Finance Minister Kwasi Kwarteng and Prime Minister Liz Truss at the Conservative Party Congress in Birmingham on Sunday.Image Leon Neal / Getty

    In the end ‘the lady’ was prepared to make a change. For days, Liz Truss has maintained that the millionaire-friendly mini-budget would not be adjusted despite political criticism and financial unrest, but on Monday the British Prime Minister had to give in under pressure from her party. The top tax rate of 45 percent remains intact. Already a month after she took office, there is speculation about who could succeed Truss, and her finance minister Kwasi Kwarteng.

    The prime minister will not have enjoyed traveling to Birmingham, where the four-day party congress of the Conservative Party started on Sunday. That had less to do with rowdy and intrusive protesters who forced Conservative politicians – as well as journalists, think-tanks and regular members – to run the gauntlet to the musical theater of England’s second city. No, it was her rebellious party members from whom she had the most to fear.

    In an interview on the BBC on Sunday morning she had claimed that the presentation of the mini-budget had left something to be desired, but that she stood behind the content. She hadn’t counted on veteran Michael Gove. A few months ago, he had claimed to be retiring politically, but suddenly he emerged as a rebel leader. He toured the studios claiming that favoring the rich, especially in these times, just isn’t possible.

    Motion of distrust

    Truss must have sounded an alarm bell. Early retirement or not, Gove is still a heavyweight within the party that could make it difficult for any prime minister. Boris Johnson knows all about that. Another bad sign was that only a few faction members were willing to defend the plans. It began to look like the Conservatives, despite a 78-seat majority, would lose a vote on the financial plans. That is equivalent to a vote of no confidence.

    Maintaining the highest tax rate is only part of the tax cuts, 2.3 billion of the 50 billion euros. Within the party there is a call to make a major turnaround, but that is not possible for the time being. In his tame speech, a nervous Quarteng, with an English sense of understatement, claimed that his announcement ten days ago had caused “a bit of turbulence.” ‘Don’t panic’ was the tenor of his 20-minute speech.

    Whether the political damage can be repaired remains to be seen. There is a lot of mistrust within the party leadership. Truss had placed the responsibility for the mini-budget on Kwarteng and acknowledged that no one within the cabinet had been informed of its contents. There is already grumbling within that cabinet. The widely respected Secretary of Defense Ben Wallace, who had refused to participate in the last leadership race, said he could not rule out his next chance.

    The Nasty Party

    The great danger for the Tories is that the old predicate The Nasty Party returns. This image dates back to the 1990s, when economic blunders and right-wing policies were accompanied by all manner of scandals, from bribery to adultery. Successful efforts have been made under David Cameron and Theresa May to improve the party’s brand name. This progress is in danger of being negated, and not just by policies that make the rich even richer.

    Already on the first day of the congress, minister without wallet Jake Berry claimed that people who struggle to pay their energy bills should be more frugal or look for better jobs. Economic Affairs Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg appeared to have assigned his business partner a government position, and also nominated him for a title of nobility. It is possible that it is a good designation from a substantive point of view, but it smacks of favoritism.

    Moreover, the party had decided to ask journalists for an entrance fee of 145 euros, which is unique for a congress, for a celebration of democracy. On Wednesday Truss will give her speech, in which the question is whether the Tories present will get their money’s worth and she can save her fledgling premiership. The term Tory is the Anglicized version of the Irish word toiraidh, meaning “a hunted man.” Given the state of the ruling party, this currently feels like an appropriate etymology.