Hunt economic feelgood factor will be stronger in autumn

Hunt: economic ‘feelgood factor’ will be stronger in autumn

Jeremy Hunt said the “feelgood factor” of interest rate cuts would be stronger in the autumn, in an apparent hint at the timing of the general election.

The Chancellor insisted that “there’s all to play for” in the upcoming national vote, despite the Tories’ dire poll ratings, as it was “a choice about the future” and not “a referendum on how you feel right now”.

Speaking to Bloomberg TV during a trip to New York on Tuesday, he said: “The feelgood factor as interest rates start to come down, as people start to feel higher real disposable incomes, will be stronger in people’s minds come the early autumn than it is now.

“People have been through a very bruising period.

“Obviously decisions about election timing are for the Prime Minister.

“And were we to have an October election, as I’ve said before, it would be possible to have a fiscal event in September, but we would decide much nearer the time whether that was the right thing to do.”

Rishi Sunak has said he intends to call an election in the second half of the year, with October or November seen by many as the favoured period.

The latest possible date he could delay the poll until is January 28 2025.

But a disastrous set of local elections in May could force his hand, either by leading to a challenge to his leadership or by persuading him that an earlier polling day could be a better solution than limping on with a divided party.

The latest poll from Savanta for The Telegraph, based on interviews with 2,221 people, put Labour on 43% of the vote with an 18-point lead over the Conservatives on 25%.

Asked about the Tories’ poll deficit, Mr Hunt said: “I’d be very cautious about looking at those polls, because, first of all, as we can see from the challenges facing incumbent governments, not just in the UK, but in the US, Germany, France, the electorate have been through a really difficult period with an energy shock, with high inflation, with a pandemic.

“But when it comes to a general election, it’s a choice about the future.

“It’s not a referendum on how you feel right now.

“And that becomes a very different decision in people’s minds.

“And we know in the UK that around a fifth of voters have not yet made up their mind who they’re going to vote for.

“So we think there’s all to play for.

“And what we’re seeing now is much more positive data beginning to come through, very good prospects for the UK going forward, as confirmed by the IMF today.”

The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday predicted the UK will eke out slower growth this year than previously thought and remain the second-worst performer in the G7 group of advanced economies.

It expects UK gross domestic product (GDP) to hit 0.5% this year, a slight downgrade from the 0.6% growth it had forecast in January.

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