Tory cabinet descends into open warfare as Truss launches extraordinary attack on Gove and ‘macho’ colleagues

'Too often we’re hearing about not drinking too much, eating too many doughnuts, or enjoying the warm glow of our wood-burning Goves - I mean stoves'

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 27 June 2018 09:26
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Liz Truss jokes that Michael Gove's environment department produces 'a lot of hot air'

Cabinet warfare has broken out into the open, with a Treasury minister mocking Michael Gove over rules to protect the environment and attacking “macho” calls for higher spending.

Liz Truss launched an extraordinary broadside at Mr Gove for his plan to curb wood-burnings stoves, to improve air quality – ridiculing “hot air and smoke at the environment department”.

At the last minute, she dropped a similar attack on attempts to outlaw plastic straws, perhaps after realising the plan has been endorsed by Theresa May.

However, the chief secretary to the Treasury, also tore into ministers – led by Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary – demanding extra billions, saying: “It’s not macho just to demand more money.”

Meanwhile, business secretary Greg Clark publicly rebuked Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday for trying to silence business leaders fearing a botched Brexit.

The breakdown of cabinet discipline came just hours after the prime minister’s former policy chief said the Tories would “deserve to lose” the next general election if they carry on feuding.

Speaking at the London School of Economics, Ms Truss laid bare the tensions, saying: “Government’s role should not be to tell us what our tastes should be.

“Too often we’re hearing about not drinking too much, eating too many doughnuts, or enjoying the warm glow of our wood-burning Goves - I mean stoves.

“I can see their point: there’s enough hot air and smoke at the environment department already.”

The chief secretary briefed that she would also attack restrictions on “drinking from disposable cups through plastic straws” – but the line was dropped from the speech.

Mr Williamson is lobbying for up to an extra £4bn for the armed forces, while Sajid Javid, the home secretary, has also vowed publicly to fight for extra funds for the police.

But Ms Truss said: “We have to recognise that it’s not macho just to demand more money. It’s much tougher to demand better value and challenge the blob of vested interests within your department.”

The breakdown of cabinet discipline has been triggered by the health secretary winning his battle with extra for the NHS by 2023-24 – prompting other ministers to demand similar boosts.

However, Paul Johnson, the head of the respected institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) warned “there’s no money left for anyone else” – unless the Chancellor rips up his tax and borrowing rules.

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson, the foreign secretary, was caught on tape mocking the Treasury as “the heart of Remain” – and all-but admitted saying “fuck business”, in response to bosses’ Brexit warnings.

On Tuesday, Mr Clark used a speech to attack Brexiteers engaged in a “theoretical exercise”, when business leaders had to deal with the real world.

“The actual experience of how supply chains work, the actual experience of employing millions of men and women; of helping them earn a good living - not a theoretical exercise in which you take decisions over the lives of people in imagined worlds,” he said.

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