11 Times Jeremy Hunt Misrepresented Reality In 2024's Pre-Election Budget Speech

The chancellor did not let the wider picture get in the way of his announcement today.
Jeremy Hunt presenting the Budget to the Commons on Wednesday
Jeremy Hunt presenting the Budget to the Commons on Wednesday
BBC Parliament

Jeremy Hunt unveiled the Conservative government’s last major attempt to woo voters before the next general election today: his Budget.

The lengthy statement saw the chancellor unveil Downing Street’s plans taxes and spending in this annual statement.

But, he has already been widely criticised for cherry-picking facts, and glossing over the less flattering details about the real state of the UK economy right now.

Here’s 11 times Hunt overlooked the wider picture while in the Commons this afternoon...

1. ‘Growth has been higher than every large European economy’ since the Tories came into power in 2010

This was a bold claim, considering the UK went into recession at the end of 2023 (two consecutive quarters of negative growth) while the Eurozone narrowly avoided one.

As the think tank, the Resolution Foundation, previously said: “After accounting for population growth, the UK economy hasn’t grown since early 2022, and has fallen far behind its pre-cost of living crisis path, with an equivalent loss of around £1,500 per person.”

The IMF also predicted in October that the UK would have the weakest growth among the G7 nations in 2024.

2. ‘Unemployment has halved’ since 2010

The latest stats from the ONS, released in February, said: “The UK unemployment rate was 3.8%, and 1.32 million people aged 16+ were unemployed.”

And back in 2010, ONS said unemployment was at 7.9%, with 2.5 million out of work – so it has changed substantially since then.

So Hunt’s comparison to 2010 is accurate – but it does not accurately represent how most people feel the economy is faring right now.

As the ONS said in February: “Over the last year, growth in employment has slowed and over the same period the proportion of people economically inactive has increased, with historically high numbers of people reporting that they are long-term sick.”

3. ‘Absolute poverty has gone down’ since 2010

Research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found 3.8 million people experienced the most extreme form of poverty in 2022 – a 61% increase since 2019.

It added: “The cost of living crisis has highlighted these experiences, but they are not new. Poverty has been deepening for more than a decade and the number of people experiencing destitution has worryingly more than doubled between 2017 and 2022.”

4. ‘A Conservative government... will always put sound money first’

This prompted a jeer from the opposition because it’s been less than two years since Liz Truss’s mini-budget for “growth” actually sent the pound into decline.

5. ‘A Conservative government brings down taxes’

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) recently found the overall tax burden come 2028/29 will still be at its highest since 1948, meaning tax as a share of GDP is rising every year until it reaches 37.1%.

That’s 4 percentage points higher than the pre-pandemic level of 33.1% of GDP in 2019-20.

6. Hunt repeated pledged to ‘lower taxes’

The chancellor unveiled a 2p cut to the National Insurance Contributions, taking it from 10% to 8%.

But that does not equate to a real-term boost for workers.

As the Liberal Democrats pointed out: “An average earner on a £35,000 salary will be £383 worse off over this year and the next due to stealth tax rises, wiping out NI [National Insurance] changes announced today.”

They added: “A further 3.8 million lower income earners to be dragged into paying income tax due by 2027/2028.”

7. No mention of freezing income thresholds

Hunt also failed to mention that he is planning to raise twice as much as he promised to put back in the taxpayers’ pockets through the NI cut, by freezing income thresholds.

However, this point is made clear in the wider Budget documents.

It explains that changes to thresholds will raise £41.1 billion by 2028-29, while cuts from National Insurance will cost £21.4 billion – working out to an extra £19.7 billion in the government’s pocket.

8. ‘Our underlying debt is therefore on track to fall as a share of GDP’

Hunt promised the net debt was falling. However, as Sky News’ Ed Conway noted, the OBR’s forecasts suggest the UK will actually fall deeper into debt over the next five years.

9. ‘Because we have turned the corner on inflation, we will soon turn the corner on growth’

Data suggests that the fall in inflation and an uptick in legal net migration is responsible for giving the UK its anticipated boost.

The ONS found net migration was more than 600,000 in 2022, compared to 220,000 in 2019.

As the OBR notes: “Net migration can directly affect the economy’s trend growth rate by affecting potential labour supply growth.”

10. As he scrapped the non-dom tax system, Hunt said he has ‘always believed.. those with the broadest shoulders should pay their fair share’

The non-domicile tax status, which Sunak’s own wife used to enjoy, meant people with a permanent address outside of the country only had to pay tax on money they earned in the UK.

Hunt said in the Commons today that he would abolish the tax status to introduce a new system “which is both fairer and remains competitive with outside countries” – something he claimed to have “always believed in”.

However, two years ago, Hunt said that Labour’s plan to scrap the status would end up “costing Britain money”, describing it as “gesture politics”.

11. Omitting his own role in the last 14 years of government

Hunt repeatedly seemed to brush over how much time he’s spent in government, too, despite being a cabinet minister for 10 years out of the last 14 years of having the Tories in government.

He pledged to double the amount the NHS is “investing on digital transformation over three years” – overlooking how he pledged to make the health service paperless by 2018 when he was health secretary a decade ago.

Hunt also said he wanted to “address historic under-investment in our nations and regions” and promised to spend the government’s money “better” than before.


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