Rishi Sunak’s first statement after being named as next PM
Rishi Sunak is a “know-it-all intellectual” who stands for high levels of public spending, and who will lead to Tories to general election oblivion in two years time, former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib has claimed. Mr Habib launched his scathing attack on the day the former Chancellor is scheduled to move into Downing Street after his meeting with King Charles III at Buckingham Palace.
It all adds up to a remarkable turnaround for Mr Sunak, less than two months after he was defeated by Liz Truss in a three-month Tory leadership contest culminating in a ballot of the party’s roughly 200,000 members.
Ms Truss resigned after just 44 days with her economic strategy and reputation in tatters, with her Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget widely blamed for pushing up interest rates and crashing the pound.
However, Mr Habib, the chief executive of commercial property investment company First Property Group, was highly sceptical about the wisdom of handing the 42-year-old the keys to No. 10 as her replacement.
Rishi Sunak, the incoming Prime Minister, and former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib
Liz Truss resigned as PM on Thursday after just 44 days
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He told Express.co,uk: “Odds are that Sunak will calm the markets, but the calm will be of a graveyard. And with it, will come the downfall of the Tories.
“The leadership contest between Sunak and Truss visually was one between an accomplished polished speaker and an awkward gauche one. But fundamentally it was a debate between two diametrically opposed philosophies.
“Sunak, the well-heeled intellectual stood for a know-it-all top-down interventionist state. Truss wanted to put power back in the hands of the people.
“Until Truss made the arguments for lower taxes and regulation, we had had an inexorable march towards greater and greater state control and with it higher and higher taxes, borrowing and regulation.”
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Rishi Sunak with MPs at Conservative Party Headquarters yesterday
What Mr Sunak termed the “borrow, tax, spend and regulate” approach to governance became the “orthodoxy” under former Labor Prime Minister Sir Tony Blair, suggested Mr Habib.
He added: “It was seamlessly adopted by Cameron. There was no genuine change in direction between the Labor and Conservative led governments.
“As Chancellor, Sunak took it to new levels. He borrowed more than any Chancellor in history, all financed by the Bank of England.
“Incidentally, the central bank cannot claim to be independent if it prints money to finance government expenditure.”
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Rishi Sunak lost to Liz Truss on September 5
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A vast amount of what Mr Sunak had spent was “wasted” on PPE and fraudulently claimed bounce back loans, Mr Habib claimed.
He continued: “And alongside his borrowing he also raised taxes to record levels.
“He did so stealthily by not increasing tax thresholds and imposing taxes where we cannot readily identify them. But at the time of his stepping down, taxes were at a post-World War 2 high.”
When the economy was unlocked last year, rather than encouraging people and businesses to get back to work, Mr Sunak “taxed them for doing so” by increasing National Insurance and raising corporation tax from 19 percent to 25 percent, Mr Habib pointed out.
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He said: “After two years of lockdowns, businesses and those that work were kicked in the shins.
“The Conservatives are quick to claim that unemployment is at a low but unemployment figures do not count those that have exited the workforce. A record 5.6 million people are now on benefits. Wages are rising but the workforce is broken.
“And even with this eye watering level of debt and taxes, our public services are woeful. Rail, legal, medical and teaching bodies have all been or are on strike.”
It was therefore unsurprising that economic growth under the Tories has been “non-existent”, Mr Habib argued.
David Cameron “seamlessly adopted” Tony Blair’s approach to public spending, said Mr Habib
He said: “This nil growth is their highpoint, we are about to go into a recession. The economy is going to shrink, just as Sunak takes over as premier and imposes even more taxes on us.
“It is a crashing shame that Truss’s tilt at reversing these moribund policies failed. Treasury and Bank of England orthodoxy did not like the idea of putting power back in the hands of the people. Supported by Tory wets, they cut her off at the legs.
“I fear that so shy now will be anyone with a similar belief in a free market economy that it will not be tried again for years to come.”
Express.co.uk has contacted Mr Sunak via his Parliamentary office for comment.