By Elizabeth Piper and Michael Holden
LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Liz Truss sought to reassert authority over her fraught party on Wednesday with Conservative enforcers telling lawmakers they had to support her fracking policy as a vote treated as a test of confidence in the government.
Truss is trying to shore up support from within her party after she was forced to scrap her vast tax-cutting plan, leading some Conservative lawmakers to call for her to be replaced as leader just weeks after she took office.
She has admitted her radical economic plans had gone “too far and too fast” after investors dumped the pound and government bonds.
However, with mortgage rates soaring and official figures showing inflation back to a 40-year high, Truss, who was elected by Conservative members on a promise of tax cuts and maintaining public spending, faces a struggle to convince the public and her party she could address the cost of living crisis.
Polls indicate Conservatives are some 30 points behind the opposition Labour Party, and her own ratings are calamitous.
“What I’m not convinced by … is that going through another leadership campaign, defenestrating another prime minister, will either convince the British people that we’re thinking about them rather than ourselves or convince the markets to stay calm,” foreign minister James Cleverly told Sky News.
But, speculation about the prime minister’s future continues to grow, with media reporting that rebellious Conservatives are weighing up who should replace her, not if she should go.
“I think her position is becoming increasingly untenable,” Conservative lawmaker Steve Double told Times radio. “We’ve seen a complete reversal of just about everything she stood for in her leadership election campaign. I think many of us are asking exactly what does Liz Truss now believe and stand for?”
Truss will face parliament later on Wednesday for her usual weekly question and answer session, and later the main opposition Labour Party will seek to hold a vote on an outright ban on fracking, after the government last month lifted a moratorium in England that had been in place since 2019.
Conservative ‘whips’, responsible for enforcing discipline among members of parliament, sent a message to their lawmakers saying the vote would be treated as a “confidence motion in the government”.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper, Michael Holden and William James; Editing by Kate Holton)