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Mon, 30 January 2023

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Liz Truss Loses Trust Of "Shocked" Tory MPs After Unleashing Fresh Fury In Party

Liz Truss Loses Trust Of 'Shocked' Tory MPs After Unleashing Fresh Fury In Party

Liz Truss leaving 10 Downing Street (Alamy)

3 min read

Prime Minister Liz Truss faces a crucial few days in her battle to save her leadership after failing to abate Conservative backbench fury with a speech to the 1922 Committee on Wednesday evening.

Truss addressed dozens of Tory MPs at the meeting in a bid to calm nerves within the Conservative party after a tumultuous first month of her premiership in which the value of the pound has plummeted and the cost of government borrowing has soared, a situation leading economists blame on government

But the speech failed to pacify critical Tories, with some feeling that the embattled Prime Minister left the meeting in a worse position than she had been going into it.

"After tonight most Tory MPs accept that our current leader, given the decisions she took with the Fiscal Statement, can never provide the reassurance needed to arrest the loss of market confidence," one senior Tory MP told PoliticsHome.

"She should never be trusted with a financial statement ever again. It is a bit like asking the gas engineer who has just blown up your house to come back and have another go."

Conservatives MPs who were in the room in Westminster were "utterly shocked" by her performance, a Tory party source said. “From delusion to devastation — writ large on her face,” they said. 

Tonight's speech was critical in Truss's battle to persuade Tory MPs to back her economic agenda after weeks of economic turmoil.

Her plan to fund sweeping tax cuts through borrowing worth tens of billions of pounds was followed by the pound falling to its lowest ever level against the dollar, and has prompted the Bank of England into two major interventions in an attempt to stabilise the markets.

At the meeting — which was attended by senior Tories including her deputy prime minister Therese Coffey and high-profile backbenchers Michael Gove and Sajid Javid — Truss said that the government's decision to freeze the average energy bill would "shield" households from "bills of up to £6,000". 

She said that Keir Starmer's Labour, which currently enjoys historically large leads over the Tories in the opinion polls, "has no plans beyond the next six months" to support households and businesses amid the ongoing energy crisis.

But the Prime Minister faced a series of critical questions from Conservative MPs who attended the meeting, amid backbench anger over soaring interest rates and the impact on mortgages.

Robert Halfon, who chairs the education select committee, accused her of "trashing workers' conservatism" and "everything the party has stood for over the last decade". 

A former minister described the exchanges tonight as "fairly brutal".

In an earlier meeting in in parliament on Wednesday afternoon, former transport secretary Grant Shapps told party chairman Jake Berry that the country needed "calm", PoliticsHome can reveal.

Shapps backed Rishi Sunak to become Tory leader and prime minister and has emerged as a vocal critic of Truss since she entered no10 at the beginning of last month.

Speaking at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham last week, Shapps suggested that Truss had ten days to salvage her premiership after she U-turned on her policy of scrapping the 45p tax rate.

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