Rishi Sunak will be leading his first Conservative Party conference as British Prime Minister this weekend and goes into the annual event starting on Sunday amid pressure from his backbenches over cutting taxes as the governing party prepares for a general election, expected in 2024.
His predecessor, Liz Truss, who had a historically brief run at 10 Downing Street last year after her attempt at slashing taxes in a controversial mini-budget and former Indian-origin home secretary Priti Patel are among the Tory MPs openly voicing their discontent.
It came after the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) think tank issued a forecast this week that tax levels in the UK are at their highest since records began 70 years ago.
“This unprecedentedly high tax burden is one of the reasons our economy is stagnating and why we need to cut taxes to help make Britain grow again,” tweeted Truss.
“We should always seek to reduce the tax burden, especially when there’s so much pressure on family budgets,” she said.
Patel, who was made a Dame by former prime minister Boris Johnson and collected the honour from Windsor Castle earlier this week, told ‘GB News’ that taxes must start to come down.
“The tax burden is now at a 70-year high. That is unsustainable. And the people that pay the taxes are hard-pressed Brits around the country,” said Patel in an interview on Friday.
“It’s about being Conservative and ensuring that the public keep more of the money that they earn, rather than seeing the size of the state continue to grow,” she said.
The former Cabinet minister, who was replaced by Suella Braverman as home secretary after Boris Johnson resigned as Prime Minister last year, also disputed the Sunak-led government’s claim that taxes cannot be cut while inflation remains high.
“You have to separate the two… I do recall a rather successful Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who was able to tackle inflation while growing the economy and speaking of economic growth,” she told the news and radio channel.
Patel also went on to condemn the “gamesmanship and shenanigans” that took place within Tory ranks and stressed it was time to be “forward facing” towards Conservative success in the next general election at a “challenging” time for the party.
“I don’t think the public will forget… we’ve seen two democratically elected leaders of the Conservative Party [Johnson and Truss] being hounded out of office. I don’t support that,” she said, dismissing her own leadership ambitions.
The internal divisions and high taxes are likely to dominate the Tory party conference, being held in Manchester from Sunday with the flagship leader’s address by Sunak on its concluding day on Wednesday.
The 43-year-old British Indian leader will be keen to present a strong front as he prepares for an election year in which the Tories are lagging behind the Opposition Labour Party in opinion polls.
Sunak has zeroed in on local issues that he believes will hold sway with the British public, such as a strong stance against Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, or LTNs, in England to ensure they are not introduced without local support.
In an interview with ‘The Sun’ on Saturday, he said he was “slamming the brakes on the war on motorists, it’s as simple as that”.
“What we want to do now is make sure that all these hare-brained schemes that are forced on local communities, whether it’s Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, blanket 20mph speed limits, all of that… need to stop,” he said.
The latest plans follow his revision of his government’s Net Zero policies, which delays the ban on new diesel and petrol cars from 2030 to 2035.
The recent policy shift is believed to have given him a small boost in the opinion polls but the Tory conference will be crucial for Sunak to not only win over the British electorate but also drown out the divisive voices within his own party.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)