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Tory MPs Remain "Uncomfortable" After Liz Truss U-Turns To Save Leadership And Economy

Liz Truss' premiership remains in the balance after corporation tax u-turn and sacking Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng (Alamy)

4 min read

Liz Truss’ premiership remains in the balance after a bruising day in which she sacked her Chancellor and u-turned on another central policy from the controversial mini-Budget.

The Prime Minister ditched her commitment to scrap the rise in corporation tax and removed Kwasi Kwarteng from Number 11 after he was called back early from a trip to the United States on Friday, as the pair had come under increasing pressure to change course following turmoil in the markets.  

Truss vowed to carry on and insisted her “mission remains the same”, and that it was because her plans "went further and faster than markets were expecting" that they had become untenable. 

Last months' fiscal statement – where Kwarteng said the government would borrow tens of billions of pounds to fund sweeping tax cuts – was followed by the sharp fall of the pound, rising interest rates, and two major interventions from the Bank of England.

But many Tories who have been “frustrated” with her performance as Prime Minister so far did not seem especially appeased by Friday's concessions by Truss. 

One Tory peer who has previously said they “cannot support” her leadership told PoliticsHome expressed a continued discomfort with Truss's approach. 

“Trashing the Conservative Party and turning it into an ideological and extreme faction means that many of us who have been members for many years and used to the success of Conservatism resting on pragmatism, non dogma and a one Nation Policy are inevitably uncomfortable at the moment,” they explained. 

A senior Conservative MP said you “couldn’t make it up” when asked to reflect on Friday's events. 

Sir Christopher Chope, who was insisting as recently as Thursday that Truss would not u-turn on key parts of the "mini-Budget", described the Conservative Party as a “laughing stock” after Friday's press conference.  

He told Times Radio he is in “a state of despair and utter disbelief” following the corporation tax u-turn. 

“What is happening now is that we are seeing a Conservaitve parliamentary party out of control, the hyenas are on the hunt, and I am therefore very pessimistic about how we’re going to be able to recover the position,” the MP for Christchurch added. 

But despite the continued unhappiness with Truss herself, a number of backbenchers were pleased to see senior figure Jeremy Hunt appointed as Chancellor to replace Kwarteng.  

One told PoliticsHome that it was a “good call” in the circumstances, while Sir Roger Gale, who was one of the first to call for Boris Johnson to step down in the summer, described the former health secretary as an “experienced pair of hands on the financial tiller”.

However, one 2019 Tory MP told PoliticsHome they felt the move could taint any chance of Hunt going for leader should Truss leave Number 10. 

They described the afternoon's press conference as "very disappointing because both country and party need answers".

"I'm personally a big fan of Hunt and suspect he accepted because he wants to put country above party, but it's too little, too late," they continued. 

"It could also damage any future leadership chances for him if the end is protracted and he is tainted by it all."

Today's announcement marked the second major u-turn from last month's "mini-Budget", with Truss and Kwarteng having already scrapped the plans to abolish the top rate of 45p income tax.

Hunt is due to deliver the medium-term fiscal plan at the end of the month, and will be expected to lay out further details of Truss's forthcoming spending plans and policy costings. 

Following reports that MPs had been invited to a Zoom call with Deputy Prime Minister Thérèse Coffey late on Friday afternoon, loyal Cabinet ministers tweeted displays of support for Truss. 

Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan suggested her boss had “listened and acted decisively” to ensure that the plan to “protect jobs and grow the economy goes ahead”. 

While Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said that “we will get through this storm”. 

Levelling up Secretary Simon Case tweeted simply: "The Prime Minister has my support".

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