There’s Liz Truss sacrificed the finance minister and his closest political ally is only weeks away from being prime minister to save his own skin.
On Friday morning, British Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng was summoned to London a day early from the United States directly to Downing Street. where he was relieved of his duties.
The move comes three weeks after Kwarteng announced a controversial mini-budget filled with unfunded tax cuts. crashed the financial markets. At one point, the pound fell to its lowest level against the dollar in decades.
After a major intervention by the Bank of England, the markets have since calmed somewhat, despite rumors that the mini-budget would be scrapped and news that Kwarteng would be fired.
Just because Kvarteng is gone doesn’t mean Truss is out of the woods. The low-tax, free-market policies Kvarteng had announced were Truss’s ticket to becoming prime minister.
The pair wrote about their shared vision for a low-tax, high-growth Britain in a 2012 book co-authored by a group of Conservatives. Kvarteng and Truss were a step in their vision of Britain; removing him from office is tacitly acknowledging the failure of his economic plan.
“The problem with their budget was never the numbers, it was more about the credibility of the plan,” the former Conservative cabinet minister told CNN shortly after Truss fired Kwarteng.
“You can return the numbers and scrap policy. You can’t get credibility back. He took out his lightning rod, but now the lighting will hit him.’
Truss wrapped up a brief press conference in Downing Street on Friday afternoon in which she defended her economic vision but refused to apologize to her party or the public for the mess the mini-budget has caused.
“We understand that we have to do the mission differently because of the current market challenges,” Truss said. “And we are absolutely committed to doing that.”
Some answered the question of whether he would apologize to the MPs of his party, who clearly violated his economic agenda: “I am determined to deliver what I set out to do while campaigning to be party leader. We must have a highly developing economy, but we must accept that we are facing very difficult problems as a country.”
Truss quickly replaced Kwarteng with former cabinet minister Jeremy Hunt, a multi-briefing who stood for the leadership twice. He described him as “one of the most experienced and respected government ministers and parliamentarians”.
Opinion is mixed on whether the new chancellor will be a stabilizing influence on either the party or Truss. Some Conservative MPs believe Hunt, who has served as health secretary, foreign secretary and culture, media and sport secretary under previous governments, will bring unity to a party still recovering from a bruising leadership race over the summer.
He is respected on both the left and the right of the party and has a calm, laid-back and familiar personality that appeals to a certain type of Conservative.
However, it is also easy for the opposition Labor Party to attack. Hunt skeptics point out that his record in government is abysmal. Whether or not the accusations are true, opposition leaders could say the health secretary has inadequately prepared Britain’s health service for the coronavirus pandemic.
Hunt had pledged bigger corporate tax cuts than Truss as a candidate in the summer leadership contest after Boris Johnson’s tumultuous premiership.
When asked why Truss chose Hunt, one influential Conservative MP told CNN that Downing Street had looked at the leadership rivals in this summer’s leadership contest and realized that Hunt was a candidate from the left of the party that secured the election. least votes of deputies. Less of a threat than promoting other candidates who give Trussa more of a run for their money.
Hunt will now address the nation on October 31 to deliver the fiscal policy, which will outline how the government plans to balance the books while borrowing to help people pay their energy bills over the next two years.
Truss said it would provide £18bn in tax cuts. And as Kvarteng’s budget becomes a distant memory, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that additional savings will be made.
What worries Conservative MPs most is the erosion of Truss’s credibility and the loss of her powers. He has appointed a chancellor he can’t blame for future hiccups and now looks seriously vulnerable to a re-energized opposition Labor party that is surging in the opinion polls.
What comes next? The next general election does not constitutionally need to take place until January 2025, although no one is saying Truss will survive anywhere near that long. However, even if things go south, it will be difficult to get rid of the party’s fourth leader in more than six years in the short term.
Under party rules, Truss is shielded from a leadership challenge for the first year of his prime ministership. His lawmakers may be able to rewrite the rules, but even if they could, there is no certainty that changing it would change the vote.
One Conservative MP even suggested it would be a good idea to remove Truss so a new leader could try to turn things around enough to prevent the opposition from slipping at the next election.
Some of its lawmakers fear that crowning another leader without public consultation – just months after replacing Boris Johnson in a similar fashion – could make the party look even worse in the public eye.
All of which means that, for now, Truss and his party are stuck. Without key allies and unable to deliver sweeping reforms within the party for the sake of unity, a Truss government risks looking like a mere caretaker government waiting for someone else to take over.
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