Liz Truss’ waning power brings political intrigue and jokes

LONDON (AP) — Helpless, humiliated, branded a “ghost” prime minister and compared unfavorably to a head of lettuce — it’s not been a good week for Liz Truss.

Britain’s prime minister was battling to regain power on Tuesday after her economic plans were torn apart and rejected by a Treasury chief she was forced to appoint to avoid a meltdown in financial markets.

Truss remains in power, for now, largely because her Conservative Party is split over how to replace her.

As part of a bid as usual, Truss held a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday and met with lawmakers from rival Tory factions, saying keeping her in office can provide stability, even if she had to give up the quasi- entirety of the prospectus on which she was elected a party. chef just six weeks ago.

Chastised but defiant, Truss acknowledged on Monday that “mistakes had been made” – but insisted she would lead the Tories in the next national election.

Few believe it. The lively and partisan British press is unusually united in the opinion that Truss is doomed. Conservative tabloid The Sun called her a “phantom PM” and said “for the good of the country we can’t go on like this”. The left-leaning Guardian compared the Tories to the crew of a mutineer ship, saying “Truss did not quit his party. But that seems to have left her.

After The Economist said Truss’ time in government – ahead of the Sept. 23 “mini budget” that ignited markets – was “about the shelf life of a lettuce”, the tabloid Daily Star put up a live stream featuring a photo of the Prime Minister next to an iceberg head, adorned with a blonde wig, eyes and a mouth. He asks “Can Liz Truss survive this lettuce?” – which, after five days, gradually turns brown.

Truss initially tried to stay the course after his government’s 45 billion pound ($50 billion) package of unfunded tax cuts spooked markets, pushing up government borrowing costs, increasing mortgage costs and causing the pound to fall to a historic low against the dollar. The Bank of England was forced to step in to protect pension funds, which were squeezed by bond market volatility.

Under intense political and economic pressure, Truss sacked ally Kwasi Kwarteng as Treasury chief last week, replacing him with Cabinet veteran Jeremy Hunt, who had been sidelined since 2019.

On Monday, Hunt scrapped nearly all of Truss’ tax cuts, along with his flagship energy policy and his promise that there will be no government spending cuts, saying there remained “many tough decisions ” coming.

The market for UK government bonds and the pound weakened on Tuesday as relief from the government’s decision to abandon unfunded tax cuts was tempered by recognition that the new policies will likely lead to a slowdown of economic growth.

The pound fell 0.75% against the US dollar to $1.1273 in late morning London, after jumping 1.2% on Monday. Yields on 10-year government bonds rose to 4.081% after falling to 3.973% on Monday. Bond yields, which represent the return investors receive on their money, tend to rise as a borrower’s creditworthiness declines and decline as it improves.

“While one could argue that yesterday’s measures have stabilized public finances in the short term and brought the UK back into the pack when it comes to the market’s perception of fiscal responsibility, one has to ask what will the economy price next year,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK.

With opinion polls giving the opposition Labor Party a large and growing lead, many Tories now believe their only hope of avoiding electoral oblivion is to replace Truss.

Under Conservative Party rules, Truss is immune from a leadership challenge for one year, but those rules can be changed if enough lawmakers want it. Some conservative lawmakers also believe Truss may be forced to resign if the party can agree on a successor. But the many divisions within the party – whose factions range from far-right Brexiteers to centrist ‘One Nation’ conservatives – make this a challenge.

Truss’ defeated rival Rishi Sunak, House of Commons leader Penny Mordaunt and popular Defense Secretary Ben Wallace all have supporters, as does Hunt, whom many already consider the de facto prime minister. Some even want the return of Boris Johnson, who was ousted this summer after being embroiled in ethics scandals.

A national election is not due until 2024, and some conservatives say Truss should be given a second chance. But lawmaker Charles Walker said if Truss led the party in the next election, “I think we’ll be out (of power) for 15 years.”

The chaos is unprecedented, even for a country that has seen much political turmoil in recent years. Since the shock 2016 referendum to leave the European Union, Britain has seen years of bitter feuds with the EU, two general elections and three prime ministers.

“British politics and economics are upset from time to time, like many countries,” said Tony Travers, visiting professor in the Department of Government at the London School of Economics. “But the two come together – where a political crisis effectively causes an economic crisis, which the government then has to try to extricate itself from – I think it’s pretty much without parallel.”


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