Liz Truss speech: Many Tory MPs think she will be gone soon, and so will their seats – Alexander Brown


This is supposed to be a celebration of the Government’s achievements, with previous Conservative conferences focusing on both policy and their own success.

Boris Johnson lauded getting Brexit done, defeating Jeremy Corbyn and delivering a historic majority.

Fringes were full, members were smiling and there were queues just to get a selfie with Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Prime Minister Liz Truss arrives in Downing Street in London, after delivering her keynote speech at the Conservative Party annual conference in Birmingham.

Elected just a month ago, Ms Truss in normal times would have expected conference to be a victory lap, a chance to celebrate with the members who made her Prime Minister.

Instead, this was a conference of infighting, overshadowed by the row over the mini-budget, with MPs either staying away or refusing to support her measures in public.

With a -59 net favourability on Yougov, Ms Truss is now the most unpopular leader in the pollster’s history.

Just 14 per cent of the public now say they have a favourable impression of the Prime Minister, compared with 26 per cent who said so between September 21-22.

Her own MPs are openly saying Labour will win the next election, with former Transport Secretary Grant Shapps saying Ms Truss had just ten days to save her premiership.

Things started on a bad note on Sunday, with a row breaking over the 45p tax rate tax cut, with Michael Gove calling for it to go at every fringe that would have him.

After promising there would be no U-turn, threats of ousting MPs who did not support it, and briefing a speech about not changing course, the policy was dropped the next day.

Instead of trying to justify the policy, the Government simply folded, and then responded by blaming both the media and a “coup” organised by Mr Gove.

The Foreign Secretary James Cleverly agreed, saying the policy was dropped because “the media were constantly talking about it”.

Unfortunately for Mr Cleverly, so were multiple Tory MPs, with the Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng trying and failing to convince them to support it during one-on-one meetings on Sunday.

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The U-turn was then criticised by two other ministers, the Home Secretary Suella Braverman, and the Levelling Up Secretary, Simon Clarke.

Instead of focusing on staying on message and a united front, ministers are openly questioning Government policy, with Ms Truss losing control of her cabinet after just a month.

One minister suggested the conference had been a “total s**t-show, but hopefully now everyone will just shut up for a bit”.

This was not the final row, with an argument then taking place after Ms Truss suggested benefits would not rise in line with inflation.

Her comments sparked yet more blue-on-blue, including from her own ministers, with the Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt saying it had to go up.

If the Prime Minister had confirmed plans to cut benefits, Ms Mordaunt’s intervention would have breached collective responsibility, the rule that bounds ministers to the party line, meaning she should be sacked.

Instead, it was the far less embarrassing matter of a minister simply making up policy on-the-hoof, her words a rock in the distance Ms Truss will have to drive through at a later date.

Then there was Ms Truss’s speech itself, delivered in a room so sparse journalists used a different door because, as conference staff put it, “there’s a lot of space”.

The Prime Minister started poorly and was clearly nervous, taking sips of water with two hands like her glass was a baby she could not drop.

Things got worse after she said she wasn’t interested in “virtue signalling”, and paused for applause but got an endless silence.

Thankfully for Downing Street, she rallied after the intervention of two protesters from Greenpeace, brandishing a flag saying “we didn’t vote for fracking”.

An audience that had thus far been tepid saw this as a moment to unite behind the Prime Minister, chanting “get them out”, booing, and offering a standing ovation when they were ejected.

This seemed to boost the Prime Minister, who spoke far more confidently after, but the issue remained she had very little to say.

She started with her story, wrongly claiming to be the first Prime Minister to attend a comprehensive school, a line her press secretary admitted after was “a little complicated”.

Then there were attacks on what she called the “anti-growth coalition”, which included so many names it was like throwing paint against a wall.

Ms Truss attacked Labour, “militant” unions, “Brexit deniers,” Extinction Rebellion and those who get taxis “from north London townhouses to the BBC studio to dismiss anyone challenging the status quo”.

Much like her predecessor, the Prime Minister is trying to portray her critics as the elites, despite the bulk of her cabinet going to private school.

Her press secretary insisted afterwards it had been a “good conference with difficulties”, while Mr Cleverly claimed “the atmosphere is fantastic” and the Tories “really really haven’t” been fighting with each other.

Conference should be about outlining a vision for Britain, pointing to your record of delivery, and celebrating with members.

This was anything but for a party which has been in power for 12 years.

Ms Truss’s budget plans will now not be voted on until March, giving her time to refine that message and restore party discipline.

Speaking to MPs, they are not inclined to wait around, with many thinking she’ll be gone soon, and so will their seats.



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