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Although the results of the Conservative Party leadership contest were not announced until Monday, September 5, 2022, it was widely believed that Liz Truss would emerge the victor.

So, on Sunday, September 4, the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg interviewed Truss on her morning current events show.

It was as much as a debut for Truss as it was for Kuenssberg. Although Kuenssberg has been on our television screens for several years, it was the first time in this format.

No longer much of a viewer of the regular BBC output outside of BBC Parliament, I only watched a short clip that Guido Fawkes posted:

Truss was polite and constructive. She explained that her policies were based on growth rather than redistribution:

Guido’s post says, in part (emphases his):

The goal of Liz Truss’s government should be to provide the framework for economic growth, growth that provides high paying jobs, not optimises universal credit. The Treasury has been trapped in the logic of Gordon Brown for too long, tinkering with taxes and benefits instead of turbo-charging the economy. We can’t tax or redistribute our way to prosperity, Liz Truss knows this and has the drive to reform government policy. It is a positive, optimistic agenda on which she needs to move fast, starting this week…

Kuenssberg acted like the cool girl from school. (How did her hair grow so much in such a short space of time, one wonders.) She asked Truss:

You will come and see us again, won’t you?

A Telegraph review of the new show mentioned that Kuenssberg couldn’t interview Truss in detail because she had to move on to an interview with Ukraine’s Olena Zelenska (emphases in purple mine):

One hopes … that the busy format can be slimmed down when the need arises, to allow for longer-form interviews and tougher interrogation. Kuenssberg did not, for example, have time to ask Truss about crime, immigration or education, because the programme also had to fit in an interview with Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska (unfortunately, interviews conducted via a translator rarely make for riveting TV), fleeting discussions of Nasa’s Artemis launch and the Taylor Hawkins tribute concert, plus some banter with the panel.

It is just like the BBC to give priority to foreign nations over our own citizens’ needs and concerns.

Another mistake might be the addition of notional comic Joe Lycett, who insulted the then-future Prime Minister and made the Mail‘s front page on Monday:

The British public received more insight from Mark Littlewood, the director of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA). Littlewood (H/T to Guido Fawkes) was up at Oxford with Truss in the early 1990s and said she would be:

the most radical British Prime Minister in over a century.

Excerpts from Littlewood’s article for The Sunday Telegraph follow:

The first myth that needs to be laid to the rest is that Liz Truss is some sort of wily, calculating chameleon who changes her political colours, depending on prevailing political circumstances, to suit her own narrow ends.

I first met Liz Truss over twenty-five years ago at Oxford University and have detected no shift in her underlying political philosophy in that time. She has not jumped from left to right or from radical to reactionary – she is, and has always been, a market liberal with a deep suspicion of entrenched, vested interests. She instinctively believes that the state has a greater propensity to do harm than to do good.

How then to reconcile her record as a pro-EU, Liberal Democrat at university with her Tory policy platform today? You only need to appreciate how politics have changed so markedly since the mid-1990s to understand that while the world itself might not be very consistent, Liz Truss very much is

I would argue that Liz Truss’s changing position on the EU reflects a consistent application of her underlying principles to changing circumstances. To go right back to the 1990s, the single market had just come into being. On the face of it, the European project was on an exciting, liberalising trajectory. It was about removing barriers erected by nation states in order to facilitate trade and free exchange. Over many years – and only incrementally – did the EU’s obsession with regulatory conformity oblige free market liberals to seriously question whether the European Union was now more of a socialist than a liberal enterprise

Although she was hostile to the EU’s heavy-handed intervention, she also recognised that many of the problems afflicting Britain were homegrown. Most of the policy reforms she craved could be carried out whether or not we were a member of the European Union.

In wishing to move Britain in a liberalising, more market-orientated direction, Liz Truss would have judged Brussels to have been bad, but probably Whitehall to be worse

Her approach to date on the energy crisis is a classic example of this. Whilst politicians of all stripes seem to want the government to take even more action to fix the price of energy, Truss’s starting position would be to allow the price mechanism to operate freely and then consider how one might mitigate the effects. She would rather offset the soaring price of utility bills through meaningful tax cuts, than appoint a central committee to pronounce on the exact price we should all be paying per kilowatt hour.

But it’s not merely the underlying instincts of Liz Truss that has led so many free marketeers to get excited about her upcoming premiership. We can also expect her to act decisively. This doesn’t mean she is a dogmatic individual although, for sure, she is guided by an underlying ideology in a way our last three Conservative Prime Ministers have not been …

I suspect we are about to bear witness to the most radical British Prime Minister in over a century.

We can expect to see a whirlwind of activity and announcements from the very first minutes of her entering Downing Street. Given the speed she is going to have to operate at, there inevitably will be missteps. But the overall direction of travel in the Truss administration will be crystal clear – to move power and money away from the state bureaucracy and into the hands of ordinary men and women.

