LONDON (AP) — British government ministers have implored their Tory colleagues to rally behind Prime Minister Liz Truss after a disastrous start to her premiership that left the ruling party demoralized and divided.
Cabinet Minister Nadhim Zahawi told the BBC that with two years or less until the next general election, the party should “get behind Liz because division will cause delay, delay is our enemy and ultimately (means) the defeat”.
Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt, one of the Tories who ran against Truss this summer to replace Boris Johnson as party leader and UK Prime Minister, said in a Sunday Telegraph article that “the division will only play into the hands of those who would lead our country in the wrong direction.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman wrote in an article in the Sun newspaper published on Sunday that “the choice for my colleagues and for us is as simple as the party: Back Liz or get (Labour Party leader) Keir Starmer , hand in hand with (Scottish National party leader) Nicola Sturgeon.
A failed economic plan that caused turmoil in financial markets marred Truss’ tumultuous first month in office and threw his party into disarray. Braverman and Mordaunt were openly at odds with Truss at the party’s fractious annual conference last week.
The calls for unity come as lawmakers are due to return to parliament on Tuesday after a two-week break. Tory lawmaker Mel Stride, who heads the House of Commons Treasury Committee, said the party mood was “quite feverish”.
“There are a lot of backbench MPs and even government officials who are very concerned about where we stand in the polls,” he told Times Radio.
Truss was elected Conservative leader on September 5 and asked to form a government by Queen Elizabeth II the next day, two days before the monarch died. She wants to reshape Britain’s economy through tax cuts and deregulation in a bid to end years of sluggish growth.
But his first bold move – 45 billion pounds ($50 billion) in tax cuts, funded by public borrowing – spooked financial markets and sent the pound plunging to a record low against the dollar.
The Bank of England was forced to intervene to support the bond market and stop a wider economic crisis. The prospect of a big central bank rate hike next month has sent the cost of mortgages skyrocketing for many homeowners.
The financial turmoil helped the opposition Labor Party take a huge lead in the opinion polls. A national election is not due until 2024, but many conservatives fear the party will run out of time to close the gap.
Opposition from within the party forced Truss to backtrack on part of her tax cut agenda, but she pledged to “stay the course” on the rest of her plan, despite the warnings from economists that deep cuts in government spending will be needed to pay for lower taxes.
The government has hinted it could increase pensions and social benefits by less than the rate of inflation – a reduction in real terms. But many Tories say it will hurt some of the poorest people in society, already struggling with soaring costs of living.
Truss also faces a growing rebellion from conservatives over announced plans to weaken planning rules and environmental protections as part of his push to grow the economy.
Despite calls for unity, some Tory lawmakers are considering ways to unseat Truss, who was elected by the party after Johnson was expelled in July amid a host of ethics scandals.
Most believe changing leaders again so soon would be disastrous, but some Johnson allies have hinted he may consider returning.
Lawmaker Nadine Dorries, a supporter of the former leader, told the BBC that Johnson’s return was “extremely unlikely”, but not impossible.
“I’ve been in politics for a long time,” she said. “I’m not ruling anything out.”
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