October 14, 2022 - 5:00pm

The partnership that wanted to unchain Britannia is now itself undone. Liz Truss has sacked her Chancellor, closest political ally, friend, and die-hard Trussketeer, Kwasi Kwarteng. It is a clear and desperate attempt to steady her premiership just a few weeks after getting the job.

A new Chancellor is, however, unlikely to mark a great regeneration, but rather the start of the endgame. The only question now is whether her political demise is long and drawn out or swift and merciful.

Kwarteng will return to the backbenches in ignominy. His tenure at the Treasury is the second shortest ever, behind Iain Macleod — a great politician who suffered an untimely death just a month into the role. Kwarteng managed just a week longer, but was felled by his own policies. His legacy is destined to be little more than a tricky pub quiz question.

With Jeremy Hunt by her side, Truss faces the same problems. Britain’s growth outlook remains bleak and public services are crumbling. Measures to support energy bills will still be costly yet politically essential. The same will prove true of uplifts to benefits and pensions. Little has changed from when she took office. The difference is that now she has fired her first shot, and hit only her Chancellor.

Truss’s ideas have not survived first contact with the markets or public opinion. The abolition of the 45p tax rate has been set aside; so too has the planned cut to corporation tax. A PM who entered on a message that taxes were choking the economy has been unable to slice through the Gordian Knot. A PM who said she would challenge the status quo, no matter what the experts or the polls thought, has backtracked. Her bluff has been called.

Truss now faces a credibility problem. Her economic policy was the bedrock of her pitch to the members. Part of her perceived strength was 10 and 11 Downing Street acting in concert, following the division between Johnson and Sunak. She cannot pretend the disastrous mini-budget was a frolic of Kwarteng’s own invention. It will be hard to escape its poisonous political legacy, or to convince the markets she can bring stability.

The PM is clearly trying a relaunch, but without a solid base. The press conference today shows she is still stilted, wooden and lacking in confident communication while she has also been forced to abandon the reforms she thought were key last month. She’s exposed her own bad judgment and also a lack of perseverance and self-belief. You cannot say you believe what you are saying, come-what-may, and then retreat at the backlash.

Truss’s mini-budget took on the public, the market, and the parliamentary party. In sacking Kwarteng and abandoning his plans she has chosen not to stare them down. There seems little she can offer now. Her premiership is without purpose. She is neutered and humiliated. Britannia is not unchained but Truss is unmoored. All that is to be confirmed is when, and how, she sinks.

John Oxley is a corporate strategist and political commentator. His Substack is Joxley Writes.