Jeremy Hunt: The new UK Chancellor of the Exchequer warns that taxes will rise and there will be cuts | International
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The new UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, knows that he is facing a race against time, practically an impossible mission: to save the mandate of Prime Minister Liz Truss, whom most Conservative MPs practically take for granted. politically dead. Hunt began this Saturday, at half past seven in the morning (half past eight, Spanish peninsular time) a round of interviews on different televisions, with the aim of doing what until now neither his boss nor his predecessor in office, Kwasi Kwarteng – dismissed this Friday in a sudden way – had known how to do it. He has admitted mistakes, explained how the course is going to be corrected, and announced to Britons that difficult times are ahead in which taxes will rise and some public services will be cut.
“There were mistakes. It was a mistake, when we were prepared to make complicated decisions regarding taxes and cuts in public spending, that we abolished the maximum rate of personal income tax for the highest incomes ”, Hunt admitted on the BBC, as part of the litany of contrition of the. “And it was a mistake to act blindly and present these measures without backing them up with a report from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), showing that the accounts were coming out,” said the new minister.
When the new government presented its historic tax cut proposal, valued at almost €60 billion, on 23 September, the then British Chancellor of the Exchequer refused to use the usual procedure to set out what, for all intents and purposes, was a “mini budget”, due to the implications it had for the public debt. Along with fiscal relief, he had launched a plan of direct aid to households and businesses, to meet gas and electricity bills, worth almost 200,000 million more. Kwarteng did not want to accompany the measures with an OBR report, because he knew that the independent body would object to what was going to be a notable hole in the budget. Faced with the unease of the markets, and the collapse of the value of the pound sterling and Treasury bonds, he was forced to promise a formal presentation of his fiscal plan, accompanied by the mandatory report, earlier than expected. He spoke of November 23. He did not convince anyone. He moved it up to October 31. It wasn’t enough either. By this time, investor confidence in Truss and his minister was already at rock bottom.
Hunt has tried this Saturday to begin to recompose the pieces of that confidence, which the appearance of the prime minister on Friday only made worse. Nervous, elusive, with answers like those of a robot, in which she limited herself to repeating that her main mission was to restore the economic stability of the country – which she had destroyed with her measures – Truss conveyed to the Conservative deputies the feeling that his days at the head of the government were numbered, and he further unsettled the markets. The pound fell again, after 24 hours in which there was some euphoria at the announced turn of the prime minister’s rudder, and also the value of 30-year public debt bonds.
“Taxes are not going to go down as much as some citizens would have liked. Some are even going to go up,” Hunt warned. “But as we make these decisions, we offer a double commitment: we will help all vulnerable businesses, households and individuals who are struggling to get ahead in a very difficult situation. And we will always have them in our heads as our priority, because we are a Government that practices compassionate conservatism, ”he added.
In this way, a politician located at the ideological antipodes of Truss is going to try to save his catastrophic mandate. Although some suspect that, by the way, Hunt is also positioning himself before a relief that clearly seems inevitable. With his fame as a moderate, conciliatory and centrist, the new minister seeks to transmit calm to the markets – stormy sessions are anticipated starting Monday -; image of seriousness and rigor to the citizens, and possibilities of getting out of the mud, with that message of “compassionate conservatism”, to his fellow conservative deputies, who see how the polls predict a historic electoral disaster.
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That has been the main reproach of the Tories to Truss. Not only having ruined the reputation and economic prestige of the United Kingdom throughout the world, with a dilettante and fanatical management, but also having once again transmitted to citizens the image of an obscene party, more concerned with lowering taxes on the richest than for getting the majority of the population out of the quagmire.
Minister Kwarteng, who only learned of his sudden dismissal this Friday when he got off the plane on which he was returning to London from Washington and began to read the headlines, has tried to say goodbye elegantly to his hitherto friend and ally, Liz Truss . But to a small circle of friends, according to media reports such as The Times either TheDailyMailhas already expressed to them his conviction that the prime minister has “only gained a few weeks” by jettisoning him.
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