BORIS Johnson turned the screw on Rishi Sunak yesterday as pressure mounted for the Chancellor to do more to ease the cost-of-living squeeze.
The PM echoed concerns over rising prices when he declared: “We must respond.”
Yet Mr Sunak has refused to axe April’s National Insurance hike and warned of no “big bazooka” giveaways in Wednesday’s mini-budget.
He has £40billion more in the coffers than expected, much of it a tax windfall from rising prices — and has bagged £2billion — £5million every day — just from VAT on fuel.
Senior Tories want him to use the money to help families struggling to pay fuel, energy and food bills.
Mr Johnson turned up the heat, telling a party rally in Blackpool: “We’ve got to do everything we can to help people with the cost of living.
“That means doing all the things that we’re doing — lifting the living wage, cutting council tax bills, helping with fuel costs, giving billions to councils and millions more to help people in particular hardship.”
Treasury sources say Mr Sunak is eyeing action on fuel duty and possibly lifting tax thresholds as rocketing inflation and war in Ukraine threaten to pile on the agony.
But he wants to hold back amid uncertainty about the future.
A source said: “The Spring Statement will be very policy-light. Don’t expect him to pull a rabbit out of a hat. Maybe a few baby bunnies, no more.”
One minister said: “There’s a battle between Boris and Rishi.
“Most backbenchers are on Boris’s side and there will be a lot of pressure on the Chancellor over the next few days.”
Tory veteran Robert Halfon said: “This isn’t just people worried about a single measure.
“People are living in fear about whether or not they will be able to pay their bills.”
Ex-Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith urged a VAT cut on fuel to help motorists and to prove the benefits of Brexit, as being outside the EU lets the UK set its own VAT rate.
A senior Tory added: “The Chancellor is on the back foot. He is under assault from every wing of the party.
“The last thing we need is fiscal tightening. He’s got to go for growth, otherwise he risks everything going down the plughole like in the 1970s.”
Sunak in ‘bid to aid poorest’
RISHI Sunak wants voters to know he feels their pain over rising prices.
And he wants to show he is on their side with a number of giveaways.
The Chancellor is said to be the richest MP after a career as a banker and his marriage to Indian heiress Akshata Murthy.
But an ally insisted: “Rishi definitely gets it. That’s why he wants to help the poorest people first rather than giving a blanket tax cut.”
It comes amid reports of an increasingly strained relationship between Mr Sunak and the PM, with the Chancellor considering resigning last year.