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‘Turnip Taliban’ leader accuses Liz Truss of ‘cavorting with pro-Trump extremists’ in US

The leader of the so-called “Turnip Taliban” Tory rebels bidding to oust Liz Truss in her Norfolk constituency has launched a blistering attack on the former prime minister for “cavorting with right-wing extremists in the US”.

James Bagge, who plans to stand against Ms Truss as an independent candidate in her South West Norfolk constituency at the general election, denounced her for “declaring kinship with Donald Trump and Nigel Farage” at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland last week.

Former prime minister Liz Truss addresses an audience at CPAC in the US on 22 February 2024 (AP)
Former prime minister Liz Truss addresses an audience at CPAC in the US on 22 February 2024 (AP)

And the lawyer and ex-army officer criticised her for using the rally to blame the British “deep state” – her Trump-style euphemism for Whitehall, quangos and other state institutions – for the economic crisis that ended her disastrous short-lived term in Downing St in 2022.

Ms Truss has “little judgement” and has only herself to blame for her downfall, said Mr Bagge.

James Bagge, lawyer and ex-army officer, has criticised Truss for using the CPAC rally to blame the British ‘deep state’ (Garlinda Birkbeck)
James Bagge, lawyer and ex-army officer, has criticised Truss for using the CPAC rally to blame the British ‘deep state’ (Garlinda Birkbeck)

Far from sabotaging her administration, it is the very institutions she railed against that saved the nation from her reckless policies, he added.

“Ms Truss talks of democratically elected governments unable to enact policies because they have been blocked by the ‘economic establishment’ and of a civil service populated by activists,” he told The Independent.

“Her problem, which she fails to acknowledge, is that she enacted a policy of her own choice, despite warnings, and then immediately tried to pin the blame on her hapless chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng.

“But it was the financial markets, not the establishment, which determined the failure of her completely ruinous mini-Budget – and it was the actions of those she now dismisses that saved the day, namely the Bank of England and the Treasury.”

He added: “She is a woman with little judgement in evidence, and apparently incapable of accepting personal responsibility.”

Mr Bagge, 71, is among prominent local Conservatives who resigned from the party in protest at Ms Truss’s selection as its candidate for South West Norfolk in 2009 after complaints that she had been “foisted” on them by Tory HQ.

Bagge has accused Truss of displaying double standards at the US rally, which was attended by thousands of Trump supporters as well as former Ukip leader Nigel Farage (AP)
Bagge has accused Truss of displaying double standards at the US rally, which was attended by thousands of Trump supporters as well as former Ukip leader Nigel Farage (AP)

They argued she had no links to the area and accused party chiefs of failing to inform them that she had had an affair with a married Tory MP. The episode led to Ms Truss’s critics in the East Anglian agricultural constituency being labelled the “Turnip Taliban”.

Mr Bagge accused Ms Truss of displaying double standards at the US rally, which was attended by thousands of Trump supporters as well as former Ukip leader Nigel Farage.

She “declares her support for Trump” – who is expected to reduce aid to Ukraine in its war with Russia if he becomes president next year – “while demanding assistance for Ukraine”, he said. “She cavorts with right-wing extremists, sharing a platform and declaring kinship with Farage, Trump and others.”

Bagge resigned from the party in protest at Truss’s selection as its candidate for South West Norfolk in 2009 (Alamy)
Bagge resigned from the party in protest at Truss’s selection as its candidate for South West Norfolk in 2009 (Alamy)

At the CPAC gathering, Ms Truss said conservatives in both the US and the UK need a “bigger bazooka” with which to fight the left.

“Unless conservatives become more active in speaking out, Western civilisation is doomed,” she argued.

Mr Bagge is holding a series of public meetings in Norfolk in an effort to win backing for his challenge against Ms Truss. If he defeated her, it would be one of the biggest election upsets of all time.