December 9, 2022

Liz Truss was grilled over her own mortgage and U-turn on the 45p tax rate in an awkward exchange with Sky News presenter Beth Rigby today – after turning up for the interview in trainers.

Mortgage rates have risen by almost a full percentage point in the two weeks since Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget, figures have revealed.

This afternoon, in a sit-down at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, Mrs Rigby asked the Prime Minister if she herself had a mortgage, to which she replied: ‘I do’.

“And do you have a question about refinancing?” said the reporter. “Well me,” said Mrs. Truss, laughing awkwardly. “I, I mean, I have a mortgage, yes I do.”

“The reason I’m asking you is because a lot of people are facing a rise in interest rates and if you have to re-mortgage to a variable rate you could run into hundreds of pounds in extra costs,” said Ms Rigby. ‘So I’m just asking you if, as prime minister, it’s also something you personally have to think about.’

Mrs Truss dodged the question, saying she realized people were concerned about interest rates but they were decided by the Bank of England, not politicians.

Today, in a sit-down at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham, Beth Rigby asked the Prime Minister if she herself had a mortgage, to which she replied: ‘I do’

Brokers have warned that homeowners face another week of chaos as lenders try to get a handle on market expectations of soaring interest rates.

The typical rate for a two-year fixed home loan has risen to 5.75 per cent, up from 4.74 per cent on September 23, the day of the chancellor’s announcement.

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This is more than double the average rate of 2.34 per cent offered last December, according to analysts at Moneyfacts.

Today’s Sky News interview got off to a combative start, with Mrs Rigby outlining the chaos that had engulfed the prime minister’s first two weeks before asking: ‘This is surely the worst start for any prime minister.’

Asked about her decision to change her mind on cutting the top rate from 45p to 40p, Mrs Truss said there was ‘absolutely no shame’ in a leader ‘listening to people’, adding: ‘What I did , was that I made the decision a lot. quickly at the 45p rate that it was becoming a distraction from the core policies we were delivering.

‘Core policies for the energy price guarantee, to keep taxes low during the economic downturn, those were the priorities. Frankly, 45p was not a priority policy and I listened to people.

“I think there’s absolutely no shame, Beth, in a leader who listens to people and responds, and that’s the kind of person I am, and I’ve been completely honest and open with people that everything I has done as prime minister is focused on helping people get through a very difficult winter and very difficult circumstances and put our country on a stronger footing for the future.’

Ms Truss said a decision on upgrading benefits would be made “in due course”.

“And do you have a question about refinancing?” said the journalist. “Well me,” said Mrs. Truss, laughing awkwardly. ‘I, I mean I have a mortgage, yes I do’

On upgrading benefits in line with inflation, she told Sky News: ‘We have not made a decision on that issue yet…any announcement will be made to Parliament.’

She added: ‘Obviously we will make the decision on the merits of an upgrade in due course, but that decision has not yet been made.

‘I’m not ambivalent, I’m focused on the issue at hand, which has sorted the energy crisis, made sure we put Britain on a solid footing, made sure we got our economy growing, that’s what I’ve been focused on.’

Ms Truss also said the prospect of Ukraine joining Nato was not an “immediate issue” or “on the table at the moment”.

The Prime Minister said: ‘I don’t think it’s an immediate problem for Ukraine to join Nato.’

She added: ‘What I have committed to is that Ukraine must have Nato-level equipment. And that is what we are focused on delivering with our allies.’

Asked whether Britain would support Ukraine’s efforts to join the alliance, she said: “Well, that’s not on the table at the moment, what is on the table is to give Ukraine support at Nato level.”

Mrs Truss steps out of an official car at the Hyatt hotel in Birmingham during day three of the Conservative Party’s annual conference

In a separate interview, Ms Truss would not be drawn into an apology for the mini budget’s impact on mortgage rates.

Asked if she would apologize to people whose mortgages went up or who lost their mortgages, she told Channel 5 News: ‘I understand that times are very difficult.

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“We had to act in the mini-budget on energy prices and taxes to deal with very real problems we face, which are driven by the international situation, by (Vladimir) Putin’s war in Ukraine.”

Pressed three more times for an apology to homeowners, Mrs Truss stressed the Government ‘needed to act’ to help households with energy bills.

On the last occasion she said: ‘Yes, I understand that people are worried about interest rates. There are rising global interest costs as a result of Putin’s war in Ukraine. The government will do everything it can to help.’