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Picking up where I left off last week, below are some old news articles from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s early years together, which might provide some insight on what Prince Harry relates in Spare. In the words of the late Queen, ‘Recollections may vary’.

However, let’s begin with two book reviews of Spare.

A good ghostwriter’s genius

Tina Brown, the youngest editor of Tatler, the editor who transformed Vanity Fair and the first woman to edit The New Yorker, wrote an excellent review of Spare for The Guardian. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

She says that JR Moehringer made good use of various literary devices and outstanding writing to bring Harry’s story to life:

One of the few good decisions that Prince Harry has made in the last five turbulent years was to take George Clooney’s advice and hire a ghostwriter as skilled as the novelist JR Moehringer. Spare is gripping in its ability to channel Harry’s unresolved emotional pain, his panicky, blinkered drive, his improbably winning rapscallion voice, and his skewed, conflicted worldview. Best of all, Moehringer knows how to drill down into scattered memories and extract the critical details that make this hyper-personal chronicle an unexpected literary success.

Who will forget the scene of monarch and grandson grasping dead pheasants, “their bodies still warm through my gloves” after a Sandringham shoot, confronting each other as she tries to escape in her Range Rover from what she knows is coming. “I’ve been told that, er, that I have to ask your permission to propose [to Meghan],” Harry mumbles. “Well then,” replies her majesty, “I suppose I have to say yes.” It’s one of the joys of this memoir that Harry is still puzzling over her answer. “Was she being sarcastic? Ironic? Was she indulging in a bit of wordplay?” …

The most powerful character in the story, Diana, never truly appears, other than in radiant glimpses. The unassuageable anguish of the 12-year-old Harry’s loss gives Moehringer a potent, overarching literary device. His mother, Harry heartbreakingly decided, was not really dead at all. She had “disappeared”, found a way to escape her unhappy, haunted life, and make a “fresh start” (perhaps in Paris or a log cabin in the Alps). Expectation of her Second Coming freezes his heart and will not allow him to cry except once, when her coffin is lowered into the ground at Althorp. The din of the world’s mourning and the endless tawdry explorations of what really happened that night in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel, place Harry’s own memories in a lock box even he cannot access until a breakthrough in his mid-30s in a therapist’s office. The only aspect of his mother’s death that he finds unforgettable is the identity of those who caused it: the press and the paps, variously referred to as ghouls, pustules, dogs, weasels, idiots and sadists, who after “torturing” his mother “would come for me”. The “red mist” of his rage towards them never lifts. The reader is with him all the way as the hack-pack humiliates the rudderless prince for every adolescent misstep.

Unfortunately for Harry, he disregards or misunderstands what a monarchy and hereditary peers bring to the upper rungs of British society. He also doesn’t appreciate his own privilege:

What Harry does not realise, however, is that his magical thinking about Diana’s “disappearance” extends to multiple other aspects of his life. He writes as if he is the first privileged male to notice the unfairness of primogeniture (the “hierarchy”, as he likes to call it with sinister emphasis). Well, duh. The monarchy invented it. The stately homes of England – belonging to many of the people he was at school with – are all inhabited by winners of the birth lottery while the younger siblings are relegated to some mouldy manor house and a sinecure at a bank (if lucky). Harry, we can all agree, has done better than most. At the age of 30, he inherited many millions from Diana and more from the queen mother when she died in 2002. (The fridge at his modest “Nott Cott” bachelor digs within the hardly shabby environs of Kensington Palace is, he tells us, often “stuffed with vacuum packed meals sent by Pa’s chef”.)

Despite Moehringer‘s talent, the reader eventually turns to Harry’s shortsightedness about how the monarchy actually operates:

Harry’s most extreme misunderstanding in Spare concerns the topic he affects to know most about: how the deep state of the Palace works. Harry prefers to blame sycophantic double-dealing courtiers when the decisions handed down are those he doesn’t like. By his account, the queen’s private secretary Edward Young blocked the meeting at Sandringham that Harry requested in January 2020 to discuss the Sussexes’ plan to become part-time royals. The possibility that the monarch herself was having second thoughts about the wisdom of such a meeting (Granny’s diary was suddenly full) isn’t entertained.

… There are more ironies. While the recurring plaint of Spare is the power that his father and brother hold over his life, the truth is how circumscribed their power actually is. Charles tells his “darling boy” to put all his proposals for a hybrid royal role in writing not because he’s stalling but because, as he says: “It’s all decided by the government”

In the end, Tina Brown felt rather sorry for him, but not for the usual reasons everyone else is. It’s for his ‘magical thinking’:

… the nub of his incandescent fury, is how he and Meghan were sold out by the institution. But one senses that his rage has another source: deep marital embarrassment. Harry’s most profound act of magical thinking was the promise of what he could deliver his bride. In the ecstasies of infatuation – and of relief that he’d finally found someone “perfect, perfect perfect” – he boosted his beloved’s fantasy of their life together as world-dominating humanitarian superstars powered by her Hollywood glamour and his royal stature. Sitting on the Ikea sofa of Nott Cott, how could he tell her that, in the grand scheme of the monarchy, he was a penny-ante prince? His great big dreams revealed how small he was: one can’t help but feel that it’s this that he really wants an apology for.

Hugo Vickers, a biographer and ghostwriter himself, wrote a review of Spare for The Oldie:

Apparently this book is ‘full of insight, revelation, self-examination, and hard-won wisdom about the eternal power of love over grief.’ It purports to be the memoirs of Prince Harry, but it is ghost-written by the Pulitzer-award-winning writer, J.R. Moehringer, a man well-qualified to write about dysfunctional family relationships.

At the end of his own fine memoir, The Tender Bar, Moehringer acknowledged a number of friends who ‘spent hours confirming or correcting my memory, and helping me piece together long-ago conversations’ …

Moehringer also ghosted Open, the immensely popular memoirs of the tennis player, Andre Agassi

It is the job of the ghost to extract facts from the ‘author’, especially an inarticulate one, and turn his outpourings into a book that justifies the many millions spent on it by the publisher. (I believe the publishers have to sell 1.7 million copies to make Spare commercially viable).

Moehringer clearly had his work cut out with Prince Harry

If you are not convinced, try this line in which Harry explains a Page Three Girl for the benefit of American readers. Does this sound like him? – ‘That was the accepted, misogynist, objectifying term for young, topless women featured each day on page three of Rupert Murdoch’s the Sun.’ Where did that come from?

I’ve heard on GB News that Meghan helped edit the book and that those words are hers.

Then there is the opening quote:

This book opens with a quote from William Faulkner. On page 13, Prince Harry admits he has no idea who Faulkner was

Hugo Vickers points out many of the book’s historical inaccuracies:

I mistrust this book. Prince Harry admits to a shaky memory, apparently too traumatised to recall anything much before his mother’s death. He acknowledges the ‘superb fact-checking’ of one Hilary McClellen, but no! she has allowed numerous howlers to slip through, causing me to wonder how much else Prince Harry has got wrong or simply cooked up to sell his book.

The Queen did not consign the Duke and Duchess of Windsor to a remote grave in the Frogmore burial ground (page 2). This trivialises the Queen and misunderstands her sympathy. She even paid the Duchess the signal honour of commanding flags to fly at half-mast on public buildings on the day of her funeral. Prince Harry could not have been offered a place in the Royal Vault in St George’s Chapel (page 5). The Royal Family did not get out of the car on the way back from Crathie Church on the Sunday Diana died to look at flowers (page 20). They did come out on Thursday 5 September.

He seems in a muddle about what flag was on his mother’s coffin (page 23) (well, OK). He does not descend from Henry VI (page 43). He won’t have known about Snowdon’s vile notes to Princess Margaret (page 73) until that was revealed years later by Anne Glenconner. He was not called at school about the Queen Mother’s death (page 75). She died during school holidays on Easter Saturday. He was in Klosters. So that scene was invented. The Queen was not at the pop concert when Brian May played (page 78). May played at the beginning. She arrived just before the end. The Queen did not go to the Guildhall for the Charles/ Camilla civil wedding in 2005, but she was most certainly at the Service of Blessing (page 99). (He talks of standing near the altar. He was sitting next to his brother).

Need I go on? Yes – a lie on page 337 or another muddle: Meghan could not have bought her father a first-class Air New Zealand ticket. They do not run first-class seats from Mexico.

