Calls for inquiry after Kwarteng’s champagne reception with hedge fund managers
Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng is facing calls for an official inquiry following a report that he attended a private champagne reception with hedge fund managers who stood to gain from a collapse in sterling following his mini-budget.
The Sunday Times reported that he joined the gathering at the Chelsea home of a City financier on the evening of September 23 where he was said to have been “egged on” to commit to his plan for £45 billion of unfunded tax cuts.
The following Sunday, in a BBC TV interview, he declared there was “more to come” – a comment that was blamed for helping to spook the markets, driving the pound, which was already falling, to an all-time low against the dollar.
Liberal Democrat Treasury spokeswoman Sarah Olney said: “While struggling homeowners saw their mortgage bills spiral, it seems the Chancellor was sipping champagne with hedge fund managers profiting from the falling pound.
“How out of touch can you get? We need an official inquiry into this now.”
However, a source close to Chancellor dismissed any suggestion of impropriety regarding his attendance at the reception.
“Any suggestion attendees had access to privileged information is total nonsense,” the source said.
“The growth plan published on Friday included a commitment to review our tax code to make it simpler, better for families and more pro-growth.
“The Government’s ambitions on lowering the tax burden are hardly a state secret.”
When asked about the champagne reception, Liz Truss said Mr Kwarteng “meets business people all the time”.
The Prime Minister told the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme: “The Chancellor meets business people all the time, that’s his job.
“I do not manage Kwasi Kwarteng’s diary, believe me.”
Pressed on whether it would have been better if he had not gone as people are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, Ms Truss said: “I get up every morning as Prime Minister thinking how can we make our country more successful, how can we reassure people, how can we help people get through these very difficult times and we do face difficult times…
“And that’s what I’m focused on. That’s what the Chancellor is focused on and that is what the whole Cabinet is focused on.”
Conservative Party Chairman also played down the reports, claiming the party donors who attended the reception with the Chancellor after his mini-budget should be “lauded”.
Jake Berry told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “We often have drinks receptions for donors in the Conservative Party and in fact these people should be lauded because we don’t have public funding of political parties and these are people who go out and make money and donate to political parties in the same way as they do for the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats.”
He said the event had not been for hedge fund managers, although there was at least one in attendance, but instead had been for “Britain’s leading entrepreneurs” as part of the “normal drumbeat” of party fundraising events.
Mr Berry added that he thought the Chancellor himself had been drinking a soft drink rather than champagne.
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