‘Bring Back Boris’ means the Conservatives are unleadable

Boris Johnson was finally thrown out of Downing Street because of his handling of sexual misconduct allegations by a political ally. Dozens of ministers quit his government over his lack of integrity. He remains subject to an investigation that could see him suspended from parliament for dishonesty. Dozens of Conservative MPs believe he is the best person to lead their party and Britain. The Bring Back Boris movement confirms that the Conservative party is now unleadable. Whoever ends up as prime minister next week will be unable to command a reliable majority of the party’s MPs. This puts a major question mark over any Conservative government’s ability to deliver the

Only one tax cut can save Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak’s promises on tax are lacklustre. He’s announced a fiddly one-off tax break on energy that will last for just a year which hardly anyone will notice due to inflation. There’s also income tax cuts up to seven years in the future, even though he is hardly likely to be Prime Minister by then (and he seldom keeps any promises on taxation for more than a few hours anyway).  Sunak’s promises and u-turns on taxes are making him look inconsistent at best, and a cynical opportunist at worst. The Tory members are right to regard his words with suspicion. But there is one tax cut that could still win the membership over: abolishing inheritance

Sunak is running out of time

This could be the biggest week of the Tory leadership campaign: postal ballots will start arriving on members’ doormats in the coming days and the chances are that most will fill them in and send them back pretty sharpish. Both candidates to be Prime Minister are consequently extremely busy: Rishi Sunak has been making tax cut promises (of the ‘not yet ‘variety: more on that from Fraser here) this morning, while Liz Truss has been talking about help for farmers suffering post-Brexit labour shortages. They’re both in the south west of England today ahead of the latest hustings in Exeter tonight, with visits to members and in Truss’s case, a

Did Rishi Sunak’s interview gamble pay off?

Rishi Sunak took a major risk tonight, agreeing to a one-on-one interview with Andrew Neil on Channel 4 News. As Katy Balls says on our reaction podcast, more often than not politicians come crawling out of Neil’s interviews. At best, they hope to survive them. Tonight Sunak faced the most detailed grilling on his economy agenda since the leadership contest began. There was very limited time for Sunak’s personal stories or the rehearsed slogans that both candidates have taken to repeating on the campaign trail. It was instead a serious scrutiny of Sunak’s plan to stick with tax hikes and fiscal restraint. Neil’s main questions were about timing and priorities:

Andrew Neil’s interview with Rishi Sunak – as it happened

Rishi Sunak was interviewed by Andrew Neil on Channel 4 tonight. He was quizzed on inflation, the NHS backlog and more. Liz Truss, the bookies’ favourite, declined to take part in an interview with Neil. 8.50 p.m. – Did Sunak’s gamble pay off? Kate Andrews writes… Rishi Sunak took a major risk tonight, agreeing to a one-on-one interview with Andrew Neil on Channel 4 news. As Katy Balls says on our reaction podcast, more often than not politicians come crawling out of Neil’s interviews. At best, they hope to survive them. All things considered Sunak did indeed survive tonight’s interview. But is survival enough? He agreed to the grilling in an effort to kickstart his

The Tories abandon fiscal conservatism at their peril

And then there were two. Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss now go to the membership. There’s much talk today about how brutal this contest will be. Penny Mordaunt’s supporters were arguing this morning that people should vote for her to avoid pitting these two against each other. But that would be false comfort. The argument between Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak is one that the Tory party needs to have. Fiscal responsibility has been the Tories’ anchor for years On one side stands Sunak, who I have known for many years. He cleaves to the old Thatcherite position that the first thing to do is to get inflation under control. He believes

The verdict: the second Tory leadership debate

‘If you’re still watching this debate, well done,’ said Mordaunt, bizarrely, in her closing statement. ‘I wish tonight had been less about us and more about you.’ She obviously scripted that comment before she had any idea how the evening was going to pan out and her own contributions were certainly forgettable. But the others made for an interesting night. Tom Tugendhat quite rightly said the whole evening’s discussion – tax, defence etc. – was about the country. ‘We need to restore confidence in our government and in ourselves,’ he said. I’m not sure Britain needs its self-confidence restored: it’s the Tories who are having a collective breakdown. Rishi Sunak

Who says Boris has to go?

As the cameras burped and clicked, as an aggravated nation watched, Boris Johnson announced that he was giving up. ‘Let us seize this chance and make this our moment to stand tall in the world,’ he said. ‘That is the agenda of the next Prime Minister of this country. Well, I must tell you, my friends, you who have waited faithfully for the punchline of this speech, that, having consulted with colleagues and in view of the circumstances in Parliament, I have concluded that person cannot be me.’ That was June 2016, you’ll remember. Johnson’s abrupt volte-face was a jaw-dropping moment; nobody saw it coming. The press conference was supposed

Labour are right – let’s do away with ‘non-dom’ status

Any Conservative who doubts that Labour’s promise to abolish non-dom status could seriously damage the government needs to look at the fate of Rishi Sunak. So recently the heir apparent to the Tory leadership, Sunak has this week plunged to bottom in a poll of the most popular cabinet members. It comes, of course, just a couple of weeks after the revelation that Sunak’s wife was living in Britain as a non-dom – a status which according to one estimate could have saved her up to £20 million in tax over the years. And this was a poll of Conservative party members, so goodness knows how much the revelation has

