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On the first Thursday in May 2022, the UK will hold local elections.

It is unclear how well the Conservative Party will do, given sudden cost of living increases across the board, all of which occurred on April 1. Oh, were that this an April Fool joke. Sadly, it is all too real.

On April 3, Tim Stanley recapped the Conservatives’ self-inflicted wounds for The Telegraph: ‘The nannying Tories face oblivion if they refuse to get their priorities straight’.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine, except for Guido Fawkes’s posts below:

The same day the gas bill doubled, it snowed. Oh, and restaurants were mandated to list calorie counts on menus. After 12 years in office, the Tories have gone from trying to fix the state to trying to fix us, so we’ll be less of a shivery, fat burden on the bureaucrats. Don’t eat, they advise; don’t fly, don’t drive, avoid using the heating. In fact, it would be helpful if we could stop existing altogether. The NHS would look good on paper if no one used it, and we’d have a zero per cent failure rate in schools if no one ever sat an exam.

As MPs take a break from Parliament this week, the Tories need to dwell on what they have actually done and what there is to do. This all hinges upon the question of who they truly represent. Considering they were elected to clear up the economic mess left by Labour, it’s a bummer to note that debt is higher than under Gordon Brown, the tax burden rising and living standards crashing. We cannot blame ministers for a pandemic or a war, it’s true, but the Conservative Party’s solutions are near-indistinguishable from New Labour’s, and the alternatives rarely aired. Last week, I sat in on the Treasury Committee’s “grilling” of Rishi Sunak and the two points I never heard made were “you are spending too much” and “how dare you take my constituents’ money to do it”. The anger is not there. No party in Westminster stands for the consumer.

It was heartening to see that Stanley shares my impressions of parliamentary debate — virtue signalling, for the most part, including from Conservative benches:

This is not merely a crisis of philosophy, it is undemocratic. MPs are supposedly elected to do what their constituents want, but too many of them, as soon as they arrive in Westminster, are absorbed into a culture that has a uniform idea of what voters need, a total plan for life that runs from reducing carbon to dropping enough weight to fit into a size six dress (even better if you’re a fella!). Half the debates are toe-curlingly pious nonsense that does the electorate no benefit except to reassure them that their MP is spectacularly compassionate – and the more laws you pass, goes the logic, the more money we splash, the more compassionate they appear to be. Ergo, the most important metric for success in 2022 is how much the Treasury is spending, not the results.

It’s maddening to contemplate that nothing is ever done about situations past and present that affect many Britons:

Where to begin? The Ockenden report has stated that more than 200 babies and nine mothers might have survived were it not for failings at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust. During the lockdown, the Government allocated around £37 billion for the deeply inefficient Test and Trace project. It lost £4.9 billion in loan fraud. Not one police officer has been sacked in relation to the Rotherham child abuse scandal. And the same Home Office that struggles to kick out foreign-born criminals finds it strangely difficult to let in Ukrainian women and children.

And we’re paying for this incompetence, while an independent body that Labour created years ago just gave all MPs a 2.7% pay rise:

You are paying for all this, and likely paying more thanks, despite [Rishi] Sunak’s tinkering, to a combination of National Insurance changes and inflation dragging people into ever higher tax bands. The Chancellor, in his munificence, says he plans to cut income tax in 2024, which means the British government is now handing out IOUs. At the same time, he is also bunging us £200 to help with the electricity bills, a sum that the state will reclaim at a later date, which means it’s also entered the habit of writing “UOMes”. MPs are getting a wee grant of their own. Their salaries will rise by 2.7 per cent, or £2,212.

The Government has become more intrusive and we have less money in our pockets:

… thanks to Covid, the public sector has been calling the shots since 2020, while the burden of wealth and power has shifted decisively away from the individual. Does this feel like a freer society than 12 years ago? Or a happier one? Paranoia and suspicion are not only widespread but encouraged (adverts on the London Underground now warn against “staring”), and privacy is dead. I can remember when we were told to protect our data. Now, just to take a train to Belgium, I have to prove my vaccine status by downloading the NHS app, send it a photo of my driving licence and record a video of my face reciting a series of numbers. Do I trust the NHS will delete all this information once used? Bless you. I’d sooner invite a rabid fox to babysit the chickens

Voters, in the eyes of far too many, are spreaders of disease or pollution (in the opinion of some of the old ladies who glue themselves to roads, we ought even to stop breeding), and pockets of money waiting to be tapped.

What is a truly conservative concept of government?

the old-fashioned principle of offering us the best possible service at the lowest possible price

Small government doesn’t mean “no government” but more efficient government – more effective precisely because it limits itself to a narrower range of tasks at which it can excel. Drawing a line under the Trimalchio’s feast of a Spring Statement, the Tories must spend the time they have before the next election peeling back the bureaucracy where it is not needed, passing the benefits on to the people who have been robbed to pay for it, and coming up with creative ways to encourage the private sphere to revive. I don’t just mean conjuring up new markets in insurance or energy, but also unleashing culture and technology, faith and family, the very things that make life worth living.

Bravo!

Ultimately, Stanley says:

The paradoxical goal of conservative politics is to make politics less important in everyday life, and while it might sound hopelessly idealistic to expect powerful people to surrender power, unless the Tories try to reduce the state, they will eventually lose office altogether. The time will come when voters finally snap, and take it away.

Let us look at a few more news items on this subject.

A week or two ago, someone sent in a letter to The Telegraph illustrating how much the Government is taking in tax. This is an alarming practical example:

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Now let’s look at Net Zero, the Government’s pet project, initiated by then-Prime Minister Theresa May.

This is a practical illustration of the folly of electric cars, written by conservative columnist and broadcaster Iain Dale for The Telegraph:

Back in November, I acquired an electric car, something I never thought I would do … I calculated it would save me thousands of pounds every year … 

On Friday night, I was invited to speak to Beverley and Holderness Conservatives. The main difference when you drive an electric car on a long journey is that you have to plan. In my old car, I could drive 600 miles without filling the tank, but if I ever nearly ran out of diesel there was always a petrol station around the corner.

The equivalent is not true if you have an electric car. You have to plan your journey using apps such as Zap-Map, which tell you where the charging points are, and whether they’re being used, or working. I got to Beverley OK, having recharged the car at Donington Park services on the M1, which has a few charging points. Some motorway services don’t have any.

The return journey proved to be a disaster. I left Beverley at 9am and arrived home in Kent at 7.45pm. A journey that should have taken four hours lasted an astonishing 10¾. It was a day completely wasted. The problem was that the three fast chargers in Beverley were either in use or didn’t work. So I had to use slow chargers to get to the next fast charger, which was 50 miles away. Range anxiety is a real phenomenon. The whole time you’re looking at the screen in front of you, wondering if you will run out of charge before you reach the next charger. And then what?

This week, [Transport Secretary] Grant Shapps announced a target of 300,000 more chargers across the country by 2030, the year when the Government says it will ban the sale of new petrol and diesel powered cars. Fatally, he’s left it to local authorities to make sure the roll-out happens. Mark my words, it won’t. Not without national direction.

My advice is this. If you only do relatively short journeys, then buying an electric car is a good decision. If you regularly travel more than 150 miles, it isn’t. In my experience, the car manufacturers lie about the expected range. My electric car is supposed to do 298 miles. The reality is that it does 206, or 215 if the weather is warm. Caveat emptor.

In other news, the price of milk is set to rise by 50%. The Telegraph reports that crisis talks with EU and British dairy farmers took place in Brussels last week:

Rocketing costs from feed, fertiliser and fuel have stoked fears in the industry of a surge in milk prices not seen in decades.

The cost of four pints of milk will jump from around £1.15 to between £1.60 and £1.70, an increase of up to 50pc, according to Kite Consulting, the UK’s leading adviser to dairy farmers.

Michael Oakes, the dairy board chair of the National Farmers’ Union, agreed that milk prices will likely rise by as much as 50pc.

John Allen at Kite said a 30-year period of low milk price rises is “coming to an end now” as costs surge on multiple fronts. He expects a typical pack of butter to rise from £1.55 to more than £2.

He said: “What is of concern at present is processors are getting inflationary costs as well and also we are short of milk around the world.”

Dairy industry bosses from the UK and elsewhere in Europe flew into Brussels at the end of last week with talks led by Eucolait, the continent’s leading dairy industry group. Dairy processors, which act as a link between farmers and shops, are said to be deeply concerned about soaring costs both at farm level and further up the supply chain, as the war in Ukraine lifts key input costs

UK dairy industry bosses have raised concerns over their costs to the Government, but officials at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) are said to be merely in “listening mode”

Mr Oakes, who is also a farmer, said: “I was paying about £7,000 for an artic [articulated lorry] load of fertiliser, and this year it’s £28,000. It would have been a little bit less before Ukraine happened, but it made another big jump because we’d already seen higher gas prices, which have implications for fertiliser costs …

He added that feed costs have risen 60pc.

As if all that isn’t enough to worry voters, we have the Online Safety Bill passing through Parliament. Guido Fawkes tells us what is happening as Ofcom, the communications regulator, prepares for the not-so-distant future:

Scary.

