Rishi Sunak has told Tory MPs that implementing tax rises soon will hand the Government greater leverage to slash them ahead of the next election in 2024. The Chancellor made his pre-budget appearance at the powerful 1922 committee of backbench Conservatives on Wednesday evening to take soundings before the fiscal event on March 3. He told MPs that honesty and fairness were his guiding principles, as he signalled that difficult decisions lie ahead on raising revenue and reducing the deficit, according to several sources present on the call. Laying the groundwork for potential tax rises in the coming budget and the next one, Mr Sunak argued that the public would respect candour about what is to come. Such moves will also burnish the Conservatives’ reputation for responsible management of the public finances, and are essential to differentiate the party from the opposition, he added. One MP summarised Mr Sunak’s argument: “He basically said we can’t be Labour lite.” The budget can be the Government’s “signature moment” in the fight against coronavirus, the Chancellor is understood to have declared. After a series of piecemeal bailout packages responding to the pandemic over the past year, he signalled he wants to set out a broader, philosophical approach to the economy. MPs said they now expect him to set out a detailed roadmap on his strategy for spending, tax rises, the deficit and other economic levers at the budget. He urged his backbench colleagues to judge him over the “arc of the parliament”, not just on the coming budget alone. One MP said: “People asked, ‘Why can't you cut taxes now?’ His point was that we have to look at this over three to four years. “He [Mr Sunak] said he wants to be tax cutting towards the end of the parliament, that there will probably be some rises in the middle, and that we’re going to be frank with people about the tough choices ahead.