RONALD Reagan liked to joke that the nine most terrifying words in the English language were, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

Jeremy Hunt provided his own version of that ominous saying yesterday when he toured the Sunday politics shows to talk about the autumn statement, due on Thursday.

Speaking of tough times ahead, he said: “There’s a plan to get through this.”

That was the good news. The bad news was that the plan involved everyone paying more tax.

Everyone? Everyone.

The Chancellor has said previously that “people with the broadest shoulders will bear the heaviest burden”. Yesterday he expanded on this, saying the Government will be asking “everyone for sacrifices”.

Asked if he would be paying more tax after next week, he told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “We’re all going to be paying a bit more tax, I’m afraid …”

On Times Radio he said there will need to be a “contribution from everyone”.

There was more plain speaking on BBC One’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg. “We are going to see everyone paying more tax. We’re going to see spending cuts,” said the Chancellor.

In any other line of work such candour would be routine. In politics it is remarkable. We have witnessed some strange goings on of late, but a government bluntly telling people it intends to make them poorer takes some beating.

With days to go before he addresses the Commons, the Chancellor went through the usual palaver of talking about a forthcoming fiscal statement while giving nothing away.

Sophy Ridge reckoned she had a way around this. Instead of asking the Chancellor direct yes or no questions about what he was going to do, they would talk in general terms about his direction of travel.

Alas, this proved to be no more revealing than the usual way of doing things. Mr Hunt stuck to the same basic message he has punted since he took over as Chancellor: fixing what ails the UK economy means some “eye-wateringly difficult” decisions have to be taken.

Barely a day has gone by without stories about this or that measure being considered as a way to plug an estimated black hole of £55 billion.

While a little kite-flying before an announcement is not unknown, the advance briefing on Thursday’s autumn statement has been extraordinarily detailed and prolonged.

Why? Because Mr Hunt and the Prime Minister have several audiences they need to keep on side and the task must be managed carefully.

The markets and the global economy in general require (more) reassurance that the crazy days of Trussonomics are over, and the grown ups are back in charge with a programme of tax rises and spending cuts.

Next, the audience at home have to be prepped for bad news. Should things turn out to be not as awful as feared then that would be a bonus, unintended of course.

Moreover, the public needs to know the pain will not last forever. “We will make the recession we are in as short and shallow as possible,” he told Kuenssberg. He also promised that Thursday’s statement is “not just going to be bad news”.

The next constituency, the one he has more to fear from in the medium term, is his own party, some of whom fear raising taxes in a recession is more likely to kill the patient than cure him.

These MPs wonder, too, how smart it is to do the difficult, unpopular work now and leave a Labour Government to reap the rewards.

While Mr Sunak and his Chancellor say there is no alternative to their plan, some backbenchers disagree and will not be shy in saying so. Some have already made their opposition known. The battle for control of the Conservatives merely paused with the departure of Liz Truss; it did not stop.

There was more “telling it like it is” on The Sunday Show, a programme so good they showed it twice: on BBC Scotland at 10am, and again on BBC1 Scotland at 12.30. It was not a cunning plan to boost audience numbers but a way of accommodating coverage of the remembrance ceremony at the Cenotaph.

Presented by Gary Robertson, the TV part of the show concentrated on looming strikes by ambulance staff, nurse and other NHS workers.

Julie Lamberth, a senior charge nurse and chair of the Royal College of Nursing Scotland board, said the NHS was already in crisis before Covid. She described nursing staff as “exhausted” and “broken”.

A nurse for 27 years, she never thought she would take strike action. “This is about patient safety,” she said. “It’s about the future of nursing.”

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