It remains to be seen exactly how far she can move Britain in that direction in the limited time she has available to her, but I can’t wait to find out.

The Sunday Telegraph granted Truss an editorial that day which bear out what Littlewood wrote:

My plan for growth is built on Conservative ideas: tax cuts, supply-side reform and deregulation. I will grasp the nettle on the ambitious reforms needed to get our economy growing, including working with local communities to create low-tax, opportunity-rich investment zones and make Britain the home of innovation and start-ups …

We will break with the same old tax and spend approach by focusing on growth and investment. The heaviest tax burden in 70 years cannot go on. We will change the Treasury investment rules to drive opportunity across every part of our United Kingdom. As Prime Minister, I will terminate the technocratic excesses that have crept into government and our economy.

I will be on the side of the people who drive Britain forward: from our hard-working taxpayers to our dynamic businesses and the self-employed. In the same spirit, I will take on whatever holds us back.

Too often, people face a morass of bureaucracy to get things done. It cannot be right that the last reservoir or new nuclear power station was over a quarter of a century ago. It’s time to get Britain building and liberate our enterprising spirit.

At this critical moment, we can shape the future of our economy through the decisions we make. I am prepared to be bold in order to transform our economy into the powerhouse I know it can be. That is how we will deliver a better future for the British people and ensure together that our best days lie ahead.

On the morning of Monday, September 5, Red Wall MP Lee Anderson (see parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5) reacted to Laura Kuenssberg’s Sunday show.

Guido reported:

Speaking to Mike Graham on TalkTV this morning, he’s just called for the whole BBC to be shipped off to a desert island, because “they do not represent what this country wants.”

One minute before the leadership contest results were announced, Guido tweeted about an extravagant bet he made on a Truss victory:

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbench MPs, announced the result promptly at 12:30 in the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre, not far from Parliament.

Guido could rest easy. Truss won and would become our new Prime Minister:

Sir Graham read out the results from the Party members’ ballots in full. Rishi Sunak did better than most pundits and pollsters predicted.

We also discovered the true number of Conservative Party members, heretofore unknown:

Rishi Sunak received 60,399 votes (42.4%)

Liz Truss received 81,326 votes (57.1%)

There were 172,437 eligible electors. Turnout was 82.6%.

There were 654 rejected ballots – probably mostly write ins for Boris. Which means 142,379 votes were returned.

58,378 electors voted by post and 84,001 electors voted online.

Before the result was announced, Conservative Home‘s Paul Goodman tweeted his expecations based on conversations with Party MPs and activists:

Guido agreed.

He found that Opinium was the most accurate polling company in the contest:

Look how far off the mark Conservative Home was.

Opinium readily acknowledged that doing party-specific polls were much more challenging than those from the general public:

Opinium has once again won the crown for most accurate poll during the Tory leadership election. After winning the same accolade at the 2019 election, Opinium were closest to the final result. They add the usual caveats that polling political parties is much trickier than the general public…

Truss and Sunak were seated next to each other as the votes were announced. Whe she got up to give her speech she rushed past Sunak without a glance or a handshake. Oh, well.

Her short speech didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know:

Guido has the video, in which she was emphatic about one thing:

I campaigned as a Conservative and I will govern as a Conservative.

She also paid tribute to Boris Johnson:

Guido reported that Boris quickly congratulated Truss and said that the two had met before the contest was over:

Boris has congratulated Liz Truss on a “decisive win” in the leadership race:

I know she has the right plan to tackle the cost of living crisis, unite our party and continue the great work of uniting and levelling up our country. Now is the time for all Conservatives to get behind her 100 per cent.

It’s not like Boris stayed neutral throughout the race. This morning the BBC’s Chris Mason reported that Liz visited Boris at Chequers to ask his advice on how to be PM. 

Rishi has tweeted, through obviously gritted teeth, “It’s right we now unite behind the new PM, Liz Truss, as she steers the country through difficult times.”

Meanwhile, Carrie took to Instagram to wish Liz and her family well, alongside a photo of her, Boris, Wilf and Romy stepping through the No. 10 door into Downing Street for the last time.

I expect Wilf and Romy won’t remember it but they’ve had an incredibly happy start to their lives growing up here.

Let’s hope the garish wallpaper didn’t leave a permanent imprint on their young minds.

Unfortunately for Truss and the Conservatives, the longstanding co-chairman of the Party, Ben Elliot, resigned that evening:

Ben Elliot is an entrepreneur, not an MP. He has incredible social connections and has raised a lot of money for the Conservatives.

Elliot is best known for his personal concierge subscription service which he started many years ago.

The Mail+‘s Glen Owen wrote:

Ben Elliot, a close ally of Boris Johnson, announced he was stepping down from the role – leaving Miss Truss with the headache of trying to find a powerful replacement.

