Jeremy Hunt has said he believes Liz Truss will still be prime minister at Christmas – despite five Conservative MPs already publicly calling for her to leave Number 10.
In an interview with Sky News political editor Beth Rigby, the new chancellor called on Conservative MPs to “give her a chance”.
He also ruled out becoming prime minister himself, saying: “I rule it out, Mrs Hunt rules it out, three Hunt children rule it out.”
Mr Hunt has been described by some as effectively the “caretaker prime minister” after he was brought in to restore economic stability following weeks of turmoil on the financial markets.
This morning he scaled back the energy support package and ditched “almost all” the tax cuts announced by his predecessor Kwasi Kwarteng less than a month ago – in a major reversal of the policies that brought Ms Truss into office.
Asked “what is the point of Liz Truss?”, Mr Hunt replied: “She’s prime minister, she has got important decisions to make.
“People who want her to go need to ask themselves whether more political instability is going to help keep mortgage rates down, keep interest rates down, calm the markets.
“I don’t think political instability is the answer. She’s been prime minister for about five weeks and we need to give her a chance.”
Pressed on why Ms Truss is still in the job, he continued: “I would rather a leader who listens, learns and changes and I think we would have more instability, much more instability, if we were to have a leadership process.”
Earlier, Sir Charles Walker became the fifth Conservative MP to call for the prime minister to go.
He told Beth Rigby that her position “is untenable”, adding: “She has put colleagues, the country, through a huge amount of unnecessary pain and upset and worry.”
He said the situation “can only be remedied.. with a new prime minister”.
Mr Hunt acknowledged some of the market turmoil seen in recent weeks was self-inflicted, telling Beth Rigby: “I want to remove the UK element.”
He has hinted at further U-turns in a bid to balance the books, telling the Commons this afternoon that he is not against the windfall tax “in principle” – something the Ms Truss is opposed to.
In a further diversion from Ms Truss’ policies, Mr Hunt also failed to commit to spending 3% of GDP on defence – a key pledge made by the prime minister during the Conservative leadership race.
He also failed to promise the triple pension lock will stay – a policy which formed part of the Conservative’s 2019 manifesto – and failed to guarantee benefits will increase in line with inflation.
Mr Hunt told Beth Rigby he will be able to say more in two weeks time – when he gives a fiscal statement on Halloween.
He said he believes his measures will pass through parliament, adding: “I don’t think there was a single Conservative MP… who opposed the measures I announced today. When you look beneath the political rhetoric, actually there is widespread agreement.”
With her position on the line, Ms Truss met with the One Nation group of Tory MPs in Westminster tonight, where she apologised to those in attendance for the mistakes her government made.
The prime minister’s press secretary told reporters that Ms Truss said she was sorry for the market turmoil caused by the mini-budget and that she tried to do too much too quickly.
The press secretary said the PM outlined that there are no plans for any cabinet reshuffle and that Ms Truss said she wants to work with all the party and get different people’s opinions.
They also described the mood at the meeting as “determined”.