People will read this, as they watched Netflix – to salivate over the bile he pours out against his family. Enough has been written about that. I took additional exception to his unforgivable description of dumping lovely Cressida Bonas (page 240), but then who will not be moved reading of his burgeoning love for Meghan Markle (page 265 – passim)?

Whether Harry realised it or not, there is an irony about the book:

There is a line which shows just how hypocritical this whole exercise is. Harry is in therapy (page 310). He writes, ‘I vented about my family. Pa and Willy. Camilla.’ He stops when he thinks passers-by can over hear the conversation. ‘If they ever knew. Prince Harry in there yapping about his family. His problems. Oh, the papers would have a field day.’ I rest my case.

Vickers concludes, wondering about JR Moehringer’s ultimate goal in ghost-writing Spare:

One further point. Prince Harry bases a large part of his premise on the idea that the only thing the Royal Family care about is being on the front page of newspapers. The enormous success of the Queen and Prince Philip (and the quiet success of Princess Anne) is that they did not care a jot what people thought. They got on with the job.

No doubt J.R. Moehringer and his team of shades were well-paid for their ghosting. But, given he comes from a considerably less privileged background than Harry’s, I wonder where his sympathies ultimately lie, and whether he is proud to have played a part in such an unpleasant exercise.

Now let’s move on to older news items about the Sussexes.

Fact-checking Meghan’s Babe statistics profile

Shortly before Meghan and Harry married, I saw an online posting about Meghan. This is a screenshot of it:

I am grateful to my reader Katherine who sent me a Newsweek article about the profile, which says that Meghan did not write or post it herself. An excerpt follows:

Several other tweets have also shared the same screenshot.

While the profile image of Meghan Markle was posted recently, it appears to have been circulated online for a few years. The earliest example Newsweek could find was in 2019, posted on Twitter, alongside similar disparaging claims about Markle and her race.

However, the biography was not authored by Meghan Markle, and instead appears to be a user-submitted biography from a mostly pornographic website called freeones.com.

The website was found by searching for images similar to the profile of Markle posted on Twitter. Markle is still listed on the site as “Caucasian”, although her details can be edited by anyone.

While an exact copy of her profile on freeones.com as shared on Twitter has not been archived, other profiles from 2013—when Markle’s details were reportedly added to the website—show the same format and presentation as the entry posted on social media (such as the header “Babe Statistics”.)

That same year, Markle told the South China Morning Post that she was “bi-racial”.

“Specifically for me, because I’m bi-racial, I can go in for so many parts,” she said.

“If you’re blond and blue-eyed, you may have 10 auditions but, because I could look what they call ‘exotic Caucasian’, instead of having 10 auditions I would have 40. You hear ‘no’ a lot more.

“It hurts a lot because you feel like all you hear is ‘no’. It’s really just about powering through. At a certain point, people just give up and once they’ve dropped out of the pool your chances of making it are so much better. It’s a numbers game.”

Markle’s representatives told Newsweek she had not uploaded any information to the site, and that third parties without any relationship to her or the authority to act on her behalf to do so were responsible

Mentoring Meghan and managing Harry’s insecurities

When Lady Diana Spencer was engaged to Prince Charles, I remember reading at the time that the Queen Mother took her under her wing to prepare her for life as the future Princess of Wales.

This is normal procedure and includes etiquette, protocol and more.

Valentine Low, the former investigative-turned-royal reporter for The Times, wrote 2022’s best seller, Courtiers. On September 23, the paper published an extract from the book which is full of detail about the turmoil going on between Harry, Meghan and the Palace:

Even before Meghan came on the scene, Harry’s grievances with the media, especially the tabloid press, could lead to tensions with his staff. One insider recalls: “He was always messaging, making phone calls. It was nonstop. There were constant battles with the media and expecting the team to be on your side.… He was always on Twitter. You then had to be on everything too. Every minor infraction was a big deal.”

Harry’s enemies were not just in the media. “He definitely had mistrust of the courtiers at Buckingham Palace and his father’s palace,” said one source. This could lead to tensions within his own team who were based at Kensington Palace …

Compounding Harry’s frustration was a long-held fear that his time was running out and that once Prince George turned 18 he would become irrelevant. “He had this thing that he had a shelf life. He was fixated [on] this. He would compare himself with his uncle [Prince Andrew]. He would say, ‘I have this time to make this impact. Because I can.’ Until George turns 18, was the way he was thinking about it. ‘Then I will be the also-ran.’ He was genuinely thinking of it as, ‘I have this platform now, for a limited amount of time. I want to move forward, move forward.’ ” …

Harry’s obsession with the media, his sense of frustration, mistrust of palace courtiers and the constant loyalty tests of his own staff were all there before Meghan. But after Meghan turned up, it got significantly worse.

Once their relationship became public in October 2016, Meghan became insecure about it, which, in turn, disturbed Harry. The tension revolved around getting her a security detail:

Faced with hordes of journalists intent on trawling through every aspect of Meghan’s life, Harry became determined to protect his girlfriend. Meghan, meanwhile, told him that if he did not do something about it, she would break off the relationship. A source said: “She was saying, ‘If you don’t put out a statement confirming I’m your girlfriend, I’m going to break up with you.’ ” Harry was in a panic. Another source said: “He was freaking out, saying, ‘She’s going to dump me.’ ”

Harry turned to Jason Knauf, the bright young American who was recruited by Kensington Palace in 2015 to be the communications secretary for the Cambridges and Prince Harry. His previous role had been running the communications for the crisis-hit Royal Bank of Scotland. He loved working for William and Kate and Harry.

Harry phoned Knauf, demanding that he put out a statement confirming that Meghan was his girlfriend and condemning the racist and sexist undertones of some of the media coverage. Meghan wanted public validation that this was a serious relationship. She was convinced that the palace was unwilling to protect her from media intrusion. She told Harry’s staff: “I know how the palace works. I know how this is going to play out. You don’t care about the girlfriend.”

It’s odd, but I don’t remember any negative coverage of Meghan at all at that time. The media were overjoyed that Harry had another girlfriend, one whose intentions seemed serious.

Valentine Low says that the courtiers sensed the American was different from Harry’s previous girlfriends:

Harry’s staff knew that Meghan was different from other royal girlfriends. She had her own opinions and would let people know what they were. In the spring of 2017, more than six months before the couple were engaged, she told one of Harry’s advisers: “I think we both know I’m going to be one of your bosses soon.”

There was also a lot riding on Meghan. The palace knew it could not afford to repeat the mistakes that were made with Princess Diana. Before the wedding, Meghan had a meeting with Miguel Head, William’s private secretary, who told her that the palace would do everything they could to help. There was no need to think that she had to take on her new role in a particular way.

Meghan thanked Head and said she wanted to concentrate on her humanitarian and philanthropic work and to support Harry as a member of the royal family. As one source said, “The entire place, because of everything about her and because of what Harry’s previous girlfriends had been through, was bending over backwards to make sure that every option was open.”

Sir David Manning, former ambassador to the US who was William and Harry’s foreign affairs adviser, also put his mind to thinking about how Meghan might fit in to the royal family and what married life could look like for them. However, the couple’s sense of frustration and their suspicion of the palace establishment was already causing problems. An early issue was security. In the immediate period after her arrival in London there was no straightforward mechanism for providing Meghan with full-time police protection, especially at a time when the palace was trying to slim down the level of security provided to members of the royal family.

The Government needed to get involved, which was par for the course and nothing against Meghan. Edward Lane Fox — often called ELF because of his initials — took the lead:

Such matters were decided by a Home Office committee called Ravec (the executive committee for the protection of royalty and public figures). Harry’s private secretary at the time, Ed Lane Fox, a former captain in the Blues and Royals who’d joined Harry’s close-knit team in 2013, argued Meghan needed to be protected immediately.

“Ed had to wage a huge battle to get them to understand that she would not be able to live her life without police protection. Meghan had no idea that this was even happening, because we did not want her to have another reason to think that she wasn’t going to be welcomed. Ed did amazing things for her behind the scenes, but none of them was really appreciated.”

To Harry and Meghan, the two months that it took to get a decision about her security seemed like an age. They felt as if the powers that be were simply unwilling to provide her with the security she needed.

