‘I just don’t want her in here… I hate her’: Aides reveal Liz Truss’s dislike of her Chief Whip drove the PM to the brink and led to that fatal fracking row that helped topple her premiership
- Sources say Ms Truss struggled to appointment Chief Whip so chose Morton
- But she took a dislike to her and would complain if saw meeting with her in diary
- She tried to sack Ms Morton at one point but had to change her course
One of the most serious structural flaws of the Truss Government was the dysfunctional relationship between Downing Street and the Whips Office, responsible for managing the Parliamentary party.
Sources say Ms Truss struggled to appoint a Chief Whip after her close ally Therese Coffey refused to take it, eventually settling for Wendy Morton.
Fatally, the Prime Minister quickly took a dislike to Ms Morton, to the extent that she would loudly complain if she saw a meeting with her in her diary.
‘We were having a meeting on voting strategy,’ one aide recalled, ‘and Liz said ‘I just don’t want to have her in here. I just hate her’. We had to say: ‘Well, she is the Chief Whip. She really does have to be in this meeting’.
‘Liz replied ‘Why? Can’t we get Craig [Whittaker, Deputy Chief Whip] to come to it instead?’.’
At one point she tried to sack Ms Morton, but had to change course after the Whips’ Office threatened to resign in protest. According to aides, the Prime Minister contemplated the move in the run-up to the chaotic vote on fracking that sealed the fate of her Premiership.
CLASH: The Prime Minister tried to sack Wendy Morton but failed
One aide said: ‘She thought Morton was useless. She wanted to sack her,’ one adviser reported. ‘Then it became clear she’d lose all the other whips. So she backed down.’
Fearing Ms Morton was incapable of managing the crucial vote, the Prime Minister tried to recruit Trade Minister Greg Hands to babysit the floundering enforcer. ‘We messaged Greg and said that the Prime Minister wanted him to help sort this out. When we told Wendy she refused to have him anywhere near the whipping operation. She sent a message back that just said ‘I have this in hand’.’
Senior aides said Ms Truss had been reluctant to appoint Ms Morton as Chief Whip. ‘No one wanted to do it,’ an adviser claimed, ‘We wanted Therese [Coffey] to take it on, but she wanted her own department. There was some thought to giving it to Andrea Leadsom, but the feeling was she was not intelligent enough to handle it.’
Matters came to a head on Wednesday, October 19, when the vote on fracking saw the Government plunged into disarray.
As Ms Morton tried to cajole Tory MPs into the voting lobby, one rebel told her: ‘Wendy, I’m not sure if you’re aware. But the Prime Minister and her aides are currently going round telling anyone who will listen they think you’re a moron.’
Amid unprecedented scenes, Deputy Chief Whip Craig Whittaker was seen swearing ‘I am f***ing furious and I don’t f***ing care anymore.’ Ms Morton tendered her resignation to the PM in the voting lobby, only to rescind it early the following morning.
Ms Morton finally left the Government last Tuesday.
Last night allies of Ms Morton hit back at what they described as ‘vicious smears aimed at undermining Wendy’s integrity’.
Other Whips’ Office sources say that the Prime Minister stopped replying to Ms Morton’s messages and excluded her from meetings
A friend of Ms Morton said: ‘She’d been a loyal supporter of Liz, and told her she’d be happy with a ministerial job. She didn’t even ask to be in the Cabinet. But Liz insisted she took on the role.’
The friend added Ms Morton had become frustrated by Ms Truss’s ‘unwillingness to confront the crisis engulfing her Government’.
The friend said: ‘Wendy sat down with her and tried to explain what the mood was inside the party. But Liz wouldn’t listen.’
Other Whips’ Office sources say that the Prime Minister stopped replying to Ms Morton’s messages and excluded her from meetings.
One said: ‘This was how they got in such a mess on the fracking vote. It was all going fine and we had everything under control. We were going to win comfortably.
‘Then No 10 started sending messages to the Government frontbench telling them to change the whipping arrangements, and say it wasn’t a confidence vote. That’s when it all began falling apart.’
Another ally of Ms Morton said: ‘Wendy feels totally betrayed. These attacks on her and her character are just a vicious smear by former Downing Street officials trying to pass off the blame for their own mistakes.’
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