First, there were suggestions that the PM would be meeting Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Matt Hancock, the Health and Social Secretary, today to discuss the cost of reforms.
Next came the denials. And then, most revealing of all, came this candid admission from Kwasi Kwarteng: “I didn’t know it was happening and I didn’t know it had been called off.”
Yet Mr Kwarteng should be in the loop. He’s the Business Secretary at a time when the care sector is pivotal to the wider economy. And what his aside actually reveals is the extent of the breakdown of Cabinet government, with Ministers marginalised, because of growing tensions on spending between a populist premier and a circumspect Chancellor.
How this evolving Downing Street dynamic plays out remains to be seen. Nevertheless, Ministers need to remember that Mr Johnson promised on the day he took office to “fix” the social care crisis and this was reaffirmed by the electoral mandate that they all received in December 2019.
But what is so frustrating, given Mr Hancock’s continuing reluctance to engage with care providers, is the reluctance of the Cabinet to look at ways to further support the care sector now, as it comes to terms with both Covid and the impact of Brexit on staffing, while, at the same time, debating longer-term reform plans.
In many respects, this is the defining test of this Government and the briefings of the past 48 hours suggest that there is no reform plan, despite Mr Johnson previously stating that one existed, and that there is no plan to develop a coherent strategy. For, if we cannot care about the most vulnerable, what kind of nation are we?
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