Prime Minister Liz Truss is facing increasing anger from within her own party after refusing to commit to increasing benefits in line with inflation.
While former Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to increase working-age benefits in line with this September’s Consumer Prices Index measure of inflation (currently 9.9 per cent), Liz Truss has refused to commit to such a measure. It is instead expected that she will raise benefits in line with earnings, a more modest figure of 5.4 per cent.
This will mark a real-terms cut in benefit payments for the poorest people in society during a cost of living crisis, that will leave typical claimants around £214 worse off. Both Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng have refused to commit to raising benefits in line with inflation despite the government pledging to increase state pension contributions in line with inflation.
Truss Faces Rebellion
Despite the official government line being that no decision has yet been taken on whether benefits will rise in line with inflation, Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt, a cabinet minister broke with this message.
In an interview with Times Radio, she said: “I’ve always supported – whether it’s pensions, whether it’s our welfare system – keeping pace with inflation. It makes sense to do so. That’s what I voted for before.
“We want to make sure that people are looked after and that people can pay their bills. We are not about trying to help people with one hand and take away with another.”
These comments were later echoed by Secretary of State for Wales Robert Buckland KC MP who openly opposed a real terms cut in benefits, saying: “I’ve always had the back of people in need. The safety net is an important part of what One Nation Conservatism is all about.”
Her comments came as former Tory Ministers Damian Green and Michael Gove as well as former Vice Chair of the Conservative Party Bim Afolami all suggested that they would vote against the government in a vote on the measures.
In response, Rachel Reeves, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer said: “The idea that the government can afford to give tax cuts to the wealthiest but not uprate benefits in line with inflation is grotesque.”
Having just moved past an internal rebellion regarding the abolition of the 45p tax rate, the Prime Minister will no doubt be incredibly frustrated to find herself wading through yet more internal discord. However this time, she is facing rebellion from multiple cabinet ministers.
As Andrew Neil put it in a tweet today, we are watching the “collective responsibility of the Truss Cabinet crumbling before our very eyes.”
Indeed, with Home Secretary Suella Braverman expressing her disappointment with the reversal of the 45p tax cut, there is a level of tension on all sides of the party. Until there is an OBR forecast and further, more rigorous details on how the mini-budget will be financed, do not expect this to die down any time soon.
Similarly, Kemi Badenoch, Secretary of State for International Trade suggested yesterday that she was unhappy with indications that Liz Truss might look to increase immigration as a measure to spur growth.
It was all very well for Conservative MPs to insist that the party must unite behind their leader following Liz Truss’s selection as leader of the party. But now things are looking mightily different. Ultimately however, this level of rebellion and dissention is not all that surprising when you consider that the majority of the Parliamentary Conservative Party did not support her in her leadership bid.