Lest there had been any suspicion about the feline characteristics of the four-legged creature in the sack, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss confirmed what we had all suspected last night. The cat, as they say, is out of the bag.
In a radio interview with LBC yesterday Truss – when asked about the coming National Insurance hike in April – said that “we’ve spent £400 billion providing support during Covid and the reality is that does need to be paid for.”
You may remember that this painful kick up the tax-side was badged as an emergency band-aid for Our NHS before being diverted to ensuring our social care system improves in the long-run. Most analysts questioned the logic at the time – the wonks at the Institute for Fiscal Studies said that whilst it may just about patch up NHS funding, the increased demands of an ageing population would see health spending increase furthermore with and every passing year.
But, as Truss said yesterday, the tax hike most looks like an old-fashioned cash grab by a government seemingly addicted to spending it, hitting the aspirational where it hurts at the same time as the price of everything from energy to Freddo bars (let alone rentals) is spiralling northwards.
Truss’ honesty betrays a wider philosophical bent in this government that those who believe in low taxes and free markets – such as this newspaper – find so depressing.
Faced with a once-in-a-lifetime crisis, there is precious little sign of a willingness to turn it into an opportunity. This could have been the moment to reinvigorate the tax code and our business environment, going for growth and encouraging investment in improving our lagging productivity. Instead it’s more fiddling, more tinkering around the edges, higher taxes and virtue signalling about climate leadership.
Our departure for the sunnier climes of Singapore on Thames appears permanently delayed.