Another week begins – Owl
End the ‘psychodrama’ around Boris Johnson, says Tom Tugendhat (Lt. Colonel)
David Bond www.standard.co.uk
Tom Tugendhat, chair of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, is one of a growing list of Tory MPs who have criticised Mr Johnson as he has battled claims of lockdown busting parties in Downing Street. At the end of last month he became the first Tory MP to declare publicly he would be throw his hat in the ring for the leadership of the party if Mr Johnson was ousted or stepped down.
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement over the weekend that Cabinet Office Minister Steve Barclay had been appointed his new chief of staff and Guto Harri would take up the role of Director of Communications, the MP for Tonbridge and Malling said he should be given time to see “what the changes are”.
But, speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he added: “The last two and a half years….have been really really difficult on many, many people and we need to be offering a vision of the future that gives people options to rebuild their lives and to restart in new ways.
“This is a time when we need to be really focused on what politics is actually here for and that is serving others and not getting into some sort of personal psychodrama.”
Asked whether the easiest way to end that would be to remove Mr Johnson from office, he replied: “It depends how the reset goes…because going into a leadership election is hardly ending a psychodrama. He has just appointed a whole new team, let’s see how he gets on and I’m very much hoping that what we are going to see is the kind of Conservative administration that people voted for in 2019.”
Despite his attempts to reset his team at No 10, Mr Johnson could still be in danger if the chairman of the 1922 backbench committee Sir Graham Brady receives 54 letters from Tory MPs calling for a vote of no confidence.
Mr Tugendhat said: “The Prime Minister has just done his reset, let’s see what No 10 brings out. There’s an awful lot of talent going in, there’s a lot of talent coming out. Let’s see what the changes are.
“This is a decision for 360 or so members of Parliament and let’s see where it goes to. I think the point remains we have got to be looking at the future, we’ve got to be looking at what’s best for the British people and focused on how we achieve the results that we really need for this country.”
In a move which may help win support among colleagues in a future leadership contest, Mr Tugendhat also argued for the Prime Minister to rethink the looming National Insurance rise which will raise £36billion over the next three years to clear the NHS backlog and help reform social care.
Many Tory MPs oppose the 1.25 percentage point tax hike, insisting it is ‘un-Conservative’ and will place struggling households under even greater pressure as they face soaring inflation and a spike in energy bills from April.
As an alternative Mr Tugendhat said the Government should encourage the development of a private insurance market which could help people cover the cost of social care.
He said: “What we are seeing now is the state subsidising areas through taxing and spending. That’s a perfectly reasonable way of doing it but my suggestion is to look at other ways of doing it. We are relying an awful lot on today’s taxpayers to pay for today’s social care needs and the reality is on one level it’s fantastic we should be focused on that…what I am concerned about is that there are an awful lot of parts of the country – particularly those areas where we talk about levelling up – which are likely to find themselves paying the tax but not getting the benefit.”
“There are many ways in which the state can provide assistance to the private sector…there’s various ways in which you can create a market under which the insurance company, the insurance market to grow in and cover the risk.”