She led a meeting of her Cabinet as she battled to salvage her authority as Prime Minister.
18 October 2022
Liz Truss has survived a meeting of the Cabinet without any ministers calling for her to quit, but Tory members and voters appear to be turning on her.
A snap poll of party members released on Tuesday saw more than half respond that she should resign and 83% say she was doing a bad job.
Downing Street insisted the Cabinet fully supported the Prime Minister and stressed that Ms Truss was focused on the challenges facing the country rather than party infighting.
Asked whether Ms Truss was concerned about ministers discussing replacing her, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Her view is she needs to be focused on what is right for the country rather than on any internal discussions among the party at the moment.
“She is conscious that these are globally difficult times and the UK is in a difficult situation economically.”
Cabinet was dominated by discussions on spending after Chancellor Jeremy Hunt tore up Ms Truss’s original plan for tax cuts and increased public borrowing.
Asked if ministers offered their support, the spokesman said: “Certainly ministers were very involved in the discussions around preparations for the medium-term fiscal plan.”
When he was asked if any of the Cabinet suggested Ms Truss should quit, the spokesman said: “No.”
The challenge facing the Prime Minister was underlined by a YouGov survey of 530 Conservative Party members on Monday and Tuesday which saw 55% say she should resign, and only 38% back her staying on.
About 39% of those who voted for Ms Truss in the Tory leadership race said she should quit, compared with 57% who said she should not.
Some 83% said she was doing badly as Conservative leader, compared with 15% who said she was doing well and 2% being unsure.
Boris Johnson, three months after he was forced to resign following a series of scandals, was favourite to succeed her on 32%, followed by former chancellor Rishi Sunak on 23% and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace on 10%.
Some 60% said they would back a proposal of a unity candidate to succeed Ms Truss being chosen without members having a say.
The poll is not large enough to be considered representative of the wider membership, but YouGov’s research has frequently given a good indication of the party’s mood in the past.
A separate YouGov study of 1,724 British adults between October 14 and 16 – before Monday’s mini-budget U-turns – saw Ms Truss’s net favourability plummet to minus 70.
Just 10% of Britons had a favourable opinion of the Prime Minister, with 80% viewing her unfavourably, the survey suggested.
Among Tory voters her support continues to drop: 20% had a favourable view, with 71% being unfavourable.
The Prime Minister’s current net favourability score of minus 51 among Tory voters is down 26 points since last week.
She will meet Tory MPs from the European Research Group later on Tuesday as she attempts to shore up her position in Westminster.
Earlier, Ms Truss was warned by a senior minister that she cannot afford to make any more mistakes as she battles to stay in No 10.
Armed forces minister James Heappey said: “She’s very much our Prime Minister and, for what it’s worth, I think she’s doing a good job.”
But he told Sky News that “given how skittish our politics are” at the moment “I don’t think there’s the opportunity to make any more mistakes”.
One of the factors keeping Ms Truss in office, despite being forced to abandon the economic platform that got her elected as Tory leader, is the lack of an obvious successor.
Tory MPs are reluctant to have another leadership contest involving the Conservative membership, which could take months and further damage the party.
But avoiding a contest would mean identifying a consensus figure who would be acceptable to the majority of MPs.
Mr Heappey suggested the alternative to “rowing in behind the Prime Minister and making a success of her Government is to throw ourselves into another period of great rancour” because the idea of a unity candidate is “for the birds”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The idea that there is somebody who could emerge and behind whom everybody in the parliamentary party and our membership unites, and the country forgets about everything that has happened for the last 15 months or so, and we’re just allowed to get on with it – I just don’t think that is the case.”
At Tuesday morning’s Cabinet meeting, Ms Truss acknowledged to colleagues the Government had gone “too far and too fast in the mini-budget”, Downing Street said.
“The Prime Minister said she wanted to be honest with the public that times would be tough but that by addressing long-standing issues now, we can put the country on a stronger path for the future,” her spokesman said.
On Monday, Mr Hunt reversed almost all of the tax cuts his predecessor, Kwasi Kwarteng, announced in September’s mini-budget in an attempt to reassure the markets that the Government will take a responsible approach to the public finances.
At Cabinet he made clear that while public spending will continue to rise, departments will need to find ways to save money.