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Rishi Sunak’s Thatcher moment? Chancellor echoes Iron Lady praising ‘the individual and the family’

Rishi Sunak appeared to take inspiration from Margaret Thatcher today as he insisted the role of government was only to facilitate the growth of individuals, families and communities.

The Chancellor’s comments as he unveiled his spending review had echoes of a wider Thatcherite vision of the nation, as espoused by the former prime minister in her famous 1987 interview where she said ‘there’s no such thing as society’.

Mr Sunak addressed the Commons this afternoon as he set out how he intends to limit the economic shock of coronavirus  – using distinctly un-Thatcher-like levels of public spending and national debt.

Unveiling his crucial Spending Review, the Chancellor declared that billions of pounds will be pumped into getting the unemployed back to work, as well as boosting infrastructure, the NHS and defence, in a bid to create a platform for recovery. 

The backdrop to the latest intervention was incredibly grim forecasts from the government’s fiscal watchdog, with Mr Sunak admitting borrowing is expected to hit £394billion this year as the economy shrinks by 11.3 per cent – the worst recession in more than 300 years.

As he closed his statement to Parliament, Mr Sunak said:  ‘We in Government can set the direction – better schools, more homes, stronger defence, safer streets, green energy, technological development, improved rail, enhanced roads, all investments that will create jobs and give every person in this country the chance to meet their potential. 

‘But it is the individual, the family, and the community that must become stronger, healthier and happier as a result. This is the true measure of our success.

Mr Sunak addressed the Commons this afternoon as he set out how he intends to limit the economic shock of coronavirus – using distinctly un-Thatcher-like levels of public spending and national debt

The Chancellor's comments as he unveiled his spending review had echoes of a wider Thatcherite vision of the nation, as espoused by the former prime minister in her famous 1987 interview where she said 'there's no such thing as society'.

The Chancellor’s comments as he unveiled his spending review had echoes of a wider Thatcherite vision of the nation, as espoused by the former prime minister in her famous 1987 interview where she said ‘there’s no such thing as society’.

‘The spending announced today is secondary to the courage, wisdom, kindness and creativity it unleashes. These are the incalculable but essential parts of our future, and they cannot be mandated or distributed by Government.

‘These things must come from each of us, and be shared freely, because the future, this better country, is a common endeavour.’

Mrs Thatcher, who was prime minister from 1979 to 1990, was famous for her statement on the importance of small government.

Speaking to the magazine Women’s Own before the 1987 general election – which she would go on to win – she said: ‘You know, there’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. 

‘And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then, also, to look after our neighbours.’ 

The politician, known as the Iron Lady, died in 2013 aged 87.  

Mr Sunak today announced the Government will freeze public sector pay next year but NHS workers and those in the lowest paid jobs will still get an increase in their wages.

The Chancellor said that while much of the private sector had been hammered during the coronavirus crisis, public sector workers had largely not been affected by job losses and falling wages.

From March to September, year-on-year private sector wages sagged by one per cent, whereas public sector pay rose four per cent.

Mr Sunak said in that ‘difficult context’ he could not justify ‘significant across the board’ pay increases for all public sector workers.

However, he revealed NHS staff will be exempt from the pay freeze while public sector workers on the lowest wages will be guaranteed a pay hike of at least £250 next year.

The Chancellor said this approach will mean that a majority of public sector workers will see their wages increase.

Mr Sunak had promised in the days leading up to the Spending Review that the nation would not see a return to austerity.

But the decision to cap many workers’ pay next year immediately sparked accusations of the Chancellor going back on his word.

Speaking in the House of Commons at lunchtime, Mr Sunak said: ‘Coronavirus has deepened the disparity between public and private sector wages.

‘In the six months to September, private sector wages fell by nearly one per cent compared to last year.

‘Over the same period public sector wages rose by nearly four per cent and unlike workers in the private sector who have lost jobs, been furloughed, seen wages cut and hours reduced, the public sector has not.

‘In such a difficult context for the private sector, especially for those people working in sectors like retail, hospitality and leisure, I cannot justify a significant across the board pay increase for all public sector workers.’

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk