Liz Truss dramatically quit today, admitting defeat following crisis talks with Tory chiefs in Downing Street and with MPs in open insurrection.
After just 44 disastrous days in No10, the PM took to a lectern outside the famous black door to confirm her departure, sealing her fate as the shortest-serving premier in modern political history.
Revealing she had informed the King of her decision, she said: ‘I cannot deliver on the mandate…. I will remain as PM until a successor has been chosen.’
Ms Truss – who insisted she was a ‘fighter not a quitter’ barely 24 hours ago – said the Tory leadership contest will be completed over the next week. Giving her valedictory statement, she was watched by husband Hugh.
Attention immediately turns to the leadership battle – with Jeremy Hunt ruling himself out within minutes. However, Penny Mordaunt’s ‘grassroots’ campaign Twitter account has already fired up, while Rishi Sunak allies said he is almost certain to stand and Suella Braverman is likely to run.
Boris Johnson, currently on holiday in the Caribbean, could bid for a shock return just six weeks after he left office.
Conservative 1922 Committee chair Sir Graham Brady told journalists in Westminster that a replacement should be in place by October 28, in time for the Halloween Budget.
Liz Truss’s resignation statement in full
I came into office at a time of great economic and international instability.
Families and businesses were worried about how to pay their bills.
Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine threatens the security of our whole continent.
And our country had been held back for too long by low economic growth.
I was elected by the Conservative Party with a mandate to change this.
We delivered on energy bills and on cutting national insurance.
And we set out a vision for a low tax, high growth economy – that would take advantage of the freedoms of Brexit.
I recognise though, given the situation, I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative Party.
I have therefore spoken to His Majesty The King to notify him that I am resigning as Leader of the Conservative Party.
This morning I met the Chair of the 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady.
We have agreed there will be a leadership election to be completed in the next week.
This will ensure we remain on a path to deliver our fiscal plans and maintain our country’s economic stability and national security.
I will remain as Prime Minister until a successor has been chosen.
He suggested that the membership could be ‘involved’ on that schedule, but refused to give details of how.
The bombshelll news follows a week of carnage that saw a bewildering array of U-turns on the mini-Budget, the Chancellor and Home Secretary quit, confusion over whether the Chief Whip had followed her out of the door, and MPs wrestling in Commons voting lobbies.
A slew of apocalyptic polls showing Labour up to 36 points ahead had also fuelled outright panic in the Parliamentary party.
Ms Truss held crisis talks with 1922 chair Graham Brady, deputy PM Therese Coffey and Tory chair Jake Berry in the building earlier, as they delivered grim message about the mood of the party.
A series of previously-loyal MPs joined calls for her to go this morning. Even supportive Cabinet ministers had been conceding the situation is ‘terminal’.
Transport Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan was sent out to prop up the PM this morning, but would only say that ‘at the moment’ she believes Ms Truss will lead the Tories into the next election.
The main obstacle to removing Ms Truss over recent days was the lack of consensus on who should take over and what the process should be, with little appetite for a drawn-out contest.
Nadine Dorries has warned the only person who would be acceptable in a ‘coronation’ is Mr Johnson.
One idea being pushed by influential Tories is that MPs vote on a successor, but there is a very high threshold of nominations to get on the ballot.
The 1922 committee could ask candidates to agree that they will step aside if they are not in pole position when the field is whittled down to a final two. That would avoid the need for a run-off vote of the entire party membership.
A source said of the blueprint: ‘That has been put to someone very senior in the party, very, very senior.’
Events accelerated after another bout of madness at Westminster yesterday culminated in stories of tears and tantrums in Parliament, with Ms Truss allegedly engaging in a shouting match with her own enforcers.
Deputy PM Therese Coffey was accused of ‘manhandling’ Tory MPs to vote against a Labour motion that could have killed the government’s plans to resume fracking – something she denies.
The premier tried to force the issue by declaring that it was a matter of confidence, meaning a defeat the would have collapsed the government. But at the end of the debate a minister declared that it was not in fact a confidence vote – triggering fury from Chief Whip Wendy Morton and her deputy Craig Whittaker.
Other whips told MPs they had resigned, but after three hours of silence and frantic wrangling behind the scenes Downing Street announced they were still in post. A 1.33am statement then made clear that it had been a confidence vote, warning that around 30 MPs who abstained will be disciplined.
