Truss' shortest of political honeymoons

Truss’ shortest of political honeymoons

It was, by any measure, the shortest of political honeymoons.

Within weeks of taking power UK Prime Minister Liz Truss’ premiership was in severe trouble.

It might have happened even sooner but the death of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth two days after Liz Truss became prime minister put normal politics on hold as the nation mourned its longest serving monarch.

Once that period of mourning was done Liz Truss moved quickly to make her mark, announcing a “mini-budget” which would put her leadership into a spin from which it would never fully recover its balance.

The economy had been the central issue of the leadership campaign, as her rival for the top job, former Chancellor Rishi Sunak, argued that her economic policies made no sense and would put the British economy in jeopardy.

She dismissed his suggestions, accusing him of clinging to the kind of Treasury orthodoxy which Ms Truss blamed for low economic growth.

It was the announcement of a “mini-budget” just weeks after she took power which would so damage the new prime minister and her then Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng.

Former British PM Liz Truss speaks in Downing Street today, watched by husband Hugh O’Leary

Promising a focus on a growth economy after years of wage stagnation and then the double economic shocks of Brexit and the pandemic, Mr Kwarteng announced an economic plan which included cutting of the top rate of tax.

Such a move, giving huge financial benefit to the highest earning 1% of the population, would have proven politically difficult at the best of times but an energy crisis and soaring costs of living did little to improve the reaction of the general public to such a move.

It was exacerbated by the freefall of the pound as international markets worried about the cost of tax cuts and energy subsidies.

Read more: Liz Truss resigns as British Prime Minister

The situation was worsened still by the failure to provide any kind of independent assessment of the plans from the Office of Budget Responsibility.

Many investors viewed it as an unfunded fiscal policy, which forced the Bank of England to step in and increase interest rates in a bid to battle rising inflation.

The resultant pressure on homeowners in terms of mortgage payments did little to endear Ms Truss or her chancellor to the voting public.

A U-turn on the top rate of tax followed, but so did a colossal drop in the polls for the Conservative Party with many Tory MPs openly suggesting the party would face an electoral wipe-out at the next election.

Another U-turn would soon follow on corporation tax, but at the same time the chancellor was called back from a meeting of the International Monetary Fund in Washington.

Between landing at Heathrow Airport and getting to Downing Street to meet the prime minister, Mr Kwarteng was reading newspaper reports that he was to be sacked.

The two had been close friends and political kindred spirits, leading many in the Conservative Party to openly wonder why Mr Kwarteng should leave his post, when the prime minister, who described herself as in lockstep with him continued in hers.

An ill-fated press conference to explain the events raised more questions than it answered.

Lasting just eight minutes and taking just four questions from the assembled journalists, Ms Truss appeared awkward and uncomfortable.

Former British Prime Minister Liz Truss with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt

Party MPs became increasingly concerned, and the appointment of Jeremy Hunt as Chancellor of the Exchequer simply highlighted how far Ms Truss had moved from the campaign promises she made.

As Mr Hunt stood in the House of Commons to announce that he was ditching almost every aspect of Ms Truss’ economic plan, and policy platform, the talk in her party was no longer of if she went, but rather, when.

Her failure to appear in the Commons to answer an urgent question on the crisis only fueled further ridicule, with one of her own Cabinet Ministers telling MPs that the prime minister was “not hiding under a desk”.

And then just days later a night of utter chaos in the Commons, during which her own MPs did not know whether or not they would lose the whip if they voted against the party, sealed her fate.

Ms Truss’s leadership had lost its way, with Conservative MPs openly despairing about the breakdown in structure, strategy and discipline.

Ultimately, her leadership could never recover from the political humiliation.

Like the markets, Ms Truss’ MPs had lost confidence in her, making her a leader in office but not in power.

Even in a political landscape which has seen more than its share of turmoil in the last decade this departure stands out, with its fallout for the Conservative Party expected to last far longer than Ms Truss’ brief time as Prime Minister.

#Truss #shortest #political #honeymoons

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *