This has been Boris Johnson's worst week in politics since last week. Under-fire over partygate, accused of watering down the Sue Gray report and facing yet more letters of no-confidence, inflation and the cost-of-living crisis look set to further erode his standing still further. On Thursday, Rishi Sunak unveiled a package of measures to try to alleviate voters' economic pain, announcing a £400 reduction for energy bills and a £650 for eight million families on benefits. This will be paid for by a £5 billion windfall tax on energy companies.
Not all voters though seem that impressed by Sunak's choice. One of the reasons which Boris Johnson gave for voting leave in the 2016 Brexit referendum was the UK's ability to cut Value Added Tax (VAT) on energy prices if it left the European Union. Such a move enjoys considerable support on the Tory backbenches, with veteran MP John Redwood arguing that 'VAT and green taxes are a big part of the energy price problem. Cut inflation by cutting those taxes.' Yet thus far the Treasury have refused to countenance this move, with an analysis by government officials suggesting it would only save households £8 a month.
Still, polling for The Spectator by Redfield and Wilton shows that a majority of the public (51 per cent) would prefer to have a VAT cut to Sunak's decision to impose a windfall tax on the profits of energy companies. Only 28 per cent backed the Chancellor's solution with 21 per cent of voters undecided. Some 70 per cent say they would support the Government reducing the standard VAT rate for the duration of the cost-of-living crisis – a measure just 5 per cent oppose. And, unsurprisingly, 66 per cent say they would support scrapping VAT for all consumer goods altogether – compared to 8 per cent who say they would not. The poll of 1,500 adults was conducted on Wednesday, ahead of Sunak's announcement.
One for Rishi to revisit, perhaps, ahead of the coming economic storm?