By Amit Roy
RISHI SUNAK certainly impressed with his first budget speech as chancellor of the exchequer. And it is heartening when an Indian-origin politician can get up in the Commons and embrace Britain as “our country”.
It is encouraging that he is putting money into science and research and development, and removing the “reading tax”, so that “from December 1 – just in time for Christmas – books, newspapers, magazines or academic journals, however, they are read, will have no VAT charge, whatsoever. There will no VAT on historical fiction by Hilary Mantel, manuals and textbooks like Gray’s Anatomy.
“I’ve talked today about Britain being the country of scientists, inventors and engineers,” Sunak went on. “But we’re also the country of (William) Shakespeare, (Jane) Austen and (Roald) Dahl. Our greatest export to the world is our language. Our greatest asset is the free exchange of ideas and debate. And our greatest responsibility is the education of our people.”
The Tory peer Jitesh Gadhia appeared to reflect the mood in the party: “He was brilliant. Rishi passed this first big test with flying colours, but being chancellor also means being prepared to take tough decisions – and he will face many of those in the coming months and years ahead.
“He more than rose to the occasion with a comprehensive package of measures to provide near-term economic security for households and businesses, but also laying the foundations for future prosperity.”
Another Tory peer, Dolar Popat, agreed that Sunak had made a “huge commitment on infrastructure investment. (He has recognised) this is the best time to borrow and invest for long term prosperity.”
This comment came from the Labour peer and economics professor, Meghnad Desai: “Rishi Sunak put on a first-rate performance on his debut ‘big speech’. He was articulate and totally in command of his material. He developed Boris’s mantra of ‘getting it done’ effectively. He had some good jokes. As a chancellor of just a few weeks’ notices, he has indicated that he will stay and shine.”
And a colour piece in the Daily Mail was headlined: “A star is born! After that budget performance, Simon Walters asks, could Rishi Sunak be Boris Johnson’s successor?”