Truss government hit by budget confusion and coup accusations

Kwarteng refuses to say he will bring forward budget as Braverman says Tory MPs have ‘undermined’ prime minister

Liz Truss’s government is in chaos after the chancellor refused to confirm he would bring forward his budget to calm the markets and the home secretary accused fellow MPs of a coup against the prime minister.

Cabinet discipline also appeared to have broken down on Tuesday, as two ministers, Robert Buckland and Penny Mordaunt, suggested they did not back the idea of cutting benefits — an idea floated by those close to No 10.

Ms Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng embarked on a round of media interviews intended to convey a message that they were getting a grip after the damaging U-turn on the abolition of the top rate of tax. However, they caused more confusion as both said their medium-term fiscal plan would still happen on November 23rd despite government sources having briefed that it would be brought forward to try to reassure the markets.

Adding to the sense of open warfare in the party, Suella Braverman, the home secretary, accused Tory MPs of having “staged a coup and undermined the PM in an unprofessional way” to force the reversal of the abolition of the 45p rate.


“We are one party, the prime minister has been elected. She has got a serious mandate to deliver. She did talk about tax cuts all through the summer in a pretty exhausting process. She is doing what it said on the tin,” she told the Telegraph’s Chopper’s Politics podcast.

She was backed by Simon Clarke, the levelling up secretary, who said: “Suella speaks a lot of good sense, as usual.”

This was, however, contested by backbench MPs, including Simon Hoare and Steve Double, who said they had been sticking up for their constituents in opposing the abolition of the 45p rate.

Backbenchers also expressed outrage at Braverman’s suggestion of a “coup” against Truss. Mr Double, the MP for St Austell and Newquay, said: “Doing what we believe to be right for our constituents is not ‘a coup’ or unprofessional. It’s called doing our job as backbench MPs. If this is the approach the cabinet take, we’re in for a bumpy time.”

Mr Hoare, the chair of the Northern Ireland select committee, said: “Representing one’s constituents is not a coup.”

Grant Shapps, the former party chair and ex-cabinet minister, underlined the seriousness of the situation facing Ms Truss as he suggested she had 10 days to turn her leadership round.

Speaking to the News Agents podcast, he said: “I think if you’re honest, the next 10 days is a critical period of time, she’s got a conference speech to make after a very difficult few days, she’s got the MPs coming back together again for the first time since things became choppy, of course, I mean, it’d be ludicrous to say anything else. But is it possible? Yes, it is possible, and I’m cheering her on to do it.”

Despite a strengthening in the pound after speculation he would bring forward the fiscal event to October, the chancellor told GB News on Tuesday he was sticking to the original date. Asked what he had meant by saying the fiscal plan would be published shortly, he said: “Shortly is the 23rd. People reading the runes ... it’s going to be the 23rd.”

MS Truss repeated that the fiscal plan would be published on that date when speaking to GB News. “We’ve got the date of 23 November. This is when we are going to set out the OBR [Office for Budget Responsibility] forecast, but also the medium-term fiscal plan.

“What we’ve done is we’ve had to take very urgent action to deal with the issues we face ... energy plan, inflation and the slowing global economy. We’ve dealt with that ... now we want to set out our plans to bring down debt as a proportion of GDP in the medium term.”

Government sources, however, continued to brief that No 10 and No 11 were considering bringing the date forward. The lack of clarity is likely to cause consternation among Conservative MPs, especially those who had pressed the government to bring forward the date of its fiscal update to try to help reassure the markets.

Mel Stride, the Conservative chair of the Treasury committee, has called for the OBR forecasts to be published immediately and the government’s plans to be brought forward to the end of October, before the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee meets to consider interest rates.

In his GB News interview, Mr Kwarteng also suggested that the mini-budget had been brought forward in the “high pressure” aftermath of the Queen’s death.

“We had a nation in mourning and then, literally, four days after the funeral we had the mini-budget,” the chancellor said. “It was a high speed, high pressure environment and we could, as David Cameron used to say, have prepared the pitch a bit better.”

There also appeared to be signs of tension at the top after Ms Truss raised eyebrows as she refused to say in an interview with Sky News that she trusted Mr Kwarteng.

However, she later corrected that in an interview with Talk TV, saying: “I do trust the chancellor, absolutely. The chancellor is a very close colleague of mine, we work very closely together.”

The next battle for Ms Truss is likely to be over the issue of spending cuts to fund tax cuts set out in the mini-budget, as two cabinet ministers said they would not be able to support a reduction in benefits.

Ms Mordaunt, the former leadership candidate and leader of the House of Commons, told Times Radio: “I have always supported, whether it’s pensions, whether it’s our welfare system, keeping pace with inflation. It makes sense to do so. That’s what I voted for before and so have a lot of my colleagues. Obviously, we want to make sure people are looked after, we want to make sure that people are able to pay their bills, we have a huge success story on getting people off welfare and into work.”

Mr Buckland, the Welsh secretary, told the station: “I’ve always had the back of people in need. The safety net is an important part of what a one nation Conservative is all about. I believe in not just enabling those who can to succeed, but to support those who genuinely cannot share in that growth and prosperity because of disability or other disadvantage.”

Chloe Smith, the work and pensions secretary, is also understood to be concerned about changing the formula and privately cabinet ministers have predicted it will not survive as a policy. Two other former work and pensions secretaries, Damian Green and Iain Duncan Smith, have also objected to the change.

Mr Duncan Smith said cutting the incomes of the poorest “doesn’t make sense” for growth. “We are going to give out on the cost of living, which is huge ... but, at the same time, it wouldn’t make a huge amount of sense then to withdraw some of that by actually reducing or not uprating benefits at the same time.” - Guardian