The Daily Telegraph

These Brownite Tories have now joined the ‘anti-growth coalition’

- By Camilla Tominey associate editor

It really doesn’t get much worse than this. With Chancellor Jeremy Hunt forced to “calm the markets” by bringing forward billions of pounds of tax and spending measures two weeks earlier than planned, Liz Truss’s mini-budget now appears dead and gone. Instead, the Government appears to have joined the very “anti-growth coalition” she mocked in her conference speech.

It is catastroph­ic for her personally, with colleagues now describing her as a “dead woman walking”, just 41 days into office.

Her credibilit­y has been shot to pieces, with growing numbers of backbenche­rs calling for her to go, while backroom conversati­ons to replace her continue to gain pace. There is now open tearoom talk of a Michael Howard-style coronation, with former chancellor Rishi Sunak, Penny Mordaunt, the Commons Leader, and Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, all being touted as potential successors.

Meanwhile, Mr Hunt, a man who was forced to drop out of the Tory leadership race for failing to secure the support of the 20 MPS he needed to get into the second round, is now behaving as de facto Prime Minister.

“In office but not in power” is the descriptio­n currently being bandied around about Ms Truss, conspicuou­s by her absence as Ms Mordaunt stood in for her in the Commons yesterday.

But the rather more serious issue for the Conservati­ves is this embarrassi­ng epithet could also be applied to a party whose reputation for fiscal competence now lies in tatters.

For most Tories, it was the poor execution of the mini-budget that caused it to unravel – not the contents.

As economist Liam Halligan has pointed out in this newspaper, the policies that cost Kwasi Kwarteng the Treasury were “mainstream and entirely reasonable” – and largely supported by Labour. Lowering the top rate of income tax from 45 per cent to 40 per cent would have brought it in line with the level it was for almost the entire Tony Blair was in office.

Sir Keir Starmer agreed with the scrapping of the 1.25 percentage point rise in national insurance contributi­ons.

The Opposition also backed the cut to the basic rate of income tax from 20p to 19p in the pound from 2023 – a year earlier than Sunak had planned.

Now even that modest cut has been deferred, along with reforms to IR35 and dividend taxes in yet another blow to the NON-PAYE worker.

Naturally, Labour did oppose Tory plans to keep corporatio­n tax at 19 per cent, rather than increasing it to 25 per cent next April – but as many Conservati­ves including Business Secretary Jacob Rees-mogg had argued, the cut would have made Britain more competitiv­e.

Now we are about as attractive as Germany and France to investors.

In reversing all these reforms, the Conservati­ves appear positively Brownite.

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