Political Correspondent Libby Wiener on the combative exchanges in parliament as Liz Truss tries to shore up her dwindling support
Liz Truss came out fighting at PMQs insisting she was "not a quitter" after Sir Keir Starmer said the Conservatives’ economic credibility is “gone” and asked of the prime minister, "Why is she still here?”, claiming claimed Labour were a "government in waiting".
The embattled prime minister faced down cries of "resign" as she told the Commons she had "been very clear that I am sorry and that I have made mistakes" after she was forced to bin her entire economic strategy.
Ms Truss insisted she is “completely committed” to the triple lock on state pensions just a day after Downing Street triggered a backlash by indicating it could be ditched.
Her new chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, had told ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston the opposite just two days ago.
The prime minister is battling to retain her position and has risked a fresh fight with Tory MPs by making a vote on a Labour motion on fracking a test of confidence in her administration.
Despite her fragile position, she repeatedly told MPs “I am a fighter, not a quitter” – echoing the 2001 declaration made by Labour grandee Peter Mandelson.
Sir Keir opened with a retort about an upcoming book about Ms Truss's time in office.
"Apparently it’s going to be out by Christmas. Is that the release date or the title?" he joked.
In his concluding remarks, Sir Keir said: “The only mandate she’s ever had is from members opposite, it was a mandate built on fantasy economics and it ended in disaster.
“The country’s got nothing to show for it except the destruction of the economy and the implosion of the Tory Party.”
He then read out a list of dropped economic policies, with Labour MPs shouting “gone” after each one, adding: “Economic credibility – gone. And her supposed best friend the former chancellor, he’s gone as well. They’re all gone. So why is she still here?”
Ms Truss replied: “I am a fighter and not a quitter. I have acted in the national interest to make sure that we have economic stability.”
The prime minister included the energy price guarantee among her achievements, despite her two-year plan to cap energy bills being scaled back to six months by Mr Hunt in line with Labour's policy she had criticised in last week's PMQs.
Sir Keir told the Commons: “Last week, the prime minister ignored every question put to her. Instead, she repeatedly criticised Labour’s plan for a six-month freeze on energy bills. This week, the Chancellor made it her policy.
“How can she be held to account when she’s not in charge?”
Ms Truss said she had to "take the decision because of the economic situation to adjust our policies".
It was her first PMQs grilling since her Mr Hunt ripped up her plan for tax cuts and increased public borrowing in a bid to reassure markets in the wake of the mini-budget turmoil.
It could come amid more gloomy economic news, with economists predicting that Office for National Statistics data will reveal inflation returned to double-figures in September.
The PM faces disquiet from Tory MPs over plans for public spending cuts across all departments, after Mr Hunt warned of decisions of “eye-watering difficulty” to plug the government’s multibillion-pound financial black hole.
He is considering postponing by a year the cap on the sum people pay for care in old age, The Times reported.
Treasury sources did not deny to the PA News agency that the policy could be delayed, pointing to the Chancellor’s statement that “nothing is off the table”.
Her official spokesperson said she is “not making any commitments on individual policy areas” ahead of the Chancellor’s fiscal plan on October 31.
The Prime Minister later cancelled a trip out of Westminster to visit a factory, where she was due to take questions from journalists.
Downing Street declined to give a reason for why she pulled out of the scheduled visit on Wednesday, with a source just saying it was due to “Government business”.
Cleverly describes triple lock as "manifesto commitment" but refuses to comment on Chancellors statement
Speaking to reporters this morning, the Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said the triple lock was a "manifesto commitment" but refused to confirm that it would not be touched ahead of the Chancellor's statement.
"The longstanding convention is we don't speculate or attempt to pre-announce any elements of those financial statements," he said.
However, the Prime Minister reiterated her pledge to boost defence spending after the armed forces minister publicly threatened to resign if it was broken.
She said she stood by her promise in a meeting with Tory MPs from the European Research Group (ERG) – one in a series of gatherings aimed at shoring up her ailing position.
ERG chairman Mark Francois described the meeting on Tuesday evening as “positive”, and said: “We were delighted to hear her make an unequivocal commitment to spending 3% of GDP on defence by the end of the decade.”
The PM also told the group that she found axing her tax-slashing programme “painful” and did it “because she had to”, according to her deputy press secretary.
A meeting between Mr Hunt, who is widely seen as effectively in control, and Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the powerful 1922 Committee of backbenchers, likely fuelled further questions about the Prime Minister’s future.
Mr Hunt is due to make a 1922 Committee appearance on Wednesday.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told ITV News political correspondent Libby Wiener the party had no "unity candidate" at present.
He said: "If there were a unity candidate that everyone agreed upon we would know the name of that person by definition, and I'm not hearing that unanimity of voice."There are no names kicking around."
He poured cold water on speculation about the potential for a Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt joint-ticket leadership bid.
"These are not names that have widespread support in the party," Mr Cleverly said. "These are people that competed against Liz in the leadership campaign - and Liz beat them in the leadership campaign."
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