Truss ‘didn’t care’ if Boris Johnson won 2019 Tory leadership bid but ‘wanted to be on winning side’

No one has ever doubted ambitious Liz Truss’ willingness to adopt whatever political pose would seem to advance her career.

From ditching her opposition to the monarchy, membership of the Lib Dems and support for Brexit, nothing was sacrosanct in her determination to climb the greasy pole.

Ms Truss’ supporters have made much of her ‘principled’ loyalty to the prime minister in the Conservative leadership campaign, comparing it to what they call Rishi Sunak’s ‘treachery’ in resigning as chancellor.

But according to a senior Tory MP who knows Ms Truss well, her decision to back Boris Johnson as Theresa May’s successor in 2019 had little to do with principle.

Ms Truss said she ‘didn’t care’ if Mr Johnson – or anyone else – won, the MP told The Independent, that she just wanted to avoid being on ‘the wrong side’ again, having been scarred by opposing Brexit in the EU referendum.

The MP, speaking on condition of anonymity, and who knows Ms Truss well, recalled a ‘detailed conversation’ with her when Mrs May announced her resignation as prime minister in May 2019.

The two met to discuss the various contenders and, according to the MP, Ms Truss set out her thinking.

The MP said: ‘Liz said “I was on the wrong side in Brexit. I’m not going to be on the wrong side in the leadership contest. I don’t care who wins but I’m going to be on the winning side.”’

The MP added: ‘I remember the conversation very well. She was so adamant about it she prodded me in the chest for extra emphasis.’

At the time, Ms Truss was considering launching her own leadership bid but pulled out, reportedly because she thought her past support for Remain meant she was doomed to defeat.

A week after withdrawing from the contest she pledged her support for Mr Johnson, declaring enthusiastically: ‘There is only one person for this job and that is why I am backing Boris. We share a deep optimism about the power of individual creativity and enterprise to deliver progress and prosperity’,

He was a ‘proven winner’ and had ‘oomph,’ she added.

When he won she was duly rewarded with the cabinet post of international trade secretary and later promoted to foreign secretary.

Mr Sunak has tried, to little avail, to use Ms Truss’ political somersaults to gain an advantage over her in the current leadership contest.

In their first TV debate, he goaded her: ‘You’ve been a Lib Dem and a Remainer, which do you regret most?’

Ms Truss spoke last week of how she regretted not having backed Brexit in 2016, but has also said she sees nothing wrong in changing her mind.

A spokesman for Ms Truss told The Independent that the claim she had said she ‘didn’t care’ who succeeded Mrs May was ‘nonsense’.

The spokesman said: ‘Liz had lunch with Boris in 2014 and agreed then and there she would back him if he ever went for it. She backed him for the leadership in 2016 and was his first cabinet backer in 2019 too.’

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