Jeremy Hunt Gets Worked Up In Radio 4 Exchange After Being Called 'Fiscal Drag Queen'

The chancellor mentioned the nickname three more times throughout the interview.
UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt clashed repeatedly with a BBC journalist over his Budget
UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt clashed repeatedly with a BBC journalist over his Budget
WPA Pool via Getty Images

Jeremy Hunt could not conceal his frustration in an awkward interview on Radio 4′s Today programme when he was pressed over his disappointing Budget – and fiscal drag – on Thursday.

BBC host Amol Rajan told the chancellor that he had been called “the fiscal drag queen of UK politics” because of his policies.

Fiscal drag is when people end up paying more tax than before, because tax thresholds do not adjust in line with rising salaries and inflation.

Questioning the government’s attempts to present the Budget as “tax-cutting”, Rajan said: “What about the millions of people who will end up paying significantly more by the end of this parliament than they were at the start of this parliament?

“They call you the fiscal drag queen of British politics, don’t they, with good reason.”

He continued: “It’s a bit rich for you to cast yourself as a tax-cutting chancellor when taxes are going up to record levels.”

Hunt initially overlooked this comment, saying taxes did have to go up, adding: “I have never said I can bring them down all in one go.”

Then he added: “I don’t think I’ve been called a drag queen before, by the way, Amol.”

Rajan then listed off the five different, previous plans from 2005, 2014, 2015, 2010-2016 and 2017 which have intended to increase UK productivity – and asked how Hunt’s new “Public Sector Productivity Plan” differs.

Noting Hunt’s new plan has a “Soviet” name, the presenter asked: “What do you know that they don’t which allows you to conjure up tens of billions?”

The chancellor replied: “I don’t think it’s Soviet – that’s the second new thing I’ve been accused of today, after being a drag queen.”

He went on to listed the new pledges in his Budget, such as digitising the NHS.

Rajan cut in and said, “while trying not to be cynical,” previous plans “have not yielded anything like the results that you say can be done.”

“I’m not going to let you get away with that,” Hunt interjected. “You just said something that isn’t true!”

As the two argued, Rajan then pointed to Hunt’s previous bid to turn NHS paperless from when he was health secretary in 2014, but he shrugged that off and admitted he did not achieve that.

Rajan then went in for the jugular, and alluded to the Conservatives’ poor performance in the polls.

He said: “This might be, and you may not want it to be, one of your last big acts in politics. Do you think you’ve met the moment?

“This is a country ravaged by economic shocks, at best drifting at worst stagnant, we all know about its potential but we’ve had seven quarters of falling GDP per head, that’s improvised downwards, that’s hooked on foreign labour.

“The birth rate is collapsing, public services are creaking, councils are going bust. Those are facts.

“Has your budget even come close to meeting the challenges this country faces?′

Hunt said, “I believe it has,” claiming it was a “long-term plan to deliver better public services, to get more investment into the economy”.

The chancellor added: “By the way, I think the overall characterisation you’ve just given of the British economy is unworthy of the BBC. Because we have grown faster...”

Rajan laughed, and cut in: “The BBC is an organisation with 10,000s of people...”

Hunt spoke over him: “You’re accusing me of...drag queen...”

Rajan just continued and said: “There is no such thing as the BBC, and I’m putting to you facts about this country.”

“It’s unworthy of you Amol!” Hunt interjected.

What have I said that is incorrect?” The presenter said.

Hunt pointed to the UK’s growth since 2010, but Rajan just questioned the real-terms pay cut people have faced.

“What people want is radical change, and I suggest to you that you’re not delivering it,” the presenter hit back.


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