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Truss bids to save premiership amid growing unrest in Tory party

Three members of her parliamentary party have already broke ranks to call on her to go.

16 October 2022

Liz Truss will try to save her premiership this week, with her fate hinging on the mood of the market and her own backbench MPs.

All eyes will be on the market reaction on Monday morning, after the Prime Minister appointed Jeremy Hunt as Chancellor and effectively ditched her economic agenda in a bid to restore credibility to her ailing administration.

Yet those efforts could come to nought this week if Tory MPs decide that a change of leader is required, with three members of Ms Truss’s parliamentary party already breaking ranks to call on her to go.

Crispin Blunt, Andrew Bridgen and Jamie Wallis all called on the Prime Minister to quit on Sunday, while other senior figures within the parliamentary party expressed deep unease with Ms Truss’s leadership but stopped short of calling for her to go.

Mr Blunt was the first MP to demand her exit, telling Channel 4’s Andrew Neil Show on Sunday: “I think the game is up and it’s now a question as to how the succession is managed.”

It came at the end of another extraordinary weekend in British politics, that even saw US President Joe Biden intervene to call Ms Truss’s economic vision a “mistake”.

With the backdrop of rumoured plots and plans to install the defeated Rishi Sunak or Ben Wallace as the new leader, Ms Truss met with her new Chancellor in Chequers to draw up a new budget for October 31.

UK Parliament handout photo of Conservative MP Crispin Blunt
Crispin Blunt was the first MP to demand Ms Truss’s exit (UK Parliament/PA)

Mr Hunt, who carried out something of a media blitz on behalf of the Prime Minister over the weekend, insisted that she was still in charge even as he diagnosed the need for a tough package of tax rises and spending cuts in order to steady the UK economy.

Penny Mordaunt also offered the Prime Minister her full support, using a piece in the Telegraph to warn that the UK “needs stability, not a soap opera”.

She told colleagues that the “national mission” is clear but said it “needs pragmatism and teamwork”.

“It needs us to work with the Prime Minister and her new Chancellor. It needs all of us.”

Earlier Mr Hunt told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme that Ms Truss remains “in charge” and insisted voters can still put their faith in her.

“She’s listened. She’s changed. She’s been willing to do that most difficult thing in politics, which is to change tack,” he said.

Jeremy Hunt leaves 10 Downing Street in London after he was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer following the resignation of Kwasi Kwarteng
The Prime Minister appointed Jeremy Hunt as Chancellor and effectively ditched her economic agenda in a bid to restore credibility (Victoria Jones/PA)

“What we’re going to do is to show not just what we want but how we’re going to get there.”

The presence of Mr Hunt was welcomed by many MPs, but many senior figures admitted it was an open question whether the Prime Minister could still survive the current crisis.

Tory MP Robert Halfon, chairman of the Commons Education Committee, appeared on Sky News and declined to deny that MPs are considering installing a new leader.

“We’re all talking to see what can be done about it.”

“Over the past few weeks, the Government has looked like libertarian jihadists and treated the whole country as kind of laboratory mice,” he said.

Senior Conservative Alicia Kearns also told Times Radio that the question of whether Ms Truss should continue in charge is “incredibly difficult”.

Prime Minister Liz Truss during a press conference in the briefing room at Downing Street, London
Many senior Tory figures admitted it was an open question whether the Prime Minister could still survive the current crisis (Daniel Leal/PA)

And writing in the Telegraph, former minister Liam Fox called the current situation the “deepest political hole that we have experienced in a generation”.

Stuart Rose, a Tory peer and the Chair of Asda, told the Financial Times the Prime Minister was a “busted flush”.

Labour added to that pressure, with Sir Keir Starmer calling on the Prime Minister to appear before the Commons on Monday.

The Labour leader quipped that Ms Truss is now “in office but not in power”.

It comes as a new poll, first published in the Guardian, predicted a landslide for Labour and wipe-out for the Tories.

The poll, by Opinium for the Trades Union Congress and using the MRP method to estimate constituency-level results, put Labour on 411 seats compared to the Tories on 137.

In a sign of how divided the party is, former culture secretary Nadine Dorries hit out at her party colleagues.

“I cannot imagine there’s one G7 country which thinks we’re worthy of a place at the table.

“The removal of one electorally successful PM, the disgraceful plotting to remove another by those who didn’t get their way first time round is destabilising our economy and our reputation,” she tweeted.

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