Guido’s accompanying post says, in part:

According to Melanie Dawes, the newly-appointed CEO of Ofcom, the quango will increase headcount by 400 staff ahead of new powers to police the internet in the Online Safety Bill, which will be voted on in Parliament after Easter. That’s a lot of censors…

Ofcom will have Putin-style powers to block websites from being seen in the UK if those sites fail to uphold their new legal duty of care to remove “harmful content”. The definition of “harmful content”, of course, will be a political question. Will questioning hurtling towards net-zero whilst millions are in energy poverty be deemed harmful content? …

Ofcom’s Melanie Dawes told Times Radio:

We’ve got some tough and strong tools in our toolkit as a result of this legislation. And I think we need those. These very strict and somewhat draconian kinds of sanctions are really only the sort of thing that you would expect to use as a serious last resort.

If you don’t accept self-censorship and comply, your website will be blocked. Chilling.

Then we found out at the weekend that the civil servant in charge of ethics was at a lockdown party.

The Times‘s Patrick Maguire reported:

Were this a plot point in a satire, it would feel much too lazy for any self-respecting reader to get behind. But here we are: the official who was then in charge of ethics on Whitehall has been fined for her attendance at a lockdown-busting karaoke party.

As the first major name to have been revealed to have received a fixed penalty notice, Helen Macnamara — then the government’s head of propriety and ethics, now in the business of neither as director of policy and corporate affairs at the Premier League — is surely a sign of things to come.

For confirmation of her attendance at a leaving do in the Cabinet Office in June 2020 — at a cost of £50 — is a sign that it wasn’t just the junior, nameless and faceless who breached Covid restrictions at the heart of government over that fateful period, as Boris Johnson would much prefer to be the case.

Meanwhile, Scotland Yard is also said to have told people who attended a No 10 party on April 16 last year, the day before Philip’s funeral, that they would be given fixed penalty notices: conclusive proof at last that the law was broken in Downing Street itself.

The PM did not attend either do, but the slow burn of revelations from the Met’s investigation is hardly ideal, particularly with elections just over a month away.

“I have 65,000 constituents in west Wales, where I represent, and they are not shy in coming forward and expressing a view about this and a number of other subjects,” Simon Hart, the Welsh secretary, told Sky News this morning.

“And throughout all of this saga of the Downing Street parties they have said one thing very clearly, and in a vast majority they say they want contrition and they want an apology, but they don’t want a resignation.”

The bigger risk, looking at the polls, is that they don’t want to vote Tory

However, there are two bright rays of sunlight in an otherwise cloudy day.

The first is that London’s position as the second most important financial centre in the world is holding steady, as The Telegraph reported on Monday, April 4:

London remains Europe’s dominant financial centre based on factors such as (relative) political stability, labour market flexibility, quality of life, infrastructure and innovation, a ranking by think tank Z/Yen Group found last week. It was ranked second only to New York globally, while Paris came in at 11th place.

The second is that Volodymyr Zelenskyy still appreciates all of Boris Johnson’s efforts for Ukraine. He is contemptuous of Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, as Guido reports:

Guido has the video of Zelenskyy praising Boris:

Zelenskyy’s said the UK has “agreed on new defensive support for Ukraine. New package. Very, very tangible support,” addingThank you Boris for the leadership! Historical leadership. I’m sure of it”. 

It’s too bad that Zelenskyy cannot campaign for Boris’s Conservatives. They could use his help.

It happened, but it happened two years too late.

A third Telegraph journalist has come out against Joe Biden.

Earlier this month, Tim Stanley declared that Trump made the right assessment about Russia.

This week, Nile Gardiner asked whether Europe has finally awakened to the truth about Joe Biden.

Two days later, on March 30, 2022, Allister Heath wrote ‘Joe Biden is president in name only but the US establishment refuses to admit it’.

Heath details the chaos of the White House at home and abroad. Emphases mine below.

First, there were his pronouncements about Putin and Russia from last month to the present:

His embarrassingly downgraded role became obvious last week when he suddenly veered off-script during his keynote address in Poland, ad-libbing of Vladimir Putin that “for God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power”. It was a dramatic escalation, a clear and simple message that no reasonable person could possibly misinterpret, and yet the White House appeared not even to ask him for permission before “clarifying” his statement. Biden’s people – who are supposed to work for him, rather than the other way around – immediately denied that he was calling for regime change. They claimed, within seconds of his speech, that the words he uttered didn’t actually mean what he obviously intended them to signify.

They were undoubtedly seeking to protect Biden from himself, and to look after US interests, by cancelling an intervention that could have provoked a furious Russian reaction. But it was an astonishing moment none the less, demonstrating that Biden’s role is now largely ceremonial: this is a collegiate administration, with an all-powerful Democratic Cabinet and federal bureaucracy. What Biden says should not be taken too seriously. He is not the fount of power, and has a habit of blurting out what colleagues might have been discussing in private.

Time and again in recent days, the President’s pronouncements have been “walked back” by those really in charge. Most notably, he wrongly told members of the 82nd Airborne Division that they would be “going to” Ukraine soon; he said America would respond “in kind” were the Russians to use chemical weapons.

His worst blunder came when he claimed prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that “it’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and then we end up having a fight about what to do and not do”. He was then asked whether he was “effectively giving Putin permission to make a small incursion into the country”. Biden’s answer sent an even more catastrophic message to the Russians: “Good question. That’s how it did sound like, didn’t it?”

Heath notes that the American media are, unsurprisingly, giving Biden a pass:

the president isn’t really presiding andAmerica’s constitution is once again in deep crisis. It is a scandal.

Mainstream commentators were grumpy at the White House denials, but refused to ask the obvious questions about the president’s series of gaffes or to demand an investigation into why this may be happening. Had this been Trump, there would have been calls for the Cabinet to at least consider invoking the 25th amendment to the US constitution relating to whether a president could be considered unfit to remain in office

There is no excuse for failing to scrutinise and hold to account any president, regardless of party.

Then there are Biden’s Afghanistan disaster as well as his intent to turn back the clock with Iran:

On foreign policy, he is seeking to turn the clock back to the time when he was vice president. Biden is proposing a disastrous surrender to Iran on the nuclear issue, and even to remove the Revolutionary Guards’ terrorist designation. His withdrawal from Afghanistan was right in theory but catastrophically executed, and helped signal to rogue regimes that the US had gone soft.

Biden has done no better domestically. He began rolling back Trump’s successes as soon as he was sworn in.

Now he is considering a radically left tax plan for Americans — taxing unrealised capital gains. Scary. This would affect many middle class taxpayers:

Biden’s shocking weakness also helps to explain the disastrous drift of US policy in all other respects. He was supposedly elected as a reasonable centrist, a liberal rather than a woke activist, a traditional Democrat rather than a neo-socialist.

Yet on economics, his latest tax proposal is far worse than anything Jeremy Corbyn dreamt up. Biden wants to tax unrealised capital gains, something that has never been attempted before in this way. He wants to tax wealthy Americans – in reality, not just billionaires but many other entrepreneurs and investors without whose contributions the US economy would collapseon the basis of the paper increase in their fortunes. This would be a recipe for economic meltdown, a brain drain, capital flight and a massive recession.

Heath concludes that radical advisers behind the scenes are running the show:

The fact that Biden is in office, but not in power, has given his party’s hardliners free rein to wreak havoc. His presidency is turning out to be a catastrophe for America, and a calamity for the rest of the world. For how much longer will we have to put up with this travesty?

There’s no way back for the time being.

It is hard to imagine that voters preferred Joe Biden to Trump and his ‘mean tweets’ in 2020, but there we are.

Mid-term elections cannot come soon enough. All being well, Republican control will pave the way for further victory in 2024.

Margaret Thatcher is growing on me.

I must have been too young at the time to appreciate her.

Here is a genius quote of hers about matters of concern to us today:

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A man’s right to work as he will, to spend what he earns, to own property, to have the state as servant and not as master, they are the essence of a free economy, and on that freedom all our other freedoms depend.

On Wednesday, March 22, Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will be delivering a Spring Statement in the House of Commons.

One dreads to think what he will say. Our taxes are going up, up, up.

He has imposed the most tax increases since Labour’s Gordon Brown, who was Chancellor for ten years (1997-2007). Rishi’s only been in for two!

As Guido Fawkes points out, Thatcher’s Nigel Lawson was the last Chancellor to cut taxes. He was in office between 1983 and 1989.

No one under the age of 40 will have experienced a cut to the overall tax burden:

Two readers of Guido’s post put a mock letter to taxpayers together:

Dear common people, you must understand that our policy of massive QE to deflate your earnings and savings whilst massively enriching the globalist banks and corporations, the mass uncontrolled relentless 3rd world immigration (not forgetting the VIP illegals), the massive state support of anti-democratic and anti-conservative quangos and NGOs to champion progressive socialism, the destruction of energy security and the lunacy of net zero, the massive tax hikes with nothing in return but more state control, the Covid lockdowns built on deliberately manipulated bad data – they are all necessary if we and the rest of Westminster and Whitehall are to meet our WEF Great Reset targets. Thanks.

P.S.: I’m a multi millionaire and I can still claim my expenses including my energy bills, TV licence and everything else that I buy, so I don’t really care.

