Exclusive! Transcript of a meeting between Rishi Sunak and his advisors

We have managed to find out what was said at a meeting Rishi held on Tuesday evening to prepare his Spring Statement. Dave Kellaway was the fly on the wall.


Somewhere in the Treasury…

Rishi: Now Terry (Rishi’s official photographer) are you sure we have enough sheets of paper spread neatly over my big desk to show how I am master of all the detail – unlike somebody who cannot be named. Also I think I need to emphasise me going to the house on my own, this time without any of the team. I want a leadership look, the manager of the whole economy. We need to line up some film of me in a petrol station filling up somebody’s car just to hammer home the greatest ever cut in fuel duty in the history of our country. Then the day after I want to be at the sharp end in a factory somewhere up north so I can be seen as down with workers – but keep them well in the background.

Advisor 1:  But sir how do we prevent the TV people showing shots of the price of petrol having gone up three or four times as much as the 5 pence we are tossing back to the public.  Anyway make sure you practice how to put the petrol in the car, we don’t want anything that shows you are not just like the ordinary motorist.

Rishi: Okey dokey, let’s try and find a camera angle where you cannot see the actual prices.  I thought I might be shown also actually paying for the fuel and buying some down to earth ordinary person snack like Pringles. The whole presentation thing has got to focus on the tax cut in 2024, the fuel duty cut  and the massive, historic, unprecedented rise in the threshold before anyone pays any National Insurance Contributions (NICs), the Tax Cut, the £500 million extra we are bunging to local councils to help the really poor little people and the Tax Cut.  Did I say about the tax cut? 

Advisor 2: Be aware Sir that the interviewers are going to point out that the NICS cut will not just benefit the poorer workers but all the rest too, like you and me. We will all save £300 odd, enough for a decent night out. The media might point out too that the councils might be getting that extra £500 million but we are continuing to keep resources going to them very tight indeed. You are going to talk a lot about the historic pandemic limiting what you can do and forcing you to raise taxes but remember the councils incurred a lot of extra costs and lost income during the last two years.

Rishi: People don’t look at all the detail and do a lot of comparisons.  You have got to wow them with the big numbers, the eye catchers – £500 million for the poor, Five pence off a litre , that is what the average punter understands. Besides, the poor people do not vote for us anyway. Our voters don’t worry too much about people on benefits. That’s why we are only doling out a 3% uplift for them when inflation is at least double. Inflation is nothing to do with me, it is just market forces, the pandemic and the war.

Advisor 1: I have found another issuette on the NICs’ thingy. If people are low paid and getting universal credit when they no longer pay NICS then their net income increases and they could well lose some of the universal credit so it would cancel out some or all of the gain. Most TV interviewers are not prepared enough to spot that one, but there might be the odd bright spark.

Rishi: But dear boy I will respond with all that complicated tapering measure I bought in last year to make the £20 cut look like less of a problem. Now I am sure the energy prices rise will come up so what’s our pitch. I know we dealt with this before but the media will keep banging on about it. It looks like energy bills will go up by about £600 this year but could be more than double that next year with all this Russki/Ukraine business.

Advisor 2: I thought about that one sir. You have to emphasise the £350 handout we are giving to most people to cushion the blow. Avoid mentioning that the £200 for Council Tax A to D payers is only a loan. If it does come up say how much easier it is to pay £40 more over 5 years than paying it all at once.  Keep talking about market forces, outside your control and the war which is also outside our control. You are pretty good but you are not god, you cannot fix everything.

Advisor 1: Fair enough and I know we aren’t in Europe anymore but some countries like France have kept the energy bills to about a 5% increase since the state still owns a fair chunk of  the sector.

Rishi: Hmm, best not do too much crowing about how great our economy is compared to those soft European ones, that way the media might steer clear of Euro comparisons. All this Labour nonsense about windfall tax will just scare away my hedge fund chums…err I mean, international investment coming into this country. Particularly, since we have had to crack down a tad on our Russian business mates. Now what about other media interviews? There is this LBC radio thing isn’t there.

Advisor 1: Be careful with the LBC you are actually in direct contact with people who phone in with their questions. The risk is you might get someone who is a bit poor and does not see a lot in the statement that will help them. You need to practice your concerned listening face and talk up the £500 million that their local councils can dish out to them.  That will make them feel better.

Rishi: Gosh will they really come on air and question my wise management of the economy. I need to look like a strong leader who actually prepares their brief and cares for the little people, unlike he who should not be mentioned. I don’t want to look out of touch with reality like our dear colleague Liz who wants everyone to go over and fight the Russkies.

Advisor 2:  You can keep mentioning the war to show how you cannot spend more and about those market forces we cannot do anything about – except when we had to give out those Covid contracts quickly of course or with the furlough policy of course, but keep schtum about that.  Our Labour friends don’t like the rock the boat too much when there is a war on, national unity and all that. Did you see how the TUC abandoned their circus outside our conference the other week.

Rishi: Oh and another thing Terry, make sure you get a shot of me with a non-alcoholic beverage. Don’t want to look like I might like to party.

Dave Kellaway is on the Editorial Board of Anti*Capitalist Resistance, a member of Socialist Resistance, and Hackney and Stoke Newington Labour Party, a contributor to International Viewpoint and Europe Solidaire Sans Frontieres.

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