Liz Truss says she will lead Tories into next General Election
Liz Truss will hope openly apologising for “mistakes” in her tumultuous early premiership will pacify restless Tory colleagues as she seeks to fight on for another day in No 10.
The Prime Minister is seeking to shore up her authority after she sacked her former chancellor and abandoned her economic agenda in a bonfire of tax-cutting policies, sparking questions over her mandate to lead. She will rally her Cabinet at a meeting on Tuesday following an informal reception with senior ministers in Downing Street on Monday evening.
Ms Truss has suggested she believes she can weather the storm that has rocked the party in recent weeks, as she vowed to lead the Tories into the next general election. In an interview with the BBC, aired on Monday night, the PM admitted to and apologised for “mistakes” during her short tenure to date.
She said she has “adjusted what we’re doing” after the Government’s fiscal policies spooked the markets, putting in place a new Chancellor with a fresh strategy to “restore economic stability”.
“I do think it is the mark of an honest politician who does say, yes, I’ve made a mistake,” she said.
Earlier, she sat silent in the Commons for roughly 30 minutes as Jeremy Hunt – the new Chancellor – told MPs he was scaling back the energy support package and ditching most of the tax cuts announced by his predecessor.
Mr Hunt also suggested the triple lock on state pension increases could be scrapped, as he refused to make any commitments on “individual policy areas”.
Labour accused the Tories of sparking a crisis paid for by working people, and insisted “no sorry” could change that.
The PM told the BBC she wanted to “accept responsibility and say sorry for the mistakes that have been made”.
“I wanted to act… to help people with their energy bills, to deal with the issue of high taxes, but we went too far and too fast. I’ve acknowledged that,” she said.
Ms Truss became Prime Minister after winning the Tory leadership contest on the back of promises to dramatically cut tax.
But she has been humiliated by a raft of U-turns after last month’s so-called “fiscal event” sparked chaos in the markets.
The turmoil ultimately led to Kwasi Kwarteng’s downfall, with Mr Hunt – a supporter of Ms Truss’s rival Rishi Sunak in the Tory leadership race – chosen to take the reins at the Treasury.
On Monday, he tore up the Prime Minister’s economic strategy, abandoning plans to cut the basic rate of income tax in April and freeze alcohol duty from February.
The Government had already axed plans to scrap the 45p rate of income tax for top earners and had U-turned on a promise not to increase corporation tax.
The pound and UK Government bonds rallied in response to Mr Hunt’s emergency statement, while economists suggested the Chancellor’s approach may reduce the need for dramatic interest rate rises.
Plans to cut national insurance contributions and a reduction in stamp duty, which are already going through Parliament, will continue.
Ms Truss told the BBC she could not deliver “everything” she had hoped to, but pledged to follow through on her agenda for growth.
“Yes… I couldn’t deliver everything I wanted,” she said.
“I delivered the energy price guarantee and the national insurance and we will continue to work to deliver economic growth for our country.
“This week we’re introducing new legislation to make sure that we have smooth-running rail services and that commuters can get into work, and we were dealing with militant unions. So we will continue to deliver our agenda.”
Asked if she felt humiliated by the dramatic change in tack, the Prime Minister said things had not been “perfect”, reflecting on a “difficult time”.
“I was expecting it to be tough, and it has been tough, I think it’s fair to say,” she said.
She said it had been “painful” to sack Mr Kwarteng, but insisted she had made the “right decision”.
“It was right that we changed policy. It’s right that we have a new Chancellor. And now what I’m determined to do is make sure that works,” she said.
There has been speculation that Ms Truss could become the second Tory leader to be ousted this year.
But she told the BBC she is “sticking around” because she was “elected to deliver for this country”, adding: “I will lead the Conservatives into the next general election.
“I will stay in the job to deliver for the national interest.”
Under current party rules Ms Truss is protected from a leadership challenge for 12 months, but that could change if enough Tory MPs demand it.
The pressure on the Prime Minister gained traction on Monday, with the number of Tories openly calling for her to go rising to five.
Sir Charles Walker was the latest to make the case for her exit.
He told Sky News’ Beth Rigby: “I think her position is untenable. She has put colleagues, the country, through a huge amount of unnecessary pain and upset and worry.”
The situation “can only be remedied” with “a new prime minister”, he said.
The Prime Minister’s press secretary said there had been no point on Monday when Ms Truss thought her time was up.