Jeremy Hunt: I’m Scrooge with a plan to save Christmas by beating evil inflation
Jeremy Hunt has declared he is “Scrooge” out to save Christmas as he warned of “horrible decisions” on tax and spending to crack down on “evil” inflation and restore stability to shorten a recession “made in Russia”.
The Chancellor has promised a “rabbit-free budget” prioritising “honesty” and “sound money”, whereby people with the broadest shoulders will bear the brunt of rising costs to help balance the books.
Insisting the British public want the Tories to be trustworthy rather than “popular”, he said the plan in the week ahead is to deliver “certainty” to families and businesses that the Government has a plan to restore stability to the economy.
“That will be job done, as far as Thursday is concerned,” he said.
In an interview with the Sunday Times, Mr Hunt said the “tragedy” of Trussonomics was that both the former PM and her chancellor had the right idea about boosting growth.
But he said it was a “mistake” to act without showing “we can pay our way as a country”, adding that he will “put people ahead of ideology”.
He suggested he will not be pulling any rabbits out of the hat when he delivers his highly anticipated autumn statement next week, unlike his predecessor – who dramatically whipped out a cut to the top rate of income tax in his ill-fated “fiscal event”.
“I think it is fair to say this is going to be the first rabbit-free budget for very many years,” the Chancellor said.
“I’m sorry to disappoint but no, this is not going to be a time for rabbits I’m afraid.”
He warned people can expect some “very horrible decisions” as part of a bid to “get us back into the place where we are the fantastic country that we all want to be”.
“I’m Scrooge who’s going to do things that make sure Christmas is never cancelled,” he declared.
Mr Hunt said he is expecting the country to enter an official recession after GDP shrank by 0.2% between July and September.
“The question is not really whether we’re in recession, but what we can do to make it shorter and shallower,” he said.
He insisted the “number one thing” he can do on Thursday is help tackle sky-high inflation.
“If we can, with the Bank of England, control inflation, then we will be able to contain the global rise in interest rates, contain the rises in mortgage rates that people are seeing, contain the cost of loans that businesses borrow, and have a chance of getting back on track,” he said.
“But that stability is what has been missing — mainly thanks to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. This is a ‘made in Russia’ recession and we need to restore that stability as the first step to growth.”
He also made the case for “honest money” and “honest politicians”.
“For Conservatives, we all understand that a successful economy, a dynamic economy, needs to have low taxes and sound money,” he said.
“But sound money has to come first and, you know, Margaret Thatcher said there’s nothing moral about spending money you don’t have.”
Mr Hunt said Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwateng were “absolutely right” that the UK will have to “unlock the growth paradox” if it is to pay for the NHS and good public services.
“That insight is absolutely correct and I will spend as much time talking about growth as I’m talking about tax rises and spending cuts on Thursday, because it is really important that we address those issues,” he said.
“But it was a mistake to do so without the OBR forecasts that showed that we can pay our way as a country.”
In a sign of what is to come on Thursday, Mr Hunt said “people with the broadest shoulders will bear the heaviest burden”.
It is understood a cut to the threshold at which the highest earners start paying the top rate of tax is among the options under consideration.
But he indicated a wider cohort will eventually be hit by a hike in energy costs, as the Government cannot afford to take the sting out of their bills forever.
“We have to be honest with people – it’s not possible to subsidise people’s energy bills indefinitely,” he said.
While this will likely take a toll across the board, the Sunday Times suggested the Chancellor is looking at a package of support to shield the most vulnerable, including pensioners and those on benefits, from April.
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