Mr Elliot spearheaded the drive to amass a £56millon war chest in the run-up to the 2019 election, of which £23million was raised in the four weeks prior to polling day.

Controversially, Mr Elliot used donor clubs to generate funds – including the use of an ‘advisory board’ for £250,000-a-head contributors – which attracted allegations that he was deploying ‘cash-for-access’ techniques.

But it also allowed the party to comprehensively outgun Labour in the income stakes.

One of Mr Elliot’s friends said that ‘Ben’s own initiative and contacts’ had been responsible for more than one third of donor income.

The friend said:

He is going because he recognises that Liz will want the freedom to appoint her own chair, and wants to spend more time concentrating on his businesses.

Hmm.

Elliot thanked the groups he worked with in the Party, adding:

I would like to thank Boris Johnson for appointing me, and wish Liz Truss every success in leading our great country, particularly given the challenges of the winter ahead.

The article concludes with this:

Darren Mott, chief executive of the Conservative Party said: ‘The whole Conservative Party wants to thank Ben Elliot for his tireless service over the past three years. Without his incredible efforts, the 2019 landslide would not have been possible. We wish him all the best in his future endeavours.’

Moving on to Parliament, which resumed sitting on Monday afternoon, changes were afoot.

Boris loyalist Nadine Dorries’s Online Safety Bill was scheduled to be debated further that day, but was suddenly pulled from the Order Paper.

Mark Spencer, still in post at that point as Leader of the House, announced:

With permission, Mr Speaker, it may help if I inform the House that, following the election of the new leader of the Conservative party, the business managers have agreed that the Government will not move the Second Reading and other motions relating to the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill today to allow Ministers to consider the legislation further. The remainder of this week’s business is as I announced on 21 July.

That was one piece of good news, as it is draconian.

The other good news was that Home Secretary Priti Patel resigned that day, after giving her last Q&A session on Home Department progress over the summer. She had a lot to say but not much to report, which was typical of her performance since 2019:

I had such high hopes for her, but, between civil servants and lingering EU laws to which we are still subject, she couldn’t get anywhere, internationally with migration or domestically with policing.

Returning to Liz Truss, the Russians were not happy that she is now Prime Minister. One Russian broadcaster said:

Elizabeth Truss wants to achieve something entirely different — the end of the world.

Good. Truss is right over the target.

More flak came Truss’s way here in the UK from the usual suspects:

As for Boris, was he as bad a Prime Minister as all the Remainers said? No. Not at all.

Labour’s Gordon Brown is still our most unpopular PM of living memory:

Guido wrote:

The usual blowhards like Alastair Campbell and James O’Brien like to claim that Boris was the worst Prime Minister of all time. That’s not a view reflected by the public. According to data compiled by Britain Elects and published by the New Statesman, during his premiership Boris never reached the depths of unpopularity reached by most of his recent predecessors as PM. Tony Blair was more unpopular before he left office, Gordon Brown was far more unpopular during his tenure and Theresa May sunk lower in popular esteem than ever Boris did. Of recent PMs only David Cameron was less negatively perceived at his lowest point. Dave didn’t have the almost universal and unforgiving disdain of the europhile chattering classes against him though…

Tuesday, September 6, was a busy day and, unfortunately, too much for the Queen, who, as I write on Thursday, is gravely unwell at Balmoral.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker of the House of Commons, interrrupted the energy debate to make a brief announcement, asking for thoughts and good wishes for the Queen and her family at this time.

Tomorrow’s post will discuss Boris’s and Liz’s respective trips to Balmoral to meet with the Queen.

In the meantime, my prayers go to our monarch for her recovery and to the Royal Family.

Having watched BBC Parliament for the better part of three years, I can only conclude that today’s Conservative MPs are a frustrating bunch.

Many of the older hands, who were elected when David Cameron was Prime Minister (2010-2016), seem more like Liberal Democrats. The Thatcher-era MPs who remain are what she would have called Wets.

Many commenters on conservative fora are at their wit’s end. Their complaints are many. Why have Conservatives outdone Labour in economic policy? Why are odd subjects taught in our schools instead of the three Rs? Why can’t police get a grip on real crime? Those are just a few of the questions Britons have.

On August 12, The Telegraph‘s Tim Stanley and Steven Edginton discussed British conservatism in one of their Off Script conversations. What is it? What should it be like?

This video is 51 minutes long and is well worth watching for frustrated conservatives. Don’t be put off by the title. Immigration comes into the conversation only halfway through and only for a few minutes:

Tim Stanley makes excellent points, summarised below.

