'Have you considered resigning?': Kwasi Kwarteng grilled over 45p rate tax cut

Kwasi Kwarteng spoke about the huge decision to abandon his plan to axe the 45p tax rate for top-earners in a new interview with BBC Breakfast on Monday morning.

The Chancellor appeared to discuss the U-turn just hours after Liz Truss insisted the cut would go ahead to backtrack under fierce pressure.

“We get it and we have listened,” Kwarteng said in a statement, calling the 45p rate cut “a distraction from our overriding mission to tackle the challenges facing the country”.

It comes after former cabinet minister Michael Gove led the criticism of the PM’s plans for tax cuts for the rich, saying her unfunded £45bn package had the “wrong values” and was not Conservative.

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Gove’s intervention came as pressure from Tory MPs mounted for Truss to perform a U-turn on controversial plans to axe the 45p income tax band, which would have gifted an average £10,000 to the 600,000 highest earners in the UK at a time when ministers are eyeing real-terms cuts to welfare benefits.

Grant Shapps has also told the BBC that Truss would lose a vote in the Commons on cutting the top rate of income tax.

Didn’t see it as a mistake – but a distraction

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Kwarteng used the word ‘distraction’ perhaps 20 times in the space of a 15-minute interview, but insisted that the proposed tax cut wasn’t a mistake – despite the fact it was immensely unpopular it took just 10 days to U-turn on.

"It was an ambitious plan. We talked to lots and lots of people up and down the country. [We] felt [the 45 tax rate] was a distraction on what was a strong growth package," he said.

Truss and Kwarteng can be dissuaded by public opinion on key issues

“We listened to people, we get it,” Kwarteng said, explaining their decision to reverse the proposal. He also pointed to the “reaction” as one of the reasons why the pair decided to reverse the decision.

He also thinks Truss has stayed true to her election pledges

“What Truss campaigned on is not increasing the campaign tax, and we’ve not done that, and reversing the national insurance tax rise, [which we’ve done],” the Chancellor said.

What will the money be spent on? No idea

The Chancellor didn’t reveal what the extra two billion pounds freed up by the reversing of the plan would be spent on.

He was asked by presenter Jon Kay whether or not the money would be used to fund public services and Kwarteng refused to say whether he would do. Instead, he said the Tories would announce details in the medium plan set to be announced in November.

He hasn’t considered resigning

When asked if he was considering his position, Kwarteng replied: “Not at all... We’re totally focused on following a low tax route.”

Whether or not he has a say in the future of his political career after this, though, remains to be seen…

Somehow, Kwarteng still sees this as ‘sticking the course’

“There were lots and lots of policies in the budget which we’re sticking with,” Kwarteng said, attempting to play down the key policy of the mini-budget.

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