PM says he has reasons to be optimistic because the economy was “pointing in the right direction” and that the “future is going to be better”…reports Asian Lite News
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said he is “totally up for the fight” of pitching his policies to the electorate to win another term for the governing Conservative Party as he prepares for a general election expected to take place in the second half of the year.
In an interview with The Times this weekend, the 43-year-old British Indian leader said he had reasons to be optimistic because the economy was “pointing in the right direction” and that the “future is going to be better”.
“At the beginning of this year there is a sense that the country is pointing in the right direction,” he told the newspaper.
“Because economic conditions have improved, because the plan is working, you are starting to see mortgage rates come down and we have been able to cut taxes. I do believe those pressures are starting to ease and that hopefully over the course of this year, we can continue to make even more progress,” he said.
In a message as much for the voters as for the rebels within his own Tory ranks, the Conservative leader reiterated his plan to cut taxes for the hardworking people of the country.
“It’s because those are my values, those are the values of my party. It’s one where hard work should be rewarded. And actually, the best way to express that through the tax system is to cut people’s taxes so when they are working hard they get to enjoy more of the rewards of that for themselves and their family,” he said.
“Because economic conditions have improved, because the plan is working, you are starting to see mortgage rates come down and we have been able to cut taxes,” he added. “I’m totally up for the fight,” he said.
However, Sunak appeared to echo his Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, who has already sought to temper expectations over the size of any tax cuts in his Spring Budget next month, despite senior Tories publicly indicating they are coming.
“None of us ever talk about this stuff before budgets. Other people are. I think they’re over-interpreting. What the Chancellor and I have said is that of course, our long-term plan is to cut people’s taxes,” he said.
The Tories continue to lag behind the Opposition Labour Party in surveys, with the Sunak-led government contending with a high rate of anti-incumbency among the electorate.
Sunak has struggled to make progress on his main pledges, including stopping migrants from arriving in small boats, growing the economy and cutting hospital waiting lists. He has hit one target of halving inflation by the end of 2023, but economists say that has little to do with government policy.
Labour’s Starmer has vowed to fight the Conservatives on the economy, traditionally seen as one of their strengths, while the right-wing Reform UK party has refused to renew its pact with the governing party to help protect its parliamentary seats.
Sunak also must try to quell a growing rebellion inside his own party, with some lawmakers threatening to try to oust him if he refuses to cut taxes, something they believe could help win back traditional Conservative supporters. He will be hoping a so-called spring budget on March 6 can deliver such party-pleasing announcements.
‘Bring back Boris’
Sunak should “swallow some pride” and bring back the “electoral force” that is Boris Johnson, the former chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng has said.
Kwarteng, who announced earlier this week that he would be standing down as an MP at the general election, also said the prime minister needed to “work on his outreach” with backbench Tory MPs also thinking about quitting.
The MP’s candid criticism of his party leader on Sunday came amid fresh indications of a renewed clamour among supporters of Johnson for him to return in some form, with calls in the Mail on Sunday and Sunday Telegraph as the Tories face a potential electoral wipeout.
The former prime minister and Conservative leader expects his successor to telephone him personally if he wants to ask for his help campaigning in the general election, the Sunday Telegraph also reported.
On Sunday, Kwarteng said in an interview with GB News: “I’ve always been a big Boris fan. He had a very good success as an electoral force. You know, we’re 20 points behind, and the polls haven’t really moved in the last year. So it’s not time to simply say ‘more of the same’. Something has to change, for us to have a chance of winning.
“And if that means swallowing some pride and you’re suppressing a bit of ego by reaching out to someone who’s an approved campaigner then, yeah, then he should do that.”
A No 10 source said: “We want the whole Conservative family to come together to beat Starmer and Labour at the next election. Boris and everyone else united in that aim will of course be welcome.”
Kwarteng, who oversaw the ill-fated “mini-budget” under the shortlived government of Liz Truss, said the prime minister had not called him to ask him to change his mind after announcing that he would not stand again as an MP.