Ex-England footballer Gary Neville accused Kwasi Kwarteng of failing to “read the room” by offering tax cuts to millionaires and lifting the cap on bankers’ bonuses.
Former Manchester United defender Neville said many millionaire footballers came from working-class backgrounds and were not seeking tax cuts, instead wanting to ensure public services were properly funded.
Despite his presence at the Labour conference in Liverpool, where he will appear alongside Sir Keir Starmer on the main stage, Neville insisted he had no desire to seek political office.
The Chancellor’s mini-budget on Friday has set the battle lines for the next general election, with Labour pledging to reverse his removal of the 45p tax rate for people earning more than £150,000.
Neville told reporters: “I didn’t support the tax cut that was given at the end of last week. I also didn’t support the removal of the cap for bankers’ bonuses.
“It was a shock, to be honest with you – I shouldn’t be shocked any more.
“It didn’t feel like it was reading the room in this country, when people are desperately worrying over the winter about how they are going to heat their homes, how they are going to feed their families, that bankers are potentially going to increase their bonuses or that the highest earners in this country are going to be better off.
“I don’t think people in this country at the highest-earner bracket were actually expecting favour, they weren’t asking for favour.”
In terms of footballers, he said: “We’ve been brought up in working-class families, we want good education, we want equal opportunities, we want good health – we don’t want our families and our grandparents waiting two weeks to see their doctor, we want our families to be looked after and our children to have good opportunities.
“I don’t think any footballer would be happy. Footballers have got a good conscience, they come from Bury and Barrow and Dudley and towns and communities like this, they are not born into wealth and so when they get to wealth they actually still respect where they came from and they are grounded.”
The prospect of furthering his political involvement by standing in a by-election in Labour-held West Lancashire did not appeal to Neville.
“Not for me,” he said. “I’m not going to be tempted.”
He added: “I have got no intention of going into politics at all. The reality of it is, I love what I do so much, I love what I do in football, I love what I do in Greater Manchester with the businesses that I co-own.”
He said that while he was “politically motivated”, he “can do as much for the Labour Party being here today as I can do being an MP”.