Liz Truss has hit out at Rishi Sunak’s Government for failing to take on “left-wing extremists” she said had gained control of UK institutions, as she argued the new Popular Conservatism movement must galvanise Britain’s many “secret” Conservatives.
The former prime minister warned there was a “damaging divide” between politicians and ordinary people who “think the wokery that’s going on is nonsense”.
She was speaking at the launch rally of the new faction – dubbed the PopCons in Westminster – in central London on Tuesday.
The “age of Davos man is over”
The event also featured former Cabinet minister Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, who declared that the “age of Davos man is over”, and ex-Tory deputy chairman Lee Anderson, who used his speech to argue that Britons did not care about the net-zero emissions strategy.
The grouping aims to pile pressure on the Prime Minister to cut taxes, to adopt hardline policies on immigration and leave the European Convention on Human Rights.
In her headline address, Ms Truss said ministers shied away from measures promoted by the PopCons because they “don’t want to be unpopular”.
“The irony is that these policies are popular,” she said.
People wanted to see lower immigration and wanted illegal immigrants deported, she said, but ministers’ efforts were “constantly being stymied”.
“I believe the fundamental issue is that for year and years and years … Conservatives have not taken on the left-wing extremists,” she said.
Ms Truss said the ideology of leftists disguising themselves as environmentalists was about “taking power away from families and giving it to the state and unelected bodies”.
She hit out at the Government for allowing people to choose their gender and for “pandering to the anti-capitalists”, while ordinary people believed “the wokery that is going on is nonsense”.
“There is a damaging divide between those who are making the decisions – those in the elite within the M25 – and those people on the ground,” Ms Truss said.
“I’m afraid we have not taken on the left enough. And the left don’t just compete with us at the ballot box now, they also work to take over our institutions.”
The short-lived former premier said the movement’s aims included “galvanising Conservative forces”.
“Britain is full of secret Conservatives – people who agree with us but don’t want to admit it because they think it’s not acceptable in their place of work, it’s not acceptable at their school,” she said.
Among those in the audience were former home secretary Priti Patel, ex-chief whip Wendy Morton, former Tory Party chair Sir Jake Berry, Brendan Clarke-Smith, Tory peer Lord Frost and Nigel Farage.
The PopCons’ leader Mark Littlewood said it “isn’t about the leadership of the Conservative Party” or seeking to “replicate or replace” any of the existing right-wing caucuses of Tory MPs, but tackling quangos and bureaucrats who “share the same sort of leftist groupthink” and are “sneering about ordinary people’s beliefs”.
Mr Littlewood earlier said the Tories can draw “important lessons” from Ms Truss’s brief stint in No 10.
She was forced to quit as prime minister after just 44 days during which her botched financial statement unleashed economic chaos.
Mr Littlewood, the outgoing head of the libertarian think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, said the PopCons want to influence the Tory manifesto at the general election.
But Mr Farage told the PA news agency: “I would agree with a lot of what is said on the platform this morning, but none of it is going to be Conservative manifesto policy.”
Centre of gravity
The arch-Brexiteer and Reform UK founder said the group represents “a very small minority within the parliamentary Conservative Party”, which is now “so far away from the centre of gravity of most Conservative voters, it is almost untrue”.
Mr Farage quashed speculation that he is seeking to join the Tory Party “at the moment, given what they stand for”.
“I’d rather be part of Reform, because that’s the real thing.”
In his headline speech, Sir Jacob said: “The age of Davos man is over, of international cabals and quangos telling hundreds of millions of people how to lead their lives.”
He railed against the World Health Organisation, European Union and Cop climate summit, which he said “limit our freedom for manoeuvre”.
“We have to restore power to our democratic institutions and take it away from those that seek to override democracy,” Sir Jacob told the event.
Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain said: “This is not popular Conservatism, it’s economic vandalism. Liz Truss and her fellow Conservative MPs crashed the economy, sent mortgages spiralling, then pocketed thousands of pounds in taxpayer-funded handouts. Their hypocrisy knows no bounds.
“The public will never forgive this chaotic Conservative Party for the damage they’ve done to people’s livelihoods and our country. The sooner we kick this Conservative Government out of office, the better.”