Although he was in office for only a month, the British Prime Minister Les Truss She must give the speech of her life on Wednesday if she is to put the nascent premiership back on track.
Her government was forced to submit a file U-turn screaming on Monday on a proposal to cut the UK’s highest income tax rate, a move seen as insensitively helping the wealthy at the same time as Britons are grappling with their worst cost-of-living crisis in decades.
It was clear on Sunday night, even as Truss addressed a private reception at her Conservative party’s annual conference in Birmingham, that the tax cut simply did not have enough support from MPs. This means her finance minister’s mini-budget, which has also included measures to help people pay energy bills, is unlikely to survive a vote in the House of Commons.
Opposition is rarely displayed soon after a new leader has taken over a political party. But at this Sunday night special event, organized by the influential website ConservativeHome, CNN watched several prominent governors — including cabinet ministers — spit gears into a crowded room, defending a tax cut that was just hours away from being in existence. Disconnected.
On Tuesday, Truss’ enemies turned their focus to forcing her to honor a pledge made under the last prime minister, Boris Johnson, to raise welfare payments in line with inflation. At the time of writing, the government insisted it would not collapse again, although one of Truss’ ministers had endorsed doing so in a radio interview.
Several Conservative MPs told CNN Monday night and Tuesday morning that if she doesn’t use Wednesday’s speech to assert her power over the party, they fear the opposition will only get worse. open treason It could undermine the entire government.
Allies and foes take different views on the merits of the tax cuts, but they all agree on one thing: The messages about both the policy and the turn have been weak.
“I wouldn’t have done it in the first place, but abandoning major policy during our convention after insisting it stays, and then blaming everyone else, makes us seem completely untrustworthy,” said one conservative who calls the “red wall,” a term referring to To seats in the north of England traditionally vote for the Labor Party but supported Boris Johnson in the last election.
Truss has tried to distance herself from the policy, telling the BBC on Sunday morning that the order came from Finance Minister Kwasi Quarting, leading to allegations that she was dumping him. “Under the bus.”
Kwarteng was to address party faithful from the convention podium on Monday. He gave a short defensive speech in which he called the tax cuts a “distraction” — a term that clearly became the official line of the party after the policy was dropped, given the number of ministers using it.
Kwarteng and his party were keen to let the British know that we “understand” and “we need to move on”. It might be a little more difficult for Truss to simply wash her hands of this PR nightmare.
At press time, CNN is aware that its advisors are planning her speech on Wednesday to include a short and concise explanation of what happened and why, although no apology likely was offered.
They are keen to come to terms with the fact that the UK has pledged to cap household and commercial energy bills, costing the government billions of pounds.
“Have we not pledged enough already on energy?” A senior adviser to Truss told CNN.
This may not be enough. Many in Birmingham were appalled by how defensive Quarting’s speech was and how little it had been revealed.
Adding to the sense of chaos in the party, Home Secretary Suella Braverman told The Telegraph’s Chopper Policy Podcast that those who forced Truss to abandon his tax cut plan “have staged a coup and undermined the prime minister in an unprofessional way”.
Grant Shapps, Johnson’s former transportation secretary, told the News Agents podcast that Truss has 10 days to change her leadership, according to a partial transcript of the interview. chirp before publishing.
One senior Conservative said Truss would need to “show us something that gives us hope that we have a chance to win the next election”.
It has not yet been decided if she plans to pull any rabbits out of the hats on Wednesday. Many of her deputies would like to see some big-ticket policies on investing in disadvantaged areas or national infrastructure, the kinds of policies Johnson usually unveils in similar forums, according to her advisers.
However, Truss’ goal to be a leader was to cut taxes, and he is a conservative from a small country. One of the prime minister’s top advisers told CNN Tuesday morning that these big-ticket policies wouldn’t be her style and unless they were genuinely “game-changing” they would look “desperate” and “cynical.”
Moreover, conservatives across the party say that even if Truss wanted to pledge big spending, it would be out of step with the economic picture she and her ministers have painted.
Which leaves Truss somewhere between a rock and a hard place come midday in Birmingham on Wednesday. The leader’s speech at the party convention is a focal point of the political calendar. It’s an opportunity for the government to take pride in its record and mobilize forces for the next 12 months.
Instead, the prime minister will spend Wednesday trying to pick a party that she and her government have faltered and thrown to the ground. She needs to offer her allies enough ideological purity to renew their support, while giving those who reject her mandate to disrupt Johnson’s agenda enough rewards to keep them quiet.
She must do this because morale in her party is in a precarious state. Deputies with huge majorities speak privately as if they have already lost their seats, talking to people at beverage events around the conference about their next career moves. Truss needs to restore discipline in her government and across the entire party.
Many people, from party insiders to lobbyists to European diplomats, agreed that this looks like a party on its way out of government. That doesn’t mean it’s inevitable, and Truss could turn things around before January 2025, the deadline to call the next general election. But unless conservatives can pull themselves out of their melancholy and slumber, that thick feeling of dread can become all-consuming. And often in politics, the most dangerous thing is not a set of policies or the rise of opposition, but a creeping sense of the inevitability that the end is near.
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