Liz Truss suffered a fresh body blow today as a poll found more than half of Tory members want her to quit, with Boris Johnson the favourite to take over.
A bombshell YouGov survey revealed four in five party activists thought the PM was doing a bad job and 55 per cent were convinced she should go, compared to just 38 per cent who backed her staying.
Her predecessor Mr Johnson was the preferred option as a replacement, with 32 per cent supporting him while 23 per cent said Rishi Sunak and 10 per cent Ben Wallace.
The brutal findings emerged as the PM held two hours of talks with Cabinet. Transport Secretary Anne-Marie risked setting another hare running by appearing to answer ‘probably’ when asked if ministers have confidence in the premier. Sources close to Ms Trevelyan insisted she said ‘morning’.
MPs are considering whether and how to stage a coup in the wake of Jeremy Hunt’s extraordinary demolition of her flagship economic plans.
Having stubbornly failed to do so when she sacked Kwasi Kwarteng on Friday, Ms Truss belatedly apologised for the debacle last night in a BBC interview, conceding she had made ‘mistakes’ and gone ‘too far too fast’. A nervous-looking premier vowed that she will lead the party into the next election.
She gave a similar message to the One Nation group of MPs last night. But Tories who attended compared it to a ‘corpse delivering its own eulogy’.
Senior backbencher Simon Hoare warned this morning that the party might need to focus on ‘avoiding a landslide defeat’, with polls showing Labour 36 points ahead.
Defence minister James Heappey insisted that Ms Truss had apologised more quickly than Boris Johnson did, but also signalled problems ahead as he warned he will quit if she cuts funding for the military.
Having tried to appease her centrist MPs, Ms Truss will appear before the right-wing ERG group this evening – many of whom are angry that tax cuts have been ditched.
Much will hang on the stance taken by powerful 1922 chief Graham Brady, who met Ms Truss yesterday. There are suggestions he wants to hold off any action until the Budget on Halloween – when the Chancellor is expected to lay out a nightmare menu of £40billion of spending cuts.
With the tax burden now set to rise to the highest since 1950 and households facing £5,000 energy bills after the government announced its two-year ‘guarantee’ will in fact end in April, MPs are increasingly panicked about the prospect of voters giving their verdict.
In other developments on Ms Truss’s 42nd day as Prime Minister:
- Ms Truss’s favourability rating has tumbled to minus 70 in grim new polling from YouGov – 15 points lower than the nadir recorded for Jeremy Corbyn;
- Another survey of Tory members has suggested they would back Rishi Sunak by 60-40 in a re-run of the leadership contest;
- Ben Wallace has postponed an appearance before the Defence Select Committee for a trip to the US for talks;
- The Bank of England is delaying moves to wind up its QE programme amid fears it would cause fresh turmoil on the gilts market;
A bombshell YouGov survey revealed four in five party activists thought the PM was doing a bad job and 55 per cent were convinced she should go, compared to just 38 per cent who backed her staying
Boris Johnson was the preferred option as a replacement, with 32 per cent supporting him while 23 per cent said Rishi Sunak and 10 per cent Ben Wallace
Transport Secretary Anne-Marie risked setting another hare running by appearing to answer ‘probably’ when asked if ministers have confidence in the premier – although her words were not entirely clear
Cabinet allies fear Liz Truss could be forced out if she fails to set out a convincing argument in the coming days for why she should be allowed to continue
Jeremy Hunt arriving at Downing Street for the Cabinet meeting this morning
Millions of Britons face ‘cliff-edge’ as experts warn average energy bills could soar to £5,000 from April
Millions of households face a ‘cliff-edge’ of soaring energy bills next year after Jeremy Hunt drastically cut short the Government’s support scheme from two years to six months.
The new Chancellor said yesterday the scheme, which aims to keep average annual household bills below £2,500 amid soaring energy prices, will be replaced in April.
Instead, he promised ‘targeted help’ for the poorest families. However, analysts have warned the move could see average bills double to more than £5,000 for some households.
Meanwhile, consumer champion Martin Lewis, using figures from Cornwall Insight, forecast energy bills to rise by 73 per cent to around £4,350-a-year for an average household in April.
Last night, Mr Lewis, who founded consumer site MoneySavingExpert, warned: ‘If these are in the right ballpark, the promised ‘targeted help’ will need to be targeted up into middle incomes for people to get through this. Especially if it stays at those levels for the next winter.’
Mr Hunt made his announcement amid the reversal of £32billion worth of tax cuts to reassure the markets after the turmoil sparked by last month’s ‘mini-Budget’.
