Liz Truss’ tax U-turn — are the Conservatives detached from reality?
With further economic decline and repeated U-turns, Benedict Thompson evaluates the current state of government representation.
In a series of TV interviews this week, Truss admitted her decision to scrap the 45p tax rate had become a “distraction” but refused to say the policy was wrong. The tax cut for the wealthiest one per cent was one of a series of proposals as part of Liz Truss’ tax-cutting mini-budget plan.
“I listened to people. There is absolutely no shame in a leader listening to people and responding. I have been totally honest and upfront with people that everything I have done as Prime Minister is focused on helping people get through what is a very difficult winter”. Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng said, “we listened to people, I get it”.
The PM risked humiliation as she said slashing taxes for the wealthiest earners “was a decision that the Chancellor had made”. Yet last week, Kwarteng denied his mini budget had been a mistake. The U-turn raises questions over whether the Conservatives really know what they are planning on doing to keep the economy stable.
“The smell of burning rubber from Lizz Truss’ recent U-turn is choking everybody across the country”
A jaw-dropping poll by YouGov has found that 72 per cent of the country thinks that the Conservative Party are out of touch. The originally proposed mini budget plan would have benefitted bankers the most, whilst ordinary families are struggling to cope with this winter’s cost of living crisis. Truss’ alleged mission in politics for every person to have “the best opportunity to succeed”, yet 59 per cent of students receive some financial support from their parents, and Truss’ tax cuts will most likely affect this as average families will have to pay £1,500 extra on their mortgages in the next two years. Ultimately, Truss’ plan was a display of the wrong values, and Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng offer no vision for the country.
Penny Mourdant has become the first Cabinet minister to urge the Government to increase benefits in line with inflation, stating that it “makes more sense”, as well as Michael Gove stating “It’s going to be very, very, very difficult to argue that it is right to reduce welfare when we’re also reducing taxes for the wealthiest”. However, Ms Truss has so far refused to commit to uprating benefits in line with inflation, but insisted the Government “is looking at all of these issues very carefully”.
“This is absolutely not what the country voted for back in 2019”
On top of this, the 2019 Manifesto and Truss’ Agenda are polar opposites. We are seeing today the outcome of Truss’ big growth agenda- but she lacks the parliamentary majority for it. It is hard to rationalise the prime minister holding political authority whilst being elected by less than 0.2 per cent of voters in the UK. To further concern for her leadership, Truss’ big opponents did not attend the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham this year, alongside the fact she already faces the possibility of parliamentary rebellions.
Moreover, this is absolutely not what the country voted for back in 2019. Those in power under Johnson’s government would have criticised Truss’ mini budget plan, as just a few months ago Johnson and Sunak were announcing tax rises to pay for public services. The Conservatives have 18 months to prove their worth. But now, one has to ask what is the actual point of this government.