British Prime Minister Liz Truss apologized on Monday for her controversial mini-budget that crashed the country’s currency, roiled financial markets and led to dismisses the finance minister and his closest political ally.
In an exclusive interview with the BBC, Truss insisted she would lead the Conservative Party into the next general election despite her government being under huge pressure from investors and party members since the mini-budget was announced at the end of September.
The plan, which offers unfunded tax cuts, massive government debt and unexpected tax relief for energy companies, has sent the pound to its lowest level against the dollar in decades.
“I accept responsibility and apologize for the mistakes made. I wanted to help people with energy bills to deal with the problem of high taxes, but we’ve gone too far and too soon,” Truss told the BBC’s Chris Mason.
“I appointed a new chancellor with a new strategy to restore economic stability.”
Last Friday, Truss replaced Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng with Jeremy Hunt, a multi-briefing former cabinet minister who stood for the leadership twice.
Hunt has since transcended many of his most important leadership campaign promises. Just four days into the job, he said he would roll back “almost all” of the tax measures announced by his predecessor three weeks earlier. He said the stunning turnaround would generate 32 billion pounds ($36 billion).
A proposed cut to the basic rate of income tax from April 2023 has been postponed “indefinitely”. Although the government has said it will still guarantee energy prices for households and businesses this winter, it will not commit to capping prices after next spring.
“No government can control the markets, but every government can ensure the sustainability of public finances,” Hunt said. “The UK will always pay its own way.”
Markets have stabilized somewhat in recent weeks, though only after a major intervention by the Bank of England, with rumors that the mini-budget would be scrapped and Kwarteng would be fired.
The moves amount to the collapse of Truss’ flagship “growth plan” and leave him in a precarious political position.
The opposition Labor Party said Hunt’s statement highlighted how the government had made everyday people’s lives more difficult as mortgage interest and other borrowing costs rose in recent weeks.
“We have to make sure that we have economic stability and that should be my priority as prime minister. I spoke out of national interests. I stand by the vision but we will have to deliver it in a different way,” Truss told the BBC after being asked if his vision for Britain was “dead”.
Truss said he still believed in the “high growth, low tax” formula he campaigned on to win the Conservative Party leadership in early September – but admitted the UK was facing “very difficult conditions at the moment”.
Asked if he was “prime minister in name only” after appointing a finance minister who “executed a plan that was a million miles away from yours”, Truss said: “I knew we had to act to maintain economic stability. and so I appointed Jeremy Hunt.’
“I have been working very closely with the chancellor over the last few days to make sure we have the right package, but it would be completely irresponsible for me not to act in the national interest as I have. ,” he said.
Truss added that it was “painful” to sack his “friend” Kwarteng as finance minister, but said he stood by his decision. He also apologized to his party’s MPs for his “mistakes” but said he would “move on” and focus on delivering the UK.
According to the constitution, the next general election does not need to be held until January 2025. That’s how long the truss will livealthough ousting the fourth Conservative leader in just over six years will be difficult in the short term due to party rules that protect him from a leadership challenge in the first year of his prime ministership.
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