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Jeremy Hunt will try to talk a long game while scrambling to fund pre-election tax cuts | Larry Elliott

Jeremy Hunt will try to talk a long game while scrambling to fund pre-election tax cuts | Larry Elliott

Jeremy Hunt will try to talk a long game while scrambling to fund pre-election tax cuts | Larry Elliott
Mar 03, 2024 1 min, 4 secs

The chancellor has done his utmost to hose down those expectations, telling the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg that he was preparing for a prudent and responsible, gimmick-free affair.

Even so, the Treasury has been exploring every avenue in its attempt to find a way of putting more money in the pockets of consumers while sticking to its self-imposed rule to be cutting debt as a share of national income in five years’ time.

The package will be smaller than last November’s autumn statement, which made no difference to the Conservative party’s dire opinion poll ratings.

In 1987, for example, Nigel Lawson was able to cut taxes because growth was strong, inflation was low, people were seeing their living standards rise, and the public finances were in good shape.

As Hunt said on Kuenssberg, the economy has shown some resilience in the face of three big shocks in the current parliament – the Covid pandemic, the cost of living crisis and the Ukraine war – and is now on the road to recovery.

So he would be better off ignoring the fact that this is a pre-election budget and instead concentrate on measures to improve the supply side of the economy, such as reducing the record number of people inactive due to long-term ill health.

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