The most important thing to note is that conservatism changes over time. Benjamin Disraeli was a great Conservative Prime Minister, but his conservatism would not be applicable in our time. Harold Macmillan was another great Prime Minister of his day, succeeding Labour’s Clement Attlee. He responded to the challenges of the postwar 1950s. His brand of conservatism would be irrelevant in our times. Similarly, Margaret Thatcher met the challenges of the late 1970s and the 1980s. Stanley said that invoking Thatcher at every turn today is not helping matters, because we often mis-remember things that she did. He said that some commentators have turned her into a punk libertarian, when she was anything but. He says she was a Conservative with a strong streak of free-will Methodism.

Of our two Conservative Party leadership candidates this year, he says that Rishi Sunak is a technocrat, with all that implies. Liz Truss is a child of the Thatcher years. Both became MPs during David Cameron’s time as PM. They tend to think the way he does and only differ on the way they would handle tax cuts. In this area, Sunak adopts the early Thatcher strategy of delaying them. Truss adopts the strategy of her later years, when Nigel Lawson was Chancellor. On everything else, they are remarkably similar. It’s a politically generational trait.

Stanley came to conservatism from Marxism and stood as a Labour candidate for Parliament when he was younger. He thinks that Truss’s conversion from the Liberal Democrats to the Conservative Party is one she will not fall away from.

Stanley says that Kemi Badenoch, whom he admires greatly, is probably the only MP who studies social issues intently. He thinks she has watched a lot of Thomas Sowell videos on YouTube, because she quotes him a lot.

He thinks Badenoch could be a real agent for change if she ever becomes PM. He warns that few world leaders can effect change on their own. He cites Donald Trump, who could not fight off the Swamp. Our equivalent is called the Blob and is comprised of the same elements: the metropolitan elite and, intersecting as in a Venn diagram, the media and the civil service. Somehow, those groups need to be persuaded to change their minds over time in order for politics and society to improve.

Stanley says that today’s Conservative MPs are ignoring two elements of British life that has seen us through the centuries: family and the Church. (Stanley is a practising Catholic.) He said that MPs must find a way of putting those front and centre into policy making discussions. (That’s a pretty radical idea for a former Marxist.)

He also advocates consistency in policy positions. He cites Nigel Farage and Jeremy Corbyn as two excellent examples of that. Their opinions have not changed over the past few decades, he says, and this is what makes them popular among their respective supporters.

As for today’s younger voters opting for Labour, he says that some will and some will not. He said that it all depends on how much impact today’s economic and social issues are having on them. He cites the young generation of the late 1960s, most of whom still vote Labour. He says that their personal experience from that time was so strong that they never changed when they hit middle age. However, there are others who will move from a more left-wing to a conservative stance. Stanley himself and Liz Truss are two great examples of political conversion.

You’ll probably want to know what Stanley thinks of our immigration mess. He says that we have dealt with EU migration well, but, as far as the Channel crossings are concerned, he compares them to a door that has all sorts of locks on it yet is kept open, serving no purpose at all. He suspects that most Conservative MPs don’t mind the tens of thousands of young men arriving on our shores every year. If they did object, he says, they would have done something by now to stem the flow.

I highly recommend this video, because no one else I’ve heard has said the things that Tim Stanley has. I now view conservatism in a new way.

The Conservative Party leadership contest hustings ended in London’s Wembley Arena on Wednesday, August 31.

Did it last too long? We think so only because we are having a cost of living crisis with more Project Fear pumped into our brains every day. Critics should remember that Parliament is in summer recess anyway. If things were normal with the economy, crime levels and the NHS, we wouldn’t have minded so much.

Remember, if this had been a Labour leadership contest, no one would have moaned. The media would have bent over backwards justifying it.

What I do mind, however, is that Parliament will be meeting only for a short time in September then adjourning so that the Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems can scuttle off to their respective Party conferences. Surely, parliamentary business can continue in the Chamber during September. Not every MP needs to be at a conference every day. Most of them are held on weekends, and Parliament does not meet on Fridays, so there is no reason why the Commons cannot meet during September.

Back to the hustings.

London

I’ll start with the last one in London, which was excellent:

Nick Ferrari, the host of the morning show on LBC (radio), was the moderator.

The sound quality was good as was the music. It was highly professional and everyone looked as if they enjoyed being there.

The Conservative audience was diverse: all ethnic groups and all age groups. There were even a few hipsters present.

The first hour was not filmed. Author, national wit, Celebrity Gogglebox star and former Conservative MP Gyles Brandreth, 74, opened proceedings. I wish I could have seen him. Amazingly, he broke his elbow the day before in Fife, Scotland, but still showed up at Wembley Arena the next day.

In the video, Nick Ferrari comes on at 4:13 to introduce the format, which is consistent with the other Conservative Party hustings. 

