Secret plot to replace Truss with ‘sensible 6’ revealed
Liz Truss ‘will be judged at an election’ says Jeremy Hunt
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Several ex-ministers have hatched a plan to by-pass the party rulebook and stage a “clean and swift” coup against the PM and her Cabinet.
Ringleaders claim about 100 MPs have backed their blueprint to bring her “catastrophic” stint in Number 10 to an end and appoint her successor without a contest. One mutineer said last night: “We want to do what is right for the party and the country, and we aren’t hanging around.”
It also emerged that sacked chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng had actually argued against Ms Truss’s plan to cut taxes for the wealthiest in the mini-Budget. His allies claim it was forced on him by the PM after he suggested delaying it to avoid “doing too much at once”. But she is said to have told him: “No, let’s go for it.”
With Ms Truss left isolated, the rebels plan to deliver letters from up to half of all MPs telling her the game is up – with their “chosen one” waiting in the wings.
A former Truss ally conceded: “There’s nothing we can do to save her now. She faces a slow, humiliating demise. I’ve come to the conclusion it would be more humane to put her out of her misery quickly.”
A former Cabinet minister involved in the talks added: “Liz and her team are culpable of the biggest political catastrophe in modern times. She has to go – and her entire Cabinet with her.”
Tory grandees hatched the plot after concluding that without urgent action they face a painful two-year run-up to a certain general election defeat.
A list of names has already been drawn up to lead the “unity team” out to seize the keys to Number 10. They aim to by-pass the powerful 1922 committee of backbenchers to avoid a long and tortuous leadership race with an uncertain outcome.
It would involve a new “national convention” overseen by a convenor from outside the Commons. Former Tory leaders Michael Howard and William Hague have been identified as possible candidates, to decide on the membership of the unity alliance.
Former Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and new Chancellor Jeremy Hunt are among the figures considered potential replacements for Ms Truss.
But the idea is for them to be part of a “sensible six” of experienced politicians who will share the responsibility for getting Britain back on track.
One insider said: “The membership would hate being frozen out of the process but we can’t take the risk of letting them decide our next leader again.”
But there was some opposition to the idea last night. Former culture secretary Nadine Dorries said: “Our core supporters will not vote for a feuding party that throws its leaders overboard in every storm.”
Writing in the Sunday Express today, she added: “Serial back-stabbers should recognise that if they force her out of No10 they will not just lose the support of red wall voters who are already angry at the removal of Boris, they will repel long-standing Conservative voters who will punish the party at the next election.”
The febrile atmosphere around Downing Street intensified as:
● Mr Hunt was hailed as the “Prince Regent” who, after 24 hours as Chancellor, already holds the levers to power in No10.
● The PM’s allies warned that replacing her would trigger even more market turmoil.
● It is claimed Boris Johnson could play kingmaker in choosing her successor, or even have a role in a new Government.
● Doom-struck Tories admitted they no longer believe they can win the next election and it is now about damage limitation.
The rebels, led by ex-Cabinet big guns Grant Shapps, Gavin Williamson and Julian Smith, hope to get up to 150 names – half the Parliamentary party – within days.
The exceptional measures are being proposed after an extraordinary collapse in party confidence. The Tories are already significantly behind Labour at the polls.
MPs were not slow in expressing their fury at the situation. One former cabinet minister said: “These people are culpable for the biggest political catastrophe in modern times, certainly since the 1940s. They have to go – they all have to go.”
The plots demonstrate that Ms Truss’s U-turns on tax cuts and her decision to sack Mr Kwarteng have failed to secure her position. She acted despite a delegation of loyal supporters urging her to resist calls to fire her chancellor and reverse policy.
One said: “She had nothing to lose by standing firm but she shunned that advice and decided to cut and run.
“Her enemies have been given a whiff of blood and they will hunt her down.
“You can’t run away from a heap of problems like this. It never works. It exposes weakness. They will come after her now and they will get her. It’s only a matter of time.”
