Tory MPs warn against underestimating Truss following first PMQs

PMQs: Theresa May congratulates Liz Truss

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Liz Truss locked horns with Sir Keir Starmer yesterday as she stood before the despatch box in the House of Commons for her first Prime Minister’s Questions since entering Number 10. The Prime Minister took on the Leader of the Opposition over the cost of living crisis and went on to reject Labour’s call to extend a windfall tax on gas and oil company profits. Conservative colleagues cheered on the former Foreign Secretary from the backbenches throughout her opening encounter with Sir Keir and roared with delight when Theresa May pointed out that all three female Prime Ministers have been Tories.

However, given Ms Truss has made several gaffes in previous public speaking events, some Tory MPs have accused the Prime Minister’s opponents of underestimating her ahead of the clash in the Commons.

Michael Fabricant, who backed Ms Truss’ leadership bid after his first-pick Penny Mordaunt was knocked out of the race, suggested the Prime Minister’s performance even caught Tory MPs off-guard.

The Lichfield MP told “PMQs was a nasty shock for Labour and a wonderful surprise for some Conservative MPs.

“Both parties have underestimated Liz Truss as a Commons performer and Keir Starmer looked distinctly uncomfortable during Prime Minister’s Questions and, more worryingly for him, so did his backbenchers sitting behind him.”

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Mr Fabricant, who loyally supported ex-Prime Minister Boris Johnson, added: “Liz is not trying to emulate Boris.

“She has the tenacity to get the priorities right and deliver them because she knows that if she does not, she will not win – nor deserve to win – the next general election.”

Another Tory MP said: “Clear, committed and Conservative – a barnstorming performance that her opponents arrogantly didn’t expect, but her supporters knew she’d deliver.

“The Conservative Party is in safe hands and the hard work starts here.”

During the recent Tory leadership race, a Labour Party source suggested ex-Chancellor Rishi Sunak posed a much greater threat to Sir Keir than Ms Truss.

They told “In terms of the Conservatives, we are definitely more worried about a Sunak-led party, with Truss not being a massive concern at this stage in the polls.”

However, Sir Keir has taken a step away from underestimating Ms Truss after she saw off Mr Sunak by 57 percent to 43 percent among Tory Party members to win the race to Number 10.

Speaking to Labour MPs on Monday, the Leader of the Opposition said: “We will never underestimate Liz Truss.

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“She is a talented politician who has got to the top through hard work and determination.

“She is nobody’s fool and she will do whatever it takes to keep them in power.”

He added: “She will dominate the news for the weeks to come.

“The polls might tighten and her plans might create some buzz.

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“But let’s also be clear: They are totally the wrong plans for the country.”

Recent opinion polls suggest Labour opened up double-digit leads over the Conservative Party during Mr Johnson’s final days in Downing Street.

A survey conducted by Redfield & Wilton found Sir Keir’s party was 12-points ahead just days before Ms Truss was declared victor in the leadership race.

However, with a general election expected to be held in 2024, Ms Truss is currently focused on dealing with the cost of living crisis.

The Prime Minister is expected to announce a freeze on energy bills as a part of her response on Thursday.

The plan, which is yet to be officially revealed, is likely to cost around £100billion and could see the typical energy bill be capped at £2,500.

But Ms Truss’ Brexit-backing Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng confirmed the scheme will be paid for by higher borrowing in the short term after meeting market leaders on Wednesday.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Kwarteng said: “We face extraordinary economic challenges in the coming weeks and months and I know that families and businesses across the UK are worried.

“The Prime Minister and I are committed to taking decisive action to help the British people now, while pursuing an unashamedly pro-growth agenda.

“We need to be decisive and do things differently.

“That means relentlessly focusing on how we unlock business investment and grow the size of the British economy, rather than how we redistribute what’s left.

“With a strong and resilient economy, we deliver more jobs, higher wages, and raised living standards – all while reducing our debt-to-GDP ratio in a fiscally sustainable way.”

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