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Steerpike

Sunak hits back at his critics

Sunak hits back at his critics
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To Policy Exchange, the chameleon think tank that changes with the seasons. The summer party was well under way by the time Mr S rocked up, with Gavin Williamson and Sajid Javid clutching glasses in the shade of Westminster Abbey. But Pimms and canapés weren’t the only things on the menu tonight, as Rishi Sunak took to the stage to deliver the keynote speech at one of Westminster’s hottest summer receptions.

The Chancellor has been smarting in recent weeks from the stinging criticism that followed his Spring Statement. And his mood can’t have been helped by the introduction he was given by Policy Exchange’s chairman Alexander Downer, the former Australian High Commissioner. Welcoming his guest to the stage, Downer quipped that ‘it’s good of the Chancellor to take time out of his busy schedule from, er, winding down the deficit and taking our taxes – which way do we want them to go? Down!’

But Sunak hit back at his critics inside (and outside) of government with a series of timely quips. He began by poking fun at himself, saying ‘all of you feel honoured to be here tonight, because this is a very, very exclusive party. In years’ gone by, not even my green card would guarantee me access’. He continues: ‘in fact, rumour has it that, last year, my friend and colleague Jeremy Hunt actually got turned away, although, knowing Jeremy, it wont deter him from having another go.’ Sunak concluded ‘in one sense, there’s a part of me that is quite disappointed that it is me talking here tonight and not one of my Cabinet colleagues because it is always so wonderful to hear their views on tax and how I should be doing my job better.’

He joked that last week two ‘slightly nervous looking officials’ came to him to inform him that as a result of the Covid loans, the Treasury now has a stake in the sex party company Killing Kittens. ‘Gordon Brown might have had boom and bust; it turns out that I’ve got bums and busts.’ He finished by saying ‘I feel it is only fair to warn you that, in light of the fact that you did not invite Liz Truss to deliver this speech, I wouldn’t be surprised if you find yourself on a sanctions list by the end of the week.’

Perhaps there’s life in the Chancellor yet?

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to steerpike@spectator.co.uk or message @MrSteerpike

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