In a warning of a possible return to austerity, he said the Government would need to make ‘eye-wateringly difficult’ decisions to balance the books.
Speaking after new Chancellor Jeremy Hunt dismantled her tax-cutting growth plans, Ms Truss acknowledged she had gone ‘too far and too fast’.
‘I want to accept responsibility and say sorry for the mistakes that have been made,’ she told the BBC.
‘I was expecting it to be tough and it has been tough, I think it’s fair to say.’
Mr Heappey suggested the PM could not afford to make any more ‘mistakes’, and pointed the finger at the Cabinet for backing the mini-Budget initially.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘The idea that there is somebody who could emerge and behind whom everybody in the parliamentary party and our membership unites, and the country forgets about everything that has happened for the last 15 months or so and we’re just allowed to get on with it, I just don’t think that is the case.’
On Times Radio he admitted that no-one around the Cabinet table thought the mini-budget, which unleashed market turmoil due to its £45billion of unfunded tax cuts, was a bad idea.
‘It’d be completely disingenuous to claim that, on that morning, when the Cabinet was presented with the mini-budget, that there was anybody sat around the table who said that it was a bad idea,’ he said.
‘Each and every one of the measures within it were coherent with a desire to drive growth.’
Former minister Liam Fox has said people will be ‘weighing up’ Ms Truss’s apology and suggested the survival of her Government depends on economic stability in the coming days.
Asked how much trouble Ms Truss is in, he told Sky News: ‘We can all read the polls and I don’t need to tell you what the atmosphere is like at Westminster.
‘People will be weighing up what the Prime Minister said last night – that she had made mistakes, that she learned from those, and that the measures that Jeremy Hunt had put in place seemed to be providing the necessary economic stability in the markets.
‘If the markets don’t believe that a Conservative Government is able to manage public finances sensibly then that Government has had it.
‘So that, really, is the number one priority and I think that most of my colleagues will be looking to see if the measures being put in place have achieved their effect.
‘It looks at the moment as though they have – that will take the political temperature down somewhat.’
Mr Hunt used a five-minute televised statement yesterday to axe ‘almost all’ of the Prime Minister’s flagship tax cuts in a bid to reassure the financial markets that the Government was serious about balancing the books.
He said its central responsibility was ‘do what is necessary for economic stability’, adding: ‘We are a country that funds our promises and pays our debts.
‘When that is questioned, as it has been, the Government will take the difficult decisions necessary to ensure that there is trust and confidence in our national finances.’
A Downing Street source acknowledged that the Prime Minister faced a ‘critical 24/48 hours’ to cling to her job.
Mr Hunt last night pleaded with rebels not to risk further instability by ousting the PM, urging MPs to ‘give her a chance’.
Cabinet allies fear she could be forced out if she fails to set out a convincing argument in the coming days for why she should be allowed to continue.
One senior Tory said: ‘She needs to show people she’s got the capacity to get out of the mess she’s made – so far she’s a very long way from doing that.’
Senior backbencher Simon Hoare warned this morning that the party might need to focus on ‘avoiding a landslide defeat’, with polls showing Labour up to 36 points ahead
Cabinet minister Nadhim Zahawi was among those attending the gathering chaired by Ms Truss today
Justice Secretary Brandon Lewis (left) and Treasury minister Ed Argar in Downing Street today
A member of the ERG told MailOnline that the group will want reassurance that Ms Truss will not backtrack on the Northern Ireland protocol legislation.
‘A lot of members will be unhappy that the commitment to lower taxes hasn’t been realised,’ the MP added.
The former minister warned the PM will be more vulnerable to special interest demands now.
‘Once you get in a weakened position you are basically being buffeted by either wing of the party,’ they said.
The MP said it is ‘unlikely’ that Ms Truss will fight the next election, but suggested that in the short-term her prospects for survival are better than many think.
‘If you can find a unity candidate you are a better man than I,’ they said. ‘There isn’t one. It is a funny kind of strength.’
The MP insisted that Boris Johnson could be the best solution to the problems the party faces.
‘The membership didn’t want to get ride of Boris… They would welcome it. He is the only one with a personality that can appeal to anybody.’
They added: ‘He is like Heineken. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility.’
Mr Hunt, who was dubbed ‘the de facto PM’ by some Conservative MPs, warned that further ‘eye-wateringly difficult’ tax rises and spending cuts totalling up to £40billion would be needed by the end of this month.
And, in a major blow to millions of families and businesses, he said the two-year energy price ‘guarantee’ would now last for just six months.
Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt denied that the PM was the victim of a ‘coup’ as the Chancellor tore up her plans.
And she provoked laughter in the House when she insisted Ms Truss was not hiding ‘under a desk’ to avoid scrutiny by MPs.
Rishi Sunak at his London home today as rumours swirl about his leadership ambitions
Penny Mordaunt (pictured in the Commons yesterday) is the subject of intense speculation about leadership manoeuvring
At a private meeting, Tory shop steward Sir Graham is said to have warned the PM that dozens of her MPs wanted her gone. But he is thought to be resisting pressure from backbenchers to change party rules that preclude a formal challenge for 12 months.
Former minister Mark Garnier said Ms Truss was ‘in office but is not in power,’ adding: ‘The question is do we give her a chance or do we rip the plaster off?’
Sir Edward Leigh, who backed Miss Truss for the leadership, warned that the scrapping of her tax-cutting agenda could see the UK ‘slide into a second-rate economy’.
Speculation is continuing that the PM could resign or be forced out after just over a month in office.
Some have claimed Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt could broker a deal to seize power from their former leadership rival.
Mr Sunak, who came second to Ms Truss in the Conservative leadership contest this summer, is said to have spoken to a key Mordaunt backer about a ‘tacit’ suggestion he could serve as her Chancellor. The claims were denied by Mr Sunak.
A source said: ‘Like everyone else Rishi wanted the party to come together and is fully focused on his constituency work.’
Pension triple lock under threat in £40bn Halloween Budget cuts as tax burden soars to highest since 1950 and families face £5,000 energy bills after Hunt’s U-turn – with minister openly threatening to QUIT if he targets defence spending
Jeremy Hunt is facing open threats from ministers to quit as he draws up ‘eye-watering’ £40billion cuts for his Halloween Budget – with the pensions triple lock and the defence budget in the firing line.
The Chancellor announced he was reversing £32billion of Liz Truss’s tax cuts yesterday, as the government scrambles to quell market panic.
But the huge tightening is less than half of the estimated £72billion black hole in the public finances. Mr Hunt insisted that Britain must ‘pay its way’, refusing to rule out breaking the triple lock – which means pensions rise in line with the highest out of inflation, wages, or 2.5 per cent.
And Treasury sources have insisted that not even health and defence will be exempt from the savings drive.
Defence minister James Heappey today vowed to resign if the government drops a commitment to be spending 3 per cent of GDP on the military by 2030. His boss Ben Wallace – seen as a leadership contender – has been making similar noises.
Meanwhile, the grim situation faced by Britons has been underlined with warnings that average energy bills could hit £5,000 a year, after Mr Hunt U-turned on the ‘guarantee’ to cap them at £2,500 until late 2024.
Now tax cuts have been jettisoned, the burden is also set to surge to a level not seen since 1950.
The mini-Budget tax cuts were the biggest since the 1970s – and the rises announced by Jeremy Hunt yesterday were the biggest since the early 1990s
Defence minister James Heappey today vowed to resign if the government drops a commitment to be spending 3 per cent of GDP on the military by 2030
The Resolution Foundation think tank warned spending cuts could be as deep as those after the 2009 financial crisis, and that middle-income families may be unable to pay energy bills next year.
Chief executive Torsten Bell told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme there was a fiscal black hole of around £30billion even after the Government scrapped nearly all of its mini-budget.
‘These are big numbers. If we are talking of spending cuts between £30-40billion then they’re not that far off the scale of the cuts announced by George Osborne back in 2010,’ he said.
On the scaling down of energy support, Mr Bell said: ‘It’s a big deal, if he (Chancellor Jeremy Hunt) did scrap all of that he’s saving up to £40 billion, but it’s a big deal for households too because our bills are due to hit £4,000 in April.
‘I think really £4,000 is so large that even middle-income households won’t be able to afford those bills next year.
‘So he’s done the easy bit, scrapping the existing scheme, what he’s got to do is some hard work about how he intends to provide support for lower and middle-income households next year.’
Analysts Auxilione have forecasted average bills could hit £5,078 next year, while other estimates have predicted the Ofgem cap will be £4,350 in April.
In a round of interviews this morning, Mr Heappey stressed the Government still backs the defence spending target.
But asked if he would quit , he told LBC: ‘Yeah.
‘But no one has said that 3 per cent is not going to happen by 2030.’
He insisted he would quit if that changed though, saying: ‘Yeah, we need to be spending 3 per cent of our GDP on defence of our nation by 2030 because there is no prosperity without security.’