Liz Truss shuts down calls for a general election
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Liz Truss has slammed a Labour MP who suggested she “give way to the public” amid a financial crisis and a looming recession, saying “the last thing we need is a general election”. The brief but direct answer elicited a chorus of laughter from the Tory backbenchers as the PM dismissed the calls for change in as little as four words after Labour MP Matt Western spoke for over a minute. Ms Truss was fielding questions from the leader of the opposition and the remaining MPs in the House of Commons as part of the first Prime Minister’s Questions of her tenure since the death of Queen Elizabeth II at the start of September.
Mr Western said: “I am not sure how you measure a good honeymoon, Mr Speaker, but after five weeks of a crisis conceived in Downing Street, crashing pensions, interest rates rising, mortgage market turmoil and complete financial chaos, the country has been left wanting divorce.
“In two recent polls, 60 percent of this country want an immediate general election.
“The Prime Minister claims she is in listening mode. Will she give way to the public?”
Ms Truss said: “Mr Speaker, I think the last thing we need is a general election.” As Conservative MPs erupted into laughter, the Prime Minister swiftly sat back down on the frontbench.
The Prime Minister faced MPs on Wednesday for the first time since Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s £43 billion mini-budget tax giveaway unleashed chaos in the financial markets.
Tories have returned to Westminster in a restive mood following the break for the party conferences, with their ratings tanking in opinion polls and economists questioning whether Mr Kwarteng’s plans are sustainable.
There was further turmoil on Tuesday after the Bank of England announced that its emergency support operation to protect pension funds would end this week.
Earlier, the Bank intervened for the second time in as many days to buy up Government bonds, warning of a “material risk to UK financial stability” with “fire sales” of assets if it did not act.
With the Institute for Fiscal Studies warning Mr Kwarteng will have to find £60 billion in public spending cuts if he persists with his tax plans, Tory MPs fear the Government’s reputation on the economy is suffering grievous damage among voters and markets alike.
After ministers refused to commit to uprating benefits in line with earnings – as Rishi Sunak had promised when he was chancellor – there are concerns also among Conservatives that it is the least well off who will end up paying the highest price.
In the Commons on Tuesday former Cabinet minister Julian Smith warned Mr Kwarteng that the Government must not balance tax cuts “on the back of the poorest people in our country”.
Ms Truss and Mr Kwarteng have already been forced to abandon plans to scrap the top 45p rate of tax in the face of a threatened revolt during the Tory Party conference last week in Birmingham.
There are questions as to whether they will have to make further retreats with some MPs deeply sceptical of their ability to make the numbers add up.
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According to the latest polling by Politico, correct up until October 9, more than half of the population would vote for the Labour Party if there was a general election in the next week.
Less than a quarter of respondents, in contrast, said they would vote for the Conservative Party, which represents a drop of roughly 15 points compared to this time last year.
And while Labour’s popularity overtook the Conservatives at the end of 2021 in light of further Partygate scandals, the gap has widened considerably since Liz Truss became Prime Minister on September 5, having remained at roughly eight points in the interim.
Since she was announced as PM by the late Queen on September 6, the Conservatives have lost six points in the popularity polls while the Labour Party have gained eight, leaving a gap now of 25 points in total.
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