‘Coup’, chaos and conflict: What we have learned from the Tory conference

Liz Truss’s first Conservative get-together as Prime Minister was not the jamboree she had hoped for.

‘Coup’, chaos and conflict: What we have learned from the Tory conference

Liz Truss went into her first Conservative Party conference as Prime Minister hoping for a faction-uniting celebration of her tax-cutting agenda.

But it was not the jamboree she had hoped for, with Cabinet members breaking rank, publicly criticising each other and accusing Tory colleagues of staging a “coup”.

Here is a look at what we have learned during the conference in Birmingham.

– On disruption, the end is not nigh

Inflation soaring, the pound plummeting and chaos in the mortgage market, but the Prime Minister signalled this might not be the end of it.

“I’m determined to get Britain moving, to get us through the tempest and put us on a stronger footing as a nation,” she said.

– The Prime Minister’s mood appeared undimmed despite protest and low morale

Smiling and winning applause from the party faithful, Ms Truss seemed confident and assured, despite the turmoil of preceding days.

Even Greenpeace activists interrupting her speech to protest against fracking could not dim her mood, as she demanded: “Let’s get them removed.”

Applause seemed stilted for Kwasi Kwarteng, who the Prime Minister termed her “dynamic new Chancellor”, as he battles to stay in the Treasury after his tax policy U-turn.

Conservative Party Conference 2022
Prime Minister Liz Truss and Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The International Convention Centre was not packed with the crowds typically seen ahead of a leader’s speech, although the smaller-than-normal auditorium saw applause and standing ovations.

Cabinet ministers sat together in the front row to signal solidarity with their embattled leader.

– Rebels fight for benefits rise on back of U-turn

Just hours before his own speech on Monday, Mr Kwarteng scrapped the planned axing of the top rate of income tax for the highest earners.

The move was designed to ward off a revolt of Tory MPs uneasy about the financial chaos caused by the unfunded tax cut that they feared was politically toxic.

But rather than pacify the critics, they now feel emboldened to force further concessions and are rallying to prevent benefits claimants being delivered real-terms cuts.

– ‘Coups’, confusion and unruliness reign

Cabinet discipline went up in smoke mid-conference, with ministers openly floating their own policies against the Government position.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman received a rebuke from Downing Street after she backed leaving the European Convention on Human Rights against official policy.

This followed her winning the support of Cabinet allies for criticising the tax U-turn and accusing Michael Gove and other critics of Ms Truss of staging a “coup” to force the climbdown.

Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch publicly told Ms Braverman not to use such “inflammatory” language.

PA infographic showing opinion poll tracker
(PA Graphics)

Rather than seeing support consolidated, the Prime Minister now faces a battle to get her own top team back in line.

– Talk of regime change amid polling slump

Tory critics are warning that Ms Truss could be overthrown unless she improves her popularity, which has been tanking ever since the tax-cutting mini-budget.

A seven-day average puts Labour on 50% and the Tories on 24%.

Grant Shapps, a former Cabinet minister renowned for his reading of the Tory mood, has warned that MPs will not “sit on their hands” in ousting her without improvement.

One survey suggested Ms Truss is already less popular with the public than Boris Johnson was before his scandal-triggered resignation and Jeremy Corbyn ahead of his crushing electoral defeat.

– Moving on up, moving on out?

Ms Truss personally chose Moving On Up by M People as her walk-on music from a range of options, Downing Street said, with it chiming with her new slogan “getting Britain moving”.

But the band’s founder Mike Pickering told the PA news agency the group was “livid” about her use of the song.

The Government was reminded of the song’s opening verse, which states: “You’ve done me wrong, your time is up.

“Move right out of here, baby, go on pack your bags”.

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