Hunt says Truss has ‘changed’ as he warns of spending cuts and tax rises
Jeremy Hunt has claimed Liz Truss has “changed” after the bruising last month as he warns of coming spending cuts and tax rises.
The new chancellor said “spending is not going to increase by as much as people hoped” and that “taxes are not going to go down as quickly as people thought and some taxes are going to go up”.
It comes as the first two Tory MPs – Crispin Blunt and Andrew Bridgen – publicly called for Truss to resign.
Hunt was appointed as chancellor on Friday, after Kwasi Kwarteng was sacked just 39 days into the job.
Truss has been forced to scrap large parts of her and Kwarteng’s tax-cutting mini-Budget in a bid to calm financial markets, which reacted very poorly to a proposed package of £45bn in debt-funded tax cuts.
Truss has scrapped plans to cut the top rate of Income Tax, will now increase Corporation Tax after cancelling the hike and Hunt is set to now also delay a cut to the basic rate of Income Tax.
“We are going to have to take some very difficult decisions, both on spending and on tax,” Hunt told the BBC.
“I want to reassure families who are worried that our priority, the lens through which we’re going to do it, is a passionate Conservative government.”
It was widely seen that Kwarteng, one of the Prime Minister’s closest friends in politics, was sacrificed to try and save Truss’ premiership.
Hunt – a moderate Rishi Sunak supporter – was pushed by the BBC on why people should believe anything Truss has to say now her entire Tory leadership campaign platform has been reversed.
“She’s listened, she’s changed, she’s been willing to do that most difficult thing in politics – which is to change tack,” he said.
“She has changed the way we’re going to get there, she hasn’t changed the destination which is to get the country growing.”
The Prime Minister’s position is now under serious threat from within her own party, with rumours abound of plots to oust her already.
Crispin Blunt became the first Tory MP to publicly call for Truss to go today, telling Channel 4 “I think the game’s up and it’s now a question as to how the succession is managed”.
“I would be very, very surprised if there are people dying in a ditch to keep Liz Truss as our prime minister,” he said.
“What we need to effect is a transition to some kind of transition to a combination of the talents of Rishi Sunak, Penny Mordaunt and Jeremy Hunt in the top leadership positions in the party.”
Media reports over the past week have suggested Rishi Sunak, Penny Mordaunt and Ben Wallace are all possibilities to be placed into Number 10 by Tory MPs without having another wider leadership contest.
Tory MP Robert Halfon told Sky News today that Truss and Kwarteng “looked like libertarian jihadists and treated the whole country as kind of laboratory mice in which to carry out kind of ultra-ultra-free market experiments and this is not where the country is”.
“It’s inevitable that colleagues are all talking to see what can be done about it and that’s why I hope very much in the next few days the government has a dramatic reset,” he said.
Truss is now 4/5 to leave office in 2022 with Betfair, which would make her the shortest ever serving Prime Minister.
Hunt’s early warnings about the “difficult decisions” that need to be taken have led many pundits to suggest he is already in charge instead of Truss.
Hunt said today that “the Prime Minister’s in charge”.
Speaking about his first meeting with Truss as chancellor, he said: “What I saw is someone who is absolutely determined to do the right thing and someone who recognises that means you might not be popular and someone who recognises that some of the way she’s tried to do things in the last few weeks haven’t worked as planned.”
Former health secretary Matt Hancock today told the BBC that Truss must have a cabinet reshuffle to bring more moderates into her cabinet.
He also told Truss to stop “slagging off the institutions that are the bedrock of prosperity”.
“Organisations like the Bank of England, like the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – you can’t just go around saying they’ve all got it wrong,” he said.