Rishi Sunak: Voters want Tories to ‘deliver for them’
Rishi Sunak is putting the Tories on an election war footing as he orders his troops to prepare for tax cuts in the autumn.
Treasury officials have been told to draw up a package of giveaways to be announced within months.
The PM believes letting hard-working people keep more of their earning would help ease the cost-of-living struggle faced by millions – and will help keep him in power.
A small team is working on a blueprint which will be unveiled as soon as the economic conditions dictate, the Sunday Express can reveal.
On Saturday night, a government source said: “The Treasury is looking at what it can do in the Autumn Statement.
“Are taxes too high? Yes. I think we will do something provided inflation comes down and the economic uptick continues.
“We have got to earn money to give it back to people.”
Easing the tax burden, currently the highest in 70 years, is seen as a vital vote-winner for the Conservatives as a general election – which must take place in the next 18 months – looms ever closer for Mr Sunak.
Other concerns for the party include stopping migrant boats and cutting NHS waiting lists.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has said he will only sanction the tax move once he is confident the battle against inflation has been won.
But there have been encouraging signs that Britain may soon turn a corner after latest figures showed inflation is currently 8.7 percent. That compares with a peak of 11 percent last October.
And on Saturday night, it emerged Rishi Sunak is poised to announce a £1billion NHS investment to help fix the staffing crisis, it was reported.
The cash will help train doctors, dentists, nurses and midwives over five years.
Cuts to personal taxes, designed to put more money into voters’ pockets, are now top of the agenda. And Tory MPs are also pushing for an increase in the inheritance tax threshold and cuts to corporation tax.
But former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith warned on Saturday night that voters would “punish” Mr Sunak’s government if it went into the next election without cutting taxes first.
He said: “We need to cut taxes now. They are the highest they have been since the war.”
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There is growing concern in Tory ranks about the ongoing freeze in income tax thresholds, resulting from decisions announced in the 2021 Budget and 2022 Autumn Statement.
Failing to increase these in line with inflation, known as “fiscal drag”, means an additional 3.2 million people on lower incomes are set to pay income tax for the first time. And an additional 2.1 million people will be pushed into the higher rate 40 percent higher income tax band.
The Office for Budget Responsibility, the official Treasury watchdog, has warned this is equivalent to an extra 4p increase in the basic rate of income tax although it will also raise £29.3billion each year.
Sir Iain said: “Teachers and nurses have been brought into the higher rate and they certainly shouldn’t be. The other one is the problem of inheritance tax thresholds.
“People with ordinary homes are being sucked into inheritance tax.”
And former Welsh Secretary David Jones said: “I am concerned about the tax burden both for individuals and for companies.”
The MP for Clwyd West added: “I certainly think the income tax rate is too high.
“What I’m particularly concerned about is corporation tax which has been put up.”
Some backbenchers also want the Chancellor to take a tough line on spending and follow in the footsteps of a former leader by making cuts.
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One Conservative MP said: “The only prime minister who had the balls to balance the books was a woman, Margaret Thatcher.
“We spend twice as much on interest payments servicing our debt – £96billion – as we do on defence, at a time when we face threats from Russia and China. It is madness.”
Tories also warning Rishi Sunak that he must fire up activists by convincing them an election victory is still possible. One Conservative told the Sunday Express: “We need to galvanise people, to get them out there delivering leaflets. It’s possible. We can win an historic fifth mandate from voters.
“It would be the first time in history any party has done that. The time to start campaigning is now.”
In an unusual fundraising drive, the chairman of the Conservative party, Greg Hands, has written to activists asking them to take part in a raffle where the prize includes ten minutes on the phone with Rishi Sunak.
He said in an email to party members: “The lucky winner of this summer’s Fast Reply Draw will get a ten-minute phone call with the Prime Minister – on top of a massive £10,000!” Lottery tickets cost £5 each, although supporters are being urged to sign up and buy an entry every month.
Labour leader accused of opposing removal of foreign criminals
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has been accused of opposing the removal of violent foreign criminals, as the Government vowed to “smash” people-smuggling gangs.
Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick took the fight to the Labour leader as Tory MPs warned tackling the small boats crisis will “make or break” the party’s chances at the next election.
Mr Jenrick said: “There are plenty of Labour MPs who believe that enforcing our borders is immoral.”
In a sign that the Tories plan to focus on Starmer’s record in the run-up to the election, he said: “These MPs, of which Keir Starmer can count himself, have campaigned time after time to prevent the removal of violent and dangerous foreign national criminals from our country.”
Mr Jenrick insisted: “Only the Conservative Party can see the small boats crisis for what it is – the economic migration of predominantly young men from safe countries – and knows what it takes to smash the smuggling gangs and stop the boats.”
The Government’s Illegal Migration Bill is currently making its way through Parliament, with debate set to continue in the Lords on Wednesday, but Labour has consistently voted against it. Mr Jenrick last week visited countries that some migrants pass through on their way to the UK, including Algeria, Tunisia and Italy, to discuss how nations can work to increase border security.
Tory MPs believe cutting immigration is essential if they are to have a chance of winning the election. A Government minister warned: “We can’t win if we don’t deal with immigration.”
One Tory MP said: “The issue of illegal migration will make or break us. There is an undercurrent of concern about legal migration too, but my constituents are really concerned about illegal migration.
“We have to sort it out.”
There is widespread support for plans to remove asylum seekers and people who enter the UK illegally to Rwanda, with both right-wingers and centre-ground One Nation Tories backing the scheme, but there are a few opponents in Tory ranks.
One told the Sunday Express: “I don’t support the Rwanda scheme. I don’t think it will work. We need to get France and other countries in Europe to control their borders. People are crossing Europe to come to the UK and the Rwanda scheme means we are giving up on controlling those borders.”
Last week, PM Rishi Sunak urged European countries to “work co-operatively to tackle illegal migration”. Government figures also show the amount of taxpayer money spent on the asylum system has increased fourfold from £550million in 2010 to £2.1billion, while the backlog of asylum cases has reached a record high of 173,000.
Last week migrants staying at a hotel in Pimlico, central London, staged a protest over “inhumane conditions”, which they said included smelly toilets and four people sharing a room.
With the election on the horizon, many Tories believe victory will be possible if the Government can show it is dealing with migration, as well as maintaining economic stability and cutting taxes. However the latest survey by Omnisis found 43 percent of those likely to vote intend to back Labour, with just 24 percent saying they will vote Conservative.
Some Tory MPs on the right are quietly preparing for a spell in opposition, while a Government minister said: “If we do lose then there is going to be a battle for the heart and soul of the party.”
Backbench Tories insist that Mr Sunak is an electoral asset, despite being seen as “dull” by some. One said: “There is a desperate desire for a return to normality and Rishi is tapping into that. Partly because he is a bit dull but he is also a serious politician for serious times.”
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