Contractor sector anxiously awaits next PM, in wake of Boris Johnson resigning

The contractor sector is rallying against -- rather than around -- some of the 10 candidates who are throwing their hats in the ring to replace Boris Johnson, who has quit as Tory leader.

Triggered by more than 50 MPs resigning in wake of both chancellor Rishi Sunak and health secretary Sajid Javid stepping down, Mr Johnson technically exited his role on Thursday.

'More like an acceptance spech'

Not that every onlooker may have realised.

“Johnson’s speech was off the scale in terms of the delusion within it,” says the tax campaigner Richard Murphy, reflecting on a televised address by Mr Johnson.

Also a tax researcher and critic of HMRC’s ‘tax gap’ methodology, Mr Murphy added: “You’d think he was accepting office, not resigning after creating complete chaos.”

In his resignation speech, Mr Johnson never used the word ‘resign,’ leaving it instead to No 10’s social media team to caption a video of him with the title, “resignation statement.”

'Burn your bridges when you leave your job'

“Boris is officially clocking off, but not before he angered his whole party and the general public first,” posted Jessica Wicks, a marketing freelancer.

“Not sure you want to burn your bridges when you leave your job…resigning in style, without pissing too many people off, [is what Boris should have done].”

But a business law solicitor has indicated online that Mr Johnson’s team had other activities to be getting on with.

'Removing hard drives from No 10 computers'

“I am told -- upon authority that I would completely trust -- that the Conservative Party's representatives were in No 10 and the Cabinet Office…on Friday removing hard drives from computers and shredding files.”

The solicitor, Dan Johnson (no relation) continued: “Boris Johnson’s new government appointments were charged and briefed – largely -- to ensure that [a devices] ‘clean-up’ was commenced…[and by now] has been undertaken.”

The Institute of Government says Boris Johnson’s decision to step down was “right,” and not only because his departure “brought a tumultuous 48 hours to a close.”

'Real problems with his caretaker government'

“A record-breaking number of ministerial resignations [seven in total] made it impossible to lead an effective government.

“But he remains in Downing Street,” the institute says, “and there could be real problems with his caretaker government.”

In his resignation speech, Mr Johnson said he would form a cabinet to serve, as he would, until a new leader is elected (first by Conservative MPs, then by members).

Such a cabinet will carry out run-of-the-mill work related to policies set in motion way before the mass resignations, in line with Mr Johnson vowing to not make big new decisions.

'Fresh look at contractor issues'

Upbeat, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) says:

“Changes at the highest levels of government provide an opportunity for a fresh look to be taken at the issues [we] campaign on, and we have already written to the new chancellor”.

But since IPSE’s letter, new chancellor Nadim Zahawi has thrown his hat into the ring to succeed Mr Johnson, saying he wants to take over from the-then PM who hired him last Tuesday.

'Tax smear'

The second wealthiest MP in parliament behind Mr Sunak – who is also now running for leader, Mr Zahawi yesterday claimed someone was trying to “smear” him over his tax affairs.

Speaking to Sky News, the current chancellor of the exchequer said that were he to become prime minister, he would publish his personal tax return annually.

Yet it is the former chancellor Mr Sunak, who is receiving flak from the contractor sector over his potential bid to succeed Mr Johnson, which he announced in a slickly choregraphed video on Friday.

“You were his chancellor and his neighbour. You were fundamental to enabling everything he was up to,” condemned public affairs specialist Martin Liptrot.

“Your family’s non-residential tax status and claims for Covid relief payments also [don’t] inspire much trust. Sir, you’re the last thing Britain needs now.”

'Never must Sunak be PM'

Contractor accountant Darren Fell took to LinkedIn upon Mr Sunak’s resignation to say he was “utterly delighted” that the minister who imposed IR35 reform had fallen on his own sword.

Mr Fell, CEO of Crunch, will now be much less delighted at No 11’s former occupant looking to move into No 10 so he can run the country.

“This man can never be allowed to come back to…[reform] this party,” Mr Fell said of Sunak and the Tories. “[And] never [must he be allowed] to become prime minister”.

'Sunak could use LinkedIn's Open for Work feature'

A technical director sounds similarly irked by the ex-Treasury boss leaving the cabinet only so he could contend for the Tory party leadership.

Joking on LinkedIn that Mr Sunak should now use the business network’s ‘Open to Work’ feature the director clarified: “He resigned as chancellor…not as an MP and, therefore, surely remains ‘employed’ to represent his constituents.

“Or is the multi-millionaire Rishi Sunak, looking for a second job to replace his lost ministerial supplement?”

'Downward spiral'

Asked by ContractorUK, The Treasury did not say whether restrictions or provisions tied to the post of chancellor limit the holder’s ability to apply for the post of prime minister.

But declining to be named, a former employee of HMRC said whoever succeeds Mr Johnson, whether it be former solider Tom Tugendhat MP (who has indicated he would reverse the National Insurance Contributions increase) or former culture secretary Jeremy Hunt MP (who has ruled out reversing the National Insurance Contributions increase), the straightjacket is going to be the same.

“Who next? Who knows and who really cares,” shrugged the ex-Revenue official, sounding resigned a new PM won’t really affect UK contracting. “Our country is in a downward spiral, and no one has the ability to turn that around.”

'Sunak completely refused to support limited company directors'

Despite the resignation, Crunch’s Mr Fell is adamant that much of any downward spiral which is economic can be traced back to Mr Sunak (whose other rivals for the job of PM are Mr Javid; the ex-secretary for state for international development Penny Mordaunt, foreign secretary Liz Truss, attorney-general Suella Braverman, transport secretary Grant Shapps, former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch and Foreign Office minister Rehman Chishti).

The contractor accountant blasted: “[Sunak showed] a complete refusal to find a solution or support limited company directors during covid-19, despite companies like [ours] submitting simple calculations from past dividends.

“Attack after attack [by Sunak] on the self-employed was supposed to recover more tax for the country. And yet the hypocrisy of it all is that he sat behind a blind trust with unimagined wealth, with a non-domiciled wife worth many hundreds of millions living at No 11”.

Turning to the future, Mr Fell added on behalf of his accountancy firm: “We will continue fighting for freelancers, contractors, and the self-employed; and hopefully, find a party [leader] that actually supports small businesses and not just the mega corporations.”

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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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