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Senior Tories Admit Conference Chaos Has Been “Very Damaging” For The Party

Liz Truss's first party conference as Prime Minister has been overshadowed by a number of internal Tory party rows (Alamy)

3 min read

A Tory MP has urged Liz Truss to “love bomb” her beleaguered party after days of chaos at Conservative party conference in Birmingham, that one former Cabinet minister described as "very damaging”.

Theresa Villiers told PoliticsHome she hopes “we can have a bit of a reset” after a number of rows over policy in the fallout from last month’s mini-Budget.

Speaking at a live recording of PoliticsHome podcast, The Rundown, Villiers, the ex-Northern Ireland and environment secretary, said she was "taken aback" by comments made by Cabinet ministers at the Tory conference in Birmingham.

Earlier on Tuesday, Home Secretary Suella Braverman accused MPs who had opposed the abolition of the 45p top rate of tax of a “coup” after Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng announced on Monday the government were scrapping the policy. A number of Tory MPs have since turned on the home secretary over the comments. 

Internal divisions have deepend throughout the week after Prime Minister Liz Truss hinted benefits may rise in line with earrings rather than inflation, which could lead to a real-terms cut for hundreds of thousands of welfare recipients. Cabinet minister Penny Mordaunt later signalled she would not be prepared to back Truss on the proposal. 

"I have to say I was a bit taken aback with the freelancing cabinet ministers," Villiers told PoliticsHome when asked about Mordaunt's comments. 

"Theresa May had that problem over many months but even Mrs May had a year or so when she had a relative degree of unity from her Government.

"I would always encourage the members of our Cabinet to have their debates internally."

Asked if the rows had worsened the Conservative Party’s standing after a number of opinion polls putting them very far behind Labour, she said “clearly headlines coming out of conference are not the ones we would have wanted”.

"Sadly, I think it has been very damaging, the events of today and the past few days, and I hope we can have a bit of a reset moment,” Villiers continued.

Also speaking on the PoliticsHome podcast, fellow Conservative MP Alicia Kearns said it was "a bit difficult" to see communications problems resurface under Liz Truss.

"Under Boris Johnson, we saw he didn't always bring the party with him," she added. 

"It's a bit difficult to see the same problem happening again."

Kearns said “everyone wants to see Liz Truss succeed, grow the economy and get through this crisis”, but said “with the parliamentary party there’s a lot of work to do”.

There has been some suggestion that a number of MPs have stayed away from this year's Conservative party conference following a week of economic chaos in the wake of Kwasi Kwarteng's mini-budget, which triggered the fall of the pound. Historic poll leads for Labour have also put a dampener on affairs. 

“This should be Liz’s crowning glory, all of her ministers should want to be here – they’re not,” Kearns said. 

But she believed that although the PM faced a number of hurdles with her own MPs, they “are not insurmountable”, and they can be overcome with “heavy engagement with backbenchers”.

She called on Truss to “love-bomb the party” to bring colleagues on board. 

"What we don’t need to see is ministers saying there’s been a coup,” she added, pointedly.

  • Subscribe to PoliticsHome podcast The Rundown to listen to the full discussion, which will be out on Wednesday.


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