You are currently browsing the daily archive for August 4, 2022.

On Monday, August 1, 2022, a hustings took place in Exeter.

The event was two hours long. Sky News filmed it, and the moderator was Sebastian Payne, the Financial Times‘s Whitehall editor:

The sound quality is not the best. There are lots of echoes.

The venue was full. Some supporters made their allegiances known Trump rally style, either by waving ‘Ready for Rishi’ placards or by wearing ‘Liz for Leader’ tee shirts.

The event began with a couple of videos from Conservative MPs.

Then Penny Mordaunt appeared on stage to pledge her support for Liz Truss (video clip here):

Liz took the stage afterwards (17:38 in the video) and introduced her platform.

Afterwards, Liam Fox went on stage (33:34), announcing that he would be backing Rishi Sunak.

Liz’s Q&A came after that (45:00), taking questions from the audience and Sebastian Payne.

She was much more relaxed than she had been at previous events over the past two weeks. She has a sense of humour. She gesticulated in a natural way. She was conversational.

When an audience member asked if she would favour another lockdown, she gave a simple answer — ‘No’. She explained that, during the pandemic, her Cabinet responsibilities lay in areas other than health and that when presented with past measures, she said others told her they were already ‘a fait accompli‘. Liz said she always favours the least amount of intervention:

Liz also lobbed a zinger at Scotland’s First Minister Nicola (Neverendum) Sturgeon (SNP) by saying that she should was an ‘attention seeker’ who should be ignored. She got a huge round of applause.

This raised a stink the next day, including on GB News, but I understood it in the context of having another independence referendum eight years after the first ‘once in a generation’ one:

GB News has the quote (emphases mine):

Liz Truss has claimed it is best to ignore “attention seeker” Nicola Sturgeon.

The Conservative Party leadership candidate criticised Scotland’s First Minister before ruling out a second independence referendum.

Ms Truss, speaking at a hustings event in Exeter, referenced growing up in Paisley before saying: “I feel like I’m a child of the union, I really believe we’re a family and we’re better together and I think the best thing to do with Nicola Sturgeon is ignore her.”

Tory members cheered and applauded the comment, with the Foreign Secretary adding: “She’s an attention seeker, that’s what she is.

“What we need to do is show the people of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales what we’re delivering for them and making sure that all of our Government policies apply right across the United Kingdom.”

She replied “no, no, no” when asked about another independence referendum in Scotland if she becomes prime minister.

SNP MP Chris Law, posting on Twitter with a link to Ms Truss’s remarks, said: “The only reason why Scotland needs independence. Utter contempt from the future PM.”

Rishi Sunak has also ruled out having a second referendum on Scottish independence should be become Prime Minister.

He said: “I am clear that another referendum is the wrong priority at the worst possible moment.

“The SNP are wrong to try and tear the country apart when we should be pulling together. Why aren’t they talking about the drugs crisis in Scotland or how we can get more money into Scottish workers’ pockets?

“Just as I want to be more accountable to people in every corner of the United Kingdom, so too does the SNP need to be more accountable for their responsibilities.”

That night, comedians on GB News’s Headliners joked about the SNP’s utter irresponsibility north of the border. Leo Kearse is Scottish and gives the full story of the disappearing billions. He says that Westminster should audit the Scottish Government:

Earlier, on Dan Wootton’s show, 90% of viewers agreed with Liz on Nicola Sturgeon with regard to a second referendum:

In short, Liz came across as the continuity candidate. People who liked Boris will find an appropriate comfort level with her.

Then it was Rishi’s turn to take questions (1:17:00).

Both candidates received warm applause for their policies, but some applauded only for their preferred candidate.

Rishi left the stage with a clean slate.

However, Liz got into trouble over the next 24 hours for saying that she would reform public sector pay. I took her to mean civil servants, but people got anxious and critical over teachers and NHS staff.