That doesn’t half cut to the bone.

Rishi told Sophie Ridge from Sky News that the other Chancellors did not have pandemics with which to deal. He thought that the chart should have gone back to the Second World War for a truer picture of borrowing and high taxes:

He assured her that taxes will be going down.

This was the front page of the Mail on Sunday from March 20:

Better than slashing fuel duty would be to cut the green levy, which is even greater.

Look at the third column, though (emphases mine):

… the Chancellor has asked Treasury officials to establish a new cost-of-living unit which would scrutinise all new policies for their impact on household finances. He will also chair a new Cabinet committee on financial waste which will aim to prune nearly £6billion from public spending.

I must be naïve. I was always under the impression that the Treasury’s civil servants looked at (‘scrutinise’ is too strong a word) the impact of their policies on household finances. The same goes for financial waste.

Why do we need more civil servants doing nothing?

They cannot even be bothered to go into the office. They’ve been working from home since the first coronavirus lockdown, the second anniversary of which is Wednesday, March 23 — the same day as Rishi’s Spring Statement.

The tax situation never gets better, does it?

Last week, I posted a series on the effect of London’s metropolitan elite on England’s voters in 2015 and 2019.

Those who missed it can read Parts 1, 2 and 3.

On December 12, 2019, a surprising number of staunch Labour voters in the North and the Midlands lent their votes to the Conservatives for the first time.

Those constituencies in England that switched from Labour to Conservative either for the first time or for the first time in decades are known as the Red Wall.

The Conservative MPs who represent them are local people familiar with the issues that concern their constituents.

These MPs are a far cry from the Sir Bufton Tuftons from days of yore.

When the new intake took their seats in the House of Commons, spirits were high on Conservative benches as the UK exited the European Union.

In debates in January 2020, we heard them discuss the hopes they had for Boris Johnson’s levelling up plan concerning rail, roads and industry.

What follows is what is on the minds of Red Wall voters and their MPs.

Tax

Five days before Chancellor Rishi Sunak presented his dynamic budget to the House on Wednesday, January 16, 2020, a pollster surveyed Red Wall voters for their views on taxation.

Guido Fawkes has a graph and summary of the poll results: 36% wanted cuts to council tax; 29% wanted cuts to income tax and 22% wanted cuts on fuel duty.

However, Guido found that the voters surveyed contradicted themselves (red emphases in the original):

According to Opinium Research for Lansons, 42% of the famed ‘Red Wall’ new Tory voters state the priority measure they would like to see for this afternoon is a rise in their take-home pay being introduced in the Budget – an income tax cut in other words. That is because 41% of the new Tory voters think taxes are too high and errr, 40% of the same new Tory voters think government spending is too low. Workington, we have a problem….

If the coronavirus is an economic hit on the scale of the credit crisis, a temporary halving of VAT to 10% would incentivise spending, immediately and effectively….

Sadly, because of coronavirus, most of Rishi’s budget had to be binned.

Levelling up

In September 2020, Conservative MPs created a taskforce to level up, i.e. reduce regional inequalities between the North as well as the Midlands versus the South.

The BBC reported that these poorer constituencies now have Conservative MPs:

A report produced for the taskforce says Conservatives now hold more seats in the lowest paid areas than Labour

In the 2019 election the Conservatives won a number of seats across the Midlands and the north of England previously considered to be Labour strongholds, also known as ‘the red wall’

Now this new group, the “levelling up taskforce” – which includes many of the new “red wall” MPs – is urging the government to set itself three key tests as part of its drive to reduce geographical inequality.

It says those areas that have seen the lowest growth in earnings, should see earnings rise faster than they have in recent years; areas with the worst unemployment rate should converge with the national average; and areas with the lowest employment rate should also catch up with the national average.

It also calls on the government to set out geographical analysis of how tax and spending changes impact different areas

Analysis produced by the Onward think tank for the new group found that of the bottom quarter of seats in Britain with the lowest earnings, more are now held by the Conservatives (77) than Labour (74).

The following month, Northern Red Wall MPs formed a new group to ensure that Boris Johnson keeps his campaign promises:

The BBC reported:

… the 35-strong Tory group say they want to ensure the government delivers.

It includes several MPs who won seats in traditional Labour heartlands – the so-called “Red Wall” – at last year’s general election.

Paul Howell, who won Tony Blair’s old seat, in Sedgefield, Simon Fell, the MP for Barrow-in-Furness and Sara Britcliffe, who at 24 became the youngest Conservative MP when she won Hyndburn, in Lancashire, are among those who have signed up to the group provisionally named the Northern Research Group.

Ms Britcliffe said: “I don’t need to join a group to speak up for Hyndburn but I have also the responsibility of making sure that we do deliver on our promise.”

The group’s leader Jake Berry, who has been the Conservative MP for Rossendale and Darwen since 2010, said it was not “about giving government a bad time”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s The Week in Westminster: “There are arguments that we collectively as northern MPs make together, to create a compelling case for the government to invest in the north”.

These include “making sure that this government delivers on its promise to ‘level up’ the north, deliver that Northern Powerhouse and create wealth across the north of England,” he added.

“We don’t form a government unless we win the north.”

Mr Berry is the former minister for Northern Powerhouse, which was set up by former Chancellor George Osborne to redress the North-South economic imbalance, and to attract investment into northern cities and towns.

The problem with levelling up is that some of the local councils most in need of funds are Labour-run. As I have been writing this post on Friday afternoon, February 25, 2022, I have heard Philip Davies, who represents Shipley, tell his fellow MPs that Bradford Council has not even put together a bid in order to get levelling up funds from the Government. Other Red Wall MPs had similar complaints.

This took place during a Private Members’ Bill debate on the Local Authority Boundaries Bill, urging reviews of local council boundaries and making such changes easier. Kemi Badenoch, the minister representing the Government, said that the bill would need significant rewording in order to be considered. She will work with Robbie Moore, also a Red Wall MP, to revise his proposed legislation.

Bradford Council is not the only Labour council that has been under the spotlight.

In October 2020, another Red Wall MP, Chris Clarkson, made known his concerns about Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Manchester.

That brought about a furious backlash from Angela Rayner on the Labour benches. She allegedly called him ‘scum’ …

… and was given a dressing down by Deputy Speaker Dame Eleanor Laing.

Paying for coronavirus

In March 2021, a pollster asked Red Wall voters how they wanted the Government to handle the cost of coronavirus.

Most Red Wall voters opposed higher taxes, preferring lower spending instead:

Guido’s accompanying post says:

Research from Public First’s Rachel Wolf has revealed that when asked to choose between higher taxes, borrowing, or spending cuts, a plurality of the public back spending cuts over the other options. Tax rises are most popular with high social status white collar ‘AB’ voters, and least popular with working class ‘DE’ voters, who overwhelmingly back spending cuts. Working class constituents in the red wall aren’t typical Islington socialists…

Also:

The other finding is that people are less opposed to taxes they think they don’t have to pay, and more opposed to taxes they think they do have to pay. In reality this translates to taxes they have to pay directly. Any tax that is indirect on business still has an economic cost that is borne in the end by individuals, for example dividend taxes reduce your pension income, business rates and carbon taxes increase consumer prices. The more taxes are understood, the less popular they become.

True. We have tax rises coming, so there will be dissatisfaction in these constituencies.

Net Zero

Another plan that will not go down well is the drive to reach Net Zero. The cost is upwards of £1.5 trillion:

This tweet from 2021 encapsulates the thinking of Red Wall MPs (ignore Michael Fabricant, who was commenting on the wrong thread). Click on the image to see all the comments, especially from Jackie Doyle-Price, who mentions the metropolitan elite:

Minimum wage

In November 2021, Rishi Sunak presented a more sombre budget as the nation was still grappling with coronavirus.

One of the more positive points was his commitment to raising the national minimum wage.

On the face of it, it would seem to appeal to Red Wall voters. However, The Spectator‘s Patrick O’Flynn was less sure, asking if Sunak understood them properly. Raising the minimum wage does not lift those in more responsible positions. In fact, the latter have been earning less over recent years (emphases in purple mine):

In his recent Budget, the Chancellor committed the government to several eye-catching policies, including a big uplift in the minimum wage, these days rebranded as the ‘national living wage’. But something that went unremarked upon was reaffirmation of a target of raising the minimum wage as a share of average pay.

A 6.6 per cent uplift this year would, said Sunak, keep the government ‘on track for our target of two-thirds of median earnings by 2024.’ Many Tory MPs beamed with happiness, no doubt thinking this would further bolster the working-class parts of their new electoral coalition. But will it?

According to the OECD, the UK minimum wage was worth 34 per cent of mean earnings and 41 per cent of median earnings in the year 2000. It has since risen steadily as a share of these averages, hitting 48 per cent of mean earnings and 58 per cent of median earnings in 2020.

Think about how this must feel to workers on roughly median earnings. Two decades ago they earned two-and-a-half times as much as minimum wage workers. Now they earn less than twice as much. By 2024, Sunak has decreed that minimum wage workers in entry level roles will be earning two-thirds of the amount that median earners do. This will represent a massive compression of wages within a single generation.

