Former Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng has broken his silence after his unceremonious sacking by then prime minister Liz Truss, saying that he had confronted her over her economic plan which he described as going at a “breakneck speed.” In an exclusive interview with TalkTV’s First Edition aired on Thursday night (November 10), he said he had also warned her that this would lead to her downfall.
Kwarteng, who was only in the office for 38 days, said he had advised Truss to “slow down” and take a “methodical and strategic approach” to boosting growth as a prime minister. He said: “She said, ‘I’ve only got two years’ and I said, you’ll have two months if you carry on like this.” Truss resigned only after 44 days in office, following immense pressure over the scale of the planned tax cuts in a mini-budget that sent the UK into a financial turmoil.
In addition, he expressed doubts about the proposed tax cuts in the mini-budget, especially in light of the absence of initiatives to curb government spending. He said: “The prime minister was very much of the view that we needed to seize the opportunity and we hit the ground running.
He added: “She’s very dynamic, very forceful. That’s a great strength. But I think you had to have a measured approach, especially doing the things that were radical, that were bold. And that’s the lesson that we’ve learnt.”
Kwarteng said he bore “some responsibility for it”, when asked who controlled the timetable of the mini-budget, but he added that Truss was “very much of the view that we needed to move things fast.” He said: “But I think it was too quick. If you look at it, it was on the 23rd of September. We only got into the office on the 6th of September. And looking back, I think a measured pace would have been better.”
He also refused to apologise for the impact of the mini-budget on the people, saying he only “regretted” the “turbulence” which followed the announcement of the mini-budget, but stopped short of an apology. Asked if he wanted to “say sorry”, he said: “I’m not going to, I’m not going to comment on that. I think it was regrettable. And I think people were very, very concerned. Interest rates were going up. The Bank of England has put interest rates up and all of that was happening. But there was turbulence and I regret that.”
Pressed again for his apologies, Kwarteng said : “You’re gonna do what you do, which is I don’t want to relive the past. I just want to focus on where we are next week. I think there was turbulence and I regret that.”
Liz Truss ‘was very emotional’
He further revealed that Truss was “very emotional” when he arrived at Downing Street from the airport after his trip to Washington for International Monetary Fund meetings was cut short on the day of his sacking, which he discovered after seeing a tweet from The Times’ political editor Steven Swinford.
He said: “I landed at 10.40 on a Friday morning…I learned on Twitter, on Steve Swinford’s Twitter - he must have tweeted it at 11.20am. I was in the car on the way to Downing Street and my special advisor said, ‘Kwasi Kwarteng will be sacked’ - oh that’s very interesting. So I went to Downing Street, she was very emotional. I can’t remember whether she was actually shedding tears but she was very emotional and it was a difficult thing to do.
“I think she genuinely thought that was the right thing to buy her more time to set her premiership on the right path. I disagreed, obviously. I thought if chancellors are sacked by the prime minister for doing what the prime minister campaigned on, that leaves the prime minister in a very weak position.”
Kwarteng also praised newly-minted Rishi Sunak as a “very credible prime minister” but he said he and the new chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, should not try to blame him and Truss for all the government’s present problems. He said the “only thing they could possibly blame them for” is the decrease in the interest and gilt rates. He said: “I mean, it wasn’t the national debt that was created by Liz Truss’s 44 days in government.”
He also insisted that he and Truss remain “friends”, but he revealed he still had not returned a missed call from her recently. Kwarteng is one of Truss’s closest political allies and friends. His appointment as chancellor was one of the first decisions she made even before she was announced as a likely winner in the Tory leadership contest. Kwarteng was sacked on October 14 after being in the job for six weeks.