Rishi Sunak tonight pledged a 4p cut in Income Tax for nearly 30million Brits to shore up his flailing leadership bid – but only by the end of the decade.
The ex-Chancellor was accused of “jam tomorrow” by Liz Truss’ allies as he made the pledge if he enters Downing Street on September 5.
He tried to outdo his Tory leadership rival by releasing a flurry of policies before the first ballot papers hit Tory members’ doormats on Monday.
Mr Sunak re-stated his pledge to cut 1p off the basic rate of Income Tax in April 2024, lowering it from 20p to 19p.
But he also vowed to cut the rate by 3p more until it hits 16p “by the end of the next Parliament” – which could be as late as December 2029.
Mr Sunak branded it “the biggest income tax cut since Margaret Thatcher’s government” and called it “radical and realistic”.
But Liz Truss seized on the pledge and Mr Sunak’s decision to kick it down the road by several years to avoid fuelling inflation.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke, a prominent Truss backer, said: “People are facing the biggest cost of living crisis in decades.
“And the tax burden is at its highest level in 70 years. We cannot afford to wait to help families, they need support now.
“Liz will cut taxes in seven weeks, not seven years.”
A Truss campaign source added: “It’s welcome that Rishi has performed another U-turn on cutting tax… unfortunately it’s a case of ‘jam tomorrow’.”
Mr Sunak has repeatedly said he will not offer personal tax cuts immediately because they would be irresponsible and fuel inflation while Britain recovers from Covid.
He has slammed Ms Truss for announcing tens of billions of pounds worth of tax cuts, including reversing the hikes in National Insurance and corporation tax.
Tonight he said: “Winning this leadership contest without levelling with people about what lies ahead would not only be dishonest.
“It would be an act of self-sabotage that condemns our party to defeat at the next General Election and consigns us to a long period in opposition.”
But in a screeching U-turn last week, he announced a “temporary and targeted” move to axe 5% VAT on energy bills.
Mr Sunak’s team said his Income Tax cuts “will be paid for through the economic growth that is forecast by the OBR”.
They pointed out the next Parliament commences as late as December 2024 and could end as late as December 2029, depending on when an election is held.
Another scenario is that it commences after a general election in May 2024 and runs until another general election in May 2028, his team said.
It came as Liz Truss’s bid to become the ‘education Prime Minister’ was slapped down as critics said her proposals “overlook” the needs of disadvantaged kids.
She outlined plans to replace failing academies with “a new wave of free schools”, improve maths and literacy standards and ensure A* A Level students will be automatically invited to apply for places at Oxford and Cambridge Universities.
The Foreign Secretary did not explain how her plan to offer Oxbridge interviews to all top students would work in practice.
Critics questioned whether it will mean pushing A-levels earlier – or cramming the entire applications process into the few weeks between results and the start of university terms.
But her ideas have been dismissed, given she “openly admitted” that the Tories have failed children and families for the last 12 years in her pitch.
Labour claimed her pitch to “get education back on track” is a “damning indictment of the Government’s that she has been a part of”, including her time as a junior children’s minister from 2012-14.
The Liberal Democrats said her plans come nowhere near close to giving kids the “opportunities and experiences they deserve after the consistent failings of the Department for Education”.
Munira Wilson, the Lib Dem’s education spokesperson added: “This Conservative Government has turned a blind eye to our education system for far too long and Ms Truss’s proposals are no improvement.
“Liz Truss must also reassure parents and teachers that the former disgraced Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will have no role in any future cabinet of hers.”
The ex-Chancellor was wounded by more MPs backing rival Ms Truss over the weekend, NHS chiefs blasting his plan to fine patients £10 for missed appointments, and Nadine Dorries comparing him to Brutus stabbing Julius Caesar in the back.
As bookies gave Ms Truss a 90% chance of winning, one Sunak ally told the Times they were “fed up” and “waiting for the Truss-mobile to move in to No10” while another told the Mail on Sunday: “It’s over”.
But Mr Sunak – who admitted he was “playing catch-up” – fought back by visiting 10 Tory associations in the south of England over the weekend.
As a Savanta/ComRes poll of 511 Tory councillors put Truss and Sunak on 31% and 29%, a campaign spokeswoman added: “This contest is all to play for… The race has only just begun.”
Ms Truss added it was a “very, very close race” despite enjoying support “from right across all parts of the Conservative Party“.
Both candidates unveiled a flurry of new policies as ballot papers to hit 160,000 members’ doormats between Monday and Friday this week.
In a frantic week the pair will face hustings in Exeter on Monday, Cardiff on Wednesday and Eastbourne on Friday – plus a head-to-head Sky News debate on Thursday.
As Mr Sunak made another tax U-turn, Ms Truss pledged to “unleash British food and farming” in order to improve the nation’s food security.
The Tory leadership hopeful said she would “remove onerous EU regulations and red tape” if she becomes prime minister, without going into much detail on which laws she would abolish.
She also promised to tackle the labour shortages in farming, partly caused by post-Brexit freedom of movement restrictions, with a short-term expansion to the seasonal workers scheme.