The economic views of the Tory leadership candidates are at risk being overlooked due to the focus on Brexit

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

Boris Johnson has moved from being the favourite for the leadership of the Conservative Party to the overwhelming favourite.

It was widely expected that he would top the poll of his Tory MP colleagues, but his margin of victory yesterday was much greater than most pundits had expected.

Now his place in the last two candidates, who go out to the membership of the party, is almost certain.

MPs could yet rally round one of the other candidates, who will then have an opportunity to make his mark on the Tory rank and file, but the liklihood is that Mr Johnson will be the next prime minister.

In his response to the verdict of his parliamentary peers yesterday, he tellingly referred to the ‘Conservative and Unionist Party’. Yet Mr Johnson supported the disastrous backstop, so has much to prove when it comes to his unionist credentials (for all his tough talk at the DUP conference last year).

Almost overlooked amid all this is the various candidates’ stance on other issues.

It is striking that even Conservative contenders for the leadership of a party that prides itself on fiscal discipline have made pledges that cost money.

Dominic Raab has pledged to cut the basic rate of income tax by 5p. Michael Gove wants to replace VAT with a sales tax. Boris Johnson plans to raise the 40% tax threshold to £80,000. Jeremy Hunt will cut corporation tax to 12.5%. Sajid Javid hopes to scrap the top rate of tax.

One of the signal achievements of first the Tory-Liberal government and latterly the standalone Tory government is getting the public finances back on a stable footing.

There is a long way to go, because the improvement has only meant a reduction in the deficit. In other words, the overall debt is still rising, but at a lower pace.

Conservative leaders should be focused not only on Brexit but the sort of economy we have post that departure.