Stella Creasy and Penny Mordaunt (Photo: Parliament TV)
A minister who stepped in for Liz Truss at the despatch box has denied the prime minister was hiding “under a desk”.
Penny Mordaunt deputised for Truss as she dodged a Commons showdown with Keir Starmer over the economic turmoil.
Mordaunt, the Commons leader, said there was a “good reason” why Truss could not attend to answer an urgent question from the Labour Party.
Amid shouts of “where is she?” and “weak” from the opposition benches, Mordaunt said the PM was “detained on urgent business”.
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) October 17, 2022
Labour’s question centred on the prime minister’s decision to appoint new chancellor Jeremy Hunt.
Stella Creasy, Labour MP for Walthamstow, said it was the job of the PM to take big decisions, adding: “All we know right now is, unless she tells us otherwise, the prime minister is cowering under her desk and asking for it all to go away.
“Isn’t it about time she did and let somebody else who can make decisions in the British national interest get in charge instead?”
Mordaunt replied: “Well, the prime minister is not under a desk, as the honourable lady says…”
The minister could barely be heard at this point due to laughter and heckling from opposition MPs.
Mordaunt added: “I can assure the house that, with regret, she is not here for a very good reason.”
Truss is battling to save her premiership after new chancellor Hunt blew up her economic strategy and shelved her plan to cut the basic rate of income tax by 1p.
Hunt also announced he would water down the prime minister’s flagship energy price guarantee, during an emergency statement on Monday morning.
His announcement was the latest in a string of embarrassing U-turns performed by the government as it tries to convince the City that it has control of the nation’s finances.
The government had already abandoned plans to scrap the 45p rate of income tax for top earners and had U-turned over a promise not to increase corporation tax.
Financial markets, which had been spooked by the prospect of unfunded tax cuts, appeared reassured by Hunt’s announcements.
It comes as some Tory MPs have publicly called for Truss to go while others are understood to be plotting an attempt to oust her as prime minister.
Crispin Blunt, Andrew Bridgen and Jamie Wallis all called on the prime minister to quit on Sunday.
Angela Richardson became the fourth Tory MP to call publicly for Truss to stand down saying the problems with the public finances were “100 per cent down to the prime minister”.
Under current party rules Truss is protected from a leadership challenge for 12 months, but that could easily change if enough Tory MPs demand change.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.