Meanwhile, the interpersonals between Meghan and Palace staff received mixed reviews:

At this time, at the Queen’s request, the Lord Chamberlain, Earl Peel – the most senior figure in the household – went to see the couple to explain to Meghan how the palace worked. He recalled, “I liked her, actually. She was very forthright. Very, very polite. Very understanding. She wanted to learn.”

However, relations between Meghan and the team at Kensington Palace were fraying fast. In late 2017, after the couple’s engagement was announced, a senior aide discreetly raised with the couple the difficulties caused by their treatment of staff. People needed to be treated well and with some understanding, even when they were not performing to Harry and Meghan’s standards, they suggested. Meghan was said to have replied, “It’s not my job to coddle people.”

Meanwhile, she wasn’t dealing with the more junior staff, even people whom William and Kate – and Harry, before Meghan came along – had been quite happy to engage with. It seemed that she wanted respect and having to talk to someone a bit further down the pecking order – in a small office, where there wasn’t much of a pecking order – wasn’t treating her with respect. “She would take it as an insult,” believes one source.

On April 29, 2018, shortly before the wedding, Yahoo!News posted an article from London’s Evening Standard on Meghan’s touchy-feeliness, stating that the Palace wanted to mentor her for her new role:

Meghan Markle is likely to turn to the Duchess of Cambridge for tips on getting to grips with Royal etiquette before her wedding to Prince Harry, an expert has claimed.

The former Suits actress, 36, may be encouraged to reign in her “touchy-feeliness” ahead of the big day but is unlikely to be given formal lessons, says royal etiquette expert William Hanson.

Those who have been there, done that and got the tiara including Kate and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall will help coach Ms Markle ahead of her wedding at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle on May 19 .

Mr Hanson said: “Meghan won’t have a specific tutor, but the royal household and other members of the royal family who have ‘married in’ will be passing on their knowledge to the newest addition.

“Meghan will also be observing others, too, watching and copying certain mannerisms or tricks that they do to cope and successfully navigate the pitfalls of court life.

“Her fiancé will, of course, also be sharing his considerable knowledge too.”

Hanson also:

revealed that Prince Harry’s bride-to-be might struggle with to reign in her tactile nature

“This may well be a conscious choice on her part and may be one of the ways that she plays her part in evolving the monarchy, but this touchy-feelyness cannot happen everywhere that she will go and so she may well struggle with having to learn when to be informal and when to be slightly more reserved.”

Ms Markle has previously broken royal protocol by hugging members of the public

Mr Hanson said he would advise Ms Markle to take her time when getting used to Royal etiquette in a bid to succeed.

“Meghan is clearly going to shake things up a bit for the royal family, but I hope not everything gets changed overnight,” he added.

Based on what happened during the wedding preparations, it seemed that the Duchess of Cambridge was not the one to mentor her future sister-in-law. More on that below.

Over a year later and after the birth of Archie, the new Duchess of Sussex’s lack of mentoring was still on the Queen’s mind.

On Thursday, August 1, 2019, The Express reported, ‘Queen sees Sophie Wessex as Meghan Markle’s “unofficial mentor”‘:

Queen Elizabeth II is trying to ease Meghan into her new royal life after the Duchess of Sussex has come under fire multiple times in the past months. The monarch believes the 37-year-old former actress could find a friend and ally in Sophie, Countess of Wessex, as the pair share the desire of a normal life within the Royal Family, according to a close friend … 

The Queen’s suggestion doesn’t come out of the blue, as Meghan and Sophie are believed to have bonded after spending time together at Royal Ascot last year

Just like Meghan, Sophie had a career of her own for years before marrying Edward, and has worked in public relations for a variety of firms.

The Wessexes want their children to grow up away from the spotlight – similarly to what Prince Harry and Meghan are trying to do with their son, Archie Harrison Mountbatten Windsor.

I have no idea how that worked out.

Wedding stress

I was going to call this section ‘Tantrums and tiaras’ but that seemed too clichéd.

The weeks running up to the wedding were reportedly highly tense. It must have been hell.

Valentine Low writes that the tiara kicked everything off:

Organising the wedding was particularly stressful. There were rows about scheduling, the wedding announcements, the gospel choir and, most famously, the tiara. In the months before the wedding, Meghan was told that the Queen would lend her a tiara for the big day, just as she had done for Kate Middleton seven years earlier. An appointment was made in February for Meghan to look at a shortlist of appropriate tiaras at Buckingham Palace. Accompanied by Harry, and under the watchful eye of Angela Kelly, the Queen’s dresser, who is also curator of the Queen’s jewellery, Meghan opted for Queen Mary’s diamond bandeau tiara.

Meghan then needed to make sure her hairdresser had an opportunity to rehearse with it before the day itself. Unfortunately, on the day her hairdresser, Serge Normant, was in town, Angela Kelly was not available, so neither was the tiara. In Harry’s view, this was Kelly being obstructive. According to the book Finding Freedom, Kelly had ignored repeated requests from Kensington Palace to set up a date for a hair trial. And Harry was furious. “Nothing could convince Harry that some of the old guard at the palace simply didn’t like Meghan and would stop at nothing to make her life difficult,” wrote the book’s authors.

But there is another version: that Harry and Meghan were naive at best, entitled at worst, to expect others to jump to their command when they had not even bothered to make an appointment. As a source told The Mail on Sunday: “Meghan demanded access to the tiara. She didn’t make an appointment with Angela but said, ‘We’re at Buckingham Palace. We want the tiara. Can we have it now please?’ Angela essentially said, ‘I’m very sorry, that’s not how it works. There’s protocol in place over these jewels. They’re kept under very tight lock and key. You can’t turn up and demand to have the tiara just because your hairdresser happens to be in town.’ ”

Harry then began ringing others to put pressure on Kelly to bend the rules and in the course of his less than diplomatic efforts is said to have used some fairly fruity language. Whether Harry swore at his grandmother’s aide, or about her, is not clear. But she wasn’t impressed. She reported all this to the Queen, who summoned Harry to a private meeting. “He was firmly put in his place,” a source said. “He had been downright rude.”

On Friday, January 13, 2023, The Telegraph‘s Camilla Tominey wrote about the wedding stress and how it affected Meghan’s relationship with Catherine, starting in 2017:

… as with the family hierarchy – there was a pecking order: and the problem for Meghan was that Kate always appeared to get first dibs on designers.

Erdem Moralıoğlu was one of Meghan’s absolute favourites, but even after Harry had put a ring on it, Kate, who was already a client, continued to get priority …

Suffice to say the notion of her soon-to-be sister-in-law receiving preferential treatment did not, it is claimed, go down well with Meghan, especially as she “wasn’t even Queen”. (Meghan always pointedly insisted on calling the Princess of Wales “Kate” even though the rest of the family referred to her as “Catherine”. Harry reveals in Spare that when he first introduced Meghan to his brother Kate remained in the garden, playing with the children – hardly the welcome they both wanted.)

In Spare, Harry confirms an argument with Angela Kelly, the late Queen’s closest aide, over Queen Mary’s diamond bandeau tiara she borrowed for the big day. Although he denies saying: “What Meghan wants, Meghan gets”, there is a sense that this was the unofficial slogan of the nuptials. Air freshener was indeed requested to improve the aroma of “musty” St George’s Chapel.

He also confirms a row between Kate and Meghan over bridesmaids’ dresses, despite describing it as a “sci-fi fantasy”.

The French couture dresses did not fit any of the bridesmaids properly and, contrary to Harry’s suggestion that Kate was the only one who made a fuss, Meghan told staff at the time she had complained to the designer and that several of the mothers were angry. The row didn’t actually happen at a fitting but when Kate went round to Meghan’s to discuss it. (At this point both women lived at Kensington Palace: Meghan at Nottingham Cottage and Kate at Apartment 1A).

Ironically, it was Meghan herself who acknowledged to the then Cambridges’ staff that Kate “had left in tears”in a bid for help to smooth it over. That’s why the palace couldn’t demand a retraction.

Contrary to Harry’s claim in Spare that the original story claimed “Meghan had reduced Kate to tears about the bridesmaids’ dresses”, actually the rather more balanced 1,200-word feature read: “The Telegraph has spoken to two separate sources who claim Kate was left in tears following a bridesmaids’ dress fitting for Princess Charlotte.