Liz said she would cut public sector pay outside of London, but wouldn’t keeping their pay the same or upping it a pledge to ‘levelling up’?

Years ago, Labour’s Harriet Harman tried the same thing:

The Financial Times article that Guido Fawkes cites explains why what Liz’s proposal is problematic.

Journalist Stephen Bush begins by disingenuously putting on the frighteners …

Liz Truss has promised to save £11bn a year by cutting pay for public sector workersincluding civil servants, teachers and nurses — outside London and the South-East.

… before clarifying that it would take several years for the proposed plan to be rolled out to all public sector workers:

The foreign secretary said she would introduce regional pay boards that would set wages for civil servants working outside London in line with local labour market conditions and living costs. Her campaign said the regional pay would initially be introduced for new civil service recruits, but if successful would be rolled out over a number of years to all public sector workers.

From that, it is obvious that the FT want Rishi Sunak to win.

This is why public sector pay is difficult to reform:

Now, it’s true to say that, in real terms, a secondary school teacher in Torridge in north Devon or Cannock Chase in Staffordshire is paid more in real terms than they are in St Albans or Hackney. And this is true across the public sector. In real terms, a public sector worker would be economically better off working in Don Valley in South Yorkshire than if they were working in the centre of Manchester.

But of course, it is also true to say that we find it easier to recruit secondary schoolteachers, GPs, firefighters and police officers in St Albans, Hackney or Manchester than we do in Don Valley, Cannock Chase or Torridge

The policy suggestion does the rounds every so often and it founders on the same basic problem: you can’t cut salaries in the places you struggle to recruit. Given that the UK state (rather like the UK as a whole) faces considerable difficulties in recruiting enough workers it is highly unlikely that the policy will succeed now.

 … What might matter is if enough Conservative members see this policy as an electorally disastrous idea they need to avoid.

One thing that would be welcome is reforming or getting rid of unnecessary posts in the public sector. Liz favours this, too:

I’ll come back to that in a moment.

Polling

Stephen Bush’s article gave more evidence that he and the FT are Ready for Rishi, so to speak.

Based on polling, Bush is worried that Liz might be winning:

Every scrap of data suggests Liz Truss is ahead of Rishi Sunak, and that Sunak failed to really change the dynamic of the race in any of the televised debates.

Although both Ben Wallace and Tom Tugendhat have ideological and policy reasons to endorse Truss over Sunak, it helps, of course, when everything suggests that to help Truss is to help yourself. Unless her campaign finds a way to implode or the polls are wildly out of kilter.

Now, of course, the big known unknown in this leadership election is just how big Liz Truss’s lead actually is. YouGov’s polls have shown the foreign secretary enjoying a 24 point lead over Rishi Sunak (opens a new window) among Tory members. The gap suggested by Opinium has been a narrower one. Its latest snap poll showed (opens a new window) Tory voters thought Truss did better in the television debate last week by 47-38.

Now another pollster, Techne, has tried its hand at a poll of the Conservative supporters (opens a new window), who comprise Tory voters that are also activists. The result is, again, a Truss lead, but not a very large one.

I wouldn’t sweat this too much, frankly. What unites the various polls (Liz Truss is winning all of them) is more important than what divides them (the exact size of Liz Truss’s opinion poll lead). It’s possible that some error or event on the part of Truss’s campaign may hand Sunak a victory, and it’s possible that all the polls are wrong. Given all that, the implied 10 per cent probability of a Sunak victory suggested by the prediction website Metaculus (opens a new window) seems about right to me. But of course, if Truss’s lead is only five points, this “cut public sector pay in places with greater shortages” wheeze may well prove catastrophic for her chances.

Guido has more on the Techne results.

Another interesting poll appeared on August 1. Redfield & Wilton Strategies results show that Liz Truss could just beat Labour’s Keir Starmer in being perceived to be a better potential Prime Minister. Rishi, on the other hand, would lose to Starmer — 40% to 33%:

Why are all the metropolitan elite coming out for Rishi? They know he would lose and put the Conservatives out of office for years!

