Watch: ‘Get new job’ or cut your spending, Tory chair tells struggling Britons
Britons struggling with soaring bills should try getting a better-paid job or cut back on their spending, Conservative party chairman Jake Berry has said.
The senior Tory figure was grilled on Liz Truss’ government’s economic strategy, amid growing concern over the impact of borrowing-fuelled tax cuts benefiting the rich the most.
“People know when they get their bills, they can either cut their consumption or get higher salaries or higher wages, and go out there and get that new job,” he told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday.
Mr Berry added: “That’s the approach the government is taking in trying to create growth.”
Union general secretary Christina McAnea said the comments showed the government was “living on another planet”, adding: “If more key workers take the government’s advice, there’ll soon be no one left to run our hospitals, schools and care homes.”
Among those condemning the remarks, Rachel Clarke, a palliative care doctor, tweeted: “Naked cruelty from Conservative Chair Jake Berry today.”
The Tory chair claimed Ms Truss has an “absolute mandate” from the 2019 election to carry out her radical new economic policy.
“[The 2019 manifesto] set out that we wouldn’t increase taxes and in fact we have complied with that by reversing the national insurance rise. It set out that we would drive to create economic growth and that’s exactly what the prime minister’s doing,” he said.
Mr Berry also dismissed the idea that chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng discussed future plans with hedge fund managers at a champagne event held after the mini-Budget, saying those attending the event should be “lauded”.
The Tory chair confirmed he also attended the post-Budget drinks event, but said it was for Tory donors and “Britain’s leading entrepreneurs”.
Asked what Mr Kwarteng had said, he told Sky News: “I certainly didn’t hear him make those comments. I was there so I listened to what he said and what he talked about was his plan for growth.”
He added: “I can categorically rule out that in terms of the address he made to the group of people who were there as part of this normal Treasurer’s event. He did not give any insight into future plans and I’m sure in terms of his private conversations he didn’t give any.”
Mr Berry also warned that Tory MPs who vote against the government’s plan for tax cuts will lose the party whip. Some Tory MPs are considering whether to vote with Labour to stop mini-Budget measures – particularly the axing of the 45p top rate of income tax.
Asked on Sky News whether this would result in them losing the whip and being suspended, Mr Berry said, “Yes” – before urging despairing MPs to unite behind Ms Truss.
“I’m sure that if we do that it will lead ultimately to long-term electoral success,” he said.
He shrugged off huge Labour leads in recent polls, saying they would look “very different” closer to the election, most likely in 2024.
The Tory chairman also claimed it was “nonsense” to say the tax cuts are helping the rich most. Shown a Resolution Foundation graph making clear that higher earners benefitted most from the government’s plans, Mr Berry said he could not see the image.
“I would go back and say what we are doing for every household in this country is ensuring that they get a cut in their tax bill next month,” he told Sky News.
Mr Berry did not rule out significant spending cuts, but refused to be drawn on specific policies. “I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that the public sector should look at its expenses in the same way that every single household is doing in this country.”
Jacob Rees-Mogg was booed loudly by hundreds of protesters in Birmingham as the Tory conference got underway in the city, with some shouting “Tory scum”.
Demonstrators furious at Ms Truss’s economic plan carried signs reading “unelected, unaccountable, unhinged” and “wages up, bills down, Tories out”.
Labour shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said Ms Truss has failed to understand the “anxiety and fear” felt by people facing huge hikes in their mortgage repayments, accusing the PM and chancellor of launching a “mad experiment” with the economy.