Johnson’s Conservatives Pledge to Lock U.K. Income Tax Rates

James Ludden

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Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party will pledge not to increase several key tax measures if it wins next month’s general election, part of a manifesto document that’s set to promise to return the Brexit bill to Parliament before Christmas.

In a document liberally sprinkled with phrases such as “get Brexit done,” “unleash Britain’s potential” and “the people’s priorities,” the headline pitch is a promise not to raise the rates of income tax, national insurance or value-added tax during the next Tory government.

The manifesto, to be officially presented later on Sunday, also includes plans for record spending on infrastructure, science and training the workforce, as well as more money for the childcare and a promise not to export plastic waste to non-OECD countries. There’s no mention of how the various measures would affect the government’s finances.

“Our positive, One Nation agenda will unite this great country not just for Christmas but for years to come,” Johnson said in a statement. “We are offering hope and optimism where the Labour Party only offer hate and division.”

It’s Johnson’s biggest attempt to build clear water between his party and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour -- and to show voters that the Tories have turned their backs on years of austerity. The Labour manifesto includes radical plans to bring the nation’s railways, water supplies and broadband grid under state ownership -- measures that would be funded by taxes on companies and the rich.

In another sign that the National Health Service is set to dominate at least part of the debate for the next few weeks, Johnson flicked at “our fantastic NHS staff” and announced measures to force hospitals to provide free car parking to certain groups. No NHS Trust will be left with less money because of the charge, according to the manifesto.

While a slew of opinion polls suggest the Conservatives retain a solid lead, the nature of Britain’s first-past-the-post voting system means that a majority government isn’t necessarily a given. The election is set for Dec. 12.

According to an analysis of YouGov polls conducted by Datapraxis, which used a similar model to accurately predict the 2017 result, the Tories would win a 48-seat majority, but several big names -- including Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab -- are in danger of losing their seats if people vote tactically.

Robert Struthers, BMG’s head of polling, attributed an increase in the Conservatives’ lead to the decision by the Brexit Party not to contest any seats held by the Tories.

“Much of this increase is likely a reflection of the Conservatives simply piling up more votes in seats they would have already won, and perhaps only making the difference in defending a handful of their own marginal constituencies,” the Independent quoted him as saying.

Backing Brexit

Johnson also spelled out plans to bring his Brexit bill back to Parliament before the Christmas recess, assuming his party wins an absolute majority, with the aim of Britain leaving the European Union by the end of January. Johnson says all his party’s candidates have promised to back the bill.

He also took a swipe at Corbyn’s recent declaration that he’d stay neutral in the event of another Brexit referendum and played on the idea of whether his opponent was trustworthy, a theme that was batted back and forth in the BBC’s latest audience Q&A program, “Question Time.”

“If Corbyn can’t decide how he would vote in his own referendum, why would the EU even give him a deal -- and, more importantly how can we possibly trust him to lead the country?” Johnson said.

Transport minister Grant Shapps, in an article for the Sunday Telegraph, continued the Corbyn-bashing theme by accusing the Labour leader’s “friends in the unions” of planning a politically motivated strike in the run-up to Christmas. In a play for the commuter vote in southern England, Shapps said a Conservative government would force train companies to run a minimum service even if there’s a walkout.

And in the Sunday Times, cabinet minister Michael Gove launched a more general, economics-based attack on Corbyn -- one that managed to make several war references, from “Great Escape“ and “war of attrition” to “Stalingrad” and “trench warfare.”

(Adds comment from ministers)

To contact the reporter on this story: James Ludden in New York at jludden@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Matthew G. Miller at mmiller144@bloomberg.net, Tony Czuczka

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