Liz Truss Reportedly ‘Insisted’ on Taxpayer-Funded Luxury Lunch at Tory Donor’s Mayfair Club

© AP Photo / Alberto PezzaliBritain's new Foreign Secretary Liz Truss leaves 10 Downing Street, in London, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021
Britain's new Foreign Secretary Liz Truss leaves 10 Downing Street, in London, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 03.01.2022
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According to Tory sources cited by UK media outlets, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has been hosting private meetings with MPs over champagne – dubbed ‘fizz with Liz’ - at a private Mayfair club amid rumours she was gearing up to challenge scandal-mired PM Boris Johnson’s Tory leadership.
Liz Truss reportedly hosted a lunch for a US trade representative at a costly private club owned by a Conservative Party donor, dismissing her officials’ advice to opt for a cheaper venue.
Truss, who is currently the UK Foreign Secretary, but was Trade Secretary from 24 July 2019 to 15 September 2021, according to leaked Department for International Trade (DIT) correspondence cited by the Sunday Times, “refused to consider anywhere else” and demanded that public funds be used to cover the £3,000 luxury lunch.
The cited email, ostensibly sent on 15 June 2021, stated:
“[Truss] is hosting [the US trade representative] Katherine Tai tomorrow for dinner… She wishes to do so in a private dining room. [Her special adviser] is insisting it takes place at a private members’ club called 5 Hertford Street. She’s recommended this based on having been there before – her argument is that it’s of the appropriate size and standing. To my knowledge we haven’t hosted anyone there before as a department.”
The seemingly disconcerted official in the correspondence described the Mayfair club as “obviously incredibly expensive and more than I understand we’d usually expect to pay for such a venue”.
It was also stated in the leaked email that advisers to Truss had suggested “another option – a Soho restaurant called Quo Vadis – which costs only £1,000.”
However, according to the outlet, the email revealed that the special adviser, on behalf of Truss, “refused to consider anywhere else and is insisting that we book 5 Hertford Street and claims SoS would find Quo Vadis inappropriate.”
The private club in question is owned by Robin Birley, one of several wealthy donors who backed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s leadership bid in 2019, stated the outlet. Birley, also a donor to the UK Independence Party (UKIP) is half-brother of Zac Goldsmith, the environment minister.
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According to the receipt, Liz Truss and her companions ordered two bottles of dry gin, three £153 bottles of Pazo Barrantes Albariño, a Spanish white wine and two bottles of French red Coudoulet de Beaucastel, costing £130 a bottle.
Civil servants were subsequently able to get the events manager to reduce the overall lunch bill to £1,400 on the condition of immediate payment. An emergency process was said to have been used to sanction the payment.
A spokesman for the Department for International Trade was cited as saying:
“This was a diplomatic working dinner attended by the previous international trade secretary, senior UK officials, and US counterparts from our largest single trading partner.”
According to the Daily Mail, the DIT claimed the club was chosen due to its availability at short notice.
In the wake of the leak, Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, was cited as saying:
“It is shameful to see Liz Truss pushing against official advice to book a luxury lunch that brings in thousands of pounds of business to a Tory donor. Without a US trade deal in sight, the sheer incompetence of wasting taxpayer money is truly jarring.”
Emily Thornberry, the shadow attorney general, went on Twitter to underscore that Truss has previously faced questions over her “expensive tastes”.
She cited an incident when the former international trade secretary took three staff members to Vietnam and Singapore in December 2020. Subsequently she was forced to disclose that the taxpayer cost of the South-Asia trip had included £20,296 for flights, £3,980 for accommodation and £250 for daily individual expenses.
This report comes as Liz Truss has been singled out as a potential front-runner to replace scandal-plagued Boris Johnson at the helm of the Conservative Party if he were to be toppled.
Rumours of a leadership challenge were triggered as Johnson faced a barrage of criticism over Conservative Party sleaze scandals, unpalatable “Plan B” COVID-19 restrictions, which sparked a rebellion among Tory backbenchers, and allegations of that Downing Street lockdown-breaching Christmas parties in 2020.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a speech as he visits a UK Food and Drinks market set up in Downing Street, central London on November 30, 2021. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / POOL / AFP) - Sputnik International, 1920, 10.12.2021
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Amid reports that the Foreign Secretary had been wooing MPs with “drinks parties” to bolster her chances in a potential bid for leadership, a spokesman for Liz Truss was quoted as saying in December:
“It’s total and utter rubbish… She’s been Foreign Secretary for less than 12 weeks and is focused on getting on with the job. She meets MPs regularly to discuss foreign policy, and previously trade policy.”
Nevertheless, Truss has become the favourite to succeed Johnson among Conservative party leaders, a new poll conducted by Conservative Home has found. Slightly over 23 per cent of Tory party members would like to see her as PM, while 20 per cent would prefer to have Chancellor Rishi Sunak take over.
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