Day of chaos as 'fighter' Truss clings to power as government implodes
Another day for the Prime Minister and another crisis to deal with.
Liz Truss insisted she will fight on as more of her key allies left the Government.
During a gruelling session of PMQs she twice echoed the words of former Labour MP Peter Mandelson, saying: “I’m a fighter, not a quitter.”
But just hours later her premiership was again rocked after Suella Braverman departed as Home Secretary.
Reports followed that Aldridge-Brownhills MP Wendy Morton was out as Chief Whip along with her deputy Craig Whittaker, although Downing Street later confirmed both were still in post.
In her resignation letter Ms Braverman, who has been replaced by Grant Shapps, said she had made a “technical” breach of ministerial rules.
She also said she had “concerns about the direction” of the Government and whether it was honouring its manifesto, particularly on illegal immigration.
In an apparent dig at the PM, she wrote: “The business of government relies upon people accepting responsibility for their mistakes.
“Pretending we haven’t made mistakes, carrying on as if everyone can’t see that we’ve made them, and hoping that things will magically come right is not serious politics.
“I have made a mistake; I accept responsibility; I resign.”
Speculation over Mrs Morton's future followed chaotic scenes after the Government's victory in a crucial vote on fracking, which took place amid Labour claims of Tory MPs being "physically manhandled and bullied" in the lobby.
It followed a PMQs which saw Ms Truss apologise over her now-canned mini-budget, which led to the sacking of Kwasi Kwarteng as Chancellor.
She insisted her government had “acted in the national interest to make sure we have economic stability”, and also announced that the triple lock on pensions would stay – quashing speculation that it would be axed along with the numerous tax cuts that have already bitten the dust.
Her appearance in the Commons came as inflation returned to a 40-year high of 10.1 per cent, with Tory MPs – the majority of whom appeared muted for much of the session – eager to see if she had the moxie to survive in the bear pit.
Many had privately questioned whether the PM was up for the fight, particularly after Friday’s painful press conference which saw her struggle with basic responses before running off.
Facing accusations from Sir Keir Starmer that her government was an “opposition in waiting” and had conducted an “economic experiment in the British public”, the PM went on the attack.
She accused her opposite number of having “no plan” for the economy; said he would do “nothing to protect businesses” and was in thrall to “militant unions”.
Sir Keir adopted a new approach for him, turning to comedy in an effort to land a few telling blows.
A book that was being written about the PM was going to be out by Christmas, he said, before asking: “Is that the release date or the title?” He even instigated a bit of pre-Christmas panto, with the Labour leader joined by his MPs in repeating the word “gone” after he had mentioned economic credibility and the former chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng.
“They’re all gone, so why is she still here?” Sir Keir cried.
Tory MPs in the house appeared to be desperate for a glimmer of hope that the ship was being steadied.
Elsewhere some of Ms Truss’s closest allies moved to back her publicly, while others revealed they had submitted letters calling for a confidence vote in her leadership.
Her supporters include Levelling Up Secretary Simon Clarke and Mark Pritchard, MP for The Wrekin, who both described her performance at PMQs as “really good”.
Mr Clarke added: “While Sir Keir tried to crack jokes, she landed the key point: mistakes have been made but this is a world where interest rates are rising everywhere as central banks combat the inflation caused by Putin’s horrific war.”
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street has also waded in. He insisted Ms Truss could still lead the Tories in the next general election, providing she shows “better judgement” than in recent weeks.
Asked if he could see the PM leading the Conservatives into the next general election, Mr Street said: “I can; it’s a tough position she has got herself into but, do I believe she can get herself out of it? Yes, I do.
“I think actually the critical point is that the new chancellor is giving huge confidence. But again, not sugarcoating it, we have actually got to see her deliver and demonstrate that she can make possibly better judgments than have been made in the last few weeks.”
Meanwhile William Wragg revealed he had become the latest MP to write to Sir Graham Brady requesting a no confidence vote.
He said he had sent a letter to the 1922 Committee chair after losing confidence in the PM’s leadership.
The MP is an executive member of the powerful backbenchers’ group and last week chaired a meeting with Ms Truss where members voiced their concerns over the direction of the party.
A total of seven Tory MPs have now publicly called for the PM to go. Crispin Blunt, Andrew Bridgen, Jamie Wallis, Angela Richardson and Steve Double have been joined by Sir Charles Walker, who tonight branded the current state of the Government as "a shambles and an absolute disgrace".
Mr Shapps's appointment comes after he supported Rishi Sunak for Tory leadership.