Published: 17:47, 10 September 2021
| Updated: 18:32, 10 September 2021
It has taken two years to get there but the Prime Minister finally remembered that he’d made a pledge to fix the social care system.
So, has he delivered a credible plan or has he left a lengthy snagging list?
As with all major policy announcements from politicians, there was a lot of detail to digest. And no wonder - as Boris acknowledged, successive governments had ducked the issue for years and as a result, there was rather more fixing needed than anticipated.
He told MPs: “You can't fix the NHS without fixing social care and you can't fix social care without removing the fear of losing everything to pay for social care; and you can’t fix social care without long term reform; the plans I am setting out will fix all of these.”
Even Bob The Builder might have found the list of fixes rather too onerous but as we know, the PM is not short on self-belief.
Even so, the wide-ranging reforms, underpinned by the plan to increase national insurance, have led to as many questions as answers.
Chief among them is the extent to which those earning the least would bear a disproportionate burden.
A 1.25% increase in national insurance for someone earning £20,000 a year would mean them paying an additional £130 a year while a 66-year-old earning £50,000 a year would pay nothing.
This is seen as a fault-line in the government’s reforms and exposes it to two potentially toxic issues: breaking a promise to the electorate not to increase taxes and making the less well-off and younger workers pay more than wealthier older people.
In the case of the former, the argument goes that no-one could have predicted that we would be in the grip of a global pandemic which is true.
But it is also the case that a lot of unexpected things happen to countries and governments and politicians have to resolve them somehow - take Brexit, for example.
The PM has faced claims of political cake-ism: he is banking on the goodwill to and support of the care sector that the pandemic has elicited to get the reforms through and hopes voters are in a forgiving mood.
They may be for a time but as Nadra Ahmed, the chairman of the national care association points out, there are fears more money from the levy will be used to tackle the backlog of treatment in the NHS: “It is abundantly clear that only one sixth of any money raised will be used to support our workforce, our services and ultimately the vulnerable people we care for.”
When politicians are faced with a problem that has proved intractable for months if not years, they often say something along the lines of “well, if it was easy, it would have been solved by now”.
The continuing controversy of how to curb the number of asylum seekers arriving in Kent is a case in point.
The latest idea of Home Secretary Priti Patel is for the border officials authorities to push back vessels attempting to cross over into English waters.
If only it was that simple: the idea might sound alright on paper but when it comes to the legality, there is one box to tick off that is unlikely to happen, namely that the French authorities have to agree to accept the boats back.
Given the strains on the ‘entente cordiale’ and the fact that French politicians have dismissed it out of hand seems to make it a complete non-starter. Even the Prime Minister has had to concede that the idea would only work if France co-operated.
So why has it even been advanced? Well, the Home Secretary is in a bind: however outlandish her ill-fated wheezes are, she has to show voters that she is doing something rather than doing nothing.
What comes next? Gunboat diplomacy?
Meanwhile, Kent County Council has announced that it is to resume taking in unaccompanied child asylum seekers who arrive on Kent shores.
But it is doing so with some qualifications. Chief among them being its warning that it could yet continue with its legal challenge to the government over its failings to set up a mandatory dispersal scheme for vulnerable children.
With little evidence of a let up in the rate of arrivals, there could be a perverse incentive for the government to accept that argument.