After days of accusations that the new Prime Minister has been MIA – Missing in Action following the not so ‘mini Budget’, Truss was touring local radio stations this morning defending the Government’s widely criticised plans.
First up, was BBC Radio Leeds where Truss defended the Chancellor’s statement last Friday. Contradicting standard economic orthodoxy, she said the Government had to “get the economy moving” to deal with inflation.
In her first comments since the market volatility, she said that the Government “had to take decisive action,” but conceded that “growth won’t come through overnight.”
As the Chief Secretary to the Treasury explained earlier in the morning to Times Radio, Truss pointed to global economic instability caused by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. She conceded that “we’re facing difficult economic times” but said “The important thing is the British Government acted to protect people from these high energy costs, to make sure we’re getting the economy going.”
“It’s not just Britain facing difficulties, this is a global problem”, she added.
Across all interviews she repeatedly said the Government is working closely with the Bank of England and is “very clear the Government has done the right thing” by acting “to deal with inflation, to deal with the economic slowdown and to deal with the high energy bills”.
“Elements of controversy”
Next was BBC Radio Norfolk – home turf for the Prime Minister who is a constituency MP in the county.
Truss said that her priority was supporting the British people through a difficult winter when they’re worried about “ultra-high fuel bills”.
Despite most economists highlighting that the impact of the Government’s ‘mini Budget’ have wiped out any savings from their energy package, Truss conceded “of course there are elements of controversy, as there always are.”
Asked about the critical comments from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), she told her local radio station that: “What nobody is arguing with is that we had to take action”.
Defending the plan that was set out by the Chancellor, she said “This is the right plan that we’ve set out.” She added, “It is important the UK is on the front foot, we are pulling all the levers we can to drive economic growth.” She said, if steps are not taken to grow the economy, the UK will not see high paid jobs and investment.
“There are many people with many different opinions but what I think nobody is arguing with is we had to take action with what is a very difficult economic situation,” Truss added.
“Doing the right thing”
BBC local radio has never been a pushover, it would be naive to think anything else.
Asked by BBC Radio Kent if she is “ashamed” about the state of the economy followingthe measures set out by the Chancellor on Friday, she said “it’s important to remember the situation the UK was facing with high energy bills and inflation.”
She said the Government’s action on high energy bills will reduce inflation by 5% this winter.
Most economists have countered this by explaining that the Government’s tax cutting plans will wipe out this inflationary reduction and push up interest rates.
Tax cuts will not solely benefit the wealthy
As the Prime Minister has been visibly absent from the national media since Friday, BBC Radio Nottingham continued the trend of asking the difficult question.
After all calculations show that the ‘mini Budget’ benefitted higher income households, Truss said it “simply isn’t true” that the tax cuts announced on Friday will benefit higher earners.
“The biggest part of the package that we announced is the support on energy bills, making sure that people across this country are not facing energy bills of more than £2,500 and the businesses can get through this winter,” she said.
Most commentators have been quick to highlight the promise that “no household will be charged more than £2,500 for their energy is incorrect. Money saving expert, Martin Lewis has been a vocal ‘fact checker’ highlighting that there is in fact “no £2,500 cap on energy prices.”
Asked why she is opposed to a windfall tax on gas and energy firms, Truss said that this would “put off people investing in our country”.
With independent bodies suggesting that growth will return sooner because of the Chancellor’s actions last Friday, the Prime Minister said that it’s not “fair” to have a recession or to not have high-paying jobs in the future because “we’ve got the highest tax burden in 70 years”.
Growing the size of the pie
In response to a question of whether the Government’s proposed tax cuts will make the poorest in society poorer, and the wealthiest even wealthier, finishing her tour at BBC Radio Stoke, Truss was keen to highlight that “I want the average salary in Stoke to go up.”
Truss said tax policy is about “how we grow the size of the pie so that everyone can benefit.”
Despite most food prices continuing to increase because of more expensive import costs because of the ‘mini Budget’, Truss said her energy package will help reduce overall inflation, which will help reduce food prices as well.
“Farmers, people that produce food, have energy going into their production so it will help reduce prices overall,” said Truss.
Fracking perfectly safe in various parts of world
On what is considered safe ground for the Prime Minister, Truss waded into fracking on BBC Radio Lancashire. Lancashire is the only county in the UK with a fracking operation.
“We will only press ahead with fracking in areas where there is local community support,” she said.
Citing that the UK has become dependent on global energy prices she says that “we simply do not want to be in that position”.
She added fracking is carried out in various parts of the world and is “perfectly safe”.
Politicians should not underestimate local radio.
The BBC in particular produces some of the most talented political commentators in media.
For politicians, there is also a lot of risk of getting it wrong. Local media is briefed to MPs as the place for comment – an element of the press that is trusted much more than the nationals. When you get it wrong, it can backfire spectacularly.
We will leave the reader to come to their own conclusions.
However, with Conservative Party Conference only days away, there will be only one thing that members will be talking about…