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Inside politics

Westminster’s human hand grenade

Liz Truss: a “compulsive and pathological” leaker? Jack Taylor/Getty

When I was working in No 10, I nicknamed Liz Truss the “human hand grenade”, says Dominic Cummings in his Substack newsletter. This week she claimed it was a “compliment” because it meant she got things done. “No. It was because she caused chaos INSTEAD OF getting things done.” Truss was the only minister I ever shouted at, because of her “compulsive and pathological leaking”. After any meeting, she’d be straight on the phone to The Sun’s Harry Cole telling him exactly what was said. I once confronted her: “What are you doing leaking everything, stop, focus on your real job.” She looked back at me, with her typical “thousand-yard stare”, and asked: “What do you mean the real job?”

During Boris Johnson’s premiership, leaking became so bad it “routinely” damaged national security. In meetings, top spooks would “understandably and rightly” bite their tongue, scared to pass information to blabbermouth ministers. This is “horrifying”, says Rory Stewart on The Rest Is Politics podcast. If intelligence officials don’t speak openly – whether out of a fear of leaks, or because, as in Johnson’s case, they’re worried about leaders taking “gung ho” decisions – then nobody will know what they’re getting up to. That’s “dangerous for our democracy”, because it means the security services are no longer accountable to politicians. If this split continues, it could have a “catastrophic” effect on national security.

🇯🇵😡 Some of Truss’s old colleagues have a better opinion of her. “She could be tough,” one government trade official tells The Times. “I remember one day with the Japanese trade deal where their chief negotiator just flew off the handle, then threatened to walk away from the talks. To her credit she was completely calm and called his bluff.” The resulting trade pact was widely viewed as a success for post-Brexit Britain, and for Truss personally.