Kwasi Kwarteng refuses to confirm changes to Brexit immigration rules
In yet another instance of Tory ministers not understanding their full brief, Kwasi Kwarteng has claimed the chancellor of the Exchequer “does not comment on market movements” – despite previous MPs in the role managing to do that just fine.
The bizarre remarks were made on the BBC political programme Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, just days after the new chancellor unveiled his “growth plan” for 2022 – or “mini-budget” - in the Commons amid the ongoing cost of living crisis.
He told MPs on Friday: “We are taking three steps to support families and businesses with the cost of energy.
“Firstly, to help households, the Energy Price Guarantee will limit the unit price that consumers pay for electricity and gas.
“Secondly, as well as helping people, we need to support the businesses who employ them. The Energy Bill Relief Scheme will reduce wholesale gas and electricity prices for all UK businesses, charities, and the public sector like schools and hospitals.
“Thirdly, energy prices are extremely volatile, erratically rising and falling every hour. So to support the market, we are announcing the Energy Markets Financing Scheme.”
Ms Kuenssberg highlighted this in her interview with the Conservative MP and asked: “In the hours after your statement, we saw the pound fall to its lowest level in many, many years. Stock markets fell and, crucially, the cost of government borrowing went up too.
“Are you nervous about the economic reaction to what you had to say on Friday?
Mr Kwarteng replied that his focus was on “growing the economy”, and when pressed again by the ex-BBC political editor, added he has always been focussed on the “longer-term and medium-term” and that it was necessary to have a “long-term growth plan”.
Ms Kuenssberg tried the question again, worded slightly differently.
She said: “Our viewers would have seen very dramatically what happened in response to your statement on Friday directly. What happens if the pound continues to slide like that?”
Mr Kwarteng responded: “You know that as chancellor of the Exchequer, I don’t comment on market movements. What I am focussed on is growing the economy and making sure that Britain is an attractive place to invest.
“It’s a competitive global arena and we have to show that this country is open for business and that we’re driving growth, and that’s what my Friday statement was all about.”
Except, former chancellors have absolutely commented on market movements in the past.
Take ex-chancellor Phillip Hammond – now Lord Hammond of Runnymede – who back in 2016 as a cabinet minister in Theresa May’s government spoke to the BBC about a crash in the pound.
He told the broadcaster in October 2016: “Markets will go up and down. Markets respond to noises off and as I said earlier this week, we’re going to go through a period of volatility now.
“There will be lots of commentary going on, and we can expect to see markets being more turbulent over this period. We should prepare for that, the government should take the necessary measures to respond to it, to keep the economy going during this period.”
That also sounds like commenting on market movements to us, Kwasi!
Or how about in June this year, when Rishi Sunak in Boris Johnson’s government (remember that) told the Treasury Committee he did not share concerns from the Bank of America that the pound was verging on becoming an emerging market territory.
And so naturally, Twitter users are now scratching their heads at Mr Kwarteng’s comments, and raising eyebrows at the fact that commenting on market developments may well be… well… his actual job:
\u201cKwasi Kwarteng refuses to discuss the plunge in the pound, saying that as chancellor he cannot discuss "market movements". Really?\u201d