Jeremy Hunt takes on his most important role yet as UK finance minister

  • Hunt tears up Truss’ economic growth plan
  • May help that he won so few votes in the leadership contest
  • One step at a time is his approach

LONDON, Oct 17 (Reuters) – He won just 18 of his fellow parliamentarians’ 357 votes when he made a second bid to become Britain’s prime minister this summer, but Jeremy Hunt now finds himself stepping into his role as the most powerful in his 17-year political career.

Just three months after almost admitting his ambitions for the top job in politics had come to an end, Hunt was named finance minister, thrust into the post to clean up the market mess created by his boss, the First Minister Liz Truss.

With lawmakers claiming he now wields more power than Truss – a suggestion rejected by his team in Downing Street – Hunt has been given the green light to tear up almost everything in his economic plan to try to restore stability to markets, which have backed by unfunded tax cuts, she said, would spur growth.

Join now for FREE unlimited access to

The fact that he arouses little passion among the Conservatives may not only work in his favour, but perhaps also in his. His appointment did not ruffle any section of the deeply divided party.

“I feel like the parents are coming back after the kids have a rowdy house party,” said a Tory lawmaker on condition of anonymity.

Senior lawmaker Charles Walker, who backed Penny Mordaunt – now leader of the House of Commons – in the summer leadership race, said it was not a bad thing Hunt didn’t not had a huge success in this race.

“None of the other candidates who have gone further can feel too bad and bad about not having their man or wife as prime minister,” he told BBC radio.

It’s hard to find anyone with a strong opinion on Hunt in parliament.

Having been the longest-serving health secretary in British history and heading the Department of Foreign Affairs and Culture, he is widely regarded as a pair of safe hands.

Hunt backed the Remain camp ahead of Britain’s 2016 referendum on whether to leave the European Union and is seen as liberal on social issues, but campaigned for the party leadership on a promise of deep cuts to taxes.

The 55-year-old is described by at least three lawmakers as amiable but somewhat reserved in his interactions with colleagues in Parliament’s tea rooms, with one saying he was not a man who had many “buddies”.

But it was Hunt that Truss turned to when she was forced to sack friend and ideological ally Kwasi Kwarteng after he failed to stop a market rout over economic growth plans. they unveiled on September 23.

Truss said she views Hunt as someone who shares her goal of creating a high-growth, low-tax economy.

“He is one of the most experienced and respected ministers and parliamentarians and he shares my convictions and my ambitions for our country,” she told reporters.


Hunt spent the weekend repeating his message that the government would show “the markets, the world, indeed the people watching at home, that we can properly account for every penny of our fiscal and spending plans.” Read more

On Monday, he then scrapped much of Truss and Kwarteng’s economic plan and cut his vast energy subsidy in one of the government’s biggest U-turns to try to restore investor confidence. Read more

In addition to visiting broadcasters, he met lawmakers and tried to placate those who were pressing Truss to quit or be ousted.

In a room in the so-called committee hall in parliament, Hunt told his colleagues that tough decisions would have to be made to balance the books.

“He was very candid about the difficulties in public finances,” said one MP after leaving the meeting. “It was very depressing.”

Another joked: ‘It was good to hear from the new prime minister.

For now, Hunt seems to have provided some relief. The pound has soared against the dollar, but the cost of government borrowing remains high. He promised to announce more when he makes another statement on Oct. 31 and releases an independent forecast from the Office of Budget Responsibility.


He is likely to take one step at a time, said two people who have worked with him, with one adding that he often sets a small set of defined goals in his ministerial roles.

“He realizes that it’s better to do a few little things than to be too scattered,” said a government official who had worked for him.

And he will want to avoid the reputation he was left with after serving as health minister from 2012 to 2018, when he was briefly deemed Britain’s most unpopular frontline politician after facing the most longest strike in the history of the National Health Service. .

Hunt has since repaired some of that damage. After losing to Boris Johnson in the leadership race in 2019, he took over as chairman of the House Health Committee in 2020, becoming a critic of the government’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Given his criticism of the government over the past two years, I imagined his days of frontline politics were behind him,” said an opposition Labor MP.

The son of a senior naval officer and later an admiral, Hunt studied politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford University, then worked for a management consultancy before settling. travel to Japan for two years where he taught English and learned Japanese.

He is one of Britain’s richest politicians after selling his own business, educational publishing group Hotcourses, in 2017, earning him an estimated £14million.

Some are still unconvinced that his latest appointment will bring him the prize he has been pursuing for so long – becoming prime minister.

As one conservative lawmaker put it, “What is the question if the answer is Hunt?

Join now for FREE unlimited access to

Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Hugh Lawson

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.