“‘Kate had only just given birth to Prince Louis and was feeling quite emotional,’ said one insider.” (It was the Sun who splashed the headline: “Meghan Made Kate Cry” the following day, with a piece written by Jack Royston, now Newsweek’s chief royal correspondent and one of the Sussexes’ cheerleaders). 

Here is The Sun‘s article.

Moving on:

It is true that Kate went round again the next day with a bunch of flowers and a card to apologise (another bid to keep the peace) …

Harry insists the bridesmaids’ dress story was briefed by the palace, claiming Kate told Charles and Camilla about the altercation over dinner. But more negative headlines started appearing after the wedding precisely because the histrionics staff had grown well used to were now being witnessed by all and sundry. The palace could no longer keep a lid on it.

Even the Prince of Wales had witnessed the aftermath of Meghan’s “bridezilla” behaviour.

The Duchess is alleged to have spoken particularly harshly to a young member of the team in front of her colleagues after criticising a wedding plan she had drawn up, saying: “If there was literally anyone else I could ask to do this, I would be asking them instead of you.” When William heard of the incident, he took the woman aside and said: “I hope you’re okay. You’re doing a really good job,” prompting her to burst into tears.

On January 10, 2023, the Mail interviewed Royal tailor Ajay Mirpuri, who finally broke his silence about the wedding:

Luxury suit and dressmaker Ajay Mirpuri has broken four years of silence on the now infamous affair – claimed to have led to tears from the Duchesses of Sussex and Cambridge – after being tracked down by the Daily Mail.

He revealed that he saw nothing of what is said to have gone on but he and three staff had to work round the clock at Kensington Palace and Windsor Castle for four days before the 2018 nuptials after finding that none of the six bridesmaids’ dresses made by French fashion house Givenchy fitted.

Mr Mirpuri, 45, who has a showroom in London‘s West End, said he felt it was a shame that how the young bridesmaids, including Princess Charlotte, looked on the day had been overshadowed by reports of the fall-out between Meghan and Kate …

‘All six bridesmaids’ dresses had to be fixed, and we did it.

‘I’m a royalist and I wanted to do whatever I could with my small business to serve the Royal Family.

‘We just got our heads down and said “Now we’re here, we’ve got to fix it so that on the day Britain comes off well.”

‘Had this book not come out, no-one would have known it was us. But if it saved the day, it saved the day, and good luck to them.

‘I won’t say it upsets me, but in that whole big event, this [the row] is what’s spoken about the most – it should be the fact that they [the bridesmaids] looked fabulous.’

Mr Mirpuri was speaking for the first time about his role, after Prince Harry detailed in his book Spare, officially published today, his and Meghan’s version of the row with the Duchess of Cambridge about the dresses.

The Prince remains angry that initial reports of the argument focused on Kate being left in tears. There have been several different versions over the years of who made who cry.

Now, Harry has said it was Meghan who he found ‘on the floor sobbing’.

According to his account, four days before the May 2018 wedding, Kate sent Meghan a text about her daughter Princess Charlotte crying because her dress was ‘too big, too long, too baggy’.

A terse exchange ensued in which Meghan said a tailor – named by Harry only as Ajay – had been ‘waiting all day’ at Kensington Palace to make alterations

The gowns were created – as was the wedding dress – by British designer Clare Waight Keller, artistic director of Givenchy. But they were made, it seems, from measurements only, and without repeated fittings.

The other bridesmaids were Harry’s goddaughter Florence van Cutsem, Rylan and Remi Litt, the daughters of close friends of Meghan, Ivy Mulroney, daughter of Canadian stylist Jessica Mulroney, the unofficial maid of honour and Zalie Warren, another of Harry’s goddaughters and the youngest of the troop, aged just two at the time.

‘I’ve no idea what measurements Givenchy had received, but with our experience and knowledge we could see straight away that all six bridesmaids’ dresses had to be fixed, as they weren’t going to fit,’ Mr Mirpuri said.

‘We had to work tooth and nail for four days, four of us working until 4am three nights in a row, to make them fit.

‘We left Windsor Castle at 10pm the night before the wedding. Did anyone on the day complain about the bridesmaids’ dresses and how they looked? The answer is no.’

Mr Mirpuri has worked for Meghan several times, plus others in the royal household, as well as A-listers Elton John, Michael Caine and Mariah Carey.

When asked what he charged, he replied: ‘I won’t divulge that – or who paid the bill. I can’t say it was four figures or five figures. But whoever’s mistake it was paid the bill.’

Givenchy did not respond to a request for comment.

Then there was Meghan’s father’s illness. Camilla Tominey tells us that, as Harry:

concedes, her father Thomas Markle’s heart attack had just thrown the wedding into chaos

Mr Markle went on Good Morning Britain in June 2018 and revealed he had never actually met Harry despite talking to him about “Donald Trump” and “Brexit” over the telephone. Then his daughter Samantha Markle took to the airwaves, publicly questioning Harry and Meghan’s treatment of the gravely ill former lighting director. That was the moment the Sussexes’ staff felt they “lost control of the narrative”.

Early misgivings proven correct

The then-Cambridges were concerned about Harry’s relationship with Meghan, and the way she treated staff confirmed their fears.

Camilla Tominey says:

the Cambridges, as they were then known, had their reservations from the start.

Harry’s insistence that their joint communications secretary Jason Knauf put out a statement in November 2016, claiming his “girlfriend” had been “subject to a wave of abuse and harassment” at the hands of the media created early unease between the brothers. Harry feared he would be “dumped” if he didn’t “protect” the American actress. Yet having already warned him to “take as much time as you need to get to know this girl” (a description that apparently offended Meghan), the rashness of the statement rang alarm bells with William

William, who along with equally introverted Kate has never craved the limelight, felt it was too much of a “celebrity” approach. Being of a more “never complain, never explain” persuasion, William questioned the wisdom of Harry going to war with the newspapers so early on in the relationship. It was risky, for a woman he had only been with for a matter of months … 

Contrary to Harry’s suggestion he was unsupportive, it was the Prince of Wales “in fix it mode” who agreed that experienced and highly professional Amy Pickerill be moved from the press office to become Meghan’s deputy private secretary following her engagement to Harry.

Returning to the tearful staffer whom William comforted, Valentine Low tells us:

On another occasion, when Meghan felt she had been let down over an issue that was worrying her, she rang repeatedly when the staffer was out for dinner on a Friday night. “Every ten minutes, I had to go outside to be screamed at by her and Harry. It was, ‘I can’t believe you’ve done this. You’ve let me down. What were you thinking?’ It went on for a couple of hours.” The calls started again the next morning and continued “for days”, the staffer said. “You could not escape them. There were no lines or boundaries – it was last thing at night, first thing in the morning.”

Relations between the couple and some of their senior staff became so fractious that Miguel Head had to step in to keep the peace.

The Queen became concerned and made a staffing change to help out the newlyweds:

Ed Lane Fox never planned to stay much longer than five years working for Harry. A few days after the wedding, Buckingham Palace announced that Samantha Cohen, the Queen’s former assistant private secretary, would be stepping in to help the couple out for six months as their interim private secretary. Cohen, then aged 49, had already handed in her notice at Buckingham Palace, but just as she was preparing to leave, after 17 years, the Queen, who had a high regard for her, asked her to stay on and help Harry and Meghan. Cohen – everyone calls her Sam – was one of the most popular and well-regarded members of the Queen’s household.

Harry knew her well already, as did William, and was very fond of her. The feeling was reciprocated. Cohen was determined to make her new job work. “Harry was initially very enthusiastic,” said a source. But Cohen was soon to discover that making Harry and Meghan happy was a bigger challenge than she had anticipated.

Low has much more on other staff who were being bullied in the months that followed. Cohen, he says, was one of the best Royal tour organisers, but everything seemed to fall apart during the Sussexes first official tour, that of Australia and the South Pacific in 2018. Meghan was also receiving a lot of freebies during that time, another Palace no-no.

Low says that Jason Knauf sounded the alarm, having heard from staff on the South Pacific tour:

The harsh treatment was not confined to junior staff. One source said that Samantha Cohen had been bullied. Another said: “They treated her terribly. Nothing was ever good enough. It was, ‘She doesn’t understand. She’s failing.’ ” In fact, the source said, Cohen was “a saint” and the best organiser of royal tours they had known.

