LIZ TRUSS spent far longer planning and campaigning to be PM than she did in the job.
New book Out Of The Blue reveals how the campaign to replace Boris Johnson started long before his resignation – with the PM himself deliberately setting up Rishi Sunak and Liz as Cabinet rivals.
New book Out Of The Blue reveals how Liz Truss started her quest to become PM before Boris even resigned
Once she was in the fight, she used low tactics to take out political enemies.
Even as lurid smears about her own private life circled . . .
Truss v Rishi
In September 2021, Liz Truss was being set up as an alternative to Rishi, who was seen as the obvious successor to Boris
IN September 2021, there was already chatter about Rishi Sunak replacing Boris Johnson.
While the PM was never contemplating sacking him, he was ready to clip his wings.
For over a year, the Chancellor was the crown prince of Tory politics, the obvious heir apparent with few major rivals.
So Johnson decided to promote one of Sunak’s likely competitors.
Showing Sunak plans for his reshuffle, the former PM claimed there was obvious discomfort from him.
Of course he could see her as a threat. “He tried to get her taken out,” says an insider, “Repeatedly.”
The pair had clashed earlier that month around the Cabinet table over Sunak’s plan to raise National Insurance.
The stage was set for a showdown meeting, but Liz Truss, then Trade Secretary, was nowhere to be seen. Panic ensued in the Cabinet anteroom.
“They all thought she was resigning,” an official recalls. “They called her office about 15 times.”
Truss, who had been delayed on a trade call to New Zealand, arrived at 10 Downing Street 15 minutes late.
She slipped in just before the day’s main business — plans to break the Tory manifesto and hike a tax on workers’ wages and employers’ cash flow.
Truss’s turn to speak saw an increase in the tension around the table, as 30 colleagues watched her turn to Sunak and say: “This is a mistake.”
A witness present recalls: “It wasn’t a long speech, it didn’t even seem that prepared.
But she made the Conservative case: ‘I don’t think we should be raising taxes and I don’t think this is the right thing to do.’”
Witnesses say the PM claimed: “I completely agree with everything you’ve just said.”
“Great,” said Truss, but the PM insisted there was no other way to pay for the funding than by raising National Insurance.
An aide who saw her shortly after the meeting, recalls: “She just thought it was ridiculous that Boris basically let Rishi flex his muscles like that and bully him into doing it.”
Another Cabinet minister claimed: “The Chancellor was not quite tutting but he clearly wanted to.”
“Rishi hated it,” says another minister present. “You could see him rolling around in his seat.”
Truss v Boris
Truss allies such as Kwasi were asking Boris supporters to back Liz as the next PM during Partygate
BORIS Johnson was deep in the mire of Partygate in January.
While Liz Truss was publicly declaring loyalty, privately she was already turning her attention to replacing him as PM.
Taking soundings among allies, she was blunt and to the point, telling one: “I think I would be a very good Prime Minister.
“There are just two problems: I am weird and I don’t have any friends. How can you help me fix that?”
In early January, Johnson’s Chief Whip Mark Spencer was hosting Scottish Secretary Alister Jack on a day’s shooting at an estate in Devon.
Between drives, the tweed-clad pair were in a Land Rover with others, when Jack’s phone rang.
As he was behind the wheel, Jack answered on the built-in hands-free.
On the other end was the inescapable boom of Kwasi Kwarteng, voicing fears the PM was on his knees.
“If it all goes wrong, what happens? Are you a Liz guy?”, Kwarteng asked Jack, with the eavesdropping Chief Whip flitting between silent laughter and seething incredulity.
“No, no, no I am not,” replied Jack.
“Oh,” said a disheartened Kwarteng, “so you are a Rishi guy?”
“No, let’s be clear Kwasi, I am a Boris guy,” hit back Jack. “And furthermore I have the Chief Whip in the car with me.”
One passenger recalls: “It was a proper middle-stump bowl. He [Kwarteng] didn’t know what to say.”
A few dead pheasants later and the pair were back in the Land Rover only for Truss herself to call, insisting that Kwarteng had got carried away and was not canvassing Cabinet support on her orders.
But her card was marked in No 10 that day, despite the public protestations of loyalty.
“Rishi got a lot of stick for quitting, but everyone could see Liz was lining up her ducks for months,” one Johnson ally recalls.
Rishi declared during the campaign that Liz Truss’s private life was off-limits, such as affair with Mark Field
AS the Tory leadership campaign kicked off in July, Sunak warned his team that Truss’s private life was off-limits.
This was after his wife became the target of a political attack.
Truss’s early career was rocked by an affair she had in 2005 with Tory MP Mark Field, but as the summer’s leadership race heated up, lurid tales quickly spread around the Commons.
At least two ministers and four MPs backing Sunak briefed a number of journalists that Truss was having an affair with an aide; had been subject to formal complaints for her predatory behaviour towards a younger male staff member; and even a far-fetched tale that she was battling to contain the public revelation that a sex tape existed of her.
A “dirty dossier” of claims floated around the grubbier parts of Westminster, but never saw the light of day.
To his credit, Sunak instructed his senior team that they were to go nowhere near any personal attacks on Truss and warned that anyone who did would be shown the door.
Truss v Penny
DURING the early days of the campaign, Truss was struggling to get support and had a car-crash performance in the Channel 4 debate on July 15.
Penny Mordaunt had more support, with Team Truss turning to the political dark arts, plotting what one insider called a “monster hit” on their rival.
A campaign supporter had passed them leaked civil service policy papers from Mordaunt’s time at the Equalities Office, showing she did not resist softening of the law to allow it easier for people to identify as trans without medical approval.
In the TV debate, Mordaunt said she never supported gender self-identification and claimed Truss’ “too woke to be PM”.
But the document now in the hands of Team Truss showed otherwise.
One of Truss’s spin doctors told a journalist at the debate that the team “knew Mordaunt was lying. We have the docs to prove it too.”
Despite lashing out at “toxic briefings”, Mordaunt’s team knew she’d taken a direct hit.
- Out Of The Blue: The Inside Story Of The Unexpected Rise And Rapid Fall Of Liz Truss, by Harry Cole and James Heale (Harper- Collins), £9.99, eBook, November 1, and £20, hardback, November 24.