The Tories are preparing for the party’s annual conference next week under a cloud of turmoil and infighting as new polling puts them 33 points behind Labour.
Liz Truss’ first party conference as Prime Minister comes at a time of crisis, with her own MPs in open revolt against her and financial markets reacting badly to her package of tax cuts.
A new YouGov poll yesterday also put the Tories behind Labour by 54 per cent to 21 per cent – the largest poll lead recorded by any party since the late 90s.
The four-day Conservative party conference will begin on Sunday in Birmingham and there is already fevered speculation about how febrile the atmosphere will be among MPs.
Many supporters of Rishi Sunak, along with the former chancellor himself, will not be attending and there has been talk of a boycott.
However, one senior Tory MP and Sunak supporter told City A.M. that “the idea of boycotts that are circulating are overblown as far as I am concerned – not everyone goes to conference”.
Truss has her speech on Wednesday and chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng has his on Monday – two major moments for markets and for the party’s confidence in their leadership.
Tory MP and ex-shadow cabinet member Julian Smith yesterday said the pair should reverse their tax cuts and “take responsibility for the link between last Friday and the impact on people’s mortgages” in a bid to calm markets that were rattled by her £45bn+ of debt-funded tax cuts.
Truss refused to back down on her tax cuts in a series of radio and broadcast interviews today, which saw her stumble through tricky questions that left her speechless at times.
A Conservative backbencher told City A.M. that Truss’ performance was a disaster for her credibility with the City and with her own backbenches.
They said: “Those interviews today with the long pauses – people will just think ‘who is this woman?’
“It’s not all about economics now, it’s about politics too and the impression you give. These guys are purist economist types, but they’re not very good at the politics of it all which is much more subtle.”
A City insider said Kwarteng will need to show during the Tory conference, at his speech and other events, that he has a serious plan to bring down the UK’s debt-to-GDP ratio.
“He needs to move quickly to set out what will be done in terms of public spending cuts,” they said.