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BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg explained Rishi Sunak has been in “spending mode” during the Covid crisis as the pandemic has sparked an eye-watering level of spending. During an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Sunak said the current record levels of Government borrowing are not sustainable in the long term. He said the Government’s general election manifesto promises not to raise income tax, VAT or National Insurance are “very important to us” but refused to be drawn on possible future tax rises.
Analysing this, Ms Kuenssberg said: “Rishi Sunak has been behind the scenes pushing very hard for as much of the economy to stay open as possible while the Government has collectively tried to step their way through this crisis balancing out the health protection and trying not to head us in some kind of economic disaster.
“Clearly there’s been enormous pressure on the economy throughout this.
“Clearly there’s a huge job for the Treasury to do here but it’s interesting to hear Rishi Sunak try to carefully pick his way through this.”
She noted he was using every opportunity to praise Boris Johnson.
Ms Kuenssberg added: “I think it’s also notable in his short-time as Chancellor, he has been in spending more.
“One former Cabinet minister said the Chancellor has been able to be like Santa with a big bag of money trying to get through this crisis.
“But as heard in that conversation, far less keen to talk about when he might become like Scrooge.
“He wouldn’t repeat the manifesto commitments not to raise taxes and while he pleaded with our listeners not to read too much into it we should understand as far as the economy is concerned this pandemic has created an eye-watering level of public spending.”
Mr Johnson is grappling with one of the worst economic hits to Britain in three centuries and Mr Sunak has repeatedly warned that relying on such vast borrowing from the bond markets could trigger a financing crunch in the long term.
But with companies from airlines to pubs shedding hundreds of thousands of jobs and government spending soaring, Mr Sunak is looking at ways to boost state revenue.
He told Sky news: “The priority right now is on jobs.
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“My overwhelming focus at the moment is trying to protect and support as many jobs as possible.”
Asked about tax rises in a flurry of interviews, Sunak repeatedly stressed that jobs were the short-term focus but made it clear that he would have to tackle Britain’s debt mountain in the medium term.
“Obviously this can’t carry on forever. This level of borrowing, which will be record levels, pretty much, this year, is not sustainable in the long run,” he told BBC TV.
“Once we get through this I think people should rightly expect us to make sure we have a strong set of public finances.”
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