“Every time a change is imposed, it causes disturbances.” The British Prime Minister, Liz Truss, has tried to convince the Conservative Party affiliates, gathered in Birmingham for their annual congress, on Wednesday that she knows what she has in hand, after almost two weeks of turbulence in which the markets collapsed. the value of the pound, and the internal rebellion in his own party in the face of tax cuts for the richest, cast doubt on his continuity in Downing Street.
It had not been more than 10 minutes of a rigid and fearful speech, which barely drew applause from those gathered, when two female Greenpeace activists infiltrated the public began to shout at the prime minister. “Who has voted for the fracking [fractura hidraúlica para la explotación de hidrocarburos]?” They chanted as they held up a banner reading “Who voted for this?” The assistants, and the security team, have dragged out, and with bad manners, the two activists, silenced with boos and applause for Truss.
Neither previously designed the effect could have been better. Nothing mobilizes more Tories than the feeling of being them against the rest of the world. The prime minister, with a forced smile but enough reflexes, used the incident to introduce the slogan with which she intends to save her troubled mandate: the “anti-growth coalition”. Like her predecessor, Boris Johnson, Truss has wanted to cling to a populist message against the elites, seeking unity and support from a Conservative Party fragmented by its controversial economic measures. “I will not allow the anti-growth coalition to force us to follow behind. Labour, Liberal Democrats, Scottish nationalists, trade unions, established interests masquerading as think tanks, talk shows, Brexit deniers, environmentalists from Extinction Rebellion or some of those who have come here today to shout … they prefer to protest to act, write on Twitter to make difficult decisions”.
That is, them against us. It has been one of the moments in which Truss has been able to stimulate some energy in an auditorium given over to the defeatism of the last few days.
Truss has once again repeated that the withdrawal of the maximum rate of 45% for the highest incomes, which was forced by the protest of very relevant figures in the party, had been “a distraction”. “I have understood. I have listened,” said the British prime minister. But most of her tax reduction (personal income tax, corporate tax, Social Security contributions or asset transfers), which represents almost 50,000 million euros of public debt, is still standing. “Lowering taxes is the right thing to do, morally and economically,” she has defended. “The Conservative Party will always be the low-tax party,” she promised.
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Support to the Minister of Economy
Truss has had words of support for his finance minister, Kwasi Kwarteng, whose continuity has been questioned by many Conservative MPs. And like him, he also wanted to make clear his commitment to maintaining public accounts in a balanced way. “I also believe in fiscal responsibility, in extracting the maximum value from the taxpayer’s money, in a healthy economy and in a fit state,” he said.
It was not his words, however, that reassured the markets, but the extraordinary intervention of the Bank of England, which launched to buy public debt last week. Truss lashed out over the summer, throughout the primary campaign, against the British monetary authority, questioning its independence. A month later, the speech was different: “The correct thing is that it is the Bank of England that independently establishes interest rates, and politicians should not interfere in this. We will work closely with the bank”, he has promised.
The prime minister has been dismissed with applause, and she still has almost a week before parliamentary activity resumes. The polls give an overwhelming advantage (up to 33%) to the Labor opposition, and no Conservative now wants an early election that would spell the ultimate ruin of the party, after twelve years in power. In theory, Truss has two years to straighten the course of the country and show if his plans for change work, or if they are pure ideological smoke. What has become clear to him this week is that he doesn’t even enjoy 100 days of courtesy from any new prime minister. There is already a powerful current within the party ready to keep a close eye on it and constantly threaten its continuity.
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