Cleverly warns Tories against 'defenestrating' Truss

Cleverly warns Tories against ‘defenestrating’ Truss

The UK Foreign Secretary has warned restless Tory colleagues against “defenestrating” another prime minister as he suggested a leadership contest would neither win the hearts of the British public nor calm the markets.

James Cleverly, a prominent supporter of Liz Truss throughout her campaign for the top job, insisted “the plan is not to make mistakes” but “they do happen”, after the prime minister’s authority was hammered by a raft of humiliating U-turns to quell the mini-budget turmoil.

He said he understands why people are “frustrated” with the Tory leader, adding that dire polls for the party are obviously “disconcerting” for the government.

But he said he is “far from convinced” of the benefits of another leadership campaign, cautioning against an “emotional response” from those “angry” about the current predicament.

Ms Truss is preparing for a major clash with Keir Starmer this afternoon, having been forced to junk her entire economic strategy.

She will square off against the Labour leader in Prime Minister’s Questions for the first time since her new Chancellor Jeremy Hunt ripped up her plan for tax cuts and increased public borrowing in a bid to reassure markets spooked by the ill-fated mini-budget.

It comes amid more gloomy news for the economy, with inflation returning the 40-year high it hit earlier this summer.

The prime minister faces disquiet from Tory MPs over plans for public spending cuts across all departments, after Mr Hunt warned of decisions of “eye-watering difficulty” to plug the government’s multi- billion-pound financial black hole.

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Yesterday, an admission from Downing Street that Ms Truss could ditch the key manifesto commitment to increase state pensions in line with inflation sparked a swift backlash.

Her official spokesperson said she is “not making any commitments on individual policy areas” ahead of the chancellor’s fiscal plan on 31 October.

In a sign of possible dissent to come, Tory backbencher Maria Caulfield vowed she would “not be voting to end the pensions triple lock”, with former minister Steve Double adding: “Nor me.”

Mr Cleverly said the Government takes its manifesto commitments “incredibly seriously”, but refused to commit to pensions rising in line with inflation.

James Cleverly had a warning for those seeking a new Tory leader

“We’ve seen those inflation figures, obviously the chancellor is going to be making a statement to the House in just over a week’s time,” he told Sky News.

“The decisions that he and the Treasury team will be making will be very much informed by those figures.

“But boring though that is … you know that I’m not going to be pre-announcing any of the measures that might come in that statement on the 31st (October).”

Former Cabinet minister Michael Gove has said it is a matter of time before Ms Truss is ousted and warned Britons to expect “a hell of a lot of pain in the next two months”.

But one of the factors keeping Ms Truss in office, despite being forced to abandon the economic platform that got her elected as party leader, is the lack of an obvious successor.

Mr Cleverly suggested many of those who ousted Boris Johnson did not have a plan for what to do next, and are now turning on the new leader.

He told Sky News: “What I’m not convinced by – far, far from convinced by – is that going through another leadership campaign, defenestrating another prime minister, will either convince the British people that we’re thinking about them rather than ourselves, or convince the markets to stay calm and ensure things like those bond yields and gilt yields start coming back down.

“Being angry, again, I totally get it. But that’s an emotional response, it’s not a plan.”

Asked how many more mistakes Ms Truss can afford to make, he said: “The plan is not to make mistakes. You don’t say: ‘Well, you know, I’ve got a certain number of mistakes that I’m allowed to make’. We don’t aim to make mistakes.

“And actually the simple truth in life, in politics, in business, in life, is that mistakes happen. They do happen. What you’ve got to do is recognise when they’ve happened and have humility to make changes when you see things didn’t go right.”

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is widely seen as effectively in control

Labour’s shadow levelling up secretary, Lisa Nandy, responded: “I mean, this is one hell of a mistake.”

“They’ve crashed the economy. They’ve sent mortgage payments and rent increases through the roof. We’re still seeing that huge volatility coming through, interest rates expected to rise again,” she told Sky News.

“People just can’t take much more of this. I don’t get any sense, having spent the last couple of days in parliament around Tory MPs questioning the Government, that there is any agreement amongst this divided party about where to go next.

“They started the fire, they sure aren’t the people who are going to go and put it out.”

A meeting between Mr Hunt, who is widely seen as effectively in control, and Graham Brady, chairman of the powerful 1922 Committee of backbenchers, likely fuelled further questions about the prime minister’s future.

Treasury sources said it was a briefing ahead of Mr Hunt’s 1922 appearance today, but it is likely that Ms Truss’s imperilled premiership came up.

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