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Betrayal of party principles by both Tories and Labour?

Tories may increase taxes, while Labour stands against it

By Ricky Browne

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson seems intent on increasing tax despite his promises before the last election that he would not do that.

If he does so he may want to consider what happened to George Bush the first when he broke his promise – “Read my lips, no new taxes.”

Bush’s full quote was “And my opponent won’t rule out raising taxes. But I will. And the Congress will push me to raise taxes, and I’ll say no, and they’ll push, and I’ll say no, and they’ll push again. And I’ll say to them: Read my lips. No new taxes.”. He made the promise  in August, 1988, during his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.

Read my lips… no new taxes Vice President Bush gives his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, New Orleans, LA., 18 Aug 88. Photo: George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

Many people believe that breaking that promise caused Bush to lose his relection campaign against Bill Clinton– though that may undervalue the strength of Ross Perot’s campaign as an independent candidate.

Likewise, for the last election, Boris Johnson guaranteed in the Conservative manifesto that “We will not raise the rate of income tax, VAT or National Insurance.”

That was the last of his six promises His number one promise was: “Extra funding for the NHS, with 50,000 more nurses and 50 million more GP surgery appointments a year.” So there was always a bit of a dichotomy there.

A work of fiction?

Thank you for supporting our majority Conservative Government so we can move our great country on instead of going backwards,” Johnson said, before signing his list of promises.

So much for that faithful guarantee if this increase goes through. Who will trust the Conservatives again – assuming for a moment that anyone actually believes anything that any politician says?

Johnson has not tweeted about the subject yet, and today gave a speech to parliament about the UK response to the Afghanistan situation. With a new haircut he appeared a little less chaotic than usual. But he stayed well away from the latest contentious issue.

The argument for the tax increase  is that the something needs to be done about social care and the NHS needs more investment thanks to the devastating pandemic – something that was never imagined at the time of writing those manifesto promises.

So now, it appears that there will be an increase in National Insurance for both employees and employers.

While many people may agree that an increase in tax is necessary – especially for the identified area of social care funding – the break of a fundamental promise is not going to go down well with many voters.

And the Labour party, who you would think would be all for an increase in funding for social care, see this as an opportunity to win some votes away from the Conservatives.

Starmer is against new taxes

Leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer has come out against the tax increase.

“We do need more investment in the NHS and social care but national insurance, this way of doing it … hits low earners, it hits young people and it hits businesses”, Starmer told the Daily Mirror.

But he is also trying to straddle the fence, adding: “After 11 years of neglect we do need a solution.”

“We don’t agree that is the appropriate way to do it. Do we accept we need more investment? Yes. Do we accept NI is the right way to do it? No,” Starmer said.

So who now is the party that cares for the poor and who is the party who cares for the rich?

Is Labour becoming more Conservative than the Conservatives as the Tories become more like Labour?

Johnson is probably working on the premise that the Conservatives lead is so massive, that it can risk breaking its promise to the people, and go ahead and raise taxes for a worthy cause.

But the idea is bringing strain to the Conservative party, with some MPs set against it as a betrayal of both a promise and Conservative party principles.

At least three former Conservative chancellors have also come out against the plans, according to The Telegraph, including Philip Hammond, Ken Clarke and Norman Lamont.

Philip Hammond

“I think that if the Government were to go ahead with the proposed increase in National Insurance contributions, breaking a manifesto commitment in order to underwrite the care costs of older people with homes, I think that would provoke a [significant] backlash.

“I think it would cause the Government – the Conservative Party – very significant damage,” Hammond was reported as saying by The Telegraph. Hammond was Chancellor of the Exchequer from 2016 to 2019.

Meanwhile, it could be argued that Starmer is betraying his party’s principles as well, in an effort to win votes.

Kick the can down the road? Photo: Alarmy

Would it be best for the Conservatives to kick this can down the road towards the next election – at which point all parties may agree that there will be more investment in social care, that may require a tax increase?

The problem isn’t necessarily how much more people will have to pay in tax. It is estimated that a person with a salary of £30,000 per year would need to pay £200 more in tax.

The problem is that a guarantee is being broken, just two years after making it.

And never again would the Conservatives be able to run an election campaign on the promise to not increase taxes, handing a big advantage over to the Labour party.

With Labour saying they won’t support this increase, and with many Conservative MPs against it, it is possible that parliament will not allow it to go forward. That could be an embarrassment to Johnson, but it may spare him the negativity of breaking his word.

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