Kwasi Kwarteng says ‘high pressure’ following Queen’s death factor behind flawed mini budget roll-out

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng at the Conservative Party conference on Monday  (PA Wire)
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng at the Conservative Party conference on Monday (PA Wire)

Kwasi Kwarteng has suggested the “high pressure” environment following the Queen’s death and national period of mourning contributed to mistakes with his ‘mini budget’.

The Chancellor and Prime Minister Liz Truss were forced to U-turn on a controversial measure to cut the 45p tax rate for the highest earners after dissent within the Conservative party and restlessness from the financial markets.

Asked by GB News whether he would have done anything differently in his fiscal statement, Mr Kwarteng said: “You’ve also got to remember the context.

“What was extraordinary about that month was that we had a new Government, and also we had the sad passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, so we had a nation in mourning.

“And then literally I think four days after the funeral we had the mini budget. It was a high-speed, high-pressure environment, and we could have, as David Cameron used to say, prepared the pitch a bit better.”

Mr Kwarteng sparked confusion after telling the Tory party conference he would publish his fiscal plan and Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts “shortly”, with allies suggesting this meant bringing the publications forward from November 23 to this month.

However, he told GB News that he was not changing his plan, saying “shortly is the 23rd" and suggesting people had been “reading the runes" incorrectly.

He said in an interview with the broadcaster that market reaction to the £45bn of tax cuts was because it was a “bold offer” but denied it was “extreme”.

“We have shifted the debate and I’m hopeful that, over the next few weeks, things will stabilise,” he said.

It comes as Liz Truss hinted at cutting the top rate of tax in the future, saying that while she was not contemplating the measure now, she “would like to see the higher rate lower”.

“I want us to be a competitive country but I have listened to feedback, I want to take people with me," she told the BBC.

“I’m not contemplating that now, I’m very, very clear that we’ve listened to people about what their priorities are."

Ms Truss also faces signs of dissent within her party over whether to uprate benefits in line with inflation.

Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt said it “makes sense" to increase benefits in line with soaring inflation rather than deliver a real-terms cut.

Ms Truss is instead considering a raise in line with the far lower figure of earnings, but said she would not be sacking Ms Mordaunt for publicly stating her firm stance.