Embattled, humiliated and lampooned, Liz Truss has few public allies left. And she certainly has one less after today, following the suspension of Jason Stein, her acting director of communications in No. 10. Stein is a longtime supporter who managed much of Truss’s press operations during the summer leadership campaign.
But shortly before PMQs the BBC reported that Stein had been suspended and is now due to face a formal investigation by the Propriety and Ethics Team in Whitehall. It follows a briefing in last week’s Sunday Times in which unnamed No. 10 sources had ridiculed the prospect of Sajid Javid replacing Kwasi Kwarteng as Chancellor. A source close to Truss suggested her view of her onetime leadership rival was not favourable: ‘She has sat in the cabinet with Javid for ten years and she knows who is good and who is shit.’ There was fury among Tory MPs at the disparaging nature of that briefing, especially given Truss’s own recent humiliations.
Steerpike understands that Javid had threatened to ask a question at Prime Minister’s Questions about the incident unless Stein – who he alleged was behind the incident – was disciplined and an apology given. Aides in Downing Street – reportedly deputy chief of staff Ruth Porter – took action. Notably, after Stein’s suspension was announced, Javid did not ask a question.
Regardless, Stein’s suspension is yet another headache for a No 10 team in dire need of comms experience. Stein has been filling in to cover Adam Jones, the official director of communications, who is off on leave to get married. With Stein and Jones both out of action, there’s little sign of Penny Mordaunt’s tongue-in-cheek jibe being disproved anytime soon…