Manchester, UK – October 2, 2023
Rishi Sunak, who leads the Conservative Party and serves as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, has voiced his interest in introducing tax reductions. However, he has refrained from disclosing whether these reductions will come into effect prior to the imminent general election. His comments came in response to Cabinet Minister Michael Gove’s recent statement on Sky News, advocating for tax reductions before the election. Instead, Sunak emphasized his commitment to tackling inflation and alleviating the rising cost of living.
The issue of taxation, along with the contentious High-Speed 2 (HS2) rail project, has sparked unrest within the Conservative Party as its members gather in Manchester for their annual conference. The Institute for Fiscal Studies, a prominent think tank, recently reported that tax levels in the UK are at their highest in seven decades and are unlikely to decrease in the near future.
While some Tory MPs, including former Prime Minister Liz Truss, have called for tax cuts, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, set to outline his economic plans in November’s Autumn Statement, deemed tax cuts as “virtually impossible” under current circumstances.
In an interview with the BBC, Rishi Sunak, attending his first conference as the party leader, affirmed his commitment to tax reductions as a core conservative principle but refrained from specifying a timeline for implementation.
Sunak’s top priority, he stressed, is curbing the persistent inflation that has plagued the nation. He considers halving inflation by the end of the year as the most effective form of “tax cut” for the public. With the inflation rate having reached 10.7% between October and December 2022, Sunak’s goal is to bring it down to 5.3%, as the rate stood at 6.7% in August.
Addressing an audience at the Tory Party conference’s fringe event, Michael Gove echoed the Prime Minister’s stance, emphasizing that tax cuts should only be considered once inflation has been successfully tackled. The government’s primary tool for reducing inflation, according to the Bank of England, is raising interest rates, which it manages independently.
Amid questions regarding party discontent over tax policies, environmental initiatives, and the future of HS2, Sunak rejected claims that the Conservative Party was drifting away from its voter base. The party currently trails behind Labour in the polls.
Sunak defended his decisions, asserting that he is committed to implementing change in the best interests of the country, even if it faces resistance or criticism. He remains resolute in his determination to achieve net-zero carbon emissions, an environmental goal known as “net zero.”
Before the Conservative Party conference, Sunak announced £1.1 billion in funding for towns that the government believes have been overlooked. He declined to comment on speculation about potentially scrapping a section of the HS2 rail project, which has faced escalating costs.
Rishi Sunak, who assumed the role of Conservative leader and Prime Minister without an election vote a year ago, expressed his confidence in the decisions he has made, emphasizing that they are guided by his belief in doing what is right for the nation.
Sunak’s recent adjustments to environmental policies and efforts to assist motorists have not been without controversy, but he denied making these changes for short-term political gain. He asserted that the UK government has a moral obligation to meet carbon emissions reduction targets but believes it can do so in a more balanced and practical manner.
Although some opinion polls have shown a modest Conservative recovery, the party continues to lag behind Labour in popularity. However, Sunak remains optimistic about his leadership, presenting himself as a “change” Prime Minister.
Throughout the conference, Sunak is expected to outline additional policy initiatives and highlight the distinctions between the Conservative Party and Labour. These efforts aim to challenge the prevailing pessimism among some Conservative MPs, who believe that the election outcome is already predetermined.
As Rishi Sunak continues to navigate the challenges of leadership, the question remains: Will tax cuts materialize before the looming general election, and will his vision for the UK’s future resonate with voters?