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Editorial: Truss must reverse course

IF Liz Truss had hoped a round of interviews with regional journalists would provide some much-needed reassurance for financial markets as well as worried families, then it turned out to be a misjudgement in line with just about everything else in her calamitous premiership so far.

The new prime minister emerged from days of radio silence as the British economy collapsed around her to repeatedly stumble in the face of direct questions about the impact of her mini-budget on mortgages, pensions and public services.

There was no hint of a u-turn on the £45bn package of unfunded tax cuts that sent the pound plummeting and made a dramatic rise in interest rates seemingly inevitable.

There was not even acknowledgement that the announcement was poorly handled or of the enormous anxiety felt by ordinary people amid the market chaos her government has unleashed.

Asked if pensions are safe, after the Bank of England was forced to make a £65bn intervention to prop up the market, Ms Truss could offer no guarantee.

Told that families have gone from worrying about heating their homes to keeping them, the repeated response was either to blame Vladimir Putin or trumpet the government's cap on energy bills.

The reality is that the market panic since the mini-budget has meant that savings on gas and electricity bills could be swallowed up by even bigger hikes in mortgage payments.

Even supporters of the growth plan have condemned the rushed announcement and failure to explain how borrowing would be paid for.

If the government is determined to stick with its "controversial and difficult" plan, it will now need to slash public spending to restore a measure of market confidence.

With the NHS already in crisis and other sectors under huge pressure from rising pay and energy costs, there will be a hefty political price to be paid.

Alarmingly, Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng was not even able to say yesterday if he will keep a promise to increase benefits in line with inflation.

The upshot was that Labour has opened an astonishing 33-point lead over the Conservatives as the party prepares to gather for a fraught annual conference next week.

It can only be hoped that the many Tory MPs fearful for their seats will be able to bring enough pressure to bear to make the prime minister see sense and reverse course.

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