May election speculation grows as Treasury officials ‘discuss early Budget’

Senior Treasury figures are said to have discussed the possibility of an early Budget in February, amid growing speculation Rishi Sunak could call a general election in May.

It comes as some Tories push the prime minister to go to the polls in spring rather than wait until the autumn – warning that no good news is coming to lift the party’s fortunes.

Officials at the Treasury are talking about how to prepare if the Budget normally held in March is brought forward, according to the Telegraph.

But a source in Jeremy Hunt’s department played down the idea of an early Budget, insisting that the chancellor would be planning for his next big statement in March as usual.

One Tory minister said there was a possibility of a May election – telling The Independent it would “depend entirely on polls” in the early part of next year and what Mr Hunt can offer at the Budget.

Former chancellor George Osborne has said Mr Sunak and Mr Hunt are “opening the door” to a surprise election in May with their big tax giveaway in the autumn statement.

The Tory grandee said Mr Hunt had designed the national insurance cut to take effect from January so “you’re going to start to feel the effects by May”.

The close ally of new foreign secretary David Cameron added: “So I think Jeremy Hunt is opening the door to a May election – even though I think it’s unlikely Rishi Sunak will walk through it.”

Mr Hunt has insisted that it was “silly” to regard the tax cuts as a pre-election giveaway, and said he had not spoken to Mr Sunak about when a general election might be held.

Early election fever at Westminster began to build after it emerged that Isaac Levido, the 2019 Tory campaign manager, is to take the reins at CCHQ from January.

Rishi Sunak meets small business owners after tax cuts at autumn statement

Many Tory MPs are still preparing for a general election in or around October 2024, on the basis that polling numbers will still not be kind to the party early next year.

But some believe the spring may be as good as it gets for the party – especially if Mr Hunt is able to deliver more tax cuts in the budget.

One Tory minister told the i: “I would go for a May election because it avoids the risk that everyone is too demoralised to go on the doorsteps in autumn.”

Ex-Tory party chairman Greg Hands confirmed autumn 2024 was pencilled in for the election – sending an email to Tory supporters in February that said it was “18 months” away.

Meanwhile, a YouGov poll shows voters have largely welcomed Mr Hunt’ autumn statement measures – with clear majorities backing the national insurance cut, living wage rise, along with benefits and pension being uprated with inflation.

However, the survey also shows that most voters don’t believe the chancellor’s changes will leave themselves or Britain any better off.

Only 18 per cent said the measures would improve their finances, while 55 per cent said the changes would not make any difference. Only 18 per cent of voters believe the economy will get better improve over the next year, while 48 per cent think things will get worse.

The Tories received a four-point poll boost in the post-autumn statement YouGov poll, moving up to 25 per cent, cutting Labour’s lead to 19 points.

But a snap Techne UK survey after Mr Hunt’s statement showed support for the Tories falling by one point to just 21 per cent, giving Labour a 25-point lead.

Labour are down by two points and the Tories down by one in Friday’s Savanta poll, which gives Keir Starmer’s party a 17-point lead.

“It would be wise to wait to see if that increase lasts beyond the headlines,” said YouGov’s Anthony Wells. “The poll’s other findings suggest few people think the changes will do much to help them or the country.”

Source: UK Politics -


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