Rishi Sunak has penciled in 2nd May next year as the date for an early General Election. That has to be the conclusion from today’s extraordinary Autumn Statement.
After a year saying tax cuts were impossible because they would fuel inflation, Jeremy Hunt suddenly found they were a goer even though inflation is not yet beaten.
Which shows that Tory electoral fortunes matter more to this usually cautious Chancellor than the health of the economy which explains why he has just thrown caution to the wind.
Here’s his thinking. A 2p cut in National Insurance putting around £450 a year into 27 million pockets will come into effect in January. That means workers can enjoy the pay lift for three months before deciding how to vote.
WATCH: Jeremy Hunt delivers his Autumn Statement
If that extra money pushes up prices, but the bribe works to get the Tories over the line for a fifth election win, then they will have another five years to get inflation down before we next troop off to the polls.
And if they lose, inflation will be Labour’s problem and the Tories can hammer PM Keir Starmer from the opposition benches if he fails to reduce it.
Tony Blair Institute Economic Policy Director Tom Smith said: "Pre-election giveaways will put further pressure on the public finances after the election. The cut in NI is a short-term political fix based on an illusion of fiscal headroom that does not exist.
"Whoever wins the election will face a stark choice between steep cuts to unprotected public services or more tax rises to help restore them."
Those aged 21 will be entitled to a national living wage of £11.44 an hour for the first time. Previously they had to be 23 to qualify. That’s up from £10.42 . They get that in April...ooh look...just before polling day!
Older people can look forward to the full pension increase of 8.5 per cent linked to earnings and that will come in just before the election, too. And no tinkering with the triple lock to upset them as most vote Tory.
As Jon Greer, head of retirement policy at wealth management company Quilter, said: “Once again the triple lock and all its problems get punted down the road for the next government to think about.”
Add to that other pre-election giveaways such as a cut in income and inheritance taxes and stamp duty expected in the March Budget and the message is clear - vote Conservative if you want to enjoy this extra dosh.
And if Rishi Sunak’s plans come good there will be the symbolic significance of planes taking off to Rwanda in the Spring with at least a few cross-Channel migrants on board.
That completes the groundwork for the Tories to have the best chance of trouncing Labour at the ballot box.
Another clue to an early election was freezing alcohol duties until next August. Why choose August? Could it be that we will need booze for relief to get us through a tortuous election campaign? During which the Tories can claim Labour are the killjoys who will soon put the tax up.
Of course, none of this may cut any ice given the shambles the Tories have created. Bookies Coral certainly think so immediately pushing out Tory odds of winning from 9 -2 to 5-1. Labour is now on 2-7 to get a majority.
And Labour will keep the tax and spending plans it inherits for its first two years in government so no one will lose any money.
Professor Nicola Ranger of the Royal College of Nursing was sniffy about today's announcements despite the £600 extra her senior nurses are promised.
She said: “The public sector cuts the Chancellor wants will mean even longer waits, more patients treated in corridors and perilous staffing levels here to stay.”
And Gary Smith, General Secretary, of the GMB union, wasn’t impressed either. He said: “Today’s measures go nowhere near fixing the damage this Conservative government has done to people’s finances. Working people aren’t fools and won’t forgive or forget who trashed our country’s economy.”
TUC boss Paul Nowak added: “Be in no doubt – if the Tories win the next election, even more austerity is on the way.”
As the Tories are so fond of attacking Labour’s record, even though it is 13 years out of date, shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves had a look at theirs.
Taxes for the average household are up £4,000 since 2010 and had the Conservatives matched Labour’s two per cent economic growth over this period families would be £5,000 better off than they are now.
Real average pay is up only three per cent under the Tories compared to 27 per cent during the time Labour was in office.
Food prices have gone up 30 per cent in the last two years, electricity 40 per cent and gas 60 per cent. Homeowners are paying an average £220 more a month on their mortgages.
And why May 2nd? That’s the date already set for local elections. And if the Tories are going to be humiliated by voters, best to get the pain over with in one day.