Truss’s leadership defence sparks backlash from Tories
Liz Truss and her allies were accused of living in a “fantasy” as her defence of her disastrous six-week reign at No 10 sparked a furious backlash from senior Tories. The former prime minister was accused of “sour grapes” after she offered no apology for the economic turmoil of the autumn in a 4,000-word article that
blamed the disruption on the “left-wing economic establishment” and resistance to tax cuts from within her own party.
Supporters of the current prime minister accused Ms Truss of trying to destabilise Rishi Sunak’s government, warning that Ms Truss and her allies were deluded if they thought she could launch a successful bid to lead the Tory party once again.
Sir Craig Oliver, a former No 10 communications chief, warned the party that listening to Ms Truss would lead to “cataclysmic defeat” at the next general election. Writing for The Independent, Sir Craig, who served as a senior aide in David Cameron’s government, claimed that both Ms Truss and Boris Johnson were trying to “grab the wheel” from Mr Sunak – describing Ms Truss’s lengthy article defending her unfunded tax cuts as “nonsense”.
“One former prime minister trying to grab the wheel from Rishi Sunak would be unfortunate; the problem is there are two,” he said, adding: “Two former prime ministers doing everything in their power to rock the boat is not a recipe for victory. It points to a potential cataclysmic defeat.”
David Davis told The Independent that Ms Truss’s backers had no chance of ousting Mr Sunak before the next election, which is expected to take place in 2024. “Anybody who thinks she can challenge before the next election is dealing in fantasy,” he said. The former cabinet minister added that support for a comeback by Mr Johnson amounted to “probably about 20 MPs, and Truss is probably less. You’re not talking about a revolutionary movement here.”
Business secretary Grant Shapps said Ms Truss had “clearly” taken the wrong approach to the economy, while senior MP Alicia Kearns mocked Ms Truss’s attempt to rewrite history by blaming economic institutions. “The markets aren’t left-wing – they are not woke,” she told Sky News.
One senior Tory, a Sunak backer, told The Independent that Ms Truss should have “kept her head down and stayed loyal” rather than trying to justify her “cack-handed” management of the
economy. The senior backbencher said it was “unhelpful” and “completely unnecessary to try to damage the party at this stage” by reminding voters of the autumn’s economic debacle. One former Tory minister said Ms Truss’s intervention amounted to “sour grapes”.
Tory MP Richard Graham, one of Mr Sunak’s trade envoys, also said Ms Truss’s article was a “mistake”, telling Times Radio that her time at No 10 was something most voters would “rather not really remember too clearly”. George Osborne also called Ms Truss’s claims “nonsense”, telling Channel 4’s The Andrew Neil Show that “she went out of her way not to listen” to good advice.
The disastrous mini-Budget masterminded by Ms Truss and her chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng cost the country £30bn, according to an estimate by think tank the Resolution Foundation.
The UK’s stock and bond markets lost an estimated $500bn (£415bn) in value in the weeks after she took over last September. The Bank of England was forced to take emergency measures to stabilise pensions, while lenders pulled hundreds of mortgage deals and hiked interest rates.
However, some Tory MPs, urging Mr Sunak and chancellor Jeremy Hunt to cut taxes at the March Budget, said Ms Truss was entitled to “counter” the negativity about her time at No 10. Truss backer Craig Mackinlay MP told The Independent that the Sunak government should consider a “growth agenda which must include lower taxes and a brighter light at the end of what has been a long, dark tunnel”.
Former Tory chair Sir Jake Berry, who was in cabinet during Ms Truss’s brief premiership, also defended the former PM – saying he agreed with her “diagnosis of the disease” of low economic growth. “I think she accepts [that] the prescription that we wrote, for which I take part of the blame, wasn’t delivered in the right way. I agree with the diagnosis, not necessarily the cure,” Sir Jake told the BBC.
Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Ms Truss said she was “not given a realistic chance to enact my policies by a very powerful economic establishment, coupled with a lack of political
support”. She also took a swipe at her successor’s decision to increase corporation tax from 19 per cent to 25 per cent, and claimed that her own plan for growth through tax cuts and borrowing would have ended the “left-wards” drift of economic thinking.
Labour said the public would be angry that Ms Truss had displayed “no humility” in relation to her part in driving the economy “off a cliff” in the autumn. Shadow care minister Liz Kendall said: “People whose mortgages rocketed and pensions plummeted will look on with at best shock and at worst anger. And the problem for Rishi Sunak is he can’t control any of this, because many people in the Tory party still agree with this.”
The Liberal Democrats also criticised Ms Truss’s defence of her “disastrous reign” and called for the removal of the £115,000-ayear publicly funded allowance she receives to pay for her staffing costs.
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