At this point in the contest, Liz Truss was seen by pollsters and bookmakers to be way ahead of Rishi Sunak, so the introductory theme was one of unity, meaning: no hard feelings, folks, our next job is to defeat Keir Starmer’s Labour.

That is the message Iain Duncan Smith MP gave in his endorsement for Liz Truss (6:09), reminding the audience that:

she cut her political teeth in London.

Greenwich, to be precise.

Liz Truss’s campaign video followed (13:41), then she appeared on stage, coming out like a winner and invoking the England Lionesses’ ladies football win at the Euros, talking about an ‘aspiration nation’ and pronouncing London:

the greatest city on earth.

After Liz finished her speech, Michael Gove was next (26:08). He endorsed Rishi.

Gove also spoke about unity and had kind — penitential? — words for Boris, which met with a resounding wall of applause. He thanked Boris for ‘the biggest vaccine rollout in Europe’ and for being the first to support Ukraine at the end of February:

Boris, thank you for your service.

Rishi rushed on to the stage after his cringeworthy Underdog campaign video played (34:44).

The crowd went wild with cries of ‘Rishi, Rishi’ (36:00). His parents were in the audience and the cameras got several shots of them when their son was on stage. They sat between Rishi’s wife and Michael Gove.

He said:

We value who you are not what you are.

He paid Liz credit for being:

a proud and passionate Conservative.

In his speech, he mentioned tackling the decades-old problem of grooming gangs and said he would get to grips with public safety and illegal migration.

Then it was time for Liz to answer Nick Ferrari’s and the audience’s questions (51:33).

Afterwards came Rishi’s turn (1:25:00).

Andrew Stephenson, the co-chairman of the Conservative Party closed proceedings (1:58:26) and asked the two candidates back on stage for a final momentary appearance.

With that, the 12th and final hustings came to a close.

The Telegraph has a good recap. Emphases mine below.

Liz has had a good campaign:

… the past seven weeks have seen momentum firmly swing towards Liz Truss, and it would be a major political shock if Mr Sunak were be unveiled as the next prime minister on Monday.

Polling suggests the Foreign Secretary has a lead of around 30 points among Tory members, who have been drawn to her promises to immediately cut taxes and instigate radical economic reform.

By and large, she has also been better received at the hustings events that have taken place around the country, routinely winning applause for her positions on National Insurance, fracking and transgender issues.

Around 6,000 Conservative Party members attended the London hustings and heard Gyles Brandreth’s introduction:

Gyles Brandreth, the broadcaster and former Tory MP whose arm is in a sling, has just given a speech to the Wembley Arena crowd.

“How exciting it is that two people who are intelligent, committed, capable, passionate about their country are actually ready to give service,” he said.

“So whatever the result is it’s going to be a great result for the United Kingdom. And whatever the result is at the end of this election, we are going to come together and support whoever the victor is to the hilt! No question of that.”

He closed with a poem:

From quiet homes and first beginning
Out to the undiscovered ends,
There’s nothing worth the wear of winning
But laughter and the love of friends.

Peter Booth, the chairman of the National Convention, appeared next, giving the audience guidelines on asking their questions.

The video misses out a lone protester, angry about energy charges:

A protester has just run in front of the stage – a man in a dark suit holding a sign that said dontpay.uk, writes Tony Diver, our Whitehall Correspondent, from Wembley Arena.

He was escorted out immediately by two security guards as he ran in front of cameras.

Liz put a lot of blame for London’s woes on Mayor Sadiq Khan’s shoulders:

Liz Truss tells the hustings it is impossible for Britain to succeed with London but it has been “let down by Sadiq Khan”.

“Sadiq Khan is anti-everything – he’s anti-car, he’s anti-business, he’s anti-opportunity and he is holding London back. And I don’t believe those people who say London is a Labour city. No, it is not. London is a city where people opportunities and they want to get on in life.

“And that’s what we can deliver, and we can make London Conservative again.”

Sound familiar?

Nationally:

Ms Truss warns we all face dark times, vowing to reverse National Insurance and impose a moratorium on the green levy, while keeping corporation tax low.

These are her pledges:

I would be honoured to be your prime minister, first of all to deliver for the United Kingdom, to deliver an election victory for the Conservatives in 2024, and to make London a Conservative city again.

The applause for Rishi was greater than it was for Liz:

The cheers in the room are significantly louder and longer for Rishi than Liz. Audience members are on their feet and chanting his name, writes Tony Diver, our Whitehall Correspondent.

“Thank you! Thank you, Wembley!” Mr Sunak responds, after entering to The Weeknd’s Blinding Lights.

He pledged an ethical approach, if elected:

He promises to lead an administration “with integrity and decency at the heart of everything we do”.

Nick Ferrari tried to box Liz into a corner over domestic issues. She ably answered:

I’m the Foreign Secretary and my job is to focus on key foreign affairs issues.

