MAIL ON SUNDAY COMMENT: Higher taxes are never welcome
11th September 2021

MAIL ON SUNDAY COMMENT: Higher taxes are never welcome. Voters will need to know they are getting value for money

This newspaper is a committed supporter of Boris Johnson and the Conservative Government, especially because of their praiseworthy successes in getting Brexit done, and in masterminding and implementing one of the most effective Covid vaccine programmes in the world.

The Mail on Sunday now sincerely hopes that the Prime Minister’s decision to break clear manifesto promises, especially by increasing taxation to boost the NHS and social care, will not come back to bite him in future. But after the events of the past week, it is not easy to be optimistic.

Was it really wise for a Premier who is so often accused of playing fast and loose with the truth to brazenly rip up an undoubted, undeniable personal pledge? 

The Mail on Sunday now sincerely hopes that the Prime Minister’s decision to break clear manifesto promises, especially by increasing taxation to boost the NHS and social care, will not come back to bite him in future

Perhaps even more important, was it wise to endanger the Tories’ reputation as the party of low taxation – a reputation that plays a major part in securing the loyalty of Conservative voters who believe passionately that free men and women should be allowed to spend or save their own hard-earned money as they wish, as far as possible?

We strongly advised against this move, but it has now happened. The task of the Government’s friends and supporters now is to ensure that something good comes out of this unsatisfactory episode – in which the official Opposition had little of interest or worth to say.

Millions of homeowners regard the houses for which they have worked and saved all their lives as much more than assets, and are distressed by the danger that they may be forced to sell them to pay for care in later life.

The Government’s new levy simply does not remove that risk from large numbers of people, and there is still a strong incentive to devise some form of insurance against this, which the Government should urgently pursue.

There is also the continuing question of the NHS, much more loved in the abstract than it is when people come up against it in practice. One thing is now absolutely settled. The years of Labour claims that they were the sole ‘party of the NHS’, and that the Tories did not care about it and would not spend on it, have been proven to be utterly false. Now that the Conservatives are at least as much ‘the party of the NHS’ as Labour, if not rather more so, they are freer to improve it.

In fact, they have an obligation to do so. Uncritical worship is never good for any institution, and the reverence given to the Health Service has protected its leaden bureaucracy, and its regrettable clinical failures.

The foolish idea that the only other possible model is the grotesque failed health system in the US is far too common among politicians and media.

In fact, many other advanced countries – from Canada to Sweden – have health systems from which we could and should learn much.

Let us hope that Downing Street’s new delivery unit, headed by Emily Lawson, who was very effective in guiding the NHS vaccination programme, will make sure that the new money now flowing into the NHS does some measurable good.

Once this levy begins to appear on the nation’s payslips, voters are going to want to know that they are getting their money’s worth. And so they should.

Higher taxes are never welcome, but they are much more tolerable if they are obviously giving something back to those who pay them.

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