Liz Truss: 'I don't regret being PM and blaming me for mortgage rates is unfair'

Liz Truss's return could spell further headaches for Rishi Sunak, ITV Political News Correspondent Carl Dinnen reports

Words by Lewis Denison

Liz Truss has insisted she does not regret being prime minister, despite the calamitous way her premiership ended, and claimed it is "unfair" to blame her for increased mortgage rates.

The right-wing Tory, who became the UK's shortest serving prime minister when she quit the role last year after just 49 days, gave a defiant first interview since resigning in which she defended her policies, including the disastrous mini-budget.

Her comeback has been widely decried by MPs however Rishi Sunak still values her contribution, according to his spokesman, despite the perceived damage she did to the Conservatives' performance in the polls.

Asked by the Spectator magazine if she wished she hadn't gone for the top job, Ms Truss said "no, I don’t regret it" but added: "I’m not desperate to get back into Number 10."

On mortgage rates, which soared for many customers in the wake of her mini-budget, the ex-PM said: "I don’t think it’s fair to blame interest rises on what we did. I think that’s unfair."

Elaborating, she said mortgage rates had already been rising and "lot of it is to do with the liability driven investments and the impact they had on the market".

Her mini-budget, which saw £45 billion worth of unfunded tax cuts, was blamed for the pound's value plummeting and interest rates soaring before she was forced to resign.

In a 4,000 word article which splashed the Sunday Telegraph's front page, she sought to blame a "left-wing economic establishment" for her downfall and attacked her successor for his economic policies.

She said he had put the UK’s fiscal policy "in a straitjacket" and suggested a "worrying economic consensus" is threatening growth, which she wanted to increase during her premiership.

But Ms Truss's economic policies were roundly condemned as catastrophic and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said his "heart sunk" when he heard about her essay.

He told broadcasters in Bristol that her comeback is "the last thing the country needs," adding: "My heart sunk at the idea of former prime ministers taking the stage to tell us about what they did. They did huge damage to our country and to our economy."

But it wasn't just opposition MPs rubbishing her credibility - Education Secretary Gillian Keegan told ITV News that the "markets made their mind up" on Ms Truss's economic plans.

Asked what went wrong for Ms Truss's government, Ms Keegan told ITV News Deputy Political Editor Anushka Asthana that she should have introduced policies to cut inflation first, before considering how to grow the economy.

"The markets made their mind up," she said, "there were many, many reasons why her premiership did not end in success, but, growing the economy is something that we can agree on."

Health Secretary Steve Barclay, on the other hand, appeared more welcoming of his colleague's return.

He said she was "right to focus on growth", telling ITV News: “I’m keen to hear from Liz, she brings huge experience as a former Cabinet minister, she was one of the longest-serving Cabinet ministers and I think it’s good to hear from colleagues including former prime ministers.”

A Number 10 spokesman appeared to distance Mr Sunak and his Conservative administration from Ms Truss's comments and policies.

The spokesman said that while he does not comment on former governments or prime ministers, “in broader terms, we value the scrutiny of independent bodies like the OBR [Office for Budget Responsibility].

“The chancellor is working closely with them in the lead up to the spring budget as you would expect.

“And they will have a role in providing independent, credible and high quality analysis. We are making the fiscal decisions to get inflation down, which in turn will help us grow the economy.”

Ms Truss's intervention is likely to be seen in Westminster as a rallying cry for Tory MPs who have been pressing Mr Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to cut taxes.

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Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, she said: “I am not claiming to be blameless in what happened, but fundamentally I was not given a realistic chance to enact my policies by a very powerful economic establishment, coupled with a lack of political support.

“I assumed upon entering Downing Street that my mandate would be respected and accepted. How wrong I was. While I anticipated resistance to my programme from the system, I underestimated the extent of it.

“Similarly, I underestimated the resistance inside the Conservative parliamentary party to move to a lower-tax, less-regulated economy.”

She also warned the country has “ended up in a situation as a country where fiscal policy is in a straitjacket. Moreover, there is a worrying economic consensus – both at a national and, increasingly, international level – that is preventing economic dynamism and growth”.

Over the weekend, former Tory Party chairman Sir Jake Berry offered his support for Ms Truss’s agenda, telling the BBC that she had offered the right “diagnosis of the disease that is facing the country”, although it “wasn’t delivered in the correct way”.