HOLD on to your hats! 2024 is to be the year of the great election campaign as the Conservatives desperately try to budge the polls that did not shift in 2023: for all Rishi Sunak’s competence in stabilising the country after the trauma of the Truss days and the chaos of the Johnson years, Labour’s lead has remained at about 17 points clear.

The general election has to be held by January 2025 at the earliest, and over the holidays, speculation grew that with a Spring Budget being announced early for March 6, Mr Sunak is preparing to cut taxes and then rush to the polls on May 2 – the same day that the North East chooses its first mayor and the Tees Valley decides whether to give Ben Houchen a third term.

Unbelievably, one of the taxes Mr Sunak is contemplating cutting, or even scrapping, is inheritance tax, which is paid after death by the wealthiest four per cent. It raises about £7bn a year, half of which is paid by the wealthiest one per cent who, because of canny avoidance, pay at a rate of 17 per cent rather than the advertised rate of 40 per cent.

Inheritance tax is not perfect – very few taxes are. But it is, in effect, a windfall tax on unearned income that is paid by those with the broadest shoulders most of whom, because of property values, are in the south.

It would be a very bad look for the Tories to give tax cuts to the wealthiest millionaires, especially if the £7bn cost is met by further cuts to public services.

The public is ambivalent about tax cuts, especially as they can see that from the NHS to the road surfaces, our services need more money, but if there are to be tax cutting bribes, at least they should be fair – perhaps unfreezing the threshold at which everyone starts to pay income tax – rather than beneficial only to the wealthiest.