By Andrew MacAskill
LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Liz Truss’s insistence that she would not quit after sparking a financial crisis was met with howls of laughter, incredulity and shouts of “resign, resign” as she spoke in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
Fighting for her political survival, Truss often had to pause to be heard as her insistence that she had been “very clear” and that the opposition party needed to grasp “economic reality” was met with jeers and calls for her to go.
“I am a fighter and not a quitter,” she told a packed session of “Prime Minister’s Questions” – a weekly fixture of the British political calendar – just days after she was forced to pull her signature economic policy.
In a rowdy House of Commons, opposition leader Keir Starmer said that a book was being written about Truss’s time in power, which was due to be “out by Christmas”.
“Is that the release date or the title?” he said.
Conservative politicians sat in near silence during most of the exchanges. Some stared ahead motionless, while others looked at the floor.
Truss repeated her apology to the British people but accused Labour of not grasping “economic reality”, which was met with howls of laughter from the opposition benches.
“I have been very clear that I am sorry and that I have made mistakes,” she said.
Truss has been forced into a humiliating U-turn, reversing most of the policies that secured her elevation to Downing Street just over six weeks ago.
A “mini-budget” last month had proposed vast, unfunded tax cuts, triggering an intervention from the Bank of England and a rebuke from the International Monetary Fund as borrowing costs surged, the pound tumbled and mortgage rates jumped.
Just last week, she taunted the opposition Labour Party that her two-year energy subsidy programme would help families through this winter and next. Already her new finance minister, Jeremy Hunt, has said it will only last six months.
Starmer said Truss’s economic plan had been built on “fantasy economics” and had ended in disaster. As he read out a list of dropped economic policies his lawmakers shouted “gone” after each one.
The Labour leader pointed out that Truss had insisted last week there would be no government spending cuts. On Monday, Hunt said he needed to make decisions of “eye-watering difficulty” as he looks to plug a black hole in government finances.
“What’s the point of a prime minister whose promises don’t even last a week?” Starmer said.
(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Kate Holton and Alex Richardson)