Rishi Sunak woos Tory faithful with attack on ‘immoral’ borrowing
Rishi Sunak gave his conference speech in Manchester today in front of a packed audience of the Tory faithful.
The Chancellor painted himself out as a safe pair of hands who believes in fiscal stability – and the power of Brexit.
- Mr Sunak said he believes borrowing more money for future generations to pay for is ‘immoral’ as he tried to stress his desire for fiscal responsibility.
- He told the crowd ‘the only sustainable route out of poverty comes from having a good job.’
- He accused Labour of having ‘a desperately sad vision for our future’ that involved just increasing benefits and telling young families ‘the economic system is rigged against you and the only way you stand a chance is to lean ever more on the state’.
- The Chancellor claimed he was told that supporting Brexit meant ‘my political career would be over before it had even begun’.
- But he said he did so because ‘despite the challenges, …. in the long term I believed the agility, flexibility and freedom provided by Brexit would be more valuable in a 21st century global economy than just proximity to a market.’
In his first big speech to the Tory conference – watched by Boris Johnson – the Chancellor gave an impassioned justification of his approach to ‘building back better’ as the UK recovers.
He insisted it would be fundamentally ‘un-Conservative’ to ignore the huge damage to the government’s books inflicted by the pandemic, pointing out more revenue is needed to bolster the NHS and social care.
But he tried to quell rising anxiety about imposing the highest sustained tax burden on the economy by vowing that taxes will be slashed again once the crisis is past.
Mr Sunak also stood by the decision to axe the £20 a week uplift to universal credit, setting a stark dividing line with Labour by warning that making life better for ‘ambitious’ but struggling families cannot be just about ‘increasing their benefits’.
He said that taking a ‘pragmatic’ stance would make the Tories the party of the ‘public sector and the private sector’.
The set-piece in Manchester confirmed Mr Sunak’s status as the natural successor to Mr Johnson, with activists forming huge queues to squeeze into the hall.
However, he paid a fulsome tribute to the PM saying it was down to him that the Tories were in power with an 80-strong majority.
He also set out his own vision on what the party should stand for, arguing that it must abandon ‘dogma’ to protect future generations from the impact of the pandemic.
‘I believe that mindless ideology is dangerous. I’m a pragmatist,’ he said.
‘I care about what works, not about the purity of any dogma.
‘I believe in fiscal responsibility. Just borrowing more money and stacking up bills for future generations to pay is not just economically irresponsible, it is immoral.
‘Because it’s not the state’s money it’s your money.’
In his first big speech to the Tory conference – watched by Boris Johnson – the Chancellor gave an impassioned justification of his ‘plan’ for the UK’s recovery
Mr Johnson seemed delighted by the speech, which tried to set out a vision for how the Tories would handle the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis and Brexit
Mr Sunak tried to quell rising anxiety about imposing the highest sustained tax burden on the economy by vowing that taxes will be slashed again once the crisis is past
Mr Sunak and Mr Johnson have been putting on a show of unity after signs of tensions over spending commitments
Alarm bells for Boris as poll shows Tory support down in Red Wall seats
Alarm bells were ringing for
The in-depth YouGov research found backing for the Tories has plunged by seven points since the 2019 election.
They are now only marginally ahead of Labour in 50 crucial battleground seats across the North, Midlands and Wales, on 41 per cent to 40 per cent.
Using the MRP model that performed well in the last two elections, the experts concluded that Mr Johnson could lose 18 of the constituencies if an election was held immediately, and a further 14 were too close to call.
That would reduce his Commons majority to 44 – still enough for a functional government but a significant fall from the current 80.
Mr Sunak was introduced by one of the beneficiaries of the KickStart programme to get young people into jobs.
And he insisted that was the kind of initiative that would address the root causes of poor living standards and poverty.
‘Tackling the cost of living isn’t just a political sound bite, it’s one of the central missions of this Conservative government,’ he said.
‘Is the answer to their hopes and dreams just to increase their benefits?
‘Is the answer to tell that young family, the economic system is rigged against you, and the only way you stand a chance is to lean ever more on the state?
Mr Sunak said more handouts from the government was the ‘essence of the Labour answer’.
‘I believe that the only sustainable route out of poverty comes from having a good job,’ he said.
‘It’s not just the pounds it puts in your pocket, it’s the sense of worth and self-confidence it gives you.’
In a round of interviews earlier, Mr Sunak was asked repeatedly about whether he would approve further tax increases, including a hike to council tax to help fund social care after a warning from local authorities.
The Chancellor sidestepped as he was grilled about the prospect of increasing the levy local authorities can charge, or allowing them to increase the level without holding a referendum.
But he also determinedly refused to kill off speculation that the government has pencilled in a tax cut for before the election if the economy recovers.
Mr Sunak told Sky News he would not ‘pre-empt’ the local government finance settlement later in the year and added to LBC he ‘never can comment about future tax policy’.
He did not rule out an increase to income tax before the next election – but also refused to rule out a cut if there is enough headroom.
Business anger over PM’s wage call amid supply chain crisis
Industry chiefs warned that the burden of higher wages will have to be passed on to consumers as the government dug its heels in despite rising alarm that supply chain chaos could continue for months.
There are concerns that could feed already-soaring inflation, sparking a spiral of higher pay settlements and spiking prices.
But Mr Johnson refused to engage with questions about whether he was blaming businesses or risking sending the economy into a tailspin.
Asked on a visit to a Network Rail construction site in Manchester whether he was worried about the ‘pain’ that rising inflation and tax rises would have on households, the premier merely said the Government was investing in a ‘high wage, high-skilled economy’.
‘When you talk about some of the supply chain issues, that’s really a function of the world economy, particularly the UK economy, coming back to life after Covid, sucking in gas in particular – there is a massive demand for that in Asia,’ he said.
‘There is a shortage of lorry drivers actually around the world, from Poland to the United States, and even in China they are short of lorry drivers.’
In a round of interviews at Tory conference in the city earlier, Chancellor Rishi Sunak tried to cool the tensions saying the Government is ready to take ‘short-term’ action to help reduce the pressure.
‘But we can’t wave a magic wand and make global supply chain challenges disappear overnight,’ he said.
Mr Sunak told BBC Breakfast: ‘Recently we did make a significant announcement on tax and it was a difficult decision to make, especially for a Conservative Chancellor and a Conservative Prime Minister.
‘But we took that decision because we wanted to make sure the NHS got the significant funds it requires to help recover strongly from coronavirus.’
Social care costs are partly met from central government funds, but also from councils – who have warned they require £2.6billion a year just to sustain current levels of social care.
Ministers are reportedly looking at letting local authorities increase the social care levy above 3 per cent without the need for a local referendum.
An alternative would be a direct cash injection in the spending review later this month.
Meanwhile, Mr Sunak is committing more than £500million in fresh funding to help people back into work as he seeks to stem the continuing turbulence of the coronavirus pandemic.
He is shifting the focus on to getting people into new or better jobs as the Government comes under sustained pressure over a major squeeze on living standards.
Funding for the new jobs package in his conference speech will not be set out until the spending review and Budget later this month.
Mr Sunak suggested it was his duty as Chancellor to tell the Prime Minister not to overspend after joking that he would cut up Mr Johnson’s ‘credit card’ to rein back his public spending.
‘That was an old thing but I think that’s something all chancellors say as part of our job,’ Mr Sunak told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Mr Sunak was also forced to defend the decision to end the £20-a-week uplift to Universal Credit as families and workers face financial hardship, in a move some Tories have campaigned against.
And he conceded it is likely there will be shortages this Christmas, as the strains of coronavirus are compounded by a shortage of workers stemming from Brexit.
‘We’re seeing supply disruption not just here but in lots of different places and there are things we can try and mitigate and we are,’ Mr Sunak told Today.
Rishi Sunak (pictured on a visit to a building site in Manchester with Boris Johnson today) has dodged over rumours of a stealth council tax rise to help fill the black hole in social care funding
The in-depth YouGov research found backing for the Tories has plunged by seven points since the 2019 election
Mr Sunak and Mr Johnson togged up in hi-vis gear for the visit in Manchester today
In a round of interviews at Tory conference in Manchester this morning, Chancellor Rishi said the government is ready to take ‘short-term’ action to help reduce the pressure
Farmers staged noisy protests outside the Tory gathering in Manchester this morning, after Mr Johnson shrugged off concerns about a mass culling of pigs because of a lack of abattoir staff
‘But we can’t wave a magic wand. There’s nothing I can do about the decision by a country in Asia to shut down a port because of a coronavirus outbreak.’
In his conference speech, Mr Sunak will announce the new funding will be used to help workers leaving the furlough scheme and unemployed over-50s back into work.
The ‘kickstart’ scheme helping young people on Universal Credit will be extended to March next year under the measures and the £3,000 incentive for new apprentices will be extended until the end of January.
But the Chancellor’s speech comes at a difficult time for the economy, with warnings of a cost-of-living crisis for some households who face rising energy bills, price hikes in shops and a cut to Universal Credit.
Household budgets will sustain a further blow next April when national insurance contributions rise by 1.25 per cent to help fund the NHS and social care.
Shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Reynolds said the package ‘will do nothing to compensate for the Chancellor’s tax rises, cost-of-living crisis and cuts to Universal Credit which are set to hammer millions of working families’.
Tips to Find Low Priced Luxury Holiday Package Deals Fast