Sunday 28 February 2021 / 10:47 AM Bridget Phillipson / Budget

It’s the politics, stupid: Rishi Sunak repeatedly refuses to deny reports he has said his tax plans are driven by election planning, not securing the economy

It’s the politics, stupid: Rishi Sunak repeatedly refuses to deny reports he has said his tax plans are driven by election planning, not securing the economy

Labour has accused Chancellor Rishi Sunak of “playing politics with the recovery”, as the Chancellor repeatedly refused to deny he has told allies he is considering hiking taxes now simply to benefit the Conservative Party at the next election.

Four times in the last six months the Chancellor and his allies have been reported as saying that taxes should rise now purely so they can be cut ahead of the next election:

•       In September the Chancellor was reported to have made a deal with the Prime Minister to raise taxes now so they can be cut again to improve the Conservatives’ prospects at the election

•       In January, Sunak was reported to have told the Conservatives’ backbench 1922 committee of this plan, with one MP present saying the Chancellor wanted to be “tax cutting towards the end of the parliament” and that “everyone in the meeting understood what that meant”

•       Earlier this month, an ally of the Chancellor said “you can’t just pop up in three years’ time and say that’s the time to start balancing the books”, as it would not be politically wise

•       Today a cabinet source explained the Chancellor’s strategy: “Rishi wanted corporation tax up from 19 to 25 per cent in one go. His argument was, ‘Let’s do it all now as far away from the election as possible.’”

On both Sophy Ridge on Sunday and the Andrew Marr Show, the Chancellor repeatedly refused to deny the allegations that he is putting his political fortunes above what is best for businesses and families, instead saying he “didn’t recognise it.”

Independent economic voices from the CBI to the IMF and the OECD have all said that this is not the time to immediately raise taxes or cut spending for fiscal consolidation, and that governments should be focused on securing the recovery.

This is particularly important in the UK, which has suffered the worst economic crisis of any major economy. Yet the Chancellor seems determined to ignore this advice in favour of political gain. Labour’s Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Bridget Phillipson, says Rishi Sunak’s approach is “appallingly irresponsible” and risks “substantially damaging the recovery”.

Bridget Phillipson MP, Labour’s Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said:

“The Chancellor is playing politics with the recovery, threatening hard-hit businesses and families with immediate tax rises now just so he can cut them before the election.

“We’ve suffered the worst economic crisis of any major economy. Economic experts agree with Labour that now is not the time for immediate tax rises but instead a focus on setting the country on the path to growth.

“The Chancellor is ignoring that advice for narrow political gain. That’s appallingly irresponsible and risks substantially damaging the recovery.”