Rishi Sunak doubles down on ‘misleading’ Labour £2,000 tax rise claim

Rishi Sunak has doubled down on his disputed claim the Labour Party will increase taxes for the average household by more than £2,000 a year after he was accused of “misleading” the public with the figure.

In an interview with BBC Panorama’s Nick Robinson, the prime minister was questioned about the record level of tax increases under Tory rule since 2010, before he was asked why he was hitting out at possible Labour tax rises.

“You’ve got a bit of a nerve, haven’t you, having a go at the Labour Party?” said Mr Robinson.

“You’ve raised our taxes by record amounts, £93 billion, you’ve produced some figures criticised by the boss of the Treasury, criticised by the Chair of the UK Statistics Authority, criticised by the former Head of the Civil Service. And yet, you come to this interview and you repeat something that you’ve said that they all think is misleading.”

Mr Sunak responded: “Because it’s right, and the choice in this election is clear, we are going to keep cutting people’s taxes, you’ll see that in our manifesto tomorrow, you’ve seen it in the announcements that we’ve already made, Labour Party are going to put people’s taxes up.”

He claimed recent tax rises were due to circumstances out of his control, blaming the pandemic and Russia’s war on Ukraine.

 (via REUTERS)

The disputed £2,094 figure was originally raised in the first televised clash of the general election campaign, when Mr Sunak repeatedly pointed to analysis by Treasury civil servants he said showed a £38.5 billion black hole in Sir Keir’s spending plans.

This would lead to each working household paying £2,094 more in tax under a Labour government, the PM said.

But Mr Sunak suffered a humiliating setback when it emerged Treasury permanent secretary James Bowler had told MPs the Treasury should not be cited as the author of the costing analysis.

It further emerged that even under the Conservatives’ own calculations, the figure would be spread over four years.

But Mr Sunak repeatedly insisted that the figure was accurate in his interview with Mr Robinson.

“There are 27 different policies that underpin that figure,” he said. “Of those 27, 21 are produced by independent Treasury officials, available online for people to see, three come from other Government sources, two come from the Labour Party themselves, and one comes from an independent investment bank. Every single one of them is available, transparent, and you tot them all up and it amounts to £2,000 worth of tax rises for every working family.”

At the top of the interview, Mr Sunak was presented with a picture of US President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and the UK foreign secretary David Cameron at Omaha beach for the D-Day memorial event – before he was then asked why he was not there.

Mr Sunak repeated twice that he was “unreservedly sorry” for not being in attendance – he cut his attendance short in France to return to the UK, where he filmed a pre-recorded ITV interview – before adding that he hoped people could “find it within their hearts to forgive me”.

The interview ended with a pointed question from Mr Robinson about the state of Britain, at the end of which he asked how Mr Sunak could believe that the Conservative Party “deserves” another five years in power.

“Many viewers have told us, they’ve got in touch with the BBC and said: ‘Nothing works in this country. You can’t get a GP appointment. You can’t get to a dentist. You can’t afford somewhere to leave. The trains don’t run on time. Sewage gets pumped into the rivers and the sea.’

“Why do you deserve another chance?”

Mr Sunak responded by saying that British children are “not just the best readers in the UK, they’re the best readers in the western world”, suggesting that not everything about the country had gotten worse.

He added that he was “proud of what has been achieved over 14 years”.