Four Cabinet ministers have urged colleagues to rally behind Liz Truss as the PM battles to steady the Tory ship following a week blighted by infighting.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Nadhim Zahawi, Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt and Environment Secretary Ranil Jayawardena have all penned articles calling on the party to unite around its new leader or risk ending up in opposition.
A No 10 source said the “cold hard reality” is the party must “get behind Liz” or wind up with a “monstrous coalition of Labour and the SNP”, amid deep division in Tory ranks – with flashpoints including welfare and the environment.
Bitter anonymous briefings
Cabinet ministers are planning to ambush the Prime Minister in a meeting on Tuesday to demand that she rules out raising benefits in line with wages rather than inflation, according to The Sunday Times.
Behind the scenes, bitter anonymous briefings are rife.
Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, a long-term Truss ally, is reported to have put her chances of survival at “only 40-60” on Monday – although he denies the remarks.
It is also rumoured that former transport secretary Grant Shapps, who backed Ms Truss’s rival Rishi Sunak for the Tory leadership, is offering himself as a caretaker prime minister.
One report harboured particularly harsh words for Michael Gove, with the former Cabinet minister branded “sadistic” after he helped force the Chancellor’s humiliating U-turn on tax at the party’s annual conference.
Meanwhile, fresh polling by Opinium for the Observer has put Ms Truss’s personal approval rating at minus 47, and Mr Kwarteng’s at minus 51.
Ms Braverman, who twice this week expressed a view that risked setting her at odds with Government policy, used her piece in The Sun On Sunday to warn against “splits and fallout” in the Conservative Party.
She wrote: “Those working with Labour to undermine our Prime Minister are putting the Conservatives’ chance of victory at the next election in real danger.
“So the choice for my colleagues and for us is as party is simple: Back Liz or get Keir Starmer, hand-in-hand with Nicola Sturgeon.”
Ms Braverman previously said she was “disappointed” by the seismic mid-conference U-turn on slashing income tax for the highest earners, and accused rebels like Michael Gove of staging a “coup”.
But she has also expressed somewhat discordant views of her own on matters of Government policy in recent days, saying she has “reservations” about relaxing immigration controls as part of any trade deal with India, and suggesting the UK should leave the European Convention on Human Rights.
In his article for the Mail On Sunday, Mr Zahawi admitted the Government did not get the “whole package right” when it came to its plan for growth, with a nod to the climbdown on the 45 per cent rate for earnings over £150,000.
But he drew a line under the affair, writing: “Another big decision, done.”
“That is the mark of the Prime Minister’s leadership,” he said.
“She listened and decided to focus on what matters most: the bulk of our plan to get Britain moving.”
He insisted that “now is the time” for the Tories to rally behind Ms Truss, warning that the alternative – a Labour government “propped up” by the SNP – is “beyond concerning”.
“We cannot allow the keys of the Kingdom to be allowed to fall into their hands,” he said.
“That is why my fellow Conservatives need to hold our nerve.”
Mr Zahawi said Tory MPs should be supporting their leader, not “working against her”, as he cautioned “division will only result in drift, delay and defeat”.
Ms Mordaunt, who has publicly supported increasing benefits in line with inflation despite no such commitment from the Government, also warned against a divide within party ranks.
Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, she said Ms Truss had “acknowledged mistakes were made” with the mini-budget and “acted” accordingly.
“Anyone can wave to the cameras. Anyone can be all things to all people. That’s the easy bit,” Ms Mordaunt said.
“You measure leaders when they are in the ring dazzled by the media lights taking punch after punch and taking the hard decisions required.
“All my colleagues have a part to play in delivering for the British people. We need all talents helping our nation now. Division will only play into the hands of those who would take our country in the wrong direction.”
Mr Jayawardena peddled a similar message in his own piece for The Sunday Express, saying colleagues must “get behind” the PM and “deliver, deliver, deliver”.
“A failure to do so will result in a coalition of chaos – a Labour government, propped up by the SNP and the Lib Dems,” he said.
“We need to back Liz Truss – or get Keir Starmer in Nicola Sturgeon’s pocket.”