HOW does Boris keep getting away with it?

As the predicted Tory rebellion over his National Insurance plans fizzles out, the Tousled One seems to have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat again.

“The levy is not as blunt as first suggested and if you vote against it, where does that leave social care?” asked one Tory backbencher.

Bravo Boris. It’s been a cunning exercise that involves steamrollering colleagues, wrongfooting opponents and lashings of deceit.

The Tory leader leaked a worst-case National Insurance funding scenario that clobbered the young and the poor, only to extend NI payments to working pensioners and cut their pension increase. Somehow when everyone gets clobbered that’s portrayed as fair in this dog-eat-dog society.

Then Boris announced a shareholder tax to make it seem that the richest are funding this social care package, deflecting attention from the savage Conservative cocktail he’s actually created, with higher NI contributions and lower Universal Credit rates for the poorest working age people.

​READ MORE: Scottish Tory MPs back Boris Johnson's National Insurance hike

Finally, the PM slung in rumours of an imminent cabinet reshuffle to make sure doubting colleagues kept their mouths shut.


Boris is getting plaudits for finally tackling the social care dilemma and is being cast (mostly by himself) as the saviour of the NHS and the noble successor to the progressive wartime Labour government that first hatched the welfare state.

This is beyond ridiculous – as the slightest scratch beneath the surface proves.

How can social care be funded by money put into the NHS?

How can social care be saved now with money paid (maybe) later?

What precedent in history suggests an underfunded NHS will ever be able to hand back cash?

Why use National Insurance when even Jacob Rees-Mogg points out income tax is far fairer and more stable (not that his Irish millions will be affected either way).

And how does any of this tackle the fact that care homes are currently half empty thanks to staff shortages caused by Brexit, extra Covid stress and chronically low pay – the average private care worker earned just £8.50 an hour in 2020, whilst at Runwood Homes, a big private care provider in the south of England, dividend payouts trebled and one director received £3 million? No answer.

Isabel Hartman in the Spectator observes: “The workforce shortages that were already visible from space before Covid will take years to solve, not weeks.”

Quite. Even commentators in the Tory-supporting press can see this “plan” doesn’t stack up, but there’s no point expecting them to explain why.

England has an unfit for purpose semi-privatised “National” Health Service whose health boards are partly run by Virgin healthcare, whose hospital trusts are only solvent because their debt was written off during the pandemic, whose nursing staff were fobbed off with a 1% pay rise till they threatened strike action and whose poorest “customers” pay £9.35 per prescription, work in precarious, contract-free jobs and “enjoy” the worst sick rates of pay in Europe.

Welcome to Britain’s broken welfare state.

Can more cash fix it?

Who but a born-again Tory believes that the Prime Minister presiding over this marketised health service shambles will ever devise a fair, workable and properly funded social care system?

No-one in Scotland, I’d guess.

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Yet Boris is styling himself as a latter-day Clement Atlee or Nye Bevin – and getting away with it in much of the mainstream media.

It’s as nauseating as it’s dangerous and wrong.

But it needs forceful, passionate rebuttal by politicians – not just sniping at details.

Voters need a clear-eyed reminder of what a proper publicly-owned national care service looks like. They need to know what it would cost. They need to realise successive British governments have shelled out less per capita on health than almost every other European state.

In short, the public need a real, thorough-going debate – not a single day’s, rushed scrutiny.

Clearly, that’s not going to happen at Westminster, where Labour and the LibDems are still scared of voters who gave the left-leaning, straight-talking Jeremy Corbyn a bloody nose.

The only politicians who can offer a real alternative to Boris’ superficial, short term, woefully inadequate health and social care package are the SNP, because Scotland has serious form when it comes to doing health and social care differently.

That’s partly because of the personal care system introduced 20 years ago when Henry McLeish was first minister, partly because the SNP has amalgamated health and social care provision but mostly because every party in the Scottish Parliament – even the two-faced Tories – agree that health provision should stay in public hands.

So, I really wonder if “keep your mitts off our NHS” is the SNP’s best riposte to Boris Johnson?

OF course, it’s massively important to establish which government controls devolved cash. And of course, you cannae trust the Tories. If they can impose conditions to boost private health spending, they doubtless will.

But the much bigger point to make, surely, is that only an independent Scotland can create the publicly owned, high quality health and care services voters here expect and fund them fairly.

This should be fertile ground for the SNP, but only if they claim it.

Conversely, the case for independence might even be weakened if the link between good public services and independence isn’t made forcefully now, while the public examines Johnsons’ claims about progressive taxation, proper care standards and fair pay.

Why? Because the relentless unravelling of the post-war settlement has been the central plank of the modern case for Scottish independence. If Boris Johnson can challenge that narrative by asserting that he is boldly reshaping the social contract in a progressive way, the Yes case will suffer. Not completely or immediately – since mistrust of the Prime Minister is practically endemic north of the border. But soon – as English “network” commentators fail to probe, as the Scottish media fails to discuss Scotland’s distinctive care system, as commentators (except Common Weal) fail to envisage how it might be improved and as Holyrood fails to match Westminster by debating how to about build a properly funded welfare state – as all of this happens, some swing voters will start to think, “och, maybe Boris isn’t all so bad”.

So the big question that needs asking now is the old question.

WATCH: Ian Blackford blasts Boris Johnson for backing 'austerity 2.0'

Who do Scots want shaping their welfare state – a Prime Minister who can’t issue a contract without backhanders for millionaire pals or a Scottish Government that’s made progress towards a Nordic style welfare state?

The SNP need to go back to this basic truth to outflank Boris – even if that prompts some awkward questions about the ambition of their own Care Service proposals – because no-one else actually will.

English society will never shake off the legacy of Margaret Thatcher. Voters expect harsh policies, attacks on the “undeserving poor”, privatised structures and half-baked “solutions”. Boris duly delivers. He doesn’t appear as hard-line as Maggie so that seems like a bonus.

Scotland expects better. So, let’s hear some visionary, radical challenge to Boris Johnson’s plans from SNP leaders. It would be the very best start to indyref2.