Chancellor accused of ‘insulting millions’ with joke about budget

Watch: Kwarteng shrugs off ‘little turbulence’ after U-turn over tax cut for rich

Kwasi Kwarteng has been accused of insulting millions after he made a joke about how his mini-Budget spooked the markets.

The pound fell to its lowest level for 37 years and the Bank of England was forced to intervene in the wake of his tax-cutting spree.

But in his first speech to the Conservative party conference as chancellor, he offered no apology for the days of chaos that ensued and joked that his plan had caused “a little turbulence”. After the turmoil of recent days he also pledged an “ironclad commitment to fiscal discipline”.

But Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson Sarah Olney said:"Laughing about the turbulence caused by this botched budget is an insult to the millions of people already facing spiralling mortgage costs.

"Kwasi Kwarteng’s fiscal failure saw the economy tank and mortgage rates go through the roof, his words will bring cold comfort to struggling families and pensioners.

“This should be his first and last conference speech as Chancellor. If he had any integrity left Kwarteng would hand in his notice and apologise to the British people for the damage he has caused."

He also referenced his humiliating U-turn on scrapping the highest rate of tax, a day after the prime minister insisted her party would stick with the policy. He opened his speech by telling party members: “What a day. It has been tough.” In response, there was a smattering of laughter in the hall.

In apparent criticism of Boris Johnson’s government, he added: “Our Growth Plan set out ten days ago will ensure we focus relentlessly on economic growth. For too long, our economy has not grown enough, the path ahead of us was one of slow, managed decline”.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said the speech showed a “Tory government completely out of touch, with no understanding on its own appalling record on growth”.

She added: “What the Chancellor called a little financial disturbance is a huge economic body-blow to working people that will mean higher prices and soaring mortgages. That’s the Tory economic premium.

“This is an economic crisis made in Downing Street, paid for by working people.

“The Tories have damaged the UK’s reputation on the global stage and left us all worse off. The fact the Bank of England had to step in with a £65 billion bailout out with taxpayers money is deeply shameful.

“They must reverse this budget, and abandon their discredited, dangerous trickle down approach.”