She pledged that there would be no new taxes in her Government.

She also ruled out energy rationing.

She said that she would not refurbish the Downing Street flat:

Liz Truss responds that as a Yorkshirewoman, she believes in “value for money and not buying new things if you’ve got things that are perfectly good to use”.

“I don’t think I’m going to have time to think about the wallpaper or the flooring.”

The papers largely picked up on her possible moratorium for ‘smart motorways’, those without a hard shoulder for emergencies:

Asked if she will restore hard shoulders to motorways and change speed limits from mandatory to advisory, Ms Truss replies: “I absolutely think that we need to review them and stop them if they are not working as soon as possible.

“And all the evidence I have suggests they’re not working. We need to be prepared to look at that. I do believe that the smart motorways experiment hasn’t worked.”

Rishi defended his windfall tax, which the big companies can avoid if they prove they will invest more in the UK:

We’ve got it in place, but as I said in the situation that we’re in it was the right thing to do, and I’m glad I did it, to be honest.

He also said that his plan to tackle inflation was the correct one:

I can guarantee that it will fall far faster with my plan than it will with anyone else’s.

He, too, criticised Sadiq Khan:

Crime has become “intolerable” in London, adds Rishi Sunak, and “the first thing we need to do is hold to account Sadiq Khan for his failings”.

“If you are prepared as a Mayor to do the right things… For example, stop and search. It’s an effective policing tactic“.

Unlike Liz, who was relieved not to have to stand up for audience questions, Rishi stood up and worked the stage.

He brought up ethics again:

In a sentence, does he think Boris Johnson was hard done by? “When it comes to those ethical issues, we can’t be on the wrong side of them. We need to set a clear direction from the top, I would reappoint an ethics adviser because it sends a strong signal from the top.”

The Telegraph‘s article ends with:

Liz Truss seems like a dead cert to become prime minister on Tuesday, and elements of Rishi Sunak’s comments tonight shied away from the personal attacks that have characterised this bitter blue-on-blue campaign to lavish praise on his rival.

The cheers and chants at Wembley Arena tonight – far louder for Mr Sunak than the Foreign Secretary – told a different story from the grassroots polling, which suggests she has a lead of around 30 percentage points

Boris Johnson’s successor is likely to find themselves facing even greater challenges, and must also unite a party fractured by weeks of public division and disagreement.

Veteran political sketch writer Quentin Letts had this to say in The Times:

Surveying a throbbing crowd of 7,000 Tory activists, Sunak gasped “thank you!” nine times, the stage lights bouncing blindingly off his grinning ivories. He strode the large stage like an American presidential candidate and, for a man who must have seen predictions that he will be slaughtered when the result is announced on Monday, maintained an amazing level of pitch and thrust.

He even had an emotive card up his sleeve when he announced that his “two people who inspired me to go into public service are actually here tonight — my mum and dad”. Jolly proud they looked, too. Rishi thanked his “loving, kind wife — you know what you mean to me, you chose to give up your high heels and take a chance on the short kid with a backpack”. The crowd, audibly more pro-Sunak than some of the regional hustings, shouted: “Reeshi! Reeshi!”

Truss entered to strains of Taylor Swift’s Change but her tactics for the evening were more cautious, playing down the clock. She was less sprightly in the opening spiels but came to life more in the questions that followed. In her opening remarks she pushed her voice hard, making it sound more strident and bunged-up. A reply to a question on Israel flew off the bat and had a Sunak supporter clapping hard. She also dealt firmly with some fluff about what sort of limousine she wanted and how she might decorate the No 10 flat. Where her campaign has succeeded with Tory activists has been in its simplicity: the basic message, whacked time and again, of lower taxes and a smaller state.

And so the campaign ends. What a festival for SW1 wonks it has been, allowing for oodles of analysis and fake crossness. The rest of the country, enjoying (lucky devils) their August, has possibly taken less notice of the contest. Sunak, smoother, more fluent, more the establishment’s idea of a PM, started it as favourite. He ended last night by replaying that dreadful tough-Cockney video film about him being the underdog …

The Wembley crowd’s questions were about smart motorways and advisory speed limits , trans rights, gas prices for companies, corporate tax dodging, Ukraine, childcare costs, property prices and, commendably, the future of West End theatre.

Like Quentin Letts, I haven’t gone into too many policy proposals because whoever gets in will be hit hard with reality.

There is an illusion that Party members of any stripe are being let into an honest discussion about what they want to see in a new Government. I do not believe this is what actually happens:

As evidence, let’s cast our minds back to July 2019 and Boris Johnson’s campaign.

He was going to ask the Queen if she wanted a new yacht to replace Britannia, which is now moored as a museum:

He also said that Sadiq Khan needed to go. Khan was re-elected in 2021. The Conservatives, for whatever reason, gave no support to their candidate Shaun Bailey. I cannot fathom why not, since Boris was Khan’s predecessor. Shaun Bailey is a level-headed Conservative.

