Conservative MPs who vote against the Liz Truss government’s plan for tax cuts will lose the whip, the party chairman Jake Berry has said.
Asked on Sky News whether this would result in them losing the party whip and being suspended, Mr Berry said, “Yes” – before urging despairing MPs to unite behind Ms Truss.
Former cabinet minister Michael Gove refused to say whether he would vote with the government on the borrowing-fuelled tax cuts – attacking them as “not Conservative”.
Mr Gove urged Ms Truss to “correct” mistakes made in the mini-Budget and said he was “profoundly” worried about borrowing money to pay for tax cuts.
“Broadly 35 per cent of the extra money we’re borrowing is not to cut energy costs, it is for unfunded tax cuts … The sheer risk of using borrowed money to fund tax cuts – that is not Conservative,” he told BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg.
One the move to ditch the 45p top tax rate, Mr Gove said: “To have as your principle decision, the headline move, cutting tax for the wealthiest – that is a display of the wrong values.”
Repeatedly challenged on whether he would vote with Labour, Mr Gove said: “I don’t believe it [tax cut plan] is right.” He added: “There were a number of mistakes made … but there is room and time to address them and correct them.”
Asked whether cabinet should have challenged Ms Truss on her plan, Mr Gove said they could have asked for “more detail and clarity” on the delayed Office for Budgetary Responsibility (OBR) forecast and how tax cuts would be paid for.
Andy Street – the Tory mayor of the West Midlands – also made clear his opposition to the scrapping of the 45p top rate of tax. “If it was me, I wouldn’t have done that,” he told Sky News.
Tory MPs have told The Independent that discussions are already under way about how to replace Ms Truss. “It’s not ridiculous to suggest she may be gone by Christmas,” said one backbencher.
Talk has already begun over the possible “coronation” of a single candidate – as happened with Michael Howard in 2003 – to take the decision out of Tory party members’ hands.
One MP described the combination of austerity for the poor and giveaways for the wealthy as “electoral suicide” and confirmed Tory backbenchers were talking to Labour on parliamentary means of stopping it.
Former Tory MP Nick Boles said the party has “leaped further out to the right than even Jeremy Corbyn was out to the left”, adding: “It’s where literally no voters are – that’s the extraordinary thing about it.”
Mr Berry shrugged off huge Labour leads in recent polls, saying they would look “very different” closer to the election, most likely in 2024.
The Tory chairman claimed it was “nonsense” to say the tax cuts are helping the rich most. Shown a Resolution Foundation graph making clear that higher earners benefitted most from the government’s plans, Mr Berry said he could not see the image.
“I would go back and say what we are doing for every household in this country is ensuring that they get a cut in their tax bill next month,” he told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday.
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