Boris Johnson has gone on “shore leave” while Britain hurtles towards recession, said Tory peer Asda chairman Stuart Rose in scathing remarks about the government’s response to the cost of living crisis.
The PM has been accused of treating his final weeks in office as “one big party” after he headed off to Greece for a week – his second holiday in a fortnight.
Lord Rose accused the government of being “very, very slow in recognising this train coming down the tunnel” as he called for more support for hard-hit families.
“We’ve got to have some action,” the Asda boss told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “The captain of the ship is on shore leave, right – nobody’s in charge at the moment.”
He added: “We’re going to have an emergency budget, we are told. When is the actual effect of that budget going to take place? Are we going to wait till October, November, December? Inflation isn’t sitting there waiting for us.”
The Tory peer said a recession was “inevitable” and argued that it was vital to “look after those people who can’t take the hit” – before criticising the lack of clarity in plans for support offered by Tory leadership contenders Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak.
“What bothers me a little bit about the leadership election is that everybody is throwing money at everything, and we can’t afford everything and we do need to go back to basic common-sense economics,” he said.
Lord Rose said “pernicious” inflation is “a crisis that is not about to go away”, adding: “If we don’t kill it, as soon as possible, we’re all going to pay the price.”
His comments come as inflation reached a 40-year high of 10.1 per cent and heaped more pressure on families struggling with soaring bills and food prices.
And analysis from Citizens Advice shows one in four Britons (24 per cent) won’t be able to afford to pay their energy bills in October – pushing 13 million into debt.
Asked about the lack on action, Cabinet Office minister Kit Malthouse said he and other ministers were “thinking carefully about the various cards the prime minister can play in the autumn”.
But Malthouse said the government could not take action this summer. “I can’t, I’m afraid make policy announcements now,” the senior Tory MP told BBC Breakfast. “But what I can do is put a new prime minister in good shape.”
He added: “We are putting the government on war footing, if you like, so that a new prime minister in just a couple of weeks’ time now is able to make some quick decisions on where he or she wants to take the country and the economy.”
However, Truss, the Tory leadership favourite , is yet to commit to any additional direct payments to help the public with huge hikes in energy bills expected from October.
Sunak – who has said he will commit around £5bn in additional payments to the most vulnerable – said it would be a “moral failure” not to offer more help in a scathing attack on Truss at last night’s hustings in Scotland.
The ex-chancellor said his rival’s plan to prioritise tax cuts and take green levies off bills would mean “millions of people are at the risk of being tipped into destitution”.
Truss refused to commit to more support – and dismissed Labour’s plan to freeze energy price cap through planned increases in October and January as a “a six-month sticking plaster”.
Mr Malthouse defended the prime minister over claims he had checked out. “He’s staying in touch with staff and being briefed by No 10, I would imagine,” he told Sky News when asked about Johnson’s latest holiday.
The PM will reportedly spend much of the final weeks of his premiership at Chequers, the grace-and-favour country house in Buckinghamshire.