Liz Truss warned against ‘bad’ Boris Johnson mistake of filling cabinet with friends

Peer urges Truss to appoint Sunak backers ‘at a high level’ – amid speculation over plots to replace her

Adam Forrest
Monday 05 September 2022 10:43 BST
Tory peer says Liz Truss should offer cabinet roles to Rishi Sunak supporters to unite party

Conservative leadership favourite Liz Truss is on course to repeat Boris Johnson’s mistake of packing her first cabinet with only allies, a senior Tory peer has warned.

Polling guru Lord Hayward urged Ms Truss, widely expected to be named winner of the Tory contest today, to offer top positions to people aligned with rival Rishi Sunak.

Truss is set to give allies Kwasi Kwarteng, Suella Braverman and James Cleverly top roles as chancellor, home secretary and foreign secretary respectively – but few Sunak supporters are in line for any cabinet roles.

“To govern you are going to have to bring in some key Rishi supporters at a high level,” Lord Hayward – saying it was vital to help “heal the wounds” in the party.

Asked if looked like Truss would name Sunak backers, Lord Hayward told Sky News: “No it doesn’t – and that’s something that concerns me. I’m sure Liz Truss has heard the messages.”

He added: “I think there is a general assessment that Boris’ first cabinet is a bad cabinet because all he did was award friends’ jobs, people who were absolute loyalists, and that doesn’t work.”

The Tory peer said a better example was Margaret Thatcher, who “brought all sorts of people who were known to be critics of hers into cabinet”, adding: “That’s how you set about reuniting the party, because it’s reunited at the top and works downwards.”

Jacob Rees-Mogg is in line for the position of business secretary while fellow Truss ally Therese Coffey is set to take on the role of health secretary if Truss takes over at No 10 tomorrow as expected.

Kemi Badenoch, Lord Frost and Iain Duncan Smith have been tipped for key roles, while Ben Wallace is expected to remain as defence secretary. Though Tom Tugendhat is also thought to be under consideration, there are few ‘One Nation’ Tory moderates in line for top government jobs.

It comes amid speculation that Mr Sunak and others disgruntled with Ms Truss could lead opposition to her government from the backbenches – or even attempt to bring her down with a no confidence vote within months.

Some 12 Tory MPs backing a Boris Johnson comeback plan to submit no-confidence letters in Ms Truss in the hope of a new leadership vote by Christmas, according to The Mirror.

Senior Tory Jake Berry, the leader of the Northern Research Group (NRG) who is tipped for a role as chairman, said it would be “suicidal” for MPs to move against Ms Truss.

Lord Hayward described talk of a coup against Ms Truss within months as “fanciful gossip and barroom chat”, despite warning of divisions if the winner did not reach out beyond allies.

Mark Harper, a senior Sunak backer, said Ms Truss should “appoint people across the party”, but urged all colleagues to “get behind” the next PM. Mr Harper said her promise to set out a plan to deal with energy bills within a week was “very welcome”.

Boris Johnson’s allies have caused alarm over ongoing suggestions that he is keen on the idea of a future tilt. Former chief of staff Lord Udny-Lister said that he would “never say never” about a return for Mr Johnson.

“He is going to be watching all this and if something happens in the future, as you said, the ball comes loose in the scrum, then anything can happen,” he told Sky News. “I’m not going to predict. All I’m saying is, I would never write him off.”

But Mr Johnson’s former communications chief Will Walden told LBC on Monday that he “doesn’t think there’s any coming back for Boris – he’ll disappear off to earn a lot of money”.

He said the outgoing PM had given his “tacit support” to the idea of another push for the leadership in the hope it will help “re-write the historical narrative” that he was ousted too quickly. “I think [a comeback] is a fantasy, and I think Boris will know that.”

If he is found to have lied to parliament at the upcoming Partygate inquiry, Mr Johnson could face a suspension from the Commons for 10 or more sitting days and a recall petition.

Whether to fight to remain in politics or not will depend on whether he still harbours ambitions to return to No 10. In his final appearance at PMQs, Mr Johnson famously declared “Hasta la vista, baby.”

Rory Stewart, who ran against Mr Johnson for the Tory leadership in 2019, said: “I fear we’re going to end up with a second Berlusconi or a second Trump trying to rock back in again.”

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