BORIS Johnson today pledged to go on a borrowing splurge in order to slash taxes and ramp up public spending.
The frontrunner for No10 insisted he would be able to find the cash to increase spending on schools, transport and the police without taking more from taxpayers.
And he denied trying to "have his cake and eat it" by reducing tax at the same time as reversing public spending cuts.
But rivals dubbed BoJo "Corbyn lite" and accused him of abandon the Tories' commitment to cutting the deficit.
As the Tory leadership election ramped up:
- Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt battled to build up their Brexit action teams
- Michael Gove snubbed both candidates saying he won't endorse either
- Mr Hunt refused to commit to leaving the EU by the end of the year
- BoJo promised to become "Minister for the Union" as well as PM
- His brother Jo Johnson joked the only way he could lose is if he kills someone
Mr Johnson told Sky: "There are plenty of taxes that you can cut which will actually increase your revenues and there are ways of making sure that you can stimulate growth, you stimulate enterprise and you get more in.
"But what is certainly true is at the moment there is cash available."
He suggested his tax plans – which would see lower income tax for high earners, and a cut in national insurance contributions by the lower-paid – would pay for themselves by stimulating the economy.
Asked if he was prepared to increase the public debt, BoJo replied: "If it’s borrowing to finance great infrastructure projects and there is an opportunity to borrow at low rates and do things for the long-term benefit of the country then we should do them."
At the moment there is cash available
He suggested he would take anyone earning £12,000 or less out of national insurance – and hike the minimum wage to make the worst-paid better off.
But Boris suffered embarrassment when he claimed the national living wage is currently £10 when it actually stands at £8.21.
Since starting his leadership campaign, BoJo has promised to increase spending on a variety of priorities including schools, broadband, the police and public transport networks.
Greg Hands, a backer of Jeremy Hunt, blasted: "It has taken us nine years of hard work by everyone in the UK to restore sound money, and now is not the time to be Corbyn lite."
Mr Hunt said his top finance priority would be a cut to corporation tax, saying: "Spend that money wisely, spend it in a way that increases growth for the economy."
'DRIFT AND DITHER'
In his Sky interview today, Mr Johnson again insisted he can persuade the EU to reopen talks on the Brexit deal – because leaders are terrified of what No Deal would do to Europe.
He said: "What we want to do is take the elements of the current withdrawal agreement, which really doesn’t work at all, it’s a defunct agreement but there are some good bits, like the bit about citizens. We should pass that through.
"The money, the £39billion, I would suspend that in creative ambiguity – wait until we get a deal and then solve the problems of the Northern Irish border."
Mr Johnson hit out at the Brexit "drift and dither" under Theresa May as he vowed to turbo-charge EU talks.
And he defended his history of controversial comments – insisting quotes are "wrenched out of context" by his enemies to look as bad as possible.
The two leadership rivals are competing on which one has a tougher Brexit policy and a better top team.
Jeremy Hunt has signed up ex-Canadian PM Stephen Harper to advise him on the future trade deal between Britain and the EU.
We'll leave sooner with me than with Boris or anyone else
He also pledged to abolish the existing Brexit Department, headed by Steve Barclay, and fold it into a super-sized trade ministry.
But Mr Hunt opened the door to a long Brexit delay as he refused to say we'd definitely be out of the EU by the end of this year.
The Foreign Secretary told the BBC that questions over exactly when we'll leave are a "fake debate", adding: "I believe we'll leave sooner with me than with Boris or anyone else because I am the person most likely to to get a deal.
"If you want a deal done, ask a business person."
Last night Mr Hunt suffered a blow as Michael Gove, who came third in the leadership election, declined to endorse him despite his own history of rivalry with Boris.
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Mr Johnson has laid out his plan to save the Union, promising to set up a unit within 10 Downing Street which would test all policies to ensure they don't weaken the bond between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Boris is heavy favourite to become PM next month with bookies having him at 1/8 – ahead of Mr Hunt on 5/1.
Asked if there is anything which can stop the frontrunner, his MP brother Jo reportedly joked: "I suppose if he had killed someone… I mean if someone found out that he had killed someone."
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