Liz Truss to make fresh challenge to Sunak in major speech
Liz Truss and her policies defended by Jake Berry
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Liz Truss is set to call for a tougher approach to China in her first speech since leaving Downing Street causing a fresh headache for Rishi Sunak. The former PM broke her silence over the weekend as she made a defence of her 49-day premiership and radical tax-cutting agenda in a 4,000-word essay in an implicit criticism of her successor.
And Ms Truss is poised for a series of further interventions in the coming weeks.
The ex-prime minister is expected to reiterate her defence of her brief stint in No 10 in an interview with Spectator TV tonight.
She will also give a speech in Japan on February 17 which will see her warn the threat posed by China is not being taken seriously enough.
Ms Truss and Mr Sunak clashed over Beijing during the Tory leadership race last summer.
It comes amid heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing after a suspected Chinese spy balloon was shot down by the US over the weekend after flying over key military sites across America.
But allies of the Prime Minister have branded his predecessor “delusional” and warned that further interventions will cost the Tories the next general election.
One ally of Mr Sunak told The Times: “The more we hear from her the harder it becomes to win the election.”
Another MP who supported Mr Sunak’s leadership campaign added: “I think it’s a fantasy world, delusional politics and economics to suggest that her agenda is in any way credible.
“I think Truss and [Kwasi] Kwarteng presided over a disastrous economic policy that cost millions of homeowners in terms of much higher mortgages and the article is a weak attempt to rewrite history.
“I think all Tories want taxes to be lower but we’ve got to do that in a pragmatic way.”
But with around 50 MPs backing the Conservative Growth Group which supports her economic vision, there will be concern in Downing Street at the potential for more backbench unrest.
In her first detailed comments since exiting Number 10, Ms Truss said she was never given a “realistic chance” to implement her agenda for tax cuts and de-regulation by a left-wing “economic establishment” and her party.
She said she had not appreciated the strength of the resistance she would face to her plans.
While she admitted she was not “blameless” for the way her chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s infamous mini-budget sparked turmoil, she said she still believed her approach to driving growth was the right one.
Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Ms Truss said: “I am not claiming to be blameless in what happened, but fundamentally I was not given a realistic chance to enact my policies by a very powerful economic establishment, coupled with a lack of political support.
“I assumed upon entering Downing Street that my mandate would be respected and accepted. How wrong I was. While I anticipated resistance to my programme from the system, I underestimated the extent of it.
“Similarly, I underestimated the resistance inside the Conservative parliamentary party to move to a lower-tax, less-regulated economy.”
Ms Truss’s brief premiership lasted just 49 days as she was forced to quit after Mr Kwarteng’s £45 billion package of unfunded tax cuts panicked the markets and tanked the pound.
Her intervention comes as other Tory backbenchers have been calling on the Prime Minister and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to slash taxes to kickstart growth.
Former Tory Party chairman Sir Jake Berry yesterday defended Ms Truss’s tax-cutting agenda.
Sir Jake said she had offered the right “diagnosis of the disease that is facing the country”, but added that it “wasn’t delivered in the correct way”.
He told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme: “I think her point of we need to lower taxes, we need to create a growing economy, that’s what people want.”
But Business Secretary Grant Shapps insisted Mr Sunak and Mr Hunt were right to resist demands for tax cuts in next month’s Budget, saying inflation has to be brought under control first.
He told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme: “I completely agree with Liz’s instinct to have a lower tax economy.
“We also know that if you do that before you’ve dealt with inflation and dealt with the debt, then you end up in difficulty. You can’t get the growth out of nowhere.”
It comes as Mr Sunak is also facing challenges to his authority from his predecessor-but-one Boris Johnson, who recently called for more support for war-torn Ukraine.
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