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Tories praise Rishi Sunak’s ‘balancing act’ as tax rebellion fizzles

The chancellor is first to increase corporation tax since 1974

Rishi Sunak appears to have reined in Tory would-be rebels after yesterday facing down their threats over tax rises in his spring budget.

Announcing a hike in the rate of corporation tax from 19% to 25% starting in 2023, the chancellor told the Commons that “the government is providing business with over £100bn of support to get through this pandemic”, so it was “fair and necessary” to ask them to contribute to paying off the massive cost of the Covid response.

“In the run-up to the budget, Tories had threatened mutiny if the chancellor raised taxes,” the Daily Mail says. “But last night the rebellion looked set to fizzle out before it had begun, with most MPs praising his balancing act.”

The Financial Times reports that Tory MPs “cheered Sunak when he addressed them at a private meeting” after delivering his budget and that criticism of the tax rise was “muted”. Sunak is the first chancellor to raise business rates since Labour’s Denis Healey did so in 1974. But Sunak reportedly told the meeting that “none of the others have had a pandemic to deal with”.

Managing to get the tax rise past his Conservative colleagues without too much pushback is “an achievement in itself”, says Politico’s London Playbook. The Daily Mail’s leader this morning echoes that sentiment, noting that Sunak “has the knack that all politicians seek but so few achieve. He makes his audience like him”.

Many in the UK media have yet to be won over, however. The Times’ splash today screams that the country is facing its “highest tax levels for 50 years”, while The Telegraph goes with “five-year tax grab”.

The Daily Mirror says that “the Chancellor’s slick delivery could not mask the fact this was a Budget dyed in the deepest of Tory blues”. And The Guardian predicts that his tax hikes and service cuts will “take Britain backwards”.

Despite the scathing media response, a snap YouGov poll suggests that voters are far more forgiving. Of more than 3,000 respondents quizzed, 46% said they supported the new measures outlined in Sunak’s budget, with just 11% opposing. Backing for the corporation tax rise was even greater, at 69%.

A separate poll by Savanta ComRes got similar results, with 60% backing the budget and 11% saying they were dissatisfied.

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