Just Three Ministers Challenged Boris over Manifesto Pledge-Breaking Tax Hike

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a press conference inside the Downing Street Briefing Room in central London on September 7, 2021. - Breaking an election pledge not to raise taxes, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday announced hefty new funding to fix a social care crisis and …
TOBY MELVILLE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Just three Cabinet ministers had reportedly challenged Boris Johnson over his proposed tax hike, with media suggesting any failed rebellion was minimised amidst the threat of an impending reshuffle of the prime minister’s top table.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Johnson announced a rise in National Insurance tax of 1.25 per cent from April 2022, breaking his election manifesto pledge. Media estimates put that rise on someone earning £20,000 annually to losing around £130 a year and for someone on a salary of £30,000, a £255 loss. A doctor earning average wages could lose as much as £650.

The Telegraph reports that just three Cabinet ministers challenged the prime minister on the plans, describing how any dissent “dissolves with barely a whimper” after the threat of a reshuffle sent “rebels scurrying”, implying ministers were more concerned with their careers than their principles. As LBC radio notes, none have since resigned over the plans.

The newspaper also states that just ten ‘rebel’ MPs had written a letter to the prime minister with questions over the proposal, but it was not known if the letter was even sent.

unnamed sources told the Tory-leaning newspaper that those who raised questions — but who stepped back from actually taking action — were Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg, Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss, and Cabinet Office Minister Lord Frost.

In a column for the Sunday Express, Jacob Rees-Mogg had reminded readers of the famous words of former U.S. President George Herbert Walker Bush, who lost re-election to Bill Clinton, “Read my lips: no new taxes,” noting that “voters remembered those words after president Bush had forgotten them”.

Media outlets in the following days took the reference as a warning to the prime minister likewise not to break his manifesto pledge and raise taxes, and perhaps suggesting Rees-Mogg might hold Johnson to account.

However, both Rees-Mogg and Ms Truss are expected to back the measures in the Commons vote expected today. Cabinet minister Lord Frost, who is a peer, will not be able to vote on the plans until they reach the House of Lords.

This takes the reported Cabinet rebellion in action to zero.

Others in the Cabinet who had questions or objections but did not speak up include, according to the sources, Priti Patel, the Home Secretary currently under scrutiny over the failure to get the migrant crisis in the English Channel under control; Secretary of State at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Kwasi Kwarteng; and Justice Secretary Robert Buckland.

As few as between six and 12 Conservative MPs are expected to vote against the tax rise on Wednesday.

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