Boris Johnson has followed in Labour’s footsteps in his handling of the NHS and social care crisis

The real danger to the prime minister’s plan came from his own side – but there was no sign of rebellion today, writes John Rentoul

Tuesday 07 September 2021 17:30
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<p>Boris Johnson was home and dry by the time he arrived in the Commons </p>

Boris Johnson was home and dry by the time he arrived in the Commons

If Keir Starmer had asked a panel of left-wing economists to advise him on what Labour’s policy on the NHS, social care and tax should be, they would have come up with something remarkably similar to the announcement made by the prime minister today.

Boris Johnson’s ideologically flexible plan is even more “Labour” than the changes made by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in 2002, when they put up national insurance to pay for the NHS – laying the foundations for the health service being the best it has ever been by 2010. Unlike that tax rise, today’s plan extends the new levy to working pensioners who don’t currently pay national insurance contributions.

The new “health and social care levy” is not as fair as it could be, because it won’t be applied to rental income or to capital gains, but taxing people above the state pension age, many of whom are highly paid, meets one of the main objections to the use of national insurance rather than income tax.

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