For those working people who put in a lot of effort in their schooldays compared to their more idle classmates, or who perhaps underwent apprenticeships on very low earnings at the start of their careers, this is highly unlikely to feel like progress.

When you consider the extra responsibilities higher-earning working class jobs typically entail compared to minimum wage roles – and the fact that various welfare entitlements may further reduce the net advantage – this government policy is coming close to rendering the entire hardworking ethos pointless.

This issue of earnings relativities between different grades of workers has long been a highly sensitive one in industrial relations, often more so than the level of raw pay per se. Indeed, it was the cause of countless strikes in the 1970s.

Instead of anticipating a celebratory mood among new working-class Tory voters, ministers should be on the lookout for restlessness and resentment. Indeed, the former Downing Street pollster James Johnson has already spotted the first stirrings of this in focus groups with participants grumbling that too much help is being directed to those at the very bottom.

Sunak has no parallel policy of ensuring that median earnings catch up as a proportion of the top 10 or 1 per cent of earners. In other words, his approach defies logic. Those in the modest middle of the pay scale have every reason to feel victimised

One can’t help feeling that Margaret Thatcher and her advisers had an altogether better innate understanding of what makes the ambitious working classes and lower middle classes tick than Boris Johnson’s administration. Which is why her flagship policy of bringing in the right-to-buy their council houses at a discount scored an electoral bullseye with aspirational voters

If Tory MPs in red wall seats think this policy is going to delight many of their constituents then I predict that they are about to be disabused of that notion.

It is still too early to tell what most Red Wall voters think of a rise in the minimum wage, but Patrick O’Flynn’s arguments make sense.

Guido Fawkes agrees with O’Flynn and thinks that Red Wall voters would benefit from a reduction in basic income tax rates. Guido took issue with an article in Politico. ‘UC’ stands for Universal Credit:

Sleaze

In November 2021, the then-MP for North Shropshire, Owen Paterson, faced accusations of sleaze via his lobbying. He was forced to resign the seat he had long held. A Liberal Democrat won the by-election.

Some Conservative MPs tried to save Paterson from a 30-day suspension. However, Red Wall MPs were not among them. They objected to having a whipped vote to give Paterson a reprieve. Some voted against the Government, and rightly so.

The rest of the nation also disapproved. This was the beginning of low polling results for Conservatives. It wasn’t long afterwards that Labour began leading in the weekly polls. They still do.

Not only did Red Wall MPs disapprove, so did their voters, as the Daily Mail explained:

Boris Johnson is struggling to contain mounting fury on Tory benches today as a poll laid bare the damage inflicted by his bungled effort to save ally Owen Paterson from punishment for lobbying.

Research by YouGov carried out in the wake of the dramatic Commons vote to suspend the standards system showed the Tory poll lead plunging by five points.

The party is now just one point ahead of Labour, after dropping from 39 per cent to 36 per cent in a week, while Keir Starmer has seen a boost to 35 per cent, according to the survey in The Times.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi tried to cool the growing backlash among MPs this morning, admitting that the government ‘made a mistake’ in retrospectively tying Mr Paterson’s case to wider reforms.

Meanwhile, a blame game is in full swing over who was responsible for the meltdown – which culminated last night when Mr Paterson resigned from the Commons after the PM cut him loose. His exit was made official this morning when he was appointed Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead – the traditional way for MPs to quit the House.

As well as a wave of anger about Mr Johnson’s lack of judgment, many Tories have been pointing the finger at chief whip Mark Spencer, saying he should have realised that the tactic would not ‘fly’. One MP told MailOnline that Mr Spencer had not done his job properly. 

‘If the PM was told about the extent of disatisfaction then he wouldn’t have pushed it,’ they said. ‘You could tell there was a problem because the whips were literally running around the Commons.’

Mr Johnson’s media advisers are thought to have warned that the tactics were high-risk, but those pushing the political benefits of shoring up Mr Paterson and reforming the standards regime won the internal argument.  

The premier is said to be ‘p****d off’ that the crisis has distracted from the progress being made on climate change at the Cop26 conference in Glasgow. Senior MPs said he was also ‘livid’ about triumphalist interviews by Mr Paterson in which he claimed he would not change anything about his past behaviour

One Conservative MP who spoke to The Mail said:

‘I had two marginal male MPs from Red Wall seats in tears looking at their social media feed, looking at their emails coming in after the vote, going ‘what the hell have we done?’.’

… ‘The chat on the WhatsApp groups is that the whips can stick their whipping up their a***. It’s now every man for himself,’ they said.

Chief Whip Mark Spencer recently became the new Leader of the House as Jacob Rees-Mogg moved to a new Cabinet position for Brexit opportunities.

Latest news

Many Red Wall MPs were incensed to learn of the Downing Street parties during lockdown.

Some began joining forces on January 18, 2021, when Boris apologised to Parliament:

As someone tweeted, this could have been about damage limitation for themselves:

Boris met with his own MPs that evening:

Lee Anderson is a former Labour councillor. He often confronts Labour benches with their own dismal record in local and national government.

The Red Wall MPs’ plot to write letters of no confidence to Sir Graham Brady became known as the Pork Pie Plot, because their alleged leader, Alicia Kearns, represents Rutland and Melton. Melton Mowbray is home to England’s famous pork pies.

Steven Swinford, The Times‘s political editor, spoke with a member of Cabinet who found the rebellion a disgrace:

The Red Wall plot to remove Boris Johnson – with Tory MPs meeting to discuss submitting letters – is not going down well in Cabinet

‘It’s pretty sickening. They were only elected because of him. Most of them are a load of —-ing nobodies. It’s nuts’

Hmm:

With the current situation in Ukraine, the Pork Pie Plot seems like a long time ago. Then again, a week is a long time in politics.

The next thing Red Wall residents can look forward to is a Northern branch of Conservative Party Headquarters in Leeds, which is not part of the Red Wall, but it’s close enough. Pictured is Party chairman Oliver Dowden MP:

Guido Fawkes wrote that this had been a promise from Government since 2020:

The Tories look set to imminently boost their red wall presence – and given recent polling, not a moment too soon. A party source tells Guido that their long-awaited Leeds campaign headquarters – first announced by Amanda Milling way back in September 2020 – is set to open in mere weeks …

… staff are already at work following a prolonged recruitment drive and the project will get up to full steam when work-from-home guidance is lifted. Another source suggested given recent events the party will be keen for the moment to be noticed by the media. Guido looks forward to Dowden’s forthcoming ribbon-cutting…

I will have more on the Red Wall coming soon: profiles of those MPs with the most spark.

On Friday, January 7, 2022, Nigel Farage wrote an editorial for The Telegraph: ‘A revolt on the Right is brewing — and I’m ready to be part of it’.

Boris Johnson should be afraid, very afraid.

Nigel Farage’s hour-long shows on GB News, broadcast every Monday through Thursday have examined every failing from Boris’s Government. His audience ratings are excellent and I know people who will schedule their time in order to be able to watch it.

Farage is currently president of the Reform Party, which used to be the Brexit Party and, prior to that, UKIP. Businessman Richard Tice is the public face of the Reform Party.

This constant renaming is all a bit tiring, yet necessary.

In his editorial, Farage describes past general election campaigns and says that former Labour supporters have been voting either for his party or, most recently in 2019, for the Conservatives, therefore:

Once the generational link with the Labour Party was broken, switching became easy.

He then goes into a litany of Boris’s failings, which, despite what No. 10 thinks, are important to a sizeable number of people who voted Conservative in 2019, especially those in Red Wall constituencies that Labour lost that year (emphases mine):

People lent their vote to Johnson in 2019 to break the Brexit logjam and to take back control of our borders because the immigration issue still matters to them. Yet just two years on, the volume of illegal Channel crossings has enraged these voters. The North East now houses 17 times as many asylum seekers as the South East, according to the Migration Observatory. The impact of this is plain for all to see. As the council house waiting list lengthens, there is a growing feeling that Johnson told voters what they wanted to hear about “taking back control” without really meaning it.

Such perceptions are electorally disastrous for any prime minister. Yet there is potentially an even bigger problem on the horizon. This year’s massively increased gas and electricity bills are going to cause an enormous shock. Worse still, these large bills will coincide with tax rises. If Richard Tice can get the message through that 25 per cent of people’s electricity bills is spent on green subsidies – and that the 5 per cent VAT energy rate has, despite promises, not been removed – then Reform UK will have its big chance.

The revolt on the Right ended the premierships of David Cameron and Theresa May. I founded Reform UK out of the Brexit Party, which had done its job successfully. For now, I am the party’s president in a non-executive role, but I intend to increase the help that I’m giving to Richard Tice. Brexit has not been completed properly. The net zero strategy is placing our nation at a significant disadvantage. And the Channel crossings are humiliating Britain

I understand the disillusionment of Red Wall voters who thought Brexit would usher in a new politics. This has not happened. It’s just more of the same – a metropolitan Tory chumocracy totally detached from the rest of the country. If Johnson wakes up to this, he can still save himself. I suspect, however, that the revolt on the right will cause another prime ministerial casualty.

Despite the old-style Conservative ‘chumocracy’, many of the Red Wall Conservative MPs are cut from different cloth. Most of them grew up in humbler circumstances and feel conservative to the depths of their being. They are actively interested in their constituencies and their constituents.

