Rishi Sunak has paved the way to drop pledges he made during the Conservative party leadership contest last summer, arguing that economic conditions have changed since then.
The prime minister is to review which of his pledges are still “deliverable”, his press secretary said on Wednesday.
Sunak came second to Liz Truss in the Tory leadership contest that concluded on September 6.
She resigned after her “mini” Budget involving £45bn of unfunded tax cuts unleashed turmoil on financial markets and a plunge in the Tories’ opinion poll ratings. Conservative MPs chose Sunak to succeed her.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has reversed most of Truss’s tax reductions. He and Sunak are now exploring tax increases and public spending cuts worth up to £50bn a year to fill a gaping hole in the public finances.
Sunak’s press secretary, asked if all of his pledges from the Tory leadership race in the summer were now under review, said: “We are looking at all of them and considering whether now is the right time . . . to take them forward.”
Many of the policies were drawn up “many months ago”, she added. “The context, particularly economically, has changed significantly since that time.” Sunak’s press secretary also suggested his promises made while chancellor during Boris Johnson’s premiership could be revised.
Sunak has executed about half a dozen U-turns since he replaced Truss on October 24.
His promise to fine people £10 each time they miss appointments with their family doctors has been scrapped after it was criticised by the British Medical Association.
Having said in August he supported fracking for shale gas in some circumstances, Sunak has now reimposed a ban on the nascent industry after it was briefly lifted by Truss.
He has also accepted his target of reviewing or repealing all post-Brexit EU law during his first 100 days as prime minister will not be met.
Sunak’s plan announced in July to cut the 5 per cent rate of value added tax on household energy bills has been overtaken by the government’s promise to cap families’ gas and electricity costs until April.
His promise to cut the basic rate of income tax to 16p by the end of the next parliament could be jettisoned.
Sunak and Hunt are engaged in tough discussions with government departments over their budgets as they seek to finalise cuts in spending that are due to be unveiled in the autumn statement on November 17.
Defence secretary Ben Wallace told MPs on Wednesday that his department’s budget would need £8bn over the next two years to offset the impact of high inflation.
He said when he met Hunt in the coming days he would “be fighting for as much money as I can get”.
Wallace denied he would resign if defence spending did not rise to 3 per cent of gross domestic product by 2030, as Truss had pledged. Sunak has declined to commit to Truss’s target.
Sir John Curtice, a leading pollster, said on Wednesday that it would be “extremely difficult” for the Conservatives to win the next election after presiding over a financial crisis.
“History suggests that it’s going to be extremely difficult, just simply because no government that has presided over a . . . financial crisis has eventually survived . . . Voters don’t forget governments being forced to make U-turns by financial markets,” he added.