Rishi Sunak would run economy ‘like Margaret Thatcher’ and ‘cut taxes responsibly’

Former chancellor has set out his economic vision as detractors accuse his camp of ‘dirty tricks’

Adam Forrest
Wednesday 13 July 2022 07:01 BST
Rishi Sunak launches Tory leadership campaign

Conservative party leadership frontrunner Rishi Sunak has promised to run the economy like Margaret Thatcher if he suceeds Boris Johnson at No 10.

The former chancellor, who has clashed with other contenders for refusing to promise immediate tax cuts, has said his economic vision amounted to “common sense Thatcherism”.

Mr Sunak on Tuesday evening joined seven other contenders on the ballot paper as Tory MPs begin voting on Wednesday to elect a successor to the prime minister.

In his first campaign interview, he told The Telegraph: “We will cut taxes and we will do it responsibly. That’s my economic approach. I would describe it as common sense Thatcherism. I believe that’s what she would have done.”

In the interview, Mr Sunak also claimed Thatcher’s economic thinking was in line with his own upbringing.

“If you read her speeches – and I’ve quoted her and [former Tory chancellor] Nigel Lawson in other lectures I’ve given – her approach to these things was to make sure that as a nation you have to earn what you spend,” he added.

Mr Sunak speaking at the launch of his campaign (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Mr Sunak speaking at the launch of his campaign (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

“She talked about the person at home with their family budget,” he continued. “She talked about that really powerfully. That resonated with me, because that’s how I was brought up.

Mr Sunak said: “My mum was a small businesswoman, she was a chemist. I worked in my mum’s small chemist in Southampton. I did my mum’s books, that was part of my job. I also did payroll and accounts every week and every month.”

Earlier, Mr Sunak said that he was not prepared to “demonise” Mr Johnson and insisted the PM’s controversial former aide Dominic Cummings has “absolutely nothing” to do with his leadership campaign.

Mr Sunak defended his former boss, saying that while Mr Johnson was “flawed”, he had a “good heart”. The former chancellor has come under fire from allies of Mr Johnson, who believe his resignation last week helped spark the mass exodus of ministers.

Mr Sunak said his decision to quit was “incredibly difficult and sad”, but “there were just some things that were becoming too difficult for me to keep working with him on”.

He also denied rumours Mr Cummings is secretly advising him. “Dominic Cummings has had absolutely nothing to do with this campaign and will have absolutely nothing to do with any government that I’m privileged to lead,” he said in the interview.

The frontrunner added: “I’ve not communicated with Dominic Cummings since the day he left Downing Street”.

Mr Sunak has been subjected to bitter attacks from Johnson loyalists, with Jacob Rees-Mogg accusing him of being a “socialist” chancellor and Nadine Dorries claimed he has waged “dirty tricks” to ensure he wins.

Ms Dorries accused Mr Sunak’s team of a “stitch up” after claims that one of his supporters – ex-chief whip Gavin Williamson – had been trying to “syphon off” votes for Jeremy Hunt so he would make it to the final run-off and give Mr Sunak an easy opponent.

Sunak backer Grant Shapps denied the campaign has engaged in any stitchup, and and dismissed Mr Rees-Mogg’s claim that he had been “socialist chancellor” as “not true”.

Mr Sunak has been forced to deny claims he is being advised by Dominic Cummings
Mr Sunak has been forced to deny claims he is being advised by Dominic Cummings (PA Archive)

The Brexit opportunities, who is backing Liz Truss, said she had “opposed the endless tax rises of the former chancellor, which I think have been economically damaging”.

Asked if he would take a cabinet post from Mr Sunak if became PM, Mr Rees-Mogg said: “No, of course I wouldn’t. I believe his behaviour towards Boris Johnson, his disloyalty, means I could not possibly support him.”

Mr Sunak, who has the most public declarations of support from Tory MPs of any candidate so far, said he is encouraged by the “breadth of support” from all wings of the Tory party.

The frontrunner also took aim at his rivals, whose tax plans, he suggested, are “not credible”, and who want to reverse government decisions they previously supported.

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