Wednesday briefing: The 10 angriest Tories ahead of Liz Truss’ make-or-break speech

<span>Photograph: Jacob King/PA</span>
Photograph: Jacob King/PA

Good morning. Well, at least one Tory kept her counsel yesterday. Perhaps resting ahead of the most important speech of her life, Liz Truss spent most of Tuesday at Conservative conference refusing to say things: look at the Google news results if you don’t believe me.

She refused to say benefits will rise in line with inflation; she refused to say whether there would be more U-turns on the mini-budget; she squeezed in a bit of refusing to say whether she stopped King Charles III going to Cop27. Did she trust Kwasi Kwarteng? Liz Truss refused to say. (A little later, she concluded that she did.)

If all that was meant as a model of reticence for her Conservative colleagues, it didn’t turn out to be as effective as she might have hoped. Everyone else in her party decided that, on balance, they would say things. Angry things. A spittle-flecked ton of them. I’m not sure, in fact, that so many angry things have ever been said by so many Tories about each other in a single day. And as Truss prepares for her big moment this morning, in which she will attack the “anti-growth coalition” raging against her plans for the country, it is impossible to escape the conclusion that she’s really talking about her own MPs.

So. Today’s newsletter – which comes with apologies that it’s a few minutes late - will take you through the ten most jaw-dropping blue-on-blue attacks of the last 24 hours, in ascending order of untrammeled fury. It wasn’t easy to pick, but journalism is a solemn duty. Here are the headlines.

Five big stories

  1. Police | Chris Kaba was not a suspect and was being followed by a police car without lights or sirens before he was shot dead by a firearms officer, an inquest into his death has been told. In the aftermath of the incident, the Metropolitan police said Kaba had been shot “after a vehicle pursuit”.

  2. Twitter | Elon Musk has offered to complete his proposed $44bn (£38bn) acquisition of Twitter in a dramatic U-turn on his decision to walk away from the deal.

  3. Energy | Liz Truss’s intervention to freeze energy prices for households for two years is expected to cost the government £89bn, according to the first major costing of the policy by the sector’s leading consultancy.

  4. Iran | Iranian authorities have arrested Shervin Hajipour, one of Iran’s most popular musicians, after a protest song he recorded went viral and became the soundtrack to the biggest civil uprising for decades. Yesterday’s newsletter had a broken link to a story from Iran. Here is the correct link to a story about Iranian students stepping up their protests in defiance of a crackdown.

  5. Wagatha Christie | Rebekah Vardy will have to pay Colleen Rooney roughly £1.5m after losing another stage in her libel trial. Vardy will also have to pay her own legal costs, which may bring her bill to well over £3m.

In depth: The most furious Tories - ranked!

Grant Shapps talking to the media on day two of the Conservative party’s annual conference in Birmingham.
Grant Shapps talking to the media on day two of the Conservative party’s annual conference in Birmingham. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

The Tories assembled in Birmingham are fighting over lots of things. They’re fighting over the 45p tax U-turn, and the prospect of a swingeing benefit cut, and whether or not it’s OK for the Home Secretary to accuse backbenchers of mounting a coup. But above all, deep down, they’re mostly fighting about whether the prime minister has got what it takes.

Some of them are angrily making headlines by saying exactly what they bloody well think; others are angrily making headlines by telling the first lot to put a sock in it. The mood is a little delirious. An amazing video appeared yesterday of at least three people appearing to sleep soundly through health secretary Thérèse Coffey’s speech in the main hall, but this morning I find myself wondering if they weren’t obscure backbenchers who somebody’d poisoned.

It’s impossible to be comprehensive after a day like that – although a Twitter user by the name of Hairy Politics has had a good go, with an increasingly baroque series of diagrams of who’s attacking who which featured 21 names at 3.10pm and 33 by 8.30. (It did include figures like ‘Steve Baker of Christmas Past’, admittedly.) To make the below list, then, is a badge of honour. Commiserations to education minister Andrea Jenkyns, whose attack on Harry Potter degrees was easily wild enough to feature, but was disqualified because they don’t actually exist, and Harry Potter probably isn’t a member of the Tory party.

***

10 Anonymous MPs and party sources

Plenty of fear and loathing from unnamed insiders yesterday, of course. “I would rather see Keir Starmer in No 10 than this Conservative party,” one MP says in this excellent read from Aubrey Allegretti, Pippa Crerar and Jessica Elgot. “This is the kind of chaos you only see at the end of a premiership – it’s impossible for her to recover,” says a former cabinet minister. “The trouble is there are so many bastards in the party,” a minister told the Daily Mail. “Michael Gove is an absolute snake,” a party insider told the Telegraph. As she recovered from the day last night, Jess added on WhatsApp that a former minister had fretted that the party now has the “loser brain worms”. All good stuff, but – sorry folks – on a day of such riches, you’ll need to put your name on it if you want to get higher than tenth.

