Boris Johnson says he will not return to 'failed model'
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A Cabinet source confirmed the Prime Minister’s intentions as Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a £500million jobs proposal to keep the over-50s in employment. Mr Johnson tried to calm Tory jitters about the recent National Insurance hike by insisting he will do everything possible to prevent any further rises in levies on households and businesses under his premiership.
He said: “If I can possibly avoid it, I do not want to raise taxes again, of course not.”
And a Cabinet source last night confirmed that the Prime Minister and the Chancellor hope to be able to return to their tax-cutting plans by the next election, expected in 2023 or 2024.
The source said: “We want to get back on track to tax cuts.”
Ministers are understood to be braced for punishing Whitehall budget settlements in the Chancellor’s spending round at the end of the month to allow room to deliver tax cuts towards the end of the current parliamentary term.
Mr Johnson defended his record on tax in a fiery interview on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show to mark the start of the Tory conference in Manchester yesterday.
He said: “I can tell you that you have no fiercer and more zealous opponent of unnecessary tax rises than me.
“But we’ve had to deal with a pandemic on a scale which this country has not seen before in our lifetimes and long before.”
Treasury sources yesterday denied reports that the PM has agreed on a tax cut “pact” with Mr Sunak.
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A Treasury source said: “I don’t think Rishi or the Prime Minister at this point are thinking about tax cuts.”
As Tory Party officials arrived in Manchester for their conference, senior backbenchers insisted that the party must work to rebuild its reputation as the low-tax party.
Senior Tory backbencher Graham Brady fired a warning shot at the PM and Chancellor last night by calling for a plan to lower taxes to be set out “well before” the next election.
The chairman of the backbench Conservative 1922 Committee said letting people “keep more of their own money” was a “natural conservative instinct”.
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He told a Tory conference fringe meeting: “One of the difficulties we have faced this year of course is that while Conservatives don’t like raising taxes, nor do Conservatives like constantly borrowing more and more money and leaving future generations to pay it back either.
“I think a certain fiscal adjustment recognising the consequence of what has gone on over the last year-and-a-half is understandable.
“The question is how do we turn that around and make sure there is a clear and plausible message for the next general election.
“And if we want to go into the next general election with a credible reputation as the party that believes in the lowest taxes, you’ve got to start sooner than that.
“You’ve got to set out something well before.”
Former Tory Cabinet minister David Davis said yesterday: “You don’t level up by increasing the tax and cost of living on the working class. We have to be absolutely clear what levelling up means.”
Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg fired a fresh warning at Mr Johnson not to hike taxes any further, telling the PM taxation has hit “the limit”.
You have no fiercer and more zealous opponent of unnecessary tax rises than me
A poll yesterday triggered alarm that the Tories are shedding their reputation as the low-tax party, particularly among working-class voters.
The survey of 2,036 votes commissioned by the TaxPayers’ Alliance found 34 per cent thought Labour could be more trusted than the Tories to keep taxes low.
The poll, carried out by opinion research firm Public First, found working-class taxpayers were particularly worried about their living standards.
John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Taxpayers are facing the highest burden in 70 years, and are crying out for politicians to relieve the pressures whittling away the money in their wallets.
“Hard-working households and struggling firms know that things are only likely to get worse over the coming months.
“The Budget is an opportunity for the Chancellor to prove the Tories still care about cutting the cost of living for ordinary taxpayers.”
On The Andrew Marr Show, Mr Johnson reacted angrily to accusations from the broadcaster that his Government had raised tax and spending to the highest level since the 1940s, with a fiscal approach that is closer to former Labour premier Harold Wilson than Margaret Thatcher.
The PM told Mr Marr: “You’re talking total nonsense.
“Neither of those distinguished people had to deal with a pandemic on the scale that we have.
“Neither of them had a fiscal meteorite hit their system in the scale that we have.
“We’ve had to look after the British people with £407billion of protection for their jobs, for people’s livelihoods.
“And I’ll tell you something about that package. It was most beneficial to the poorest and the neediest in society.
“What you’re now seeing is the British economy bouncing back more strongly than any other G7 economy.
“And you’re seeing that because this Government took the tough decisions which were objected to at the time – to open up our economy and to do the vaccine rollout in the way that we did.
“We now have the fastest growing economy in the G7.”
Mr Johnson said his tax rise was specifically to tackle the backlog of treatment and operations in the NHS and support the social care system.
He said: “We’re raising taxes to pay for the NHS and people understand that.”
He claimed Chancellor Sunak’s 1.25 percent National Insurance hike, which will eventually be turned into a new Health and Social Care Levy, would raise far more from the wealthy than the less well off.
Mr Johnson added: “It’s a totally different tax, because the people who are paying the most for the NHS, the £36billion that we’re putting in, are the richest, the wealthiest people in society.
“If you look at the National Insurance bill, the biggest payers of that National Insurance bill are the banks.”
Mr Sunak will today outline his £500million jobs plan, a blueprint to get Britain back to work after Covid.
He will also make a new effort to help over-50s back into the workplace.
Tory officials gathered in Manchester yesterday for the party’s annual conference.
There was plenty of drama as the party bigwigs gathered.
Demonstrators took part in a march organised by the People’s Assembly anti-austerity group, while armed police kept watch over the Manchester Central Convention Complex.
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