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- British politician (born 1969)
A former minister has accused Jacob Rees-Mogg of shedding “crocodile tears” over the government’s National Insurance tax hike that is exposing splits within the Conservative party.
Jake Berry, chair of the influential Northern Research Group of Tory MPs, said Mogg should have spoken out against the plan when it was proposed, adding: “You didn’t have to be a genius to see this coming down the line.”
The former northern powerhouse minister, who represents Rossendale & Darwen in Lancashire, told Times Radio: “I made a speech in the House of Commons when we were debating this piece of legislation saying this is what was going to happen.
“Jacob Rees Mogg, when this was proposed, had the ability then, to oppose like I did, this increase in national insurance. It’s all very well to turn around with crocodile tears now and say, look what my policies have created.”
He added: “So if Jacob Rees Mogg wants to vote with his feet that’s up to him. It’s a bit late in the day, and I do hope that the government may think again.”
Berry’s intervention comes following reports that Mogg, leader of the Commons, told Cabinet that the 1.25 per cent rise — due to come in force in April — should be ditched as inflation and energy bills rise.
Berry has repeatedly argued that the move would disproportionately benefit older and more affluent voters in the south and potentially put Boris Johnson’s electoral gains in the Red Wall at risk.
According to the Times, Rees-Mogg told the government to sack civil servants to save money while also questioning the “productivity” of those working from home.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak reportedly defended the levy and the mitigations put in place to help those facing extra costs – citing the universal credit taper cut and a £500million household support fund.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said on Thursday: “There are no plans to do that, no.
“The Cabinet collectively agree with that approach and recognise the priority of the public in ensuring our NHS has the funding it needs to tackle the backlog, which has been exacerbated by Covid.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.