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UK’s Truss stands by ‘disruption’ agenda despite Tory doubts

UK Prime Minister Liz Truss vowed on Wednesday to shake off the chaos caused by her tax-cutting economic agenda, saying the “disruption” would pay off in a wealthier, more efficient Britain.

Truss ended a chaotic Conservative conference in the central English city of Birmingham with a speech aimed at reviving delegates’ spirits. She told them: “I am ready to make the tough choices” and branded many critics – from opposition parties, trade unions, environmental protesters and the media – as an “anti-growth coalition”.

Many Tories are in a confused mood after the four-day meeting, fearing the party will lose the next national election under Truss, who has seen policy U-turns from the government, dire opinion polls and open revolt from lawmakers, having just taken power. After winning the party leadership vote a month ago.

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UK Prime Minister Liz Truss smiles during her hotly anticipated speech at the Conservative Party conference. (AP)

The Truss has pledged to stick to its plan to shore up Britain’s economy through tax cuts and austerity in an effort to end years of sluggish growth. Cutting taxes is “the morally and economically right thing to do,” she said.

“In these difficult times, we must come forward. I am determined to keep Britain moving, to weather the storm and make us stronger as a nation,” she said, pledging to “stand by our Ukrainians”. Friends, how long will it take.”

Seeking a playful tone, Truss took the stage to the strains of the 1990s hit. Moving up. The founder of the band behind the song, M People, said he was “livid”. Mike Pickering says he hopes Truss sees the song’s lyrics — “Move out of here, baby, pack your bags.”

Two Greenpeace activists asked “Who voted for this?” The speech was interrupted for a while when the banner was unfurled. – and carried out of the hall to boos from the audience. Truss shrugged.

“Anytime there’s change there’s disruption,” she says. “Not everyone will be in favor. But everyone will benefit from the outcome – a growing economy and a better future. That’s what we have a clear plan to deliver.”

The pound, which has been on a roller-coaster ride since Truss unveiled his economic proposals last month, fell about 1 percent to $US1.136 ($1.76) after the speech.

The currency hit a record high of $US1.03 ($1.60) on September 23, soon after Truss announced a stimulus package of £45 billion ($78.8 billion) in tax cuts to be paid for by government borrowing. The Bank of England had to intervene to prop up the bond market and stop a wider financial crisis.

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Liz Truss set the scene to the strains of the 1990s hit Moving On Up. The founder of the band behind the song, M People, said he was “livid”. (AP)

Under political and economic pressure, the government on Monday scrapped the most unpopular part of its budget package: a tax cut on incomes above £150,000 ($262,000) a year. This would save around £2 billion, a small share of the government’s £45 billion tax cut plan. Many economists say deep public spending cuts are needed to pay the rest.

The government says it will publish a fully-costed fiscal plan on November 23, along with an independent economic forecast.

The Truss defended the chaotic rollout of its economic measures, saying that, at extraordinary times, it was “a mistake not to move forward faster with our energy and tax plan”.

Truss argued that his policies would bring economic growth, higher wages and ultimately more tax revenue for government to spend. Critics say the plans do little to help millions of people who are currently struggling with a cost-of-living crisis due to rising fuel prices.

Truss stressed she was committed to supporting the most vulnerable, referring to the cap on fuel prices that came into effect on October 1. But she refused to promise that benefits and state pensions would rise in line with inflation, which has been customary for years.

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Foreign Secretary James Cleverley, Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng and Health Secretary Therese Coffey await British Prime Minister Liz Truss for her first speech as leader of the Conservative Party conference. (AP)

That alarmed some conservative lawmakers, who called for tax cuts for the better-off while penalizing the poor. Many people said in the conference that they will not vote to this extent.

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, from the Labor Party, said cutting benefits would spark a “national revolt”.

Truss said the “status quo is not an option” and she “stayed the course.”

But uniting her party will be a difficult task. As delegates gathered for panel discussions and wine receptions this week in a cavernous conference hall, the government descended into factional fighting. Home Secretary Suella Braverman, a Truss ally, accused Conservative MPs of “rebellion” at odds with the leader.

Amid the Tory turmoil, the opposition Labor Party has taken the lead in opinion polls. A national election is not due until 2024, but many Conservatives fear that time is running out to close the party gap.

Polling expert John Curtis said “the Conservatives have all the ingredients they need to lose the election”.

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Delegates queue to enter the main hall ahead of Liz Truss’ speech at the Conservative Party’s annual conference at the International Convention Center in Birmingham. (AP)

Some delegates left the meeting early because of the gloomy mood and to avoid a nationwide rail strike on Wednesday. Many said they were impressed to hear Truss and applaud.

Mo Pantall, a businessman from Cambridge in eastern England, said she recognized there were “those who didn’t applaud” in the hall.

“They’re not with Liz,” Pantal said. “But we’re 90, 95 percent of us. We know that unity is what will make us successful at this point.”

UK’s Truss stands by ‘disruption’ agenda despite Tory doubts

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UK’s Truss stands by ‘disruption’ agenda despite Tory doubts

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UK’s Truss stands by ‘disruption’ agenda despite Tory doubts

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