality still remain white pages. A more capable cabinet will need to drive public service reform and turn slogans and major initiatives into detailed delivery. If money is tight, it should count.
For most of Johnson’s career, the prime minister has succeeded in exceeding the consequences of his actions. If this week was a willingness to address unpleasant choices and pay attention to the difficult government, it would be a welcome new phase of its administration.