Liz Truss leaves after Jeremy Hunt’s address
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Tory MPs advocating a general election are like “lemmings jumping off a cliff, and the party would be “slaughtered” if there was a poll tomorrow, former minister Ann Widdecombe has said. The former MP for Maidstone in Kent, more latterly a Brexit Party MEP, offered her words of caution with her party lagging behind in the polls and Prime Minister Liz Truss under enormous pressure following Friday’s sacking of Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng.
So serious has the situation become that backbenchers have been whispering about the possibility of an early election, with ex-Culture Minister Nadine Dorries earlier this month urging Ms Truss to “go to the country” if she wanted to win a “whole new mandate”.
However, Ms Widdecombe said such a move would be sheer folly.
She told Express.co.uk: “If the election were tomorrow morning we would be slaughtered.
“But the election is not tomorrow morning and this is what the Conservative parliamentary party needs to wake up to.
“They’ve got two years. Now they can spend two years arguing amongst themselves and knifing Prime Ministers and plotting and putting in letters or they can spend two years trying to build a credible general election platform, their choice.
“Any Tory MP who wants a general election really is acting like a lemming just jumping off a cliff.
“Anybody says that’s insane, quite insane. It really is time that the associations in the country started to get something of a grip and called in their MPs and said re-selection isn’t automatic.”
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Ms Widdecombe was dubious about the idea that new Chancellor Jeremy Hunt – or indeed Rishi Sunak, the man Ms Truss beat to the leadership who is being talked up as a possible replacement – would be able to turn things around.
She said: “I think the ship can be studied, but there’s a difference between steading the ship and steering it on to a winning course.
“And effectively what Jeremy Hunt and Rishi Sunak are offering is more
“That was why Rishi lost to Liz. I loved Liz’s policies, they were bold, they were terrific, whereas Rishi was just offering more of the same and that’s what we’ve now got, and more of the same isn’t going to be Conservative.”
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Ms Truss did not appear in Parliament today to answer a question about why Mr Kwarteng’s ousting, prompting Labour claims that she was “scared of her own shadow”.
Such was the taunting from opposition parties that at one point Penny Mordaunt, Leader of the House of Commons standing in for Ms Truss, insisted: “The Prime Minister is not under a desk.”
Ms Mordaunt said the reason for the PM’s absence was “very genuine” but she refused to elaborate.
Ms Truss arrived in Parliament at the very end of the debate to listen to Mr Hunt deliver a statement on the economy. She did not speak and left again after barely half an hour.
Ms Dorries, a staunch ally of Boris Johnson, Ms Truss’s predecessor, did not hold back last month in response to what she regarded as the ditching of policies he had campaigned on in 2019.
She tweeted: “Widespread dismay at the fact that three years of work has effectively been put on hold,” she wrote.
“No one asked for this. C4 [Channel 4] sale, online safety, BBC licence fee review, all signed off by Cabinet all ready to go, all stopped.
“If Liz wants a whole new mandate, she must take to the country.”
However, today she appeared to back the Prime Minister, posting: “I cannot imagine there’s one G7 country which thinks we’re worthy of a place at the table.
“The removal of one electorally successful PM, the disgraceful plotting to remove another by those who didn’t get their way first time round is destabilising our economy and our reputation
“The ‘22 rules were put in place to act as a barrier against the regicidal nature of Conservative MPs.
“What is the point of the ‘22 committee if the rules mean absolutely nothing? It’s a laughing stock and not fit for purpose if it makes it up as it goes along!”
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