YET another storm is brewing in Downing Street. Following storms Cummings, Hancock and Rabb (a.k.a. storm Taliban), the promises of Building Back Better and Levelling Up post-pandemic are about to be drowned in a deluge of economic pressures and political squabbling. Those on the lowest incomes are unlikely to come out of this well. The immediate issue is another of Johnson’s oven-ready deals. Two years ago he declared: “I am announcing now – on the steps of Downing Street – that we will fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan we have prepared to give every older person the dignity and security they deserve.” Repeat, “a clear plan we have prepared”, so clear and so prepared that six months later the Conservative and Unionist Party’s election manifesto held back on the plan by promising to seek a cross-party consensus on the issue. Five months after that, the fragility of the social care sector was fully exposed by the failure to protect care home residents and their carers from the ravages of Covid. The ‘protective shield’ around care homes was a myth. The “clear plan” for funding social care can be postponed no longer, so it seems. After all, the 1997-2010 Labour governments and the Coalition and subsequent governments have been grappling with the funding of social care since the Royal Commission of 1999. This recommended the introduction of free personal care on the grounds that cancer care was free under the NHS so why not provide free care for those with Alzheimer’s disease under the social care system? Scotland implemented a free social care policy in 2002. The closest to a British party political consensus on social care funding came with the Dilnot Report recommendations of 2011. Professor Dilnot proposed that care charges be capped over a person’s lifetime and the introduction of a less harsh means test. This was broadly accepted at the time and the Care Act of 2014 was passed, ready for implementation in 2016. But this was deemed unaffordable under George Osborne’s austerity drive so it was initially postponed until 2020 and then put back into the policy melting pot once again from 2017. Four years later, and 22 years after the Royal Commission report, Johnson is still wrestling with the issue. What is his problem? First there are the December 2019 manifesto commitments not to raise income tax, VAT or national insurance contributions (NICs). Secondly, the manifesto carried forward the triple lock on the state pension which guarantees that the pension goes up in line with inflation, average wages or 2.5 per cent, whichever benefits pensioners the most. Thirdly, splashing the cash during the pandemic does not mean that the low tax, small state faction within the governing party at Westminster – including the Britannia Unchained mob within the cabinet itself – has gone away. State spending is fine when channelled into party supporters and donors, and in exceptional, war-like circumstances. But it is not fine in general when you are driven by an ideological commitment to the “free market”, “sovereignty” and “global Britain”, and see the state as a last resort. Breaching manifesto commitments is not a problem for Johnson. He’s already done it by cutting the foreign aid budget, violating what is written in law in the process. He lies to the House of Commons and to the public at large, so ditching bits of the manifesto is not an issue. No, the problem is the disaster capitalists in his own party who see the pandemic as an opportunity to increase the reach of the private sector into the work of the NHS and elsewhere. They would rather see no tax increases of any kind and let the NHS be starved of funds, further stimulating the drift towards private services. Minor incremental changes to social care funding are enough as they see it. Some of the prominent Brexiters, such as cabinet member Rees-Mogg, are openly opposed to tax increases.