Nhs, Income Tax, Rishi Sunak, Spring Budget 2021

Nhs, Income Tax

Nurses pay backlash threatens to overshadow Rishi Sunak's Budget PR triumph

The decision to propose a 'callous' and 'pitiful' one per cent pay rise for nurses has been leading the broadcast news bulletins

3/6/2021 12:46:00 AM

'The deluge of negative headlines threatened to overshadow the positivity that had been so meticulously planned by Mr Sunak and his inner circle in the days before' | Writes benrileysmith

The decision to propose a 'callous' and 'pitiful' one per cent pay rise for nurses has been leading the broadcast news bulletins

His policies would push the UK tax burden to its highest level in half a century, yet the rebellion which Tory MPs were threatening beforehand had turned to dust.The vast spending from extending flagship Covid-19 relief packages to the autumn (and, in some cases, even beyond) was being widely applauded by business groups.

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The public also gave a thumbs up. Fifty five per cent of respondents in a snap YouGov poll said the Budget was "fair", a 12-year high, sending the Tories 13 points ahead of Labour in the polls.Yet the headlines that greeted Mr Sunak on Friday morning risked the image, carefully painted over weeks of policy crafting and public relations prep, of a compassionate, empathetic Chancellor.

The Government’s decision to propose just a one per cent pay rise for nurses – those on the frontline fighting the killer virus – was leading the broadcast news bulletins.Labour and the health unions ramped up the volume: “callous”, “pitiful”, and “the worst kind of insult”. By noon, Tories were among the critical chorus, privately predicting an about-turn. headtopics.com

The deluge of negative headlines threatened to overshadow the positivity that had been so meticulously planned by Mr Sunak and his inner circle in the days before.‘Swish Rish’ has proved in a year in the Treasury his dab hand at communications, a point enforced by the run-up to and roll-out of the Budget. One small example of the slick PR operation came last weekend, when a photo of Mr Sunak grinning in a Stanford University sweatshirt was uploaded onto the Treasury Flickr account.

When reporters were briefed on a new ‘MBAs for small company owners’ policy, attention was drawn to the photo and the fact the business training was inspired by Mr Sunak’s time at Stanford.The image was then plastered on the papers, securing eye-balls on Mr Sunak and column inches on his pro-business announcement, just as the Treasury had planned.

Another came in the days before Wednesday’s Budget. A flurry of prominent newspaper columnists made the case for tax rises or rebuffed suggestions it was against Tory doctrine. Could the hand of the Sunak team be detected?That is not known, but when he stood up to announce his tax hikes it had been thoroughly pitch-rolled, reducing the sting. And then there was ‘Rishi: The Movie’, the six-minute (Treasury-created) video of the Chancellor’s first year in the role, revealing his anguish over the pandemic.

“People can be cynical,” said one MP close to Mr Sunak of such moves. “Some colleagues will be jealous and some of the public will be wary of the slickness."But, the vast majority of people think he's a decent guy who communicates well.”Any envious MPs need only look at Conservative Home’s new poll of Tory members, released on Thursday, about how they view cabinet ministers to fuel their jealousy. headtopics.com

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