Good morning. Boris Johnson takes a close interest in how his government is reported by the national newspapers and, having announced a £12bn tax rise that clearly breaks a manifesto promise, he might have expected a mauling. Although the coverage is certainly critical, it could have been worse. But Johnson will be paying particular attention to his former employer, the Daily Telegraph, an institution he describes as his “true boss”, and, like other conservative papers, it is particularly interested in the idea that Johnson’s announcement means the Tories have given up on being a low-tax party.
Here is the Telegraph’s front page.
And here is the Times’.
Both papers are understating the case. The highest tax burden for 70 years means the highest tax burden in history, because before the creation of the postwar welfare state, tax was lower because the state just did a lot less. The Institute for Fiscal Studies says the tax burden is now at its highest-ever sustained level. (That means excluding wars.) The Daily Mail acknowledges this.
My colleague Helen Sullivan has a full report on how the papers are covering the announcement this morning here.
On the Today programme this morning Torsten Bell, a former Labour party policy adviser who now heads the Resolution Foundation thinktank, said yesterday’s announcement meant the Tories were no longer a low-tax party.
We’ve learned that low-tax Conservatism is dead. This is the biggest set of tax rises since the 1970s if you take this together with the tax rises in the March budget.
But Sajid Javid, the health secretary, has denied this. He told the Today programme:
We are the party of low taxation, we will always be a party of low taxation.
When the presenter, Nick Robinson, told him that the tax burden was now at its highest level ever, Javid replied:
Actually, even with this change in the levy, if you take that into account and use the [Office for Budget Responsibility’s] latest numbers, that means the total tax burden as a proportion of our GDP is about 35.5%. That is still lower than France, Italy and Germany. We are still a low-tax country after this change, and we will always remain a low-tax country.
But we are also a responsible, Conservative government that believes passionately in the NHS, and I think this package shows exactly the lengths we would go to to support the NHS.
Here is the agenda for the day.
12pm: Boris Johnson faces Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs.
Around 1pm: MPs start the debate on the £12bn tax rise for health and social care announced yesterday. The vote, which the government is expected to win comfortably, will be at 7pm.
After 2pm: Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, gives a statement to the Scottish parliament on Covid.
Today I will mostly be focusing on reaction to yesterday’s health and social care announcement, PMQs and the debate in the Commons. For Covid coverage, do read our global coronavirus live blog.
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