The Daily Telegraph

Are the Brexit militants still backing Liz? I’m not so sure

- By Tim Stanley

Liz Truss launched her fightback at 6pm in Committee Room 11. The meeting was actually set for 5pm; Commons voting ran late, so Mark Francois advised us hacks to bugger off and come back later, but I hung around on the suspicion that the moment we left, Liz would slip out of her hiding place in the roof of the lift and jog, unseen, into the room.

I hunkered down like it was the Harrods sale and watched the European Research Group arrive in dribs, drabs and the occasional straightja­cket.

These are the true believers: if they’re angry at Liz for anything, it’s for not keeping the mini-budget. Lord Frost, John Redwood, Jacob, Fabbers, the magnificen­t David Campbell Bannerman dragging a suitcase – full, no doubt, of monetarist literature – and Steve “Muscles” Baker.

Sir William Cash spread his arms like Jolson, and sang: “Here we goooo!”

To see whom? The PM, or what’s left of her, since a bunch of asset managers and Remainers “took back control”. What we saw of her on TV on Monday night, interviewe­d by Chris Mason, did not spark confidence, as she uttered that dread word “Sorry”, thus accepting personal responsibi­lity for blunders past and future.

It is the mark of an “honest politician”, she said, to admit mistakes. That’s true, but it’s also a dead giveaway for a not-very-goodone, trying to turn repeated error into a display of moral virtue. As Samuel Johnson might have said: “Honesty is the last refuge of the incompeten­t”.

What was I expecting? The PM to pass down the corridor on castors, tugged along by a gentle nurse?

But no! She bobbed into view in a dark blue dress and black tights – fresh faced, one suspects, from a good night’s sleep. Instinctiv­ely, I stood: she might be a PM, but she’s still a lady. I earnt a cheeky nod.

Those who can’t fathom the rise of Ms Truss haven’t met her. She has a way of compromisi­ng you; of making you think you’re on her side, and it’s the most fun side of the room to be on.

The ERG roared as she entered. She entertaine­d them behind a closed door for about 45 minutes. Then she left, followed by Mr Francois, who told us it was “a very positive meeting”. The PM evidently spoke about Northern Ireland and her commitment to raising defence spending by the end of the decade, which is ambitious for a woman who could be out of office by Friday.

And he noted that David Canzini, the clever political operative, was with her, an eminence so grise, none of us had noticed he’d gone in.

No 10 confirmed it: he was hired as of that morning.

So, she’s adding staff. She has two issues distinct from the Treasury to define herself by: Ulster and guns. And does she have the Brexit militants behind her? Speaking as one of them, I’m not sure. The ambition was always to make Britain “Singapore on Thames”, but if even Liz can’t do it, some of us are tempted to cut out the middleman and just move to Singapore.

Instinctiv­ely, I stood: she might be a PM, but she’s still a lady. I earnt a cheeky nod

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