Rishi Sunak accuses colleagues of taking a “rosy” view of Boris Johnson’s final days

Conservative leadership candidate Rishi Sunak has accused former government colleagues of taking a “rosy” view of the final days of Boris Johnson’s government as he defended his plans to cut income tax.

The former chancellor is fighting to regain ground on rival Liz Truss as the pair head into a crucial week in the leadership contest. The 160,000 Conservative members will receive their ballots this week, with some able to submit their votes from Monday, as the pair prepare for their second hustings event, in Exeter on Monday night.

On Monday morning, Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi became the latest senior minister to back Truss, following Defense Secretary Ben Wallace last week and former Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis on Sunday.

    (AFP via Getty Images)

(AFP via Getty Images)

With early polls of Conservative MPs showing Truss comfortably ahead, some commentators have blamed Sunak’s decision to leave Johnson’s cabinet over concerns over “a very serious ethical issue” and a disagreement over economic policy, which triggered the prime minister’s downfall last month.

But Sunak told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think there is a risk that people look at the last few months of the government with slightly rose-tinted glasses about how it really was, because it wasn’t working as it should and decisively , the government found itself on the wrong side of a very serious ethical issue.

“For me, I’m also going down the wrong financial path. That is why in the end more than 60 MPs at last count, I think, resigned from the government, of which, after much deliberation and months of standing by the Prime Minister, I was one of them.

“If people want rose-tinted glasses about what was going on in government, that’s up to them, but they have to acknowledge that.”

In a last-ditch effort to win over the party faithful before they go to the polls, Sunak sought to shake off his image as the tax-raising former chancellor by promising the “biggest tax cut since Margaret Thatcher’s government”.

Rishi Sunak watched the Euro 2022 final at the Bishops Mill pub in Salisbury with MP John Glen (Finnbarr Webster/PA) (PA Wire)

Rishi Sunak watched the Euro 2022 final at the Bishops Mill pub in Salisbury with MP John Glen (Finnbarr Webster/PA) (PA Wire)

He vowed to cut the base rate from 20 per cent to 16 per cent within seven years if he becomes prime minister, in a move immediately branded a “flip-flop” by Mrs Truss’s allies after weeks of flagging her plans to sweep tax. cut as “comforting adventure”.

Sunak’s plan builds on his previously announced 1p cut in income tax in April 2024, with a further 3p to be cut depending on economic growth to fund it, a move that could cost as much as £19bn.

The former chancellor denied he was carrying out another U-turn on tax – less than a week after he announced he would introduce a temporary cut in VAT on energy bills to ease the cost of living crisis, a move his critics said he had resisted while running the Treasury .

Asked if the tax cut plan was an attempt to hit back at Mrs Truss, he told the BBC: “No, definitely not. This is completely consistent with what I have been saying for a long time.

“And that is why, as chancellor, I put forward a plan to cut income tax already in this parliament. The first krone of the basic rate in almost 15 years was something I announced as chancellor. But what I am talking about today is the desire to go further than that over time and people should know that’s where I want to take the economy.”

He also dismissed a swipe from Zahawi, who wrote in the Telegraph, that Mrs Truss would overturn an “outdated economic orthodoxy” in the Treasury and “manage our economy in a conservative way.



“I was on the side of rejecting it [the orthodoxy] in the pandemic, he said. “What people saw from me was that I tore up the rule book, I did something that had never been done before in this country and created the leave scheme. There was absolutely no orthodoxy about it. It worked. It saved millions of people’s jobs and I’m proud that I did it.

“And actually, when it comes to corporate taxation, as you mentioned, it’s my opponent in this contest, who wants to stick to the failed orthodoxy of having these ultra-low corporate tax rates.”

In a further swipe at her opponent, who has promised to delay a steep rise in corporation tax from next year if she wins the race to Downing Street as well as scrapping the increase in National Insurance, Sunak said: “I don’t think it’s a good idea to take excessive borrowing at a time when inflation and interest rates are already on the rise. I think everyone understands that there is a point of differentiation between us, but we also have to look past that. And that’s why I want to give people a sense of where I want to take the economy as we address inflation.”

But Chancellor of the Exchequer Simon Clarke, who supports Mrs Truss, rounded off Sunak’s tax plans, saying: “Liz will cut taxes in seven weeks, not seven years.”

A Truss campaign source added: “It’s just a shame he didn’t do this as chancellor when he repeatedly raised taxes.

“He has also made it conditional on getting growth first – knowing that his corporate tax increases are contractionary.

“The public and members of the Conservative Party can see through these flip-flops and U-turns.”

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