Boris Johnson puts pressure on Rishi Sunak by backing tax cuts 'to grow economy'

The former prime minister said tax cuts “needed” to happen during a wide-ranging TV interview with former cabinet minister Nadine Dorries.

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives for a meeting with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine January 22, 2023.  Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Boris Johnson has backed calls for tax cuts to boost the ailing economy. (Reuters)

Boris Johnson has put pressure on his successor Rishi Sunak after backing calls for tax cuts to boost the ailing economy.

The former prime minister said tax cuts “needed” to happen and would improve the Conservative Party's chance of winning the next general election in an interview with former cabinet minister Nadine Dorries for TalkTV.

Current prime minister Sunak and chancellor Jeremy Hunt have been resisting demands from some Tory MPs to cut taxes in next month’s Budget, insisting they have to get inflation down first.

Johnson did not directly criticise the government’s position but his comments are likely to encourage Conservatives impatient for taxes to come down.

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LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 01: Britain's Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, leaves 10, Downing Street to attend Prime Minster's Questions at the House of Commons on February 1, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
Boris Johnson has put pressure on his successor Rishi Sunak. (Getty)

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.”

Johnson also defended himself over partygate and accused anyone who suspects he deliberately covered up lockdown parties in No 10 of being “out of their mind”.

He added: "I hope it's obvious to everybody, that anybody who thinks I was knowingly going to parties that were breaking lockdown rules in No10, and then knowingly covering up parties that were illicit that other people were going to, that’s all strictly for the birds.”

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The former prime minister, forced out of office by the Conservatives after a series of scandals, is expected to give evidence to the inquiry in the coming months.

He repeatedly told the Commons there were no rule-breaking parties in Downing Street, and that the rules had been followed at all times.

But the Metropolitan Police issued 126 fines for breaches of Covid rules, including to Johnson himself, for offences spanning a series of gatherings in 2020 and 2021.

He was the first prime minister to be sanctioned by police while in office.

If the committee rules Johnson did lie to Parliament and a suspension of more than 10 sitting days is approved by the House of Commons, he could face a challenging by-election in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat.

Read more: Johnson suggests Sunak should 'forget about Putin' and send fighter jets to Ukraine

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks at the weekly cabinet meeting at Downing Street, London, Britain May 17, 2022. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/Pool
Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak before he resigned as PM. (Reuters)

Boris also touched on lighter moments during the interview, saying he had started making paintings of cows and added he wouldn't mind getting stuck in a lift with either Labour leader Keir Starmer or SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon because they are “far nicer and more amusing than you might otherwise imagine.”

Despite the Conservatives trailing Labour by some 20 points in the opinion polls, Johnson insisted they could recover in time to triumph in the next election – probably little more than a year away.

He added: “The economy will start to improve, inflation will come down, people will reward the Conservative Party, they will reward the government for being sensible, for cutting their taxes and for getting things done that they need done.”

Johnson also used the interview as an opportunity to call for the UK to send more tanks to Ukraine as the country, which he recently visited, continues to battle Russia.