He believes that Prime Minister Liz Truss has made “a terrible start”. “I’ve often voted Conservative, but they won’t get my vote in upcoming elections.” James Lawrence has come to the market in Milton Keynes with his daughter because the groceries are cheaper here. He tries to keep an eye on the little ones. It is a sum of the last few years that the Conservative Party has done for him, says Lawrence, “slowly I see the country deteriorate”. The government’s recent plan to abolish the top tax bracket (45 percent for a salary above £150,000 a year) in order to stimulate economic growth, he finds “outrageous”. “I read that for people who earn more than £150,000, it earns around £5,000. While inequality is increasing, the middle class still has to pay taxes and the poor are deteriorating. Not good.” This week, the week of the Conservative Party’s annual party congress, should be a great opportunity for Liz Truss and her new government to introduce themselves to the ranks of the party and the country, with fresh plans and promising vistas. Instead, Truss is under heavy pressure and her authority is no longer self-evident, exactly one month after she and her team took office. Government turnaround On Monday, Finance Minister Kwasi Kwarteng announced, after days of protests from lower house members, a falling pound and unrest among mortgage lenders, that they are partly backing their plans and still maintaining the highest tax rate. He did not distance himself from the measure, but said that abolition “just distracted attention too much” from the rest of the proposals with which the government wants to support society. As The Economist wrote in an analysis: “By needlessly scrapping the top tax rate and burdening homeowners with higher mortgages, the government has linked economic growth to unfairness in public opinion.” That’s exactly what you hear in the market in Milton Keynes. Citizens hold politicians responsible for the growing inequality in British society. Milton Keynes, more than half an hour by train from London, was built in the 1970s as a satellite city of the capital. In the concrete shopping heart it is busy and the public diverse, inversely proportional to the monotony of the retail chains in the covered part of the center. Marks & Spencer, Primark, Boots, TK Maxx. The outdoor market has stalls full of kaftans, South Indian dosa and Chinese noodles. Prime Minister Truss better go back to the drawing board Let bankers and politicians try to live off our salaries for a month, says Liz. She and her husband Duane are in their early 60s. They drink coffee outside in the sun and smoke a cigarette. “Not a week, but a month, then they might get an idea how difficult it is to make ends meet. How much you have to pay for petrol or the train to get to work.” Liz is a supermarket manager and she sees the theft of groceries increasing in recent months. “Not only by people who need it, but also by types who make it professional work.” Liz – she and Duane prefer not to give their last names – voted for the Conservative Party in the last general election in 2019, but she won’t be doing so again anytime soon. “Now I think it’s best to let businessmen run the country.” Duane has not voted for years, except for the Brexit referendum in 2016, when he voted to leave the European Union. Politicians only think of their own interests, he says. “I don’t believe they are serious about what the country’s working class needs.” ‘What do you mean?’ Now that Truss and Kwarteng are abandoning that tax cut for the richest layer, other measures that help the wider population are not suddenly in the spotlight. The gas and electricity price cap they announced, which would keep an average energy bill from £2,500 a year, has almost been forgotten. Just like the reversal of an increase in social security contributions and higher taxes for companies. They probably want to finance all those plans with loans, which is much criticized – after all, the Conservative Party has always been the party of sound public finances. Opposition Labor party is profiting from the chaos in the Conservative Party. More than half of Britons now think party leader Keir Starmer is a better candidate for the premiership than Liz Truss. In opinion polls, Labor is well ahead of the Conservative Party, as large as it has not been in decades. Only national elections are not yet in sight; under parliamentary rules, they must be held by January 2025 at the latest. Yet a possible end to the Tories era, they have been in power since 2010, is a hot topic in political London. The problem for Truss is that she has no mandate from the British electorate – only the Conservative Party voted to take office. In an interview with the BBC Sunday morning, political journalist Laura Kuenssberg asked Truss how many Britons actually voted for her plans. Truss fell silent and finally asked, “What do you mean?” Within the Conservatives , there are calls for Truss to call elections faster in order to organize her own mandate. In 2019, the Conservative Party led by Boris Johnson made huge gains, especially as he pledged to finally get Brexit done after years of arduous negotiations. Truss is now trying to get her measures, on quite a few topics different from Johnson’s plans, through parliament. For example, she’s practically pushed aside Johnson’s agenda to make up for the economically depressed areas of the UK – not that he got very far with it. She wants to allow shale gas drilling again, despite earthquake risks. And she’s not sure if her administration is keeping up with Johnson’s promise to increase social benefits with inflation. A divided faction Now that Truss and Kwarteng have backed down once on the top tax rate, the critical part of the faction in the House of Commons can more often try to pressure the government with legislation that they do not like. There is great division within the group. A majority of Conservative MPs did not vote for her in the leadership battle, but for competitor Rishi Sunak. He warned throughout the campaign about the consequences of Truss’ ” fairytale economics ” and said that borrowing money to combat inflation would not work and would cause the British pound to fall in value. So that happened. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Truss will make her big speech at the party congress – where she says she will do what she can to “win the hearts and heads of my party members”. It is expected that, as Kwasi Kwarteng did on Monday, she will mainly emphasize that she wants to stick to her plans to move the country forward. But many MPs have not even made it to the Birmingham convention center to avoid awkward questions from journalists. In Milton Keynes, many residents may have dropped out politically, but not everyone is negative about Liz Truss. Shen Bettridge, a single mother from South Africa who has lived in the UK for seven years now, gives her the benefit of the doubt. “It gives me hope that a woman is now in charge. And I thought it was special that she got to meet Queen Elizabeth while she was alive, it felt like she was getting some kind of blessing.” Shen Bettridge sees poverty rising in Milton Keynes. “More and more people who have to sleep on the street, friends of my daughter who are having a hard time at home.” Her autistic son Nathan (21) had a hard time during the corona crisis and now lives with her again. She herself is chronically tired. “I don’t want to be disrespectful, but what we get in benefits isn’t enough for the three of us.” They went to buy new shoes at Primark because Nathan has an admission interview for a course tomorrow. “Although I would rather have bought him really good shoes.” So what does Bettridge think that under Prime Minister Truss, benefits might not rise at all? She remains polite. “I don’t know her political background well enough to say anything meaningful about it. And sometimes it takes a while for someone to find their way, right?” Newsletter NRC The Hague Mood Follow politics in The Hague closely and become an initiate in The Hague yourself A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper of October 4, 2022