'We aren't robots - we don't stifle debate in the Tory party': James Cleverly downplays Conservative infighting

5 October 2022, 08:32 | Updated: 5 October 2022, 08:37

The foreign secretary downplayed Tory infighting
The foreign secretary downplayed Tory infighting. Picture: LBC

By Will Taylor

James Cleverly has called for Cabinet unity and said it is a good thing Conservatives are "not robots" as Liz Truss battles to keep MPs onside.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Sections of her party have been left reeling from a disastrous mini-budget that sent the pound's value tumbling and led to an extraordinary £65bn Bank of England intervention to save pension funds.

Even MPs who attend Cabinet appear out of step with Ms Truss's agenda.

Asked if he had even known a time that the Conservative Party was in such a state of war, Mr Cleverly, the foreign secretary, told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast: "We are not robots, this is not the kind of party where dissent, debate is stifled.

"What we do is we discuss things, we talk about things, but ultimately when we make decisions, particularly as ministers, we are bound by collective responsibility.

"And we work as a team to deliver for the British people."

Read more: Truss to insist 'disruption is the price of success' as she fights to bring warring Cabinet into line

James Cleverly: This is not the kind of party where debate is stifled

Ms Truss has already had to make a humiliating U-turn on her policy to abolish the 45p top rate of income tax.

She then failed to rule out further U-turns and apologised to LBC for saying previously that no family would pay more than £2,500 for energy bills, when the Government’s price guarantee is actually per unit of energy used – meaning some households will earn more.

Penny Mordaunt, a former leadership rival of Ms Truss who now attends Cabinet as leader of the Commons, said she believes it "makes sense" for benefits to rise with inflation.

Read more: Tories currently set to 'absolutely lose' a general election 'because of what we did to Boris Johnson', says Dorries

That is despite the expected policy to be for benefits to rise by about 5.4%, in line with earnings, saving the Government about £5bn.

Big name Tories like Michael Gove have been among those to criticise the Government’s recent plans, with him being among the most prominent voices against abolishing the top rate of tax before the U-turn.

In a backlash against Government critics within the party, levelling up secretary Simon Clarke backed home secretary Suella Braverman's description of Conservative rebels holding a "coup".

Mr Cleverly told Nick: "Party conference is about having a debate, that is why we have fringe meetings and that's why we come together once a year, to kick ideas around, to have debates, have discussions.

“We know that not everyone will always agree with everything but ultimately what we have is a Prime Minister who is very, very clear on the direction of travel we need to take, and that is an unapologetically pro-growth agenda.

"Some of that debate is inevitably going to generate understandable interest, that's why we have the debate, but ultimately all ministers are going to be bound by collective responsibility.

"I'm an old fashioned kind of guy… I feed my idea in directly to the Prime Minister because I'm in a privileged position to do so."

Liz Truss is due to make her speech to the Tory conference later today in a bid to rally dissenting MPs.