However, in another twist this morning, Ms Trevelyan said that it had not been a confidence vote.
The PM lost her second Cabinet heavyweight in five days after Suella Braverman resigned as Home Secretary, admitting using of her personal email to campaign against the government’s own immigration policy – but also hit out at Ms Truss for ditching key policies, suggesting she should also quit for ‘mistakes’.
The PM appointed Grants Shapps, a Rishi Sunak supporter who as late as Monday was telling media that her government was unsustainable.
As Ms Truss time in power came shuddering to an ignominious end:
- Sterling shot up to $1.13 before the speech as markets anticipated that Ms Truss would resign, before paring back gains slightly to stand 0.4 per cent higher at $1.126 after her resignation statement;
- Labour leader Keir Starmer has twisted the knife demanding an immediate general election;
- Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has launched an investigation into the claims of bullying during the votes last night;
- The Pound has dropped to $1.119 against the US dollar, its lowest level for a week, as markets digest the political turmoil.
After just 44 days in No10 – the shortest term in modern political history – the PM took to a lectern outside the famous black door to confirm her departure
Ms Truss was watched by husband Hugh as she delivered her emotional announcement in Downing Street today
Afterwards the PM and her husband wa;led disconsolately back into the building, where they took up residence little over a month ago
Chair of the 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady is in Downing Street speaking to the PM today
Penny Mordaunt’s leadership campaign Twitter account already seems to have been fired up today
Truss to be shortest serving PM ever
Liz Truss will be the shortest serving prime minister in British history.
She has currently clocked up 44 full days in the role – a long way behind the next shortest premiership, that of Tory statesman George Canning, who spent 118 full days as PM in 1827 before dying in office from ill health.
Ms Truss was to have overtaken this number of days on January 3 2023.
But instead she will fall short by more than two months, with the next prime minister due to be elected within the next week.
Some PMs have had shorter terms, but gone on to take charge in No10 again.
Tory backbencher Gary Streeter said he believed that Ms Truss must go, but warned that even the ‘Angel Gabriel’ will struggle to lead the party because it lacks ‘discipline, mutual respect and teamwork’.
Fellow Conservative Sheryl Murray said: ‘I had high hopes for Liz Truss but after what happened last night her position has become untenable and I have submitted a letter to Sir Graham Brady.’
Hendon MP Matthew Offord told the Evening Standard said Ms Truss needs to make a ‘dignified exit’. ‘I can’t see the situation being sustainable. She does need to sit down and discuss it with her Cabinet and with others to manage some kind of dignified exit.’
Crawley MP Henry Smith told Times Radio that the Conservatives ‘cannot delay’ getting rid of the premier.
Tory Jill Mortimer, who shocked Labour by winning the Hartlepool by-election just last year, shared an image of her letter of no confidence on Facebook.
She added: ‘Yesterday, I tried to get called in PMQs to ask Liz Truss for an assurance of support for our town and our promises.
‘Sadly I was not called and the deteriorating situation throughout the day left me with no choice but to submit a letter of no confidence in the Prime Minister to Sir Graham Brady.’
Senior MP Simon Hoare told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I’m a glass half full sort of person. Can the ship be turned around? Yes. But I think there’s about 12 hours to do it.
‘I think today and tomorrow are crunch days. I have never known – OK, I’ve only been an MP for seven years – but a growing sense of pessimism in all wings of the Tory party.’
In a rant during an interview that was retweeted by colleagues, veteran Conservative MP Charles Walker said: ‘I think it’s a shambles and a disgrace. I think it is utterly appalling. I am livid.’
Last night Conservative MPs were confident that between 50 and 100 letters of no confidence had been submitted to Sir Graham, despite current rules stating the committee cannot hold a vote of confidence in Liz Truss for a year after her appointment.
And in another hit for the PM, Tory MP William Wragg confirmed within the House of Commons that he was one of those who has submitted a letter. There are now at least 14 Tory MPs on the record who have said Ms Truss can’t continue.
Recent polling shows Ms Truss has lower approval ratings than both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn at any time during their time as leader of their parties.
