Conservative MPs will lose the party whip if they vote against Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s tax-cutting mini-budget, a senior Tory has said.
Conservative Party Chairman Jake Berry told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme it was “nonsense” to claim that the government’s tax cuts are helping the richest and said that Liz Truss has an “absolute mandate” from the 2019 election to carry out her new economic policy.
Put to him that some Tory MPs are considering whether to vote with the Labour Party to stop measured in the chancellor’s mini-budget coming into force, particularly the removal of the 45p top rate of income tax, Mr Berry was asked whether withdrawing their support should see MPs lose the party whip.
Mr Berry replied: “Correct. Don’t take that as the decision of the chief whip but as far as I’m concerned, yes.”
Liz Truss stands by mini-budget – Politics latest
Former cabinet minister Julian Smith was quick to respond to Mr Berry’s comments.
He posted on social media: “The first job of an MP is to act in the interest of their constituents and in the national interest. We cannot clap for carers one month and cut tax for millionaires months later.”
Nearly two dozen senior Conservative MPs have told Sky News they will not be attending after a tumultuous week that saw the pound hit a record low against the dollar and the Bank of England stepping in to prevent a pension funds collapse.
A series of polls taken this week have shown a massive drop in popularity for the Tories and a record high for Labour following the mini-budget.
The latest poll from Opinium showed 55% of voters disapprove of both Ms Truss and Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng while Labour enjoyed a 19-point boost.
And 75% of all voters think they have lost control of the economy. When it comes to Tory voters, 71% think they do not have the economy under control versus just 24% who believe they do.
There are reports of letters going into the chair of the backbench 1922 Committee from MPs calling for a vote of no confidence.
Under current rules, she is safe from a leadership challenge for a year after her election but the 1922 executive could change the rules if demand from Tory MPs is overwhelming.
Meanwhile, senior backbenchers told The Independent the PM has a matter of days to row back on tax and welfare cuts or a rebellion could see her removed from Downing Street by Christmas.
Earlier today, Liz Truss said she stood by the plans despite the backlash, telling Conservative rebels that she is “going to do things differently” and that “there is no option but to change”.
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Ms Truss also doubled down on the decision to remove the top rate of income tax (45%) as “it’s part of an overall package of making our tax system simpler and lower” – but admitted the policy was not discussed with the cabinet.
“It was a decision that the chancellor made,” she Ms told the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme.
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But former cabinet minister Michael Gove accused Ms Truss’s plans of having the “wrong values” and hinted that he could vote against the tax-cutting measures in the Commons.
Mr Gove told the BBC Ms Truss was right to acknowledge that “there needs to be a recognition of mistakes”, adding: “But it is still the case that there is an inadequate realisation at the top of government about the scale of change required.”
Shortly after Ms Truss’s interview, former culture secretary Nadine Dorries accused the PM of throwing her chancellor “under a bus”.
She posted on social media: “One of Boris Johnson’s faults was that he could sometimes be too loyal and he got that. However, there is a balance and throwing your chancellor under a bus on the first day of conference really isn’t it. Fingers crossed things improve and settle down from now.”
The conference will open today with a tribute to the Queen but it is Mr Kwarteng’s speech on Monday and Ms Truss’ closing speech on Wednesday that will command the political attention.