This is from the July 18, 2019 edition of The Express. Note the mention of housing and accompanying infrastructure, too. None of this happened, perhaps because of the pandemic. Even so, it shows how empty campaign promises are:

The Tory frontrunner savaged Mr Khan out of nowhere, branding him “useless” and “invertebrate” and “not a patch on the old guy.” The onslaught was woven into Mr Johnson’s wider solution to a question that had been posed on monocultural housing policies. A member of the audience asked the former London Mayor: “How will you ensure the Government’s housing policies don’t lend themselves into creating ethnic categories inadvertently?”

Without hesitation, Mr Johnson blasted: “You build fantastic housing in the right place.

“And you put in superb transport infrastructure so you can create mixed communities where there are high quality jobs.

“And if you look at the disasters of planning in the ‘60s and ‘70s where monocultural estates were built, it’s because there simply wasn’t the transport infrastructure.

“Look around London and look at the estates outside London – you can see exactly what went wrong.”

That said, in the end, Boris did deliver on these pledges:

Other hustings

I purposely didn’t cover half the hustings in separate posts, leaving off with the August 11 one in Cheltenham.

A summary of the others follows.

Perth

The next one took place in Perth, Scotland, on August 16. It was unfortunate that pro-independence supporters ruined it with verbally violent posters, throwing eggs and by spitting on older Scottish Conservative members. The SNP denied any involvement.

The Mail had a summary of what the candidates said:

Liz Truss tonight vowed to ‘never, ever let our family be split up’ as the Tory leadership frontrunner insisted she would not allow another Scottish independence referendum if she becomes prime minister.

Speaking at the latest Conservative hustings event in Perth, the Foreign Secretary promised to battle Nicola Sturgeon‘s ‘agenda of separatism’ as she condemned the First Minister and her SNP government for having ‘let down’ Scottish voters.

Ms Truss accused the SNP of ignoring issues such as schools, hospitals and public transport as they chase another Scottish independence referendum.

Her rival for the Tory leadership, Rishi Sunak, also used tonight’s hustings to take a swipe at Ms Sturgeon, as he vowed to ‘call out’ the Scottish Government’s record on drug and alcohol abuse.

He claimed it was ‘completely barmy’ for the SNP to be agitating for a ‘divisive and unecessary constitutional referendum’ amid the cost-of-living crisis. 

Ms Truss and Mr Sunak addressed Tory members inside Perth Concert Hall after reports of ugly scenes outside the hustings venue earlier in the evening.

Conservative Party co-chair Andrew Stephenson demanded Ms Sturgeon ‘unequivocally condemn’ the ‘vile behaviour’ of Scottish independence campaigners.

Belfast

The candidates converged on Belfast the next day, Wednesday, August 17:

I felt very sorry for the Northern Ireland Conservatives gathered there. The party only has 300 members, and they have no voice in Westminster.

A clear disconnect emerged between the candidates and the Party members. Everyone looked uncomfortable.

For that reason, this hustings is well worth watching.

It became apparent that neither Liz nor Rishi understands the Conservative Northern Ireland mindset. I’m no expert, but even I could have dealt with some of those issues better than they did.

The moment that sticks in my mind was when someone asked why Westminster is foisting abortion clinics on Northern Ireland. Liz matter-of-factly — and rather coldly — responded that the rest of the UK has them, so Northern Ireland has to have them, too.

Abortion is far from being the norm there, and, as Northern Ireland has a devolved government, it should have been their decision, not Parliament’s.

Madeline Grant summarised the disconnect in The Telegraph:

Some English Conservatives might be surprised to learn of the existence of their fellow party members across the Irish Sea, let alone that they had a vote in the leadership contest. Yet seatless and marooned from CCHQ – and perhaps because of this – Ulster Tories are the ultimate Tories. This wasn’t your average Home Counties cakewalk, there were questions on more intractable subjects than you’d get elsewhere – abortion, China, the perils of a cashless society. Some of the questioners began with a little intro about how long they’d been party members, reminiscent of Alcoholics Anonymous.

A flamboyant chap in a maroon vest had made a journey almost as ponderous as Truss’s own political leap from Lib Dem republican to Tory monarchist – he’d moved to South Antrim after heading up ‘Conservatives Abroad’ in South Korea. Making a similarly unexplained leap, he proceeded to compare the fight against abortion in Northern Ireland to Britain’s fight against the slave trade in the 19th century. Would Liz “be a modern day William Wilberforce, and end abortion and infanticide in Northern Ireland?” he asked. Truss politely declined to take up the mantle.

Unlike Madeline Grant, I did not find the Belfast hustings amusing in the slightest. It was the saddest one of the lot.

