The most powerful person in Britain entered the House of Commons on Oct 17 to a chorus of respectful grunts. Addressing MPs — as well as a wider audience of investors who buy gilts and sterling — he began soberly: “We are a country that funds our promises and pays our debts.” Jeremy Hunt, the new chancellor, delivered the message like a doctor with a grim diagnosis. Next to him sat Liz Truss, the actual prime minister. She stared into the middle distance while Mr Hunt set about running the country.
Mr Hunt is chancellor in name but prime minister in practice. In his first week he has undone £32 billion (S$51 billion) of tax cuts and reforms that Ms Truss was elected by Tory party members to carry out, after her measures sparked panic in markets and a plunge in the polls. By the end of his first month in the job Mr Hunt will reveal perhaps another £40 billion-worth of tax rises and spending cuts. Britain has long had a constitutional monarch, a ceremonial figurehead who is ultimately powerless, says one wag. Now it has a constitutional prime minister.