Liz Truss has apologized for her ‘mistakes’ and pledged to lead the Tories in the next general election as she fights for her job after a bonfire of her tax cut plans.
The prime minister said she had “adjusted what we were doing” after the government’s fiscal policies spooked markets, putting in place a new chancellor with a new strategy to “restore economic stability”.
We have gone too far too fast. I recognized that
“I think that’s the mark of an honest politician saying yes, I made a mistake,” she said.
The prime minister is fighting to save her job as prime minister after her economic agenda was torn to shreds by the dismantling of her former chancellor’s historic mini-budget.
Speaking after being silent in the House of Commons for around 30 minutes as Jeremy Hunt – the new Chancellor – told MPs he was cutting the energy support package and abandoning most of the tax cuts announced by his predecessor, Ms Truss said she wanted to ‘accept responsibility and apologize for the mistakes that were made’.
“I wanted to take action…to help people with their energy bills, to fix high taxes, but we went too far too fast. I recognized it,” she told the BBC.
Ms Truss became Prime Minister after winning the Tory leadership race on promises to drastically cut taxes.
But she has been humbled by a series of U-turns after last month’s so-called “tax event” sparked chaos in markets.
In the three weeks after the ex-chancellor’s mini-budget, the pound hit its lowest point in history, the interest rate on government loans hit a 30-year high and London stocks crashed to a 19-month low.
The turmoil eventually led to the downfall of Kwasi Kwarteng, with Mr Hunt – a supporter of Ms Truss’ rival Rishi Sunak in the Tory leadership race – chosen to take the reins of the Treasury.
On Monday, he tore up the prime minister’s economic strategy, backing away from cutting the basic income tax rate in April and freezing alcohol taxes from February.
The government had already scrapped plans to scrap the 45p income tax rate for high earners and backed away from its promise not to raise corporation tax.
The pound and UK government bonds rallied in response to Mr Hunt’s emergency declaration, while economists suggested the Chancellor’s approach could lessen the need for dramatic interest rate hikes.
Plans to reduce national insurance contributions and reduce stamp duty, already under discussion in Parliament, will continue.
Ms Truss told the BBC she could not deliver ‘everything’ she had hoped for, but is committed to following her growth agenda.
“Yeah…I couldn’t deliver everything I wanted,” she said.
“I have provided the energy price guarantee and the national insurance and we will continue to work to ensure the economic growth of our country.
“This week we are introducing new legislation to ensure rail services run smoothly and commuters can get to work, and we were dealing with militant unions. We will therefore continue to implement our program.
Asked if she felt humbled by the drastic change of course, the prime minister said things hadn’t been “perfect”, referring to a “difficult time”.
“I expected it to be tough, and it was tough, I think it’s fair to say,” she said.
She said it had been ‘painful’ to fire Mr Kwarteng, but insisted she had made the ‘right decision’.
I will stay in the job to deliver for the national interest
“It was right that we changed our policy. It is true that we have a new chancellor. And now what I’m determined to do is make sure it 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 was ‘staying’ because she had been ‘elected to deliver for this country’, adding: ‘I will lead the Conservatives in the next general election.
“I will stay at work to serve 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 grew on Monday night, with five Tories now openly calling for him to leave after just six weeks in office.
I think his position is untenable. She put her colleagues, the country, through an enormous amount of unnecessary pain, upheaval and worry.
Sir Charles Walker was the latest to plead for his release.
He told Sky News’ Beth Rigby: ‘I think his position is untenable. She put her colleagues, the country, in a huge amount of unnecessary pain, upset and worry.
The situation “can only be corrected” with “a new prime minister”, he said.
Earlier, the Prime Minister’s press secretary said there was no moment on Monday when Ms Truss thought her time was up.
Conservative Party chairman Jake Berry said the focus was on “unity” as Ms Truss addressed a rally by the One Nation group of Tory MPs in Westminster.
He said she had been “exceptional” and that he hadn’t heard any irritation towards her at the meeting, although it continued.