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Allies of Liz Truss fear she has been moved to the Foreign Office by Boris Johnson to complicate her party leadership hopes, sending her overseas for much of the year.
One former adviser to Ms Truss told The Telegraph that the strategy amounted to “ship your enemies abroad” as her standing with Tory supporters booms.
Ms Truss had the highest approval rating of any member of the Cabinet among Tory members, according to an opinion poll last month for the Conservative Home website.
She was also the most forthright critic around the Cabinet table to Mr Johnson’s recent manifesto-breaking tax rise to pay for higher NHS spending and social care reforms.
The move echoes Mr Johnson’s own political history, when Theresa May gave him the Foreign Office after the Brexit referendum, seeing him spend time away from Westminster.
If that had been intended to curb the political threat he posed to her premiership, it failed – Mr Johnson ultimately quit in protest over her Brexit plan and won the race to replace her.
Discussing the reshuffle on Wednesday, one figure who worked closely with Ms Truss during her time in the Cabinet saw Machiavellian motives from Downing Street.
“It is very hard to orchestrate a leadership campaign when you’re in Kenya one day and Botswana the next. It is the simple thing of ‘ship your enemies abroad',” the figure said.
“Best-case scenario [for Number 10] is she is out of the country not able to build on her power base. If she fails in the job it curtails her leadership ambition anyway.”
But claims of political maneuvering are complicated by the fact Ms Truss now holds one of the great offices of state for the first time, enhancing her CV for any future leadership bid.
Ms Truss, who has held cabinet roles under three different Tory prime ministers, was made the first ever female Tory Foreign Secretary on Wednesday.
She is due to fly to America within days to attend the UN General Assembly in New York along with Mr Johnson and a team of advisers and aides.
It offers her the chance to immediately cement relations with Washington, one of the most critical relationships she will oversee over the coming years.
While most of the trip is spent in New York there is speculation in the US media that Mr Johnson may head to Washington to meet Joe Biden, the US president, in person.
Ms Truss was the most prominent critic within the Cabinet of Mr Johnson’s decision to raise National Insurance last week, despite an explicit manifesto pledge not to do just that.
She is understood to have expressed her discomfort at a Cabinet meeting discussing the announcements, though was supportive of the NHS and social care reforms.
It is understood to have drawn a rebuke by Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, who said it was naive to think extra spending could come from more borrowing given rising interest rates.
Ms Truss did not resign over the row. Two other cabinet ministers, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Lord Frost, were the only others round the Cabinet to voice concerns in the meeting.