In February 2021 the duchess’s lawyers denied that Cohen had been bullied, saying that the couple were always grateful for her support and dedication. “She remains very close to the duke and duchess.”

On October 26, 2018, just as Harry and Meghan were flying from Tonga to Sydney for the Invictus Games, Knauf wrote an email to his immediate boss, Simon Case, Prince William’s private secretary [Case moved on to work at No. 10 Downing Street afterwards during Boris Johnson’s time as Prime Minister], saying that he had spoken to the head of HR for the palace about “some very serious problems” concerning Meghan’s behaviour. He wrote: “I am very concerned that the duchess was able to bully two PAs out of the household in the past year… The duchess seems intent on always having someone in her sights. She is bullying X [name withheld by author] and seeking to undermine her confidence. We have had report after report from people who have witnessed unacceptable behaviour towards X despite the universal views from her colleagues that she is a leading talent within the household who is delivering first-rate work.”

Knauf, who was in daily contact with staff on the tour, went on to say that the tour was “very challenging” and was “made worse by the behaviour of the duchess”. He also expressed concerns about his own standing and suggested that even Samantha Cohen could be struggling to cope

He added: “I remain concerned that nothing will be done.”

Jason Knauf, the person who made the bullying allegation, was also American. Insiders said this was about more than just Meghan’s American straight talking.

On tour, Meghan was received enthusiastically everywhere, but she was disappointed and wanted more:

Massive crowds were turning out to see them and Meghan’s refreshingly informal approach to royal visits was proving a hit with the Australian public. When she turned up at the home of a farming family, she brought some banana bread that she had baked herself. When the couple visited a school to see the work of a programme to improve the educational outcomes of young Aboriginals, she was fêted as an inspirational role model.

Behind the scenes it was a different story. Although she enjoyed the attention, Meghan failed to understand the point of all those walkabouts, shaking hands with countless strangers. According to several members of staff, she was heard to say on at least one occasion, “I can’t believe I’m not getting paid for this.”

Admittedly, Meghan was pregnant at the time of the tour.

Nonetheless, Low writes:

More than once, staff felt they were treated harshly. On the journey from Tonga to Sydney, Sam Cohen was said to have had a particularly torrid time of it, according to one source.

“Sam had been screamed at before the flight and during.” After that, she warned other staff to stay away from Harry and Meghan for the rest of the day. That evening, her colleagues tried to arrange matters so that she did not have to see Harry and Meghan any more than was strictly necessary. “It was so horrible to see yesterday,” one said the next day. According to one source, David Manning, who was always a reassuring presence on tours, would say, “You are dealing with a very difficult lady.”

The effect of Meghan’s behaviour was perhaps seen in its starkest terms some time after Knauf wrote his email to Simon Case. Harry had heard about the complaint and had tried to persuade Knauf to make it go away (something denied by the Sussexes’ lawyers). One member of staff, who was named by Knauf in the email, was due to work with Meghan the next day and was worried that she would find out about the complaint.

“This is why I feel sick,” they said. “I don’t want to have to get into the car with her tomorrow morning… She will blame me for it, which will make tomorrow absolutely horrific.”

In the months after the tour, it became clear that the two Americans — Jason Knauf and the Duchess of Sussex — did not see eye to eye:

In the months after the South Pacific tour, the relationship between Jason Knauf and Harry and Meghan was effectively over, even though Knauf was still officially in charge of their media operation. In December, Meghan, wearing a black one-shoulder Givenchy dress, made a surprise appearance at the British Fashion Awards at the Royal Albert Hall, where she presented an award to Clare Waight Keller, who had designed her wedding dress. Knauf had no idea it was happening until Meghan was on stage. She had refused to let Sam Cohen or her assistant private secretary, Amy Pickerill, tell him it was happening.

A month after Knauf sent his bullying allegations to Simon Case, he handed in his notice. He was instead taken on by William and Kate as a special adviser and later became chief executive of the couple’s charitable body, the Royal Foundation.

The Royal foursome also ended:

The bullying allegations, meanwhile, accelerated a major shake-up at Kensington Palace, with Harry and Meghan splitting their household from William and Kate’s.

Cohen prepared her departure:

Cohen was clearly delighted to be getting out soon. A source once said: “Sam always made clear that it was like working for a couple of teenagers. They were impossible and pushed her to the limit. She was miserable.”

Cohen “was at her wits’ end”, said a friend. She was exhausted, had stayed on with the Sussexes for longer than she originally planned and felt isolated from the rest of the royal hierarchy now that she was no longer in the Queen’s private office. “She was constantly having to battle on Harry and Meghan’s behalf, while taking all this abuse from them.” She also found herself getting far more involved in arranging their personal lives than would normally be appropriate for a private secretary, who, despite the job title, is just there to look after their official lives.

The Sussexes’ new team was large, as one would expect of them:

It included a private secretary, two assistant private secretaries, a communications secretary and two other communications officers, as well as administrative staff.

Another American, although one with dual US-UK nationality, was part of it:

Sara Latham – a dual US-British citizen with a bright smile and seemingly boundless energy – was the PR big-hitter who was going to be in charge of communications. Then a managing partner at the Freuds PR agency, she had a wealth of experience, having been a senior adviser on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign … 

At first, Latham and Meghan were a golden combination. She told a friend, “I love this job. It’s amazing.” Latham would go round for lunch with the duchess at Frogmore Cottage to talk things over. Latham thought she understood Meghan, who believed that the press hated her and that she was a victim of racism in the media. The way Latham saw it, Meghan as an American was a victim of cultural differences rather than racism. What she needed was someone to hold her hand and help her navigate her way through the minefield.

It did not take long for the shine to wear off. There was a series of battles with the media that spring and summer. First came Meghan’s lavish baby shower in New York. Then, when Archie was due in May, Meghan was determined to avoid the indignity of a royal birth with journalists camped outside the hospital. The palace put out a statement saying that the duchess had gone into labour, only for it to emerge later than she had, in fact, given birth some eight hours before.

Remember that 2019 was the year Meghan and Harry took private jets everywhere:

This prompted rows with Sara Latham, who had advised Harry against taking private jets.

Relations between the couple and Latham became increasingly tense. Close colleagues began to wonder how long Latham would want to stick around. At the back of their minds was the feeling that anyone leaving the Sussex team would be best advised to think of a good excuse. Meghan did not like it if she thought it was about her.

Meghan’s assistant private secretary, Amy Pickerill, resigned around that time. Low says that the Duchess was quite ‘angry’.

Then came the Africa tour that year.

To be continued next week.

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My most recent post on Liz Truss left off with the beginning of the end in her final week as Conservative Party leader.

Friday, October 14

Her sacking of Kwasi Kwarteng and installation of Jeremy Hunt as Chancellor on Friday, October 14, meant only one thing — her end was nigh:

Liz Truss’s first Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng: what he expected, what he got instead (October 13, 14)

Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng illustrate that one DAY is a long time in politics (October 13, 14)

The Times‘s headline on the morning of the 14th said that Conservative MPs were already plotting to install Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt in Truss’s place. One of them would be Prime Minister and the other would be Chancellor or Foreign Secretary:

The article also said (purple emphases mine):

Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng, the chancellor, are expected within days to make a humiliating climbdown over corporation tax in an effort to calm the markets and see off a mounting revolt.

Indeed, that is what Truss announced at her disastrous press conference that afternoon. By then, Jeremy Hunt was already Chancellor:

It was hard to believe, especially as Ireland’s corporation tax is half that: 12.5%. What is to stop businesses in Northern Ireland from moving south of the border?

Liz prefaced the announcement with:

This is difficult.

Guido Fawkes has the video and another quote preceding her announcement about corporation tax:

It is clear that parts of our mini-Budget went further and faster than markets were expecting… so the way we are delivering has to change…

He concluded (emphases his):

The mother of all U-turns…

Later in the afternoon, Wendy Morton, the Chief Whip, summoned Conservative MPs to an online call with the Deputy Prime Minister Thérèse Coffey.

One hundred of them dialled in. Coffey allegedly kept staring at her notes:

Saturday, October 15

Saturday’s papers were scathing.

The Daily Mail asked, ‘How much more can she (and the rest of us) take?’

The i paper led with ‘Tory MPs tell Truss: “It’s over”‘:

The Telegraph‘s Tom Harris wrote about the symbiotic relationship between the Prime Minister and the Chancellor from Margaret Thatcher’s time to Truss’s.

