Truss Safe For Now As Tory MPs Don't Know What To Do For The Best

The prime minister is faced with a series of horrible choices.
Liz Truss and an aide leave 10 Downing Street ahead of PMQs
Liz Truss and an aide leave 10 Downing Street ahead of PMQs
Stefan Rousseau via PA Wire/PA Images

Unusually, Liz Truss hit the nail on the head during prime minister’s questions today.

“Mr Speaker, I think the last thing we need is a general election,” she said.

If by “we” she meant the Conservative Party, the PM was spot on. With the polls the way they are at the moment, very few of her grim-faced parliamentary colleagues would be returning to Westminster if voters were given a say right now.

Unfortunately for Truss, however, simply avoiding the public’s verdict on her dysfunctional government is not enough to save her.

Quite simply, the prime minister is facing problems in every direction, and there are no obvious solutions for any of them.

The job she faced on day one of her premiership was already a difficult one, but last month’s disastrous mini-budget effectively torpedoed any chance she had of making a decent fist of it.

The toxic combination of a tanking pound, rising mortgage rates and a pensions industry on the brink of collapse have all combined to cement the public’s view that Truss and her government must go.

In order to calm the money markets driving the economic chaos, Truss and her chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng must come up with swingeing public spending cuts – £60 billion-worth according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies – by Halloween.

Even if that were practically possible, the chances of her getting austerity of that magnitude through the Commons are zero, with Tory MPs – most of whom didn’t support her in the first place – more than happy to join forces with Labour to defeat their own government.

That is why Truss insisted at PMQs today that there will be “absolutely” no spending cuts on her watch.

But as one Labour source told HuffPost UK: “Let’s see how the markets respond to that.”

Another way of satisfying the markets would be for Truss and Kwarteng to U-turn on the remaining £43 billion-worth of unfunded tax cuts contained in the mini-budget.

Downing Street today insisted they will go ahead as planned – despite growing calls by Tory MPs for a rethink.

In any case, the damage to what remains of Truss’s political credibility from such a monumental climbdown would be so great that it’s hard to see how she could remain in post.

The only thing currently saving her is the fact that her MPs can’t agree on the best course of action.

Many believe that ousting her so soon after getting rid of Boris Johnson would make the party a laughing stock, while others who would happily see her removed fear Tory party members could contrive to replace her with someone worse.

Others think the members should be removed from the equation altogether by MPs agreeing on a unity candidate to take over in Number 10. But with unity an alien concept among Tory MPs these days, there is little chance of that happening.

And even if some method could be found to engineer Truss’s replacement with a more palatable alternative, most MPs think the public clamour for an early general election would prove impossible to ignore.

Which brings us back to Truss’s comment about a snap poll being “the last thing we need”.

It may well be that fear of the electorate is the thing that keeps her in a job.


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