With Liz Truss’s agenda gutted, Brits ask if prime minister is still in charge

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LONDON – Britain’s brand new finance minister scrapped the remaining elements of Prime Minister Liz Truss’s signature tax policy on Monday, which appeared to have successfully reassured markets but left many questioning who is now in charge of the government.

Truss stayed on the sidelines while Jeremy Hunt – a political rival who was tapped for a top cabinet post on Friday – announced the government would not cut taxes, but instead let them rise.

Truss left it to another rival, House of Commons leader Penny Mordaunt, to defend the government’s U-turn in parliament, where both opposition MPs and some dissident politicians from the ruling Conservative Party are calling on the prime minister to resign after just six weeks. It was another disastrous day for the office truss.

The public first heard from her on a late night BBC broadcast. She said she “wanted to say sorry for the mistakes made” but added that she was “sticking around” and would “lead the Conservatives into the next general election.”

Liz Truss sacks finance minister as she reverses policies that sank the British pound

Labor Party leader Keir Starmer pushed to avoid Truss being “in office but not in power”.

“Where’s the Prime Minister?” Starr asked rhetorically. “Hiding in fear of her own shadow, shunning questions.”

Some commentators are talking about when she goes, not if. A British tabloid is streaming live Iceberg lettuce Placed next to a picture of a truss and asked which would last longer.

An editorial in the Sunday Times declared: “Truss has destroyed the Conservative Party’s reputation for economic prowess and disgraced Britain internationally.”

“Senior Tories must now act in the national interest and remove her from Downing Street as soon as possible,” the editorial continued, calling Hunt a “de factor prime minister”.

Hunt is a moderate Conservative who is considered a safe pair of hands, although he has twice lost contests to lead his party. He assured the nation that Truss was “in charge”.

“The most challenging form of leadership is to accept that a decision you have made must be changed,” he told parliament. “And the prime minister has done that, and she’s done it willingly because she understands the importance of economic stability, and I respect that.”

Why is Britain comparing its Prime Minister to lettuce?

Truss was established in Downing Street as the choice of 160,000 dues-paying members of the Conservative Party – around 0.3 per cent of the population. The tax-cutting plan that fueled her candidacy and prompted admiring comparisons with Margaret Thatcher has now all but disappeared.

Tax cuts for the wealthy have not gone down well with a public facing record inflation and rising bills. But the government’s face had more to do with bond traders, who were alarmed by the level of borrowing required for the plan.

Hunt came after two of the most controversial parts of the plan had already been scrapped. And yet he hit the brakes hard, insisting that debt and spending would be the new watchwords.

“We will reverse almost all of the tax measures announced in the growth plan three weeks ago,” Hunt said. “I fear that there will be more difficult decisions on both taxes and spending as we deliver on our commitment to reducing debt as a share of the economy over the medium term.”

Hunt also announced that the government’s popular scheme to help with energy bills for households – “an historic policy that will support millions through a tough winter” – would not continue for two years but would only last until April. The government will then move to a “new approach” that will “significantly reduce the cost to the taxpayer.”

Markets have responded to the government’s pursuit. The depreciating British pound has stabilised. The country’s leading stock index, the FTSE 100, was up. And the cost of government debt was falling – still high before the Truss took over.

But confusion remains in British politics.

With no general election in sight, two polls published on Monday showed Labor leading the Conservatives by 30 points.

“Who voted for this?” The signs are popping up in protests and opposition MPs’ social media feeds.

The Conservatives also have a hand in hand.

“Her position is politically completely untenable,” said Jonathan Tonge, professor of politics at the University of Liverpool. “In any sane democracy it would have gone this far.”

“She campaigned on a platform of tax cuts, a blast for growth and supply-side reforms – every element of which was destroyed by Jeremy Hunt,” he said. If Truss survives, “only the grandees of the Conservative Party cannot agree on a replacement.”

Conservatives are known for ruthlessly hounding their leaders. Boris Johnson led them to a landslide victory in the 2019 general election, but after scandals – and a Conservative tailspin in the election – he was forced to resign. Truss’s personal poll ratings are worse than Johnson’s has ever been, and her party’s poll ratings have plummeted.

Damien Green, a prominent Conservative, admitted on BBC Radio 4 that people would be “very surprised” if the party held another leadership contest so soon. But when asked if he wanted Truss to lead the party when the next general election was held, Green offered. Backhand support only. “If she leads us to the next election, it will mean that the next two years have been much more successful than the last four weeks.”

It could be a real challenge for the Conservatives to rally around someone to replace Truss.

Although Hunt occupies a powerful position, he is not a rising star in the party. He was narrowly defeated by Boris Johnson in the 2019 Conservative Party leadership contest and was eliminated in the first round of voting this past summer after receiving just 18 votes from fellow MPs.

One wing of the Conservatives wants the top job to go to former finance minister Rishi Sunak, who is runner-up in the summer leadership contest. Many of his economic predictions have been prescient. But he is disliked by Johnson’s loyalists, who accuse him of leading the coup that brought down the last prime minister. And if Conservative lawmakers upset the party’s grassroots by promoting fads, they could invite other problems.

Morden, who is more popular among the grassroots, has been discussed as another contender. she wrote In the Sunday TelegraphHowever, this is not the time to change the Prime Minister. “Our country needs stability,” she said, “not a soap opera.”

Over the weekend, President Biden was asked by a reporter what he thought about Truss’ “trickle-down plan that she had to go back on.”

Usually, US presidents don’t comment on allied budgets, but Biden weighed in, saying: “Well, it’s an estimate. I wasn’t the only one who thought it was a mistake.”

He added: “I think the idea of ​​cutting taxes on the super-rich at a time like this – still, I think – I disagree with the policy, but that’s up to Great Britain to make, not me.”

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