New threat of Tory infighting as Truss says: I’ll keep stating case for low tax
Liz Truss has warned Prime Minister Rishi Sunak that she will keep making the case for lower taxes as her return to the political spotlight threatened to reopen bitter divisions in the Tory party.
In a fresh intervention, Britain’s shortest-serving PM said she had “more time available now to make the argument and that’s what I want to do”. Her latest comments, in an interview with Spectator TV, come a day after she launched a staunch defence of her brief premiership, using a 4,000-word essay in the Sunday Telegraph to argue her plans to cut taxes would have boosted economic growth. She also blamed a Left-leaning “orthodoxy” in the country’s economic establishment as well as some Tory MPs for the chaos which followed her notorious tax slashing mini-Budget last September.
Ms Truss on Monday appeared to accept a share of the responsibility for the mayhem in the financial markets caused by her economic policies, saying: “Was I trying to fatten the pig on market day? Maybe. I believed it was do-able… I knew it would be tough, but probably didn’t realise quite how tough.”
But she made it clear she would not back down in her appeals for lower taxes and free market policies to boost growth. “No one would be more delighted than me if there were more people coming forward and making these arguments. I would be delighted to have other people go out there and make the case but the fact is there aren’t enough people out there making the case full stop,” she told Spectator TV.
Ms Truss’s decision to break her silence on her 49-day premiership has sparked a backlash from some Tory colleagues. Former Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers told the BBC: “It’s an understandable human reaction that she wants to tell her side of the story but there’s no getting away from the fact she made as prime minister some very bad mistakes. I don’t think this intervention by Liz Truss is going to change a great deal.”
Former justice secretary Sir Robert Buckland said the cost-of-living crisis meant now was not the time for a Tory row over tax cuts. He told LBC: “Reality bites at the moment in a way that I think doesn’t allow for the sort of theoretical thinking that some in the party want to indulge in at the moment.”
But a new group of Tory MPs called the Conservative Growth Group are backing Ms Truss, arguing that while she may have got the delivery wrong, her economic policies were right. Former minister John Redwood tweeted: “Past tax cuts in corporation tax and higher income tax rates have produced more tax revenue, not less. What’s not to like about lower taxes?”
Ms Truss’s interventions are another headache for Mr Sunak as he also faces pressure over the bullying investigation into his deputy Dominic Raab.
Sir Robert said on Monday the Deputy PM was at the “top end of the robustness scale” after reports that Mr Raab allegedly tried to get him sacked as Welsh secretary, in August, after he criticised him in the Telegraph. Sir Robert acknowledged the row, telling LBC: “There was a disagreement, but we’ve moved on.”
Asked to compare Mr Raab with former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who was famed for giving his players the “hairdryer treatment”, Sir Robert added: “I think he’s at the top end of the robustness scale. I don’t think anybody would deny that.”
Mr Raab is facing an investigation by lawyer Adam Tolley KC into eight claims of alleged bullying. He denies any wrongdoing, saying he is “confident that I have behaved professionally throughout”.
Former home secretary Amber Rudd has claimed that some Brexiteers, after “a drink or two”, will admit that the decision to leave the EU has been a “disaster”. Ms Rudd, who stood down as an MP in 2019 amid internal Tory party clashes over Brexit, also said she could not be in politics any longer because “you have to be able to say Brexit is a success to be a spokesperson for the Conservative Party”.
On the Desperately Seeking Wisdom podcast, hosted by former Downing Street communications chief Sir Craig Oliver, Ms Rudd said that some former backers of Brexit now believe it has been a “disaster”. She said in a “quiet moment, perhaps they’ve had a drink or two, they will admit it’s been a disaster”.