Tories demand PM raises game after social care revolt and CBI shambles

Get a grip, Boris: Senior Tories demand PM raises his game after 19 MPs rebel on social care reforms and shambolic Peppa Pig speech to CBI. And now even Brexit chief is weighing in on tax cuts

  • Boris Johnson saw his majority slashed by large Tory rebellion as he pushed through social care proposals 
  • Some 19 MPs voted against the plan to water down cap on costs with dozens more abstaining in key vote
  • The revolt came after the PM was criticised for a ‘shambolic’ speech to the CBI and over sleaze chaos 

Pressure is mounting on Boris Johnson to raise his game today after a major rebellion on social care and anger at his shambolic speech to business chiefs.

The PM is gathering his Cabinet after 19 MPs fired a warning shot by voting against watering down the cap on care costs last night, while dozens more abstained.

The government’s plan still went through due to its huge 77-strong majority – but alarm bells are sounding in Downing Street after the margin was slashed to just 26. 

The blow came after Mr Johnson put on a chaotic performance at the CBI conference, with the hall left in awkward silence for more than 20 seconds after he lost his thread.

He also raised eyebrows with an extended tangent on children’s cartoon character Peppa Pig, made car engine noises, and compared himself to Moses.

The bewildering scenes – hot on the heels of the debacle over sleaze triggered by Mr Johnson’s abortive bid to save ally Owen Paterson from punishment for lobbying – have sparked a wave of vicious briefing.      

One Government source swiped that Mr Johnson, still suffering a heavy cold, seemed to have had ‘a bit too much Lemsip’. Even Downing Street insiders reportedly laid into the premier, with one telling the Times there had been ‘stumble after stumble’ and ‘people are sharpening their knives’. 

A senior Downing Street source told the BBC: ‘There is a lot of concern inside the building about the PM … it’s just not working. Cabinet needs to wake up and demand serious changes.’ 

Although Mr Johnson does not appear to be under imminent threat, the situation appears to be becoming more serious by the day.

He came under fire on another front last night when a Cabinet minister publicly joined a push for taxes to be cut, after the burden rose to the highest level in peacetime. 

In a rare public intervention on domestic policy, former Brexit negotiator Lord Frost said low taxes were ‘the formula for success as a country’.

He also said the UK must move away from EU rules so Britain can ‘step up and compete at a global level’.

After ‘shambolic’ speech to businesses, No10 sources voice ‘concern’ – then Brexit chief weighs in on tax cuts

Senior Conservative MPs warned they would not back the new policy to cap care costs in England, which critics argued had been made far less generous.

Ministers were unable to say whether the change to the £86,000 cap on care costs would fulfil an election pledge to guarantee no-one would have to sell their home to pay for care.

Conservative critics joined experts and Labour MPs in warning the move to count only individual payments towards the cap, and not local authority contributions, would cost poorer recipients more in assets than the wealthy.

Mr Johnson himself went into bat for the plans, describing them as ‘incredibly generous’ and ‘much better than the existing system’ during his CBI speech. 

But the Government only narrowly avoided defeat in the Commons with MPs backing the amendment 272 votes to 246, a majority of 26. 

Conservatives including former Cabinet minister Esther McVey and ex-chief whip Mark Harper rebelled.  

Senior Conservative William Wragg and NHS doctor Dan Poulter were also among the Tories to vote against the change, as were Christian Wakeford and Mark Jenkinson, two MPs who seized former Labour strongholds in the north for the Tories.

Another 68 Tories did not vote for them, with around 30 of those thought to ‘actively’ abstained without permission from the whips. 

Mr Johnson had been attempting to mend fences with big business during his CBI speech, following clashes over Brexit.

The BBC last night quoted a ‘senior Downing Street source’ that claimed the speech was ‘shambolic’ and that there was ‘a lot of concern inside the building’ about the Prime Minister.

The source added: ‘It’s just not working. Cabinet needs to wake up and demand serious changes otherwise it’ll keep getting worse. If they don’t insist, he just won’t do anything about it.’ 

No 10 declined to comment on the claim. But a Government insider dismissed the charge as ‘total nonsense’, adding: ‘That is absolutely not the feeling in the building – it couldn’t be more wrong.’

In a rare public intervention on domestic policy, former Brexit negotiator Lord Frost, pictured said low taxes were ‘the formula for success as a country’

Tory MP Peter Bone also rallied round, saying: ‘The idea that the Government is falling apart because the PM’s speech got a bit mixed up is clearly ridiculous.’

A source told the Daily Mail that the Prime Minister’s long pause, in which he shuffled through the pages of his address, had occurred because he had been accidentally handed a copy of the speech in the wrong order.

But pressure later ramped up even further on Mr Johnson as his close ally Cabinet Office minister Lord Frost gave a speech to the Centre for Policy Studies.

At last month’s Budget, the Prime Minister had overruled Chancellor Rishi Sunak, insisting public spending should be raised despite the poor state of the public finances.

At the time, the Chancellor set out an ambition to cut taxes by the next election.

And last night Lord Frost told the centre-Right think-tank: ‘We know what the formula for success as a country is: it’s low taxes. I agree with the Chancellor as he said in his Budget speech – our goal must be to reduce taxes.

It’s about light-touch and proportionate regulation, whatever the policy objectives you’re trying to pursue. And of course free trade.

‘Increasing consumer choice while reducing consumer costs. Ensuring competition stops complacency – keeping our economy fit and responsive to innovation and progress abroad.’

Boris Johnson was seen enjoying a day at Peppa Pig World theme park with his one-year-old son

Lord Frost also spoke of the importance of the UK forging its own path post-Brexit. He said: ‘We haven’t successfully rolled back the frontiers of the EU with Brexit, only to import the European model after all this time.

‘So we need to reform fast and those reforms are going to involve doing things differently from the EU. If we stick to EU models, but behind our own tariff wall and with a smaller market, obviously we are not going to succeed.’

Mr Johnson had told the CBI conference: ‘I have never been anything other than business’s number one fan… the true driver of growth is not Government, it is the energy and dynamism and originality of the private sector.’

He said it was time for Government to ‘get out of your hair’, adding that ministers should ‘make sure there is less regulation and indeed less taxation’.

He then hailed the global success of Peppa Pig, telling business leaders the children’s cartoon was a great example of British creativity.

Delegates were left bemused as the Prime Minister asked them to raise their hands if they had visited Peppa Pig World, in the New Forest.

Peppa Pig World is in Paultons Park located in Romsey, Hampshire

Mr Johnson told the audience of business leaders in Newcastle he had visited the attraction with his wife Carrie and son Wilfred on Sunday, hailing it as ‘my kind of place’.

‘It has safe streets, discipline in schools, a heavy emphasis on new mass transit systems,’ he said. ‘Even if they are a bit stereotypical about Daddy Pig.’ 

The PM said the hit show, which has been a huge export, showed ‘the power of UK creativity’ and entrepreneurship.

Mr Johnson’s former adviser Guto Harri said the references were an effective way of making a point about the value of the creative industries, adding: ‘It was classic Boris.’

Asked by ITV after the speech if ‘everything was OK’, the Prime Minister said: ‘I think that people got the vast majority of the points that I wanted to make and I thought it went over well.’ 

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