Rishi Sunak's tax U-turn is transparent, too little and too late, says Dan Wootton
What’s that I hear? Yup, thought so, the sound of a screeching U-turn from a politician who has insisted he won’t allow party politics to impact his economic ideology…until he’s being thrashed in the polls
Fishy Rishi Sunak’s pledge to cut VAT on energy bills might be the right policy, even though it’s only limited to one year.
But how does his £4billion giveaway to try and win over grassroots Tories stack up with everything he’s been telling us during this leadership campaign?
That tax cuts would be immoral and inflationary and a fairytale…
What’s more is that Number 10 insiders told the Daily Mail that Boris Johnson had tried to implement the policy to ease the burden on voters – but he was blocked by Sunak!
A source told the newspaper: “Boris begged him to do it – but he wouldn’t budge. It’s astonishing that he’s now claiming it as his own policy.”
Meanwhile, Sunak also pledged to tighten the rules on out-of-work benefits, with claimants needing to work 18 hours a week before they are able to cancel their job centre appointments.
The only issue is that the Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey, who is also the Truss campaign chair, told allies Sunak blocked her similar plan when he was the Chancellor, according to Politico.
Even The Spectator, where Sunak has many allies, is now turning against him.
Financial columnist Matthew Lynn wrote today: "Sunak's announcement is a sign of desperation.
"The Conservative Party’s members look to have already chosen their next prime minister.
"Liz Truss is not way ahead in the polls because she is a fantastic speaker (she isn’t) or because she connects with ordinary people (she doesn’t).
"It is because she has correctly identified that putting taxes up to the highest level in 70 years was a terrible mistake.
"Boxed in by his record as Chancellor, and as the person who put up those taxes, Sunak has been left hopelessly exposed.
"But VAT on energy? Really? In truth, this is ‘typical Rishi’: a small and fiddly tax cut that won’t make a huge amount of difference to anyone and which will be swallowed up by the rise in electricity bills anyway.
"It is a technocratic, Treasury solution, the sort of move Gordon Brown might have come up with on a bad day."
The Spectator’s economics editor Kate Andrews added: "Where Sunak is most vulnerable is in his claim that tax cuts are inherently inflationary – an accusation he’s made of Truss’s economic agenda many times.
"He’s going to find himself getting into the weeds explaining why he thinks Truss’s tax cuts are inflationary while his are benign.
"And the most likely outcome will be voters thinking the claim was exaggerated – that while there may be major risks associated with unfunded tax cuts, an inflationary spike isn’t one of them."
Well, tonight, his leadership rival took advantage of his tax dilemma without resorting to unnecessary jibes.
Wherever he goes from here, I’m afraid Fishy Rishi’s tax U-turn is transparent and too little too late.