Truss tasked with winning over angry MPs at Conservative Party conference

PM needs to convince critics of value of radical economic growth plan amid plummeting pound and soaring borrowing costs

British prime minister Liz Truss heads to her Conservative Party conference this weekend with a packed diary of “meet and greets” to try to win over MPs angry over an economic plan that triggered market chaos and badly eroded support.

Less than a month into her tenure as prime minister, Ms Truss is fighting to win backing for a radical economic plan aimed at spurring growth but which instead sent the pound to record lows and the cost of government borrowing spiralling.

For some voters, the market chaos initially felt removed from everyday life but as soon as mortgage lenders started pulling their products and signs emerged that the country’s pensions could be at risk, attitudes began to turn.

Support for the governing party has plummeted. Polls show opposition Labour taking commanding leads, with one saying the party was a record 33 points ahead – which, if replicated at an election, would see dozens of Conservatives voted out.


Ms Truss has shown no sign of changing tack even in the face of criticism from the International Monetary Fund and from governments which fear the impact of her plan on a global financial system weighed down by debt.

Duration of tenure

Instead, at the conference starting on Sunday, she plans to woo her MPs, particularly those who backed her leadership rival, former chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak. She must convince them to give her time to secure the kind of economic growth that has eluded Britain for at least a decade.

If she fails to win the party over, her tenure before an election expected in 2024 could be cut short.

Some Sunak supporters said they were ready to give her the benefit of the doubt.

“My side lost, Liz deserves our support to give her exciting new agenda the best possible chance,” one Conservative MP said on condition of anonymity.

Another, who also backed Mr Sunak, said the strategy was “misjudged” but it would be “ridiculous” for the party to try to remove her. “We shouldn’t panic yet... We need to give them time to turn this around.”

Some Conservative parliamentarians want Ms Truss to immediately reverse the scrapping of the highest rate of income tax, or modify a message they feel suggests the government does not care about either the markets or the voters struggling to make ends meet.

Ms Truss, though, has said she will not make a U-turn and is looking at the next steps in her plan.

As markets tumbled on Monday, Ms Truss was in her Downing Street office working on those next steps, a source close to her said, referring to further expected measures that some describe as harking back to former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s pursuit of deregulation and a small state.

‘Global headwind’

Her supporters say they knew her tax-cutting package would be met with opposition from the “establishment” but that the market reaction was overblown, a result in part of a jump in US interest rates and what they call “global headwinds”.

But even some of them suggest Ms Truss and her team should have spent more time preparing investors for a plan which ignored the convention that governments explain how they will fund their promises.

Ms Truss’s team says that will come later – mapping out spending costs when it’s clear how much revenue comes in.

One Conservative party insider said the team failed to explain the depth of Britain’s problems and then “sounded ideological in a vacuum”.

It is criticism Ms Truss’s team understands but, with an election due in 2024, she had to act fast, sources close to her said. Ms Truss and chancellor of the exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng now have moved to try to ease concerns in financial institutions, but are sticking to the plan.

Patrick Minford, an economist who defended Thatcher’s policies and who Ms Truss cited as the expert who backed her tax-cutting plans, told reporters on Thursday she should press on. “Truss needs to keep doling out the medicine.” – Reuters