This morning Kwasi Kwarteng, the former chancellor, announced that he plans to step down at the next election. But there is still at least one senior Trussite who plans to fight on. This lunchtime Liz Truss herself appeared at the Emmanuel Centre in Westminster to launch her new outfit, PopCon, a grassroots group to generate new Tory policies.
Addressing a packed room, the former prime minister criticised ‘left wing extremists’ as she took aim at Tory MPs pursuing policies that would make them popular at ‘London dinner parties’. Truss argued it was time for MPs and supporters more generally to find ‘resilience and bravery’ to start making conservative arguments: ‘I believe the fundamental issue is that for years, and years and years… Conservatives have not taken on the left-wing extremists.’
The new group – full name ‘popular conservatism’ – is meant to serve as a place for the Tories to have policy debates and to push for the party to embrace freedom and economic liberalism, along with a socially conservative agenda. Kicking off the launch, its director Mark Littlewood was quick to insist that this isn’t about Rishi Sunak and his leadership.
Instead, he argued the outfit is focused on new policies and ideas rather than finding a new leader. In a sign that the organisers do not want to be associated with the various forces currently trying to oust Sunak, the former cabinet minister Simon Clarke was dropped as a speaker after he called publicly for Sunak to go. Meanwhile, Ranil Jayawardena – who also served in the Truss government – pulled out of the event seemingly over concerns the group appeared too critical of Sunak. Announcing his plans to give it a miss, Jayawardena repeated the government line that a vote for Labour would take the country back to square one.