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Why the Tory right wants hush from Truss on tax-cuts

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Noisy Liz Truss is testing the patience of hitherto supportive MPs. Echoing Clement Attlee, who advised Labour left-winger Harold Laski that “a period of silence on your part would be welcome”, Tory right-whingers now fear she’s damaging their case for tax cuts and a smaller state. Several grumbled that Truss is irredeemably toxic – a messenger who is damaging the message. Silencing her won’t be easy. Calamity Liz is seething with self-justification.

Nor is Truss shy as she enjoys all the perks of being a former, albeit brief, PM. As the front-woman of a Tory punk band that trashed the economy, she requested an invitation to the Brit Awards, I’m told. The dizzy rascal isn’t only a stuck record on unfunded tax handouts for the rich and big business – she’s got virtuoso blagging chops too.

[See also: Who will be Keir Starmer’s chief of staff?]

Balloons inflating into a diplomatic crisis have coincided with the disclosure that Theresa May is a secret admirer of Chinese organisation. I was directed to the late Japanese prime minister Abe Shinzo’s recently published memoir. In it Abe revealed that May gushed at a G20 summit in Hangzhou that a stunning Swan Lake performed on a transparent sheet over water “was only possible in a dictatorship”. May, who has told Maidenhead Tories she will stand at the next general election, backs a UK regime striving to prove her thesis. The Arts Council is cutting English National Ballet funding.

The tea-room Tory whisper is that Dominic Raab could be replaced as justice secretary by Victoria Atkins, should a bullying inquiry require his departure. The financial secretary to the Treasury is a barrister and former prisons minister, so knows the territory, and the leg-up would avoid a wider cabinet reshuffle. Rishi Sunak’s recent round of musical chairs was risky with Raab C Brexit on Death Row. Government whips are keeping the overlooked onside by whispering there’ll be pre-election changes next year.

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A rumour refusing to die is the possibility of David Miliband flying back from New York to succeed retiring veteran MP Barry Sheerman in Huddersfield despite the party selecting Harpreet Uppal, a Sikh former councillor. Douglas Alexander winning the Labour nomination in East Lothian will reignite comeback speculation about a host of Blair- and Brown-era cabinet ministers including Ed Balls, Andy Burnham and Sadiq Khan. The alluring prospect of government may keep minds open: brace for non-denial denials.

Foot-in-mouth “30p Lee” Anderson is a deputy chair, not the deputy chair, of the Tory party. The other three – MPs Nickie Aiken, Luke Hall and Matt Vickers – aren’t best pleased, I hear, that the Ashfield trampler is presented as the one and only. It’ll end in tears.

[See also: Another Rishi reshuffle won’t help him restore party discipline]

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This article appears in the 15 Feb 2023 issue of the New Statesman, Why the right is losing everywhere