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The Independent View

This Budget should be one that aids the nation – not a sop to Tory voters

Editorial: With the country facing a lack of growth, stubbornly high interest rates, and national debt nearing 100 per cent, a tax cut isn’t in our best interest – but it suits the Conservative Party

Tuesday 05 March 2024 19:59 GMT
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The chancellor Jeremy Hunt is expected to include another cut to national insurance
The chancellor Jeremy Hunt is expected to include another cut to national insurance (PA)

Chancellors of the Exchequer sometimes find themselves short of money, low on luck and rarely running a surplus of thanks from the taxpayers – but they are never, ever lacking advice.

Sometimes, such “advice” is thinly disguised special pleading; often it is pure ideological wishful thinking – and Jeremy Hunt has been subject to as much of it as any chancellor, and recently has succumbed to the attractions of pushing his luck with tax cuts. That said, he has, at least in technical terms, run the Treasury with a welcome degree of professionalism after the chaos of the brief Truss-Kwarteng experiment. Now, though, comes the greatest challenge of his chancellorship.

As the election approaches – it is only a matter of months now, whatever the speculation – Mr Hunt faces a dilemma familiar to many of his predecessors. He can put the economy first; or he can be forced by the electoral cycle into putting the survival of his party first. All the signs are that he will be veering heavily towards a highly political Budget. He may, as a result, save a few marginal seats (including his own) in the process when the seemingly inevitable Labour landslide arrives; but there should be no doubt that it is against the national interest.

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