Has Jeremy Hunt Just Gift-Wrapped The Next General Election For Labour?

Jeremy Hunt leaves 11 Downing Street this morning.
Jeremy Hunt leaves 11 Downing Street this morning.

Jeremy Hunt leaves 11 Downing Street this morning.

The faces round the cabinet table this morning told their own story.

As Jeremy Hunt set out how he plans to fill the £55 billion hole in the government’s finances, those present looked like they had just been informed of the death of a much-loved family pet.

To be fair, they had every right to look gloomy as the chancellor set out a range of measures almost tailor-made to annoy Tory MPs.

Taxes will rise by £25 billion, with the highest earners doing most of the heavy lifting.

Meanwhile, the windfall tax on energy firms’ bumper profits - another policy roundly hated by Conservatives - will not only be increased, but also extended by another couple of years until 2028.

Public spending, Hunt said, will be slashed by £30 billion - although where the axe falls won’t be known until after the next election.

Jeremy Hunt briefs the cabinet on the autumn statement
Jeremy Hunt briefs the cabinet on the autumn statement

Jeremy Hunt briefs the cabinet on the autumn statement

As if all that wasn’t bad enough enough for Tory MPs nervously eyeing their majorities, the Office for Budget Responsibility delivered this zinger in their assessment of the autumn statement.

“Rising prices erode real wages and reduce living standards by 7% in total over the two financial years to 2023-24 (wiping out the previous eight years’ growth), despite over £100 billion of additional government support.”

That means that going into the next election, Labour can justifiably tell voters that they are no better off than they were a decade before.

As election-winning messages go, that’s a hard one to beat.

One Labour MP could barely contain their excitement afterwards: ”Inflation up, interest rates up and now taxes up - they are absolutely fucked.”

But there are also dangers for Labour amid the Tory gloom.

If the economy is in a better place in two years’ time, will Hunt announce that he is able to cut some taxes, allowing the Conservatives to paint Labour as the tax-and-spend party?

One shadow cabinet member told HuffPost UK: “Never under-estimate the Labour Party’s ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.”

It looks highly unlikely at the moment, but maybe those Tory frowns could become smiles again in 2024.

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