Rachel Reeves slams ‘desperate and reckless’ Sunak over £64bn tax pledges

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves accuses the Tories of making £64bn of unfunded spending commitments in a “desperate and reckless” effort to rescue their gaffe-strewn general election campaign.

Speaking to the Observer, Reeves said that what appeared to be pledges to slash taxes – including national insurance, income tax and inheritance tax – were reminiscent of Liz Truss’s catastrophic mini-budget and showed the Conservatives had learnt nothing from her disastrous time at No 10.

Labour’s attempt to portray the Tories as so desperate that they were “throwing around billions of pounds of unfunded spending commitments” came as bitter Conservative recriminations began over a series of early campaign disasters by Rishi Sunak and his party.

The internal Tory bloodletting follows simmering anger over the prime minister’s decision last Wednesday to call a surprise election on 4 July, which many MPs believed was too early and did not leave time for improving economic news to register with voters.

The blunders included the PR nightmare of a visit to Belfast’s Titanic quarter amid a flurry of announcements from senior Tory MPs that they were standing down.

Several Tories said their own party, not Labour, had been caught off guard by Sunak’s decision to go to the country early. A senior Tory source said: “It’s quite staggering that we’ve managed to call a snap election that took ourselves by surprise. I just feel sorry for the professionals in the party machine who will be watching all this with their head in their hands.

“These arrogant men and women from No 10 turn up and think they’re brilliant at politics. It’s staggering arrogance.

“It had been apparent to people inside the government for a long time that some of the No 10 operation in general was just extremely inexperienced and showed repeated bad judgment. That’s just been exposed for the entire country … the problem is we’ve got a cycle now where he’s in danger of becoming hapless.”

Among the senior Tory figures in the line of fire and who are said to have been consulted on the election date are deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden, the Downing Street chief of staff Liam Booth-Smith and adviser James Forsyth, as well as Sunak’s close cabinet ally Claire Coutinho, the energy secretary.

Sunak is said to have gone against the advice of Isaac Levido, his campaign chief, who wanted an autumn election.

In a further attempt to reignite his election campaign after an error-strewn start, Sunak announced last night that a future Conservative government would bring back mandatory national service.

Under the plan, which appeared to be his latest attempt to reduce Tory losses by winning over voters drifting to Reform UK, the prime minister said every 18-year-old would have to spend time in a competitive, full-time military commission, or one weekend a month volunteering in “civil resilience”.

On Saturday, Sunak took a helicopter owned by a millionaire Conservative donor to fly from his constituency in North Yorkshire to London before appearing at a hastily arranged campaign trip in south London after the Guardian had revealed on Friday that he was planning to spend the day away from the campaign trail following a terrible few days.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, described inheritance tax as “profoundly anti-Conservative”, thereby hinting at a desire to scrap it, while also promising additional moves to cut national insurance and, for the first time, floating the idea of ending what is, in effect, a 60% income tax rate on those earning between £100,000 and £125,140, which is a result of reductions in the tax-free allowance.

Reeves said that collectively these moves, along with suggestions that the Tories would scrap £4bn of green levies, totalled £64bn, or £2,270 for each household, in unfunded commitments.

Reeves said: “After a chaotic start to their campaign, the Conservatives are now throwing around billions of pounds of unfunded tax cuts in a desperate attempt to cling on to power.

“Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt’s behaviour is not only desperate, but also reckless and irresponsible and shows they have learned absolutely nothing from Liz Truss’s disastrous mini-budget that crashed the economy.

“The past 72 hours are the clearest sign yet that the biggest threat to the economy is five more years of Conservative chaos.”

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