When that relationship goes wrong in a big way, it’s nearly always bad news for the PM, although there are exceptions:

When a prime minister loses a long-serving chancellor and ally – as Margaret Thatcher did when Nigel Lawson walked out of her government in 1989 – the political ramifications are enormous. In Thatcher’s case, that event signalled the beginning of her long defeat. When a prime minister loses a friend too, it becomes, as Liz Truss stated in her press conference, “not an easy” personal moment. 

Their closeness also makes it impossible for Truss to distance herself from the mess left at the Treasury. It is not clear which policy Kwarteng implemented that the prime minister was so unhappy with that she had to fire him. In 1989, Lawson resigned over his objection to the prime minister’s reliance on her economic adviser, Sir Alan Walters, but there were already disagreements between Numbers 10 and 11 over whether Britain should join the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. 

[John Major’s Norman] Lamont was fired over his handling of Britain’s departure from the same institution. Javid resigned over personnel issues. Rishi Sunak’s reasons for resigning were similar, though in his case the personnel issue involved the then prime minister himself.

In Jeremy Hunt, Liz Truss might be given a chance to form the kind of reassuring, mutually supportive – and, crucially, stable – relationship with her chancellor that good government demands. It would be foolish, however, to assume that when such a relationship breaks down, it is always the chancellor who is next to go.

The Telegraph‘s Camilla Tominey looked at the backbench Conservative MPs, wondering how Conservative they actually were. I was glad to see that she mentioned Alicia Kearns, who does not seem very Conservative to me.

Tominey’s article shows that a significant number of Conservative backbenchers do not hold traditional Conservative Party values:

Never underestimate the Conservative Party’s unparalleled ability to turn the gun on itself when coming under enemy fire. As the pot shots continued to rain thick and fast on Liz Truss’s troubled premiership, what did the Tories decide to do? With Labour’s help, they elected Alicia Kearns as chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.

For those unfamiliar with Ms Kearns, she is the former Amnesty International activist who led the so-called “Pork Pie Plot” to oust Boris Johnson over partygate. Despite having been an MP for all of five minutes, the 34-year-old, who won the safe seat of Rutland and Melton in 2019 (hence the pork pie theme) decided that the Conservatives’ wisest move was to remove the man who secured the party’s biggest election win since 1987. Well, dip me in jellied pork stock and cover me in hot-crust pastry, that went swimmingly!

Having declared last year that she came into Parliament with “one legislative change I wanted to deliver, which was to ban conversion therapy”, inexperienced Kearns now occupies one of the most influential posts in the House of Commons.

Her first intervention? Following hot on the heels of her fellow chair, Mel Stride, of outspoken Treasury select committee fame, she used a radio interview on Thursday night to urge the Prime Minister to reverse the tax-cutting measures in the mini-Budget.

I’ve got nothing personally against Ms Kearns – she is clearly a thoughtful and intelligent woman. But if she isn’t for cutting tax, then what on earth is she doing in the Tory party, let alone now apparently in the running to enter a future Conservative Cabinet?

One former minister was this week quoted as saying: “Everything [the Government] are doing is everything that I don’t believe in.” Why, then, is that senior politician – apparently so opposed to spending controls and economic growth – not currently residing on Sir Keir Starmer’s shadow front bench or drinking Remaineraid with Sir Ed Davey?

As former Brexit negotiator Lord Frost put it on Thursday: “There are too many … social democrats operating under Conservative cover.”

It is one thing to be a broad church, but the Tories are currently taking on the mantle of a Blue Labour cult.

Not only are many of them perfectly comfortable with taxing people more, despite the tax burden being at its highest in 70 years, but they are also apparently as opposed to fracking as Ed Miliband. They seem to love the status quo and appear happy to watch Britain slowly sink into decline – along with their own party.

Tominey says that Liz Truss’s platform was clasically Conservative, and so was the one upon which Alicia Kearns was elected.

These are the MPs who will determine the outcome of Brexit and the next election. Both are in peril.

Tominey rightly lays the blame at the feet of former PM David Cameron, a wet who wanted a different type of Conservative MP:

David Cameron’s decision to introduce open primaries in the late 2000s, which saw wannabe MPs selected by non-members as well as members, was perhaps the most obvious mistake. The Conservatives ended up with “yellow” Tories in its ranks, such as Sarah Wollaston, who later defected to the Liberal Democrats.

Funnily enough, Sarah Wollaston is no longer an MP. Others like her, most of whom had the whip removed, were defeated or chose not to run in 2019.

This is the issue:

But more broadly, by inviting people with no background in Conservative politics to stand for Parliament, they ended up with people with no Tory backbone either. Holding successive snap elections only made the selection process less rigorous and open to people high on ambition and low on ideology.

This is a problem for the next general election. GEs depend upon local activists — party members — who are willing to canvass door-to-door:

We now have the Sunak squadders, calling for people to keep less of their wages, for businesses to pay more in corporation tax and for benefits to be linked to inflation, Corbyn-style …

Conservatives have become so detached from reality that they actually believe this will help them to win the next general election – even though it promises to prompt a mass walkout by the very grass-roots activists they rely on to run a campaign.

However, Tominey says that Rishi Sunak’s coronavirus handouts have also altered the public perception of the role of the state. We can but see how this will play in 2024 or early 2025 when the next GE comes along.

Monday, October 17

On Monday, October 17, Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt had to stand in for Truss during a debate. Opposition MPs accused Truss of hiding under a desk.

Mordaunt had to deny that more than once, saying that Truss had a ‘very genuine reason’ for not being present.

I don’t often feel sorry for Penny Mordaunt, but I did that day:

However, one Labour MP, Andrew Gwynne, tweeted that Liz Truss was the victim of a ‘coup’ — his word — and that Jeremy Hunt was the acting PM:

https://image.vuukle.com/f6a3e1ae-5984-48dd-8fe4-cb0a5368b71b-404bcb3a-bd15-43df-b0b6-f4920edde5c7

On Tuesday, October 18, The Times explained why Truss did not turn up at the despatch box the day before:

For much of the day Truss was conspicuous by her absence. She refused to respond to a question by Sir Keir Starmer in the Commons, prompting accusations from Labour that she was “frit”. Penny Mordaunt, the leader of the Commons, answered questions in her stead. She said that the prime minister had “a very good reason” for her absence but refused to explain further, prompting misplaced speculation that Truss had resigned.

That reason for her absence turned out to be a meeting with Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee. Sources said that the meeting was routine and had been arranged before Kwarteng’s dismissal. But the issue of her leadership, and a potential revolt by Tory MPs, was said to have been discussed.

One source on the committee said there were a “number of views” on the way ahead but that there were concerns that an immediate move to defenestrate the prime minister could further destabilise the markets.

“The question is whether it is more damaging to create further uncertainty by getting rid of the prime minister when the chancellor [Hunt] appears to have settled the markets,” said an MP on the committee.

Some Tory MPs believe that with the unravelling of her tax-cutting agenda and signature energy policy she is finished politically. Sir Charles Walker became the fifth Conservative MP to publicly call for her to go, saying her position was “untenable”.

A senior Conservative source added: “It’s the biggest unforced humiliation for a British government since Suez. Eden did the decent thing and resigned.”

“The trouble is there is no consensus for who should replace her,” said one former backer of Rishi Sunak. “And the last thing we need now is to be seen to be causing more uncertainty on the financial markets.”

Monday night was grim.

On the subject of a coup, Nigel Farage agreed that Jeremy Hunt was in charge, and that this was a ‘globalist coup’:

https://image.vuukle.com/f9d07d03-d334-4051-8724-6f4fa2ddda17-ae8bf94e-7f5a-4ffd-9a52-0e6022d7356a

On his GB News show that night, Dan Wootton also said that there had been a coup. He agreed that the unpopular Hunt was in charge and that no one liked him, except for the Establishment. He said that if the Conservatives allowed this to continue, then they deserve to lose the next GE:

https://image.vuukle.com/f6a3e1ae-5984-48dd-8fe4-cb0a5368b71b-8e6e7a67-592c-457b-b72e-c0ac239a343b

Truss surfaced to give an interview to the BBC’s Chris Mason, wherein she apologised for the mini-budget. She said:

First of all, I do want to accept responsibility and say sorry for the mistakes that have been made. I wanted to act, to help people with their energy bills, to deal with the issue of high taxes, but we went too far and too fast. I have acknowledged that.

