Dead woman walking? — Critical 72 hours — Brady’s back – POLITICO

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BREAKING THIS MORNING: U.K. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is expected to today bring forward billions of pounds of tax and spending measures two weeks earlier than planned, in a bid to calm markets. The FT has more.

Good Monday morning. This is Eleni Courea, writing Playbook today and tomorrow.


DEAD WOMAN WALKING? As Liz Truss wakes up this morning she’ll wonder whether this week in Downing Street could be her last. With her authority shot and her premiership unraveling at a speed that is astonishing even by the standards of modern British politics, many now believe it is a matter of time before she is forced out — as she faces a critical 72 hours.

Mondays don’t get much worse than this: The PM has just marked 40 days in office but faces a degree of unrest that Theresa May and Boris Johnson took years to build, with backbenchers breaking cover to urge her to quit, letters pouring into Graham Brady’s inbox, rivals on maneuvers and a delegation of graybeards preparing to tell her the game is up.

**A message from Diageo: Achieving the UK’s free trade deal with India is a once in a generation chance to boost exports by £1bn per year. Removing the 150% import tariff on Scotch whisky, one of the highest in the world, would drive exports and create quality jobs in Scotland.**

And if government comms is anything to go by … It might as well be. Astonishingly no minister is going out to bat for the government on the morning broadcast round today. Playbook was told at first that Chloe Smith, the DWP secretary, had been handed that particular hospital pass. Then for a brief time there were suggestions that Jeremy Hunt would do it instead, before No. 10 said there would be no one at all. “If you can’t even get a voice like Brandon [Lewis] or Tiz [Thérèse Coffey] out,” one Tory source texted Playbook late last night, “then you’re a dead woman walking.”

The immediate question this morning: As gilt markets open at 8 a.m. for the first time since the Bank of England’s emergency bond buying program ended on Friday — will Jeremy “Draghi” Hunt’s appointment and the reassuring noises he made over the weekend be enough to buy Truss some time? Sterling regained some ground against the dollar in Asian trading overnight.

Playbook can’t help but point out … the irony of a radical free marketeer PM now being at the mercy of every market dip and knoll.

A week? Two weeks? Until Christmas? The papers are full of speculation over just how long Truss has left in office, with some suggestions that if the markets show mercy today that could carry her through until the budget on Halloween. “It’s over, but I’m not sure when. Perhaps this week, perhaps next,” one Cabinet minister tells the FT’s Seb Payne. A Tory MP told Playbook yesterday: “Boris lasted longer than he should have because he still had some electoral appeal, and people weren’t sure who would succeed him. She doesn’t have the former — but the latter may again delay things.”

The fightback: Truss will hunker down in Downing Street today and later this week for meetings to persuade MPs to give her more time, while Hunt meets MPs separately to discuss the economy. The Times, the Guardian, the Mail, the Sun and Bloomberg all report that Truss will gather Cabinet ministers for a reception this evening to ask their views on her new economic strategy. The Times also hears that the PM plans to address One Nation MPs at their regular Monday evening meeting.

On Sunday: Truss, Hunt and Simon Case met at Chequers and discussed what other bits of the “mini” budget to bin before October 31. The Mail’s Jason Groves reports that Hunt told Truss she’d have to abandon her campaign pledge to introduce no new taxes.

A charm offensive … is also going to be needed with business. The FT’s Seb Payne and Daniel Thomas have supermarket bosses and financiers variously describing Truss as a “busted flush” who espouses “incomprehensible economic policies” and is guilty of “one of the most cowardly political acts committed by any prime minister” in sacking Kwasi Kwarteng. (Tell us what you really think, etc.)

Meanwhile in rebel quarters … Treasury committee Chairman Mel Stride is organizing dinner for Sunak backers tonight, the second in as many weeks. Grant Shapps has a heavily coded piece in the Times arguing that Tory MPs are still “overwhelmingly predisposed to supporting a competent leader” … while Liam Fox in the Telegraph heaps praise on “competent, thoughtful, and serious” Hunt (writing almost as if he has already been made PM).

The pressure has built to such a degree … that every day Truss survives in No. 10 now feels like a small victory. Some Tory rebels believe it could all be over by Thursday if they succeed in changing the rules of the 1922 committee of backbench Tory MPs and triggering a confidence vote. The Mail’s Jason Groves and Kumail Jaffer report that a gang of junior ministers are considering resigning to force out Truss, with a censure motion also under discussion. Yesterday three MPs — Crispin Blunt, James Wallis and Andrew Bridgen (who must have some sort of contractual obligation) went public to tell Truss to go. Sky’s Tom Larkin has dutifully rebooted his spreadsheet.

