Does Boris believe in Brexit?

For once, yesterday’s Downing Street press conference included a worthwhile question, and not of the ‘why aren’t you locking us down?’ variety. In fact, it had nothing to do with Covid at all. Harry Cole of the Sun asked why, given that the Prime Minister had once cited the ability to remove VAT from fuel bills as a tangible benefit of leaving the EU, he was not now taking advantage of his new-found freedom, especially as bills are heading sharply upwards. Boris Johnson mumbled something about not wanting to help people who could easily afford their energy bills and that the government might consider more targeted help instead. The VAT

James Forsyth

Energy bills are Johnson’s next big battle

Keir Starmer is not a lucky politician. He has again been forced into self isolation after testing positive for Covid, which means he misses the first PMQs of the year. This is the Labour leader’s sixth period of self-isolation. So, instead it will be Rayner versus Johnson at PMQs at the later time of 3 p.m. this afternoon. These contests are normally more hammer and tongs than the Johnson–Starmer ones. Rayner’s style is more direct than Starmer’s; and is often more effective in rattling Johnson.  The obvious area for her to go on today is cutting VAT on household energy bills. Labour is already in favour of this and Tory MPs

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

Tinkering with VAT won’t make us trust the government

Should Chancellor Rishi Sunak cut VAT as an emergency stimulus to the consumer economy? When Labour’s Alistair Darling made a 2.5 per cent £12 billion cut after the 2008 crash, I called it ‘an unconvincing and expensive gambit’, on the basis that shoppers would barely notice and that ‘far more significant will be the general level of confidence as it is affected by business failures and job losses… and the general grimness of global economic news’. The same applies today only more so, given that inflation is dormant, households’ pent-up spending power has in many cases been boosted by lockdown and the top VAT-cut winner would likely be Amazon. By