That is something Conservative-voting defectors to Reform should consider.

I enjoy watching Nigel Farage. He always brings up some new fact of which I was unaware.

However, the Reform Party is a spoiler party. I will be furious if, when the next election comes, Reform start sapping votes from the Conservatives, thereby returning Red Wall seats to Labour.

I do wonder on what side of the fence Reform actually sits. They make legitimate points but they have no chance at all in winning a seat in Parliament.

The most we can hope for is that Farage gets under Boris’s skin so much that he will actually start acting like the Conservative Prime Minister most of England elected.

The Conservative Party Conference took place in Manchester from Sunday, October 3 through Wednesday, October 6, 2021.

It was the first one since 2019, which was two months before their victory in the December 12 election that year.

UK in crisis

This year’s conference took place during the ongoing petrol supply problems and shock record-breaking hikes in gas futures on Tuesday and Wednesday:

On top of that, on Wednesday, Reuters reported that the UK’s petroleum regulator rejected Shell’s plans to redevelop the Jackdaw gasfield in the North Sea (emphases in purple mine):

“We’re disappointed by the decision and are considering the implications,” a Shell spokesperson said.

It was unclear on what grounds the Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment and Decommissioning (OPRED) refused to approve the environmental statement for the field’s development.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, under whose umbrella OPRED operates, did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Maddening.

The supply chain crisis for food continues. On Wednesday, The Times reported The National Pig Association warned retailers that 120,000 pigs would have to be slaughtered because of a lack of butchers. Some pig farmers are closing down altogether.

Some supermarkets are also suffering from empty shelves. Tesco, however, is bucking the trend. The Times reported that the supermarket chain is:

often highest up the pecking order when it comes to suppliers committing to make the business a priority …

Good for them.

Conference theme disappointing

The conference theme was … Build Back Better.

How awful.

Here it is draped across Central Station Manchester:

The Conservatives riffed on this in a Bake Off-style event. Pictured with Prime Minister Boris Johnson is Home Secretary Priti Patel:

Having listened to some of the speeches and read excerpts from others, they were all light in content. Most of them were pep rally or visionary statements rather than what plans Cabinet ministers have for the nation.

As The Telegraph‘s Madeline Grant wrote:

Never at a Tory Conference has so little been said, by so many, to so few.

Sunday, October 3

As the conference opened, rumours circulated about three unnamed Labour MPs thinking of crossing the aisle to the Conservatives, as the Mail on Sunday reported:

Guido Fawkes had more on the story (emphases in red Guido’s):

… this is due to disillusionment with Starmer’s leadership, with the MPs already having opened up “lines of communication” with Tory whips. In related news, a senior Labour MP was spotted by a co-conspirator chatting with two Mail on Sunday hacks and three senior Tory advisors at a conference bar last night…

The day’s big event, according to The Spectator, was the drinks party that the 1922 Committee of backbenchers held, sponsored by ConservativeHome. Interestingly, a long-time Labour MP for north-west London — Barry Gardiner — was in attendance:

… the main focus of the night was the 1922 drinks with ConservativeHome in a room stuffed full of parliamentary talent and, for some reason, Barry Gardiner.

Strangely, Boris did not appear, leaving a gap which Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak ably filled (video):

While Johnson was not scheduled to make an appearance here, Prime Ministers have traditionally done so in the past to pay tribute to their colleagues. His ‘disappointing’ absence – in the words of one disgruntled backbencher – left a vacuum for Sunak to fill, in a room full of MPs who will presumably one day decide who Johnson’s successor should be.

The Chancellor leapt to the stage to tell fellow Tories about what he was most looking forward too at conference: Michael Gove dancing, the PM running in a full suit (not just a shirt) and ‘machine like message discipline from every single one of you – and that means you too Cabinet.’ He added that ‘I’ve got your back’ to anxious MPs in the room and that ‘for the record I too am a low tax conservative’ – welcome words for those party donors who Mr S[teerpike, columnist] understands attended a ‘tense’ meeting earlier at the Midland, amid considerable unease at the recent NI [National Insurance] hike.

In such circumstances, perhaps it’s understandable that Boris would stay away.

According to The Telegraph, senior Conservatives have warned Boris not to dream up any more future tax hikes:

Earlier that day, Boris gesticulated wildly at the BBC’s Andrew Marr, saying, ‘You have no fiercer opponent to tax rises than me’. This probably means more tax rises are on the way:

The Spectator has more on the interview.

On tax hikes, Sir Desmond Swayne MP told talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer the raw truth. He added that lower taxes will enable greater economic growth:

Another event that Boris avoided was the one by the Tory Reform Group (TRG), which wants the Conservatives to move closer to the centre politically. They are Remainers. The Spectator reported:

Theresa May’s former deputy Damian Green welcomed attendees

Green, a mainstay of various causes on the left-ish wing of the party over the past two decades, told activists that it was their task to ‘make sure that the voice of moderate conservatism, centre-right conservatism is as strong as possible within the party’ – a job ‘never more important than today because there are times when I slightly feel that it is only people like us that stop this party drifting back to being seen as the nasty party.’ A tacit rejoinder to Priti Patel perhaps?

But then it was time for the speaker and the great white hope of Tory moderation. Tom Tugendhat, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, took to the stage to ecstatic applause and, like Green, was under no illusions about the awesome responsibility he and his One Nation caucus members share – to keep the Conservative party effectively sane …

There was also ample time for several potshots at the current Tory leader Boris Johnson, with whom Tugendhat is said to enjoy a wary relationship.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, tipped to be a future Party leader, also made the rounds that day (video):

The fringes were packed last night as Tory ministers did the rounds. Liz Truss, the darling of the free market think tanks, appeared at the Think Tent equipped with a magnificent blow dry and an applause-winning speech which castigated cancel culture as ‘fundamentally wrong.’ That and other jibes at identity politics in her conference address lead the Daily Mail this morning to ask whether she is in fact the new Mrs Thatcher.

Several reporters wrote about her new hairdo, which, to me, didn’t look much different from the old one.

Returning to the mysterious Labour people who might want to change parties, here’s Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, a former Labour MP, heaping praise on Michael Gove, the minister in charge of Boris’s levelling up programme. Burnham spoke to Trevor Phillips on Sky News that morning. Hmm:

Neither Andy Burnham nor Barry Gardiner is a Conservative. Crossing the aisle for ideals they don’t believe in seems a rather rash way of getting their own back at Keir Starmer.

Boris made four appearances at conference that day, including one for the Scottish Conservatives. Guido captured his wit along with audio:

The PM warned of a “crackpot coalition” between the SNP and Labour – “the only way they could” kick the Tories out.

He described the Labour conference as “a total rabble”, saying it had the air to him of “a seriously rattled bus conductor” facing an “insurrection on the top deck of the bus”, or the “captain of a Mediterranean cruise ship facing insurrection by a bunch of Somali pirates”.

Douglas Ross MP/MSP also addressed Scottish Conservatives. As party leader in Scotland, he wants to position the party as that of the nation’s working class. It’s a good move, as The Spectator reported:

Like all good fables, Douglas Ross’s speech at Tory conference had a beginning, middle and end. Act One detailed the many iniquities of the SNP, from their dysfunctional vaccine passport scheme to their Hate Crime Act, and most of all their agitation for Scotland to break away from the UK. Act Two took the sword to Labour, bemoaned its abandonment of working-class voters and its internal divisions over the constitution. Theirs was not the party to take on the SNP. Only one party was and it was the subject of Act Three, in which Ross deepened a theme begun under Ruth Davidson’s leadership: the Scottish Conservatives as the party of the Scottish working-class.

He hit all the familiar notes about the SNP’s failings in government, the ones that never seem to stick longer than two or three news cycles and are invariably forgotten about by the next election. He also hinted at an interesting theme that, if teased out carefully, could come into greater play. It is the perception, no longer wholly limited to unionists, that Nicola Sturgeon is a bit… off. Out of touch. Superior. Maybe even a bit of a snob.

In other news, last week, Labour’s Angela Rayner called Conservatives ‘Tory scum’. Feisty Dehenna Davison MP, representing Bishop Auckland as the constituency’s first Conservative, had ‘Tory Scum’ badges made.

This harks back to 1948, when Aneurin ‘Nye’ Bevan said the Conservatives were ‘lower than vermin’. Following that, the Conservatives formed the Vermin Club. Club member Margaret Roberts — who would become Margaret Thatcher — also had ‘Tory Vermin’ badges made, as Nigel Farage told Dehenna Davison on GB News:

Party chairman Oliver Dowden pledged that the Conservatives would do away with ugly new housing developments by strengthening planning laws.

He also assured the public that they would have turkeys for Christmas, referring to ongoing supply chain problems.

Monday, October 4

Monday opened with the latest ConservativeHome popularity poll.

Liz Truss is at the top. Other MPs pictured are (left to right) Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi:

Guido analysed the results, excerpted below:

The turn round in her fortunes from last year when she was being tipped to be sacked from the Cabinet is quite something. Liz is one of the increasingly rare consistently free market voices around the Cabinet table…

Rishi Sunak is down by some 10 points and moves from second to fifth place. Rishi’s tax hikes have clearly taken the gloss off him with the true blue believers. 

