UK inflation hits 10% as Leeds Strass faces parliament


LONDON — British Prime Minister Liz Truss lost her second key cabinet official on Wednesday following the resignation of Home Secretary Seulla Braverman.

In another day of political turmoil in Britain, Braverman resigned as home secretary – one of the four “Great National Offices,” or the most senior positions in government, which also include the prime minister, chancellor and foreign secretary. The terms of her resignation remain unclear.

Two senior officials have left since Truss became prime minister in early September. Her predecessor, Prime Minister Quasi Kwaten, was sacked on Friday.

Earlier in the day, Truss, who declared herself “a fighter, not a quitter”, was asked to resign herself in her first public inquiry since she sacked the finance minister and saw her economic agenda destroyed .

Truss apologised to parliament — in part — for having been heavily criticized for first proposing big tax cuts and then changing herself after her policies teetered financial markets.

“I’m very clear, I’m sorry, I made a mistake,” she told lawmakers in the House of Commons, where opposition members accused the new prime minister of going to power without a viable plan and mandate.

If Truss is in trouble, so will the UK economy. Just hours before she appeared in parliament, the government reported that inflation rose to 10.1 per cent in September compared to last year’s prices. Higher food costs have driven prices soaring.

Before Truss became leader, the economy was in trouble — though she arguably made things worse. Energy costs are soaring, in part due to Russia’s war in Ukraine; the pound is taking a hit; the Bank of England warns of a possible recession before the end of the year.

In her speech, Truss blamed global headwinds for the problems — not her botched economic growth plan, which envisages tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, paid for with heavy borrowing and more debt.

With Liz Truss’ agenda destroyed, Brits ask PM if PM is still in power

Her appearance on Prime Minister’s Questions, or PMQs, was only her third since becoming the country’s leader six weeks ago – finding Truss mostly on the defensive. She lashed out at opposition parties. But the opposition has not ruled Britain for the past 12 years. Her Conservatives have.

Labour leader Keir Starmer asked Truss: “What’s the point of a PM who promises nothing for a week?”

Starmer said Truss’ now-failed economic plan had caused homeowners’ adjustable mortgage rates to soar, and accused her of “destroying” the UK economy.

“How could she be held accountable for not being in charge?” Starmer asked, referring to how her new treasurer, Jeremy Hunt, proposed a brand new government policy this week. Some politicians and the British media have called Hunt the “de facto prime minister”.

“My actions are in the national interest to ensure our economic stability,” Truss countered.

The comments from the public are brutal. A YouGov poll found that only 10 percent of voters had a favorable opinion of Truss, making her the least popular prime minister the group has tracked. Another survey found that a majority of Conservative Party members – a small fraction of those who voted for her in office – now want to see her resign.

If Truss stays in office, it’s probably not because she’s a fighter but because Conservative lawmakers – who will have to pressure her or vote her out – have a presence on who might replace her disagreement.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverley was among those in the party calling for patience. Speaking to Sky News, he said “running another leadership campaign, defending another prime minister” would not “convince the British people that we are thinking of them and not ourselves” or “convince the markets to remain calm”.

“I’m angry, I totally get it, but it’s an emotional response, not a plan,” he added.

The latest double-digit inflation reading was the highest in 40 years, matching July’s figure after falling slightly to 9.9% in August. The government’s target inflation rate is 2%.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Wednesday showed that the increase in costs was mainly driven by food prices, which rose 14.5% compared to the same period last year. This was the largest annual increase since 1980.

“Following a slight dip last month, headline inflation is back at the highs seen earlier in the summer,” Darren Morgan, head of economic statistics at the ONS, said in a statement. “This increase was driven by further growth in the food sector. This is the largest annual increase in more than 40 years, and hotel prices have risen after falling this time last year.”

Falls in gasoline and airfare prices have moderated the increase to some extent, while used car prices have not risen as much as they did last year, he added.

Hunter responded to the data, saying he understood people across the country were struggling with higher bills.

“This government will prioritise helping the most vulnerable, while achieving broader economic stability and driving long-term growth that benefits all,” he said.

On Monday, Hunt announced that Truss’ previous pledge to help Britons pay for energy over the next two years had been scrapped because it was too expensive. Right now, support is only guaranteed until April 2023. Hunter said further help would be “targeted”.

So far, the government has refused to fund the subsidies through a windfall profits tax on oil and gas suppliers, as the opposition has demanded.

Experts warn that bills could soar from an average of $2,800 a year to more than $4,500 next spring due to rising global energy prices.

The crunch in household costs has hit the lowest earners hardest, as they spend most of their money on food, fuel and energy.

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