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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Truss is jeered in UK Parliament but insists she can govern

Prime Minister Liz Truss of Britain said she would guarantee a pension increase that her finance chief had called into question.

By Mark Landler and Stephen Castle

Under relentless pressure after the repudiation of her economic agenda, Prime Minister Liz Truss of Britain rejected demands Wednesday that she resign, declaring, “I am a fighter and not a quitter.”

Speaking at a stormy session of prime minister’s questions in Parliament, Truss repeated her apology for announcing tax cuts that had rattled financial markets and sent the British pound into a tailspin. But she insisted that she could continue to govern despite all the turmoil.

“I had to take the decision because of the economic situation to adjust our policies,” Truss said, her obvious understatement drawing catcalls from opposition lawmakers and pained expressions from members of her own Conservative Party.

It was a brutal ordeal for Truss in only her third appearance for such questioning as prime minister — and one that is likely to deepen doubts about whether she can cling to her job. But as painful as it was, political analysts said it had not produced the kind of knockout blow that would make her ouster imminent.

Still, the tough questioning by opposition lawmakers did produce yet another reversal in the government’s policy. On Tuesday, senior officials had signaled that Downing Street might no longer honor an election guarantee to increase state pension payments to keep up with both average earnings growth and the inflation rate, which is now at 10.1%.

But when Truss was asked about the pledge by the parliamentary leader of the Scottish National Party, Ian Blackford, she said she was “completely committed” to it. That appeared to put her at odds with her new chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, who has warned about the need for painful spending cuts.

But a Downing Street spokesperson said afterward that the prime minister and chancellor had conferred on the policy Wednesday morning before she spoke. And Hunt sat behind Truss, nodding at her statements.

Still, the question of who is actually running the government hung over the proceedings. On Monday, when Hunt appeared in the House of Commons to confirm the reversal of her economic program, she sat silently behind him.

The leader of the opposition Labour Party, Keir Starmer, pressed Truss to explain why her statements should be treated with any credibility, given the reversal of her policies and the appointment of Hunt, who, at a minimum, has taken control of the economic levers of government.

Referring to the tax cuts, as well as Truss’ first chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, whom she ousted last week, Starmer said, “They’re all gone, so why is she still here?”

Truss tried to turn the tables by accusing Starmer of backing “militant” unions: Railway workers are scheduled to strike again next month. But those counterpunches failed to land on a day that was dominated by uncertainty over how the prime minister could rebuild her standing after such a disastrous debut.

“I have acted in the national interest to make sure we have financial stability,” Truss said, repeating, “I’m a fighter, not a quitter.”

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