Tory civil war grows at conference as Suella Braverman accuses MPs of ‘coup’

Home Secretary Suella Braverman speaking at the Conservative Party annual conference  (PA)
Home Secretary Suella Braverman speaking at the Conservative Party annual conference (PA)

The Conservatives were hit with more open divisions on the third day of its party conference as the Home Secretary accused her colleagues of a “coup” over plans to scrap the top rate of tax.

Prime Minister Liz Truss already finds herself under severe pressure after senior members of her team appeared to openly contradict each other and other MPs descended into bitter infighting.

Several blue-on-blue attacks have marred the conference in Birmingham.

Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, suggested that Tory rebels such as Michael Gove, whose criticism was among the reasons the Government performed a humiliating U-turn on scrapping the top rate of tax, had effectively “staged a coup” against Ms Truss.

“I’m disappointed about the subsequent reversal but I accept their reasons," Ms Braverman said, during the recording of a podcast at the conference.

Ms Braverman’s comments were backed by Simon Clarke, the Levelling Up Secretary and close Truss ally, but Kemi Badenoch, criticised her choice of words.

“I think that sort of a language is just too inflammatory,” the Trade Secretary said.

Prime Minister Liz Truss during a visit to a construction site during the conference (Getty Images)
Prime Minister Liz Truss during a visit to a construction site during the conference (Getty Images)

An ongoing row over the issue of whether to uprate benefits in line with inflation also threatenened to deepen Tory divisions.

Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt, another former leadership contender, said it “makes sense" to increase benefits in line with soaring inflation rather than deliver a real-terms cut - despite Ms Truss saying no decision had yet been made.

Ms Truss is instead considering a raise in line with the far lower figure of earnings, but said she would not be sacking Ms Mordaunt for publicly stating her stance.

As the Prime Minister gears up to present her vision to party members on Wednesday, she was warned by Tory critics that she could face further revolt if the polls continue to show significant Labour leads.

Grant Shapps, the former Transport Secretary and Tory leadership hopeful earlier this year, suggested Ms Truss had about ten days to save her premiership after delivering her conference speech on Wednesday.

While insisting he wanted Ms Truss to succeed, he told Times Radio: “I don’t think members of parliament, Conservatives, if they see the polls continue as they are, are going to sit on their hands. A way would be found to make that change.”

Meanwhile, there was confusion over another apparent reversal from the Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng after he told the conference he would publish his fiscal plan and Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts “shortly".

Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng (Getty Images)
Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng (Getty Images)

His allies had been hinting this meant bringing the publications forward from November 23 to this month.

But Ms Truss insisted the originally planned date was still going ahead, forcing Mr Kwarteng to deny in an interview that he had intended on changing his plan, suggesting people had been “reading the runes" incorrectly. The BBC reported on Tuesday evening that the OBR forecasts would be brought forward.

Among those delivering speeches in the hall at Birmingham’s ICC was deputy Prime Minister and Health Secretary, Thérèse Coffey, who repeated her pledges to tackle waiting times for NHS services.

However, despite the infighting at the conference, the events of the day did not seem to be lively enough for some delegates in the audience, a couple of whom were spotted appearing to be asleep during Ms Coffey’s speech.

Therese Coffey speaking during the Conservative Party conference (PA)
Therese Coffey speaking during the Conservative Party conference (PA)

Also giving a speech was Ms Braverman, the Home Secretary, who told party loyalists migrants crossing the Channel will face a ban from claiming asylum in Britain under Government plans.

The new laws would impose a blanket ban on anyone deemed entering the UK illegally from seeking refuge.

Ms Braverman said: “We have got to stop the boats crossing the Channel. This has gone on far too long.

“But I have to be straight with you: there are no quick fixes and the problem is chronic.”

While her speech, her first major address since assuming the role, was warmly welcomed with applause in the conference hall, it also provoked criticism from long-standing Tory MP Sir Roger Gale.

He tweeted: “The new Home Secretary’s dog-whistle response to illegal immigration may play well at a party conference but what is needed is a mature and realistic response to a very real international problem not a childish re-write of failed UKIP soundbites.”

Ms Braverman also told a fringe event that she personally wanted the UK to leave the European Convention on Human Rights - contrary to Government policy.

“That is not government policy, I should say, government policy is to do everything we can within the convention, within the boundaries of the convention,” she said.

A senior Government source quickly slapped down her comments, telling the PA news agency: “As Suella acknowledged, her personal views are contrary to government policy and if she wishes to make those views known within government she should do so in a more appropriate setting.”