Grant Shapps [Transport] and Priti Patel are bumping along the bottom in barely positive approval territory. Shapps has been doing fairly well with the incredibly difficult transport brief. Patel is suffering because she has failed to do the seemingly impossible – stop the cross channel migrants. Tory activists are unforgiving, they don’t want excuses, they want results.

It was the turn of Rishi Sunak to address the party faithful.

A rise in council tax would not go down well. Meanwhile, protesters pelted Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP with a traffic cone:

Some at conference are disappointed with Sunak, whose budget comes up in a few weeks’ time. Steve Baker MP is pictured in the second tweet:

Boris was out and about in Greater Manchester. He spoke to an interviewer about policing and said that the Government needs to change its culture, which has become misogynistic, particularly in light of the Sarah Everard murder earlier this year, committed by … a policeman, who recently received a life sentence.

In other news, Justice Secretary Dominic Raab plans to reform UK human rights legislation and do away with the ties to EU human rights legislation we are still under.

With regard to the Labour mystery, Manchester’s mayor, Andy Burnham, had a conversation with Levelling Up minister Michael Gove, whom he had praised the day before. The Mail reported that Burnham was also due to address Conservatives at a fringe event sponsored by Transport for the North the following day. Hmm.

The cervix question that appeared at Labour’s conference was also brought up with Conservatives. Dominic Raab responded by bringing up both misogyny and misandry in a highly confused way (video):

Two MPs decided to have a bit of fun with the issue as they drove to Manchester together:

Guido recapped their amusing exchange:

Health-conscious Conservative MPs Marco Longhi and Lee Anderson don’t want to fanny about when it comes to their well-being. Marco, according to their road-trip video, made sure to receive a cervix exam before heading to conference this week. Always better to be safe than sorry…

Why is it that no one ever asks if women have a prostate gland?

On the subject of health, Desmond Swayne told Julia Hartley-Brewer why he is firmly against vaccine passports:

Lord Frost (pictured on the right) threatened the EU over the post-Brexit trade issues with Northern Ireland. Outside of the conference, pig farmers protested over the inability to get their stock to market. Boris had said that government cannot solve every issue, referring to the supply chain problem. He also told British businesses to hike staff salaries, which did not go down well, either:

I think they should give the meat away. A lot of poor families would appreciate it.

Tuesday, October 5

Boris began the day with an interview to LBC’s Nick Ferrari. Extinction Rebellion offshoot Insulate Britain had blocked some of Britain’s roads for the ninth consecutive day.

Despite injunctions from Priti Patel’s Home Office, their human blockades continue.

Boris told Ferrari they are ‘irresponsible crusties’ (video). The question remains whether Extinction Rebellion gets any Government funding:

Dominic Raab confirmed in his speech that he would be reform the Human Rights Act to free it from EU hackles.

Guido’s post includes a quote and this summary:

They will detach it from the ECHR, enabling quicker deportations of convicted criminals and swifter action on domestic abusers …

Raab’s successor at the Foreign Office, Liz Truss, confirmed a trip to India later this month, ahead of COP26 in Glasgow in November.

Guido had a chat with her:

Among other topics, the foreign secretary confided in Guido she was finding the new department’s mandarins to be “a bit ‘Yes, Minister’”…

Rishi Sunak addressed the Northern Powerhouse Leaders’ Lunch.

Guido says:

Sunak claimed that there is a “new age of optimism” in the north thanks to Red Wall Tories, and heaped them with praise for “helping to change our party and change our country“. “In me, you have a Chancellor who is going to be with you every step of the way,” he added.

See? I told you these speeches were content-free.

Later in the day, he appeared at a fringe event where he was asked about the cost of Net Zero. This was his alarming answer:

Health Secretary Sajid Javid promised another reform of the NHS, which mostly involves digitisation. I can think of more pressing NHS concerns and agree with Guido:

… pouring in taxpayers’ money without checking how it’s being spent isn’t enough. That cash needs to be put to good use. Reviewing the eye-watering pay packets of some NHS diversity managers would be a start…

The Telegraph‘s Christopher Hope interviewed Oliver Dowden, who is thinking about resurrecting the singing of the National Anthem at conference, calling it a ‘splendid idea’.

Hope also took the opportunity to present Dowden with a ‘Tory Scum’ badge, which he put on and said he would wear for the duration of the interview. Hope suggested he wear it until the end of conference.

This video shows the badge exchange. Hope gives us more information on the aforementioned Vermin Club:

Guido says that the badges were most popular. Dehenna Davison had to order more:

Many conference-goers have spent the last couple of days asking Davison for one of her badges, only to be disappointed upon being told she’d run out. Good news however, after Davison put in an emergency order for 400 more given their popularity…

The most outrageous session of the day — and a British first — was an address by the Prime Minister’s wife to Party faithful. No Prime Minister’s spouse — we’ve had two husbands in that role — has ever made a party political address until now:

Never mind the subject matter: was it the right thing for Carrie Johnson to do — even if she is a very good public speaker? Boris watched from a distance.

Polling stable

I’ll review Boris’s closing speech in tomorrow’s post.

Post-conference polling is stable. YouGov’s was taken on Tuesday and Wednesday:

Sir Desmond Swayne explained to Julia Hartley-Brewer that Boris’s popularity and the lack of ideas from the Opposition have buoyed the Conservatives:

What Government should do next

Health Secretary Sajid Javid needs to keep a gimlet eye on NHS spending, especially on things like this:

Guido says:

The NHS is recruiting a supplier to deliver “compassionate conversations training” to 14,000 front facing NHS staff in a publicly funded contract worth a mind-boggling £3 million. The contract tender, which was published yesterday and closes on 5 November 2021, says the aim is to equip NHS staff with “the skills they need to handle challenging situations with compassion whilst ensuring they feel able to look after their own wellbeing if needed”. Guido assumed that doctors were already taught about the importance of a good bedside manner…

It’s almost ludicrous to think that this weekend Javid promised a forensic review of the NHS’s management and leadership whilst the NHS continues to recklessly splash cash on diversity roles. Just six months ago Guido revealed that the NHS was hiring eight more ‘diversity, equality and inclusion managers’ across the country, with salaries up to as much as a whopping £62,000. If Javid is going to cut down those waiting list times he needs to focus taxpayers’ money on the clinical front line, not nonsense make-work contracts and diversity roles…

Guido says it is also time for Boris to reconsider the current Government moratorium on fracking:

If Boris wants to energise Britain, domestic gas production should be part of that mix; it would provide energy security when Britain’s energy needs are being threatened by the Russians and the the French. Boris is now in a position to do something glorious, to stop pussy-footing around and leave no stone unturned or unfracked. So get on with it…

This is what Boris had to say on the subject while he was Mayor of London:

I won’t be holding my breath on either of those propositions.

Tomorrow: Boris’s keynote speech

It had to happen at some point.

For the first time since January, a poll has shown that Labour is more popular than the Conservatives.

YouGov took the following poll on September 8 and 9. September 8 was the day of the parliamentary vote on an increase in National Insurance to fund the NHS and, from 2025, social care.

YouGov are also pro-Conservative.

This is a warning to Boris and his team:

The full results are here. They reveal that a high percentage of respondents — 19% — do not know for whom they would vote. That figure was 20% in the previous week’s poll.

Those who would not vote in the next election, some years away, rose from 9% to 12%.

Boris Johnson is keen on polls. He should take this to heart and tell his new wife to stop running the country.

LBC’s Nick Ferrari interviewed Conservative MP and Cabinet member Oliver Dowden, who said that polls go up and down:

Guido Fawkes’s accompanying post says (emphases in the original):

It will have been nigh on impossible for co-conspirators not to have already seen last night’s bombshell YouGov poll that sees the Tories end their 149 consecutive leads over Labour, slipping back five points down to 33% versus Labour’s 35%. Dowden unsurprisingly put on a brave face, saying “polls go up, they go down”. How much further down is the main question…

Meanwhile it’s not just the polls that see the Tories in the mud. Guido learns that even a Tory bigwig fundraiser on Wednesday, at Mayfair’s Wallace Collection, couldn’t get hands reaching into pockets for the party, despite cajoling from both Boris and Rishi. Who knew Tory donors weren’t keen on an enormous tax hike?

Guido’s readers listed a litany of complaints against the Conservatives — and rightly so:

  • too much taxation and spending;
  • too green — also at the cost of the taxpayer, including electricity and gas bills going up dramatically this year and next;
  • too many economic migrants crossing the Channel from France;
  • too woke.

Guido also received a lot of comments to this tweet:

The public will not appreciate that Downing Street is defending the NHS in hiring more managers with outrageously high salaries:

Guido quoted a spokesperson who briefed the press (Lobby):

The public will rightly expect every penny raised by the levy to be spent on cutting Covid waiting times and finally fixing the care crisis … NHS England is already working to be more efficient and cut waste.

The spokesperson said that the NHS was already being more efficient. Guido’s post says:

… there were initially “211 commissioning organisations”, so the 42 executives running the new Integrated Care Services ‘significantly reduce[s]’ the total number of managers.

