Boris Johnson won the battle to contain the anger of his MPs and cabinet over the anti-manifesto tax hike on Tuesday, but reluctant Tories have warned he has yet to win the war.
After a few explosive days of briefings from furious but mostly anonymous ministers and backbenchers, the tactic of keeping them in the dark about the details until the last moment seemed to be paying off for the PM, with a early voting scheduled for Wednesday. to be won comfortably by the government.
But the longer-term political issues Johnson faces show no signs of abating, with frustration over a chaotic preparation for the announcement. Two compared the current Downing Street operation to the turmoil of Theresa Mays’ tenure.
He got away with it, a potential rebel who ended up speaking for Johnson in the Commons sighed afterward. Another said handling the ad was a group fuck, but kept his head under the parapet, conceding that there weren’t enough reviews to warrant a post.
They and others who chose not to openly condemn Johnson for breaking one of his six election guarantees attributed it to several factors: the details not being as bad as the initial reports feared (end of account, Johnson assured that dividends and active retirees will not be spared by the tax hike); the absence of an alternative plan from Labor leader Kier Starmer; and negligible public outcry.
Many also hailed the Prime Minister as an adult, openly admitting in the House of Commons that the increase in National Insurance Contributions (NICs) ran counter to a clear commitment not to increase taxpayer contributions.
Will Tanner, former deputy head of Political Unit No 10 under May, who is now director of think tank Onward, said Johnson grabbed the nettle. He said: It would have been much worse if he had tried to suggest that he had not broken an overt engagement. Because this is a new levy, it would have been possible, but it would have seemed devious and misleading. The fact that he owned it is something that will be welcomed by voters.
More and more Conservative MPs have said they feel uncomfortable with the NIC hike. But they called it the lesser of many evils or a blunt instrument that may need to be tweaked later.
Another backbench MP Dr Dan Poulter said he preferred a post-death inheritance levy instead to raise money for welfare reform, although he can understand why the government would prefer to increase national insurance, which is in line with the initial proposals set out. by the 2011 Dilnot report on welfare reform.
The biggest policy change since the weekend that seemed to keep criticism muted was the extension of the tax hike to cover active retirees, who are exempt from NICs. It really saved them, said a so-called Tory rebel.
But another called for caution, saying George Osbornes’ experience as Chancellor has proven that if you wait 48 hours anything can unravel in details.
Some conservatives were wary of rumors of a cabinet reshuffle on Thursday fueled by a glaring hole in government business that day, a lack of denials by No.10 and two remarkable tinkering: a vacant junior minister post at the ministry of Foreign affairs and the return to work of Suella Braverman, who had been covered as attorney general while on maternity leave by Michael Ellis.
Sonia Khan, former special advisor to Chancellors Philip Hammond and Sajid Javid, said the government is unlikely to turn away from these rumors because they are helping you and could be used to frenzy people. Khan also suggested that some Tories might be tired of successive governments’ reluctance to reform welfare, and that in the same way that some have supported Johnson to organize Brexit, they now thought it would be better for him to back down. content with social protection.
A former Tory Campaign HQ insider concluded No 10 was seen as quite vindictive by Tory MPs who feared ruining their chances of promotion, adding: Once you’re out in the cold you’ll rarely come back. Another conservative aide said it was a simple theory game. Yes, the chances of a reshuffle are slim, but are you really going to blow your odds if you were to then spend the next two or three years going after yourself?
Foreshadowing a difficult fall for Johnson, a minister acknowledged that anger at the PM of his own MPs could be at an all-time high. No one knows what the prime minister stands for other than winning the election, so their loyalty is only to his success, they said. Another leader said: He developed very early on what Margaret Thatcher did quite late in her tenure as prime minister, an inability to distinguish what is popular. He’s not as beloved as he thinks he is.
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