On Tuesday, August 2, YouGov came out with a poll also showing stonking results for Liz:

Polling took place between July 29 and August 2:

Guido also posted about the polls and another pro-Rishi publication, The Times:

Guido then posted the YouGov poll:

I couldn’t agree more about voting anxiety. This reminds me of the 2019 contest between the totalitarian Jeremy Hunt and Boris ‘Sunlit Uplands’ Johnson.

Guido explained the stark differences between the two polls:

The Times claimed — wrongly — that Liz Truss’s team commissioned the more favourable YouGov poll. Guido notes that the newspaper has since changed its copy. Good:

And someone confirmed the hypothesis that media supporting Rishi want the Conservatives to lose:

On Wednesday, August 3, YouGov published an all-party poll. After months of the Conservatives trailing Labour by a large margin, there is now only one percentage point between the two!

Amazing!

Guido wrote (red emphases his):

The YouGov poll of Tory members showing Liz looking to take two-thirds of the vote for leader was not the only surprising poll result. YouGov’s regular voting intention survey has the Tories on 34% (+2 from 21-22 July), just a point behind Labour on 35% (-4). Is this an outlier?

YouGov themselves say “This shrinking of Labour’s lead from 7 points to 1 point is a sharp move, but changes are either within the margin of error or close to it. It will be worth waiting to see whether further polls replicate the extent of this narrowing of the gap before we can be certain of a Tory recovery.”

Yet, an IPSOS-Mori poll from Monday shows Rishi in the lead.

The Evening Standard reported:

As the 160,000 members of the Tory party prepare to start voting in the Tory leadership contest from Monday, the exclusive survey by Ipsos shows that 49 per cent of Conservative backers said the former Chancellor would make a good premier compared to 40 per cent for rival Liz Truss.

Among Conservative voters in the 2019 general election, Mr Sunak enjoys an even bigger lead over the Foreign Secretary with 49 per cent saying Mr Sunak has what it takes for the top job compared to 35 per cent for Ms Truss.

Among the general public, just over a third of people said Mr Sunak would make a good Prime Minister compared to just 24 per cent for Ms Truss.

Conservative Home‘s poll of its readers did not show Rishi on their chart. This is because he resigned as Chancellor and is no longer in the Cabinet:

The perils of policy on the hoof

Now that we have covered the good news, let us return to Liz’s public sector statement, which is the first real blunder she has made in her campaign.

Not surprisingly, Team Rishi jumped on it.

On Tuesday, August 2, Guido reported that a Red Wall mayor is also unhappy:

Team Rishi has slammed Liz Truss over her policy announcement last night that she can save up to £8.8 billion by replacing National Pay Boards with Regional Pay Boards. This sum immediately raised eyebrows given the total Civil Service salary budget is around £16.5 billion. The footnotes of the press release specified this figure is “the potential savings if the system were to be adopted for all public sector workers in the long term,” allowing her opponents to spin the policy as one of cutting nurses’ and teachers’ pay in the Red Wall while improving the pay packets of those in London and the South East. Tees Valley Metro Mayor Ben Houchen is not happy:

There is simply no way you can do this without a massive pay cut for 5.5m people including nurses, police officers and our armed forces outside London.

Liz Truss’s campaign is explicit that their savings target is only possible ‘if the system were to be adopted for all public sector workers’.

This is a ticking time bomb set by team Truss that will explode ahead of the next general election.

Just one mistake like this can help Rishi win over Conservative Party members:

Rishi doubles down by calling the policy a gift to the Labour Party and Keir Starmer. Her plan would punish hard working nurses, police officers and soldiers across the country, including in the Red Wall just before a General Election”. Rishi was already reportedly performing better among Southern members – can this latest attack help him claw back up North?

