Liz Truss aware that next 48 hours are ‘critical’ says Dan Falvey
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Liz Truss is currently enduring a period of extraordinary political turbulence. The newly appointed Prime Minister sent shockwaves through the markets — devaluating the pound and sending mortgage rates skyrocketing — with her and her Chancellor of choice Kwasi Kwarteng’s so-called mini-budget earlier this month. Swamped with criticism from across the political and financial spectrum, Ms Truss sacked Mr Kwarteng as Chancellor and appointed Cabinet veteran Jeremy Hunt in his place, who promptly ripped up nearly all economic policy formulated in the Prime Minister’s short time in office.
Truss critics are now claiming that Mr Hunt is essentially running the country — and there are whispers that the Prime Minister could even be out of a job in the next few weeks.
The situation was explored in the most recent episode of The Rest is Politics podcast, hosted by political heavyweights Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart.
Discussing how figures in the Conservative Party may now be moving to oust Ms Truss, Mr Stewart — himself a former Tory Cabinet minister and prime minister hopeful — spoke about Grant Shapps MP and his possible tactics.
Having served in Government with Mr Shapps, Mr Stewart claimed the former transport secretary kept a “spreadsheet” to gauge party opinion on whoever is in power at that point in time.
Talking of the various Westminster cabals that may be conspiring against Ms Truss, he said: “The Grant Shapps cabal revolves around this famous spreadsheet.
“He tried to take down Theresa May [with it] after the 2017 election [when he] ran all these strange intelligence operations which sort of stuttered to a halt in the middle of 2017.
“He used to come up to me in the lobbies and say, ‘What do you think of Boris Johnson?’, and I’d say rude things about Boris Johnson.
“Or he’d say, ‘I’m rather a supporter of Theresa May. What do you think?’, and try to draw me out because he believed the way to make his amazing spreadsheet work was to pretend to be in favour of Theresa May in order to get her out.
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“This spreadsheet came out again in 2019 for Boris Johnson’s election — and it’s meant to be a fabled spreadsheet. People refer to it as a ‘Star Wars’ spreadsheet, and now he’s using it to topple Liz Truss. The reason why he’s doing it is that she fired him.”
The “fabled” spreadsheet has seeped into the mainstream before. Just before Boris Johnson was ousted as Prime Minister, Politico put together a profile of the 40 “Tory troublemakers” that were speaking out against him, hinting that Mr Shapps’ spreadsheet was being used as a means to soothe potential allies.
The publication wrote: “Facing the prospect of a no-confidence vote, Johnson’s response last month was to enlist the help of his transport secretary and his trusty spreadsheet.
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“Shapps’ document categorises Conservative MPs based on their level of support for the prime minister, and proved an invaluable tool during Johnson’s 2019 leadership campaign. Now it is helping to coordinate loyal MPs and persuade wavering ones.”
More recently, The Times’ Tim Shipman wrote about Mr Shapps’ new Galaxy Fold — costing anywhere from £1,500 brand new — a gadget he showed off to many at the Tory Party conference in Birmingham.
Mr Shipman wrote: “The phone opens to create a double-sized screen on which Shapps can read his new spreadsheet, where he is recording the views of Tory MPs about Truss and her plans. The data is not encouraging for the PM.”
It is unclear what exactly will happen to Ms Truss. She said this week that she would lead the Conservatives into the next general election, currently scheduled for no later than January 2025.
In an admission of fault, speaking to the BBC, Ms Truss apologised for the chaos that her mini-budget had caused: “I am sorry for those mistakes, but I fixed those mistakes.
“I appointed a new Chancellor, we have restored economic stability and fiscal discipline. What I now want to do is go on and deliver for the public.
“We were elected on the 2019 manifesto, and I want to go on and deliver that.”
But it is unclear whether she will be able to deliver that, with many, like the BBC’s political editor Chris Mason noting that her MPs are “working out the next step”.
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