Kwasi Kwarteng Says He's "100% Not Going Anywhere" And Stands By Mini-Budget
Kwasi Kwarteng at Conservative party conference (Alamy)
Kwasi Kwarteng has insisted that the government's economic plans have not changed and vowed to fight on as chancellor despite growing speculation that ministers could make further concessions over the chaotic "mini-Budget".
In another turbulent day for government, reports emerged that Prime Minister Liz Truss was wavering on another major element of her fiscal agenda by raising corporation tax having originally promised not to.
Truss won the Tory leadership contest on a promise to keep corporation tax at its current level of 19 per cent, rather than take forward former chancellor Rishi Sunak's plan of raising it to 25 per cent.
Kwarteng also said today that he and Truss would still be in Downing Street in a month's time amid growing talk of Conservative MPs plotting to get rid of them.
"Absolutely, 100%. I'm not going anywhere," he said in Washington on Thursday, where he has held meetings with officials from the International Monetary Fund.
Truss and Kwarteng are under pressure to reverse their plans for sweeping tax cuts after several weeks of economic turmoil prompted the Bank of England to make two major interventions. The pound has fallen to historic lows since last month's fiscal statement, while soaring interest rates have made mortgages more expensive.
The prime minister has already scrapped a plan to abolish the 45p tax rate after pressure from Conservative MPs and she faces pressure from the back benches to change course further.
But the chancellor told reporters "our position hasn't changed" and insisted that he was still committed to setting out more details of the government's plans on Halloween.
"I will come up with the medium-term fiscal plan on 31 October as I said earlier in the week and there'll be more detail there," he said.
However, when asked specifically about corportation tax the chancellor did not rule out a U-turn.
"What I'm totally focused on is delivering on the mini budget, making sure that we get growth back into our economy," he said.
George Osborne, the former Conservative chancellor, joined the chorus of senior voices calling on the government to reverse the policy. He tweeted: "Given the pain being caused to the real economy by the financial turbulence, it’s not clear why it is in anyone’s interests to wait 18 more days before the inevitable u-turn on the mini budget."
Whether the government is able to hold the line until Halloween remains to be seen with such high levels of anger on the Conservative back benches.
The prime minister endured a bruising evening last night when her speech to the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs failed to abate their fury.
One Conservative MP who attended told PoliticsHome: "After tonight most Tory MPs accept that our current leader, given the decisions she took with the Fiscal Statement, can never provide the reassurance needed to arrest the loss of market confidence.
"She should never be trusted with a financial statement ever again. It is a bit like asking the gas engineer who has just blown up your house to come back and have another go."
Robert Halfon, who chairs the education select committee, accused Truss of "trashing workers' conservatism" and "everything the party has stood for over the last decade".
Support for the Conservatives has collapsed following the fallout of last month's fiscal statement, with opinion polls putting Keir Starmer's firmly on course to win the next general election.
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