Can Johnson defeat his welfare critics?
Is Boris Johnson’s welfare plan about to cross the House of Commons? Today, the Prime Minister will unveil the details of the package he is proposing. After presenting his plans to cabinet, he will be on display in the Commons ahead of a 5 p.m. press conference where Johnson will appear alongside Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid. Rumors are circulating that No.10 could then opt for a Commons vote this week in the short term – in an effort to bring the plans to fruition before the rebels have time to organize.
However, it is raining lightly on Johnson’s parade because cabinet ministers have so far been kept out. Conservative MPs are on a rampage and while the polls are fairly supportive of the plan, no one can really predict what effect a manifesto promise will so clearly shatter in the next election. As for what Johnson will announce, he is expected to sell it as the “health and social care levy” – the money initially used to clear the backlog and then fund social care.
The concern in the Treasury is that the money will never reach social services – instead, it will all be swallowed up by the NHS. In an effort to allay these concerns, the plan is to “legally reserve” the hike – however, the laws can clearly be overturned. There are also rumors that Johnson may this week announce the end of the triple pension lockdown while it is there – as a way to show that it is not just about the working-age population who are in. takes a hit.
Will the plans go through his cabinet and his party? At 10 Downing Street, cabinet approval is considered the easier of the two. The threat of an imminent reshuffle will certainly draw attention to the consequences of speaking out – but there could always be a minister ready to take a stand. Downing Street sees backbenchers as harder to win. Over the weekend, parliamentarians sent whips quotes from articles suggesting the NI hike is regressive and the welfare plan ineffective. The fact that it is linked with funds to clear the backlog could make opposition more difficult.
With a majority of around 80, Johnson believes he can face his critics. When the Chancellor addressed MPs last night at a 1922 Committee reception, he urged them to keep a united front and, like him, to follow the Prime Minister’s lead. With plenty of objections from MPs worried about the consequences of breaking a manifesto pledge, it will ultimately depend on whether they trust Johnson to make the right decision.