Lord Pickles rages at cabinet ministers undermining Truss authority

Liz Truss urged to emulate Thatcher by David Davis

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Lord Pickles has criticised cabinet ministers for “thinking out loud to the public” after Penny Mordaunt called for Liz Truss to speak up on uprating benefits in line with inflation. Lord Pickles claimed that Ms Mordaunt, the incumbent leader of Commons, “owes loyalty” to the Prime Minister and in speaking out, is jeopardising the “obligation to work together for the betterment of the country”. Liz Truss will give her closing speech at the Conservative Party Conference on Wednesday morning after what has been a turbulent four days for her, with a u-turn on tax brackets on Monday and two cabinet ministers calling for the benefits uprating to be pushed through. 

Lord Pickles said: “Well, I think we have been through a very difficult process in which we have seen a succession of leaders in quick order. 

“Boris Johnson was immensely popular with this membership. There is a feeling of bewilderment why the parliamentary party got rid of him, so all that counts up at the moment. 

“And, if I am being really frank, cabinet ministers have got to learn to talk among themselves. If they have strong feelings then pick up the phone, talk to the Prime Minister, and really do not start thinking out loud to the public. 

“They owe the Prime Minister their loyalty. They owe her their council and they owe her their obligation to work together for the betterment of the country.” 

On Tuesday, cabinet minister Penny Mordaunt became the most high-profile member of the Truss top team to back calls from Tory MPs to uprate benefits with inflation, straining the limits of Cabinet collective responsibility.

It is one of several issues that have dominated the conference as MPs piled pressure on the Chancellor after successfully forcing a U-turn on plans to scrap the 45p top rate of tax.

Speaking to Times Radio, Ms Mordaunt said: “We want to make sure that people are looked after and that people can pay their bills. We are not about trying to help people with one hand and take away with another.”

Those comments were echoed by Welsh secretary Robert Buckland, who, when asked if he wanted to see the uprating, said: “Every Conservative government that I’ve been part of has maintained the safety net, and I’m sure this one will do the same.”

Asked if she welcomed Ms Mordaunt making her views public, Ms Truss said: “I look forward to having those discussions.”

She also ruled out sacking her former leadership rival for speaking out on the issue. 

Despite the difficulties, Ms Truss will argue on Wednesday that disruption sparked by her economic plans will be worth it in the long run, using her first speech to the party faithful as Conservative leader to try to restore her dwindling authority.

Ms Truss will double down on her message that her plan is the right one to tackle the long list of problems facing Britain.


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But with lawmakers empowered after forcing a reversal of the cut to the top rate of tax, she now faces a fight over how to fund her policies, possibly not only diluting her “radical” agenda but also raising suggestions of an early election.

Ms Truss will tell party members and lawmakers that she will build a “new Britain for the new era”, acknowledging that change brings “disruption” while repeating that her government believes decisive action is the right route to take.

“For too long, the political debate has been dominated by how we distribute a limited economic pie. Instead, we need to grow the pie so that everyone gets a bigger slice,” she will tell the party in Birmingham.

“That is why I am determined to take a new approach and break us out of this high-tax, low-growth cycle.”


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