After the government declared yesterday morning that the vote on banning fracking was an issue of confidence and all Conservative MPs had to vote against the motion, raucous scenes ensued after Climate Minister Graham Stuart at the last minute told the Commons it was not a confidence motion after all.
Deputy chief whip Craig Whittaker had written to Conservatives telling them it is a ‘100 per cent hard 3 line whip!’
‘We cannot, under any circumstances, let the Labour Party take control of the order paper and put through their own legislation and whatever other bits of legislation they desire,’ he said.
‘We are voting NO and I reiterate, this is a hard 3 line whip with all slips withdrawn.’
The last-minute withdrawal of this caused Chief Whip Wendy Morton to storm out of the Chamber, before reportedly publicly declaring ‘I am no longer the Chief Whip’ while standing just a metre away from the PM.
While Tory MPs were originally telling reporters that both the Chief Whip and her Deputy, Craig Whittaker, had quit their roles and handed in resignation letters, confusion soon intensified after it was reported Liz Truss followed Ms Morton and pulled her into an intense meeting to prevent her quitting.
Mr Whittaker reportedly declared as he walked out of the division lobby: ‘I am f***ing furious and I don’t give a f*** any more.’
For several hours, no-one from the government could confirm or deny the claims that both the top whips had resigned. When pressed on issue, Business Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said he was ‘not clear’ what the ‘situation’ with the whips was.
By 9pm, Ms Coffey was telling reporters outside the Carlton Club – where with exquisite timing the entire Cabinet was due to attend a dinner for the centenary of the agreement that sunk Lloyd George’s government – that Ms Morton had won a ‘great victory’ by defeating the Labour motion.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt was seen deep in conversation on his phone in Whitehall today
Deputy PM Therese Coffey and Tory chair Jake Berry have also gone into the building, fuelling speculation that the crisis could be about to peak
Chief Whip Wendy Morton and Tory chair Jake Berry were seen going in and out of Downing Street today, although that in itself is not unusual
Nadine Dorries warned the only person who could return in a ‘coronation’ is Boris Johnson. Other MPs want Rishi Sunak or Penny Mordaunt to take over
No10 confirmed at 9.49pm that the pair were indeed remaining in post.
The Carlton Club bash was originally due to be black tie, but was downgraded to avoid pix of the Cabinet looking too decadent on day huge inflation figures were unveiled.
‘If only that was our biggest problem,’ said one source.
There were extraordinary scenes within Westminster as Tory MPs were left in chaos after the apparent u-turn on the ‘confidence’ vote, leaving them unsure whether they could now abstain or vote against without losing the whip.
Multiple MPs claim they witnessed shouting and screaming amongst Conservative MPs and senior ministers, while the senior members of the whip’s office were nowhere to be seen.
The barely believable scenes in the division lobbies – captured on camera by Labour MP Chris Bryant in defiance of Commons rules – were the latest evidence of the wheels falling off Ms Truss’s administration.
Labour had tabled a motion trying to ban fresh drilling and Tory whips told backbenchers it was a ‘confidence motion’ that could in theory bring down Ms Truss. They threatened to kick rebels out the party if they did not vote with the Government.
No Tories voted against the government but 40 abstained – including Kwasi Kwarteng, who was chancellor until last week. Commons records show Ms Truss abstained, although there are now claims that is a mistake and she did vote with the government.
Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg said: ‘Late in the day, a junior official at 10 Downing Street sent a message through to the front bench that it was not a vote of confidence and nobody else was aware of that.
‘The whips were not aware of that, I was not aware of that and most members thought that it was a vote of confidence. It was simply one of those unfortunate miscommunications that occasionally happens.
Labour MPs reported screaming and shouting and Tory MPs being dragged in to vote with the Government.
Speaking in the chamber afterwards, former minister Chris Bryant said: ‘I would urge you to launch an investigation into the scenes outside the entrance to the no lobby earlier.
Suella Braverman returned home from the school run this morning after quitting as Home Secretary yesterday amid claims she had a 90-minute row with the PM over immigration first
The barely believable scenes in the division lobbies – captured on camera by Labour MP Chris Bryant in defiance of Commons rules – were the latest evidence of the wheels falling off Liz Truss’s administration
‘As you know, members are expected to be able to vote without fear or favour and the behaviour code which is agreed by the whole of the House says there shall never be bullying or harassment.
