Rishi Sunak’s policy restart spiced up with lower taxes

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Welcome to the 94th Cash Committee Awards where Rishi Sunak was up for Best Spring Statement. The red carpet sparkled with the latest fashions; Rishi looked like a million dollars, which is probably the cost of the costume.

Attending any economics discussion makes me feel 130% thicker – no kidding: I tried to enter the room by pulling on a door you push – and as I fought for a seat in the front row, I prayed the spirit of Ronald Reagan that this thing would come with subtitles.

I didn’t need to panic: the story was easy to follow. There’s no money, Rishi said, so he needs to tax now to spend big without borrowing mindlessly – then cutting taxes later. “This is the direction of travel in the future,” he concluded, in fluent jargon.

His style is chatty and patient, like a gas company man gently explaining why you got cut, and the best questions have come from the left, which is immune to his star power. SNP’s Alison Thewliss nailed the absurdity of a government lending people their own money to pay their energy bills. Debt piled up on debt.

Labour’s Siobhain McDonagh (think Margaret Rutherford in her heyday) denounced the many ways the conservative economy now resembles communist Poland (“the tax burden has reached its highest level since the 1940s, the worst drop in the level life since the 1950s”), to which Rishi repeated that this is precisely why he needs to raise taxes, dodging the real question of why we are in this mess to begin with.

Covid, tick; Ukraine, maybe. But the Tories planned to spend like Cecil B DeMille before the world blew up, and yet none of the Tories on the committee, at least I heard, asked “can we afford net zero?” or “is it true that this statement was designed to clip Boris’s wings?” Not even, “I love the shoes, honey, how much were they?” [Rishi was spotted last week in a pair of trainers thought to be worth £335].

It’s because Westminster is of one mind: we need to go green and we need to spend. The industry has forgotten who it is supposed to entertain (the voters) and only makes films that tickle its own fancy (reboot of old socialist politics). This is why these committee ceremonies are attended by so few people. If only something could spice it up…

“You have made the political choice to plunge 1.3 million people into absolute poverty,” said Labour’s Dame Angela Eagle. The room woke up.

No, Rishi replied, I am trying to account for “forces beyond my control… You might have preferred not to cut taxes-”

“Don’t put words in my mouth!” spat the Lady. “You’ve raised taxes fifteen times…You can’t just talk about one side of this equation, ‘tweaks and tricks that take as they seem to give,’ and expect everyone to be fooled !”

It was a low-tax slap in the face filmed in front of a global audience of dozens. Later, the committee issued a statement: “Westminster does not tolerate Thatcherism in any form.”

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