From the suspension of a senior adviser to a vote of confidence, alleged manhandling of MPs to tears on the terrace, resignations to un-resignations, the past 24 hours have shown the Conservative Party is in complete disarray. The discord that has festered in the party since Liz Truss took office six weeks ago has now come to the fore. The government is swaying hour by hour from chaos to confusion.
Indeed, the PM’s future could be sealed in the coming hours. Tory MPs met late last night to discuss her fate. “It doesn’t matter, it will be over in 24 hours,” one Tory MP put it to me last night. Another says the process to remove her will begin today.
The resignation (or sacking – it’s not clear) of Suella Braverman, the home secretary, at around 4.30pm yesterday catalysed the chaos to come. Ostensibly, Braverman resigned because she sent an official document from her personal email. But the venom in her resignation letter – “pretending we haven’t made mistakes, carrying on as if everyone can’t see that we have made them, and hoping that everything will come right is not serious politics” – showed this was a pretence. Her departure suggests Truss has now isolated the right of the party over proposals to liberalise immigration. Perhaps more interestingly, there are concerns that Braverman could upset the plans for the coronation of a unity candidate. Her ambition could mean she stands for leader and insists on a contest.
All of which was merely the prelude to a chaotic vote in the Commons at 7pm. In a smart move, Labour sought to wrest control of business in the Commons to ban fracking. The government decided to make this a vote of confidence before a minister backtracked, leading to confusion in the voting lobbies. One MP told me a group of Tory MPs were aggressively pressuring a colleague to vote with the government. This MP was shouted at when they tried to intervene. An investigation into what happened is now likely to follow. The chaos has not stopped. Just this morning, we’ve had two contradictory reports from the government over whether this was in fact a confidence vote.
The feeling among Conservative MPs has moved from despair to anger. The timeline of Truss’s demise has once again shortened. Many expect her to be out in the coming days, if not hours. Once her successor is in place, the calls for a general election will grow. The overarching problem remains selecting a replacement. But that may not matter – Truss’s government is imploding regardless.