Rishi Sunak is set to launch his bid to become prime minister with a pledge to cut taxes – but only once inflation is brought under control.
At his campaign launch event on Tuesday, the former chancellor will insist he has a plan to deal with the economic ‘headwinds’ facing the country, saying it’s a matter of ‘when’ not “if” the tax burden begins to decline.
He will receive strong support from another ex-Chancellor, Lord Lamont, who said Mr Sunak had the courage to take the “difficult decisions” needed to deal with the “extremely serious” economic situation.
Meanwhile, former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt promises to increase defense spending while his opponent Tom Tugendhat will detail his economic approach in more detail.
Nominations for the election open and close on Tuesday, with candidates requiring the backing of 20 fellow MPs to stand on the ballot – a hurdle some of the 11 who hope to stand may find it difficult to overcome.
Mr Sunak – who has the most statements of support so far – is the only one among contenders to succeed Boris Johnson not to promise immediate tax cuts if he wins.
He has come under attack from allies of the Prime Minister who believe his announcement last week that he was stepping down helped spark a string of resignations that forced Mr Johnson to admit his time was up.
Brexit Opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg scathingly described him as the “much-lamented socialist chancellor” who raised taxes while failing to control inflation.
The Times reported that Mr Rees-Mogg along with two other close allies of Mr Johnson – Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries and Education Secretary James Cleverly – are set to declare their support for the Secretary of State. Foreign Affairs Liz Truss.
In his remarks, Mr. Sunak will defend his record while seeking to make a virtue of his willingness to face difficult economic realities in the aftermath of the pandemic.
“We need a return to traditional conservative economic values - and that means honesty and responsibility, not fairy tales,” he will say.
“I had to make some of the hardest choices of my life when I was Chancellor, particularly how to manage our post Covid debt and borrowing.
“I never hid from those, and I certainly won’t claim now that the choices I made and the things I voted for were somehow unnecessary. Although it may be politically inconvenient, it is the truth.
“My message to the party and the country is simple: I have a plan to lead our country through these headwinds. Once we get inflation under control, I will reduce the tax burden. It’s a question of “when”, not “if”.
In a statement, Mr Hunt pledged to reverse ‘unthinkable’ planned cuts in the size of the army in the face of the threat posed by Vladimir Putin’s Russia and to increase defense spending to 3% of national income by 2028.
“We are facing a long-term war of attrition in Europe, so we need to be aware of the implications for our defense budget,” he said.
“The planned budget cuts in our armed forces are now unthinkable; we must put our money where our mouth is and prove that we understand that the first duty of government is to keep people safe.
Mr Tugendhat, chairman of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, who has previously said he will reverse the National Insurance hike and cut fuel, said further action was needed to boost economic growth .
In a speech on Tuesday, he will outline his 10-year growth plan to tackle the UK’s productivity lag, with investment in skills and infrastructure as well as tax breaks for research and development.
Ahead of his speech, Mr Tugendhat, a former soldier, said: ‘Tax cuts cannot be the magazine’s only trick to spur growth in the economy.’
According to the timetable set by Sir Graham Brady, the first round of voting for MPs will take place on Wednesday, with candidates who failed to obtain 30 votes being eliminated, with a second due on Thursday.
The process is then expected to continue until next week, with the candidate with the fewest votes being dropped, until the list of candidates is narrowed down to just two who will go through a party membership ballot.
The new Prime Minister will be announced on September 5 when MPs return to Westminster after their summer break.