Marr: Sunak and Hunt's tricky accounting means it may fall to Labour to impose spending cuts

17 November 2022, 18:15

Tonight with Andrew Marr: 17/11/22

By Will Taylor

Andrew Marr thinks Jeremy Hunt may leave it to a future Labour Government to impose "swingeing" spending cuts in the future.

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Speaking at the top of LBC's Tonight with Andrew Marr on Thursday, he asked where the expected cuts to Government outlay would come from.

And after speaking to Treasury boffins, Andrew thinks it may be left up to a future Labour government to impose some form of austerity.

"Something rather odd happened in the Commons today. We got at long last the Government's plan to fill a gap of around £55 billion pounds," Andrew said.

"We were told that a little more than half of the financial gap is going to be plugged by spending cuts and about 45% by tax rises.

"But when it came to the eye watering spending cuts, it was all a bit odd. Yesterday, you may remember, we were talking about school budgets and wondered whether Jeremy Hunt was listening. He seems to have been.

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"Of course inflation ravages every budget but that didn't sound like a cut. and there was more money for the NHS, not as much as they wanted and coming with a dollop of demands about making the service better.

"Truth is, whether it comes to schools, NHS, science, infrastructure... Jeremy Hunt kept talking about spending increases. Where were the spending cuts?

"I asked the clever people at the Treasury and they just smiled and scratched their clever heads.

"There would be efficiencies, perhaps, eventually. In terms of actual spending cuts, it seems, they've been thrown so far into the future that we will have a general election before anything really happens.

"So this wasn't quite as frank a budget as it might have first seemed. If you or I are trying to hide something, we'd stick it behind another object.

"If a politician's trying to hide something, they throw it forward into the future. In this case it looks highly likely that these spending cuts would actually have to be made not by the Tories but by future Labour government.

"It was less a hospital pass than a ticking financial bomb lobbed gently into the laps of Keir Starmer and the Labour frontbench. Very clever, you may say. Cheeky too.

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"Remember that Jeremy Hunt is only Chancellor, Rishi Sunak is only Prime Minister, and we were only being served this financial statement, because the last prime minister and her Chancellor made such a raving Horlicks of the economy with unfunded tax cuts. But Hunt, I thought very cheekily, suggested that economic illiteracy like that was a problem not for his party but for Labour.

"I'm not sure that the politics behind today is quite as clever as it looks for the Tories. With inflation ravaging so many parts of the public sector, and people's real incomes plunging faster than ever since records began, I'm not sure folk are going to be feeling very grateful.

"Also, by emphasising the tax rises, Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt are gambling that the right wing of the Tory Party, however infuriated by that, will let them get away with it.

"Maybe they will. In the Commons I watched Boris Johnson watching Hunt with a slightly menacing smile and a neat haircut. A neat haircut? What did he mean by that?

"And I watched Jacob Rees-Mogg on the backbenches as well, one long lean finger tapping his long lean and expressionless face.

"Hunt and Sunak assume the Tory right have more or less given up. The whole strategy was aimed at Labour. They think, perhaps, we are now in a calm period at Westminster. No more revolts, no more fuss. They may be right. But if I was them it wouldn't be the Labour opposition I'd be most worried about."