LONDON – British Prime Minister Liz Truss described herself as “a fighter and not a coward” on Wednesday as she faces a hostile opposition and fury from her own Conservative Party over her misguided economic plan.
Still, the sad faces of Tory lawmakers behind her in the House of Commons suggest Truss faces an uphill battle to save her job. Within hours of Truss’ appearance at the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session, a senior member of her government left her post with a flurry of criticism.
Interior Secretary Suella Braverman said she resigned after breaking rules by sending an official document from her personal email account. In her resignation letter, Braverman said she had “concerns about the direction of this government” and – in a thinly veiled attack on Truss – said that “the business of government depends on the people who accept responsibility for their mistakes.”
“Pretending we haven’t made mistakes, carrying on as if we can’t see that we’ve made them and hoping things will magically be right is not serious politics,” he said.
Braverman is a popular figure on the right wing of the Conservative Party and a champion of more restrictive immigration policies who ran unsuccessfully for Conservative Party leader this summer, a contest won by Truss.
Braverman was replaced as home secretary, the minister responsible for immigration and law and order, by former Cabinet minister Grant Shapps. He is a high-profile supporter of Rishi Sunak, whom Truss defeated in the final round of the Conservative leadership race.
Braverman’s departure comes days after Truss fired his Treasury chief, Kwasi Kwarteng, on Friday after the economic package the pair unveiled on September 23 sent financial markets into a tailspin and triggered an economic and political crisis. .
The plan’s 45 billion pounds ($50 billion) in unfunded tax cuts has sparked turmoil on financial markets, hammering the value of the pound and raising the cost of British government borrowing. The Bank of England was forced to intervene to prevent the crisis from spreading to the wider economy and putting pension funds at risk.
On Monday, Kwarteng’s replacement, Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt, scrapped almost all of Truss’s tax cuts, along with his flagship energy policy and his promise of no public spending cuts. He said the government would need to save billions of pounds and that there were “many difficult decisions” to be made before setting out a medium-term fiscal plan on October 31.
Speaking to lawmakers for the first time since the turn, Truss apologized and admitted she had made mistakes, but insisted that by changing course she had “taken responsibility and made the right decisions in the interests of economic stability of the country”.
Opposition MPs shouted “Resign!” as she spoke.
Asked by the leader of the opposition Labor Party, Keir Starmer, “Why is he still here?” Truss replied: “I am a fighter and not a coward. I have acted in the national interest to ensure that we have economic stability.”
Official figures released on Wednesday showed UK inflation rose to 10.1% in September, returning to its first hit in 40 years in July, as rising food costs squeezed budgets and families. While inflation is high around the world – driven by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its effect on energy supplies – polls show that most Britons blame the government for the economic pain of the country
Opponents also accuse the Conservative government of sowing flip-flopping chaos in politics. On Wednesday, Truss assured pensioners that pensions would continue to rise in line with inflation – less than 24 hours after her spokesman said the government was considering scrapping the expensive pledge as it seeks to cut public spending .
With opinion polls giving the Labor Party a big and growing lead, many Conservatives now believe their only hope of avoiding electoral oblivion is to replace Truss. But she insists that she is not resigning, and the legislators are divided on how to get rid of her.
A national election is not due to be held until 2024. Truss appeared to rule out calling an early election, saying on Wednesday that “what is important is to work together … to get through this winter and protect the economy”.
Truss faces another test in Parliament later on Wednesday when lawmakers vote on a Labor Party motion seeking to ban fracking for shale gas – a policy Truss recently endorsed.
Conservative Party lunatics said the vote would be treated as a “motion of confidence in the government”, meaning the government would fall if the motion passed, triggering an election. A majority of more than 70 Conservatives makes this unlikely, but the vote will be closely watched for signs of dissent over Truss’s leadership.
Conservative rebels may be expelled from the party group in Parliament.
Conservative lawmaker Chris Skidmore, a former energy minister, tweeted that “I cannot personally vote tonight to support fracking and undermine the promises I made at the 2019 general election. I am prepared to face the consequences of my decision.”
One Tory lawmaker, William Wragg, said he would vote with the government even if it opposed fracking, but only if he remained in the party’s parliamentary caucus and continued to try to bring down Truss.
Wragg said she was “personally ashamed” of the government, “because I can’t go face my constituents, look them in the eye and say they should support our great party”.
Under Conservative Party rules, Truss is safe from a leadership challenge for a year, but the rules can be changed if enough lawmakers want it. There is feverish speculation about how many lawmakers have already submitted letters calling for a vote of no confidence.
Some Conservative lawmakers believe Truss could be forced to resign if the party agrees on a successor.
So far, there is no front-runner. Sunak, House of Commons leader Penny Mordaunt and popular Defense Secretary Ben Wallace all have supporters, as does Hunt, who many see as the de facto prime minister.
Some also favor the return of Boris Johnson, who was ousted in the summer after becoming embroiled in ethics scandals.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said he understood why colleagues were upset, but said “defenestration of another prime minister” was the wrong thing to do.
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