Jeremy Hunt tells Brexiteer inventor James Dyson to ‘stand for election’ in fiery exchange

The chancellor is alleged to have told Dyson to ‘stand for election’ if he thinks he could ‘do a better job’

Zoe Grunewald
Wednesday 20 March 2024 15:42 GMT
Jeremy Hunt’s budget focused on economic growth

Jeremy Hunt has been involved in a furious row with billionaire inventor Sir James Dyson in a tense meeting about research and development, it has been reported.

The chancellor is understood to have told Sir James – inventor of the Dyson vacuum cleaner – “If you think you could do a better job, why don’t you just stand for election?”, in what has been described as a “fiery” exchange by insiders.

Sir James met Mr Hunt to discuss tax relief after the business mogul made a series of public remarks about the government’s approach to entrepreneurship, according to the Financial Times.

James Dyson has been a vocal critic of the government’s approach to business (PA)

One person familiar with the meeting between the pair told the FT it was “fiery”, while another said: “It was an awful meeting.”

However, a Treasury insider is alleged to have disputed the description of the encounter, describing it as a “good, robust discussion”.

The outspoken Brexiteer has been highly critical of Rishi Sunak’s approach to government as the prime minister has attempted to reconfigure the UK as a leading power in science and innovation, and pitch London as the new Silicon Valley.

Though the Conservatives are traditionally seen as the party of business, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves have been courting business by meeting corporate leaders across the country.

According to one Whitehall insider, Sir James has been forthright with the government about views on their economic policies.

The source said: “He keeps sending quite aggressive letters. He’s quite forthright in his views, both publicly and privately”.

Writing in the Times last year, Sir James said that ministers “talk hubristically” about making Britain a science and tech “superpower”, while overseeing “woeful policies”.

The billionaire inventor - who relocated to Singapore before returning to the UK in 2019 - warned he is investing in “forward-looking economies” that encourage “growth and innovation” and hit out at “rocketing corporation tax” and “damaging legislation on working from home.”

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt had a tense exchange with the billionaire Brexiteer (PA)

He also praised the tax-cutting policies of former prime minister Liz Truss and ex-chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, telling The Telegraph: “I thought they were doing the right thing – I’m the only one who did”.

Mr Kwarteng’s 2022 mini-Budget triggered turmoil in the UK economic markets by promising unfunded tax cuts while Ms Truss was forced from No 10 not long after.

A Treasury spokesperson refused to comment on the meeting.

A Dyson spokesperson said: “We never comment about private meetings.”

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