LONDON – Liz Truss has fired Home Secretary Suella Braverman over what has been described as a breach of national security, a dramatic move that will put even more pressure on the British Prime Minister while she remains in power.
Braverman shared classified documents on a personal cell phone, said four officials familiar with the case. In a letter posted to Truss on Twitter, she said she had sent an official document from her personal email, the contents of which had already been notified to MPs.
That is considered serious, although it is not normally a shooting violation. But the political context is key, as Truss fights to keep her premiership from imploding.
According to a person familiar with the case, Braverman was on a list of cabinet ministers. Truss’ advisers were concerned they were preparing to resign to try to force the prime minister out of office after a disastrous six weeks in office. The others are Education Minister Kit Malthouse and Commerce Minister Kemi Badenoch, the person said. Both told Bloomberg News that they are not stopping.
But the fears among Truss’s team illustrate how far the Prime Minister’s authority has disintegrated in her mutinous Conservative party. Adding to the sense of despair, Truss quickly sprang into action to replace Braverman with Grant Shapps – who himself openly colluded with Tory MPs to remove the Prime Minister. That has all the hallmarks of a prime minister who has no control.
“I actually want to apologize, I’m getting as fed up with this soap drama as you listeners,” Tory MP Bob Seely told LBC Radio. “I’m honestly as stunned as everyone else and I’m really unhappy with the situation.”
Braverman is the second holder of one of the so-called Great Offices of State in the UK to be fired by Truss. Kwasi Kwarteng, a longtime friend and ally of Truss, was ousted as finance minister after the economic plan they were working on fell apart under pressure from financial markets and forced a series of humiliating turns.
Even the end of Wednesday can be challenging. The government’s enforcer in parliament, Chief Whip Wendy Morton, resigned after a brutal battle to contain a Tory insurgency in a vote on shale gas fracking, according to two people who were aware of her decision. Morton’s deputy, Craig Whittaker, has also retired, people said.
Truss’s party won the vote by 326 to 230 in the House of Commons, which should have given the Prime Minister a rare moment of calm. But the firing is likely to cause more problems, and Labor MP Chris Bryant has called for an investigation into allegations of bullying when the government tried to get people to vote.
Truss had warned Conservative MPs not to vote against the government, and an order had been circulated that even abstaining would result in expulsion from the parliamentary party. But fracking is a thorny issue, and many conservatives are rejecting it because of fierce opposition in their districts.
Some Tory MPs took to Twitter to voice their opposition – ex-minister Chris Skidmore said he would not vote to support fracking “for the sake of our environment and climate”, and would bear the consequences.
It is certainly not the only pressure point facing Truss. There is another fight over benefits, which many Tory MPs want the government to raise in line with rising inflation. But the new Treasury Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has refused to commit to it as he seeks to repair the damage Truss and Kwarteng have done with their economic plan.
The fear among conservatives is that a cut in benefits in real terms will hurt the most vulnerable during a cost of living crisis. The Tories’ support has fallen to an all-time low in opinion polls, and Truss’ personal approval rating is significantly lower than her ousted predecessor, Boris Johnson.
Hunt has reversed most of its policies to restore financial stability after UK public finances were suddenly disrupted. But in doing so, he has set the Tories on the path to another round of punitive austerity measures.
Still, according to people familiar with the matter, Hunt told the Ordinary Tories on Wednesday that he is committed to increasing defense spending to 3% of GDP by 2030 — a long-standing Truss promise — and will stick to it. the high-speed railway project HS2.
Risks for truss
The bigger question Conservative MPs face is whether and when Truss should be removed, with the next general election in January 2025. There is growing consensus that she should not lead the party to that vote, but deep division over who MPs want taking over.
In her letter to Truss posted on Twitter, Braverman made a thinly veiled attack on the Prime Minister’s actions. “Pretending we didn’t make mistakes, going on as if everyone can’t see we made them, and hoping things will magically turn out right is not serious politics,” she said.
Her departure from the office has put Westminster on edge. Though she was pushed out by Truss, few MPs will miss the broader meaning of the loss of another key ally on the party’s ideological right.
In the absence of a candidate for unity – former Treasury Secretary Rishi Sunak and House of Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt are in the running – the cabinet’s departure poses the most immediate threat to Truss. Johnson’s tenure was ended by the sudden resignation of then health minister Sajid Javid and Sunak, triggering a mass exodus from his government.
“I’m a fighter, not a quitter,” Truss said in the House of Commons about confronting lawmakers for the first time since she was forced to cut most of her economic program just weeks after announcing it.
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