‘I saw members being physically manhandled into another lobby and being bullied. If we want to stand up against bullying in this House of our staff, we have to stop bullying in this chamber as well.’
Later on Sky he directly accused Deputy PM Therese Coffey and Mr Rees-Mogg of manhandling MP Alex Stafford into the voting lobby, though he described it as a ‘heated exchange’.
But Mr Stafford later commented on Twitter that ‘no-one pushes me around’ in a denial of Labour’s version of events.
Nevertheless, dozens of opposition MPs shared their own eyewitness accounts on social media during and shortly after the voting period which appeared to back up the allegations, including government whips ‘screaming’, Therese Coffey ‘practically picking up’ another MP to walk them through the ‘No’ lobby, and multiple MPs in tears.
Shadow minister Anna McMorrin wrote on Twitter that she witnessed an MP ‘in tears’ in the lobby.
A Tory MP who witnessed the height of the chaos said: ‘I was waiting for the votes and then Craig Whittaker came out crying and saying he’s sick of everything. Then Wendy came out stony faced. The other whips say they have quit. It was absolute carnage.’
Ms Truss eventually won the vote by 326 to 230 but among the chaos Chief Whip Wendy Morton also abstained.
One miserable Cabinet source told MailOnline: ‘At this rate I’m going to be PM by Christmas.
‘The writing was on the wall for Wendy since the day of her appointment.’
Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg said he was ‘not entirely clear what the situation is with the chief whip’.
Conservative MP Sir Charles Walker, MP for Broxbourne since 2005, told the BBC: ‘This whole affair is inexcusable. It is a pitiful reflection on the Conservative Party.’
When asked whether there is a way back for the government, Mr Walker said: ‘I don’t think so.’
In a letter, Ms Braverman said she was resigning for breaching processes by sending an email from her personal account about a forthcoming ministerial statement on immigration
Ms Truss responded with a much briefer letter saying it is ‘important the Ministerial Code is upheld’
Grant Shapps has been installed as the new Home Secretary, despite being one of the most prominent critics of the PM
What did Suella Braverman say in her resignation letter?
Suella Braverman resigned as Home Secretary yesterday in yet another blow to Truss’ authority: but did not go quietly.
In her letter, Ms Braverman said she sent a message from her personal email to a ‘trusted parliamentary colleague as part of policy engagement, and with the aim of garnering support for government policy on migration’.
She acknowledged that constituted a ‘technical infringement of the rules’, the document was a draft written ministerial statement, and while much of it had already been briefed to MPs ‘nevertheless it is right for me to go’.
She said ‘the business of government relies upon people accepting responsibility for their mistakes’ adding: ‘Pretending we haven’t made mistakes, carrying on as if everyone can’t see we have made them and hoping that things will magically come right is not serious politics.
‘I have made a mistake; I accept responsibility; I resign.’
She added: ‘It is obvious to everyone that we are going through a tumultuous time.
‘I have concerns about the direction of this government. Not only have we broken key pledges that were promised to our voters, but I have had serious concerns about this Government’s commitment to honouring manifesto commitments, such as reducing overall migration numbers and stopping illegal migration, particularly the dangerous small boats crossings.’
He added: ‘This is an absolute disgrace.
‘I think it’s a shambles and a disgrace. I think it is utterly appalling. I am livid.
‘I hope all those people who put Liz Truss in No.10 I hope it was worth it. […] Because the damage they have done to our party is extraordinary.’
‘I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough of talentless people putting their tick in the right box, not because it’s in the national interest, but because it’s in their personal interest.’
Later he added: ‘I expect the prime minister to resign very soon because she’s not up to her job.’
Hours earlier Home Secretary Suella Braverman was forced to resign yesterday, ostensibly for breaching protocol by sending an email from her personal account to a contact revealing details of an announcement on immigration policy.
Downing Street said Mrs Braverman, the shortest serving Home Secretary of modern times, had resigned after sending a confidential document to a Tory MP in breach of the ministerial code.
But multiple sources said her departure followed a ‘fiery’ 90-minute meeting between her and Miss Truss in No 10 the previous night at which the Home Secretary warned the PM it would be ‘insane’ to relax immigration rules in order to boost economic growth.
