‘Rout worse than 1997’: once-loyal Tory press turn on Truss and party

Liz Truss’s aides are likely to be trying to shield her from the comment pages of national newspapers on Wednesday morning as she prepares for her speech at the Tory conference. They do not make encouraging reading for the prime minister, even from the usually friendly Conservative press.

In the Times, Danny Finkelstein, a Tory peer and former adviser to multiple governments, warns the party must brace for a rout worse than 1997. He says: “The Conservatives aren’t certain to lose the next election but we have reached the point where everyone in politics expects them to. The point where the political editors might prefer lunch with the opposition than the government.”

It is not much better reading for Truss in the Daily Telegraph, where veteran columnist Philip Johnston says the Tories appear to have thrown in the towel after 12 years, although he places the blame at the door of MPs rather than the prime minister.

“There comes a time when governments simply run out of steam, and there is a strong sense in Birmingham that the Conservatives are approaching that moment or are even beyond it. This is ironic given that Liz Truss has staked everything on appearing to be a fresh start; but her MPs will simply not let her get off the ramps.”

Sarah Vine in the Daily Mail tells Truss that she has failed to look strong enough and made a mistake by casting out big names such as her ex-husband Michael Gove from the cabinet.

Her advice? “Most of all, she needs to lasso one or two of those big beasts, and by hook or by crook hitch them to her wagon.

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“It won’t be easy, and it will doubtless be very painful, not to mention humiliating. But if she can appeal to their greater love of the party to which, in many cases, they have devoted their entire careers, if she can appeal to their sense of loyalty and duty, then maybe she can succeed … And if she doesn’t? Well, I fear this only ends one way. With Keir Starmer getting the keys to No 10 – and the Conservative party in the wilderness for years to come.”

However, Truss did receive the endorsement of 82-year-old economist Arthur Laffer in the Mail, known as the father of Reaganomics for having devised the Laffer curve that purports to show governments can increase overall tax take by cutting taxes.

“When I read of your new government’s fiscal plans last month, at my home in Nashville, Tennessee, I cheered them to the rafters,” he says.