Some were glad, some felt upset — and others said they had barely seen him. In Kwasi Kwarteng’s constituency, there were mixed feelings about the sacking of their local MP as chancellor of the exchequer.
Only 38 days after he was appointed to steer Britain through the cost-of-living crisis, Prime Minister Liz Truss ousted her long-time friend on Friday.
It came amid mounting pressure from Conservative MPs to scrap parts of the mini-budget following market turmoil.
Hours later Ms Truss announced a U-turn on her plan to scrap an increase in corporation tax and insisted she will remain as prime minister.
Shoppers and business owners in the constituency of Spelthorne in Surrey, south-east England, were struggling on Friday to keep up with fast-paced developments in Downing Street.
Some told The National they welcomed Mr Kwarteng’s departure from No 11 Downing Street, the chancellor's official residence.
Mr Kwarteng was elected to represent the area in 2010 but some voters suggested he does not spend enough time there, and favours his home in nearby London instead.
“It’s a good thing that he is out, I think,” said Laurence Curtin, of Sunbury-on-Thames.
Mr Curtin said in Mr Kwarteng’s 12 years as MP for Spelthorne he could recall seeing him only once — while canvassing before an election.
“He was handing out leaflets. I didn’t take a leaflet because I’m not a Conservative voter.”
He said he felt “a bit disappointed” when he learnt his local MP lives in the leafy south-east London suburb of Greenwich, 33 kilometres from the problems blighting parts of his constituency.
Staines, like other towns in the area, has issues with antisocial behaviour.
Mr Curtin believes Mr Kwarteng did not stand a chance of surviving in No 11 Downing Street after setting out his mini-budget on September 23 which “put petrol on the fire of the cost-of-living crisis”.
“Now Truss needs to help people with large credit card debts and people who are struggling to pay their mortgages,” he said. “The war in Ukraine has put everything out of kilter.”
Diana Abbott, 76, of Staines, said she had “mixed feelings” about the sacking of Mr Kwarteng as chancellor because she was not a fan of his mini-budget. But she argued that 38 days was hardly enough time to prove yourself in a job.
“It’s a bit upsetting,” she said. Mrs Abbott urged the prime minister to set out a bold agenda to lay the foundation for a better foundation for the next generation.
“I am not worried about myself because I’ve got a decent pension so I’m all right but I have four grandchildren who are growing up,” she said. “Liz Truss needs to help the people on low wages but I haven’t got much confidence in her.”
Having backed Rishi Sunak to win the Conservative Party leadership contest against Ms Truss, Mrs Abbott appeared doubtful about the prime minister’s capabilities.
“She hasn’t got the force Margaret Thatcher had. She isn’t forceful enough. I was disappointed when she won the contest.”
Mother-of-one Sophie Wilson, who lives in the Staines area, also appeared unconvinced of the government’s ability to effectively tackle the cost-of-living crisis.
Asked about how she felt about Mr Kwarteng being sacked by Ms Truss, she said the lack of agreement pointed to wider problems in the Conservative Party.
“You see how it’s been for so long, they’re all just out to get one another, between them there are so many factions,” she said. “I don’t think they’re strong. I don’t think they’re going to manage [to win] another election.”
Ms Wilson said that while she doesn’t follow her local MP’s every move, he does not appear to be well-liked in the area.
“He’s not present enough here. He seems a bit detached from everyone,” she said.
Asked about the shock delivered by his mini-budget, she said after two years of the pandemic “people don’t know where they stand with anything”.
Ali Ahmed, a stallholder at Staines’ market, said he was not keeping up to date with what was going on in Westminster. “I don’t really know about this,” he said when asked for his reaction to Mr Kwarteng’s departure from Downing Street.
The businessman said he is more focused on how his livelihood is being affected by the cost-of-living emergency because the prices he pays wholesalers for his products are climbing higher every month.
“Big businesses will be fine,” he said. “McDonald’s, Iceland, they’ll all be fine. But smaller businesses won’t survive the crisis unless we get help.”
While he is banking on benefiting from an increase in custom in the run up to Christmas and the new year, Mr Ahmed said if he cannot make a profit in January and February, he may be forced to pack up.