Kwasi Kwarteng Blames Budget Mistakes On 'High Pressure' Around Queen’s Death

Days after the funeral, chancellor's mini-budget crashed the pound, sent mortgage rates soaring and handed Labour a 30-point poll lead.
Kwasi Kwarteng delivers a speech on day two of the annual Conservative Party conference in Birmingham.
Kwasi Kwarteng delivers a speech on day two of the annual Conservative Party conference in Birmingham.
Ian Forsyth via Getty Images

Kwasi Kwarteng appeared to blame the “high-pressure” surrounding the Queen’s death for a series of errors in his mini-budget.

The chancellor’s plan crashed the pound and sent mortgage rates soaring, forcing the Bank of England to intervene to calm the markets. Amid the chaos, Labour surged to a 30-point poll lead.

On Monday, he made a humiliating U-turn on scrapping the 45p tax rate, but only referred to the meltdown on the markets as “a little turbulence”.

Kwarteng, in an interview with GB News, said it was important to place the mini-budget in the “context” of the Queen’s death and funeral.

He spoke about the frenzied few days ahead of the mini-budget when asked if he would have done anything differently.

“It was a very quick time that we did it. And you have got to remember the context.

“What was extraordinary about that month was that we had a new government and also we had the sad passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, so we had a nation in mourning and then literally four days I think after the funeral, we had the mini-budget.

“It was high-speed, high-pressure environment and we could, as (former prime minister) David Cameron used to say, have prepared the pitch a bit better.”

But Kwarteng also sought to downplay concerns, suggesting that stability could return to the UK economy in the next few weeks.

He denied that the policies contained in the £45 billion tax-cutting budget were “extreme”, instead labelling it a “bold” package that has helped to “shift” political debate.

“No one is arguing we should put up corporation tax, no one is arguing that we shouldn’t have reversed the national insurance increase.

“I think we have shifted the debate and I am hopeful that over the next few weeks things will stabilise.”

But the chaos continues.

Amid bitter infighting at the Conservative Party conference, Kwarteng appeared to back down from considering another U-turn by now ruling out bringing forward his medium-term fiscal plan.

The chancellor had told the conference he would publish his fiscal plan and Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts “shortly”.

His allies had been hinting this meant bringing the publications forward from November 23 to this month.

But Liz Truss told GB News that the originally planned date is “when we’re going to set out the OBR forecasts but also our medium-term fiscal plan”.

Downing Street aides said only that the PM may consider bringing the date forward, downgrading the likelihood of the move.

Elsewhere, members of the Cabinet were publicly urging the prime minister to raise benefits in line with inflation and questioning her climbdown on the 45% rate for earnings over £150,000.

Home secretary Suella Braverman said she was “disappointed” by Kwarteng and Truss’s mid-conference tax U-turn, and accused Tory rebels like Michael Gove of staging a “coup”.

Commons leader Penny Mordaunt, another former leadership contender, said it “makes sense” to increase benefits in line with soaring inflation rather than deliver a real-terms cut.

The prime minister scrapped her plans for a tax cut for the wealthiest on Monday, saying it had become a “distraction” as senior Tories threatened to vote against it in the Commons.

However, on Tuesday she revealed in an interview at the Birmingham conference that she harbours a possible ambition to bring back the controversial tax cut in the future.

“I would like to see the higher rate lower. I want us to be a competitive country but I have listened to feedback, I want to take people with me,” she told the BBC.

“I’m not contemplating that now, I’m very, very clear that we’ve listened to people about what their priorities are.”


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