Kwasi Kwarteng told Liz Truss to ‘slow down’ her radical reforms as he slams ‘mad’ decision to sack him
The former Chancellor refused to apologise for the financial turmoil caused by his and Liz Truss’s disastrous mini-budget
and live on Freeview channel 276
The former Chancellor says he told Truss to “slow down” her plans and take a “strategic approach” to growing the economy. He claims Truss rejected his pleas and that he was forced to warn her she would only last “two months” if she carried on.
The Tory MP refused to apologise for the financial turmoil unleashed by his and Truss’s disastrous mini-budget, but acknowledged “there was turbulence and I regret that”. He insisted the “strategic goal was right” but conceded the pair “should have had a much more measured approach”.
Kwarteng admitted he bore “some responsibility” for the timetable of the mini-budget, but said Truss “was very much of the view that we needed to move things fast”, adding “I think it was too quick”.
Speaking to TalkTV, he said: “Even after the mini budget we were going at breakneck speed. And I said, ‘You know, we should slow down, slow down’. She said, ‘Well, I’ve only got two years’ and I said, ‘You will have two months if you carry on like this’. And I’m afraid that’s what happened.”
The mini-budget, announced on 23 September, saw Kwarteng announce the biggest raft of tax cuts for half a century. Using more than £70 billion of increased borrowing, he set out a package which included abolishing the top rate of income tax for the highest earners and axing the cap on bankers’ bonuses, on top of a massively expensive energy support package.
The announcement triggered chaos in the financial markets, sending the pound tumbling, forcing the Bank of England’s intervention and pushing up mortgage rates. Just two days later, Kwarteng signalled more tax cuts were on the way which spooked markets even further.
Asked repeatedly if he wanted to say sorry to the people facing extra costs in re-mortgaging, he refused, saying: “I don’t want to relive the past.”
He added: “I do feel sorry, actually, for the people who are going through this difficult time in terms of re-mortgaging. I’m not going to wash my hands of what we did, I think the strategic goals (were) the right thing, but as it said, the delivery and implementation, there was no real tactical plan, there was no real timetable for it and I think we should have done that.”
‘I found out I was sacked via Twitter’
The ex-chancellor said he first learned of he had been fired via a tweet as he travelled to a meeting with Truss in Downing Street - a decision he described as “mad”. He said: “I can’t remember whether she was actually shedding tears but she was very emotional.”
Describing his thinking at that moment, he said: “This is mad. Prime ministers don’t get rid of chancellors. I think I said to her at the time, ‘This is going to last three or four weeks’. Little did I know it was only going to be six days.”
He added: “She can’t fire me for just implementing what she campaigned on. And, you know, we had a conversation. And I think it was very much the view that somehow she would survive if I took the fall on that.”
Kwarteng insisted he and Truss were still “friends”, but said he had not returned a missed call from her several days ago.
But Kwarteng argued that Sunak and Hunt cannot blame Truss’s government for the massive black hole in the nation’s finances and criticised the new Prime Minister for putting up taxes.
He said: “The only thing that they could possibly blame us for is the interest rates and interest rates have come down and the gilt rates have come down. It wasn’t that the national debt was created by Liz Truss’s 44 days in government.”
He also refused to endorse tax rises expected in his successor’s autumn budget next week, adding: “You’re not going to grow an economy, or incentivise economic growth by putting up our taxes.”