What's Boris Johnson's reshuffle really all about?

“This is a mad way to run the country,” confessed a member of the government.

Whether prime ministers wield sharp knives or attack with blunt spoons, reshuffle days like this are indeed a strange mixture of bravado and farce.

Bravado when, earlier, one cabinet minister told me, “I think I’m OK,” as, ashen-faced, looking nauseous and clammy, they were en route to see the prime minister before promptly being sacked.

And farce when, as legend has it, on several occasions, would-be ministers end up jobless, because the post-it notes with their name on fell off the board. Forgotten, their career plunged to the floor too.

Read more on BBC News: What’s Boris Johnson’s reshuffle really all about?

Did they fix UK social care or just kick the can down the road?

I’m not convinced that the UK social care crisis will be fixed by the rise in NIC contributions. It sounds to me that the additional tax payable from next April, will be used to drive down the NHS backlog, which was already growing pre-pandemic. The new care reforms are slated to come into effect in late 2023 but the details are sketchy. No mention of reform of the care providers, staff wages and conditions.

Boris Johnson said at PMQs today words to the effect that there will be innovative private firms that will insure you against selling your house to pay for care.

This article is by Stephen Bush, political editor of the New Statesman and is worth a read. Please note that the copyright belongs to The new Statesman.

The government will increase National Insurance from 12 per cent to 13.25 per cent next year to… do what, exactly? The headline that Boris Johnson wants (and, with a few exceptions in today’s papers, the headline he has got) is that the money is to fix the social care crisis and to reform social care.

But if you look at the rest of what he, Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid are saying, then the one thing that the government has not done is provide the money to fix the crisis and to reform social care.

Instead, it has hiked taxes in order to spend more money on reducing waiting times in the National Health Service, laid out a broad set of principles about what the balance between the state and private individuals should be in paying for social care, and invented a new way to increase income tax through the so-called health and social care levy, which will come into being as a separate line on payslips from the 2023 tax year. (“So-called” because the costs of health and social care are far in excess of what the levy raises: just like National Insurance, it’s another tool for the Treasury to increase income tax without saying it is increasing income tax.)

Politically speaking, Johnson is surely right to believe that mounting NHS waiting times (which were constantly getting longer before the pandemic and are significantly worse now) are a bigger problem for the government today than the social care crisis. But that’s the biggest reason to be dubious about claims that the money for fixing social care is going to come from yesterday’s tax hike: at no point in British political history has money from the NHS been taken back out of it and redirected to elsewhere in the British state, and it seems unlikely, to put it mildly, that we are going to start in three years’ time. So the money for social care will have to come from somewhere else, whether it’s more borrowing, taxes elsewhere, or, the most likely alternative in my view, a big I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-income-tax increase to the health and social care levy.

There are a couple of risks to that approach: the first is that this plan depends on the social care system limping on in its present state, unnoticed by most people, for the next three years. It’s possible that the pressures on social care, the ongoing cuts to local authority budgets, and the ever-growing number of people of all ages in need of social care won’t cause a major crisis before 2023. But it’s equally possible that the problem becomes more acute the wrong side of the next election.

The second risk is that the broken manifesto promise and the reality that, for all the talk of ending austerity, the rest of the parliament is going to be one in which spending restraint continues, gives the government a reputation for shiftiness: for breaking its promises and failing to deliver. The comparison that Johnson’s inner circle and the Treasury have kept making is to Gordon Brown’s increase in National Insurance following the 2001 election. The equally important part of Brown’s tax increase is that he didn’t need to do the same thing in 2003, and that by 2005, the NHS was, visibly, in a better state of repair than it had been in 2001.

The big bet that Johnson is making is that, when the next election rolls around, the United Kingdom will feel and look like a country where the crisis in health and social care is being addressed, even if it isn’t really, and even if the difficult decisions are still being put off and the actual task of fixing social care has been kicked into the next parliament.

UK Government says polluters can dump sewage into rivers as Brexit disrupts water treatment

It beggars belief that the UK government is telling businesses they can dump raw sewage into our rivers because of Brexit-related issues with the supply chain. Boris Johnson’s “Sunlit Uplands” will start to stink if this carries on much longer.

This is the quote from today’s “Inside Politics” email from The Independent:

Is Brexit just a load of crap? Amid the well-documented supply chain and lorry driver shortage crises, ministers have given businesses the green light to dump the brown stuff in Britain’s rivers. Some companies have found it more difficult to get hold of water treatment chemicals because of supply chain disruption at ports blamed primarily on the UK’s departure from the EU.

The Environment Agency this week said companies struggling to get hold of such products would be allowed to “discharge effluent without meeting the conditions” of their permits, which normally require water to be treated.

The Green Party is furious. Amelia Womack, deputy leader, said: “This is a failure of their understanding on how our country’s most basic infrastructure works and using our environment as a dumping ground rather than addressing the root causes of the problem. “To prevent further Brexit chaos and undermining of environmental protections, the government must work to mend supply chains and work to cooperate rather than trying to look ‘tough’.”

The government says the measures are “strictly time-limited and there are robust conditions in place to mitigate risks to the environment”. Maybe best to avoid wild swimming for a while.

Read the full article here

Finished reading

Finished reading: How to Lose a Country: The 7 Steps from Democracy to Dictatorship by Ece Temelkuran 📚

How to Lose a Country is an impassioned plea, a warning to the world that populism and nationalism don’t march fully-formed into government; they creep. There’s a lot about post-Brexit England that I recognised in the book that should concern us all.

As one of the panellists, I smiled bitterly as I thought about how all these brilliant journalists were yet to suffer the despair of realising that their tactics were akin to playing chess against a pigeon, as someone once described debating evolution with a creationist: the pigeon will just knock over all the pieces and shit on the board, then depart, proudly claiming victory and leaving the mess behind for you to clean up.

Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville had a message for politicians of all stripes: “The standards of leaders in this country in the last couple years has been poor. And looking at that man there that’s everything a leader should be: respectful, humble, telling the truth”.

A picture is worth 1000 words.

Spotted on a hoarding in Bristol. 📷

boris the dunce