‘Nothing has changed’ about the Tories and that is the party's big problem - analysis by Christopher Hope

"Nothing has changed," Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on a visit to Yorkshire today when asked when the General Election was going to be. It was an echo of Theresa May's defence of her manifesto at the 2017 general election when I asked her (for The Daily Telegraph) what else will change in the manifesto after the infamous about turn on the dementia tax.

Sunak’s answer means that he is still planning to go to the polls in the second half of this year, and there was little in the Budget to suggest anything different, with large cuts to National Insurance which are still far less electorally potent than cutting income tax.

I caught up with Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor, in the state room of 11 Downing Street earlier today, just back from a trip to a new vaccines manufacturing plant in Liverpool.

Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt

I was struck by his non-answer when I asked him towards the end if he was planning for a second fiscal event in September ahead of the expected polling day in November.

"Is this the last we'll hear from you with the Red box or even giving out a fiscal statement? There are rumours of an autumn statement again, which might cut income tax, maybe in September ahead of a November election," I asked him.

Hunt said: "I hope it's not the last you hear from me because I’m loving being Chancellor. I want to be Chancellor for a long time. We have to have a general election. The Prime Minister says it'll be before the end of the year. And so in the end, it's in the hand of the electorate."

That, to me, says that Hunt is planning for a second tax-cutting moment before the election, and would explain the workaday nature of his Spring Budget.


Rishi Sunak

In the interview, he made clear that the Government had to change its economic model and wean companies off the supply of cheap foreign labour, and justified why he had spent £1million of taxpayers' money on a war memorial to the 170,000 Muslim soldiers who died in the First and Second World Wars.

Hunt also insisted the Treasury was not over-attached to the forecasts of the Office for Budget Responsibility, as has been claimed by senior rightwing Tories including former Cabinet minister David Davis.

It was a confident performance by the Chancellor, defending what I think is a so-so Budget which looks set to be forgotten by the weekend.

For me, Hunt's Budget felt like a fiscal statement from a Government in the second term of a Parliament - not the fifth.

Time is running out for the Tories to move the dial and capture the imagination of voters who seem increasingly ready to take a chance on Sir Keir Starmer's Labour Party to form the next Government and take the UK into the 2030s.

from GB News https://ift.tt/fz3UgGR

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