A call to arms: “Tory MPs need to face a stark reality as they wake up this morning,” one Tory rebel texted Playbook. “Having already cratered voters’ mortgages, a failure to send the PM packing could make things even worse for millions of people as further, harder cuts are needed to stabilize markets who have no trust in the current leader. This will mean more harm to pensions, mortgages and public services. The idea that this PM should go on a moment longer is reckless in the extreme.”

Swiping back: A senior ally of the PM tells the FT, the Sun and the Times among others that “it is time the plotters thought about who they work for: it is the British people” and that “those wanting a People’s Vote-style rerun of the summer contest will simply bring about an early general election.”

These aggressive briefings … haven’t done Downing Street much good recently, with one in the Sunday Times describing Sajid Javid — who was reportedly sounded out to succeed Kwarteng as chancellor before Hunt — as “sh*t,” sparking fury. “The most shocking bit of the weekend was yet another mad briefing by No. 10 against Tory big beasts — Saj in this case,” a Tory source told Playbook. “Clearly the PM either has no grip over what her inexperienced No. 10 team does on her behalf, or is sanctioning poison being dripped out by her advisers in contravention of the special adviser code.”

The 72 hours ahead will be critical. Like others, Playbook has picked up suggestions that up to 100 MPs are poised to submit or have already submitted no-confidence letters to Graham Brady, well above the 15 percent threshold needed to trigger a vote in other circumstances. The idea is to persuade the 1922 exec to revise the rule that the PM cannot face a confidence vote during the first year of her premiership. The Times’ Henry Zeffman reveals that senior members of the exec held a “grim” meeting on Friday night to discuss the circumstances in which Brady — who’s just returned from a trip to Greece — would have to tell Truss to step aside.

Before we get there … The 1922 exec first needs to fill the spots vacated by Nus Ghani and Aaron Bell after they took government roles. Nominations for candidates hoping to succeed them close tonight, and the vote is expected on Tuesday — a timeline that is likely to buy Truss at least a couple of days. The new exec is then due to meet on Wednesday. Bloomberg spoke to someone familiar with 1922 committee workings who said two-thirds of Tory MPs would need to back a rule change for one to happen.

Rival watch: Another thing that counts in Truss’ favor is that Tory MPs are nowhere near being able to find a “unity candidate,” with some sort of truncated parliamentary contest looking like a likelier method of choosing a successor. Penny Mordaunt writes in the Telegraph that “our country needs stability, not a soap opera” (concluding somewhat unconvincingly at the end that MPs should support Truss) … Bloomberg’s Lobby team hears that former Chief Whip Julian Smith has been testing support for Sunak over the weekend … the Telegraph’s Ben Riley-Smith speaks to Sunak backers who suggest that he would keep Hunt as chancellor and that the markets will only be pacified by a change of PM (presumably a change that would install him) …  the Times’ Henry Zeffman hears that at least one Cabinet minister is lobbying for a Ben Wallace tilt at the top job … and the Mail’s Jason Groves reports that after meeting Hunt, Wallace is warning Truss he will withdraw support from her if she breaks her pledge to increase defense spending. Speaking to Groves, a source in a rival camp says of Wallace: “What does he think about the economy, or housing, or transport or health? No one has any idea.”

Uh oh: After the Sunday Times urged Truss to quit, the Telegraph leader says today that “it is debatable whether she any longer has the authority to withstand this assault.”

In the Commons: Labour leader Keir Starmer is calling on Truss to come to the Commons and answer questions about her economic plan, accusing her of being “in office but not in power.” The Labour Party could decide to seek an urgent question if she refuses.

Over in Westminster Hall: This afternoon MPs will be debating a petition for an early election which amassed over half a million signatures.

This will focus minds: The Mirror and the Guardian jointly have an MRP poll suggesting that on current figures, Labour would win a 1997-style landslide with 411 seats, and that 10 Cabinet ministers would lose their seats.

THE RECORD TO BEAT: Truss would need to last until the new year to avoid becoming the shortest-serving U.K. prime minister in history. If she leaves office on January 4 she will have completed 120 days in No. 10, beating George Canning (who died in office).

The more immediate challenge … is to outlive the Daily Star lettuce.


