The coming storm threatens to keep Rishi Sunak out of No 10

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Rachel Reeves, the shadow Chancellor, will soon be wielding some pretty hefty sticks with which to beat her counterpart. 

Price rises are coming on top of increases in corporation tax, hikes to National Insurance contributions, higher energy bills and, no doubt soon, increased interest rates.

Sunak is responsible for some of those things and has arguably exacerbated others, by, for example, refusing to cut VAT on energy bills.

The toxicity of this witch’s brew has been rendered all the more potent by Johnson’s claim to be delivering a high-wage economy. This is arguably the second-most foolhardy promise of his political career after his assertion that Brexit cake could be both consumed and remain undigested.

Sunak’s current popularity owes much to his deft handling of the economy during the lockdowns. But he will remember better than most that Johnson was also enjoying a mid-pandemic bounce this time last year – and look how quickly that evaporated.

Most new leaders get a honeymoon period. Sunak could use his to try to convince the electorate he is better represented by the rhetorical coda to his last Budget, in which he professed to be a small-state Conservative, than its actual substance, in which he raised the UK’s tax burden to its highest level since the Second World War.

The Tories are in a sticky spot right now. But, in comparison to the economic, and therefore political, climate in a year or two’s time, their current predicament could soon feel like, well, a BYOB garden party.

The longer that Sunak remains Johnson’s fiscal enabler, the harder he will find it to escape blame. Of all the players in Westminster, the Chancellor is the most likely to conclude that, if it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly.

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