British prime minister Liz Truss, who finds herself in a mess almost completely of her own making, took desperate action on Friday to mollify her many critics, calm financial markets angry over her economic plan, and quell talk of a revolt against her leadership. She’s just five weeks into the job.
On Friday, Truss fired her chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng, for the apparent sin of loudly supporting Truss’s own policies. Kwarteng had become a public face of Truss’s proposed unfunded tax cuts, which inspired fierce criticism across the U.K. and hammered the British pound. Jeremy Hunt, who backed Truss’s rival Rishi Sunak in the race for Conservative Party leader after Boris Johnson stepped down, will replace Kwarteng in a move that signals a more moderate approach.
Truss also announced some actual policy changes. She reversed the scrapping of a corporate tax hike, a move that had baffled economists and almost everyone else. But the bulk of her supply-side agenda remains intact. In a notably brief press conference on Friday, Truss was unapologetic about her policies but did acknowledge that people want “stability.” Her appearance did not exactly inspire confidence from observers.
Even if Truss’s most sweeping plans aren’t put into place, the political damage has been done. The PM is extremely unpopular, and under her brief stewardship, the Labour Party has opened up a bigger lead against the Tories in public polling than it enjoyed during Johnson’s scandal-pocked tenure. (To be fair, she did inherit soaring inflation amid a damaging energy crisis.) There is apparently serious talk among Tories about trying to oust Truss in the coming weeks:
Things have gotten so bad that Truss’s shelf life as PM is being compared to produce. The Economist noted in a column that it had taken Truss only seven days to wreak financial havoc, “the shelf-life of a head of lettuce.” Piggybacking on that idea, The Daily Star, a downmarket tabloid, began tracking Truss’s survival as compared to an actual head of lettuce with the captivating results livestreamed on YouTube.
As King Charles III might say, “Dear, oh dear.”