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Nadhim Zahawi Warns Tory Rebels “Dither Or Delay Will End In Defeat” In Urgent Call For Unity

Nadhim Zahawi called on rebellious Tory MPs not to slow down the government's plans saying "delay is our enemy" (Alamy)

5 min read

Senior minister Nadhim Zahawi has led cabinet calls for unity among Tory MPs, warning that rebels are paving the way for defeat at the next general election.

The chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who leads the Cabinet Office, said any "dither or delay" in getting behind the Prime Minister would lead to a Labour victory after Conservative colleagues have threatened to force Liz Truss into a number of policy reversals.

Following the Prime Minister’s u-turn on abolish the 45p top rate of income tax, rebel MPs feel emboldened to try and push for further concessions, but Zahawi called on them to allow the government to get on with delivery, insisting that "delay is our biggest enemy”.

"We've got two years to demonstrate to the nation that we can deliver,” he told Sky's Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme.

"I want my colleagues to obviously focus, because any dither or delay will end in defeat.”

In several of Sunday’s national newspapers other cabinet ministers have called for unity after a Conservative party conference in Birmingham this week marred by internal rows over the direction of the Truss administration.

But Zahawi was confronted over the fact that two of them – Commons leader Penny Mordaunt and Home Secretary Suella Braverman – had contributed to the in-fighting and had failed to stick to the official line on policy, leading to suggestions that cabinet collective responsibility had broken down.

"We'd been in office under Liz Truss for a very short period of time when her late Majesty sadly passed away, and then we had to obviously co-ordinate – and it was the honour of my life to co-ordinate the funeral and commemoration for her Majesty,” he replies.

"Of course we have cabinet collective responsibility, but we've literally had only one cabinet meeting. That hasn't stopped us doing the work.

"I have, in my role as chief operating officer, been making sure all those targets are now unpacked – there's targets by time and of course by putting milestones in place for each of those departments.”

But former cabinet minister Nadine Dorries said unless Truss reverses the policies that have taken the Tories away from their 2019 election manifesto she should go to the country for a mandate on a "completely fresh set of policy ideas".

Appearing on the BBC's Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg show, the former-culture secretary said: "I believe that it's not so much changing course as perhaps nuancing the policies and the mandate that she's taking forward in a slightly different way.

"The fact is that just after a leadership election, and at the start of a new administration, what we don't need is a disrupter, what we need is a unifier.

“I think probably that the new Prime Minister has realised that over the last few weeks."

Pressed on what should happen if Truss does not go back to the policies of her predecessor as PM Boris Johnson, Dorries said: "The simple principle of our democracy and our unwritten constitution is that if you're going to have a completely fresh mandate, a completely fresh set of policy ideas and a new prime minister, it would be right to go to the country.

"Liz doesn't need to do that. And I really hope she won't do that when we're 30 points behind in the polls."Despite being critical of the Government's current trajectory, Dorries said she is "still one of Liz's biggest supporters”, and called on those in the Conservative Party discussing whether they might need to remove her to "stop".

"We can't have a leadership election, put a new leader in place and immediately start discussing about how we remove that leader,” she said.

"They need to stop, they need to get behind her and they need to support her.

"How they do that is by engaging both with No.10, and No.10 need to start engaging with the parliamentary party. I don't believe that Liz is politically suicidal.”

But she did not rule out the possibility of a comeback from Johnson. "I have been in politics a long time, I don't rule anything out," she said. 

“But I would say it is highly, extremely unlikely."Zahawi, who also appeared on Kuenssberg’s programme, said he could not see a situation where the Tories oust Truss.

"Delay is our great enemy, division will cause delay and of course ultimately if we don't deliver in the next 24 months on that growth plan, on the energy plan to make sure we invest in nuclear,” he said.

The Cabinet Office minister said the planned blackouts by the National Grid this winter are "extremely unlikely", despite growing warnings. 

"We've got the second largest LNG [liquid natural gas] processing infrastructure in Europe," he said. 

“Half of our gas we produce here at home, we want to go further – this year we've increased our output by 26% on gas.

"We've got interconnectors with our neighbours. Now, what the National Grid is saying is the extremely unlikely scenario where there are issues in Europe with the interconnectors and a very cold snap, so it's extremely unlikely.

"But it's only right that we plan for every scenario.

"All I would say is we have a buffer, the same buffer as last year, and so I'm confident that come Christmas, come the cold weather, we will continue to be in that resilient place, but it's only right we have looked at every scenario."

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