***

9 Michael Gove

The aforementioned absolute snake – who has done “more gigs than Ed Sheeran” at party conference, Marina Hyde wrote – would be higher, but his most vicious and consequential intervention was that which helped do for the 45p tax cut policy in an interview on Sunday. Yesterday he confined himself to the pointed observation that the party should reflect the ideas which Boris Johnson won on in 2019. In more normal times, such a clear repudiation of the party’s direction of travel from a former senior minister would be news in itself.

***

8 Robert Buckland

Asked what he thought of interventions by Gove and former chief whip Julian Smith (who, among other interventions in the last few weeks, at one point summarised his position as “Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”), the former Welsh secretary said: “I think it would be better for many colleagues to keep their own counsel.” “Robert Buckland says shut up,” said interviewer Jon Sopel. “Yeah,” he replied.

***

7 Kemi Badenoch

The first serving cabinet minister on our list had a few choice words for another one, Suella Braverman, who accused Gove and others of staging a “coup” over the top rate of income tax. After first joining with Braverman by having a go at backbenchers “trying to lob grenades at the PM”, she then turned to the home secretary: “‘I don’t think we should be talking about coups,” she said, “I think that sort of a language is just too inflammatory.”

***

6 Penny Mordaunt

The former leadership candidate – and another cabinet member, who, let’s remember, are supposed to be bound by collective responsibility – carefully rubbished the idea of cutting benefits. It “makes sense” that they should rise in line with inflation not pay, she said: “We’re not about trying to help people with one hand and take it away with another.” Truss was said to be furious with Mordaunt, the leader of the Commons, but her intervention reveals the risks inherent in Truss’ insistence that no decision has yet been made on the issue: until one is, ministers can attack the idea without specifically contradicting the government.

***

5 Simon Clarke

Clarke’s intervention was relatively modest: it came in the form of a single tweet saying that Suella Braverman “speaks a lot of good sense”. Which would be a perfectly normal thing to say about a fellow cabinet minister – except that the quotes from Braverman he was approving of were the one about a coup, and one about her “disappointment” at the 45p U-turn. So that’s another cabinet minister, one said to be one of Truss’s most intense loyalists, suggesting the government has got it wrong – and accusing backbenchers of insurrection.

***

4 Lord Frost

Another attack from a Truss loyalist. Lord Frost told LBC that the government is “doing the right thing in trying to set a new direction”. But he also said the government had made “unnecessary political errors”, looked “rather weak”, had made “avoidable mistakes”, and had gone about the whole thing in an “amateurish, bungling way”. The only loyalist who says things like that about me is my mother, and at least she’s not giving radio interviews about it.

***

3 Grant Shapps, unchained

Now we’re into the real big guns. Told about Buckland’s demand that people like him “shut up” in a remarkable interview with the News Agents podcast yesterday, he had a subtle go at Buckland for switching from Sunak to Truss in the leadership contest, suggested that he “applies the same to himself”, and said he was simply “speaking truth to power”. He also implied that Truss had brought his attacks on herself “by sacking me”, and said she had 10 days to save her premiership. Quite often, he ended his obvious attacks on Truss by saying he was “cheering her on”. Lol.

***

2 Nadine Dorries

At one point yesterday, Nadine Dorries drew on her gifts as a writer to say dreamily that the Tories’ poll deficit under Boris Johnson would have “burned away like a morning mist on a summer’s lawn.” The rest of it was a little blunter. She sent two tweets confirming her view of Monday that if Truss wants to turn away from Johnson’s programme for government, she needs “a fresh mandate” – which clearly refers to another election. (Shapps, incidentally, said that those sorts of bold demands were all very well for someone like Dorries, who has a substantial second income from her novels, but less attractive to the average backbencher.) All this would be remarkable under any circumstances – but all the more so from someone who said less than a month ago that she would “always show [Truss] the same loyalty and support I have to Boris Johnson.”

***

1 Suella Braverman

At one point yesterday, there were three separate stories about the home secretary on the MailOnline homepage; there’s a massive picture of her on the front of today’s Telegraph, approvingly describing her as a “true blue”. In part, that’s because of the series of fierce views she espoused in her interview with the Telegraph yesterday – from claiming Britain has a “benefits street culture” to saying that a Telegraph splash of a flight taking asylum seekers to Rwanda was “my dream, my obsession”. But the most urgent part of her comments was that extraordinary reference to a backbench “coup” against the prime minister, and a warning that MPs like Michael Gove should stop “airing your dirty linen” in public. Liz Truss will likely be hoping the same. Let’s see how it goes.

