While emerging from 10 Downing Street on Wednesday, chancellor Rishi Sunak’s notes were caught by cameras ahead of a meeting with newly elected Conservative MPs.
Among the phrases glimpsed was a reassurance that there would not be “a horror show of new taxes with no end in sight” as the country seeks to overcome its short-term financial challenges.
Recent opinion polls have seen the Conservative Party’s lead over the Labour Party beginning to narrow, giving rise to concerns among Conservative MPs who won seats from traditionally Labour-voting areas – the so-called “red wall” – regarding the government’s policies. An unnamed “red wall” Conservative said that U-turns regarding the wearing of face masks, school meal funding and A-level exam results had made MPs in marginal areas “jittery”, according to the Press Association.
Anxieties have been heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic and the costs it has incurred through government interventions, driving predictions that corporation tax will be raised in order to compensate. The government has thus far dismissed this as “speculation”.
Chancellor Sunak’s statement, which was to be read out in Parliament in an address to Conservative MPs elected in 2019, offered reassurances that the government “will be able to overcome the short-term challenges.”
“Now this doesn’t mean a horror show of tax rises with no end in sight,” the statement continued. “But it does mean treating the British people with respect, being honest with them about the challenges we face and showing them how we plan to correct our public finances and give our country the dynamic, low-tax economy we all want to see.”
The chancellor also noted during his address that unlimited borrowing cannot be the solution to government expenditure. “We cannot, will not and must not surrender our position as the party of economic competence and sound finance,” he said.