Jeremy Hunt fuels speculation of early general election as Spring Budget date set

27 December 2023, 14:43 | Updated: 15 January 2024, 09:00

Jeremy Hunt has announced the date of the Spring Budget
Jeremy Hunt has announced the date of the Spring Budget. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Jeremy Hunt has fuelled speculation of an early general election next year after announcing the date of the Spring Budget.

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The Chancellor revealed the Spring Budget will be on March 6, having commissioned the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) to prepare forecasts for the economy and public finances for the same date.

The move has increased the likelihood of voters going to the polls as early as spring 2024, despite many believing the election will be held in autumn.

Several measures are said to have been planned out to win over voters in the lead up to the election, including cuts to inheritance tax.

But it has been branded by some as an "unfunded tax cut for millionaires".

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Is the Tories' latest bid to help first time buyers enough to lure back voters?

Housing Secretary Michael Gove also suggested to the Times that the Conservatives will promise to cut the up-front cost of a home for first-time buyers in a pre-election giveaway.

Among the options said to be in the works is a plan to provide support for longer fixed-term mortgages in a bid to drop deposits.

Another option is the resurrection of the Help to Buy scheme, which offered new buyers an equity loan of up to 40% of the purchase price with no interest needing to be paid for five years.

When asked whether the Tories would be able to go into next year's expected election promising more help for first-time buyers, Mr Gove said: "Oh, yes, we must. Definitely."

Downing Street said on Wednesday that it will "remain committed" to creating more housing and getting more people onto the property ladder and cited previously announced mortgage-relief measures.

It comes as Mr Sunak struggles to turn the tide in favour of his party as Labour sits around 20 points clear in the polls.

The next general election must be held before the end of January 2025 but it is in the PM's power to decide when to call it.

David Lammy on the Conservatives' plans to scrap inheritance tax

Opposition parties have said it is too late for the Tories to "repair the damage they have done to our economy".

Shadow financial secretary to the Treasury James Murray said: "The next Budget will come after 14 years of economic failure under the Conservatives that have left working people worse off.

"The tax burden is set to be the highest in 70 years, with 25 Tory tax rises since the last election alone, and economic growth is on the floor.

"Nothing Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt do in March can repair the damage they have done to our economy."

Liberal Democrat Treasury spokeswoman Sarah Olney said: "This looks like a last throw of the dice by a flailing Conservative government.

"It's too late for Jeremy Hunt to turn the tide after his record of failure has left us with growth flat-lining and public services at breaking point.

"People will never forgive the Conservative Party for crashing the economy, wrecking the NHS and clobbering families with years of unfair tax hikes.

"The only way to repair the damage done by the Conservatives is to kick them out of office through a general election."