URGENT QUESTION: Alicia Kearns, the chairwoman of the foreign affairs committee, is likely to seek an urgent question in the Commons after footage emerged suggesting pro-democracy protesters were attacked outside the Chinese consulate in Manchester. The Telegraph has a write-up of what we know so far. There are claims that officials from the consulate were involved. Kearns tweeted last night that the Chinese ambassador should be summoned and that any official found to have beaten protesters should be expelled or prosecuted.

FULLBROOK FALLOUT: Labour is calling for No. 10 Chief of Staff Mark Fullbrook to be sacked following Gabriel Pogrund’s latest revelations in the Sunday Times. Pogrund reported that Fullbrook has recused himself from all foreign policy and security decisions involving Libya, as he lobbied ministers on behalf of a controversial Libyan politician in the spring well before he entered government. Sky’s Joe Pike separately reported that Fullbrook has recused himself from discussions about the smoking strategy because of his previous work with big tobacco as a lobbyist.

HOUSE OF COMMONS: Sits from 2.30 p.m. with leveling up questions to Simon Clarke, followed by any government statements or UQs … Chris Grayling has a ten minute rule bill on deforestation … Followed by the rushing through of the government’s energy prices bill

HOUSE OF LORDS: Sits from 2.30 p.m. with questions on childhood obesity, the pension rights of LGBT veterans and reducing the numbers of people on out-of-work benefits … Followed by the second reading and remaining stages of the bill that repeals the rise in National Insurance.

COMMITTEE CORRIDOR: The public accounts committee will quiz DfE and BEIS officials on how to create a “skilled workforce” (4 p.m.).

FAO LEADERSHIP HOPEFULS: It might be worth tuning into this IfG panel today on “how not to run a government” with the lessons to learn from Truss’ first 40 days. Starts at 1.30 p.m. A performance tracker published by the IfG today concludes that there is no “fat” to trim from public service budgets.

Meanwhile in Labour land … the shad cab is attending IfG-run training sessions on what cabinet ministers do and how to transition from opposition to government, the Times’ Henry Zeffman reports.

WINTER OF DISCONTENT: Mass strike action in the NHS is “inevitable” this winter, Unison General Secretary Christine McAnea has warned, claiming that endemic low pay is leaving workers with no choice. McAnea said the union is set to coordinate with other health care unions to increase the impact of any strikes, while Unite’s Sharon Graham said up to a million people in various sectors might all strike at once. The Guardian’s Peter Walker has a write-up.


TODAY IN SCOTLAND: Nicola Sturgeon will unveil her government’s latest paper on independence as it seeks to build momentum for its current referendum push. This one, which will focus on the economic prospects of an independent Scotland, promises much more intrigue than the previous two which looked at “democracy” and made performance comparisons between the U.K. and a handpicked selection of nations. The paper is expected to confirm that an independent Scotland would seek to join the EU while also setting out the SNP’s working — and controversial — plan to use the pound on an informal basis after a Yes vote. The Scottish first minister will present the paper and take questions in a presser at 11 a.m.

EXPLOSIONS IN KYIV: Multiple explosions were reported in Kyiv this morning, just a week after the last volley of Russian missile strikes on the Ukrainian capital. The BBC has more.

Over the weekend: The mayor’s office in the separatist, Kremlin-occupied Donetsk was hit by Ukrainian rockets over the weekend, according to its pro-Moscow mayor. The attack — not claimed by Ukraine — came on the heels of another Moscow setback, which saw two shooters open fire in a Russian military training center on Saturday, killing 11 and wounding 15. The shooters were identified as being from the CIS club of post-Soviet states. POLITICO’s Gian Volpicelli has more.

Now read this — Planning for the chaos: POLITICO’s Lili Bayer considers the post-Putin scenarios.

LIFE-CHANGING PARTY: China’s Communist Party congress, which happens every five years, continues today through the rest of the week after President Xi Jinping kicked things off Sunday. The event will culminate in Xi breaking with convention and assuming leadership for a third term. Amassing unchallenged power, Xi used his first congress speech to double down on the possible military option of taking over Taiwan, reshaping the global order in the Chinese way, while dropping no hint whatsoever about putting an end to China’s draconian measures in the name of “zero COVID.” POLITICO’s Stuart Lau has more in this morning’s Brussels Playbook, while Phelim Kine has a look at Xi’s path to power here.

