Andrew Neil ridicules Rishi Sunak's Spring Statement
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The Chancellor delivered his Spring Statement earlier this week amid fears over the increasing cost of living. The next day, a number of newspapers, including those generally considered more pro-Tory, lead with the line “the biggest fall in living standards since the 1950s”. Despite seeming to keep much of the public on-side through schemes including furlough and “Eat Out to Help Out” during the Covid pandemic, Mr Sunak appears now to be picking up critics from all wings.
Among these is the Spectator Chairman, who has claimed the Chancellor may see himself as a ‘Thatcherite’, but he is, in fact, no such thing.
Writing in the Mail, Mr Neil highlighted a gap between what Mr Sunak says and what he does.
He wrote: “In his two years at the helm of the Treasury he’s presided over the opposite [of Thatcherite policies]: high taxes, huge spending, record borrowing, and expanding, intrusive Government.
“Despite the Thatcherite rhetoric, he continued in that vein in Wednesday’s Spring Statement.”
Mr Neil added the Chancellor, far from making solid decisions based on founded principles which might help to alleviate the problems Britons come across on a daily basis, is instead “[putting] his right hand in proffering tax cuts – and [pulling] his left hand out, his maw replete with tax rises”.
This, he added, makes Mr Sunak not a Thatcherite overseer of public finances but “the hokey-cokey Chancellor”.
The Tory politician has, according to MailPlus, attempted to save his image by telling Cabinet that even Margaret Thatcher was, on occasion, forced to raise taxes.
In an interview with Sky News following his statement, he went further, describing his new measures as “substantial”.
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Mr Sunak conceded he could not protect people against all rising costs, citing global inflation and, indeed, the impact of sanctions against Russia, which he stressed “are not cost free for us here at home”.
But, he added, “where we can make a difference we will”.
These attempts to salvage his image appear, however, to have fallen flat.
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Whereas Mr Sunak was once considered a major contender in any potential Tory leadership race, he would now be unlikely to take the top job, according to electoral experts.
John Curtice told GB News today, on Saturday, the Chancellor is no longer “the most sure-footed of Mr Johnson’s Cabinet ministers”.
This position, he added, has been taken by Defence Minister Ben Wallace, who has expectedly come to the fore in Britain’s response to the invasion of Ukraine.
In case of any doubt over his position regarding the Chancellor, Mr Neil stressed while former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had a mission to “reform a low-growth, high-tax economy”, Mr Sunak instead appears “destined to preside over a low growth, high-tax economy” – at least for the foreseeable future.
But he held out a modicum of hope the Chancellor may change yet, suggesting this may have “dawned on him by the time of the Autumn Budget”.
If it hasn’t, Mr Sunak will be likely to gain more political critics yet.
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