LONDON (AFP) — British Prime Minister Liz Truss struggled to stabilize her position on Tuesday after an economic crash forced her to make a humiliating U-turn on tax reforms, threatening her future as head of government.
“It is hard to imagine a more serious political and economic crisis in recent times than the one Britain is currently facing,” the right-wing newspaper The Daily Telegraph wrote in an editorial.
The paper, which previously supported Truss, wrote that unless her own MPs gave her “breath” she faced “the shame” of becoming the second shortest prime minister in the country’s history.
Truss was due to meet her cabinet on Tuesday and try to win the support of Tory MPs, some of whom have publicly said she has no future as prime minister.
She was due to stand outside Parliament for a Prime Minister’s Question Time on Wednesday.
Right-wing tabloid Sun dubbed Truss “The Ghost PM” on Tuesday, while left-wing tabloid The Mirror called the situation a “catastrophic humiliation”.
The embattled prime minister apologized in a BBC interview on Monday for going “too far too fast” with reforms a month after taking office.
It comes after her new Treasury Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, scrapped nearly all of the debt-fueled tax cuts announced last month in a budget by his sacked predecessor, Kwasi Kwarteng, in a brief televised statement on Monday.
Hunt told parliament that he and Truss ‘agreed yesterday to reverse almost all the tax measures announced in the growth plan three weeks ago’, flanked by a fierce-faced Truss.
The announcement came as the ruling Conservative party slipped away from Truss in opinion polls amid reversals and the UK’s worsening cost of living crisis.
VERY BRITISH COUP
The British media compared Hunt’s dramatic intervention to a coup, with The Telegraph caricaturing him as a medal-winning generalissimo “temporarily taking control to stabilize the situation”.
“It was a very British stunt. So polite, almost unnoticed,” wrote The Guardian.
Tory MP Roger Gale said Hunt had become the “de facto prime minister” as several MPs publicly urged her to leave and others reportedly planned to impeach her.
“I think their position is untenable,” Tory MP Charles Walker told Sky News.
“If she doesn’t go now, it won’t be her decision,” he warned.
Armed Forces minister James Heappey reassured British media on Tuesday morning that Truss had “admitted” her mistake, but admitted she could not repeat such mistakes.
Asked by Sky News if Truss was Prime Minister ‘in name only’, Heappey insisted: ‘She was very open about the mistake that was made and she apologized for it… There is a role of leadership in this.”
But he conceded that ‘given the volatility of our politics…I don’t think there is an opportunity to make more mistakes’.
Truss fired her close friend Kwarteng on Friday after her tax cut package sent bond yields skyrocketing and the pound plunge to a record low in dollar terms over fears of soaring UK debt – sparking intense speculation about him a month after taking office.
Truss had already engineered two embarrassing U-turns in the budget, scrapping tax cuts for top earners and for corporate profits.
Hunt’s change in strategy included reducing Truss’ announced cap of £2,500 on energy bills for all Britons from two years to six months, after which he promised a new approach.
Hunt estimated the tax changes would bring in around £32billion ($36billion) a year after economists estimated the government was facing a £60billion black hole. He also warned of severe spending cuts.
Shares in Hunt on Monday pushed the pound higher against the dollar and the euro, while bond yields fell.
- AFP/ additional report by Editor