And, no, Downing Street said these managers are not ‘bureaucrats’:

No. 10 also pushed back on calling these managers “bureaucrats“, claiming “these individuals will be responsible for a population of around a million people with billion pound budgets, and so we want highly qualified people who can deliver for the public.” A reminder that some will earn 80% more than Boris himself…

Guido spotted another YouGov poll on how the imminent rise in National Insurance is going down with the public:

Here are the poll results:

Opinium’s results on the same question showed that a clear majority oppose the rise:

In related news, Chancellor Rishi Sunak is suspending the triple-lock on pensions for one year, meaning that state pensions will not rise with inflation. That has not gone down well, either. Admittedly, nearly half of those polled do not know what the triple lock involves. Maintaining the triple lock was also part of the Conservative manifesto, as was the commitment not to raise National Insurance:

Boris is fortunate that Labour’s Keir Starmer is so unpopular:

Boris polls way above Starmer:

That said, his popularity might not hold out in the long run.

Some pundits are beginning to refer to the Conservatives as Blue Labour.

However, Paul Embery, who really is Blue Labour, a Labour party member who likes aspects of conservatism, explains how pundits are misusing the label (emphases mine):

There is little sense either that the government understands the value that Blue Labour attaches to relationships and community. Where is the recognition of the family as the bedrock of society and the plan to strengthen that institution? How does the government propose to revitalise our disempowered local and relational institutions — the little platoons that fill the space between market and state and are the lifeblood of our civil society: credit unions, friendly societies, faith groups, co-operatives, and other voluntary or campaigning groups.

All of this stuff matters, and any government genuinely concerned about fostering the deepest social solidarity, reinvigorating democracy and restoring a true sense of community, while making our nation more just and equal, would place these questions front and centre.

But it won’t happen under a Boris Johnson government. That’s because, at heart, the prime minister, economically and socially, remains an instinctive libertarian. Blue Labour’s “socialism with a small ‘c’” runs counters to this. Johnson may have the nous to recognise that the movement’s message plays well. But he doesn’t really believe in it.

I agree with Paul Embery that a Conservative emphasis on family would be a good start, but Boris cannot espouse that without looking hypocritical.

As for Boris being ‘an instinctive libertarian’, I disagree. He’s about as instinctively libertarian as he is Blue Labour.

In any event, Boris should consider these polls a wake-up call. He did say in December 2019 that the overwhelming Conservative votes were ‘on loan’. Now he has to find a way to keep them.

Last weekend, the biggest news in Britain was a proposed permanent tax rise on National Insurance (NI) to finance the NHS backlog from coronavirus, then social care.

The NHS needs £10bn within the coming months to begin to take care of the missed appointments, treatments and operations caused by coronavirus. In 2025, the revenue will go towards social care, legislation for which is non-existent at present.

For a low-tax party, the Conservatives have managed to increase taxes to their highest level since the Second World War. Britain has had Conservative prime ministers since 2010:

This is the current situation:

The TaxPayers’ Alliance posted a petition against the NI tax rise:

The TaxPayers’ Alliance has been keeping a gimlet eye on public sector expenditures, including ‘golden goodbyes’ for senior civil servants.

On Sunday, September 5, the Telegraph‘s Christopher Hope reported (emphases mine):

More than 1,000 senior civil servants have received six-figure “golden goodbyes” worth over £100 million since MPs passed a law five years ago to outlaw them, The Telegraph can disclose …

The Enterprise Act – which was passed into law in May 2016 – expressly put a £95,000 cap on exit payments in the public sector.

However, it was not actually implemented until Nov 2020. It was in place for just three months before a court challenge overturned it.

This has allowed senior civil servants to continue to pocket payments of more than £100,000 each.

Analysis by the TaxPayers’ Alliance of severance payments in departmental annual reports in 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20, as well as including those reports filed so far for 2020/21, found 1,032 civil servants had received the sums.

In the most recent year The Treasury – which is in charge of the policy – was one of the biggest offenders handing £100,000 payouts to seven civil servants.

Returning to the NI tax rise, Hope retweeted the link to his article on Tuesday:

On Monday, September 6, it appeared that a number of Conservative MPs would rebel on Wednesday, the 8th, when the vote on the measure was held.

Christopher Hope reported on the fact that this tax is likely to affect low-income earners much more than the wealthy:

One Cabinet minister described it as “a tax raid on supermarket workers and nurses so the children of Surrey homeowners can receive bigger inheritances”

Former minister and Tory MP Jake Berry told the BBC that the rise would disproportionately affect working people “on lower wages than many others in the country”, who would end up “paying tax to support people to keep hold of their houses in other parts of the country where house prices may be much higher”.

Robert Halfon, chairman of the education select committee, and a former deputy chairman of the party, added that “it’s going to hit the low paid, then I think that would cause me huge worries”.

On Tuesday, the day when Boris Johnson introduced the proposal to MPs, various think tanks said the same thing. Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies said why NI was being targeted instead of, say, income tax. Both employer and employee will pay a quick and consistent source of revenue:

A levy of 1.25% on employee earnings and on employer wage costs (so a 2.5% overall increase in the tax rate on earnings), will raise £14 billion a year. The extension of this levy to those over state pension age and to dividends is welcome, but this remains a tax which will be overwhelmingly borne by workers with very little coming from pensioners. This continues a trend seen over many decades of the burden of tax being shifted towards earnings. The creation of an entirely new tax will mean yet more quite unnecessary complexity.

CAPX had more on tax disparity, especially for young people, and public sector inefficiency:

… raising NI has been called a ‘reverse Robin Hood’ tax. The beneficiaries of hikes to NICs would be the already wealthy and their relatives, especially as you don’t have to pay NI on income from investments or rental properties.

Meanwhile a 1% rise would see the average earner’s tax bill go up by £204 and those earning over £50,000 a year will pay an extra £404 a year. Worst of all, unlike income tax, those on the very lowest wages still have to pay NI. That particularly rankles coming from a party that has spent so long talking about ‘taking the lowest paid out of tax’ by increasing the personal allowance …

As set out in a previous Adam Smith Institute paper, social care is already cursed with being run by inefficient government bodies. With staff shortages, an ageing population and an inundated NHS, this is a sector facing myriad problems that a tax hike alone won’t get near solving. As the ASI’s Eamonn Butler puts it, throwing money at the sector without fixing its underlying problems is ‘like pouring oil into a rusty engine – it still gets you nowhere’.

That said, if you are going to raise money for the sector, there are some obvious places to look before raising taxes on working age people. We could start by means-testing some of the universal benefits given to pensioners, such as free bus passes and the Winter Fuel Allowance. If the Government is determined to fund it through NICs, at least change the system so that working pensioners pay it as well.

Sadly, as The Sun‘s Harry Cole tweeted, this tax will only increase:

Worst of all, at the moment, NI revenue doesn’t stay segregated. It is used for all and sundry expenditures, as the i paper’s Mark Wallace pointed out:

It isn’t an “insurance” scheme at all. It’s just a second income tax.

There is no “pot” being paid into, no “contributions” in any meaningful sense, and no deal by which what you pay in buys you the benefits that are supposedly purchased. When you “pay in”, your money just goes into general taxation, to be spent on whatever the government of the day wants

At best, the money you pay goes back out of the door in the form of pensions and benefits to an earlier generation of workers. Fulfilling the salesman’s promise with the fees of new customers is a Ponzi scheme tactic that Bernie Madoff himself would recognise.

As well as being immoral, this framing distorts our political debate. The confusion makes NI easier to exploit than plain old income tax – as YouGov found in a recent poll, raising the former is sizeably more popular than raising the latter.

Prior to Boris’s announcement to MPs, the Government issued MPs with the plan for health and social care funding:

He also sent a detailed letter to the First Ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, whose nations will also benefit from this revenue.

In his statement to MPs, he explained why he broke his party’s manifesto commitment not to raise NI contributions:

He concluded his statement with this:

After all the extraordinary actions that have been taken to protect lives and livelihoods over the last 18 months, this is the right, reasonable and fair approach, enabling our amazing NHS to come back strongly from the crisis; tackling the covid backlogs; funding our nurses; making sure that people get the care and treatment they need, in the right place, at the right time; and ending a chronic and unfair anxiety for millions of people and their families up and down this country. I commend this statement to the House.

Sir Keir Starmer, Labour leader, gave the Opposition’s response, which was negative. Labour, incidentally, were in power for 13 years — 1997 to 2010 — and never came up with a social care plan, needed then as much as it is needed now.

Boris Johnson responded:

He added:

Let us be in no doubt: if we did what we have heard from the Labour party over the past few weeks, we would still be in lockdown, because the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposed coming out of stage 4; we would have absolutely nothing by way of dealing with the NHS backlogs; and after decades of inertia from the Labour party we would have absolutely no way of dealing with the anxiety of millions of families across this country who face the prospect of catastrophic social care costs.

This Government are dealing with those things—we are dealing with all of them. We are getting on with it. We are taking the decisive action. We are doing it all together. This is the Government who get on and deal with the people’s priorities; this is the Government who tackle social care; and, indeed, this is the party of the NHS.

The House of Commons voted on the NI increase on the following day, September 8.

