Boris Johnson’s plans to raise national insurance contributions to pay for the NHS and social care have left us with many unanswered questions. One of the biggest mysteries is how did the Conservative party become the party of endless Tory tax rises?
It’s certainly been a damascene conversion for the prime minister himself. Here’s the highlights of his speech on 17 April 2002 slamming the Labour budget's national insurance hikes:
Labour Members may have missed two points in their discussion of the national insurance hikes: first, that those raises will hit the very public sector workers whom they hoped would benefit from the Chancellor's spending plans; and, secondly, as the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Rendel) rightly said, that the national insurance increases are regressive, and someone earning £32,000 will pay exactly the same as someone earning £132,000. That may be why Labour Members were so jubilant: we all know that they are now fat cats and MPs, and will not be as hard hit, relatively speaking, as many of their constituents.
I merely point out that it is ironic that Labour Members should cheer a regressive tax. Those regressive taxes are expected to go a very long way. The Chancellor said that he would increase public spending from £390 billion to £470 billion in about four years' time. I hope that I heard him correctly. If his growth projections are wrong, someone will pick up a large bill, and I expect that it will be the taxpayer.
We have had five years of bluff about the Labour Government's tax and spending intentions. Now, at last, we are getting the reality—in their hearts they are deeply wedded to tax and spend, and they have no more imaginative prescriptions for the NHS than those outlined by Labour Members today. All the froth, the candy floss and the spin of new Labour have finally been blown away. People such as the hon. Member for Hemsworth have been revealed in their true colours as taxers and spenders and believers in the NHS unreformed and as it is—monolithic and monopolistic. They think that that is the only way to improve health care in this country. I hope that they are right; I fear very much that they will be proved wrong.
You can find Boris’ full speech here. As he said at the time, taxpayers won’t tolerate being hoodwinked into needless rises on hard-working families.