The Daily Telegraph

Truss departure a matter of when not if, Gove claims

Former Cabinet minister launches savage attack on Prime Minister and warns public to expect ‘tough economic medicine’

- By Ben Riley-smith POLITICAL EDITOR and Nick Gutteridge

MICHAEL GOVE yesterday joked he knew why Liz Truss was nicknamed the “human hand grenade”, adding it was a matter of when, not if, she was toppled.

In a series of scathing remarks about the Prime Minister, Mr Gove suggested the role of Ms Truss’s boss was now “a jobshare between Jeremy Hunt and the bond market”.

He also predicted that there would be no fracking in the UK despite the Prime Minister lifting the ban. The interventi­on came after Downing Street recommitte­d to Ms Truss’s promise of spending 3 per cent of GDP on defence by 2030 after a second minister threatened to resign.

A Cabinet meeting to discuss spending cuts, demanded by the new Chancellor, ran longer than expected, with a Whitehall battle on budgets set to play out over the next fortnight.

Neither spending on health or defence will be ring-fenced from savings, with the MOD expected to find efficienci­es in the coming years. Mr Gove, the Tory MP for Surrey Heath and former communitie­s secretary, announced his resignatio­n from the Tory front bench over the summer when it became clear that Ms Truss was on course to become prime minister.

Speaking at an event organised by JLA Speakers Bureau yesterday morning, Mr Gove gave a series of frank and forthright assessment­s of the Prime Minister. The remarks were reported by The Guardian. Mr Gove later said his comments had been given under socalled Chatham House rules, which means they are not to be quoted, but he did not dispute their accuracy.

He was asked by LBC presenter Sangita Myska, the event’s host, whether it was “no longer a question of whether Liz Truss goes, but when she goes”. Mr Gove said “absolutely right”, adding: “The question for any leader is: what happens when the programme or the platform on which you secured the leadership has been shredded.”

He also cited Dante, saying: “After hell comes purgatory and paradise.”

Mr Gove said: “Purgatory is going to be a tough economic medicine applied in this country and elsewhere. For how long I don’t know. But until and unless the interest rate increases, and other measures required in order to kill and reduce inflation are in place, then we won’t get out of this mess.”

He also joked that he had been Ms Truss’s boss in a government department, adding that is “of course a role which is now a jobshare between Jeremy Hunt and the bond market” and that “we all know now” why she had gained the nickname “the human hand grenade”.

On fracking, Mr Gove said it would not take place in the UK “because no community will be sufficient­ly incentivis­ed to do it”.

Meanwhile, Downing Street yesterday moved to quash a ministeria­l rebellion over defence spending.

On Saturday Mr Hunt refused to honour Ms Truss’s campaign promise of spending 3 per cent of GDP on defence by 2030. James Heappey, the Armed Forces minister, became the second minister to threaten to quit if the pledge was abandoned, following Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary.

Asked on LBC if he would resign if the promise was abandoned, Mr Heappey said: “Yeah. But no one has said that 3 per cent is not going to happen by 2030.” Mr Heappey added if that changed, however, he would resign.

Later yesterday Number 10 confirmed that the promise would be kept. The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “We are obviously committed to maintainin­g the UK’S position at the forefront of Nato. That’s why the PM committed to raise defence spending to 3 per cent of GDP by 2030.”

The flip-flopping on policy is a reflection of Ms Truss’s turbulent week and political challenges.

Both she and Mr Hunt issued a similar message on the need for spending restraint to calm the markets as they addressed the Cabinet yesterday.

The official Number 10 readout said: “The Prime Minister said she wanted to be honest with the public that times would be tough but that by addressing

long-standing issues now, we can put the country on a stronger path for the future.

“The Chancellor made clear public spending would continue to rise overall but that department­s continue to be asked to look at finding ways to save taxpayers’ money, with public spending standing at around £1 trillion currently.

“The Chancellor said this work should focus on areas which would not affect the service the public receives.”

Battles about where the axe will fall will play out between the Treasury and government department­s between now and Oct 31, when Mr Hunt will reveal what has been dubbed the “mediumterm fiscal plan”.

Meanwhile, eyebrows were raised when Tory MP Robert Largan wrote about the dangers of letting a “dumpster fire” rage without interventi­on via his column in the Glossop Chronicle.

In what appeared to be a thinlyveil­ed swipe on Ms Truss Mr Largan said “urgent” action was needed to stop the conflagrat­ions “spreading quickly and causing major structural damage”.

He added: “For some, watching these fires rage elicits a grim fascinatio­n and the chance to speculate about just how long it will continue to burn.”

An indication of the Tory backbench mood will come today when Ms Truss appears in the House of Commons for Prime Minister’s Questions.

It came as Ms Truss vowed to stick to her red lines on the Northern Ireland Protocol after suggestion­s the minibudget fallout would force her to strike a compromise deal. Addressing a meeting of Brexiteer Tory MPS last night, the

Prime Minister said she was “determined to deliver” on the promise to end border checks in the Irish Sea.

She told the European Research Group she was “committed to” legislatio­n that would rip up the agreement if necessary but still wants a “negotiated outcome” with the EU.

Mark Francois, the chairman of the ERG, said she had pledged to “negotiate robustly” with Brussels, which had gone down “very well” with backbenche­rs.

The veteran MP, who supported Ms Truss for the Tory leadership, said there was “a great deal of support for her in the room” after a disastrous few days.

“We all know she’s had a very difficult time of it. There was a degree of empathy and colleagues wanted her to succeed,” he added.

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 ?? ?? Michael Ellis, the Attorney General, leads the charge out of a Downing Street Cabinet meeting also attended by Anne-marie Trevelyan, the Transport Secretary, right, as the PM is driven to an evening meeting, below
Michael Ellis, the Attorney General, leads the charge out of a Downing Street Cabinet meeting also attended by Anne-marie Trevelyan, the Transport Secretary, right, as the PM is driven to an evening meeting, below

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