With shape shifting new friends like The Saj, Liz should beware

DAN HODGES: With shape shifting new friends like The Saj, Liz should beware

He’s done it again. Having resigned from Boris’s government, rejoined, then resigned once more, The Saj has now bailed out on Rishi Sunak.

The man who once hailed Sunak as his Padawan – a youthful Jedi apprentice – during their time at the Treasury, yesterday shoved a lightsabre through his friend’s shoulder blades by endorsing Liz Truss.

In a move entirely unrelated to the publication of a recent poll showing Miss Truss with a 30-point lead amongst Tory members, Javid bravely announced: ‘The immediate tests of the new Prime Minister will be, first, whether they can reunite the party and, second, to restore a sense of purpose, with a bold Conservative policy agenda… after careful consideration it is clear to me that Liz Truss is best placed to pass these tests.’

It was evident he had thought long and hard about his choice.

So long and hard that by the end he had come to the startling conclusion his colleague represented nothing less than ‘the best of Thatcher and Reagan’.

He’s done it again. Having resigned from Boris’s government, rejoined, then resigned once more, The Saj has now bailed out on Rishi Sunak, writes Dan Hodges. Pictured: Together in 2010

According to friends (or at least those friends who weren’t casting a wary glance over their own shoulders) Javid finally opted to join Team Truss because of his concern Chancellor Sunak had failed to pursue a sufficiently vigorous tax-cutting agenda.

Which was odd, because back in April he’d taken to the airwaves to defend a National Insurance hike that saw taxes rise to levels not seen since the 1940’s as ‘right’ and ‘fair’.

To be fair, The Saj is not alone in finding himself suddenly succumbing to the Foreign Secretary’s charms. Over the past couple of weeks a parade of current and former ministers have been elbowing each other aside in a bid to profess fealty to Boris’s heir apparent.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace – who had a furious row with Truss over her support for British citizens joining the Ukrainian resistance – stated: ‘I have sat with her in Cabinet, bilateral meetings and international summits. She stands her ground. She is straight and means what she says.’

Penny Mordaunt – whose allies had accused Miss Truss of circulating ‘toxic smears’ to undermine her own leadership bid – hailed Liz’s ‘graft, her authenticity, her determination, her ambition for this country, her consistency and sense of duty’.

These increasingly gushing endorsements are in part a reflection of the skill with which Truss and her team have navigated her steady and increasingly inexorable march up Downing Street.

Rather than have them all tumbling out at once, a conscious effort has been made to stagger the announcements, thereby giving a sense of momentum.

‘We’ll be having one of these every couple of days until the polls close,’ one campaign insider told me.

They’re also a reflection of the increasingly shambolic nature of the Sunak campaign, and the laughably poor political tradecraft of Sunak himself.

These increasingly gushing endorsements are in part a reflection of the skill with which Truss and her team have navigated her steady and increasingly inexorable march up Downing Street. They’re also a reflection of the increasingly shambolic nature of the Sunak campaign, and the laughably poor political tradecraft of Sunak himself

Penny Mordaunt – whose allies had accused Miss Truss of circulating ‘toxic smears’ to undermine her own leadership bid – hailed Liz’s ‘graft, her authenticity, her determination, her ambition for this country, her consistency and sense of duty’

A friend of one of the leadership candidates who was eliminated late in the contest told me: ‘They waited for a call from Rishi. But he never picked up the phone.

‘He just took it for granted that they’d back him. So when Liz called, it was a no-brainer.’

But mainly they reflect this. The 2022 Tory leadership election is all over bar the shouting. Liz Truss had a wobble with her public sector pay U-turn. But that’s all it was.

She is set to be Britain’s next prime minister. That’s what lies behind Sajid Javid’s endorsement. It’s not about helping Liz Truss to win. He knows Liz Truss is going to win. And is trying to help out Sajid Javid. Which is something Prime Minister Truss needs to remember.

One of Boris’s weaknesses was that he had precious few genuine friends and allies sitting alongside him around the Cabinet table.

As one wise Tory told me: ‘The Conservative party’s relationship with Boris is solely transactional. When they think he can’t win for them, they’ll come for him.’

And they did. This morning Liz Truss has lots of new friends. She should be wary of them.

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