Rishi Sunak has attempted to reassure Tory MPs that he will not preside over a “horror show” of tax rises to fill the black hole coronavirus has blown in the UK’s finances.
The chancellor was pictured carrying notes for his speech to Tory MPs elected for the first time in 2019 as he left Downing Street on Wednesday.
Sunak stressed that the government would need to do “difficult things” to cover the huge cost of furlough and other schemes during the pandemic, but stressed his long-term goal was making the UK a “dynamic, low-tax economy”.
He was meeting the new intake of MPs in an attempt to reassure them following reports that he is planning a multi-billion pound tax raid on the wealthy to cover the huge costs of Covid-19 and right the public finances mid-recession.
There are also reports that the chancellor is planning to scrap the pensions triple-lock on affordability grounds, although No.10 has insisted the government has “no plans” to do so.
Sunak is also said to be eying up cuts to the foreign aid budget, although foreign and development secretary Dominic Raab said the UK remains committed to spending 0.7% of national income on overseas development.
The chancellor’s speech comes with backbenchers increasingly concerned about the government’s direction of travel following 12 policy U-turns in around six months.
Boris Johnson is also expected to “drop in” to a 1922 committee meeting of backbenchers later on Wednesday to calm the troops.
The script for his address to the 2019 Tories read: “We will need to do some difficult things, but I promise you, if we trust one another we will be able to overcome the short term challenges”
“Now this doesn’t mean a horror show of tax rises with no end in sight.
“But it does mean treating the British people with respect, being honest with them about the challenges we face and showing them how we plan to correct our public finances and give our country the dynamic, low tax economy we all want to see.
“We cannot, will not and must not surrender our position as the party of economic competence and sound finance.
“If we argue instead that there is no limit to what we can spend, that we can simply borrow our way out of any hole, then what is the difference between us and the Labour Party?”