Was the chancellor’s £100k remark ridiculous? These people in Surrey aren’t so sure

25 March 2024, 10:50

The residents of Godalming seemed split over the Chancellor's views
The residents of Godalming seemed split over the Chancellor's views. Picture: Alamy/LBC
Henry Riley

By Henry Riley

The Chancellor may well have put his foot in it, and is likely the butt of many jokes in the Westminster tea rooms - but is that necessarily the case in the leafy, historic market town of Godalming in Surrey?

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Godalming is home to the prestigious public school - Charterhouse - which has seen leading alumni include former prime minister the Earl of Liverpool, the founder of the scouts Robert Baden Powell and was even the place where the band Genesis were formed in 1967. Indeed, Jeremy Hunt once was head boy at the school.

It was on Friday afternoon that the chancellor posted a photo on X, looking suitably concerned as he spoke on the phone with a lady from South West Surrey.

It read that earning an annual income over one hundred thousand was “not a huge salary in our area” - especially - he argued - when you if you have a mortgage to pay and aren’t eligible for the governments childcare offer (which, he… err, devised himself)

Indeed Jeremy Hunt has since stood by his remarks, and doubled down on the overall premise. But how exactly has it gone down with some of the 23,000-odd people who inhabit Godalming in his constituency? In truth, mixed.

A few professionals racing through Godalming High Street on their way to the station told me they understood what he meant.

One suited and booted man said “I think with the current cost of living he does have a point”, pondering on what he told me for another 30 seconds or so he reiterated “yes, he does have a point” .

Another man, with a rather nice Barbour jacket, told me he was rushing for his train and that he would speak with me if I could keep up with him (I just about managed).

He told me “I do kind of take his point”. Adding “I’m someone in a very similar position, single income on roughly that amount [£100K] and it doesn’t go a long way”

That view was not universal, however. One couple who live just off the high street explained that they totally and utterly disagreed with Mr Hunt’s remarks.

The lady explained that she works for Citizens Advice “and I can assure you that most people around here are not on £100K, way, way, way less than that”.

Whilst her husband said the salary was a huge one “regardless of where you are across the country”.

One passer-by, on the way from the station after picking her daughter up, told me that there was a serious point that even in affluent areas like Godalming they are feeling the squeeze - but added she thought Mr Hunt phrased it “in the wrong way”.

The local butcher said he was completely wrong, whilst a window cleaner laughed when I told him of the Chancellor’s comments. Another lady could not stop laughing and said the remarks were “ridiculous”.

This constituency is one of the seats that will be changing. Currently South West Surrey, its name and boundaries, are changing to ‘Godalming and Ash’.

The Chancellor has represented the area since 2005 and has a majority of less than 9,000. With the polls looking bleak for the governing party, and the Liberal Democrats sniffing around in this part of the world, could Jeremy Hunt live to regret his comments?