Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been consulting election-winning political consultant Sir Lynton Crosby as he gears up for battles with No 10 over Boris Johnson’s spending plans.
Australian-born Sir Lynton, who became known as the ‘Wizard of Oz’ after masterminding Mr Johnson’s London mayoral victory in 2008, was seen going in to Downing Street on Wednesday – triggering speculation that the Prime Minister was consulting him about a summer shake-up of his Government.
In fact, relations between Sir Lynton and Mr Johnson remain frosty after the strategist criticised the influence that he believes the PM’s wife Carrie wields over No 10: once inside Downing Street, Sir Lynton headed instead to Mr Sunak’s flat, where the men had what aides describe as ‘a quick catch-up’.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been consulting election-winning political consultant Sir Lynton Crosby as he gears up for battles with No 10 over Boris Johnson’s spending plans
Meeting out-of-favour Sir Lynton is the clearest sign yet that Mr Sunak is determined to forge a political identity distinct from Mr Johnson’s, as the Treasury tries to keep a lid on the PM’s plans to spend billions on ‘net zero’ green policies, reforming social care and infrastructure projects to ‘level up’ deprived parts of the North.
Sir Lynton’s expertise includes polling the popularity of individual policies – such as the ‘triple lock’ protecting the value of the State pension, which Mr Sunak has argued is becoming an unsustainable £4 billion-a-year commitment in the context of the £400 billion-plus cost of the pandemic.
Mr Sunak, the favourite to succeed Mr Johnson as PM, is particularly preoccupied with the party’s popularity in the ‘Red Wall’ seats taken from Labour in the 2019 General Election.
A YouGov poll yesterday concluded that the party’s efforts to appeal to the Red Wall was putting at risk up to 16 seats in its ‘Blue Wall’ heartlands in the south and east of England.
Relations between Sir Lynton and Boris Johnson (pictured on Thursday) remain frosty after the strategist criticised the influence that he believes the PM’s wife Carrie wields over No 10
The Mail on Sunday revealed last month that Mr Sunak had warned Mr Johnson that his planned £10 billion-a-year reforms to social care would not be affordable without the introduction of a new dedicated tax, equivalent to an extra one per cent on National Insurance.
The move was shelved until the autumn at least following a revolt by Cabinet Ministers who argued that it would be a breach of the party’s manifesto pledge not to raise taxes.
The Chancellor has also baulked at estimates of hitting the net zero target for the UK by 2050, which top more than £1.4 trillion.