King Charles mutters ‘dear, oh dear’ as he meets British Prime Minister Liz Truss

Embattled leader faces attacks from all sides after her first month in charge of the country

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King Charles III held his first meeting with British Prime Minister Liz Truss on Wednesday, jokingly muttering “dear, oh dear” after welcoming her to Buckingham Palace.

His off-the-cuff remarks appeared to sum up the plight of the embattled leader, who faces backlash from her own party over the continuing fallout from the government’s mini-budget.

A clip released by the palace shows Ms Truss being announced by the equerry, as she bows and steps forward to shake hands with the king.

“Your Majesty, great to see you again,” she says in the footage.

The king replies: “Back again”

Ms Truss adds: “Well, it's a great pleasure.”

The king replies: “Dear, oh dear. Anyway.”

The meeting came hours after Ms Truss attempted to deflect the sense of growing doom palpable during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, when she insisted again she would not cut spending to pay for the series of tax cuts and energy price guarantee.

She later endured a difficult encounter with Tory backbenchers, as she told the 1922 Committee that small businesses would have faced “devastation” if the government had not acted to cap energy prices, according to aides.

She was met with open criticism, according to reports, with MPs reportedly raising concerns about rising mortgage rates and the Tories' slump in the polls.

Commons education committee chair Robert Halfon told Ms Truss she had “trashed the last 10 years of workers' Conservatism”.

Damian Green, a former deputy prime minister, said Conservative MPs were openly discussing reversing some of the mini-budget measures as they question how else she can reduce debt after she rejected public spending reductions.

“It is, indeed, a topic of conversation around the tea rooms of the House of Commons as well, because we can all do the rough maths and see that it is very difficult,” he told BBC Radio 4's PM programme.

“One of the obvious ways would be possibly to defer some of the tax cuts or the failure to put taxes up.”

But speaking on Sky News on Thursday morning, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said the government was right to stick to its fiscal plans.

“Ultimately, what that mini-budget was about was protecting tens of millions of people from unaffordable energy prices. That was the bulk of that proposal,” he told Sky News.

Liz Truss during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons. PA

“It was about making sure that taxes for 30 million people were reduced a little bit, and those are really strong principles. I think we should absolutely stick with those.

“All those things are really key for the growth agenda the prime minister has put forward.”

He said the prime minister made it clear she was running on a platform “to bring taxation levels down from the 70-year high” during the leadership campaign, “not put taxes up further than they already are”.

Plus, to make sure we have growth in the economy and to ensure Ukraine is successful in defending its territory against Russia, he said.

“She is delivering on all those three things,” said Mr Cleverly.

“I wasn’t in the meeting but I know what she said to the 1922 [committee] is we have got to make sure we help people keep more of their earnings in their own pockets. That we have to be good custodians of the public purse. But we have got to grow the economy. That’s what she’s pushing for.

“I think those are solid, traditional, governmental principles and I think we should stick with it.”

The prime minister and chancellor are expected to meet influential MPs from next week to try to assure them that Mr Kwarteng's medium-term fiscal plan on October 31 will address their concerns.

Updated: October 13, 2022, 9:39 AM