British Prime Minister Liz Truss spoke Monday night to local media for the first time since her catastrophic mini-budget was almost entirely reversed by her new chancellor, taking the opportunity to apologize to the country.
“I do want to accept responsibility and say sorry for the mistakes that have been made,” Truss said in the interview.
“I put in place a new chancellor with a new strategy to restore economic stability, and now what I’m focused on is delivering for the public,” she said.
Truss’ position as prime minister is in serious doubt, with a handful of her MPs already publicly calling on her to resign.
She however pledged to “lead the Conservatives into the next general election.”
“I’m not focused on internal debates within the Conservative Party,” she said.
“We simply cannot afford to spend our time talking about the Conservative Party rather than what we need to deliver. That is my message to my colleagues,” she added.
“I completely acknowledge that there have been mistakes. I have acted swiftly to fix those mistakes. I’ve been honest about what those mistakes were, and what we now need to do is move forward and deliver for the country because that’s ultimately what people care about.”
Truss won the internal Conservative leadership election by promising to break with economic orthodoxy and borrow money to cut taxes in order to boost growth.
Asked whether her economic aims were no different, she said she “remains committed” to her vision, but that the government “will have to deliver that in a different way.”
“We have to make sure though that we have economic stability, and that has to be my priority as prime minister,” she said.
In a separate interview with Sky News late Monday, Jeremy Hunt, the new chancellor, called on the Conservatives to back Truss as prime minister.
“People who want her to go need to ask themselves whether more political instability is going to keep mortgage rates down,” he said.
“I don’t think political instability is the answer. She’s been prime minister for about five weeks and we need to give her a chance.”
“I would rather a leader who listens, learns and changes, and I think we would have more instability, much more instability, if we were to have a leadership process,” he added.
Hunt said he believed Truss would still be prime minister come Christmas and ruled himself out of running for prime minister himself, saying: “I rule it out, Mrs. Hunt rules it out, three Hunt children rule it out.”
-Truss under pressure
On Monday morning, Hunt made an emergency TV speech reversing almost all of the tax cuts in the unfunded mini-budget last month. The mini-budget was announced by his predecessor Kwasi Kwarteng and was in line with Truss’ economic vision.
Later on Monday, Hunt gave a longer statement in parliament expanding on his economic plans. He said there would be “decisions of eye-watering difficulty” to come as he sought to shore up Britain’s financial credibility in the eyes of the market.
Markets reacted positively, if modestly, to Hunt’s statements. Sterling rebounded slightly and gilt yields eased.
Labour Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves went on the attack, saying: “This is a Tory (Conservative) crisis made in Downing Street, but ordinary working people are paying the price. All that is left after these humiliating U-turns are higher mortgages for working people and higher bonuses for bankers.”
People would be “paying a Tory mortgage premium for years to come,” Reeves added.
Last week, Truss told parliament there were no planned cuts to public services, but Hunt said spending would have to fall in some areas.
Reeves said “the prime minister is barely in office, and she is certainly not in power. Only five days ago, she said at Prime Minister’s Questions there would be ‘absolutely’ no public spending reductions.”
“But after what we heard from the Chancellor today, every single public service is again at risk from the Conservatives, from our NHS nurses to our schools and to our servicemen and women, with the country paying the price for their incompetence.”
Truss sat next to Hunt for his statement but was not in parliament for an urgent question tabled by the Labour Party, which was to ask her about her decision to sack Hunt’s predecessor Kwarteng as Chancellor.
Instead, Penny Mordaunt, leader of the House of Commons and former leadership rival and potential successor, was asked to answer on the government’s behalf.
The result was humiliation, with Mordaunt having to tell parliament that Truss was “not under a desk” and was instead “detained on urgent business,” offering no further details on what that business was.
Opposition MPs jeered: “Where is she?”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer quipped: “The lady is not for turning – up”.
Starmer told Mordaunt: “I guess under this Tory government, everybody gets to be prime minister for 15 minutes.”