PM will not call Cobra meetings or meet with Tory leadership rivals to discuss economy, says No 10
Gordon Brown has warned that children will be forced to attend school “ill-clad and undernourished” if the government does not act now to support people through the inflation crisis.
But No 10 dismissed the former Labour prime minister’s demand for Cobra crisis meetings on the economy – insisting it was up to “a future prime minister to decide whether or what measures are required”.
Grilled further if chancellor Nadhim Zahawi was working on any plans to help the next PM get ready, he replied: “I’m not aware of the chancellor doing specific work.”
Labour has attacked the “zombie” Tory government as Johnson arrived back at work on Monday from holiday. The caretaker PM and his wife reportedly enjoyed the “soothing energies” of a mountain villa in Slovenia last week.
Rachel Reeves MP, shadow chancellor, said: “People are worried sick about how they’ll pay their bills and do their weekly food shop, and all this Tory prime minister does is shrug his shoulders.”
She added: “An economic crisis like this requires strong leadership and urgent action – but instead we have a Tory party that’s lost control and are stuck with two continuity candidates who can only offer more of the same.”
While the PM was away, the Bank of England forecast 13 per cent inflation, while analysts said average household energy bills could reached around £3,600 this autumn.
Mr Brown said Cobra, the government’s disaster emergency committee, should now be “in permanent session to deal with the coming fuel and energy crisis”.
With a month to go before Johnson’s successor at No 10 is chosen, Mr Brown also said parliament should be recalled so MPs can discuss which measures ministers should take to help struggling families.
But the PM’s official spokesperson said there were “no plans” for the recall of parliament, nor for an emergency budget to ease living costs pressures.
The spokesperson added: “You’ll understand that by convention, it’s not for this prime minister to make major fiscal interventions during this period. It would be for a future prime minister.”
Asked about Brown’s call for Cobra meetings to consider fresh moves, the No 10 spokesman said: “Clearly these global pressures meaning challenging times for the public. The government recognised that the end of the year will present wider challenges with things like changes to the (energy) price cap.”
The official added: “That is why, at the start of the summer, we introduced a number of measures to help the public. Clearly some of the global pressures have increased since that was announced. By convention it is not for this prime minister to make major fiscal interventions during this period.”
Mr Brown said around 35 million people were now under threat of fuel poverty in October. “With millions standing on the edge of a financial precipice, we call for urgent measures to cover the cost of a further £1000-plus rise in fuel bills,” he wrote in the Daily Record.
Attacking the “vacuum” at the top of government, the ex-Labour leader also told Good Morning Britain: “There’s got to be someone in charge. And it’s not just that they’re asleep at the wheel – there’s nobody at the wheel at the moment.”
Meanwhile, Sunak has seized on Truss’s rejection of cost of living “handouts” – arguing her promise of immediate tax cuts “won’t touch the sides” for families on low incomes.
Truss has vowed to immediately scrap green levies on bill and reverse the national insurance hike. But the Sunak campaign says the NI cut would be worth only £59 to those on the national living wage.
“Liz’s plan to deal with that is to give a big bung to large businesses and the well-off, leaving those who most need help out in the cold,” the former chancellor wrote in The Sun.
Truss backer Brandon Lewis, the former Northern Ireland secretary, conceded that her promised tax cuts would not on their own “fully solve” the spiralling living costs.
Despite insisting that Truss would look at “further things” she could do to help, Mr Lewis repeatedly refused to say if those things would include any cost-of-living payments.
Asked nine times whether the potential PM would consider extra support payment, the former minister said: “That would be pre-judging a budget we’ve not had yet.”