Liz Truss Prepares For A Tough PMQs As Tory Rebels Struggle To Find A Successor
Liz Truss during a Downing Street press conference (Alamy)
Liz Truss is being warned that she can't afford to put another put foot wrong as she prepares to take on Labour leader Keir Starmer in Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday.
The general consensus within the Conservative party is that it is a matter of when – not if – she is ousted as Prime Minister, after overseeing a calamitous few weeks since entering No 10.
That was the view expressed on Tuesday morning by former Cabinet minister, Michael Gove, who said it was "absolutely right" that her departure was inevitable.
"The question for any leader is: what happens when the programme or the platform on which you secured the leadership has been shredded," he told an event hosted by the JLA Speakers Bureau, in remarks reported by The Guardian.
On Monday there were suggestions that Truss may not even survive the week, such was the level of exasperation within the Conservative party. One senior Conservative MP who heard her speak at a meeting of the One Nation caucus last night told PoliticsHome: "It's the first time I have heard a corpse deliver its own eulogy."
However, the success of Chancellor Jeremy Hunt in calming the financial markets, combined with the lack of agreement among Tory rebel MPs on who should replace her, means that her leadership is currently seen as having weeks left, rather than days.
Behind the scenes Conservative MPs are having informal discussions about who among them should be the UK's third Prime Minister this year but an obvious candidate is yet to emerge.
Rishi Sunak is seen as too divisive, and while his supporters believe he is the best person for the job there are questions over whether he actually wants the job at the moment.
One Tory critic of the Prime Minister said that the long-awaited publication of the Office of Budget Responsibility's (OBR) economic forecasts on 31 October was the biggest threat to her leadership.
"When it is crystalled in a document the unavoidable hell that she has put us through, people will say 'enough now'," they predicted.
Hunt's announcement on Monday that he will reverse the vast majority of Truss's tax cuts brought stability to the markets after several weeks of turmoil and two Bank of England interventions.
It came at a huge political cost to the Prime Minister, though, who has been forced to rip up the lion's share of her economic agenda and now faces accusations of being in office but not in power.
The mood within Downing Street on Tuesday was said to be "grim" while Chief Whip Wendy Morton was described as "going missing" in the face of the restless Conservative back benches.
A YouGov poll published yesterday found that 55 per cent of the Conservative party members who chose Truss over Sunak to replace Boris Johnson now want her to quit, with 83 per cent of respondents saying she is doing her job "badly".
Meanwhile, voting intention polls continue to give Labour enormous leads over the Tories, with a Redfield & Wilton survey published yesterday putting Starmer's party 36 per cent ahead.
Truss, for now, is trying to fight on.
She met with the European Research Group (ERG) of avidly pro-Brexit Conservative MPs on Tuesday night as part of an ongoing bid to shore up her support within the parliamentary party.
Business Secretary Jacob Rees Mogg left the meeting saying it went "extremely well", while the news tonight that Truss has brought former Johnson aide David Canzini back into No 10 to help her get her leadership back on track was well received with Tory MPs in the ERG.
However, as a figure in No 10 put it this evening, a bad performance in tomorrow's PMQs would put the embattled Prime Minister "back to square one".
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe