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Tension between Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak over spending isn’t necessarily a bad thing

The issue, writes Hamish McRae, is that the chancellor needs luck – and the PM needs discipline – for all of this fiscal maneuvering to work out

Sunday 20 June 2021 18:16 BST
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Boris Johnson, left and Rishi Sunak
Boris Johnson, left and Rishi Sunak (Reuters)

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak are said to be at loggerheads over the government’s spending splurge. That’s a surprise, isn’t it? The prime minister is not known for his financial orthodoxy in his own dealings, while the chancellor was independently wealthy through his career in finance.

But this is not just about personalities. The very nature of the two jobs creates tension, as it should. You need someone with acute political antennae for what deep down a majority of voters want. And you need someone to make sure the sums add up. That makes for tension.

That tension can be productive, as it was in the early years of the Tony Blair/Gordon Brown government, or destructive as that partnership became as time rolled by. There probably was not enough tension between David Cameron and George Osborne, which made it hard to sustain political support for the years of relative austerity, however necessary it was to get the country’s finances under control.

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