Politics

Conservative leadership race: Jacob Rees-Mogg accuses Rishi Sunak of ‘fantasy’ economics



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ne of Liz Truss’s biggest Cabinet supporters has attacked Rishi Sunak’s plans to slash income tax if he is chosen as Britain’s next Prime Minister, labelling them the “finest fantasy”.

Mr Sunak unveiled plans earlier this week to cut income tax to 16p in the pound by the end of the next Parliament, which could be in December 2029. The former Chancellor has insisted the tax cuts would only come once inflation – which was at 9.4 per cent in June – is brought back under control.

But Brexit Opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg hit back at the former Chancellor who has labelled Ms Truss’s own plans for £30billion of tax cuts as “fairytale” economics.

He told Sky News: “If you are going to talk about fairytale economics I think suggesting there will be income tax cuts many, many years into the future is the finest fantasy. Making the suggestion that taxes will be cut in years to come is the greatest fairytale.”

Mr Rees-Mogg’s remarks come as a new poll showed the gap between the two candidates battling to become the next leader of the Tory party – and therefore Britain’s next premier – has narrowed.

Private polling carried out for Ms Truss’s campaign, reported first by The Times, shows the Foreign Secretary is now only five points ahead of Mr Sunak among members who will take the decision by September 5.

The survey, carried out by Italian polling form Techne last week, put Truss on 48 percent and the former chancellor on 43 percent — a marked contrast to the YouGov poll which indicated a 24-point lead over Sunak.

The findings come after a poll by Ipsos, reported in the Evening Standard on Monday, revealed nearly half of Conservative supporters believe Mr Sunak has what it takes to become Britain’s Prime Minister, compared to 40 per cent for Ms Truss. Allies of Mr Sunak say it backs up their belief there is a significant proportion of the 160,000 Tory members who have not yet made up their mind how to vote.

Following the latest hustings events with party members in Exeter on Monday evening, ballots have started arriving with activists and from Tuesday they will be able to vote online.

Responding to the latest polling Mr Rees-Mogg said: “It’s a reminder to our campaign that we have to make sure that every vote that can be cast for Liz is cast…it’s an incentive to work harder.”

Although Ms Truss is the frontrunner in the contest and has been building momentum as senior ministers throw their weight behind her campaign, Professor John Curtice, from the University of Strathclyde, said the lack of polling so far made it hard to predict the outcome with a month until the polls close.

He said: “We have to bear in mind that since Tory MPs decided that this was the contest between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, we have had one, I repeat one, opinion poll of the people who will actually have a vote,” he said. “That poll is now nearly a fortnight old.”

Ahead of Monday night’s hustings event Ms Truss’s campaign received another boost when former leadership candidate and Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt endorsed her bid for No10. She said of the Foreign Secretary: “Her graft, her authenticity, her determination, her ambition for this country, her consistency and sense of duty – she knows what she believes in, and her resolve to stand up against tyranny and fight for freedom. That’s what our country stands for and that’s why I know with her we can win.”

Ms Truss has also sought to appeal to Tory members by promising a “war on Whitehall waste”, cutting Civil Service time off, ending national pay deals and scrapping jobs aimed at increasing inclusion and diversity in the public sector.

She claimed her plans would save £11 billion and tackle left-wing “group-think” within the Civil Service, although the proposals received a furious response from unions.

But while the tone of the hustings was largely devoid of blue-on-blue attacks, Ms Truss sparked controversy by calling Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon an “attention seeker”.

She added: “I think the best thing to do with Nicola Sturgeon is ignore her.”

The Scottish National party’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney told the BBC that “people in Scotland, whatever their politics, will be absolutely horrified by the obnoxious remarks that Liz Truss has made”.

He added: “said: “The unionist campaigners suggest Scotland should be at the heart of the United Kingdom, and how Scotland can be expected to be at the heart of the UK when the democratically elected leader of our country is, in the view of the person most likely to be the next prime minister of the UK, somebody that should be ignored is completely and utterly unacceptable.

“I think Liz Truss has fundamentally, with one, silly, intemperate intervention, fundamentally undermined the argument she tries to put forward: that Scotland, somehow, can be fairly and well treated at the heart of the United Kingdom.”

SNP MP Chris Law said it was a display of “utter contempt from the future PM”.

But Mr Rees-Mogg defended Ms Truss’s comments, saying: “All that Nicola Sturgeon does is campaign to break up the union. What we need to do is gold Ms Sturgeon to account for the failings of the Scottish Government. She is very often wrong, she is always moaning and we need to focus on how the union benefits people.”



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