Asda boss Lord Stuart Rose has hit out at Boris Johnson for being on holiday as Britain faces a “horrifying” inflation crisis that is “not about to go away”.
The Conservative peer lamented that “nobody is in charge at the moment” as it was revealed this morning that inflation had hit a 40-year high of 10.1 per cent.
Rose also criticised Tory leadership candidates Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak for failing to grasp the urgency of the situation, saying “inflation isn’t sitting there waiting for us.”
He told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme: “We have been very, very slow in recognising this train coming down the tunnel and it’s now here, and it’s not only about to run us over, it’s run quite a lot of people over and we now have to deal with the aftermath of that.”
Criticising the lack of urgency within government, Rose said: “We’ve got to have some action. The captain of the ship is on shore leave, right, nobody’s in charge at the moment.
“It is now the middle of August, it will be soon September. We’re going to have an emergency budget, we are told.
“When is the actual effect of that budget going to take place? Are we going to wait till October, November, December? Inflation isn’t sitting there waiting for us.”
He added: “What bothers me a little bit about the leadership election is that everybody is throwing money at everything and we can’t afford everything and we do need to go back to basic common-sense economics.”
Official figures from the Office for National Statistics showed on Wednesday that the Consumer Prices Index measure of inflation reached 10.1 per cent last month.
The increase was largely attributed to a spike in food prices and household staples including toilet rolls and toothbrushes.
Johnson has come under increasing fire for being “missing in action” during the deepening crisis.
The Telegraph reported earlier this week that Johnson would see out the final weeks of his premiership in at his grace-and-favour home, Chequers, once he returns from holiday.
The prime minister was spotted holidaying with his wife Carrie Johnson in Greece after their honeymoon to Slovenia. He was also pictured enjoying a lavish wedding anniversary celebration at the estate of a Tory donor in the Cotswolds.
Johnson was defended this morning by former Cabinet minister Kit Malthouse, who said the prime minister had not been “sitting on his hands”.
“In fact he has just called me while I am on this interview and I have been unable to take the call so I shall be calling him back shortly,” he told the BBC.
“I think he like all of us are very apprised of what is coming in the winter, what might be a difficult time for the country as we are being caught in this pincer manoeuvre of a Covid catch-up and an international inflationary and fuel and energy crisis.
“What we are trying to do across this summer is make sure that the whole of government is galvanised around doing whatever it can to co-ordinate and get the country through in as good a shape as possible.”
Meanwhile, chancellor Nadhim Zahawi said the government had provided £37 billion worth of support, including £400 off energy bills for every household come October.
“I understand that times are tough, and people are worried about increases in prices that countries around the world are facing,” he said.
The Labour Party has accused the Conservatives of “ignoring” the scale of the crisis while proposing its own £29 billion package to freeze energy bills at their current rate of £1,971 per year. Some predictions suggest they could climb to an eye-watering £5,000 next year.
Both leadership candidates are reported to have dismissed Labour’s policy. Truss branded it as a “sticking plaster” solution while Sunak said only his plan was “the right plan”.
The Liberal Democrats, who have also said the energy price cap increase should be cancelled, said the public would “never forgive” the Conservatives for “abandoning” them during the cost of living crisis.
The party’s Treasury spokesperson Sarah Olney said: “Families and pensioners will never forgive this Conservative government for abandoning them in the middle of a cost of living catastrophe.”