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Boris Johnson pledges tax cuts as petrol prices hit a 17-year-high

The Prime Minister reportedly made the announcement to cabinet, but will it be another broken promise?

By Zoë Grünewald

It’s a bad day to be a driver, our Prime Minister, or really anyone living in the UK, as petrol prices hit a 17-year high and figures reveal that the UK is expected to be the weakest performing economy in the G7 next year.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published their half-yearly economic outlook yesterday, which forecast that the UK economy would grow by 0 per cent next year. The OECD’s chief economist, Laurence Boone, attributed a variety of factors responsible, including the cost-of-living crisis, reduced trade and higher taxes.

Yesterday, Michael’s Chart of the Day demonstrated that not only does the UK fall far behind its G7 counterparts, but the rest of the G20, with only Russia experiencing slower growth than us at -4.1 per cent. Such news will be a further blow to Johnson, who after surviving a confidence vote has pledged to cut taxes. After reportedly announcing his plans to cabinet on Tuesday morning, his official spokesperson has since tempered the Prime Minister’s words, stressing the need to be “responsible” due to the “very difficult position” the UK had been put in “following the pandemic”.

Economic woes are difficult for any government to navigate, but, in some ways, even worse for the Conservatives. Johnson has traditionally framed his attacks on the opposition in much the same way David Cameron and George Osborne went for Labour. The public, they’d say, can only trust the Tories with the economy and all Labour want to do is overspend, over-borrow and leave the public footing the bill. Unfortunately for Johnson, his accusations that Keir Starmer and his party love nothing more than taxation is beginning to sound suspect, as there have been 15 tax rises under Johnson’s government – the highest tax burden in 71 years.

Indeed, even Johnson’s long-standing supporters are starting to raise their eyebrows. Yesterday evening, the Telegraph published a number of graphs demonstrating Johnson’s “broken promises to cut tax”. Unfortunately for Johnson, an increased tax burden is now seen as another part of the rising cost of living – some of which is understood to be unavoidable (due to the Ukraine war and the pandemic), and some of which is seen as the Prime Minister’s personal strategy. As the cost of filling a family car hits an average of £100, Johnson will come under increased pressure to bring taxes down, otherwise his legacy will include gifting the Tories Labour’s reputation for poor economic management.

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Yesterday, Harry wrote that Johnson’s days are still numbered, and he will likely “face another vote of no confidence when the majority of his party want one”. And, indeed, his plans to rebuild his legacy are already faltering. If it isn’t partygate that buries Johnson, maybe it will be the Tories greatest asset and biggest fear – the economy, stupid.

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[See also: Who will replace Boris Johnson as Conservative Party leader? – State of the Nation (newstatesman.com)]