Rishi Sunak faces a tall order and short deadline

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak at 10 Downing Street (Photo: by Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak at 10 Downing Street (Photo: by Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)

RISHI SUNAK is a man in a hurry. After his surprise promotion as chancellor last week, his first big task is presenting the government’s “scene-setter” Budget.

Though he was “down to work” right from the word go, Sunak might postpone the current Budget date of March 11. He was likely to give himself some more time to prepare, said government sources.

“The guy’s [Sunak] only been in place for a few days, let’s give him a few days to decide on the date,” said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

He also told Sky News that the Yorkshire MP “may want time” before presenting the Budget, even as the plans were “well advanced”.

It would only be natural if the new chancellor seeks more time, as reports had indicated that Downing Street wanted to “rip up Mr Javid’s fiscal rules”.

For instance, within days of Sajid Javid resigning as chancellor, Prime Minister Boris Johnson shelved the much-debated “mansion tax” plans.

But, any big delay in presenting the Budget “will send out alarm bells that a major change of economic policy is now being planned without any democratic legitimacy”, said acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, Ed Davey.

Sunak has to present a refreshing “decade of renewal” Budget, but ensure that it does not appear lopsided.

He would also be keen to shrug off the image that Johnson’s senior aide Dominic Cummings was “writing the Budget”.

Said Shapps: “We’ve got this massive agenda of levelling up the country and uniting the country and that’s best done when we are all on the same page and singing from the same hymn sheet.”

Being a supporter of the “levelling up” mission, Sunak is likely to direct as much funds to the north and west as he can, noted analysts.

Shapps also quashed reports of the Cummings effect. “It is not the case that things necessarily go Dominic Cummings’s way or anyone else’s,” he said.

“The idea that just because Dominic thinks something, that’s what happens is clearly not the case.”