(Bloomberg) -- Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt said he’s determined to fight for his seat in the UK Parliament, even as other Conservative ministers step aside amid warnings of an election wipeout for the ruling party. 

Hunt pledged to stick it out in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Saturday, hours after Communities Secretary Michael Gove, whose Surrey constituency neighbors Hunt’s, announced he was standing down ahead of the July 4 vote. Hunt is seeking to avoid becoming the first sitting Chancellor to lose his seat as he faces a difficult battle against the Liberal Democrats in a constituency reshaped by boundary changes. 

“If you do have a cabinet job, it’s pretty exhausting — no big surprises people want to do something else,” Hunt said Saturday in an interview at the of Group of Seven meeting in Stresa, Italy. “But for me, I’m in there. I’m going to be staying, and I’m going to be fighting for my seat.”

Almost 80 Tories have said they are quitting at the election, exceeding departures of the party’s MPs ahead of Labour’s landslide victory in 1997.

In the interview, Hunt separately warned Western allies not to “creep back into protectionism” as the US and European Union prepare new trade barriers against goods from China. He said the UK would “think hard” before erecting new restrictions on international commerce. 

Hunt, 57, has been widely credited with helping to steady the UK’s finances after Liz Truss tapped him to run the Treasury in the last days of her short and tumultuous tenure as prime minister in late 2022. Truss’s successor, Rishi Sunak — himself a former Chancellor — kept Hunt on. The pair have sought to rebuild the Conservative Party’s traditional reputation for pro-business policies.  

The Chancellor was among ministers surprised by Sunak’s decision on Wednesday to call a rare July election in a high-stakes bet that the public glare of a campaign might finally weaken the opposition Labour Party’s stubborn 20-point lead in the polls. The move deprives Hunt of another chance to make a fiscal statement that could demonstrate the party’s commitment to cutting taxes, a plan that the chancellor had continued to hint at in recent weeks.

Hunt said Sunak’s decision to call an election showed that he was “not afraid of that fight. This is a guy who is very brave, very courageous, very thoughtful.” Sunak, he said: “Runs into gunfire — he does not run away from it.”

As Hunt was speaking in Italy, his potential Labour replacement, Rachel Reeves, reaffirmed her commitment to fiscal discipline in a visit to a West London supermarket. The former Bank of England economist compared Hunt’s stated desire to eliminate the national insurance payroll tax to the “minibudget” that rattled markets before he took office. 

“The Conservatives have now put forward a number of un-costed, unfunded tax cuts similar to what Liz Truss did just 18 months ago,” Reeves said, according to the Press Association. 

Hunt said in the interview that he would be “more than happy” to debate Reeves, after Bloomberg reported this week that he was weighing a television face-off. He repeated claims that Labour plan broad-based tax hikes and “socialist French-style rules for business,” characterizations that the opposition party’s leaders dispute.  

Click here to watch Bloomberg’s full interview with Jeremy Hunt.

Hunt passed up the chance to detail economic and fiscal policies that will be included in the Conservatives’ as-yet-unreleased manifesto. He did acknowledge that the party had allowed the tax burden to rise to a tax burden to a post-war high, which he attributed to subsidies to soften the blow of the pandemic and the economic impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  

“I can commit that a future Conservative government will bring the taxes down,” Hunt said. “We’ve always been honest about the fact that after the shocks we had with a pandemic and the energy crisis, we had to put taxes up. We did so reluctantly, but it was the right thing to help families and businesses through those very challenging times.”

--With assistance from Toru Fujioka, Alessandra Migliaccio, Caroline Connan, Viktoria Dendrinou, Jorge Valero, William Horobin, Zoe Schneeweiss and Craig Stirling.

(Updates with details from the interview and context.)

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