Even Mr Hunt has hinted at tax rises and spending cuts, a complete reversal of Ms Truss’s pledges to the party. In the latest developments, the Prime Minister struck an upbeat note about the country’s future and her Government’s mission in a personal message to Sunday Express readers.
She said: “I love Britain. It is the best country on Earth. And I’m determined to make sure its best days lie ahead despite the turbulent global situation we are all facing.
“That’s why with my new Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, we will deliver for Sunday Express readers and the whole country.
“You can count on us to be on your side.”
But the “fiscal event” which sparked a run on the pound and increasing interest rates has proved disastrous.
Describing the impact on ordinary people, a Tory grandee said: “People have lost thousands of pounds off their pensions.
“It is the result of self-indulgence and selfish politics by a few.”
One insider said the “unity team” would focus on the “bread-and-butter governance of our country”.
An ex-minister close to the discussions said: “Everyone will have to put their personal preferences and ego to one side.
“The idea is to put forward a strong unity team for the sake of the country, to reassure the markets that they are competent people they know and trust.”
They said: “The party has screwed this up and, in the eyes of the public, can’t be trusted any more. It’s time to bring in the sensible squad to try to rescue what’s left of its reputation.”
In a further blow for the PM, Tory peer Ed Vaizey admitted that Ms Truss is “staring into the abyss”. He said: “When a Prime Minister loses their chancellor it only tends to go one way. Her days are numbered.”
He ruled out a leadership contest and added the only option would be for MPs to tell her the game is up and by-pass the membership to appoint their own successor.
In a sign of the despair that has gripped Tories, one MP predicted that any successor to Ms Truss would serve as a “caretaker” until the party loses the election.
A senior Conservative said: “We were more optimistic in opposition in the early 2000s when Tony Blair was at peak popularity than we are now. That’s how low our expectations have sunk.”
Gloomy MPs are weighing up the best options to limit the scale of defeat.
An MP elected in 2019 said: “If we carry on as we are, we’ll lose by 250 seats. But if we make a change, we’ll lose by 50.”
One downcast Tory veteran conceded: “It’s over. Liz might as well head for the exit door. There might be a bit of a crush as most of the party will be rushing to get out now – stabbing each other in the back in the process. Keir Starmer and his Labour colleagues, meanwhile, are sitting in the front seats of the theatre smiling their heads off.”
But a cabinet minister said: “Liz is quite tough. I’ve been quite impressed. It can’t have been easy to soldier on after what’s happened and many lesser women – or men – would have crumbled. But she’s got an incredible amount of resilience.”
A Government source insisted that the PM had listened to the party and that rebels should drop attempts to oust her. They said: “The country wants stability and a period of calm, steady governance. The last thing it needs is more upheaval and disruption.
“The PM has listened to her party and made some changes. Now we must unite to deliver for the country and take the fight to Labour and the Left.”
And Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg urged his colleagues to respect the result of the leadership election. He told them to “remember that calm deliberation is the best way to govern and that Liz Truss has a mandate from Conservative members and that is the fundamental importance”.
Former minister Paul Maynard, the Conservative MP for Blackpool North, also cautioned against a leadership election and said the PM should be given more time.
He described the policy changes as a “welcome course correction” and said the new chancellor needed “time and space”.
A member of the Government said colleagues should act professionally, adding: “We have some important work to do.”
But a Conservative insider said that MPs who had once been loyal to the Prime Minister now wanted her out.
He said: “There are ministers and backbenchers who backed Truss who are now disowning her. They are saying, ‘We made a massive mistake and she has to go.’”
Lord Barwell, who served as Downing Street chief of staff under Theresa May said that if there is a new leader it should not be one of a raft of figures who now hold top roles in the Government.
He said: “In the last leadership election, a new generation of candidates – Kemi Badenoch, Nadhim Zahawi, Suella Braverman and Tom Tugendhat – did well.
“I have a high regard for some of them but none are ready to be PM.”
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