We need to talk about Truss

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Liz Truss continues to haunt Rishi Sunak. Labour leader Keir Starmer took aim at her recent exploits at CPAC in the US during prime minister’s questions today. Starmer called on the prime minister to remove the whip after Truss claimed that her premiership was sabotaged by the ‘deep state’. What’s Truss up to this time?  Also on the podcast, chancellor Jeremy Hunt will deliver his budget next week. We expect that he will have made his final decision on the March 6th budget by the end of the week. What do we know so far?  Oscar Edmondson speaks to Katy Balls and Kate Andrews.  Produced by Oscar Edmondson. 

Jeremy Hunt defends the Tories’ long-term economic record

A Chancellor’s Sunday media appearance before a Budget often serves as a ‘free pass’ – not because difficult questions aren’t asked, but because they can quite easily get out of answering by saying some polite version of: ‘you’ll have to wait and see.’ So instead of focusing on the upcoming Budget this Wednesday, the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg decided to ask Jeremy Hunt this morning about his party’s long-term record. Those questions he had to answer. It wasn’t an easy task. Kuenssberg presented Hunt with two tricky metrics: housing prices and average wages. The former, Kuenssberg notes, has skyrocketed, while average wages are failing to keep up with inflation. Many people

What ‘Budget’ and ‘bilge’ have in common

The Budget (which the revolutionary fiscal act last week was technically not) is directly connected with bilge and with one of the circles of Dante’s Hell, the eighth, which houses the financial fraudsters, speculators, extortionists, counterfeiters and false forecasters. The circle is divided into the ten ditches of Malebolge. The Malebolge, singular bolgia, take their name from Latin malus (‘evil’) and bulga (‘bag’). The early commentator on Dante, Benvenuto da Imola, says that bolgia in Florentine speech means a concave and capacious ditch. In Dante’s Hell inside the Earth, the Malebolge are concentric. Budget also comes from the Latin bulga. We are just about aware of the obsolescent budget meaning

Rishi Sunak’s popularity test

Rishi Sunak ended 2021 as the most popular politician in the country. A YouGov poll for the final quarter of the year found that 31 per cent of all adults had a positive opinion of the Chancellor compared to 28 per cent for Nicola Sturgeon and 26 per cent for Boris Johnson. However, ending 2022 in the same situation looks rather ambitious.  As the cost of living crisis worsens, Sunak is under pressure both from the public and his own party to step in and ease the burden on households in tomorrow’s Spring Statement. A poll out today suggests he has plenty of work to do to convince voters he has the

Is Rishi Sunak any good at politics?

Is Rishi Sunak any good at politics? In recent days Labour sources have been putting it about that they no longer fear the prospect of the Chancellor stepping up to take over from Boris Johnson if he is forced out by partygate. According to one briefing to the left-wing New Statesman, Keir Starmer’s team has concluded that ‘Little Rishi’ is ‘crap at politics’ after observing his response to the cost-of-living crisis and now thinks that Liz Truss may prove a more formidable successor to Johnson in electoral terms at least. With politics being surpassed only by espionage as a theatre for the use of misinformation and double-bluffs, it may be

Does Rishi Sunak really understand red wall voters?

Rishi Sunak thinks Boris Johnson goofed badly when he conspired to upend Commons standards procedures. And he agrees with his red wall colleagues that this appeared to place the government on the side of a privileged elite. That is certainly the standard interpretation of his comment this week that the government needed to do better – and indeed unattributable briefings by an ally say that he regarded the episode as a ‘mistake’ which should be acknowledged by someone of cabinet rank. But if red wall Tories are tempted to regard Sunak as the true keeper of their flame then I suggest they think again. Because while Johnson has indeed gaffed, the

Will the Tories cut taxes before the next election?

The Tory party has reached a fork in the road, I say in the Times today. One path involves sticking to the spending plans, hoping to cut taxes before the next election and getting rid of the new perception of them as tax raisers. The other drags them into ever more spending, led by big increases in public sector pay, and ends with them going to the country as a high-tax party. In his Budget speech and his address to Tory MPs, Rishi Sunak made clear that his preference was for the former approach, which should cut taxes before the country goes to the polls again. But sticking to even the spending

John Ferry

Nicola Sturgeon is flailing in response to the Budget

The big tax and spend budget. More Gordon Brown than George Osborne. Sunak’s spending spree. However you wish to describe it, one thing is clear: Rishi Sunak’s budget marks a radical departure from previous Conservative chancellors. And while it might have ruffled the feathers of some Tories, it’s also causing problems for the SNP. In some ways the break from Tory convention is no surprise. Calls by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2020 for rich countries to spend their way out of the pandemic – and then further calls this year to shell out to boost recovery – signalled a new economic orthodoxy that Sunak has tapped into. Austerity is

Portrait of the week: Queen stays home, Boris rubbishes recycling and pay freeze thaws

Home The Queen will not attend the COP26 meeting in Glasgow next week; she had resumed light duties after having spent a night in hospital for ‘preliminary medical checks’. The Queen would address COP26 by means of a recorded video. ‘The recycling thing is a red herring,’ Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, told a press conference attended by schoolchildren. ‘You can only recycle plastic a couple of times, really. What you’ve got to do is stop the production of plastic.’ The protestors calling themselves Insulate Britain blocked main roads into London and approaches to the M25. Amazon Web Services was awarded a contract to provide a high-security cloud system for

My night of nostalgia with Boris and co.

