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Good morning. The big picture, politically speaking, is that Rishi Sunak has been prime minister for more than a year and none of his big set piece moves to change the Conservative party’s fate have worked.
That’s one reason why there is now serious consideration of a cut in income tax in the Autumn Statement this week. Some thoughts on the politics of that below.
Reading this morning’s paper, I’m reminded of what George Parker said on the Political Fix podcast this week:
If Rishi Sunak has a political strategy it’s pretty hard to spot it, I would say, unless it’s simply throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping some of it’s gonna stick.
The new gambit? Plans to lower the rate of inheritance tax are to be shelved until next year, George reports, in favour of proposals to cut income tax by 1p. What both these tax cuts have in common is that they don’t cost all that much — a cut in the basic rate would cost about £6bn according to HMRC estimates — and you can, at least semi-plausibly, say you can pay for them with spending reductions elsewhere. (The UK’s benefits system is the suggested sacrificial lamb.)
That said, I use the word “semi-plausibly” quite deliberately. The question I would be asking, were I a Tory MP, is that in 2015, attempts to cut in-work benefits knocked the re-elected government of David Cameron off course, and I would ask myself “what has changed to make me think that things will go better for me this time?”
(What would worry me, if I were Sunak or Jeremy Hunt, is that some Tory MPs are asking this question about benefit cuts.)
And £6bn is not a whole lot of tax cut per person. If there is a political dividend here, it will surely only be if it boosts anxieties about Labour’s bona fides on tax and spend, rather than any feelgood factor it causes. And there’s as much risk too that we’re talking about a sum of money that is thin gruel in terms of your take-home pay wherever you are on the income scale, while also being a tax cut out of which the wealthiest do best.
There are big risks here on the Tory side — and Sunak is running out of failed reboots before he gets into internal difficulty with his party.
Now try this
I am a curmudgeon about many things, but not about the increasingly early onset of Christmas, about which I become very excited, largely because of the food.
I have been making my way through the various Christmas sandwiches on offer in the café chains around the FT’s London offices (the sandwich to beat at the moment is the Pret A Manger Christmas Sandwich, though it is sadly not exempt from Pret’s rampant price inflation).
So I particularly enjoyed the FTMag’s special on Christmas food and drink this week.