British minister Michael Gove said on Sunday he would like to see tax cuts before an election expected next year, putting pressure on his boss, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who responded by saying the best such cut was to reduce inflation.
At the start of the governing Conservatives' annual conference, Sunak is hoping to revitalise his year-old premiership by showing he is not scared of taking tough decisions to try to make people better off.
With his Conservatives trailing the opposition Labour Party in opinion polls despite closing the gap slightly, Sunak is under pressure to offer a new agenda not only to his party, but to a country struggling with a cost-of-living crisis.
Still, he had little to say in answer to Gove, in charge of the government's levelling up agenda, who said he would like to see tax cuts, echoing calls by senior Conservatives that reducing the burden was the only way to win the next national election.
"The discussion about where the tax burden should fall I think is one that we need to take, not now, but in a little bit (of) time," Gove told Sky News. "I would like to see the tax burden reduced before the next election," he said, adding that workers should be the focus of any such reductions.
Speaking to the BBC just minutes later, Sunak repeated his stance that "the best tax cut that we can give working people is to halve inflation".
"I am a Conservative, I want to cut taxes. You asked me about making changes, change may be difficult, but I believe the country wants change and I am going to do things differently to bring about that change."
He also avoided giving a clear yes-no answer on whether the country's HS2 high-speed railway would go ahead in full but championed his decision to reduce the burden on car and home owners by watering down some previous climate policies.
"Change may be uncomfortable for people. People may be critical of it, but I believe I am doing the right thing for the country. I am not going to shy away from that," he said.
"If I believe the right thing to do was chart a new course on net zero that will save ordinary families 5,10,15, 20,000 pounds I will do that."
On Saturday, an opinion poll by Opinium suggested Labour's lead had shrunk to its narrowest margin since Sunak was made prime minister a year ago but the opposition party's lead remained in double digits.
Sunak's party is still agitating for more tax cuts after the Institute for Fiscal Studies, a non-partisan think tank, said on Friday tax revenue was likely to represent 37% of annual economic output at the time of the next election - Britain's highest tax rate since at least the 1950s.
Liz Truss, Sunak's predecessor, and other senior Conservative lawmakers signed a letter on Saturday saying they would not support "any new taxes that increase the overall tax burden".
(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper, Alistair Smout and Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)