Liz Truss has doubled down on her controversial tax-cutting agenda, telling Conservative rebels that she is “going to do things differently” and that “there is no option but to change”.
The prime minister is set to face a wretched week at the Tory Party conference after the disastrous reaction to Kwasi Kwarteng‘s tax-cutting mini-budget last month.
But ahead of the official opening of the event in Birmingham which comes at the end of another tumultuous week for the Conservative Party, Ms Truss said she was sticking to her guns and that the tax cuts were essential to getting the economy to grow again.
“Change is always something that people might find worrying. But what I’m fundamentally saying is we do have to change, and the status quo isn’t an option,” she told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper.
“We cannot continue on the current trajectory of managed decline… We must take a new direction.”
Ms Truss continued: “Often, I think, people feel politicians talk, and they don’t necessarily ‘do’. I’m very focused on doing, and getting these changes happening in the British economy, enabling people to keep more of their own money, keeping bills low.
“I campaigned on this basis in the leadership election campaign, I said I would do these things. And I’m determined to follow through on things because I see that this is what will make Britain more successful.”
The PM has also rejected calls to sack Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng after the pound slumped to a record low because of his mini-budget, insisting he is doing an “excellent job”.
Mr Kwarteng is facing calls for an official inquiry following a report that he attended a private champagne reception with hedge fund managers who stood to gain from a collapse in sterling following his mini-budget.
The Sunday Times reported that he joined the gathering at the Chelsea home of a City financier on the evening of 23 September where he was said to have been “egged on” to commit to his plan for £45 billion of unfunded tax cuts.
A source close to the chancellor said: “Any suggestion attendees had access to privileged information is total nonsense.
“The Growth Plan published on Friday included a commitment to review our tax code to make it simpler, better for families and more pro-growth.
“The government’s ambitions on lowering the tax burden are hardly a state secret.”
Ms Truss arrived in Birmingham for the party’s conference on Saturday looking buoyant just hours before yet another injurious poll was released.
Hopes to be greeted by an adoring host of members have likely been dashed as some Tory MPs are questioning whether she will still be PM by the end of the year.
Nearly two dozen senior Conservative MPs have told Sky News they will not be attending after a tumultuous week that saw the pound hit a record low against the dollar and the Bank of England stepping in to prevent a pension funds collapse.
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A series of polls taken this week have shown a massive drop in popularity for the Tories and a record high for Labour following the mini-budget.
The latest poll from Opinium showed 55% of voters disapprove of both Ms Truss and Mr Kwarteng while Labour enjoyed a 19-point boost.
And 75% of all voters think they have lost control of the economy. When it comes to Tory voters, 71% think they do not have the economy under control versus just 24% who believe they do.
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Senior backbenchers told The Independent the PM has a matter of days to row back on tax and welfare cuts or a rebellion could see her removed from Downing Street by Christmas.
There are reports of letters going into the chair of the backbench 1922 Committee from MPs calling for a vote of no confidence.
Under current rules she is safe from a leadership challenge for a year after her election but the 1922 executive could change the rules if demand from Tory MPs is overwhelming.
Truss needs to reset if she is to survive
Liz Truss starts her first Conservative Party conference less than a month – 25 days – since becoming leader, all the more notable given 11 of those days were spent in official mourning for the death of the Queen.
Also notable in that time is that the government spent upwards of £160 billion, Sterling collapsed to the lowest level since 1985, UK is now at threat of downgrade by credit rating agencies, swathes of cheaper mortgages have disappeared from the market, the Bank of England has done an emergency intervention to save pension funds and the Tories have recorded their worst opinion poll rating for YouGov since the company was founded in the late 90s.
Everybody – Tory MPs, institutions, voters looking at the economic turmoil to come – is anxious.
Ms Truss’s most important job is to show the county and her party whose side she is on.
Which is why the story tonight from the Sunday Times about her Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng is so damaging.
On the day of the mini-budget, where he cut taxes for the richest, he went to a hedge fund party hosted by Andrew Law, Tory donor. 30 donors and financiers were there as he went round the top.
I’ve spoken to someone who has been at events such as these recently. They are amazed at just how casual Kwarteng is about spraying bold, potentially market moving views around such events, on topics such as the governor of the Bank of England Andrew Bailey.
Some in the City worry such talk undermines the credibility of the UK’s independent financial institutions, after the watchdog OBR and Treasury expertise already came in the firing line. Careless talk costs credibility.
Another difficult moment, one of just many.
Many Tories think Liz Truss now needs to reset with her party this week to survive.
Ahead of the Conservative Party’s conference, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said it was “unacceptable” voters nor MPs had had any say on the new economic measures announced.
“The economy is not a laboratory experiment for the maddest scientists of the Conservative Party,” the Labour leader wrote in the Sunday Telegraph.
“The pain about to be inflicted on the whole country is the result of a prime minister and a chancellor wedded to a disastrous ideology.”
The conference will open today with a tribute to the Queen but it is Mr Kwarteng’s speech on Monday and Ms Truss’ closing speech on Wednesday that will command the political attention.