Rishi Sunak had a pre-game Twix and a Sprite to prepare for this week’s impressive Budget. I used to have a cup of very sugary tea. It was a tip from our joint mentor, William Hague. It coats the throat in preparation for speaking in a rowdy chamber. Even then my voice would be hoarse by the end of an hour’s Budget statement. It’s hard to convey just how noisy it is standing there with a couple of hundred adults screaming at you from a few feet away. But on Wednesday the House of Commons seemed quieter than it used to be on these big days. I’m not sure why.

Rishi Sunak’s low tax pitch to MPs

Is Rishi Sunak a low tax chancellor? He certainly likes to tell anyone who will listen that he is. Yet his actions tend to suggest the opposite. The tax burden is currently on track to reach its highest level since the early 1950s, and while Sunak unveiled one big tax slash in the Budget in the universal credit taper rate cut, the main thrust of Sunak’s announcements was spend, spend, spend. Tonight Sunak addressed Tory MPs at a meeting of the 1922 committee. After announcing £150 billion in extra public spending, Sunak sought to convince his party that, despite this, he was committed to lowering taxes. Having said in the chamber that

Stephen Daisley

Sunak backs the Union with cash, not love-bombs

Devolution has done so much to fracture the UK that, in Scotland, Rishi Sunak’s Budget is an event of the second order. Scottish interest in Budget day is typically limited to whisky duty, support for North Sea industries and the Barnett formula: the additional spending Scotland gets when the Chancellor splurges on England. Today’s Budget was for all of Britain. Not just Scotland, but Wales and Northern Ireland were weaved throughout Rishi Sunak’s speech. Quite apart from the fiscal or economic merits of the policies announced, the Chancellor’s speech was good politics. Not long after Sunak was promoted to the Treasury, I was told Scotland was a weak spot for him

Kate Andrews

Six things we learnt from the Budget

Another big fiscal event for Rishi Sunak today, as he delivered his Budget and the details of a three-year spending review. For the first time, Covid-19 wasn’t in the spotlight. Instead it was framed as a big-spending event, confirming plans briefed before the Budget — £7 billion in capital spending for the NHS, end of the public sector pay freeze — and announcing a series of new plans, including the return of increased foreign aid spending at 0.7 per cent of GDP by 2024-25. But break down the numbers and there are even more surprises in store. Here are the six things we learnt from today’s Budget: The tax take

Isabel Hardman

PMQs: The return of Ed Miliband

Today’s pre-Budget Prime Minister’s Questions would probably have been unremarkable had it not been for a sudden change of cast. At the very last minute, it was announced that Sir Keir Starmer had tested positive for Covid and would be replaced in the chamber by a blast from his party’s past in the form of Ed Miliband.  Tory MPs were largely focused on ensuring that the session was as pointless as possible The former Labour leader joked that his return to this session was for one time only, before launching into a series of questions about the government’s preparation for the COP summit. He accused Boris Johnson of offering warm

Responsible Rishi’s Budget balancing act

Rishi Sunak has released photos of his Budget prep, as he prepares to stand up in the House of Commons tomorrow to deliver not just the government’s latest fiscal decisions, but the results of its three-year spending review. (Photos include a shot of his pre-Budget Twix and Sprite snack, which Sunak revealed to Katy Balls on Times Radio over the weekend). As I say in the Telegraph today, this Budget is a difficult balancing act for the Chancellor. On the one hand, he has some big-spenders to please, not least the Prime Minister, who is adamant that the Conservative party’s days of austerity have come to an end. On the

Why Sunak’s wrong on teachers

Pupils lost around a third of their face-to-face teaching during the Covid lockdowns. Downing Street has promised an extra £3 billion of catch-up funding, on top of around £100 billion spent on education in a normal year. Fixing a lack of teaching should involve doing a bit more of it — but when asked if he would extend the school day, Rishi Sunak said longer hours wouldn’t provide ‘value for money’. It’s one of few areas where, in tomorrow’s Budget, the spending taps will be turned off. But why, as the Children’s Commissioner recently noted, are British state schools routinely closing their gates at 2.30 p.m.? The length of the

Isabel Hardman

Could the Speaker cancel the Budget?

Lindsay Hoyle is, to put it mildly, on the warpath. The Speaker is now giving almost daily statements in which he complains about the government’s habit of making announcements to the media rather than in parliament. Last week he was furious that Health Secretary Sajid Javid had held a Downing Street press briefing on Covid instead of coming to the Commons. Yesterday he granted four urgent questions as punishment for the latest round of briefings. Today he was back fulminating again, telling the chamber that the government was breaking its own ministerial code by giving Budget announcements to the press first. He continued:  I want the House and especially the

Will education be the big Budget loser?

Which departments will fare the worst from this week’s Budget? It won’t be the Department for Health and Social Care. Over the past few days, new funding announcements have appeared in the papers meaning the NHS will be handed another £5.9 billion. That’s in addition to the £12 billion a year investment it will receive as a result of the health and social care levy. Meanwhile, Whitehall sources suggest that Michael Gove has had some luck in his push for more funds for the levelling up agenda. Where the mood music is less positive is education. When Sir Kevan Collins stepped down from his role as Boris Johnson’s education catch-up tsar over the

Is Rishi ready to splurge?

Is Rishi Sunak losing his battle within the Cabinet to promote fiscal responsibility? We’ll find out this week, when he unveils his Budget and three-year Spending Review on Wednesday, but there were hints this morning that more spending is coming down the track. Speaking to Andrew Marr on BBC One, Sunak laid out the principles that guided his Budget process this time round: ‘Strong investment in public services, driving economic growth by investing in infrastructure, innovation and skills, giving businesses confidence and then supporting working families. Those are the ingredients of what makes a stronger Budget and that’s what we will deliver next week.’ This is not the language of