YET another storm is gathering at Westminster, where this week a good deal of political thunder and lightning will be unleashed as MPs rage over the ending of the £20-a-week increase in Universal Credit.

Last week, in its enthusiasm to zip through the National Insurance hike to pay for more health and social care spending in England, the UK Government - by sheer coincidence, of course – scrapped with alacrity a planned Opposition Day debate, thus avoiding Labour administering a bloody nose to Boris and his chums on their planned removal of the welfare hike at the end of this month.

Keir Starmer and his comrades will have another bash at trying to shame the PM over the UC cut this Wednesday when – just 24 hours after all the legislative stages of the new health and social care levy have been pushed through in a single day – Labour has its rescheduled Opposition Day debate, ending with a symbolic, non-binding vote.

Last spring, the Opposition did the same thing; just six Tory MPs rebelled. This time the numbers could be much higher as Conservative disgruntlement on a number of fronts is bubbling up.

However, before that Commons showdown, tomorrow - as Boris seeks to seize the political initiative on Covid with an expected Downing St press conference - Therese Coffey, the Work and Pensions Secretary, will be donning her imaginary helmet to protect against all the flak coming her way during Commons question-time; eight of the 15 questions listed mention UC.

The £1,040-a-year welfare uplift was introduced in April 2020 as a one-year measure to help the less well-off survive the ravages of the pandemic. It was later extended to September 30 this year. It is claimed by more than five million UK households.

Politically, once you give out free money to people, particularly the neediest, it is very difficult to take it back without seeming utterly callous and uncaring.

Indeed, as the SNP’s virtual conference backed a motion condemning the UK Government for “cruelly and irresponsibly” scrapping the UC uplift, Keith Brown, the Nationalists' deputy leader, told delegates: “The nasty party is well and truly back at Westminster.”

The forces hostile to the PM’s plan to remove the UC uplift look formidable.

Not only are the mass ranks of Labour, the SNP, the Liberal Democrats and Greens opposed, so too are more than 50 Tory MPs and six former Work and Pensions Secretaries as well as all the devolved governments and a swath of charities and anti-poverty campaigners.

Among the Conservatives urging Boris to stay his hand are the dozens of MPs from the Northern Research Group, who helped him get into power by winning all those “red wall” seats whose constituents disproportionately rely on benefits.

Labour’s own research claimed removing the UC uplift would take £2.5 billion from the economies of northern England and the Midlands.

So much for levelling up, insisted Jonathan Reynolds, Ms Coffey’s Labour Shadow, who noted how the Government’s “rhetoric doesn’t stand up to reality”. He argued: “They promised investment in the North and Midlands but are instead pulling billions out of local economies.”

Yesterday, he warned Rishi Sunak, the would-be Johnson successor, that the Chancellor would be held personally responsible for the biggest welfare cut in history, claiming it was all unnecessary because the economic numbers were pointing to some “fiscal headroom” come the October Spending Review.

Two weeks ago, a poll suggested 51% of voters were in favour of making the UC uplift permanent with 22% against; among Conservative supporters, the respective numbers were 40% and 33%.

But perhaps most unnerving of all for the Downing St duo, is that Marcus Rashford, the anti-poverty campaigning footballer, is among the anti-cut league.

Analysis has suggested removing the UC uplift will push more than 700,000 people into poverty and worsen health conditions in the country’s sickest areas.

And, of course, it comes as households have to prepare for higher taxes, not just with the NI hike but the freezing of the tax-free personal allowance.

On Wednesday, single-parent UC claimants told MPs how the uplift had been a “lifeline” and its removal would leave them “destitute,” forced to decide which utility bill to pay or not pay.

One said losing the £1,040-a-year help would pose the “question of whether I will be able to look after my children successfully,” while another said she would “be going back to use my credit cards and spiralling into debt; that’s what a lot of people will be doing”.

A day later, Baroness Stedman-Scott, the Work and Pensions Minister, told peers her department had not carried out any impact assessment on removing the UC uplift because “we’re returning to business as usual”.

Across Westminster, Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Commons Leader, popped up to defend the Government’s position, pointing out the cost of the UC uplift had already relieved taxpayers of a not inconsiderable £9 billion. “We cannot always keep temporary measures forever; we have to balance the books,” he declared.

The Old Etonian multi-millionaire was not finished, telling his Labour opponents: “This is typical socialism. The magic money tree comes back to mind, which Labour Members still seem to think exists somewhere, although it is odd that at the moment they do not want any of their magic money to go to the NHS.”

Earlier in the week during Treasury Questions, Sunak denied scrapping the uplift would push some people into poverty, telling MPs: “Because we know, and all the evidence and history tells us, the best way to take people out of poverty is to find them high-quality work. We are creating jobs at a rapid rate…”

However, knowing how a large number of the Chancellor’s colleagues are deeply uncomfortable about the imminent removal of the UC uplift, Labour has been applying moral pressure, saying it is giving Tory MPs the “chance to do the right thing, stand up to the PM and defend their constituents from this devastating cut”.

This week we will find out if they will take it.