The secrets of Liz Truss’ Downing Street

The secrets of Liz Truss’ Downing Street
Опубликовано: Friday, 17 February 2023 15:50

New POLITICO podcast episode reveals “chaos” inside notorious 49-day regime.

LONDON — Senior officials working in Liz Truss’ Downing Street have lifted the lid on her turbulent 49-day premiership, describing a “chaotic” administration where “too much was done too quickly” by a prime minister in a hurry.

Speaking publicly for the first time in a new episode of POLITICO’s Westminster Insider podcast, former aides to Truss and her Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, blame inexperience and haste for the disastrous decisions which tanked the U.K. economy and made Truss Britain’s shortest-serving prime minister.

Celia McSwaine, a special adviser to Kwarteng in the Treasury, describes “chaotic” preparations for Truss’ infamous ‘mini-budget‘ on September 23, which sent the value of the pound tumbling and triggered a spike in U.K. mortgage rates.

McSwaine tells how “every day there would be a new request from No. 10 for a new policy to be included … It became very difficult to actually keep track of what was in the package day to day, because so much was being added and taken out.”

Truss was warned, she says, by Kwarteng to slow the process and to include prudent fiscal measures to reassure markets alongside her tax cuts. “He raised that point repeatedly, but unfortunately just lost the battle,” she adds.

McSwaine also agrees it was a mistake not to publish a forecast from Britain’s fiscal watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), alongside the spending plan.

“It set this narrative that we weren’t fiscally responsible and we didn’t care about the markets … and all the reassurance that they needed,” she says.We were on the back foot in terms of demonstrating fiscal competence from that point on.”

And she says the wider Truss administration was simply “chaotic” to work in. “It tried to do too much, too fast,” she notes. “We really could have done with more experience in the No. 10 and No. 11 teams.”

Hugh Bennett, Truss’ former special adviser in No. 10 Downing Street, agrees the fatal error of Truss’ administration was that “too much was done too quickly.” He admits: “Some decisions were a bit rushed, without being fully thought-through.”

He also blames the set-up inside Truss’ Downing Street operation. “She was clear that she wanted a smaller team working for her that she knew directly,” he says.Having seen it from two different prime ministers, I’m not sure I’d necessarily agree with that approach. You quickly find that if you don’t have the right structures in place in No. 10, it’s actually very hard to get the system to work for you.”

Asa Bennett, Truss’ former speechwriter, adds: “[Truss] didn’t bring her party and the markets and everyone with her. She felt then the stakes were so high that there was no time to dither or delay. She only had two years to try … to turn the economy around, to get it back and growing.”

He also disagrees with Truss’ own assessment that an establishment “orthodoxy” brought her down. “I know there’ll be some people who will blame … so-called proponents of orthodoxy,” he says. “I don’t really have time for that sort of speculation or talk.

“When you’re prime minister, you know you have to take responsibility for the actions of the government you’re presiding over. You have the final say on what’s happening in the budgets that you’ve worked very closely with your chancellor on. And I think she knows this.”

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