In an explosive resignation letter last night Mrs Braverman suggested that the PM should quit and savaged her record.
‘It is obvious to everyone that we are going through a tumultuous time,’ she wrote.
‘I have concerns about the direction of this Government. Not only have we broken key pledges that were promised to our voters, but I have had serious concerns about this Government’s commitment to honouring manifesto commitments, such as reducing overall migration numbers.’
She swiped that when people made ‘mistakes’ – something Ms Truss has admitted – the right thing to do was quit.
Ms Truss responded with a much briefer letter saying it is ‘important the Ministerial Code is upheld’ and quickly installed Grant Shapps – previously a strident critic and Rishi Sunak supporter – as a replacement.
On Monday of this week, Mr Shapps publicly said that if Ms Truss were to save her premiership, she would need to ‘thread the eye of a needle with the lights off’.
Ms Braverman was under pressure to sign off a plan to liberalise migration rules to help boost the economy, as part of Ms Truss’s drive for growth. The former minister appears to have sent an email with details of the proposed policy to a parliamentary staffer, with speculation she could have been trying to sabotage it.
One Tory MP close to Ms Braverman told MailOnline of the security breach: ‘It’s the kind of thing that you give a wrap on the knuckles and carry on – unless you want to get rid of someone.’
The MP said Ms Braverman ‘wasn’t happy over their stance on immigration’, and also warned more resignations could be imminent. ‘I get the impression we’re going to get an avalanche.’
Mr Shapps did not offer any solace to Ms Truss as he spoke outside the Home Office late on Thursday, stressing his duty is to keep the country secure. ‘It’s been a turbulent time for the government. The most important thing is for the people of the country to know that they have got security.’
MPs yesterday described the Cabinet as a ‘caretaker’ government, and many do not believe that Ms Truss can even survive until the Halloween Budget regardless of divisions over who should take over.
Hardline home secretary who shunned party line
Suella Braverman was only in the Home Office for a matter of weeks but she spent most of it positioning herself for a tilt at another job – that of prime minister.
The hardline Brexiteer was handed the top job as an acknowledgement of her popularity with the right of the party in the summer leadership contest.
But during her tenure she made a series of outbursts that put her at odds with Liz Truss, raising suggestions she was positioning herself for the next leadership race.
The 42-year-old mother-of two hit the headlines just yesterday with a rant against the ‘tofu-eating wokerati’ for effectively preventing police from arresting eco-zealots who have caused mayhem and misery during weeks of protest.
She hit out at MPs who voted against tough new measures to strengthen police powers to deal with activists more quickly.
Addressing the Commons as MPs debated the Public Order Bill, Mrs Braverman said: ‘I’m afraid it’s the Labour Party, it’s the Lib Dems, it’s the coalition of chaos, it’s the Guardian-reading, tofu-eating wokerati – dare I say, the anti-growth coalition – that we have to thank for the disruption we are seeing on our roads today.’
Her comments came as police arrested two Just Stop Oil protesters who spent 36 hours suspended from the QEII bridge, closing a major transport link between Kent and Essex due to safety fears.
At the Conservative Party conference a fortnight ago she also attacked the PM for U-turniong over plans to axe the 45p top rate of income tax.
She launched a swipe as the PM tried to regain her balance, branding the U-turn on axing the 45p tax rate ‘disappointing’ and accusing rebels of a ‘coup’.
She was also blamed recently for jeopardizing a free trade deal with India by accusing its people of being the worst at overstaying visas in the UK.
The staunch Brexiteer, who served loyally in Boris Johnson’s Cabinet as Attorney General, was appointed to replace Priti Patel as home secretary.
Like Miss Patel, she is of Indian ancestry – her parents, of Goan and Mauritian origins, emigrated to Britain in the 1960s from East Africa before setting up base in Harrow, north-west London.
Her mother, a nurse by profession, ensured politics was a part of family life. A Tory councillor for 16 years, she also stood for Parliament in 2001 and 2003.
Mrs Braverman herself was an early adopter of Tory values, serving as president of the Cambridge University Conservative Association while studying law.
After two failed parliamentary runs, she was elected as MP for Fareham in Hampshire in 2015 and rose through the party ranks quickly.
