PM has bet the house on health
BORIS Johnson had to trust his life to the NHS last year. Now he has put his Government and his political future in its hands. It is an almighty gamble.
The £36billion of un-Conservative tax rises yesterday will define his premiership.
He argues that the financial pain he is inflicting on workers and employers is worth it to fix the problems in health and social care. What if, as we reluctantly suspect, it doesn’t?
What if waiting lists are not slashed in two or three years? If social care is not fixed, let alone transformed?
Voters may forgive a broken election promise, several even, given the unforeseen catastrophe of Covid. But this new promise, funded by making most of us poorer, will be impossible to forgive if that too is broken.
The omens, depressingly, are not great.
What is the specific plan for spending this vast sum wisely? Where is the guarantee NHS bosses will make it work? What stops it being swallowed by the black hole of health funding, like so many massive cash injections before it?
Where is the reform the NHS needs to use its income far more efficiently?
Let us give the PM credit, though, for tackling a problem ducked by predecessors as too risky or difficult. For accepting the logic that mending our broken social care system is the key to rebuilding an NHS brought to its knees by Covid.
For braving the pain of breaking a manifesto pledge in order to fund OAPs’ care and slash waiting lists. For trying to ensure younger people won’t foot the bill alone and lower earners pay the least.
But it still rankles that struggling workers will be paying to preserve middle-class homes and inheritances.
And that, given the £98billion bill for HS2, given the billions wasted in the Covid battle (admittedly in that frantic rush to save lives) we are now hiking tax, not making meaningful savings.
Even with Labour too rudderless currently to cash in, and how pathetically devoid of ideas Keir Starmer was yesterday, there is peril here for the Tories.
Senior figures such as Rishi Sunak instinctively want low taxes. They understand the rocket-boost they give an economy. They will fear how badly it will hurt growth and jobs to hammer workers and employers, many also facing far higher corporation tax in 2023.
The Chancellor has done the right thing by loyally helping the PM try to deliver on his pledge to fix social care.
But he will know this huge National Insurance rise, creating the highest overall burden since the war, means the Tories are now only the lower taxes party — NOT the party of low taxes.
And giving up that mantle can only be worth doing if the NHS backlog IS cleared, and social care reinvented.
Without a plan for proper NHS reform, it’s one hell of an “if”.
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