UK PM fights for political life in first grilling since U-turns


Published: 2022-10-19 14:35

Last Updated: 2024-02-27 13:29

UK PM fights for political life in first grilling since U-turns
UK PM fights for political life in first grilling since U-turns

British Prime Minister Liz Truss is set to address lawmakers in parliament on Wednesday for the first time since abandoning her disastrous tax-slashing economic policies, as she fights for her political life.

Truss will face hostile questions from her own Tory as well as opposition MPs at noon (1100 GMT) in parliament, less than 48 hours after new finance minister Jeremy Hunt dismembered her flagship tax plans in a humiliating blow.

At least five Conservative party MPs have already publicly called for her to be replaced amid catastrophic popularity ratings.

Polls show her personal and party ratings have plummeted, with YouGov saying Tuesday that -- within six weeks of taking power -- she had become the most unpopular leader it has ever tracked.

A separate survey of party members found less than two months after electing her Tory leader and prime minister, a majority now think she should go.

Foreign ministry James Cleverly defended Truss on Sky News on Wednesday, however, saying he was "far far from convinced" that "defenestrating another prime minister will either convince the British people that we're thinking about them or convince the markets to stay calm".

Meanwhile, the main Labour opposition has opened up huge poll leads over the ruling Conservatives, amid the recent fallout as well as the worsening cost-of-living crisis, with inflation jumping above 10 percent on Wednesday on soaring food prices.

More than three-quarters of people disapprove of the government -- the highest in 11 years, YouGov said.

- 'Risk' -

The government's September 23 mini-budget -- which slashed a host of taxes without curbing spending -- sent bond yields spiking and the pound collapsing to a record dollar-low on fears of rocketing UK debt.

Truss last week staged two U-turns, scrapping planned tax cuts for the richest earners and on company profits, and fired her close ally Kwasi Kwarteng as finance minister.

After appointing Hunt as his successor, she agreed to further reverse course, axing almost all the other cuts and partially rowing back on energy price support for consumers.

A cap on costs was set to last two years, but will now end for many next April.

Hunt's warnings of further "eyewatering cuts" prompted reports that the government could stop indexing current pensions to inflation and use earnings as a benchmark instead, breaking a manifesto commitment and dividing MPs.

During the summer leadership campaign which saw Truss beat former chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak to succeed ex-premier Boris Johnson, she vowed not to reduce public spending.

But after the economic tumult of recent weeks saw government borrowing rates spiral, Truss and Hunt have warned of "difficult decisions" and urged government departments to find savings.

Opposition parties are demanding she stand down and a general election -- not due for two years -- is held.

"People just can't take much more of this," Rachel Reeves, the Labour MP in charge of finances, told Sky News.

The Tories "started the fire. They sure aren't the people who are going to go and put it out".

- 'Sharks' -

Under current party rules Truss cannot be challenged by a no-confidence vote in her first year, but speculation is rife the rules could be changed to allow for a ballot.

Conservative lawmakers so far have failed to coalesce around a contender to replace her, with Johnson and Sunak both touted but each likely to draw significant opposition from factions within the party.

More than half polled by YouGov had an unfavourable opinion of Sunak, rising to nearly two-thirds for Johnson.

Truss apologized for going "too far and too fast" in her government's mini-budget in a BBC interview Monday -- as well as insisting she was going nowhere.
But there are daily reports of plots by her own MPs to oust her, as even right-wing newspapers ditch their support.