Rishi Sunak should have called for autumn election, says Lord Hammond

Lord Phillip Hammond said many voters would have 'made up their mind back in 2021 and 2022'
Lord Phillip Hammond said many voters would have 'made up their mind back in 2021 and 2022' - HEATHCLIFF O'MALLEY

Rishi Sunak should have waited until the autumn to call the general election, Lord Phillip Hammond has said.

The former chancellor said that the possibility of interest rate cuts over the coming months would have been a “better backdrop” to fight the election.

Lord Hammond told the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg: “I don’t personally understand why we’re having an election in July. I would have liked to have seen the election later in the year.

“I’m pretty confident that we will see one or two interest rate cuts between now and November. And I would have preferred the party to have been fighting this election on the basis of interest rates falling and probably on the basis of Mr Farage having disappeared off to the US to play games with candidate Trump as well.

“That would have been a better backdrop from my point of view,” he added.

Lord Hammond blamed the Tories’ current electoral woes on Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, adding that “by the autumn of 2022, the die was cast”.

“It’s a difficult campaign to run because it’s against the backdrop of the Boris Johnson period in Government, the Liz Truss debacle and frankly, my own personal view is that many voters made up their mind back in 2021, 2022,” he said.

“I think Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt have done a credible job in Government but they unfortunately are being held to account for the mistakes and the errors that were made earlier on in this period of government.”

‘Vindicated’

Lord Hammond, who served as the chancellor under Theresa May, was expelled from the Conservatives in 2019 after rebelling against Mr Johnson over a Brexit vote.

He backed Mr Sunak over Ms Truss in the party leadership election, following Mr Johnson’s resignation and said he felt “vindicated on that choice”.

The move by the Prime Minister to call the general election in May came as a shock to Westminster, who had expected an October or November poll.

But Mr Sunak went ahead after confirmation that annual inflation had fallen to its lowest rate in almost three years, referring to the figures during his speech outside No 10 later in the day.

Plan are working

He cited the fall in inflation, along with the UK emerging from recession, as “proof that the plan and priorities” he had set out were working.

Several figures have since pointed out that waiting for an autumn poll could have allowed the electorate to feel more of the impact of improving economic conditions.

George Osborne, the former MP said on his Political Currency podcast last week: “In a few months time, maybe people would start to say, ‘Well, you know, actually, I’m feeling a little bit better off than I was, mortgage costs are starting to come down and I’ve noticed the prices in the shops aren’t going up in the way they used to.’

“[Now] he’s just got a statistic: inflation is at 2 per cent and that’s what I promised to deliver.”