The One Nation group of Conservative MPs is likely to be a focal point for rebellious Tory MPs seeking to water down the Government’s mini-Budget, The Telegraph has been told.
Tory backbenchers unhappy with the fiscal statement said they were looking to build a two-pronged “resistance” campaign aimed at blocking the scrapping of the 45p additional income tax rate and any attempt to slash benefits.
The One Nation caucus is one of the most influential Tory parliamentary groups, representing a bloc of centrist MPs.
A former minister told The Telegraph that they expected the first meeting of the caucus after MPs return from the conference recess to be a significant moment in organising resistance to the mini-Budget.
“There’s widespread anger from people even in safe seats in the Home Counties who feel that this can’t go on,” said the former minister. “The question is how and what do we crystallise around?
“There’s some work possibly through the One Nation Group … that I think could be quite an interesting forum to discuss some of these things.”
They pointed out that Liz Truss had not mentioned cutting the additional rate during the Tory leadership contest, making it the “obvious and justifiable area for a coherent resistance to form around”.
A member of the group said: “There is obviously huge concern, particularly about the 45p rate and even more so about the prospect of paying for this by reneging on commitments on benefits.
“Those are the two areas that people are concentrating on.”
Although a full membership list has not been published, several MPs who are reported to belong to the group have already publicly criticised Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-Budget.
After the Bank of England was forced to intervene to prop up pension funds with a £65 billion bond buying pledge, Simon Hoare tweeted:
In the words of Norman Lamont on Black Wednesday: “today has been a very difficult day”. These are not circumstances beyond the control of Govt/Treasury . They were authored there. This inept madness cannot go on https://t.co/wSXrNlFt0q
— Simon Hoare MP (@Simon4NDorset) September 28, 2022
George Freeman, another member, tweeted on Friday:
This is now a serious crisis with a lot at stake. A time for cool heads & calm leadership.
The economic package of borrowing & tax cuts announced last week clearly can’t command market or voter confidence.
The Cabinet must meet fast to agree with PM & CX a PlanB which can hold. pic.twitter.com/G90tnIq0il
— George Freeman MP (@GeorgeFreemanMP) September 29, 2022
Several Tory backbenchers told The Telegraph that the Government had been helped by the fact that MPs are not currently in Westminster, meaning “plotting is kept to a minimum”, and by uncertainty about the legislative timetable for the tax cuts.
One MP said: “I’ve been out knocking on doors and I’d say that the opinion polls feel broadly accurate to me based on the responses.”
A senior Conservative MP said abolishing the 45p rate was “insane” and “deranged”. The politician added: “She can continue as Truss the Titanic or she could start getting the lifeboats ready.”
A number of high-profile Tories, including the runner-up in the leadership contest, Rishi Sunak, have yet to comment on the mini-Budget.
However, Michael Gove – who described Ms Truss’s economic plans during the contest as a “holiday from reality” – is expected to break his silence on Sunday at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham.
Labour has sought to capitalise on Tory opposition to the mini-Budget with a pledge to make common cause with rebels.
Writing for The Telegraph, Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour Party leader, said: “Mortgages, pensions and family finances are not casino chips for a Government intoxicated by dogma.
“There are many decent Conservative MPs who know this. My message to them is that Labour will work with anyone to ensure some semblance of economic sanity is restored.”
Even Tories supportive of Ms Truss have been unnerved by the movements in the financial markets and polls.
On Saturday, one minister said: “The state of the party is the most parlous I can remember. I can’t believe I would say this but I don’t know if Liz will survive long-term. But I hope she can right the ship.”