Furious Tory MPs hit out at chancellor after they are invited to a meeting to discuss his budget

‘Chancellors have resigned for less’, says one MP amid turmoil in markets

Kate Devlin,Adam Forrest
Monday 26 September 2022 15:37 BST
Kwarteng refuses to answer questions after pound hits all-time low against US dollar

Conservative MPs have been invited to a meeting with chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng on Tuesday after the pound plunged to an all-time low against the US dollar amid renewed fears over the government’s plans.

Furious Tory MPs hit out at the chancellor, who has refused to respond to the decline in Sterling, accusing him of incompetence.

One angry MP said: “Chancellors have resigned and parliaments have been recalled for less, but we MPs are being invited to meetings.”

The event with backbenchers, which has been billed as a follow up to Friday’s tax-cutting mini-Budget, will be held on Tuesday afternoon.

Sources said it would be with Mr Kwarteng and Chris Philp, chief secretary to the Treasury, who infuriated Tory MPs at the weekend by dubbing criticism of plans to scrap the highest rate of tax “the politics of envy”.

Treasury sources said that the meeting was part of “regular” engagement with MPs after a fiscal event, and said that a similar meeting had been held with some at the end of last week.

Tory MP Mel Stride, chair of the Treasury select committee, suggested the chancellor had been wrong to signal further tax cuts on Sunday by saying there was “more to come”.

“One thing is for sure – it would be wise to take stock of how through time the markets weigh up recent economic announcements rather than immediately signalling more of the same in the near term,” the senior figure tweeted.

Former Tory Treasury minister Lord O’Neill described Mr Kwarteng’s mini-budget as “slightly cavalier”.

The Tory peer told BBC Radio 4’s World at One that the market response “won’t be easy to stop unless there’s a tough Bank of England response or a more articulate presentation from the chancellor and the prime minister”.

Some Conservative MPs have already sent letters of no-confidence in Liz Truss’s leadership over fears she will “crash the economy”, a former minister has claimed. “Liz is f*****,” the MP told Sky News.

But 1922 Committee chair Sir Graham Brady is unable to call a confidence vote in the PM under current rules until September 2023.

Sir Graham told The Independent that the rulebook of the party’s powerful backbench committee gave new PMs 12 months’ grace after their election before they can face a challenge, no matter how many letters are received.

However, as Boris Johnson learnt earlier this year, it is always an option for the committee’s executive to amend rules if it is deemed in the party’s interests.

Neither Mr Kwarteng nor Ms Truss are currently expected to publicly address the chaos in the markets. Asked by reporters about the pound on Monday, the chancellor said: “I’m not going to make any comment now.”

The prime minister’s official spokesman told reporters on Monday that Downing Street would not be commenting on market fluctuations.

He said: “I think that the chancellor has made clear that he doesn’t comment on the movements around the market, and that goes the same for the prime minister.”

No 10 added: “The growth plan, as you know, includes fundamental supply side reforms to deliver higher and sustainable growth for the long term, and that is our focus.”

Nonetheless, financial markets have been dominated by speculation that the Bank of England may need to increase rates by as much as one percentage point to 3.25 per cent to steady the falling pound.

Labour’s shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves compared Ms Truss and Mr Kwarteng to “desperate gamblers in a casino chasing a losing run”. She promised thousands more doctors, nurses and midwives by reversing the Tories’ abolition of the 45p tax rate for top earners.

Scotland’s first minister and SNP chief Nicola Sturgeon said the mini-budget was “a catastrophic disaster that is playing out in real time”, adding: “The UK economy is in crisis, we’re seeing sterling in freefall, we’re seeing the cost of government borrowing ratcheting up.”

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