12 Jun 2024

‘Disappointing if true’ that Sunak aide ‘bet on election’ date days before announcement, says Treasury Minister

We speak to Treasury Minister, Gareth Davies.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy: Do you think it’s honourable and a thing of integrity for the prime minister’s closest aide to put a bet on when the election was going to be just before it was announced?

Gareth Davies: Good to be with you, thank you for having me. Just hearing of this myself, I understand he has made a statement and that there will be an inquiry. This will be looked into, and that’s quite right. If it’s true, it’s disappointing, obviously, but it’s right that he’s made a statement. As I’m just hearing about this, it’s quite hard for me to comment further on that.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy: It just doesn’t strike you as the highest standards of integrity that Rishi Sunak has been promising.

Gareth Davies: Like I said, I don’t have the details of what happened. I know that will disappoint you. I understand that, but I am just hearing of this myself. It’s right that he’s made a statement, which you’ve read out.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy: You’re there for another TV event tonight, and Mr Sunak’s TV events have not been going brilliantly, in truth. The other one that’s out today – the quotes are him talking about his sacrifice as a child, not having Sky TV. Would you regard that as a sacrifice?

Gareth Davies: I think Rishi Sunak was setting out in that interview that, as he said, he was part of a family of immigrants who came to this country with very little. They instilled in him values of hard work and aspiration – that’s what’s driving him every single day. He’s also somebody that has spoken very clearly about how he had a very fortunate upbringing with two parents that worked incredibly hard and inspired him every day.

That’s why he gets some criticism for mentioning them quite frequently. But that genuinely is what has driven him to become prime minister, and the policy agenda that he’s setting out for the next parliament is about aspiration, it’s about hard work. That was instilled in him at a young age by his upbringing and the people around him – his family, his parents – and those who came before him.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy: I was talking to Louise Haigh about this beforehand. I just wonder why it is that somebody who had a privileged upbringing, went to a great school, did incredibly well, is now incredibly rich, feels this need – when asked a question like that – to imply that he understands what hardship is about. When, other politicians – David Cameron, Boris Johnson, his predecessors – have always answered those sorts of questions with, ‘Yes, I know I was very lucky and that’s fine. That’s why I want the best for everybody else.’ What is the need to feel in touch? Is it a paranoia that you’re not in touch?

Gareth Davies: Honestly, he is somebody who has already said many times that he had a very fortunate upbringing with two parents that worked hard, inspired him, got him the best education they could possibly get him. And have driven him into public service as a very talented individual, who could frankly do anything. But he is somebody who serves the public every single day. He is somebody, by the way, who is acting on the cost of living crisis that we’ve just been through.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy: Let’s talk about that. Obviously growth stalled in April – zero growth. You haven’t turned the corner, have you?

Gareth Davies: It’s a completely legitimate question to ask about the data in April. But what I would say is, as you know, taking one individual month is always difficult. Looking at longer term periods is a better indication as to what’s going on. At the start of this year – the first quarter – we are now in growth territory. We are putting in place the policies which will ensure that we have sustainable long-term growth. All the projections from the OBR, the Bank of England, the IMF, are very positive for this country. The IMF predicts that we’ll grow faster than Germany, France, Italy and Japan over the next few years because of the policies that we’re putting in place. So, while it’s not easy, we’ve come out of a really difficult period of time with the pandemic and the war in Ukraine and very high inflation. We genuinely have turned a corner now. Inflation is down to 2.3%. We are able to grow our economy because we have a strong labour market, low inflation and the policies by a government that is backing businesses and business investment.