Rishi Sunak supporters speak out as UK economy spirals under Liz Truss

PTI, Sep 27, 2022, 8:01 PM IST

Photo Credit: Reuters/Toby Melville

London: The supporters of Rishi Sunak in the Conservative Party leadership race, which concluded earlier this month with opponent Liz Truss as British Prime Minister, are increasingly speaking out to point out that the Indian-origin former Chancellor had warned against much of the economic turmoil unleashed by the new incumbent at 10 Downing Street.

While Sunak himself has remained conspicuously silent, his backers within the governing party and also more neutral sections of the media have been highlighting how so-called “Trussonomics” of tax cuts and higher borrowing has spooked the markets worldwide and sent the Pound Sterling tumbling against the dollar.

“Come back Rishi Sunak, all is forgiven,” reads an editorial in ‘The Daily Telegraph’ on Tuesday.

“During the Tory leadership contest, the former Chancellor warned that Liz Truss’ plans to borrow to fund tax cuts were ‘dangerous’ and risked ‘making everything worse’. And, lo, his prophecy, dismissed as doomsterism at the time, has already come to pass,” it said.

Some of Sunak’s parliamentary colleagues also point out exactly that prophetic stance of Britain’s first Indian-origin contender for the top job at 10 Downing Street.

Huw Merriman, a Tory MP who chairs the House of Commons Transport Select Committee and a prominent ally of Sunak during the eight-week-long leadership election campaign, took to Twitter in response to a new YouGov poll in ‘The Times’ showing the Opposition Labour Party race ahead with its biggest lead in over a decade at 17 points over the governing party.

“Those of us who backed Rishi Sunak lost the contest but this poll suggests that the victor is losing our voters with policies we warned against,” said Merriman.

“For the good of our country, and the livelihoods of everyone in our country, I still hope to be proven wrong,” he said.

In a BBC interview last month on the campaign trail, Sunak had reiterated his policy plank of a measured approach to tax cuts and offering targeted financial help to the most vulnerable to address the cost-of-living crisis.

“Liz’s plans are promising the earth to everybody. I don’t think you can have your cake and eat it. I don’t think life is that simple, and I think her plan risks making everything worse,” he said at the time.

With reference to some of these warnings, Lord Gavin Barwell, who was Downing Street chief of staff for former Prime Minister Theresa May, said this week: “I think people are pretty furious with those who acted as cheerleaders for the government’s policy when many, not least Rishi Sunak, warned exactly what the consequences would be.” The reaction follows the much-hyped mini-budget tabled by Truss’ new Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, in the House of Commons on Friday.

It has since seen the cost of borrowing soar as the financial markets reacted adversely to the announcement of the biggest tax cuts for 50 years to be paid for by additional government borrowing.

The Bank of England said on Monday it would “not hesitate” to hike already high-interest rates further after the pound hit record lows.

Concerns among investors about the UK’s ability to meet its rising public debt are believed to be behind the value of the pound being pushed down while the cost of UK government borrowing is pushing upwards.

A weaker pound also makes imports and goods priced in dollars, such as oil, costlier and risks fuelling price rises at a time when UK inflation is already at its highest for 40 years.

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