How has Rishi Sunak's spring statement landed with Tory MPs? While there were a number of helpful questions from Tory backbenchers in the Commons' debate this afternoon, a more accurate indicator is tonight's meeting of the 1922’committee of Conservative backbenchers. The Chancellor addressed around 50 MPs this evening (the one-line whip meant that attendance was lower than normal) where he said his spring statement presented a 'clear Conservative plan' that puts the party 'on the side of hard working British people'.
He repeated his comments in the Chamber on tax – heralding his pledge to cut income tax by 2024 as the first income tax cut in 16 years. As for that Tory plan, Sunak said it meant making choices such as his commitment to 'put tax cuts above more public spending':
We cannot do everything. We must decide who we are and what we are about. I choose lower taxes, stronger communities and a smaller state. Today was a Conservative day because of those choices.
In terms of the reaction in the room, Tory grandees on the right of the party joked that Sunak had reaffirmed their faith in him as a tax-cutting chancellor. Meanwhile, while Sunak did not listen to demands from MPs to axe the loathed national insurance hike, his decision to raise the threshold at which it is paid was welcomed by red wall MPs from the 2019 intake. As for the rub, there was some concern that Sunak had failed to adequately provide support for the incoming cost of living crisis. Tory MP John Redwood suggested that it would be worse than the Treasury predicted and called for more tax cuts to help. It's the cost of living crisis that continues to worry MPs most when it comes to the political peril in the coming months.