Why I resigned over partygate

This is an edited version of Lord Wolfson’s resignation letter, following the Met’s decision to fine Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak over Downing Street parties which broke Covid restrictions in 2020. Dear Prime Minister, Everyone in a state, and indeed the state itself, is subject to the law It was a great honour to be invited to join your government as a justice minister. In my maiden speech, I twice used the phrase ‘justice and the rule of law’. Justice may often be a matter of courts and procedure, but the rule of law is something else – a constitutional principle which, at its root, means that everyone in a

Rishi Sunak breaks his silence

After Boris Johnson issued an apology (along with a pool clip) over the fixed penalty notice he received for attending a birthday gathering in 10 Downing Street, attention turned to the silent Chancellor. Would Rishi Sunak resign in response to the fixed penalty notice he was handed? It’s clear he’s been uncomfortable with the partygate disclosures and did not expect to be issued with a fine.  Several hours after Johnson’s statement, Sunak has confirmed that he plans to fight on. He said he ‘deeply regrets the frustration and anger caused’ and offers an ‘unreserved apology’: ‘I can confirm I have received a Fixed Penalty Notice from the Metropolitan Police with regards to

Is Rishi just too rich for politics?

The obvious and perhaps only way out of this mess for Rishi Sunak was for his wife to pay double taxation: that is to say, to be taxed in India for any income on her 0.9 per cent stake in Infosys, the $100 billion company set up by her dad, and then taxed in the UK too. She doesn’t make this point in her statement. To talk about double taxation would sound like complaining – and already the idea of the Sunaks being irritated by questions about their tax affairs is being used against them. The Chancellor might be privately annoyed, arguing this double tax has never been required of

Rishi’s wife changes tack on tax

This evening Rishi Sunak’s wife Akshata Murty has announced that she will pay UK taxes on her overseas income, following a public backlash after reports of her tax arrangements as a non-domicile emerged on Wednesday night. The change in tack comes after the Chancellor used an interview with the Sun newspaper to accuse political opponents of ‘smearing’ his wife in order to hurt him.  In a statement, Murty said that while her tax arrangement up until now was ‘entirely legal’, it had ‘become clear that many do not feel it is compatible with my husband’s role as Chancellor’ and she ‘will now pay UK tax on an arising basis on all my worldwide income, including dividends and capital

Will inflation bring back austerity?

The return of inflation has changed politics, I say in the Times today . Until recently, it was possible to argue that the government should borrow to slashes taxes, or to cover almost any additional spending. It was so cheap to do so that it was almost rude not to, the argument went. Inflation was also dismissed as a dog that hadn’t barked since the early 1990s. Johnson was relaxed, while last September Liz Truss thought that – if necessary – borrowing would be a better way to pay for the government’s social care policy than raising National Insurance. But debt payments are now expected to quadruple. They will absorb an extra £96 billion between

We will never hear the end of Rishi’s tax cut

The bean-counters squared up in the Commons today. Chancellor Rishi Sunak delivered a terse spring statement which contained three major bombshells. And he was answered by Labour’s shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, who unfurled a few surprises of her own. Sunak gave an upbeat assessment of Britain’s economy but warned that our growth is about to be clobbered by Putin’s Ukraine adventure. Sunak expects inflation to peak at 7 per cent, or more. That’s effectively a huge pay-cut for every citizen, not just those in work, and it may nudge us closer to a recession. But he kept the R-word to himself. Sunak seems to enjoy being liked and he was

Rishi Sunak’s energy bill dilemma

This morning’s revelation that the UK economy grew 0.8 per cent in January, the fastest growth since April last year, is welcome news after a Christmas plagued by Omicron – but it’s news that’s out of date, too. As Capital Economics warns: ‘This is as good as it gets for the year’. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the commodity price jump and the cost-of-living crisis will soon show in the figures. Today’s ONS release warns that even in January, businesses were already reporting significant rises in the cost of energy and staff wages. The week after next, Rishi Sunak will present a mini-Budget. The Chancellor faces a conundrum: how to explain the inflation and

Rishi Sunak is no Gordon Brown

How at home Rishi Sunak looks in the company of academics. The chancellor delivered the 34th Mais Lecture this afternoon at the Bayes Business School in east London. Standing at the lectern in his dapper blue suit, he had the air of a cerebral super-monk bred on figs and yogurt. He’s the first British chancellor to hold an MBA from Stanford and he seemed perfectly at ease in this warm, well-lit room full of brain-boxes with double-firsts in economics. He speaks their jargon fluently. Instead of a ‘job’ he talks about ‘an employment outcome ’. His term for a ‘career’ is ‘a fulfilling professional experience.’ And when he refers to

Forget the Budget – who is Rishi Sunak’s tailor?

I was at a straight forward shooting weekend up in North Yorkshire in early January. During elevenses, passions around Brexit and the general election were fiery even before the sloe gin had kicked in. From the estate owner to the gamekeepers and beaters, they all said the same thing, “we saw it coming”. They poured scorn on some MPs who had returned their seat, from both sides of the political divide. Most fascinatingly, they all agreed on something one of them said, “well we have Rishi Sunak as our MP and he is terrific.” I’ll take their word for it. Not wanting to get too bogged down in the politics