Heappey on Truss
Wells MP James Heappey appeared on the Today programme on Radio 4 this morning. You have to give the MP credit for trying to apologise, but he didn’t get a particularly easy ride from Nick Robinson. To be fair, giving easy rides is not Mr Robinson’s job. By the by when Heappey refers to the Cabinet, he is not actually a Cabinet Minister. However in the Liz Truss reshuffle with his new post he was invited to attend Cabinet meetings.
Listening to that is Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey who backed Liz Truss and said he thought it was rather invigorating to see her cutting taxes and being bold. Was that a mistake Minister, Good Morning.
Morning Nick. No, and in fact when the mini budget was presented to Cabinet 3 or 4 Fridays ago, each and every measure in and of itself I could see the sense in it and how it might catalyse growth. But I think its not just the prime Minister who needs to be owning the mistake and apologising for it, we’re all bound by collective responsibility in Cabinet and I like the rest of my colleagues in the Cabinet failed to see how cumulatively the scale of that package was going to catch the markets unaware and all that would follow.
Well the PM says she has made mistakes so let me ask you about a few you might have made. You said when you backed her “Liz would slash taxes”. Was that a mistake?
Well no it clearly wasn’t a mistake in that she did indeed try and do that.
You went on to say there is definitely not any part of Liz’s body as far as I can tell that agrees with raising taxes. That was a mistake wasn’t it because she’s just done that?
Well I think events have caused the outcome that we have seen. Nick to be clear coz I think it is important for government to do the mea culpa when government has got it wrong. But I also think its important to stand our ground and reflect that what we have seen with interest rates and the impact on the UK economy is not exclusively the consequence of that mini budget I think you’ve had plenty of analysis on your show over the last few weeks that would agree with that.
No I’m sorry Mr Heappey that isn’t the analysis we’ve had. We’ve had analysis that every single economist, every former chancellor, every expert has said what Rishi Sunak told you in the contest in which you chose to say “Liz Truss will ensure fiscal prudence.” They said that wouldn’t happen, they were right. So did you make a mistake.
I have said that the mini budget went too far too fast. The PM said that last night and she’s apologised for it. But I push back a bit there is I think you do agree an international thing going on with the global economy there are other major economies that are also going into recession there are other central banks that are also raising interest rates, mortgage rates in the UK are rising but so too are mortgage rates in almost all of our competitor economies….
That’s true Mr Heappey. But I’m going to put this to you. The Deputy Governor of the Bank of England wrote to the Chair of the Treasury Select Committee and said in terms that the fiscal event as we have to call it rather absurdly, the mini budget, had led the BoE to have to change its behaviour, had led to an increase in interest rates above and beyond anything that was happening in any other country in the world. That was a mistake Mr Heappey it was a mistake that you were warned of and you still told people to back Liz Truss as Prime Minister.
I’m not disputing the consequence of the mini budget was an impact on the UK economy that caused the Bank to move faster than it might otherwise have done. But I’m also saying and I think this to be true that it is the case that other major economies around the world are also affected by inflation are also pulling a lever of increased interest rates to try to control that inflation. So I’m not trying to stonewall you and say this is all the consequence of global economic movement. Clearly it is not, but I’m also just seeking to put in a bit of balance in that says there is some agency that the government has had which has been owned by the Prime Minister and her Cabinet and apologised for.
That’s obviously the focus of today as she’s just admitted to mistakes. Let me quote to you one last thing that you said when you decided to back her as leader having said she was in favour of tax cuts and fiscal prudence and was invigorating You said Nothing reveals the calibre of a leader clearer than a crisis. Unwittingly you were right weren’t you. We have learned about her leadership from a crisis that she created and many of your own colleagues have now concluded she’s simply not up to the job.
Well I would dispute firstly how many colleagues are in quite the place the media think. You’ve been in the Commons you know that there are undoubtedly some colleagues who feel like they are in quite a unreconcilable place although I hope that the government can speak to them understand their concerns and try to build a bridge to them as best we can. I think the vast majority of colleagues recognise that a mistake was made the PM has owned that and apologised for it.
If the alternative to rowing in behind the PM and making a success of her government is to throw ourselves into another period of great rancour; I really do think it is for the birds the idea that there is someone who can emerge and behind whom everybody in the parliamentary party and our membership unites and the country forgets about that everything that happened in the past 15 months or so and we’re just allowed to get on with it. I just don’t think that’s the case.
Liz was elected as our party leader, our PM she made a mistake that she’s owned. She’s also making a lot of good decisions around lots of other things that are going on in the UK and internationally. The party ought to get behind her.
If you’d like to hear the whole interview, you can do so on the BBC here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m001d5cg
The interview starts at 2hr 17 minutes in….