Why Jeremy Hunt is running the government

No 10 released a photo of the PM and her new chancellor on Friday. Credit: @10DowningStreet/Twitter

When Jeremy Hunt received a message early yesterday morning from a “Liz Truss” wanting to talk to him, he assumed he was being pranked.

He later found out it was indeed the prime minister and she wanted to make him chancellor.

He has totally reset her economic policy this morning, so maybe the prank is on her.

I have just interviewed him, and here's what he told me.

In what he now says will, in effect, be a “full budget” on October 31, he will announce public spending plans that are lower than those previously announced (otherwise known as spending cuts).

The new chancellor also said there will be tax rises and some taxes not falling as fast as hoped (that promised 1p reduction in the basic rate of tax is at risk).

There will be a panoply of painful consolidating measures to eliminate a black hole in the public finances, which is probably still £40bn, even after yesterday’s U-turn decision to increase corporation tax to raise £18bn.

He says that apart from stabilising the public finances, and thereby (he hopes) reassuring investors and markets, his priority is to protect the most vulnerable and those on lowest incomes.

Robert Peston asks Mr Hunt whether, given Ms Truss' vulnerability, he has become the strongest chancellor ever

So he “hopes” to increase universal credit and benefits by the 10% rate of inflation, but can’t make that decision today.

I put to him that he is the strongest chancellor in history, because Truss is so weak after the chaos of the past few weeks, and the way bond prices sunk after her press conference yesterday, she hasn’t the power to countermand any measure he deems necessary.

If she even thought of sacking him, she would be toast. He didn’t engage with that, insisting instead they are a team. He also said it is in the national interest that she survives as PM.

If that is right, however, the new chancellor may be in the unusual position of being the team captain.

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