Pounding around his first London Marathon last October, Jeremy Hunt spotted a placard thanking participants for “showing the government how to run things”. Given that he was then merely a backbench MP, the twice-failed Tory leadership contender saw the funny side.
When he tackles the race again next weekend, it will be rather different.
The former health secretary and foreign secretary was parachuted into the Treasury by Liz Truss after the disastrous mini-budget that ultimately blew up her premiership. Hunt helped calm markets with a package of tax rises and spending cuts, then delivered a budget that extended free childcare to one and two-year-olds and scrapped the pensions lifetime allowance.
Now the chancellor must try to turn sentiment in favour of the beleaguered Conservative Party — without pushing the already strained public finances to breaking point.
Speculation is building that Rishi Sunak could call a general election in the autumn next year. That would give the prime minister and Hunt two “fiscal events”, as they have become known — this year’s autumn statement and next March’s budget — to create a small economic sugar rush, spend money on emergency fixes to public services, or set traps for Labour.
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