Tuesday, October 18

Tuesday’s headlines were deeply discouraging for her. Nearly all had photos of her alongside Hunt:

The new biography of Truss, Out of the Blue, was not even ready for publication. Someone photoshopped the cover with a remainder sticker on it, saying, ‘Reduced for quick sale — please just take it’:

https://image.vuukle.com/98cdcb40-7d3c-4d74-8d23-f9daebdfd1a1-93607ebf-9abe-4f09-a639-03c36aff8641

The Sun‘s political editor, Harry Cole, one of the book’s co-authors, posted an article about the MPs plotting against her:

TORY plotters dubbed the “Balti Bandits” carved up Liz Truss’s future last night over a korma and bhuna feast, The Sun reveals.

Leading rebel Mel Stride hosted more than a dozen “miserable” Conservative MPs in his large House of Commons office for an Indian takeaway – with the PM’s fate also on the table.

Ex-Ministers John Glen, Nick Gibb, Mark Garnier and Shailesh Vara tucked into “lashings of curry and naan” ordered in by Mr Stride, alongside outspoken backbencher Simon Hoare. 

2019 intake MPs Angela Richardson and Simon Baynes were also said to have joined the “poppadum plot” – but sources say the meeting ended with “no credible solution” to their woes

Contenders include ex-Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, new Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt – but given the party is deeply split, the plotters admitted the chances of a rapid “coronation” of a new PM were “almost zero.”

One attendee told The Sun: “the vast majority of attendees were Rishi Sunak supporters, but there were Penny people too. It was not a Rishi thing.” 

On Tuesday evening, Truss had another group angry with her — her own supporters in the European Research Group, the pro-Brexit group of backbench Conservative MPs.

The Telegraph‘s Tim Stanley wrote about it, as he was there in the corridor for Truss’s meeting with them:

Liz Truss launched her fightback at 6pm in Committee Room 11. The meeting was actually set for 5pm; Commons voting ran late so Mark Francois advised us hacks to go away and come back later, but I hung around on the suspicion that the moment we left, Liz would slip out of her hiding place in the roof of the lift and jog, unseen, into the Room …

These are the true believers: if they’re angry at Liz for anything, it’s for not keeping the mini-Budget

What we saw of her on TV on Monday night, interviewed by Chris Mason, did not spark confidence as she uttered that dread word “sorry”, thus accepting personal responsibility for blunders past and future. It is the mark of an “honest politician”, she said, to admit mistakes. That’s true, but it’s also a dead giveaway for a not-very-good one, trying to turn a repeated error into a display of moral virtue. As Samuel Johnson might have said, “Honesty is the last refuge of the incompetent”.

She bobbed into view in a dark blue dress and black tights – fresh-faced, one suspects, from a good night’s sleep. Instinctively, I stood: she might be a PM, but she’s still a lady. I earnt a cheeky nod. Those who can’t fathom the rise of Ms Truss haven’t met her. She has a way of compromising you, of making you think you’re on her side, and it’s the most fun side of the room to be on.

The ERG roared as she entered. She entertained them behind a closed door for about 45 minutes. Then she left, followed by Mr Francois who told us it was “a very positive meeting”.

The PM evidently spoke about Northern Ireland and her commitment to raising defence spending by the end of the decade, which is ambitious for a woman who could be out of office by Friday. And he noted that David Canzini, the clever political operative, was with her, an eminence so grise, none of us had noticed he’d gone in.

No 10 confirmed it: he was hired as of that morning.

Too little too late. That might have been Canzini’s shortest job.

Wednesday, October 19

On Wednesday, October 19, Guido Fawkes posted that the Reform Party — formerly the Brexit Party — was climbing in the polls. The photo shows their chairman, businessman Richard Tice:

Guido’s post said, in part:

Guido can reveal that in the 48 hours before close of play yesterday afternoon, the old Brexit Party received almost 1000 new £25 membership sign-ups. That new five-figure cash boost was joined by 300 members registering a new interest in standing as a party candidate at the next election. The first time the Tories dipped below Labour in the polls – September 2021 – Reform saw one in 10 Tory voters switching to them. Can they continue capitalising on Liz’s woes?

It’s not just Reform benefitting from the dire state of No. 10. Last night the LibDems revealed five new donors, each giving £50,000 to the party, one of whom is a former Tory donor. While the last 36 hours have been calmer for Truss, it does feel like the ship has sprung one too many leaks to be repaired by a strong PMQs performance…

Wednesday was another fateful day. Home Secretary Suella Braverman resigned, then a confusing scene took place in the voting lobby over a division (vote) on fracking, which resulted in more chaos when it was unclear whether Wendy Morton had resigned as Chief Whip:

Liz Truss’s final 24 hours: Suella Braverman’s resignation, question over Whips’ resignations (October 19)

Truss appointed Grant Shapps, former Transport Secretary, in Braverman’s place:

Holy mole, guacamole!

Nigel Farage repeated ‘coup’ in his tweet about the news:

As with Hunt, Truss had to scrape the barrel.

The Telegraph reported that, like Hunt, Shapps was not a Truss supporter:

It is a remarkable turnaround for Mr Shapps, the transport secretary under Boris Johnson who went on to become a prominent supporter of Ms Truss’s leadership rival Rishi Sunak.

Only on Monday night, Mr Shapps was telling a theatre audience that he believed Ms Truss had a “Mount Everest to climb” to remain in power.

“I don’t think there’s any secret she has a mountain, a Mount Everest to climb,” he told Matt Forde’s podcast. “What she needs to do is like threading the eye of a needle with the lights off.”

Now he is one of her most senior ministers – and another example of the way a weakened Ms Truss is being forced to offer olive branches to the Sunak supporters she had previously shunned.

Not only was Mr Shapps questioning her chances of success until as early as this week – he was working proactively to get rid of her.

Mr Shapps has been viewed in Westminster as one of the leaders of the opposition to Truss’s libertarian policies.

He spoke up at the Tory party conference in Birmingham earlier this month against her plans to scrap the 45p rate of income tax, and warned that Ms Truss had “10 days” to turn things around or MPs “might as well roll the dice and elect a new leader”.

This is what the aforementioned Camilla Tominey was lamenting in Conservative MPs. Some of the recent ones have no appreciation of or allegiance to Conservative values. Shapps was a Cameronian MP.

The article also discussed Shapps’s famous spreadsheets which appear to work as well as the 1922 Committee in making or breaking a Prime Minister:

The veteran MP – known by some as the “Duracell Bunny” for his enthusiasm – is also well-known for his “Star Wars” spreadsheet, with which he has spent the past few weeks recording the views of MPs on Ms Truss and her plans.

Mr Shapps used an earlier version of his famous spreadsheet to lead a rebellion against Theresa May, and also utilised its information to help guide Boris Johnson into Downing Street.

The spreadsheet is said to contain more than 6,000 historical “data points” from previous conversations with MPs.

It was rumoured that he had been in contact with Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak to see if they would join an effort to oust Ms Truss. And some rebel MPs claimed he had even offered himself up as a caretaker prime minister.

Let us not forget that Shapps himself is hardly a paragon of virtue:

… unfortunately for Mr Shapps, some elements of his past may make a shot at No 10 less than likely – not least the Michael Green saga.

This was an alter-ego he employed to enable him to run a series of get-rich-quick schemes on the internet while he was an MP.

Mr Shapps originally denied he had a second job, and threatened legal action against a constituent who said he had. But he was forced to admit practising business under a pseudonym in March 2015.

All this happened while he was Tory chairman, in charge of David Cameron’s efforts to win the 2015 election.

He was demoted soon after to aid minister, and resigned from that role after claims he had ignored repeated allegations of bullying involving the Tories’ youth organiser. It was said the alleged bullying, which took place on the party’s RoadTrip 2015 campaign, may have caused one party member to commit suicide.

On Wednesday evening, Camilla Tominey reprised her warning about un-Conservative MPs and their takeover of the Government. She, too, used the word ‘coup’:

the departure of Suella Braverman as home secretary speaks to a bigger problem for Liz Truss than sheer optics.

In sacking two key allies on the Right, only for them to be replaced by opponents more to the Left of the party, the Prime Minister is increasingly looking like the victim of a Conservative coup.

