The chancellor has had his notes snapped on camera – revealing that there will be no “horror show of tax rises” but there are “difficult things” to come.
Rishi Sunak became the latest minister to fail to hide important documents as he emerged through the front door of 10 Downing Street on Wednesday.
He was seen clutching a document annotated with highlights and hand-scribbled additions in red pen ahead of a showdown with new Tory MPs, reportedly called to shore up support after a tough summer for the government.
He and Prime Minister Boris Johnson are meeting the latest intake, including many from the so-called “red wall” of parliamentary seats won after decades of Labour control at the last election.
There has been unrest on the back benches during recess over the government’s handling of issues like the exam results fiasco, leading to Tory MPs complaining to Sky News about a string of “avoidable” and “predictable” U-turns.
Their anger was compounded over the weekend when The Sunday Telegraph reported Treasury insiders are pushing for “the largest tax rises in a generation” to respond to the recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
But those concerns may have been quelled by the contents of Mr Sunak’s note flashed to photographers as he left Number 10.
In a move that some suggested was a mishap but others thought could be a deliberate ploy to quell discontent, the note warns Mr Sunak will “need to do some difficult things”.
It adds: “Now this doesn’t mean a horror show of tax rises with no end in sight.
“But it does mean treating the British people with respect, being honest with them about the challenges we face and showing them how we plan to correct our public finances.”
Mr Sunak also warned the government cannot say “there is no limit to what we can spend” or “that we can simply borrow our way out of any hole”.
“We cannot, will not and must not surrender our position as the party of economic competence and sound finance,” he added.
A Treasury source declined to comment when asked by Sky News if the leak was deliberate or accidental.
Mr Sunak appeared to make light of the incident in a tweet later, saying “got my notes on my phone this time”.
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