That morning, some in the business world grumbled (Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, pictured below):

Health Secretary Sajid Javid vowed to make every penny count …

… however, the NHS plans to press on with hiring more useless managers who earn much more than the Prime Minister:

By the time the debate before the vote took place, most Conservative MPs had calmed down.

The New Statesman, a Labour-supporting magazine, explained why:

What has changed? The main thing is the Tory sense of pragmatism that has seen the party shapeshift, change leaders and directions time and again to electoral advantage. One Conservative MP says they understand that this health and social care levy is a “flagship policy” of the government – not one they can rebel on lightly without inflicting serious harm on their own brand. A cynic might also wonder if rumours of a cabinet reshuffle before Conservative Party conference … have helped to inspire loyalty in the Conservative ranks.

There is a second factor that has influenced those on the back benches. Conservative MPs have reluctantly concluded that they will be in a weak position to ask for more money for the NHS in their constituencies if they oppose a levy designed to raise funds for it. Tory MPs are competing against each other for money from the towns fund, levelling-up fund, and for a piece of the pie in new funding for NHS hospitals. They know their negotiating hand is weakened if they rebel.

The third factor in squeezing the rebellion is, quite simply, that Tory MPs think the Prime Minister’s plan is better than they had initially feared. The proposal was first reported over the weekend, before the government had decided the final details of the policy, leaving critics time to get ahead of the story without anyone from No 10 making the case for it. Expanding the national insurance levy to include pensioners in work has done something to allay Tory fears that this is an unfair tax on younger people, as has the dividends tax hike.

In the end, the NI increase was voted in comfortably — 319 to 208:

Only five Conservative MPs voted against the bill:

However, 37 Conservatives abstained.

The public are divided on increasing NI, according to Opinium (more here):

However, YouGov’s poll results were much closer:

It will be interesting to see what happens in 2025, when the NI increase is shifted from the NHS to social care, because the NHS always demand more money:

And what happens if Labour are in charge again someday?

I might not like it, but I hope this works, for Conservatives and the UK.

Both houses of Parliament returned from summer recess today.

The Commons debated on whether to raise tax on National Insurance (Social Security, to my American readers) by 1% to meet ‘social care’ needs. I put that in quotes because, as ITV’s Robert Peston wrote on Sunday, September 5, there is no social care programme from the Conservatives yet, so proceeds from the tax increase will be used for the NHS, post-pandemic. Emphases in purple mine:

Election manifestos are contracts with voters. Under our parliamentary system, their promises are supposed to be broken only in exceptional and extreme circumstances.

Boris Johnson‘s manifesto, his contract with us that he effectively signed in December 2019, said “I guarantee we will not raise the rate of income tax, VAT or National Insurance“.

barring a full-scale cabinet revolt that forces a climbdown – he will break that guarantee, with a rise of 1.25% in the rates of national insurance paid by employees and employers to raise more than £10bn a year.

So does the Covid-19 crisis, and its deleterious impact on the public finances, represent the kind of crisis that most people would see as rendering the manifesto null and void, as in effect triggering what in business would be called a “force majeure” clause?

Strikingly, I cannot find a single member of Boris Johnson’s cabinet who argues national insurance should rise

This does not look like laser-like targeted help, a rare example of benign hypothecation. For most ministers, the NI rise is billions being poured into a huge and fuzzy health-and-care black hole, without even the fig leaf of a half-plan to ensure the money is spent properly.

Spending the money properly is an important consideration. The NHS, laudable as it is in principle, needs looking at with regard to how it runs on a day-to-day basis.

Last week, an NHS blog post for senior management made the rounds in the UK. Guido Fawkes picked up on it today.

Amazingly, it was written by a senior manager at the Nursing and Midwifery Council. She has a degree in American Studies.

Perhaps I’m dated, but aren’t nurses and midwives there to care for patients’ health and new mothers’ wellbeing?

If tax has to be raised, then let us ensure it is spent on patient care.

Returning to Robert Peston’s article, here are the three reasons why government ministers are concerned about this tax rise:

On the one hand, it is supposed to put the social care system – long-term care for the elderly and frail – on a sustainable financial footing.

Which would be all very well, except there has been no published government report on Johnson’s watch of the social care sector’s needs, despite his assurance that such a plan exists.

Second, most of the new billions will be going in the first few years to the NHS, to help it catch up with the backlog of millions of operations, procedures and treatments, that have been delayed by the invasion of Covid-19

Third, ministers and the PM’s MPs recognise that national insurance is not necessarily the fairest tax to use to raise funds for services that are predominantly of use to the oldest, since it isn’t levied on those who reach retirement age, and is levied even on young people with very low earnings.

This matters, given that both the financial crisis of 2007-9 and the Covid-19 crisis had the most damaging economic impact on young people, and the finances of the older generation largely improved.

Johnson wants to be seen as a One Nation PM.

But in taxing the young disproportionately, he looks like someone penalising younger Labour voters to protect older Tory ones.

Incidentally, today’s debate on the National Insurance Contributions Bill was unrelated to the proposed tax rise:

Returning to financing the NHS with a rise in National Insurance: an increase of 1% sounds small, but it isn’t. The first tweet is from the Economics Editor for the Financial Times. James McKintosh is from The Wall Street Journal:

No one interviewed on GB News — whether Liberal Democrat, Labour-leaning journalists or Conservatives — thought that raising tax on National Insurance was a good idea.

On Sunday morning, Dehenna Davison, the first Conservative MP for Bishop Auckland in the north of England, held up a copy of the 2019 party manifesto which clearly says that the main three taxes will not be increased. Arlene Foster, former DUP MP, must be happy she’s out of Westminster:

Guido Fawkes has come up with more opposition:

Robert Peston says that Boris is likely to get his way and use a cabinet reshuffle as a threat to comply:

The rumours of a Thursday reshuffle may be the PM’s Stalin-lite threat to colleagues to back him or risk demotion or even exile to the backbenches.

But even without that threat, Johnson’s not in serious trouble. Remember he picked his cabinet for loyalty not backbone.

Boris is gambling on Keir Starmer’s weakness as Leader of the Opposition.

However, Starmer won’t always be Labour leader. The next one will remember this and pin it on low-taxation Conservatives at the next election; we can be sure of that:

Johnson will get his tax. And whether he likes it or not, it will always have his name on it.

Boris, a keen student of history, would do well to remember what happened to Bush I when he ran for re-election in 1992. In 1988, he promised ‘no new taxes’. Taxes went up under his watch. Bill Clinton won in 1992 with ‘It’s the economy, stupid’ and served two terms.

My message to Boris is ‘Danger, Will Robinson. Danger’.

On Monday, May 17, 2021, Guido Fawkes posted a summary of Christopher Snowdon’s Nanny State Index 2021:

It says (emphases in the original):

The Nanny State Index (NSI) has been updated for 2021, and it makes for grim reading for any libertarian – with author Christopher Snowdon claiming “everything is steadily getting worse” and that “all the momentum is with the paternalists of ‘public health’” in the wake of the pandemic. Lifestyle restrictions on eating, drinking, smoking, and vaping have all steadily increased across Europe for the past four years…

The post includes a summary quote about the UK from Snowdon. Among the European countries he researched, we’ve become somewhat more free only because of certain duty freezes during the pandemic:

It is a sign of how much nanny state activity there has been in Europe since 2019 that the United Kingdom has slipped from fourth place to eleventh in the table without liberalising anything. This can be partly explained by the government freezing beer and spirits duty since 2018 and freezing wine duty in 2020. Adjusted for income, its alcohol taxes are now only the ninth highest of the 30 countries in the index. It also helps that the UK takes a common sense approach to e-cigarettes… It remains to be seen whether the government uses Brexit as an opportunity for further liberalisation, but it remains highly paternalistic on food, soft drinks and tobacco.

However, what follows is the biggest news gleaned from the report (purple highlight mine):

The nannying countries at the top of the table – Norway, Lithuania, and Finland – don’t boast higher life expectancies or lower hospitalisations connected to smoking or drinking, though that hasn’t stopped governments pushing illiberal policies further and further – especially under the cover of the pandemic. It’s gesture politics at its most dangerous.

Many of us who are libertarians thought so.

It’s always good to have proof of that fact.

Readers can find Christopher Snowdon’s chart here along with his full 44-page report.

Page 4 of the report discusses the Nanny State’s adverse impact on the poor, who rely on alcohol and cigarettes to calm their nerves. It states (emphases mine):

Insofar as ‘public health’ campaigners acknowledge the damage done by their policies, they argue that it is more than offset by the benefit to health – the ends justify the means. But there is little evidence that countries with more paternalistic policies enjoy greater health or longevity. As Figure 1 shows below, there is no correlation whatsoever between Nanny State Index scores and life expectancy.

Although the UK has dropped from fourth place to 12th in a year, making it freer, this is only because dealing with the pandemic has hoovered up funds that normally would have been spent on tobacco and alcohol control.

As an avid follower of the UK Parliament’s debates, I am sure, sadly, that tobacco control will once again be on the agenda when it can be funded. The Government would like to resume this year. We’ll see.

In any event, I am grateful that Chancellor Rishi Sunak froze tobacco duty in this year’s budget, after having raised it twice last year.

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