DAN WOOTTON: Boris needs to listen to Rees-Mogg over tax rises

DAN WOOTTON: Boris needs to listen to Rees-Mogg and make our Peloton-loving WFH public sector take the pain of balancing Britain’s books, not hard-working people who thought they voted for low-tax Tories and have ended up with Labour-lite

Why can Boris Johnson not see when his allies are trying to save him from himself?

The country – battered and bruised after two years of coronavirus and unnecessarily devastating lockdowns – is facing a cost-of-living crisis worse that many will remember in their lifetimes.

ITV’s trusted consumer champion Martin Lewis this week crystalised the fear of so many who are deeply concerned that when electricity bills skyrocket from April as the price cap is lifted, hardworking families will be facing the choice of whether to ‘heat or eat’.

Yet the big-state Boris Tories – New Labour with a shaggy dog hairstyle – seem to want to continue on an unfathomable march towards becoming the high tax party.

Earlier this week Boris ruled out going through with one of his best Brexit promises to scrap VAT from electricity bills, something that was impossible when we were members of the European Union.

And, probably because he’s terrified of the earbashing that would come from Carrie at home, he has steadfastly refused to slash the ludicrous green levies that make up an extortionate 23 per cent of all our electricity bills.

So Jacob Rees-Mogg – one of the few senior ministers prepared to stand up for small C conservative principles – suggested a different strategy to Boris and the Chancellor Rishi Sunak in what amounts to a long-awaited Cabinet challenge this week.

Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg pictured outside Downing Street, London, last month

Emboldened by the Tory backbenchers whose rebellion against Plan BS, which forced the PM to avoid further restrictions over Christmas and New Year, he lobbied Boris and Rishi to scrap the unpalatable £12 billion, 1.25 per cent National Insurance increase, due to kick in this April, just as inflation is predicted to soar a further two per cent.

That increase is going to cost middle-income earners around £300 a year, according to the Resolution Foundation.

The unexpected tax was meant to be for controversial social care reform but will first be used to help fund the post-Covid health service catch-up, with many government sources openly fearing the cash will forever be funnelled into the NHS blackhole.

But the Mogg hadn’t finished there.

He went on to suggest that much of the money could be saved if there was a wholescale cull of the lazy civil servants who have used the pandemic to ‘work from home’ and avoid Whitehall at all costs, when, in fact, they’ve been working out on their expensive Peloton bikes and watching episodes of Loose Women in their pants on the sofa.

It is feared public sector workers could use a new loophole that allows them to stay off work on full pay for 28 days without a sick note to not even bother to work from home.

Dan Wootton (pictured) asks: ‘Why can Boris Johnson not see when his allies are trying to save him from himself?’

My first reaction to Rees-Mogg’s challenge of the newly invented tax is hallelujah that there is at least one true-blue Tory left in the Cabinet prepared to stand up to the PM.

But then I’m filled with frustration as Boris and Rishi dismiss the proposal out of hand and are instead considering yet another socialist policy to bailout the flailing energy industry.

In fact, the Chancellor responded publicly today by saying ‘it is always easy to duck difficult decisions but I don’t think that is the responsible thing to do’, in an apparent swipe at the Mogg that will not go down well with Conservative backbenchers, elected on a low-tax manifesto.

Sunak added: ‘I think people’s priorities are for us to invest in the NHS, to invest in social care and we need to make sure that those investments are funded sustainably. That is what we are doing and now we have got to get on and deliver that change for people.’

Sorry, Rishi, the expectation from voters was that the government would reform and strengthen the health service WITHOUT hiking taxes.

We would have voted for Corbyn if that was what we wanted.

The Tories must immediately supercharge the economy by becoming the first western nation in the world to ditch all job destroying Covid restrictions, in turn boosting employment, industry and wages.

Besides, the polls, especially from the Red Wall seats where the Tories have taken an absolute hammering, should make it obvious that becoming Labour Lite isn’t going to be electorally successful for Boris.

Working class Labour voters backed him for the first time in 2019 because they believed he was going to use the Brexit dividend to free us from the hell of high taxes and hyper regulation, often enforced on us by EU membership.

An empty looking Whitehall street in London, pictured on January 28 last year – when England was in its third national lockdown

In my opinion, the Tories exist to cut the size of government, which is why it’s so disturbing that there are now estimated to be ‘more civil servants than there were at the time of the spending review in 2010’, according to the Institute for Government.

So the question that remains now is will any Cabinet ministers like Rees-Mogg be prepared to do the decent thing and quit like ex-Brexit Secretary Lord Frost, who walked over the government’s inability to live with Covid and the increasing tax burden.

Perhaps Boris’s morphing into the proponent of a nanny state on acid made sense while much of the economy was shut down because of the coronavirus crisis.

But it’s obvious to anyone sane that Omicron marks the beginning of the end of the pandemic, which no longer provides a threat to life where any government restrictions are acceptable.

The risk now is that freedom will not be possible for many Brits because life is going to be too expensive to fund the weekly shop, pay for heating or fill up the tank.

In the Commons this morning, Rees-Mogg insisted his party believed in ‘fiscal good sense’ and added: ‘There is no magic money tree.’

But Boris’s biggest weakness as PM is that he expects the British public to be that money tree, dipping into taxpayers’ pockets whenever the going gets tough.

For Boris to have any sort of post-Covid bounce back that approach must end.

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