**A message from Diageo: Diageo is a global company, but Great Britain is our home. International trade is at the heart of what we do exporting Great British Brands like Johnnie Walker & Gordon’s to more than 180 countries around the world. A new free trade agreement with India is important for Scotch and a huge opportunity for the UK – if we can get the right deal. India’s high tariff on Scotch whisky (at 150%) prohibits Scottish exports from accessing India’s growing domestic market. Nearly one in every two bottles of whisky bought across the world is now sold in India. Removing the punitive import tariff on Scotch alone will unlock significant opportunities for the UK economy to the tune of £1 billion in export value over the next 3 – 5 years.**


Kay Burley: Tory MP Roger Gale (7.30 a.m.) … Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Pat McFadden (8.05 a.m.) … Former BoE Deputy Governor John Gieve (8.30 a.m.) … Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham (8.40 a.m.).

Nick Ferrari at Breakfast: Met Police Commissioner Mark Rowley (7.35 a.m.) … Met review author Louise Casey (9.20 a.m.).

Times Radio breakfast: Tory MP Andrew Bowie (7.05 a.m.) … Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Pat McFadden (7.45 a.m.) … Jim O’Neill, former chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management and former Conservative government minister (8.05 a.m.) … Former Home Office Minister Crispin Blunt MP (8.35 a.m.).

Julia Hartley-Brewer breakfast (talkTV): Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle (7.45 a.m.) … Polling guru John Curtice (8.05 a.m.).

Politics Live (BBC Two 12.15 p.m.): Tory MP Scott Benton … Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh … ConservativeHome’s Henry Hill … The Guardian’s Pippa Crerar.

Reviewing the papers tonight: talkTV (10.20 p.m.): POLITICO’s Jack Blanchard and Tory peer Nicky Morgan … Times Radio (10.30 p.m.): Former John Major spinner Jonathan Haslam and ConservativeHome’s Harry Phibbs.


(Click on the publication’s name to see its front page.)

Daily Express: D-day for PM — Will more U-turns save our economy?

Daily Mail: Plot to topple Truss this week.

Daily Mirror: Tory MPs — Quit now.

Daily Star: King to flog off queen’s horses.

Financial Times: Xi warns of ‘critical time’ for China as he embarks on record third term.

HuffPostUK: ‘The game is up.’

i: Truss faces challenge within days.

Metro: The plots thicken.

POLITICO UK: Liz Truss’ new chancellor signals he could junk more of her economic plan.

PoliticsHome: Jeremy Hunt ‘not taking anything off the table’ on possibility of reversing more tax cuts.

The Daily Telegraph: Mordaunt — We need stability not a soap opera.

The Guardian: Truss fights for survival as Tory rebel MPs warn that ‘game is up.’

The Independent: ‘The game is up’ — Senior Tories call on PM to quit.

The Times: Tories hold secret talks on crowning new leader.


SPOTTED: At the London Film Festival closing night gala, for the timely premiere of Knives Out (which like the Tory psychodrama of 2022 is in its second installment) … Foreign Secretary James Cleverly … No. 10’s Hugh Bennett … SpAds Hudson Roe and Steph Schwartz … Former Arts Minister Stephen Parkinson … U.K. Music’s Jamie Njoku-Goodwin … Times Radio’s Charlotte Ivers … The Guardian’s Nadia Khomami … and City Hall advisers Sarah Brown and Chris McQuiggin.

NEW GIGS: Policy Exchange is announcing a raft of new hires, with the British Foreign Policy Group’s Sophia Gaston heading up its foreign affairs unit. Former No. 10 Chief of Staff Nick Timothy is joining as a senior fellow along Boris Johnson’s former transport adviser Andrew Gilligan and Edward Stringer, a former director-general of the Defence Academy.

II: Opinium’s head of political polling Chris Curtis is quitting to stand for selection as the Labour parliamentary candidate in Milton Keynes North, where he grew up. He plans to launch his campaign today.

WESTMINSTER WEATHER: ⛅️⛅️⛅️ Sunny in spells, warm and breezy. Highs of 19C.

BIRTHDAYS: Former Labour, Change UK and Lib Dem MP Chuka Umunna … Former U.K. perm rep to the EU John Grant … Former U.K. Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray … Tory peer Michael Lord … James Hutton Institute Chair Ian Gambles … SNP MSP Colin Beattie.

PLAYBOOK COULDN’T HAPPEN WITHOUT: Editor Zoya Sheftalovich, reporter Andrew McDonald and producer Grace Stranger.

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Eleni Courea

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