This week the British Parliament returned from summer break, and because there are currently almost no coronavirus restrictions in England, that means one thing: the House of Commons is again as full as it was before the pandemic began. MPs sit side by side, many of them without masks, although wearing face masks can lead to inferences about party affiliation.
And on the other hand: Now again it’s time for the evening reception, No. On the roof of the House of Commons along 10 Downing Street. On Monday evening, the “1922 Committee,” a union of all backbenchers from rather masked Tories, was invited over for drinks. Hot champagne served, report those who were there. And then, surprisingly, came a guest who wasn’t expected: Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“22”, as it is called for short, meets every week away from meetings. His influence within the Conservative Party should not be underestimated, which is why it could be interpreted as a sign that Johnson appeared there on Monday evening. The 22s are his critics, and Johnson is trying to push a plan that has the potential to spark a genuine rebellion in his party.
Several Tory lawmakers were quoted on Tuesday as to how much and why they oppose Johnson’s latest plans, let alone opposition lawmakers. Former Conservative Party leader Ian Duncan Smith talks of “fraud” in Im Wire. In the afternoon, Johnson presented his plans to the House of Commons: from April 2022, contributions to National Insurance, the equivalent of Social Security, are to be increased to 1.25 percent for employees and employers. In addition, the tax on dividends from the shares of the company is to be increased by 1.25 percent.
This should generate over 40 billion euros in the next three years. The money will primarily benefit the care and health system, in addition to the roughly six billion euros that Johnson had already promised the NHS, the state health service. Johnson said Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should also benefit. Among other things, his plan draws an upper limit of about 100,000 euros for the expenses that each citizen has to spend on care during the course of his life.
Problems in the health system were evident even before the pandemic
The meeting quickly heated up. When Johnson said that his administration had drawn up a plan to address the health problems, the laughter among the opposition was so intense that Johnson had to voice his efforts to eliminate it. The Scottish SNP’s House of Commons, Ian Blackford, said Westminster should “keep its paws off the Scottish health system,” because Scotland does not trust this government.
Johnson’s problem is this: Before the 2019 election, he made a full promise to skip any contributions or tax increases, using the big word “guarantees.” The consequences of the pandemic now leave him with no choice, Johnson sees it. His critics see this as breaking his word. Especially since problems in care and health systems were clear before the pandemic, and Johnson is to blame for the fundamental reform that will be needed. Labor leader Keir Starmer described Johnson’s plan as “sticking plaster over a wound”.
Another central criticism of the opposition is that the rich are not asked to pay more than those who earn less – for example many NHS workers themselves. With an increase in income tax or a tax for the super-rich, this would have been possible, several Labor lawmakers said. There will be a lot more about the limits, percentages and other tax details for the next few days. Some media on Tuesday published online tools that Britishers could use to calculate how much they would have to pay.
“This government cares,” Johnson said loudly in one of his speeches, as he drummed loudly at the dispatch box in front of him, as if to hammer in the image he wanted to create himself: He is acting a prime minister, even if he has to break election promises to do so. It will be soon to be seen if it holds up. Parliament will vote on Johnson’s proposal this Wednesday.
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