Michael Gove’s Tory conference speaking spree a headache for Liz Truss

Michael Gove has described Liz Truss’s economic plans as a ‘holiday from reality’ - Wiktor Szymanowicz/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Michael Gove has described Liz Truss’s economic plans as a ‘holiday from reality’ - Wiktor Szymanowicz/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Liz Truss is facing a major Tory conference headache with arch-critic Michael Gove due to speak at more than half a dozen fringe events.

Mr Gove, a former Cabinet heavyweight, backed Rishi Sunak in the leadership vote and has described Ms Truss’s economic plans as a “holiday from reality”.

His appearance will come amid simmering discontent on the Conservative back benches over the financial chaos unleashed by the mini-Budget.

Mr Gove, sacked by Boris Johnson in early July, did not take part in any events when he was last on the back benches in 2016. But this year he is to address eight different fringe meetings when Tory ministers, MPs and activists gather in Birmingham next week.

On Sunday, he will share his views on how the Tories can continue to win the support of voters in a “fireside chat” with Onward, a centre-right think tank. He is also set to appear on The Telegraph’s Chopper’s Politics podcast at 1pm.

The following day, the former levelling up secretary will take part in a Bright Blue debate on “greater and greener” homes and join a Tony Blair Institute panel.

He is then booked to appear at four fringe events on Tuesday – a second panel hosted by Onward about healthcare and the economy, a live event with the UnHerd website about whether the Conservatives “have a philosophy” and an evening talk about the future of conservatism.

Mr Gove is set to be one of the star backbench draws of the conference, with a number of other high profile Tory MPs set to stay away among widespread disaffection with Number 10.

Mr Sunak, the former chancellor, will spend the four days in his Yorkshire constituency so he can “give Truss all the space she needs” to “own the moment”, an ally told The Times.

Dominic Raab, the former justice secretary, and Priti Patel, who resigned as home secretary earlier this month, are conspicuous by their absence from the conference agenda.

Sajid Javid, the former health secretary, and David Davis, the former Brexit minister, will also reportedly steer clear as Ms Truss aims to unite her party and ease market fears about her tax-cutting agenda.

Mr Davis criticised a number of Ms Truss’s policies during the leadership campaign, but has since welcomed her decision to reverse April’s National Insurance rise.

Morale among back benchers is low, with some indicating that they plan not to attend the party conference for the first time in years.

“I don’t want to go and spend a miserable three or four days where there is complete false fawning from the stage from her newly appointed Cabinet,” one critical MP and former minister said. “It’s depressing enough not being there. I don’t want to get even more depressed by going.”