Outside politics, Mrs Braverman has two children with her husband Rael, whom she married at the House of Commons in 2018.
She has faced questions over her involvement with the controversial Buddhist Triratna sect.
The Triratna order, formerly one of Buddhism’s largest sects in the UK, has been the subject of historic sexual abuse allegations.
Mrs Braverman is believed to have attended meetings and retreats organised by the group, and was known as a ‘mitra’ – or friend – within the order.
After another difficult PMQs, during which she stunned the house by performing yet another u-turn in announcing she was committed to the pensions triple lock, Ms Truss abruptly cancelled a visit to an aerospace firm earlier without giving a reason beyond ‘government business’.
She is now facing Tory mutiny on a bewildering range of issues.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt addressed the Conservative 1922 committee last night, and is said to have quipped, ‘this sh** would be interesting if I wasn’t in the middle of it’ – a quote from Barack Obama.
Northern Ireland Secretary Steve Baker was sent out on TV to insist Ms Braverman was not attacking the premier, and would still be Home Secretary if not for the security issue.
He said he hoped that she would be brought back into government in the New Year.
Ms Braverman has repeatedly been embroiled in controversy since taking over at the Home Office.
At the Tory conference she complained about the 45p tax rate being kept, and said she wanted Britain to leave the European Convention on Human Rights. She has also suggested that rules on visas for Indian nationals should not be relaxed, seemingly torpedoing a mooted trade deal.
Earlier this week she attacked the ‘tofu-eating wokerati’ for effectively preventing police from arresting eco-zealots who have caused mayhem and misery during weeks of protest.
The PM’s press secretary shrugged off the latest intervention this afternoon, saying Ms Braverman had a ‘way with words’.
In front of a gloomy Tory rank-and-file in the Commons during yesterday’s PMQs, a clearly-rattled Ms Truss admitted she was ‘sorry’ and had ‘made mistakes’.
But despite Keir Starmer joking that she will be ‘out by Christmas’ after her ‘fantasy economics ended in disaster’, Ms Truss insisted she will not resign.
‘I am a fighter not a quitter,’ she said, echoing a famous line from Labour’s Peter Mandelson.
The clashes came as inflation surged back into double-digits with food prices heaping more pain on hard-pressed Britons.
The government had been hinting that pensioners faced real-terms cuts as part of a desperate £40billion spending squeeze – but Ms Truss tried to kill off the issue by declaring she will stick to the triple lock. ‘I am completely committed to it, so is the Chancellor,’ she said as Jeremy Hunt watched from beside her on the the green benches.
However, she pointedly stopped short of making the same promise on uprating benefits, another area where Tories are threatening to revolt.
Steve Double warned she could only have ‘days’ left as he called her position ‘untenable’, while William Wragg said he had sent a letter of no-confidence to the 1922 committee chief Graham Brady.
Sir Graham is believed to have informed the premier that more than 50 Tories have privately sent him no-confidence letters.
Ms Truss told MPs: ‘I have been very clear that I am sorry and that I have made mistakes.’
Amid shouts of ‘resign’, she added: ‘The right thing to do in those circumstances is to make changes, which I have made, and to get on with the job and deliver for the British people.’
Former Cabinet minister Sajid Javid had been slated to ask a question at PMQs, but apparently pulled out at the last minute. As the session began reports emerged that Ms Truss’s senior aide Jason Stein has been suspended pending an investigating into briefing. There was a vicious barb at Mr Javid over the weekend claiming he was not offered the Chancellor job because the PM regarded him as ‘sh**’.
The PM’s press secretary said this afternoon: ‘I am not going to get into individual staffing matters but the Prime Minister has made very clear to her team that some of the sort of briefings that we have seen are completely unacceptable about parliamentary colleagues and they must stop.’
The cost-of-living crisis is the stark backdrop for a crisis at Westminster as Ms Truss desperately battles to cling on after being forced to sack ally Kwasi Kwarteng and ditch the disastrous mini-Budget that triggered havoc on markets – before any of last night’s chaos came into play.
PMQs was only Ms Truss’s third since entering No10 and came just a week after she insisted there would ‘absolutely not’ be spending cuts. Mr Hunt – who has been branded the ‘de facto PM’ – now says cuts will be ‘eye-watering’.