In what he called the biggest income tax cut in three decades, Rishi Sunak, who is now in last place for the position of future UK prime minister, pledged to slash personal taxes by 20% within seven years. The declaration comes at a pivotal time in the competition to succeed Boris Johnson.
The 175,000 grassroots Conservative members will vote by mail on Monday to either Sunak or Liz Truss as the party’s new leader and prime minister. Before the summer break officially begins, they are both eager to enlist support. The winner will be announced on September 5.
Sunak announced he would reduce the basic rate from 20p to 16p, a 20 percent tax decrease, prompting charges of “flip flips and u-turns” on the matter from Truss’s side. In April 2024, Sunak announced a one-penny reduction in income tax while serving as chancellor of the exchequer. By the end of the following Parliament, which might happen as late as December 2029, another 3p cut would be implemented.
In a statement, Sunak stated, “It is a radical vision, but it is also a realistic one. There are some essential beliefs on which I’m just not prepared to compromise, whatever the cost.” “First of all, I will never reduce taxes in a way that only increases inflation. Second, I’ll never promise something I can’t deliver on. Thirdly, I promise to always be open and honest about the difficulties we confront.
The contentious campaign to become prime minister has been driven by tax issues. Sunak has repeatedly referred to Truss’s tax-cutting ideas as “comforting fairy tales.” With promises of significant tax cuts, Sunak has charged Foreign Secretary Truss with misleading voters and committing a “act of self-sabotage that condemns our party to failure” in the upcoming general election. Before lowering taxes, he promised to ensure that inflation is under control.
Although polls of party members show that Truss is decisively ahead, the Truss campaign appears to be on the upswing. Her sense of progress was only strengthened by the senior Conservatives’ support over the weekend. Tom Tugendhat, a centrist and former candidate for the leadership, backed her on Saturday, stating that her proposed cuts were based on “genuine Conservative beliefs.”
One of Truss’ most important allies, Simon Clarke, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, stated in a statement, “We cannot afford to wait to help families; they need support immediately. Liz promises to slash taxes in seven weeks rather than seven years.
The general public and Conservative Party members are able to see through Sunak’s u-turns, according to a member of her campaign staff who declined to be named.
Sunak’s change of heart on taxes last week, when he pledged to temporarily reduce the VAT on energy bills, hasn’t caused a discernible shift in the polls. However, there was some good news for Sunak because it is infamously difficult to reliably challenge the aging membership of the Tory Party. In a Savanta ComRes survey of 511 local Tory politicians, Truss received 31% and Sunak received 29% of the vote.
Personal attacks have been a recurring theme throughout the campaign. On Sunday, ministers slammed Truss supporter Nadine Dorries for posting a doctored photo of Sunak stabbing Johnson behind his back. The prime minister was shown as Julius Caesar in the image, and Sunak, who was playing Brutus, was preparing to stab him in the back. The culture secretary retweeted the image. That’s because Johnson’s demise was brought on by Sunak’s departure.
Sunak supporter and Tory MP Robert Buckland said on media radio on Sunday that those who are more concerned with issues than personality “should wind their neck in.” Greg Hands, a business minister who is a supporter of Sunak, urged Truss to denounce Dorries’ actions, adding that MP David Amess was fatally stabbed at his Southend, Essex, constituency office less than a year prior.
He told the journalists, “It is very, very bad taste—even deadly.”
Truss will introduce herself as the “education prime minister” on Monday with a proposal that calls for “a new wave of free schools” to take the place of failing academies and higher math and literacy requirements. She will also pledge to address labor shortages in agriculture, which are partially a result of post-Brexit constraints on freedom of movement, by extending the seasonal workers program temporarily to let more fruit pickers into the UK.