Liz Truss has surfaced today after a week out of the public gaze to insist she believes her mini-budget was right, and “global forces” are to blame for the financial situation.
In a round of regional radio interviews ahead of her party conference, Liz Truss’s pre-prepared answers struggled against some tough questioning.
“Are you ashamed of what you’ve done,” she was asked. “Why don’t you admit you got it wrong?”
“People aren’t worried about heating their homes, they’re worried about losing their homes,” she was told.
In the final interview, with BBC Radio Stoke, she was asked: “Have you taken the keys to the country and crashed the economy?”
A prime minister, barely three weeks into her time in office, would not normally expect incoming fire like this, but the mini-budget has rocked financial markets to an extent unprecedented for a new government.
Truss had three messages: That the mini-budget was right – “we had to take urgent action to get the economy going”; pivoting every question about tax cuts into a question about the decision to freeze energy bills – “we took decisive action this winter and next winter to help people with energy bills”; and insisting that the financial turmoil is global rather than confined to the UK.
The prime minister refused to accept that the announcement of unfunded tax cuts for the richest was to blame for market turmoil, and insisted she did believe in sound money.
Many of the questions focused on the dire financial problems of individual listeners who had phoned in.
Ms Truss said the government had frozen energy bills so no one would pay more than £2,500 – which is in fact the estimate for the average user paying by direct debit. Bills for many families will still rise this weekend, although far below the levels they might have reached without intervention.
But jittery Tories know that if that is cancelled out by rising mortgage payments and other cost of living pressures, voters will be unimpressed.
Truss solutions – economic growth, better paid jobs, all sound, to the ears of many voters and MPs, far into the future and very far from guaranteed.
In her keynote speech in Birmingham, they will be looking for some assurances about how to tackle the short term pain.