The Daily Telegraph
Cut tax to boost economy, Johnson tells PM
Ex-culture secretary says Deputy PM ought to stand down in order to clear his name over bullying claims
BORIS JOHNSON has said the Government should reduce the tax burden to trigger economic growth, in a move that puts pressure on Rishi Sunak.
During an interview on Talktv last night, the former prime minister said that being tax-cutters was critical to the Conservatives’ hopes of winning the next election.
The comments came as Mr Sunak, the Prime Minister, and Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor, try to play down expectations of tax cuts in next month’s Budget given their priority to halve inflation.
Tax tensions are likely to be among the defining political battles of the weeks ahead, with an increasingly vocal group of Conservative MPS lobbying for tax cuts this spring.
Mr Johnson said: “The fiscal position was pretty robust when I left office. We had scope to do all sorts of things and we were going to do them and I have no doubt that when the time comes, the Government will make sure that they start to reduce the tax burden and get the economy growing again, and that is what needs to happen. We need to be on the front foot out there talking about the benefits of Brexit, not being shy about it, not being bashful and getting some growth back into the economy.”
The remarks appeared carefully framed not to challenge the Government directly, predicting the steps will be taken rather than demanding them. But Mr Johnson banging the drum for tax cuts while Mr Sunak and Mr Hunt attempt to play down expectations will likely be jumped on by Tory tax rebels.
Treasury sources have framed inflation as a “stealth tax” and have repeatedly pointed to the economic implosion that followed Liz Truss’s tax-slashing “mini” Budget as a warning.
‘We need to be on the front foot out there talking about the benefits of Brexit, not being bashful’
‘If I were him I would want to dedicate my time to clearing my name and refuting the allegations’
NADINE DORRIES has suggested her former cabinet colleague Dominic Raab should resign from his frontbench role to fight the “avalanche” of bullying accusations.
The former culture secretary, who served with Mr Raab under Boris Johnson’s premiership, said she had “very positive” experiences working with him but predicted he will step back.
Ms Dorries said: “If I were Dominic Raab and I was under this avalanche of accusations being made against me I think I would want to stand down, I would want to dedicate my time to clearing my name and refuting those allegations. I think [he’s] probably going to get to that position pretty soon.”
Mr Raab, the Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary, is under mounting pressure from an investigation into his conduct towards staff. He has consistently denied any wrongdoing, saying in the House of Commons in November: “I am confident that I have behaved professionally throughout.”
Rishi Sunak has appointed Adam Tolley KC, an outside lawyer, to investigate the complaints about Mr Raab. No date has been given for the completion of the inquiries.
The Prime Minister has insisted that he was not aware of any “formal complaints” about Mr Raab before he gave him the cabinet roles in October.
However, Downing Street spokesmen have not denied that Mr Sunak was aware of “informal” complaints. It means much will depend on the definition of the word “formal”.
The Times reported on Thursday that Simon Case, Britain’s most senior civil servant, was aware of a written complaint about Mr Raab’s conduct before his recent appointments.
Separately, Ms Dorries interviewed Mr Johnson on Talktv, during which the former prime minister gave views about a range of foreign and domestic issues. He has given few interviews since leaving No10 in September.
Mr Johnson, who has championed Ukraine in its battle against Russia since departing, accused Vladimir Putin of overseeing acts of terrorism.
Discussing a recent visit to Ukraine, Mr Johnson said: “I went out, like so many others have done, it was incredible to see it for myself. I saw blocks of flats that had been obliterated by 500 kilo bombs, of no conceivable military value to Putin.
“He does it purely as an act of terrorism. This is still going on, you know, across the front line. He’s continuing to wipe out towns. He’s absolutely merciless. He has no respect for the laws of war, or human life. So we have to give them the kit they need to fight him and to send Putin back whence he came.”
Mr Johnson said he still talks to Mr Sunak, his successor whose resignation triggered the ministerial walk-out that led to his ouster from Downing Street, but did not give details.
The former prime minister countered Ms Dorries’ suggestion that Mr Sunak was a “submarine prime minister”, saying: “He’s been on TV a lot more than me lately. I can tell you that much for free.” On whether the pair have talked, Mr Johnson said: “Of course, but you know, I’m not going to go into our conversations.”
Mr Johnson also issued a warning about the Brexit policy that Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour would pursue if the party won back office at the next election, expected to be held in 2024.
He said: “They’re not in a position to control the unions, because they’re actually funded by the unions. I think that you’d have a very interesting situation, they would be gravitationally sucked back into the orbit of the EU. I think that’d be very wrong for the country. It would lose us a lot of opportunities that we currently have.”
On the election, Mr Johnson – who, according to allies, still hopes for a return to the premiership if the opportunity arises – said that the Tories can still win. Opinion polls currently put Labour more than 20 percentage points ahead of Conservatives.
Mr Johnson said: “Let me be very clear… The fact is that the Conservative Party can certainly win the next election. We’ve got almost two years to go before there has to be an election.
“Old Sir Crasharooney Snoozefest, the human bollard – Keir Starmer, that is – thinks that he’s going to get people to vote Labour just by standing there and doing nothing. It’s not going to happen.”