‘Foulest medicine’: Tory press lashes out at Jeremy Hunt’s autumn statement

Headlines in traditionally friendly Daily Mail, Sun and Telegraph make for tough reading for chancellor

Jeremy Hunt has been accused of “hammering strivers” and giving an “indefensible reward” to wealthy homeowners, as Conservative-supporting newspapers and commentators piled the pressure on him over Thursday’s autumn statement.

Acknowledging the uproar across Friday’s front pages, the chancellor said he could not be accused of ducking “difficult decisions”, given the headlines.

They made for tough reading. “Tax hell,” was the Sun’s brief summary. Perhaps the most damning was the Daily Mail, which headlined with “Tories soak the strivers”.

Inside, the assessment of the spending cuts and tax rises worth around £55bn made for even tougher reading for Hunt. The Sun’s editorial said the autumn statement was “some of the foulest medicine ever dished up by a Tory chancellor” and added: “We just pray it doesn’t kill the patient.”

Pointing out the UK was set for the highest tax burden in its history, the Sun said it feared Hunt’s announcement “could crush growth and gift investment, jobs and skilled high-flyers to lower-tax competitors”.

While by no means suggesting the mess was caused only by the Conservatives, the paper’s editorial asked why Britain was “alone in hammering households’ spending power in the teeth of a recession”.

It still disparaged Labour, but said increasing pensions by at least 11% – in line with inflation – was good news for those surviving solely on the payments but an “indefensible reward for mortgage-free millionaires when young renters’ lives are getting markedly worse”.

Further inside, the Sun’s former political editor Trevor Kavanagh was far more effusive about the response from the shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves. “If Jeremy Hunt’s budget blizzard of tax increases, spending chaos and can-kicking was designed to confuse the enemy, it failed,” he wrote. “Labour’s Rachel Reeves rose to the challenge.”

The Express carried a glimmer of positivity, declaring victory for its campaign to ensure pensioners who cannot work to boost their income were given a payment increase in line with inflation.

But the Daily Mail, keenly watched for its reaction by many Tory strategists, was far more scathing, calling Hunt’s statement a “budget to break the back of middle Britain”.

It said Hunt had defied the Conservatives’ “fundamental principles” and shown a “grotesque overreaction” to inflation and the economic slump. “The biggest losers will be the hard-pressed families of middle Britain,” the Mail’s editorial said. “Traditionally they are bedrock Tory voters. After this, many will inevitably wonder if there’s any point voting for the party at the next election.”

Concerns about what Hunt’s statement would do for the Tories’ chances in 2024 were echoed by Fraser Nelson, the editor of the Spectator magazine. “No one can accuse him of offering fake hope today,” wrote Nelson. “The harder question is whether there is any kind of hope at all.”

He added: “It was not just an autumn statement being written, but the next Conservative manifesto, too – with all the bad stuff saved for after the vote. Hardly the behaviour of a party expecting to win.”

On the Telegraph’s front page, a headline to make Tory aides shudder quoted the boss of the Resolution Foundation proclaiming that the statement amounted to “the rhetoric of [George] Osborne … with the policies of [Gordon] Brown”.

Meanwhile, Tim Montgomerie, the founder of the ConservativeHome website, tweeted: “I certainly won’t be voting Conservative at the next election.”

The headlines from traditionally Tory-friendly papers are a far cry from those after Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget. Then, the Mail proclaimed: “At last! A true Tory budget”, while the Telegraph ran with “Kwarteng gambles on biggest tax cuts in half a century” and the Express hailed the event with “Go for growth! Big tax cuts to herald new era”.


Aubrey Allegretti Political correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Jeremy Hunt faces rebellion on Tory right over autumn statement
Esther McVey, John Redwood and Richard Drax among backbench critics of chancellor’s tax rises

Rowena Mason Whitehall editor

18, Nov, 2022 @4:15 PM

Article image
Labour lambasts autumn statement but Tory dissent is muted
Shadow chancellor attacks ‘crisis made in Downing Street’ but there are few signs of anger on Tory benches

Peter Walker Political correspondent

17, Nov, 2022 @4:25 PM

Article image
‘Pig’s ear’: Tory press raises doubts about Liz Truss’s future
Once-loyal papers such as the Sun and Daily Mail start to turn on PM amid financial turmoil

Aubrey Allegretti Political correspondent

13, Oct, 2022 @9:44 AM

Article image
What Jeremy Hunt’s autumn statement means for you
From income tax changes to help with the cost of living crisis, all you need to know about the chancellor’s changes

Zoe Wood

17, Nov, 2022 @3:28 PM

Article image
All capital spending under review ahead of Jeremy Hunt’s autumn statement
Grant Shapps hints scaling back of Northern Powerhouse Rail could be among cost-saving measures

Rowena Mason Whitehall editor

04, Nov, 2022 @5:32 PM

Article image
The pain may be partially postponed, but Hunt’s statement will win him few friends
Analysis: with half of all British households set to be worse off next year, many Tory MPs fear voters will turn against them

Pippa Crerar Political editor

17, Nov, 2022 @7:39 PM

Article image
Press gang up on Jeremy Corbyn in election day coverage
The Sun indulges its penchant for groan-inducing puns, the Mail pours scorn on Labour, and the Economist is a lone Lib Dem voice among the nationals

Graham Ruddick

07, Jun, 2017 @11:55 PM

Article image
Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales react coolly to Hunt’s autumn statement
SNP accuses chancellor of reintroducing austerity, while Welsh government warns of ‘gap’ in funding despite £1.2bn uplift

Ben Quinn, Steven Morris and Rory Carroll

17, Nov, 2022 @4:10 PM

Article image
What is ‘fiscal drag’ and how has Hunt used it in his autumn statement?
Stealth tactic pulls more taxpayers into higher brackets by freezing thresholds despite higher cost of living

Richard Partington Economics correspondent

17, Nov, 2022 @12:20 PM

Article image
Jeremy Hunt’s plans likely to degrade public services, says report
Thinktank says it expects chancellor’s autumn statement to leave ‘poisoned inheritance’ for next government

Peter Walker Political correspondent

24, Nov, 2022 @10:00 PM