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Rishi Sunak has presented tax breaks worth £17 billion as the centrepiece of his Conservative election manifesto. However, this offer was immediately condemned as “implausible” because it would primarily benefit wealthier voters.

The Prime Minister’s manifesto, which many Tory MPs see as the party’s likely last major chance to win votes, contained few major surprises and focused on cuts to national insurance contributions and stamp duty, higher child benefit allowances and help for pensioners.

Launching his manifesto at Silverstone race track in Northamptonshire, Sunak admitted he would face a difficult task in convincing voters, not least after his early departure from the D-Day commemorations last week.

“I am aware of the fact that people are unhappy with our party and with me,” the Prime Minister said. But when it comes to tax cuts, he added, “we are the party of Margaret Thatcher and Nigel Lawson, a party that, unlike Labour, believes in sound money.”

However, since the tax cuts will cost £17.2 billion a year until 2029/30, and much of that money will come from tackling tax avoidance and cutting welfare spending (the exact details of which are still uncertain), think tanks say there is a big risk the sums won’t add up.

Hours after Sunak unveiled his manifesto, Labour unveiled its own cost calculations, predicting an annual deficit of £17.4 billion by the end of the term. Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, said Sunak was “dressing up Liz Truss” and risking a further rise in mortgage rates.

Launching his manifesto to an audience that included almost the entire Cabinet, Sunak announced a further two pence cut in National Insurance Contributions (NICs) and the phasing out of all NICs for the self-employed.

Some Tory MPs had hoped to revive their flagging campaign with bolder policies, such as scrapping inheritance tax, but the cuts come on top of other costly promises, including a nearly £6 billion annual increase in defence spending to 2.5 per cent of GDP.

After the manifesto was published, some Tory MPs were dejected. “It won’t do anything,” said one. Others said it gave them material to work with in their local constituencies.

Sunak has repeatedly attacked Labour over its spending plans, making the much-criticised claim that they would lead to an extra £2,000 in taxes per household. But his tax and spending plans are now coming into focus – and facing scepticism.

Fiscal think tanks and the Labour Party have been particularly critical of the funding sources for the tax cuts and other spending proposed in the manifesto. These include alleged annual savings of £12 billion from cuts in national insurance contributions and £6 billion annually for tackling tax avoidance and evasion.

Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said the manifesto could be characterised as “clear giveaways, funded by uncertain, unspecified and apparently victimless savings”.

The Resolution Foundation think tank said the financing of the tax cuts would be tied to cuts in social benefits. These could include up to 40 percent of social benefits for the chronically ill. In addition, massive cuts would be necessary in already impoverished municipalities and unprotected ministries.

“All this raises the question of whether this tax and spending package passes the plausibility test,” the conclusion states.

Both think tanks also pointed out that the announced tax cuts would primarily benefit the wealthy, while the benefits for low-income earners would be greatly reduced by the frozen tax allowances.

According to analysis by the Resolution Foundation, the richest 20 percent of households would gain an average of £1,300 a year, while someone earning £30,000 would see a tax cut of just £170.

Speaking at a Labour Party press conference in London, Reeves revealed calculations which the party said showed a potential deficit of £71 billion over the entire five-year term. The likely impact on interest rates could mean the average mortgage holder paying £4,800 more over five years, Reeves said.

Labour staff said Keir Starmer was likely to use the statistic repeatedly when he and Sunak were interviewed by Sky News on Wednesday night – similar to how Sunak used the £2,000 statistic when debating the Labour leader last week.

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Reeves said the election campaign plans risked a “second Conservative mortgage bomb” and undermined Sunak’s claim of fiscal credibility: “He said he was the antidote to Liz Truss. Instead he is masquerading as Liz Truss by doing again what the Conservatives did in that mini-budget with £71 billion of unfunded commitments.”

Labour’s cost calculation does not take into account the idea of ​​abolishing all social security contributions. The Tories’ manifesto states that this is the party’s “long-term aim”, but only “if it is affordable”.

Other surprises in the 70-page document included increased promises on migration, with Sunak declaring the government would “halve” net arrivals and pledging to build 1.6 million new homes over the course of the parliamentary term.

On the green side, the manifesto continues to resist commitments to carbon neutrality, for example giving the Climate Change Committee, which advises the government on emissions, “an explicit mandate to consider the costs to households and the UK’s energy security in its future climate recommendations”.

The manifesto also ruled out any future eco-levy on bills or taxes for frequent flyers.

On the European Convention on Human Rights, Sunak’s stance remained the same, despite pressure from the Tory right to indicate more clearly that the party should promise to quit if it puts up obstacles to the deportation of asylum seekers to Rwanda.

“If we are forced to choose between our security and the jurisdiction of a foreign court, including the ECHR, we will always choose the security of our country,” he said.

Separately from the release of his manifesto, Sunak risked reigniting the controversy over his early departure from the D-Day commemoration by suggesting he was late for a television interview because the event had gone over the top.

In an interview with ITV Tonight’s Paul Brand following his early return from Normandy, the Prime Minister said it was an “incredible” event but one that had been “over the top”.

Asked about his childhood, Sunak said he had to sacrifice “everything possible” during his childhood because his parents gave their children’s education the highest priority and sent him to the best fee-paying school in Winchester.

The Prime Minister, now a multimillionaire, said: “There are all sorts of things I wish I had as a child but couldn’t have. Right? You know, Sky TV, we never really had that when we were children, but there were lots of things.”

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