The Tories have just broken the first rule of politics, says Allister Heath in The Daily Telegraph: “don’t take your voters for fools”. The bald facts about their mini-Budget yesterday are dismal. Real household disposable income will fall by 2.2%, “the greatest drop in living standards” since records began in the 1950s. The overall tax burden will rise to its highest level (36.3% of GDP) since “Clement Attlee’s hard-left administration in the 1940s”. Yet the Tories insist that all is well. They’re saying that they are cutting taxes (they’re not) and that their main focus is addressing the cost-of-living crisis (it’s not). Who do they think they’re kidding?
Rishi Sunak could easily have done much more to counteract the “inflationary tornado” we’re facing, primarily by ditching his manifesto-busting national insurance hike. But because Boris Johnson won’t allow him to pursue his small-state instincts, the Chancellor has reinvented himself as a “low-debt Tory” – he seems to think his legacy will be reducing Britain’s debt-to-GDP ratio. It’s crazy. Voters couldn’t give a fig about “abstract aggregates”. What they care about is “whether they are better or worse off”. And on that metric, “the year ahead will be the worst anybody will remember”. It’s a “catastrophic” miscalculation – one that “could destroy the Conservative party and its reputation for economic competence for a generation”.