London:British Prime Minister Liz Truss insisted she would not quit on Wednesday as she faced questions from booing MPs at her first Question Time session since abandoning her disastrous tax-slashing economic policies.
Truss faced hostile questioning from opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer, who asked the House of Commons: “What’s the point of a prime minister whose promises don’t even last a week?”
Starmer mocked Truss by leading his MPs in chants of “Gone, gone!” as he read out a list of her dropped policies. “Why is she still here?” he concluded.
Truss responded defiantly: “I am a fighter and not a quitter”, insisting that “I am someone who is prepared to front up. I’m prepared to take the tough decisions”.
She insisted: “I have acted in the national interest to make sure that we have economic stability.”
The session took place less than 48 hours after new finance minister Jeremy Hunt dismembered Truss’s flagship tax plans in a humiliating blow. He sat at her side in parliament, nodding along to her responses.
While castigating Truss for conducting “an economic experiment on the British public”, Starmer said dismissively: “How could she be held to account when she’s not in charge?”
At least five Conservative party MPs have already publicly called for her to be replaced amid catastrophic popularity ratings.
Polls show Truss’s personal and party ratings have plummeted, with YouGov saying Tuesday that — within six weeks of taking power — she had become the most unpopular leader it has ever tracked.
A separate survey of party members found less than two months after electing her Tory leader and prime minister, a majority now think she should go.
Foreign minister James Cleverly defended Truss on Sky News on Wednesday, however, saying he was “far, far from convinced” that “defenestrating another prime minister will either convince the British people that we’re thinking about them or convince the markets to stay calm”.
Meanwhile, the main Labour opposition has opened up huge poll leads over the ruling Conservatives, amid the recent fallout as well as the worsening cost-of-living crisis, with inflation jumping above 10 per cent on Wednesday on soaring food prices.
More than three-quarters of people disapprove of the government — the highest in 11 years, YouGov said.
The government’s September 23 mini-budget — which slashed a host of taxes without curbing spending — sent bond yields spiking and the pound collapsing to a record dollar-low on fears of rocketing UK debt.
Truss last week staged two U-turns, scrapping planned tax cuts for the richest earners and on company profits, and fired her close ally Kwasi Kwarteng as finance minister.
After appointing Hunt as his successor, she agreed to further reverse course, axing almost all the other cuts and partially rowing back on energy price support for consumers.
A cap on costs was set to last two years, but will now end for many next April.
Hunt’s warnings of further “eye-watering cuts” prompted reports that the government could stop indexing current pensions to inflation and use earnings as a benchmark instead, breaking a manifesto commitment and dividing MPs.
Truss said in parliament that she would maintain the commitment, however.
During the summer leadership campaign which saw Truss beat former chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak to succeed ex-premier Boris Johnson, she vowed not to reduce public spending.
But after the economic tumult of recent weeks saw government borrowing rates spiral, Truss and Hunt have warned of “difficult decisions” and urged government departments to find savings.
Opposition parties are demanding she stand down and a general election — not due for two years — is held.
“Will she do the decent thing and go and call a general election?” Labour MP Sarah Owen asked in parliament.
Under current party rules Truss cannot be challenged by a no-confidence vote in her first year, but speculation is rife the rules could be changed to allow for a ballot.
Conservative lawmakers so far have failed to coalesce around a contender to replace her, with Johnson and Sunak both touted but each likely to draw significant opposition from factions within the party.