Sir Keir Starmer has mocked Liz Truss for ducking an urgent question on the economy in the Commons, saying ”the lady is not for turning – up”.
Responding to Penny Mordaunt, the Labour leader thanked her for answering the question, adding: “I guess under this Tory government, everybody gets to be prime minister for 15 minutes.”
He continued: “Mr Speaker, the country is in an economic crisis made in Downing Street because they’ve lost all credibility.
“Government borrowing costs have soared, mortgage rates have ballooned. Markets need reassuring and there is long-term damage that can’t be undone.”
He added: “Once you’ve crashed the car 100 miles an hour, you’ve damaged it for good and you’re going to be paying much more on your insurance for years to come. And it’s working people who will pay.”
Sir Keir accused the PM of “hiding away” and said she was “scared of her own shadow”.
Other MPs also questioned the whereabouts of the prime minister, with Labour’s Stella Creasy asking if she was “cowering under her desk and asking for it all to go away”.
Commons Leader Ms Mordaunt said she was deputising for Ms Truss because the prime minister “is detained on urgent business”, adding: “I can assure the House that, with regret, she is not here for a very good reason.”
After ducking the showdown with the Labour leader, Ms Truss entered the chamber for the statement from Jeremy Hunt.
The prime minister is fighting for her political life after the new chancellor ditched the bulk of the economic strategy that brought her into office just six weeks ago.
In an emergency statement designed to calm the markets on Monday morning, Mr Hunt announced the support for household energy bills would be scaled back and “almost all” the tax cuts promised by his predecessor Kwasi Kwarteng would be reversed.
Sir Keir said the prime minister has no mandate for the changes, saying instead of leadership there is a “vacuum”.
He told the Commons: “Now is a time for consistent messaging. But what do we get? A prime minister saying absolutely no spending reductions, a chancellor saying there will be cuts. A prime minister saying she’s in charge, a chancellor who thinks he’s the CEO and she’s just the chair.”
He added: “How can Britain get the stability it needs when the prime minister has no mandate from her party and no mandate from the country?”
Ms Mordaunt defended the prime minister’s decision to sack Mr Kwarteng, a long-standing friend and ally, saying changing course was the “right thing to do” and “it took courage”.
She deferred questions on the economy to Mr Hunt, who addressed the commons afterwards and announced the formation of a new economic advisory council to provide “more independent expert advice” to the government.
The changes Mr Hunt revealed earlier today include:
- No cuts to dividend tax rates
- Repeal of the easing of IR35 rules for the self-employed introduced in 2017 and 2021
- No new VAT-free shopping scheme for overseas visitors to the UK
- No freeze on alcohol duty rates
- Basic rate of income tax to remain at 20%, not reduce to 19% from April 2023
- Energy price guarantee only until April 2023.
The government had already abandoned plans to scrap the 45p rate of income tax for top earners and had U-turned over a promise not to increase corporation tax.
The changes dramatically cut the cost of Mr Kwarteng’s £45 billion tax giveaway, reducing it by around £32 billion.
Ms Truss is now fighting to save her premiership, with some Tory MPs publicly calling for her to go.
Senior Tory backbencher Sir Charles Walker said the PM’s position is “enormously precarious”.
Ms Truss will meet the moderate One Nation Conservatives group in parliament on Monday evening before an informal reception with her cabinet.