While the Chancellor may have been making light of his relationship with Boris Johnson, there is more than an element of truth to the comments as he tries to set out the country’s route out of the pandemic.
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The quip betrays the reality of the task Mr Sunak faces, not only in trying to repair the Government’s finances, but also in curbing his boss’s more profligate instincts.
Troubling economic picture
Throughout Sunday, the Chancellor was at pains to avoid committing any news in regards to what his spending plans may be, but he was clear that the UK faces a “difficult” economic picture and that the country’s accounts will need to be put on a more sustainable footing.
Government borrowing has ballooned since the start of the pandemic, reaching record peacetime levels and there are fears growing over the cost to the exchequer to service that debt in the long term.
Mr Sunak insisted there will be no return to austerity when he takes to the Despatch Box this week, but in the same breath he refused to reject serious suggestions of a public sector pay freeze, while he was also unable to stand by his Government’s manifesto commitments on tax.
But the Chancellor’s biggest battle may not be with the public in the weeks and years ahead, many of whom are likely to accept the need for some belt-tightening in the wake of the Covid crisis.
Instead, the most delicate negotiation he faces, politically at least, may be with the Prime Minister himself, who has shown countless times he is opposed to turning the spending taps off.
Mr Johnson has staked his political future on delivering his “levelling up” agenda in the North and Midlands, while promising big picture projects that even include a plan to link Scotland with Northern Ireland.
If Mr Sunak is to convince the British people that the country’s economic health depends on living more frugally, he must first win that argument with his next door neighbour.