‘Don’t vote Labour out of anger’ urges Jeremy Hunt

Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt (Image: Getty)

Jeremy Hunt has urged “upset and angry” voters to stick with the Conservatives so he can deliver the growth the country needs to fund the NHS and pensions.

The Chancellor acknowledged the “tough times” people have faced but warned Labour coming to power risked wrecking Britain’s return to prosperity.

He conceded a Tory election victory was now “against the odds”, but insists he still believes his party can win a contest that will boil down to “Who is the best team?”.

Mr Hunt said his record showed he “faced the music” and made the difficult, but vital, decisions to bring down inflation – and he warned against supporting a Labour Party that tries to be “all things to all men”.

And in a direct message to people tempted to vote for Reform UK, the successor to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, he said the “most dangerous” election outcome for them is “a Labour Government trying to unpick that settlement over Brexit”.

The Tories are 15 points behind Labour in the latest WeThink poll but Mr Hunt believes the coming weeks and months could deliver a raft of good news, such as a drop in interest rates.

The Chancellor said: “We’re now looking at a situation in which in the next couple of months we could come out of recession – although it’s been a very mild recession – we could see interest rates falling and we could see inflation falling to its target two per cent level. That would make a huge difference.”

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Mr Hunt entered 11 Downing Street in October 2022 when Liz Truss sacked Kwasi Kwarteng in response to the market turmoil that followed his mini-Budget.

He does not deny the anger after Britain endured a post-pandemic cost-of-living crisis but claims the country now has the chance to grow faster than France, Germany and Japan – and unlock the investment the Health Service needs.

“That’s why our message is we just do not want to go back to square one,” he said.

“We know how upset and angry people are after all the challenges they’ve been through in the last couple of years.

“We get that, but elections are a choice about the future and when it comes to the future we’ve got to make a very big decision if we want to spend all this money on the NHS.”

Mr Hunt is confident the election can be won if the question put to voters is not “Are you in a good mood about all the tough times we’ve been through?”, but “Who is going to make the right decisions?”.

“We continue to be one of the best countries on the planet,” he said.

“That means you need a team of people who aren’t just trying to be all things to all men. They are going to take difficult decisions – such as the decisions we took in my first Autumn Statement when we had to cut spending and increase tax because we knew the thing that was threatening living standards was 11 per cent inflation.

“We faced the music with those difficult decisions. That is why things are looking so much better today and that’s the argument we’ll be making in the months ahead.”

A salvo of key Treasury decisions take effect this week. The latest National Insurance cuts kick in, the National Living Wage rises from £10.42 to £11.44, the energy price cap for a typical household falls from £1,928 to £1,690, and eligible film studios will benefit from 40 per cent relief on business rates.

Mr Hunt says the tax cuts are just the start of the return to low taxation he wants to deliver. The Chancellor faced criticism from pensioner groups in the wake of the Budget for cutting National Insurance – which is not paid by the retired – instead of income tax, which more pensioners pay as a result of frozen thresholds.

But Mr Hunt is unapologetic about his determination to boost growth by “making work pay”.

Stamping on the suggestion that the price of keeping the triple lock – which ensures state pensions keep pace with wages and inflation – is an early increase in the pension age, he said this is “not at all” the case.

“If we’re looking for funding for the NHS, if we’re looking for funding for the triple lock, that needs a really thriving economy,” he said.

As a former Health Secretary, Mr Hunt has big ideas about a Health Service reboot.

He argues that “even the NHS’s biggest fans would agree that it is not very efficient” and wants to boost services by harnessing the full potential of computing technology, which has transformed almost every other aspect of our lives.

Pointing to how the digital tech have changed how we shop, book holidays and stay in touch with friends, he said: “We do it all so much more easily now than we used to but that revolution hasn’t really happened in healthcare and that’s what we want to happen in the NHS.”

He has unveiled £3.4billion to boost productivity in the NHS. Plans to digitise operating theatre processes are intended to allow consultants to carry out an extra 200,000 operations a year.

The cash injection, he said, is to “make it one of the most efficient healthcare systems in the world”.

A key threat to prosperity, the Chancellor argues, is Labour’s plans to shake up employment rules with its “New Deal for Working People”.

The party wants to ban zero-hours contracts and give people more rights from day one in a job.

Claiming he is “really worried” about “Labour’s anti-growth policies”, he said there are “800 more people in work for every single day that we’ve been in power”.

The Conservatives face not just the most formidable challenge from the Left in years but stiff competition in key seats from Reform UK.

Mr Hunt argues that “for the issues that matter to people thinking of voting Reform, Conservatives have delivered and we will deliver”.

Pointing to his party’s record on Brexit, he said: “We have left the European Union and we have left it cleanly.”

And on the challenge of sending illegal migrants to Rwanda for processing, he said: “We have a plan.

“It’s been really challenging with the courts to get the flights off.

“We’re sticking with it. We’re confident we’ll get there in the end.”

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