Some three weeks on from Chancellor Kwarsi Kwarteng’s mini budget, a whole host of senior Conservative MPs have now gone public to call on the government to reverse its plans to reduce taxation paid from increased borrowing.
The emerging public criticism from Conservative MPs follow comments by Liz Truss yesterday at prime minister’s questions in which she said she was committed to current levels of public expenditure.
With the scale of the proposed increase in borrowing worrying financial markets, a report by the Institute of Financial Studies this week suggested that the government needed to make either £62 billion of spending cuts or tax rises to avoid national debt growing as an ever larger proportion of the economy.
Writing on Twitter, the Conservative Chair of the Commons Treasury Committee, Mel Stride MP wrote, “Given the clear government position expressed today on protecting public spending there is an emerging question. Whether any plan that does not now include at least some element of further row back on the tax package, can actually satisfy the markets”.
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Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 ‘PM’ programme, the former deputy prime minister, Damian Green last night quoted John Maynard Keynes to reference that when the facts change, it was sensible to change one’s mind. In response to the economic and political situation, Mr Green called for some of the government’s proposed tax cuts to be “deferred”.
Mr Green’s comments were then backed up by David Davis MP, who referenced a number of proposals in the mini budget that might be changed. Speaking on the ITV Peston programme, Mr Davis said, “I couldn’t understand why they did the stamp duty thing. That is an inflationary tax”, adding in relation to corporation tax that, “I think they might want to look back at the Rishi Sunak proposal of the super deduction”.
In further signs of Conservative tension, the editor of the Conservative supporting website, Conservative Home, has now penned an article in which he openly muses the idea of a change of leadership. He posed the question as to whether RIshi Sunak may now return as Chancellor with Penny Mordaunt as prime minister. His article is significant given the popularity of the site with Conservative party members and activitsts.
The government did though receive some public support from one Conservative MP. Bob Seely whose Isle of Wight seat would itself be in danger of being lost to Labour under current opinion polls suggested that ‘most’ Conservative MPs agreed with the government’s policies. Speaking on BBC Newsnight, Mr Seeley said, ““I respect all my colleagues very very much but I would politely say to them there is no plan B, plan B is a Labour government, so we have to make this work”.
Last night, the prime minister endured a difficult grilling behind closed doors at a meeting of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbench MPs. Today Liz Truss is set to hold a number of face to face meetings with individual Conservative MPs in Downing Street today, as she works to calm their concerns and sure up support for her premiership.