The UK: Is there a Prime Minister in the house? Truss' future uncertain amid UK budget turmoil
Scottish National Party deputy Westminster leader Oswald weighed in, saying "if she doesn't even have the backbone to show up here today, is there really any point in her showing up here again.
Published: 18th October 2022 10:43 AM | Last Updated: 18th October 2022 11:10 AM | A+A A-
LONDON: Asked by the opposition to explain her latest humiliating climbdown, UK Prime Minister Liz Truss on Monday refused to answer the call, raising further speculation about her future.
Truss last week sacked finance minister Kwasi Kwarteng after only 38 days in the role, as the markets were roiled following the announcement of the pair's tax-cutting agenda.
His replacement, Jeremy Hunt, on Monday morning took an axe to the plans, leaving the country unsure about who was actually in charge.
Truss has been silent for three days as crisis consumes her leadership, and declined to answer requests from the Labour Party to tell parliament about her decision to sack Kwarteng, instead sending out minister Penny Mordaunt.
"We have this utter vacuum," in leadership, said Labour leader Keir Starmer. "Where is the Prime Minister? Hiding away, dodging questions, scared of her shadow," he added.
Scottish National Party deputy Westminster leader Kirsten Oswald weighed in, saying "if she doesn't even have the backbone to show up here today, is there really any point in her showing up here again? "Surely time's up, she needs to go and let the people decide," she added.
Mordaunt told the Commons she was sorry that the government's plans "added to the concerns" about "major volatility" in the economy, but said there was a "serious reason" for Truss's absence, without specifying.
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The prime minister was "not under a desk", she assured, to much hilarity. Truss then arrived in parliament, sitting silent as Hunt explained how he was gutting her showpiece budget, before swiftly departing.
In particular, Hunt announced that the freeze on household energy bills, planned to last for two years, was to be scrapped. Instead, the freeze will be reviewed in April.
Markets were spooked by the plans to cut taxes despite huge unfunded Covid and energy subsidy bills. A cut to income tax cut has also been postponed "indefinitely".
Downing Street insisted that Truss was still running the country, and had been "working closely with her Chancellor over the weekend to agree this approach".
Truss's only public comments since Friday have been a handful of tweets, one of which on Monday stated that the "British people rightly want stability."
She was holed up in the prime ministers' country residence this weekend after a disastrous press conference on Friday in which she turned tail after eight minutes.
With few defenders in her party and rumours rife about plots to unseat her, Truss already appears to have lost all authority, despite only becoming leader last month.
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The Conservative press is gunning for the woman whose agenda has been shredded, and four Tory MPs have already publicly called for her departure.
Dozens of others are said to be ready for a vote of no confidence, with the party facing almost total wipeout if an election were to take place, given its current polling numbers, although a national vote is not due for another two years.
It is unclear whether her decision to hire Hunt, twice an unsuccessful leadership candidate but a calm and experienced politician, was forced upon her.
"I think Jeremy Hunt is de facto prime minister at the moment," Tory MP Roger Gale MP told Sky News.
"I just don't think that it's tenable that she can stay in her position any longer. And I'm very sad to have to say that," said MP Angela Richardson on Times radio.