LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Liz Truss clung to power Thursday after a senior minister left her government amid a barrage of criticism and a vote in the House of Commons descended into chaos and acrimony.
The failed economic plan, published by the government last month, caused financial turmoil and a political crisis that led to the replacement of the head of the Treasury Trust, multiple policy reversals and a breakdown in discipline in the ruling Conservative Party.
Many Conservatives say Truss should step down, but she has remained defiant, saying she is a “fighter, not a quitter”.
Conservative MP Simon Hoare said the government was in disarray.
“No one has a route plan. It’s all like daily hand-to-hand combat,” he told the BBC on Thursday. Truss had “about 12 hours” to turn things around, he said.
Newspapers that normally support the Conservatives were scathing. An editorial in the Daily Mail was headlined: “Wheels come off Tori’s clown car.”
International Trade Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who went on air on Thursday morning to defend the government, insisted the administration was providing “stability”. But she could not guarantee that Truss would lead the party in the next election.
“At this point, I think it is,” she said.
With opinion polls giving Labor a large and growing lead, many Conservatives now believe their only hope of avoiding electoral oblivion is to replace Truss. But they disagree on how to get rid of her, and so far there is no favorite to replace her.
A national election is not due until 2024, and under Conservative Party rules, Truss is technically immune from a leadership challenge for a year. The rules can be changed if enough lawmakers want it. There is hot speculation about how many legislators have already sent letters calling for a vote of no confidence.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman was dealt a major blow on Wednesday after she broke the rules by sending an official document from her personal email account. She used her resignation letter to slam the Trusts, saying she had “concerns about the direction of this government”.
“The business of government relies on people taking responsibility for their mistakes,” she said in a thinly veiled comment to the Trust.
Braverman was succeeded as home secretary, minister responsible for immigration and law and order, by former cabinet minister Grant Shapps. He is a known supporter of Rishi Sunak, the former Treasury chief whom Truss defeated in the last round of the Conservative leadership race.
Truss faced more turmoil in parliament on Wednesday night over a vote on fracking for shale gas, a practice Truss wants to revive despite opposition from many conservatives.
With a large conservative majority in parliament, the opposition’s call to ban fracking was easily rejected, but some lawmakers were furious that the Conservative party leadership said the vote would be treated as a vote of confidence, meaning the government would fall if the motion passed .
There were angry scenes in the House of Commons as party whips were accused of using heavy-handed tactics to win votes. Labor lawmaker Chris Bryant said he had “seen members being physically abused … and bullied”. Representatives of the conservative party deny the facts of ill-treatment.
There have been rumors that Conservative Party leader Wendy Morton, who is responsible for party discipline, and her deputy have resigned. A few hours later, Truss’ office said both remained at their jobs.
The dramatic developments come days after the Trust sacked its treasury chief Kwasi Kwarteng on Friday after the economic package the pair unveiled on September 23 spooked financial markets and sparked an economic and political crisis.
The planned £45 billion ($50 billion) tax cut sent shockwaves through financial markets, sending the pound down and the cost of Britain’s government debt rising. The Bank of England was forced to intervene to prevent the crisis spreading to the wider economy and putting pension funds at risk.
On Monday, who replaced Quarteng, Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt scrapped almost all of the Trust’s tax cuts, as well as her flagship energy policy and a pledge not to cut government spending. He said the government would need to save billions of pounds and that “many difficult decisions” would need to be made before he sets out his medium-term financial plan on October 31.
Speaking to lawmakers for the first time since the U-turn, Truss apologized on Wednesday and admitted she had made mistakes during her six weeks in office, but insisted that by changing course she had “taken responsibility and made the right decisions for the economic stability of the country “.
MPs from the opposition shouted “Resign!” as she spoke in the House of Commons.
But she insisted, “I’m a fighter, not a quitter.”
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