Is it unfair on lower-paid workers?
Boris Johnson clearly has incredible confidence in his ability to charm and convince the electorate that he remains the right man for the job when the next general election comes around. Indeed there have been recent claims that the Prime Minister now wants to stay in office for more than eleven years, longer than even the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, held the top job. Johnson’s current position in the popularity stakes is at its lowest since he took office. His, to put it politely, “mistruths”, his continued loyalty to ministers who have broken the ministerial code, and his breaking of manifesto pledges have gradually worn away at his standing with the electorate, particularly those voters the Tories won over at the last election.
But the recent decisions to raise taxes through a National Insurance hike, cut universal credit payments, and end the triple lock promise protecting pensions, have combined to create a further triple; a triple whammy. Perhaps the PM’s hardworking advisors thought it best to get all the bad news over in one go. Then, while everyone, especially the low paid and the pensioners were still reeling, Johnson could move swiftly on, talk about something less controversial, something like options to combat Covid-19 as winter approaches. And while he was standing in front of a couple of Union flags next to scientific advisors and nodding sagely as they explained scientific facts, he could leave his minions to take the flak over the bad news, manifesto breaking, decisions.
And the flak is coming, and from many influential and potentially significant voices regarding polling. Firstly there are the pensioners, and despite Works and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey saying the triple lock would be reduced to a double lock only temporarily, her words have cut mostly little ice, with the campaign group Silver Voices warning that the decision would lead to older voters abandoning the Tories. Ms Coffey has come in for further, huge criticism after repeatedly and wrongly saying that universal credit claimants could recoup their £20-a-week benefit cut by working just two extra hours per week.
Tax experts have since said that in reality it would need up to nine extra hours’ work for the lowest paid to actually end up with £20. The cut is predicted to plunge at least half a million people into poverty, including 200,000 children. But it is the National Insurance tax hike, said to be necessary to cover the NHS cash crisis and spiralling social care costs that, in turn, could prove most costly for the Tories. Figures show that the lowest paid will proportionately suffer most from the tax increase and many of those live in the formerly known “Red Wall” areas in the north. The Tories demolished that wall in the last election, but with Labour MPs and others repeatedly stating that the rich should be shouldering the burden of tax rises, it could be that next time around, it is the newly constructed “Blue Wall” that comes tumbling down.