LONDON – The new U.K. Treasury chief on Sunday insisted Prime Minister Liz Truss retains control of her government despite having to roll back her signature economic policies weeks into her premiership.
Jeremy Hunt was drafted in to lead the Treasury after Truss sacked Kwasi Kwarteng amid rising pressure following the turbulent market reaction to the new administration’s “mini-budget.”
“The prime minister’s in charge,” Hunt, a former foreign and health secretary, told the BBC when he was asked whether he now held all the power at Downing Street.
Truss and Kwarteng had slowly unraveled key elements of their economic vision, including tax cuts for top earners and a halt on corporation tax rises, before the prime minister gave in to financial market instability and tanking polling figures and fired Kwarteng.
Hunt has now said taxation will rise and public spending will shrink, despite Britain’s growing cost-of-living crisis.
He said he had been surprised to receive the call to return to the Cabinet, but he was “honored” to join the government as he shared Truss’ desire to prioritize economic growth.
“She has changed the way we’re going to get there, but she has not changed the destination, which is to get the country growing,” Hunt said.
It remains unclear if Truss, who throughout this summer’s leadership campaign secured the support of a majority of Conservative Party members but not of its lawmakers, can ward off any plots to oust her.
Tory lawmaker Robert Halfon told Sky News on Sunday that many colleagues remained unhappy and the situation “has to improve”.
Opposition leader Keir Starmer has pressed the Labour Party’s call for an immediate general election to restore stability, saying the Conservatives are “at the end of the road”.
Hunt has suggested an election is not imminent election, saying Truss will be judged on how her government performs over the next 18 months. The Conservatives want to win back the trust of the public before any national vote.
Recent polls have placed the Conservative Party at a vote share of around 25%, a far cry from the 42.4% share they received in December 2019 which handed then-leader Boris Johnson a commanding majority in Parliament.
The current prime minister argued she still held credibility during a four-question news conference on Friday when she announced the appointment of Hunt.