Why Truss can face down her Tory opponents

Liz Truss pictured at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham.
Liz Truss has refused to back down from her tax-cutting package. Credit: PA

As the Tories gather for their conference here in Birmingham. I have three points to make about the economic and political crisis that was sparked by that enormous mini budget, and why Truss is much stronger than you may think.

First, the idea that Tory MPs can throw out Liz Truss, having lost confidence in her £150bn fiscal loosening, is absurd. To foist a second PM on the British people without a general election, within the lifetime of a parliament, is unthinkable.

It would bring the British way of democracy, our cherished constitution, into utter disrepute. To say the country would become an international laughing stock is an under statement. It can't happen, it won't happen.

And Truss knows this.

Which brings me to the second point.

The measures hated by many Tories - for whom Michael Gove is now official spokesman - are the abolition of the 45p top rate of tax and removal of the cap on bankers' bonuses.

If in coming weeks these and the other reforms are included in a finance bill, Tories voting against them would be told in no uncertain terms that they were voting to bring down Truss's government.

And implication, these would be votes of confidence not just in her but in the continuation in office of the Tories - because as I said the idea that it's credible for the Tories to replace Truss and stay in office is barking mad.

Given the Tories' massive deficit in the polls, any Conservative MP voting to bring down the government is a turkey trussed and stuffed and begging for an early Christmas.

Which is why Gove will struggle to corral sufficient numbers of Tory rebels for a vote that could sink them all.

Finally, if you look at the statements of many of those Tory MPs who hate what they see as handouts to the super-rich, they say it's appalling that Truss would abolish the top rate of tax while cutting benefits.

Which makes me think Truss and Kwarteng are being cleverer than many might think in their inflammatory refusal to commit to uprating universal credit and other welfare payments in line with 10% inflation.

I am about as confident as I can be that they will belatedly announce the inflation-proofing of benefits to buy off the rebels in their own ranks.

But it would be pointless committing to that benefits increase now, because they would get nothing in return from the rebel Tory MPs and zero credit from the British people.

Apart from anything else, look at how voters have said to Liz Truss "thanks a bunch for your £160bn two-year subsidy for energy prices but currently we'd rather have Keir Starmer in Downing Street".

So, weirdly Truss's greatest strength is her weakness. She can - to a great extent - ride out the criticism from her own side, because the only weapon they have is a nuclear one, the risk of an early election, and if they use it they'll be politically finished along with her.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know.