Rory Stewart accuses Tory rivals of ‘cheap electoral bribes’ ahead of leadership launch
Rory Stewart has accused his Tory leadership rivals of using “cheap electoral bribes” by promising £84 billion-worth of tax cuts and spending increases in their quest to become Prime Minister.
The International Development Secretary said colleagues could not reasonably attack Jeremy Corbyn’s left-wing programme while making “reckless” vows of their own.
Mr Stewart hit out as he prepared to officially launch his own campaign to be Conservative Party leader.
His intervention comes after Boris Johnson pledged to increase the threshold at which workers start paying the 40p rate from £50,000 to £80,000 - a move that would reportedly cost around £9.6bn a year.
Mr Stewart’s campaign said Michael Gove’s promise to axe VAT would cost £20bn per year, while Jeremy Hunt’s corporation tax cut would cost £11bn.
Dominic Raab’s plans to raise the National Insurance threshold to £12,500, scrap duty on homes under £500,000 and cut the basic rate of income tax would total more than £38bn, the Stewart campaign added.
Mr Stewart said the Tories needed to restore their “reputation for economic and fiscal prudence”, rather than making “spending and tax cut promises that we can’t keep”.
"This number – of total spending promises by other candidates in this campaign – is eye-watering," he said.
"We have to be straight with people, truthful on Brexit, and truthful on spending.
"We have to think about the next fifteen years, not the next fifteen days, not what works to get elected in a leadership contest."
Mr Stewart pledged a “realistic, prudent and sensible” plan that included borrowing to build two million more homes and to draw up proposals to fund social care with other parties.
He said a "good Brexit deal" would give some headroom, and I will use that to invest in education and in infrastructure – from broadband to rail lines – to improve productivity."
"But we cannot criticise Jeremy Corbyn for reckless spending pledges if we start doing the same ourselves,” he added. “Cheap electoral bribes could cost us dear. Our members are smarter than this."
"I would not spend money we do not have."