Liz Truss is engaged in an increasingly desperate struggle for survival today as the 1922 committee chief headed into Downing Street for talks.
Sir Graham Brady is in No10 meeting the PM after 24 hours of carnage that saw the Home Secretary quit, confusion over whether the Chief Whip had followed her out of the door, and MPs wrestling in Commons voting lobbies.
No10 sources said the premier invited the party shop steward in for a discussion following a ‘difficult day’ – but denied that she has any intention of resigning.
The showdown comes as a series of previously-loyal MPs joining calls for her to go. Even supportive Cabinet ministers had been conceding the situation is ‘terminal’.
Transport Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan was sent out to prop up the PM this morning, but would only say that ‘at the moment’ she believes Ms Truss will lead the Tories into the next election.
The growing clamour came as 1922 committee chief Graham Brady is expected to meet other officers to consider Ms Truss’s future.
But the main obstacle remains the lack of consensus on who should take over and what the process should be, with little appetite for a drawn-out contest. There are signs leadership battle lines are already being drawn, with former minister Crispin Blunt openly calling for Jeremy Hunt to get the keys to No10.
Nadine Dorries warned the only person who could return in a ‘coronation’ is Boris Johnson. Other MPs want Rishi Sunak or Penny Mordaunt to take over.
One senior MP, not previously a fan of the ex-PM, told MailOnline Sir Graham has to come up with a ‘plan’. ‘Bring back Boris or get Jeremy Hunt in. If you get Boris back in you just hit the reset button,’ they said.
Yet another bout of madness at Westminster yesterday culminated in stories of tears and tantrums in Parliament, with Ms Truss allegedly engaging in a shouting match with her own enforcers.
Deputy PM Therese Coffey was accused of ‘manhandling’ Tory MPs to vote against a Labour motion that could have killed the government’s plans to resume fracking – something she denies.
The premier tried to force the issue by declaring that it was a matter of confidence, meaning a defeat the would have collapsed the government. But at the end of the debate a minister declared that it was not in fact a confidence vote – triggering fury from Chief Whip Wendy Morton and her deputy Craig Whittaker.
Other whips told MPs they had resigned, but after three hours of silence and frantic wrangling behind the scenes Downing Street announced they were still in post. A 1.33am statement then made clear that it had been a confidence vote, warning that around 30 MPs who abstained will be disciplined.
However, in another twist this morning, Ms Trevelyan said that it had not been a confidence vote.
Ms Morton and Tory chair Jake Berry were seen going in and out of Downing Street today, although that in itself is not unusual.
The PM lost her second Cabinet heavyweight in five days after Suella Braverman resigned as Home Secretary after admitting using of her personal email to campaign against the government’s own immigration policy – but also hit out at Ms Truss for ditching key policies, suggesting she should also quit for ‘mistakes’.
The PM appointed Grants Shapps, a Rishi Sunak supporter who as late as Monday was telling media that her government was unsustainable.
As Ms Truss’s fate seems to be slipping out of her hands just 44 days into her premiership:
- Keir Starmer has twisted the knife on Ms Truss demanding an immediate general election in a speech to the TUC conference in Brighton;
- Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has launched an investigation into the claims of bullying during the votes last night;
- New Home Secretary Grant Shapps has been summoned to answer an urgent question in the House of Commons today;
- Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch has denied that she is about to quit, with several senior figures rumoured to be on ‘resignation watch’;
- The Pound has dropped to $1.119 against the US dollar, its lowest level for a week, as markets digest the political turmoil;
- Tory MPs have warned Jeremy Hunt must be given space to complete the Halloween Budget planning while Ms Truss ‘addresses’ leadership issues in private;
- Former Home Secretary Suella Braverman became the second senior Cabinet minister to go in one week;
- Ms Truss announced a shock u-turn and said she would guarantee the pensions triple lock during PMQs;
- The PM’s senior aide Jason Stein was suspended pending an investigating into briefing, after sources told newspapers at the weekend that Ms Truss had not offered Sajid Javid the Chancellor job because he is ‘sh**’;
- The Chief Whip and Deputy Chief Whip told their colleagues they had resigned – only for them to ‘unresign’ after three hours of cajoling by the PM.