Hunt faces election attack over stealth tax and mortgage rises

Jeremy Hunt targeted in his affluent Surrey seat over stealth tax rises and increase in mortgage costs during his time as Chancellor as Lib Dems seek their most high-profile ‘Blue Wall’ scalp at the next election

Jeremy Hunt is facing a concerted attempt to use his failure to cut taxes against him in his own affluent backyard at the next election, MailOnline can reveal.

The Liberal Democrats are using ‘stealth’ income tax increases as well as eye-watering changes to mortgage rates during his time as Chancellor in a new attack advert as they seek to unseat him after years of trying, in a ‘Portillo Moment’.

Mr Hunt’s South West Surrey seat, which he has held since 2005, is being split in two, and he is standing in the new Godalming and Ash constituency.

The Lib Dems are running a new online advert targeting voters in the well-off suburban and rural area, blaming him for stealth tax rises, an increase in mortgage costs and food price inflation.

It comes as he also faces pressure from Tories to cut taxes and boost sluggish growth ahead of an election expected to be very difficult for the Tories even in their heartlands.

Sir Ed Davey’s party sees Godalming and Ash as a prime scalp in the ‘Blue Wall’ of previously safe Tory seats, mainly in the Home Counties, which Sir Ed Davey’s party is targeting after a string of by-election shocks for Rishi Sunak. 

A Liberal Democrat source said: ‘The Conservative party’s crashing of the economy will be central to our messaging in the Blue Wall and Jeremy Hunt is of course the face of that.

The Liberal Democrats are seeking to make the Chancellor the face of the cost-of-living crisis as they seek to unseat him after years of trying, in a ‘Portillo Moment’.

Mr Hunt’s South West Surrey seat, which he has held since 2005, is being split in two, and he is standing in the new Godalming and Ash constituency.

Mr Hunt’s majority in 2019 was 8,817, the lowest it has been since 2005, when he took the seat previously held by former John Major-era minister Virginia Bottomley.

‘His constituents are being hammered by his stealth taxes, spiralling mortgage payments and the cost of a weekly food shop becoming more and more unaffordable.

‘These inescapable truths about the government’s mismanagement of our economy will come back to haunt the Chancellor and his colleagues in these Conservative heartlands come the election.’

Last month it was revealed more than 40 Tory seats, including those held by senior serving and former ministers, are at risk from a voter backlash against stealth tax rises at the next election.    

Constituencies currently held by former deputy PM Dominic Raab, ex-party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith and serving Cabinet minister Alex Chalk are among those which could be lost in a backlash by those dragged into higher rate bands.

The seats, which span England, Scotland and Wales, had Conservative majorities over Labour and the Liberal Democrats in 2019 that are lower than the number of voters dragged into paying the higher 40p or 45p rates of income tax since that election.

Mr Hunt’s majority in 2019 was 8,817, the lowest it has been since 2005, when he took the seat previously held by former John Major-era minister Virginia  Bottomley.

At its highest in 2015 he had a majority of more than 28,000. But it also voted 59%-41% in favour of Remain in 2016 – with Mr Hunt a high-profile supporter of staying in the EU at the time. 

He has recently tried to fight off claims that he will announce he is quitting before the election, to avoid becoming the biggest scalp of an election night the polls suggest will return Labour to power for the first time in 13 years. 

A shake-up of boundaries means South West Surrey is being effectively split in two. Mr Hunt has been formally selected for Godalming & Ash, where his family lives – but that has not prevented speculation about his intentions.

Opponents have boasted that Mr Hunt’s defeat at a general election could be remembered alongside that of Michael Portillo, who memorably fell victim to Tony Blair’s 1997 landslide when he lost Enfield Southgate.  

Mr Hunt has been chancellor since September last year, when he was drafted in as an emergency unity figure after she sacked Kwasi Kwarteng amid the economic chaos of her 49 days in power. 

He was retained by Rishi Sunak when he replaced her and they have sought to maintain a united front on the economy. 

However Mr Hunt has been the target of some unrest from the Tory right, which wants him to cut taxes ahead of the next election to kickstart growth.

He and Mr Sunak are so far resisting, because inflation is still running far higher than they would like, hammering mortgage costs among other things.

The Bank of England today gave a grim assessment that the economy is set to flatline today as it spared Brits fresh mortgage pain by keeping interest rates on hold.

Threadneedle Street cut growth forecasts as it announced that the base rate is being maintained at 5.25 per cent – but warned there is no prospect of cuts soon.

Although the move by the Monetary Policy Committee is a relief for homeowners, markets will be alarmed by the darkening mood about the prospects for UK plc. 

The Bank see growth tumbling to zero next year and staying there until 2025. 

It is a bleak backdrop for Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, who is due to deliver his crucial Autumn Statement within weeks. 

Which Tory seats are at risk from stealth tax backlash?

Here are 41 seats which voted Tory in 219 where the party’s majority is lower than the number of voters being dragged into high rate income tax bands

Cities Of London and Westminster

Esher and Walton

Altrincham and Sale West

West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine



South Cambridgeshire

Hitchin and Harpenden


Warrington South





Chipping Barnet



Banff and Buchan

Vale Of Glamorgan


Reading West



Chingford and Woodford Green


Bury South


High Peak

Derby North

Carshalton and Wallington

Bury North

Heywood and Middleton


Bolton North East

North West Durham


Birmingham, Northfield

Wolverhampton South West


Clwyd South

Blyth Valley

Nickie Aitken

Dominic Raab*

Sir Graham Brady*

Andrew Bowie

Felicity Buchan 

Stephen Hammond* 

Anthony Browne

Bim Afolami

Angela Richardson 

Andy Carter

Steve Brine*

Mary Robinson 

Dean Russell

Alex Chalk

Theresa Villiers

Matthew Offord

Stuart Andrew*

David Duguid

Alun Cairns

Siobhan Baillie

Sir Alok Sharma*

Mark Eastwood

Maria Caulfield

Sir Ian Duncan Smith

Douglas Ross*

Christian Wakeford**

Robbie Moore

Robert Largan

Amanda Solloway

Elliot Colburn

James Daly

Chris Clarkson*

Jamie Wallis

Mark Logan

Richard Holden

Tom Randall

Gary Sambrook

Stuart Anderson 

Rob Roberts**

Simon Baynes

Ian Levy 

*Standing down at the next election  

**No longer a Tory MP –  Christian Wakeford joined Labour, Rob Roberts is an independent

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