- Boris Johnson’s government could be seriously damaged by the cost-of-living crisis, Conservative MPs said.
- The cost of household bills and food is soaring and MPs are nervously eyeing planned tax rises.
- Voters are ‘really going to start to kick off in earnest in April’, warned one backbencher.
The soaring cost of living in the UK could be “deeply damaging” for Boris Johnson and poses a bigger threat to Boris Johnson’s premiership than the fallout from parties in Downing Street, Conservative MPs have told Insider.
Inflation hit a 30-year high of 5.6% in December as food costs and energy bills soared, and economists said it would grow even more next year.
Conservative MPs are nervously eyeing a crunch point for millions of households in April when the government plans to increase taxes and the cap on energy prices is raised for a second time. In October the price cap went up 12 per cent.
“If my constituency correspondence is anything to go by, people are more concerned by the rising cost-of-living than they are about parties in Downing Street,” said David Jones MP, a former Brexit minister.
“People are drawing that distinction: They’re not very happy about Downing Street parties but they are very, very concerned indeed about the cost of living.”
Boris Johnson’s premiership has come under intense pressure as reports of rule-breaking parties in Downing Street continued to emerge over the course of weeks, and several MPs are calling for his resignation ahead of the publication of a potentially damning report into the allegations.
Even more seriously for the prime minister, Conservative MP William Wragg on Thursday accused members of Boris Johnson’s team of blackmailing colleagues they thought might oppose the prime minister, and encouraged any victims to report their allegations to the police.
However some MPs warned Johnson was ignoring the looming problem of rapidly increasing household bills and stagnant wages.
Lee Anderson, the Conservative MP for Ashfield, told Insider: “When you do go out in the pubs and shops in places like Ashfield, people are annoyed [about the party allegations] — very annoyed — but they’re actually sick to death of hearing about it now.
“When you say are you worried about Boris having a party or are you worried about paying your gas bill, it’s your gas bill every time.”
Jones added: “The party thing is going to be resolved one way or the other in the course of the next few days.
“Este [cost-of-living crisis] is something that’s really going to start to kick off in earnest in April, and unless it’s addressed it will continue beyond that — and that will be deeply damaging for the government.”
Lord Hayward, the Tory peer and pollster, told the Guardian earlier in January: “I think it’s fair to say that the cost of living is one of the things that’s actually driving angst amongst MPs.”
Anderson said it was a significantly bigger problem for the government than the party allegations. “Sleaze comes and goes,” he said.
“People accept that — but what they don’t like is not being able to pay the bills, and people will be pointing at [Conservative MPs]remove rightly.”
A group of Conservative 20 MPs including David Jones and former Brexit minister Steve Baker, in January wrote to Downing Street and asked the prime minister to cut VAT on fuel and slash environmental levies.
The government would struggle to cut VAT because of complications with post-Brexit arrangements in Northern Ireland, however.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak also told MPs in a meeting last week that it wasn’t possible to slash environmental levies quickly because of the complex way they operate.
The increasing cost-of-living has also raised questions about whether it could damage the chancellor’s reported leadership ambitions.
One MP said while he was “a great fan of Rishi”, inflation could seriously undermine his chances of succeeding Johnson.