What else we’ve been reading

  • After his mother’s death, Ammar Kalia memorialised his family home in a bid to keep some part of her alive. Almost a decade later, Kalia’s journey with grief has brought him somewhere new: “Home is in places and it is in people, just as my mum is in pictures she will always live on in me.” Nimo

  • Christopher Sabatini writes gloomily that the lesson of the Brazilian election is that “Bolsonarismo is an organised political force, and it is here to stay.” Even if Lula does win, he points out, he inherits a mess that will make his second presidency far harder than his first. Archie

  • Andrew Lawrence explores how the changing demographics in Georgia have affected electoral politics in the US state. The fragile coalition of majority-minority voters helped turn the red state blue, however with midterm elections around the corner, conflicting interests are causing fissures. Nimo

  • I once wrote a terrible feature about wearing a false moustache for a day because I couldn’t grow one. Rhik Samadder’s is much better, and not only because his moustache is real. Or so he claims. Archie

  • The latest episode of House of the Dragon has fallen into a textbook error that plagued its mother show, Game of Thrones, Stuart Heritage writes: you just can’t see anything. Nimo

Sport

Champions League | Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mo Salah fired Liverpool to a 2-0 victory against Rangers. Tottenham Hotspur could only draw 0-0 with Eintracht Frankfurt.

Football | Paris is the latest French city that has said it will not be showing any World Cup matches in public places or setting up “fan zones” because of the reports of widespread human rights and environmental abuses in Qatar.

Winter Sports | Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday it has won a bid to host the 2029 Asian Winter Games at a planned mountain resort in a planned desert megacity. The Trojena development is expected to be completed in 2026 and will offer outdoor skiing, a man-made freshwater lake and a nature reserve.

The front pages

The Guardian print edition splashes today with “Tory turmoil amid claims of ‘coup’ to oust Truss”. “Brace for more change, says Truss the disruptor”: does the Times mean changes of mind, and disruption to the nation’s prosperity? The Daily Express is happy to clarify: “PM: my changes will disrupt … but build a better future” while the Telegraph says “Disruption is the price of success, PM insists”. The Financial Times has “Truss strives to rally MPs after Tories renew infighting over benefits threat”. It’s “Tory open warfare” says the i and the Metro goes with “Tories in meltdown” and “Can she fix it?” – Truss is shown at one of those hardhat and high-viz photo ops. “Official: police to attend EVERY burglary” says the Daily Mail. The Mirror leads with “Wagatha feud reignites” – Rebekah Vardy is not happy at having to pay Coleen Rooney’s legal costs of up to £1.5m. The Sun leads with a “Showbiz exclusive” about “Married BBC star’s secret love child with stripper” – we’ll let you do your own research.

Today in Focus

FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while speaking during a meeting with employees of the nuclear industry on their professional holiday, Nuclear Industry Worker’s Day, at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on Sept. 23, 2020. Putin’s threats to use “all the means at our disposal” to defend his country as it wages war in Ukraine have cranked up global fears that he might use his nuclear arsenal, with the world’s largest stockpile of warheads. (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)
FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while speaking during a meeting with employees of the nuclear industry on their professional holiday, Nuclear Industry Worker’s Day, at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on Sept. 23, 2020. Putin’s threats to use “all the means at our disposal” to defend his country as it wages war in Ukraine have cranked up global fears that he might use his nuclear arsenal, with the world’s largest stockpile of warheads. (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

Is Vladimir Putin really prepared to use nuclear weapons?

Putin has been hinting he could use nuclear weapons since the beginning of his war in Ukraine. But in recent days the Russian president’s rhetoric has ramped up alarmingly. How seriously should we take his threats? Andrew Roth reports from Moscow

Cartoon of the day | Martin Rowson

The Upside

A bit of good news to remind you that the world’s not all bad

As climate-driven extreme weather disasters occur at an increasing frequency and intensity, feeling pessimistic about the future of the planet seems inevitable. But there is much to be optimistic about: “We have everything we need in terms of technology and, in terms of the actual physics, we know what we need to do,” says Solitaire Townsend, co-founder of change agency Futerra. Renewable energy delivers 75% of all new power – the use of coal has declined to just 4%. The energy crisis in Europe is likely to boost climate action, not block it. And people are utilising their individual power, both through consumer and protest, to demand a transformation of the way society operates. “It will never be too late for change,” writes Damian Carrington.

Sign up here for a weekly roundup of The Upside, sent to you every Sunday

Bored at work?

And finally, the Guardian’s crosswords to keep you entertained throughout the day – with plenty more on the Guardian’s Puzzles app for iOS and Android. Until tomorrow.