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Can Truss Still Survive?

Staff writer Fred Taylor debates if there is any chance of Truss outliving the current political turmoil. With her agenda dead in the water, will the Tory party let her keep the throne?

Wednesday October 19 was one of the most chaotic days in recent political history. Truss seems to have totally lost control. The BBC branded it “Westminster’s day of chaos”. Which is saying a lot right now.

There were allegations of harassment and bullying, whips attempting to resign, mass confusion over if MPs who voted against the government would be removed from the party and an onslaught of open chastisement against their own Prime Minister by Tory MPs. This can best be explained by the opening to the night’s ITV evening news.

This has lead to an incredibly disorganised party, which is taking the definition of chaos to a brand new level.

Senior Tory MPs now say it is a now a question of days or hours before the PM resigns and becomes the shortest PM in our country’s history. As this goes to press, Truss is meeting with Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 Committee, and the executioner of the Conservative party. However, there may be a way out for Truss.

The true chaos on Wednesday started with the departure of Suella Braverman from her office as Home Secretary. It is unclear why this happened and whether she left or was sacked. However, what seems clear is that part of her departure was down to strong disagreements on immigration policy. Ultimately, Truss needs to undo strict immigration rules if she wants to deliver some sort of growth. There are 1.2 million job vacancies in the UK, most of these are unskilled. Filling them with migrants is likely to boost the economy. Yet Braverman is strongly against this (dreaming of sending refugees to Rwanda) and, perhaps more importantly, so is a wing of the Tory party. These Conservatives are preoccupied more with the state of our borders than that of the economy.

Preying on Braverman’s departure from Government was Nigel Farage, who announced that he wished to create a party that embodied Suella’s wishes. That is to say, that would be willing to stop immigration even if it meant a smaller economic output. He even publicly asked the former Home Secretary to leave the Conservatives and join him.

So with the hard right, the people who backed Truss’ leadership campaign, seemingly abandoning her, who does she have left?

The unlikely answer is the Sunak camp.

Due to the government’s utter incompetence in handling the economy, Hunt and Schapps, prominent supporters of Sunak, have been able to achieve very senior positions in the government. It is even widely asserted that Hunt is de facto PM, something that Starmer was eager to mock at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs). Hunt has reversed nearly all of Truss’ previous decisions, and it seems untenable that Truss could survive the markets, the party or the public without him.

Ultimately, Conservative MPs do not want to lose their job. If there were an election right now, it is likely lots, or even most of them, would do so. So they may be reluctant to accept the expulsion of Truss, as there would be a chance it could lead to an immediate election. Even if it did not, it would still result in an even greater public erosion of trust in democratic institutions and even more internal warring at who that candidate could be.

The alternative is to allow Truss to keep her position in a de jure sense, and allow the Sunak wing to take care of policy, and become de facto rulers.

This would still anger the hard right, but their influence seems to have waned. Many of their ideas, such as their form of Brexit and putting Liz Truss in office in the first place, are very unpopular. On top of this, immigration is not seen as important compared to crisis in the economy, the winter fuel crunch and issues funding public services at the moment. Finally, as said previously, they put Truss in her position, so calling for her to leave becomes a lot harder and comes with a lot of embarassment, as Lord Frost recently discovered.

So, the question now is whether the moderate wing of the party can find a candidate who could rapidly take over the reigns from Truss, possibly Sunak or Hunt. If this cannot happen, it may be best for this wing to remain de facto in power, as they have the best shot at solving the problems of Trussonomics. This is especially so considering Mourdant, who is not in the moderate faction, would have a good chance of succeeding the PM if she were to resign and the party at large were to elect a new leader.

Furthermore, a lot of the party’s disunity goes beyond Truss. Paternalistic vs libertarian economic policy, hard vs soft immigration policy and close vs distant relations with the EU seem to be the underlying issues that undercut the Tory electoral coalition. Hence there is huge difficulty in finding a unity candidate to replace the PM.

So, Truss’ future depends more on the moderate camp’s ability to organise themselves and ensure a rapid transition of power. She may have lost support, but her opposition has to be able to capitalise on that to oust her. However, even if Truss stays, she will do so as an extremely weak PM. Her policy will be more controlled by her Chancellor, and even by the opposition, than by herself.

In real terms, Truss is already dead. Despite this, even after the events on 19th October, her internal opposition’s best choice may be to keep her where she is.



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