Truss vows to fight on as Tory MPs go public with concerns about her leadership

Prime Minister Liz Truss said she was sorry and had made mistakes, but insisted she was ‘not a quitter’.

19 October 2022

More Tory MPs have heaped pressure on Liz Truss to exit No 10 as the Prime Minister insisted she was a “fighter, not a quitter”.

She made a public apology in the Commons as she faced Prime Minister’s Questions for the first time since her economic plan was ditched by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt.

The Prime Minister pulled out of a planned visit where she would have faced media questions on Wednesday afternoon as more Tories went public with concerns about her leadership.

But she told MPs: “I am a fighter, not a quitter” as she battled to save her job – echoing the 2001 declaration made by Labour grandee Peter Mandelson.

On Monday, Mr Hunt reversed almost all the tax cuts announced by predecessor Kwasi Kwarteng as he sought to calm financial markets following weeks of turbulence.

Prime Minister’s Questions
Liz Truss speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions (House of Commons/PA Wire)

The Prime Minister told MPs: “I have been very clear that I am sorry and that I have made mistakes.”

But she added: “The right thing to do in those circumstances is to make changes, which I have made, and to get on with the job and deliver for the British people.”

The Prime Minister is battling to retain her position and has risked a fresh fight with Tory MPs by making a vote on a Labour motion on fracking a test of confidence in her administration.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer mocked Ms Truss, saying: “What’s the point of a Prime Minister whose promises don’t even last a week?”

He added of a book which is being written about her: “Apparently it’s going to be out by Christmas. Is that the release date or the title?”

In other developments, Ms Truss:

– Committed to the triple-lock on pensions, meaning the state pension will increase in line with the 10.1% inflation figure from April, after being threatened with a backbench revolt.

– Declined to give the same guarantee to link increases in benefits to inflation.

– Insisted she backed social care reform following a Times report that plans for a cap on costs was being delayed for a year.

Her own MPs posed some of the most challenging questions on issues including fracking, social care, international aid spending and the benefits increase, in a sign that there was little appetite to rally round the beleaguered leader.

But former Cabinet minister Sajid Javid – the subject of a hostile briefing from a No 10 source who described him as “shit” – did not ask a question, despite being listed to do so.

One of the Prime Minister’s senior aides, Jason Stein, has reportedly been suspended pending an investigation by the Cabinet Office propriety and ethics team into the briefing against Mr Javid.

Asked about the report, the Prime Minister’s press secretary said: “I am not going to get into individual staffing matters but the Prime Minister has made very clear to her team that some of the sort of briefings that we have seen are completely unacceptable about parliamentary colleagues and they must stop.”

Ms Truss is attempting to build bridges with Tory MPs, including through “fairly regular” events for backbenchers, No 10 said.

But there is speculation that the chairman of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady had already received more than 54 letters calling for a confidence vote in the PM – the threshold for triggering one if Ms Truss was not in the 12 months’ grace period for new leaders.

“I wouldn’t get into private conversations,” the Prime Minister’s press secretary said. “That’s the first I’ve heard.”

Tory MP William Wragg told the Commons he has submitted a letter to Sir Graham.

Conservative leadership bid
Sir Graham Brady could hold the fate of another prime minister in his hands (Victoria Jones/PA)

Conservative MP Steve Double warned Ms Truss will likely have to stand down “quite soon”, telling Times Radio that “she is absolutely in the last chance saloon”.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly warned restless Tory colleagues against “defenestrating” another Prime Minister as he suggested a leadership contest would neither win the hearts of the British public nor calm the markets.

During a round of broadcast interviews he said he understands why people are “frustrated” with the Tory leader, adding that dire polls for the party are obviously “disconcerting” for the Government.

One of the factors keeping Ms Truss in office, despite being forced to abandon the economic platform that got her elected as party leader, is the lack of an obvious successor.

Mr Cleverly suggested those who ousted Boris Johnson did not have a plan for what to do next, with many now turning on the new Prime Minister.

He told Sky News: “What I’m not convinced by – far, far from convinced by – is that going through another leadership campaign, defenestrating another Prime Minister, will either convince the British people that we’re thinking about them rather than ourselves, or convince the markets to stay calm and ensure things like those bond yields and gilt yields start coming back down.

“Being angry – again, I totally get it. But that’s an emotional response, it’s not a plan.”

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