By Paul Seddon
Politics reporter, BBC News
Former chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng has said he warned Liz Truss she was going too fast with her ill-fated economic plans.
In his first interview since he was sacked by the then PM, Mr Kwarteng told TalkTV he had warned her to “slow down” after September’s mini-budget.
He said he told her it was “mad” to fire him, and she would only last “three or four weeks” if she did.
“Little did I know it was only going to be six days,” he added.
Mr Kwarteng was dramatically fired by Ms Truss in October, two weeks after their tax-cutting mini-budget sparked turmoil on financial markets.
She then ditched almost all of the plan in a bid to stay in power, but announced her resignation a few days later – just over six weeks after taking office – as support from Conservative MPs ebbed away.
Labour’s shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said it was “really disgraceful that Kwasi Kwarteng has the cheek to do this interview”.
“He crashed the economy with his mini budget just a few weeks ago, which has caused untold damage to people,” she added.
Speaking to TalkTV, Mr Kwarteng said that he had warned Ms Truss about going at a “breakneck speed” with economic measures after the mini-budget.
“She said, ‘Well, I’ve only got two years’ and I said, ‘You will have two months if you carry on like this’. And that is, I’m afraid, what happened.”
He also said: “I think the prime minister was very much of the view that we needed to move things fast. But I think it was too quick.”
Mr Kwarteng, a longtime political ally and friend of Ms Truss, revealed the then-PM was “distressed and emotional” when she called him in to be fired, after summoning him back from a trip to the US.
He also revealed he found out he was going to be sacked when he saw a journalist tweeting about it while he was in the car going to Downing Street.
He said he had told her: “This is mad. Prime ministers don’t get rid of chancellors.”
By David Wallace Lockhart, political correspondent
Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng once looked like a dream combination to lead a Conservative government: freedom-loving tax cutters who wanted to prioritise growth, who also happened to be long-term friends.
But we know it didn’t work out that way. And now Mr Kwarteng has pointed the finger of blame firmly at his former boss. He claims to have told her to take her foot off the gas after the mini-budget.
This may raise some eyebrows, given that Mr Kwarteng told the BBC a few days after cutting taxes that there was “more to come”. That may not have helped investor confidence.
He insists that he remains friends with Ms Truss. But in this interview he does reveal elements of private conversations during his sacking that Ms Truss may well have preferred had stayed within the walls of Downing Street.
He once toured TV studios insisting she would make a great prime minister. It doesn’t feel like they’re on as good terms now as they once were.
And what next for Mr Kwarteng? It doesn’t sound like he’s going to be an awkward backbencher: he’s pledging complete loyalty to Rishi Sunak.
There was lots of detail in this interview, but it’s important to remember that this is only one side of the events that took place as Ms Truss’s premiership began to crumble. When will she break her silence?
The former chancellor said he did not think the prime minister could fire him “just for implementing what she campaigned on” during her summer Tory leadership campaign.
He highlighted pledges to scrap a planned increase in corporation tax and reverse a rise in national insurance as having been central to her platform.
Ms Kwarteng’s decision to announce the mini-budget without publishing an assessment by the government’s fiscal watchdog, and his repeated commitments to cutting tax was later seen as key to convincing investors that the government did not have a credible plan to keep debt levels under control.
In the interview, Mr Kwarteng acknowledged he had to “bear some responsibility” for the pace of the changes.
Asked whether he would like to apologise to homeowners facing higher mortgage costs after the mini-budget, he replied: “I don’t want to relive the past, I just want to focus on where we are next week. There was turbulence, and I regret that”.
He insisted he and Ms Truss were “still friends” – adding that they last spoke around a week ago. He revealed he had still not returned a missed call from her two days ago but added “I will call her back”.
Mr Kwarteng said he could not blamed for the government’s current financial problems.
“The only thing they could possibly blame us for is the interest rates, and interests rates have come down and the gilt rates have come down,” he said.
“I mean, it wasn’t that the national debt was crated by Liz Truss’ 44 days in government.”
The Chancellor Jeremy Hunt appeared to reject this suggestion.
Asked directly about his predecessor’s comments Mr Hunt said: “Well, all I would say is that when we produced a fiscal statement that didn’t show how we were going to bring our debts down over the medium term.
“The markets reacted very badly and so we have learned that you can’t fund either spending or borrowing without showing how you are going to pay for it and that is what I will do.”
What Kwarteng said about tax cuts
- 4 September On the eve of Liz Truss becoming prime minister, Kwasi Kwarteng writes an editorial in the Financial Times, promises to “cut taxes, putting money back into people’s pockets”, he said
- 22 September Ahead of his mini-budget Mr Kwarteng announces the he would reverse the 1.25% rise in National Insurance claiming “cutting tax is crucial” to growth
- 23 September Mr Kwarteng unveils the biggest package of tax cuts in 50 years in his mini-budget, as he hailed a “new era” for the UK economy
- 25 September Despite UK-listed stocks falling in reaction to the the mini-budget in an interview with the Laura Kuenssberg Mr Kwarteng he says there is “more to come” in the way of tax cuts
- 26 September The worst of the market turmoil begins, pushing the pound to record lows against the dollar and sending the cost of government borrowing soaring
- 3 October After u-turning on plans to scrap the 45p rate of income tax for higher earners Mr Kwarteng use his Conservative conference speech to insist the government will “stay the course” on the rest of his tax-cutting growth plan
- 14 October Ms Truss sacks Mr Kwarteng. In his resignation letter he claims “high taxation must change if this country is to succeed”
Ms Truss is yet to comment on her time in office since quitting Downing Street last month.
In a resignation speech outside No 10, she defended her lower-tax vision for the UK, insisting “We simply cannot afford to be a low-growth country where the government takes up an increasing share of our national wealth.”
In an earlier interview, she said she took responsibility for going “too far, too fast” with the tax cuts in the mini-budget.
Additional reporting by Christy Cooney