Liz and her team quickly backtracked but said it was a ‘wilful misrepresentation’ of the policy:

UPDATE: Team Truss say

Over the last few hours there has been a wilful misrepresentation of our campaign. Current levels of public sector pay will absolutely be maintained. Anything to suggest otherwise is simply wrong. Our hard-working frontline staff are the bedrock of society and there will be no proposal taken forward on regional pay boards for civil servants or public sector workers.

Under fire from Rishi she drops the policy. So we now have the status quo of a national pay rate for civil servants.

Another member of Liz’s team told Guido that the policy will not be taken forward. Nonetheless:

Team Rishi are absolutely loving this, joking “The lady is for turning”…

Yes, one can imagine.

On GB News Tuesday afternoon, a number of presenters and pundits, some of whom think Liz either should or could win (there is a difference), thought that she made a terrible mistake with this.

One said that making policy up on the hoof was a ‘dangerous’ thing to do and could turn the contest against her.

However, Team Liz were ready to fire back at Rishi, accusing him of more U-turns during this campaign than at a driving test centre.

Note that only one of Liz’s U-turns happened during the campaign. The other three happened when she was a young adult. The same cannot be said of Rishi:

Guido has the full story, which begins with this:

Hours after a brief campaign blip from Team Liz, which involved a somewhat humiliating climbdown from their regional pay boards policy, they’ve finally pulled their finger out for some return fire on the topic of u-turns. Team Rishi has spent the morning on cloud nine, joking that it turns out “The lady is for turning”, and accusing Liz of having a Mayite ‘Dementia Tax’ moment. In return Liz Truss’s team have compiled a list, which they allege shows Rishi has performed “more u-turns than a DVLA test centre”. A spokesperson for Liz says:

This is all a bit rich coming from Sunak’s backers when they stayed schtum on the steady stream of u-turns from Rishi over the recent weeks. He’s flip-flopped on tax cuts, VAT, grammar schools, China , EU regulations, Northern Ireland protocol and planning to name a few.

Before Monday’s debate, Liz issued a letter to Conservative Party members, which can be read in full here. It has way too many ‘I’s, which someone should have reworded.

An excerpt follows:

If you work hard, do the right thing, save your money, or start your own business, then I am on your side.

And you can trust me to deliver. I have delivered trade deals, faced down Putin’s Russia, and got on with sorting the Northern Ireland Protocol. I am honest and straight talking. I do what I say I will and I know what it takes to get things done. 

We cannot continue to have business-as-usual and I have a bold plan to get our economy back on track.

We must reject orthodoxy, the voices of decline and unleash Britain’s potential in line with Conservative values. 

I will lower taxes to spark economic growth and reward people for working hard. I will seize the full opportunities of Brexit, and level up in a Conservative way. I will defend freedom at home and abroad, and keep Britain safe. 

I will ensure the police do more to crack down on real crimes, and raise defence spending. I will stand up for free speech, and protect single sex spaces for our young women. And I will abolish Soviet top-down housing targets. I know from being a councillor that local people are best-placed to deliver the housing we need. 

To win in 2024, we must work relentlessly to deliver on our promises. 

Now is the time to be bold … 

That is how Liz came across in the debate, so I was happy to see The Telegraph endorse her candidacy that night:

Ballots delayed to next week

The Party members’ ballots were to have arrived this week.

However, a security issue has caused a delay, therefore, they will not be sent until next week.

Nigel Farage tweeted:

The Telegraph‘s Ben Riley-Smith got the scoop on the ballots. Furthermore, members can now vote only once, not twice as planned — excellent:

This might turn out to be a blessing in disguise for Liz.

A week is a long time in politics, so by the time the ballots arrive, Liz’s public sector policy blunder is likely to be old news.

Even better, however, is the platform that GB News will give her on Wednesday, August 10, just as the ballots arrive:

I do not have details as to how the event was arranged nor do I know whether Rishi was invited to appear on a separate programme.

The next debate was on Sky News on Thursday, August 4. More about that in a separate post.

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