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Kwasi Kwarteng reverses course on the top rate of tax

By The Economist

03 Oct 2022 · 3 min read

In a Tory party conference in the UK, Kwasi Kwarteng reversed the decisions around tax cuts for the rich that shook the UK markets. The Economist weighs in on the implications.

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Kwasi Kwarteng, the chancellor of the exchequer, has given two big speeches in his short time in the job. In the first, the infamous fiscal statement that he delivered to Parliament on September 23rd, he was visibly high on adrenaline. Tax cuts delivered, growth assured, so many rabbits pulled from his hat that it felt like Watership Down. Britannia finally unchained.

On October 3rd Mr Kwarteng addressed the Tory party conference in Birmingham. The tone was not exactly contrite, but it was markedly less triumphalist. That morning he had announced a big U-turn, reversing the decision he and Liz Truss, the prime minister, had made to abolish the top rate of tax. His earlier cocktail of huge tax cuts and minimal independent scrutiny had caused markets to take fright and the Bank of England to intervene on grounds of financial stability; the Conservative Party’s poll numbers had crashed; Tory MPs were lining up to denounce the decision to give richer people a tax break during a cost-of-living crisis. There had been “a little turbulence”, acknowledged the chancellor in his address to the party conference. “We are listening and have listened.”

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