It is certainly ironic that the former home secretary, in post for just 43 days, first used that word to describe those who plotted against Ms Truss’s original plan to link benefit to wages rather than inflation

With that, and most of her mini-Budget up in flames thanks to a rebellion by the moderates, Jeremy Hunt now appears to be the de facto Prime Minister.

He will now be joined by his fellow Sunakite Grant Shapps, who despite being rejected from Ms Truss’s original cabinet, has now been appointed to replace Mrs Braverman at the Home Office.

Braverman, at one point, had headed the aforementioned European Research Group:

her swift exit from one of the highest posts in public office will anger her European Research Group supporters.

It was only on Tuesday evening that Ms Truss was said to have charmed the backbench group of Eurosceptics with her honest, straight-talking approach.

They are unlikely to take kindly to their former chairman, a darling of the grassroots, being ejected in such unseemly fashion.

Mrs Braverman, a Conservative leadership candidate herself over the summer, received the longest standing ovation at the Tory Party conference two weeks ago.

Fortunately, Rishi Sunak re-appointed Braverman as Home Secretary. He probably realised he had to, in order to keep Party members on side.

Returning to Wednesday, October 19, The Telegraph posted an article stating that Conservative backbenchers were asking Labour for help in ousting Truss. Unbelievable:

Rebel Tories have been asking Labour MPs to help them overthrow Liz Truss, The Telegraph has been told.

Conservative backbenchers are growing increasingly frustrated with the Prime Minister’s leadership, but currently lack any mechanisms to remove her given the one-year immunity she has from a no confidence vote.

As things stand, the only way to oust Ms Truss would be to change the rules – which is a decision that only the executive of the 1922 committee of backbenchers can make – or if she resigns of her own volition.

One Labour MP told The Telegraph: “Tories are speaking to us saying ‘this is a complete nightmare and there is no way out’. We are being asked ‘can’t you do something about her?’”

The MP, who said their colleagues have reported similar experiences, said they were approached by one Red Wall MP whose constituency was in the north and another MP who is a member of the One Nation group of moderates …

A Labour source said: “There is very little Labour can do. Even a vote of no confidence doesn’t have the constitutional standing that it used to. The Tory party are the ones that elected her, they need to get rid of her.”

The paper’s Michael Deacon wrote that Conservative MPs were entirely to blame for the mess. Furthermore, he said, they risked angering Party members, the campaigning activists, if they pushed ahead with a rule change saying that the members would no longer be able to vote for future Party leaders. The members elected Truss over Sunak in August:

This week, The Telegraph reported that Tory MPs want to bar members from voting in future leadership elections. Supposedly the reason is to speed up the process of choosing a leader. But this is blatantly a smokescreen. Quite plainly, MPs just want to prevent the members from landing them with another turkey like Truss.

Many members are appalled by this suggestion. And so they should be. Such a plan is not just arrogant and undemocratic, it’s delusional. Because party members aren’t to blame for the current mess.

Tory MPs are.

After all, who put Truss on the ballot paper in the first place? Tory MPs. No fewer than 113 of them, in fact. A third of the parliamentary party. Out of an initial field of 11 candidates for the leadership, Truss was the MPs’ second favourite.

Unlike the MPs, however, the party members weren’t allowed to choose between the initial field of 11. If they had been, it’s extremely unlikely that they would have chosen Truss. They’d have been far more likely to choose Penny Mordaunt or Kemi Badenoch, to name just two. In fact, if the MPs had deigned to ask them, I suspect that the greatest number of members would have wanted their leader to be Boris Johnson – the person they chose to be leader in the first place.

The truth is, the members voted for Truss simply because they didn’t want to vote for Rishi Sunak. In leadership contests, they’re only ever given two candidates to choose from. And why? Because Tory MPs don’t trust them. They fear that, if presented with a wide-open field, party members will choose the “wrong” candidate. Funny how things turn out.

All things considered, then, it seems clear that, if anyone should be barred from voting in leadership contests, it should be Tory MPs. In future, just leave it to the wiser judgment of the members instead.

That night, The Telegraph posted an article by Lord Frost saying that the Party was moving towards a status quo, if not anti-Brexit, stance, going all the way back to David Cameron’s time as Prime Minister, with George Osborne as Chancellor and Philip Hammond in the same post under Theresa May:

… the Government is implementing neither the programme Liz Truss originally advocated nor the 2019 manifesto. It is going in a completely different direction. We are back to Osbornomics, the continuity Hammond view of the world. There is no shred of a mandate for this. It’s only happening because the Truss Government messed things up more badly than anyone could have imagined, and enabled a hostile takeover by its opponents …

… the correct account of the past few weeks is the simplest. Truss tried to deliver worthwhile reforms and set the country onto a much-needed new direction. I supported this policy direction and still do. But it was rushed and bungled. The markets were spooked. The mistakes were opportunistically seized on by her opponents to undermine her leadership, to blame Brexit, and to stop the party getting out of the social democratic tractor beam of the past few years. And now, under pressure, the Prime Minister has reversed tack completely.

The risk now is that we lose for a generation the opportunity to do anything better. Every time the PM defends her approach, she denounces the policies on which she was chosen. The danger is that necessary and correct reforms are discredited.

Frost held that Truss was ultimately responsible for her own downfall.

As such, she had to go:

We are where we are. I am very sorry about it, because I had such high hopes. Whatever happens to her ministers or the stability of the Government in the next few days, Truss just can’t stay in office for one very obvious reason: she campaigned against the policies she is now implementing. However masterfully she now implements them – and it doesn’t seem that it will be very masterfully – it just won’t do. She said she wouldn’t U-turn, and then she did. Her fate is to be the Henry VI of modern politics – a weak figurehead, unable to control the forces around her, occasionally humiliated, and disposed of when she has become inconvenient. Better to go now.

As for her successor and the Party:

Then the party must do two things: avoid making the economic situation even worse by repeating the policies of the Cameron government in totally different circumstances; and recover some political legitimacy for carrying on – because in our system legitimacy does matter.

Thursday, October 20

After 44 days, Liz Truss resigned as Conservative Party leader on Thursday, October 20.

She served as Prime Minister for 50 days, beating George Canning’s record of 118 days. Also a Conservative, he died of tuberculosis in 1827.

She remained PM until Rishi Sunak succeeded her:

Liz Truss’s final 24 hours: Suella Braverman’s resignation, question over Whips’ resignations (October 19)

Liz Truss’s final 24 hours: fallout over Braverman and Morton, no tears in exit speech (October 19, 20)

Rishi Sunak becomes Prime Minister: a momentous morning of historic significance (October 24, 25)

How Rishi Sunak won the Conservative Party leadership contest — part 1 (October 20, 21, 25)

How Rishi Sunak won the Conservative Party leadership contest — part 2 (October 21, 26, 27)

How Rishi Sunak won the Conservative Party leadership contest — part 3 (October 22-24, 27, 28)

On Thursday morning, The Telegraph posted a Planet Normal podcast in which Lord Frost said he could see Brexit being reversed:

In the wide-ranging discussion, Lord Frost also said that he could see a future where Brexit is reversed. 

“Brexit was about giving us the power to do things ourselves and to give responsibility back to British ministers, British governments. And they’ve shown that many of them are not up to the job in the last year or two.”

“I can easily see a situation where Keir Starmer gets in. We drift back closer into the single market and go back into the Customs Union. And then everyone says why are we in these things where we don’t get a say in them? Wouldn’t it be better to be a member? So I can easily see how it could happen. And the way you stop it happening is to prove, while we have the levers of power, that we can do things differently and better. And at the moment we’re not making a very good job of that, unfortunately.”

Little did Truss know that, the day before, she had stood at the despatch box for her last PMQs:

She resigned early on Thursday afternoon. Thankfully, she didn’t cry, unlike Theresa May, who broke down at the podium (Guido has the video):

Sterling began surging the second Truss finished her announcement:

In less than 24 hours, the Conservative Party website deleted her presence from their home page (Guido has the before and after screenshots):

It was a sad ending to a sad episode of British parliamentary history.

Next week, I will look at who, besides Truss herself, was also responsible for it.

Truss is currently spending time in her own constituency and has not yet appeared on the backbenches, an alien place for someone who had been a minister of state for most of her career.

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