Boris Johnson has refused to rule out further tax rises during a heated television interview.
The UK Prime Minister also conceded there would be no quick solution to Britain’s chronic labour shortages, which have led to a fuel crisis with difficult economic consequences.
On the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, he said Britain’s lorry driver shortage could continue until Christmas.
Despite the ruling Conservatives traditionally being the party of low taxation, the government has been criticised for increasing National Insurance taxation to pay off some of the £407 billion ($551.29bn) in pandemic borrowing.
But it will be a concern to the party that Mr Johnson, 57, refused to rule out tax increases.
“You have no fiercer and more zealous opponent of unnecessary tax rises than me, but we have had to deal with a pandemic on a scale which this country has not seen before in our lifetimes,” the Prime Minister said. “If I can possibly avoid it, I do not want to raise taxes again.”
He said the former prime minister Margaret Thatcher would not have increased government borrowing any further despite being a stalwart of lower taxation. Some have advocated higher borrowing to avoid the National Insurance tax rise.
But, worryingly for Mr Johnson’s party, a new poll has shown that 34 per cent of people place more trust the main opposition party, Labour, to keep taxes low for “people like you”, compared with 31 per cent for the Tories.
Mr Johnson said Britain, which has a record one million vacancies, would have to go through a “period of adjustment” owing to Brexit, ended free movement of EU citizens within its borders.
It has one million vacancies, a record, owing to Britain’s exit from the EU
“What we can’t do is … simply go back to the tired, failed old model, reach for the lever called ‘uncontrolled immigration’, get people in at low wages,” he said.
Mr Johnson said salaries were going up at last “after more than 10 years of flatlining”.
He accepted that the government had known about the dearth of lorry drivers since June this year, but said even China had a driver shortage, as did many EU countries.
“We’ve known about shortages in road haulage long before then,” he said. “They’ve been a chronic feature of the way in which the road haulage industry has worked. What needs to happen now is people need to be decently paid and you need to have investment in their conditions.”
During one exchange, the Prime Minister was told only 10 days were left until 120,000 pigs would have to be slaughtered and incinerated owing to a lack of abattoir workers.
“The great hecatomb [mass sacrifice] of pigs that you describe has not yet taken place,” he said. “Let’s see what happens.”
It also has been a week of soul-searching among London’s police force following the jailing of former Metropolitan Police Constable Wayne Couzens for the kidnap, rape and murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard. Mr Johnson did not commit to a public inquiry into the case but said rape prosecutions took too long and the conviction rate was too low.
“We will stop at nothing to make sure that we get more rapists behind bars and we have more successful prosecutions for rape and for sexual violence,” he said.