Verdict: Must do better.

Manchester

On Friday, August 19, our candidates were back on the mainland for the hustings in Manchester, which Alastair Stewart from GB News moderated (start at 6:30):

Alastair Stewart is a television veteran and knows what questions to ask:

He won high praise from Liz:

Rishi’s campaign team launched his second campaign film, The Underdog, at this hustings. It was so awful, I wanted to slip through the floor in embarrassment for him.

He told his family story and said that Conservative values were ‘patriotism, family, service, hard work’:

He turned defensive (again) when he told Stewart that he was winning the war on inflation and being responsible with borrowing:

He told an audience member, ‘We’re standing up to Russian aggression’:

Liz said that the police must fight crime, not patrol tweets:

She also said that left-wing politics dominates today’s socio-political debates:

Rishi, too, was tired of leftist dominance — and Manchester’s mayor, former Labour MP Andy Burnham. GB News reported:

Rishi Sunak has vowed to take on the “lefty woke culture that seems to want to cancel our history, our values and our women.”

… Speaking to the audience, Mr Sunak pledged to “restore trust by delivering on the things that matter to people”.

He continued: “That’s why I’ve set out a plan to finally start reforming the NHS so that we can talk less about how much money we can put into it and more in the healthcare that we want to get out of it.

“It’s why I want to take on this lefty woke culture that seems to want to cancel our history, our values and our women.

“And it’s why we need to restore trust of communities right here by calling out the failures of the Labour mayor Andy Burnham because it simply isn’t good enough.

“Just look at the record, a police force that was put into special measures, the highest rates of knife crimes almost across the UK.”

He also talked about illegal migration, details of which are available on his website:

“… I’ve set out a radical plan to finally get to grips with illegal migration.

“Because for too long we’ve turned on our TV screens and seen the scenes of people coming here on boats illegally and it is wrong.”

His comments come days after the number of migrants to have crossed the Channel so far this year passed 21,000.

Another GB News article about the hustings has more:

He said: “I want to move away from the European definition of what an asylum seeker is, because it is too broad and it gets exploited by lefty lawyers.

“When people shouldn’t be here we must be able to send them back, it’s as simple as that.

Was the next bit a dig at Liz, our Foreign Secretary and former Secretary of State for International Trade?

“We’ve got to toughen up our foreign policy. At the moment we have a situation, I found it bonkers, we will go to a country, we’ll talk to them about a trade deal we want to do with them, but also potentially be giving them actual foreign aid.

“But at the same time we don’t say to them ‘hang on, you need to take back your failed asylum seekers’, that’s clearly wrong.”

Liz also had something to say about illegal immigration:

Promoting the much maligned Rwanda policy, which saw its first planned flight grounded on the tarmac, Ms Truss vowed to expand the scheme to other countries if she was elected as Prime Minister.

She said: “What we need to find is a permanent home for those people.

“The way to solve this issue is to find a way of making sure there is a long term home for people who are involved in illegal immigration.

“The real issue is at present people are able to get on the phone to their lawyers when they get on a plane and evade being sent to Rwanda and that is the issue we have to fix, that is about the ECHR.”

The candidates are not miles apart.

Liz also discussed her vision for the North:

What I want to see is a successful north of England where everyone has opportunities and we link up the great cities of the north.

From Liverpool to Manchester to Leeds and beyond and also of course Bradford.

And that’s why I want to build Northern Powerhouse rail and I want those opportunities to be powered by enterprise and business unleashing investment right across the country.

I want us to make the M62 the superhighway to success.

Unfortunately for Rishi, his attempts at being a man of the people failed, as the Mail reported:

Asked at the hustings event how, as a Southampton football club fan, he could get back to ‘winning ways’ in the battle to become Boris Johnson‘s replacement, Mr Sunak attempted to make light of his woes.

But his effort at friendly banter with the Manchester audience saw him blunder in his football knowledge.

‘I’m going to be unpopular for saying it here – starting by beating United this weekend!,’ Mr Sunak told the event.

It was quickly noted how Southampton are not due to play Manchester United until 27th August and would, in fact, be playing Leicester City this weekend.

Mr Sunak’s own goal came just two days after he was mocked for claiming to always enjoy a McDonald’s breakfast wrap when out with his daughters – despite the item having not been on sale since March 2020.

Yet, the former chancellor’s campaign was handed a boost tonight when Michael Gove backed him to be the next Conservative leader.

Mr Gove, the former Levelling Up secretary who was sacked by Mr Johnson last month, accused Ms Truss of taking a ‘holiday from reality’ with her vow to tackle the cost-of-living crisis by prioritising tax cuts.

Birmingham

On August 23, Times Radio’s John Pienaar, formerly of the BBC, moderated the hustings in Birmingham, the UK’s second largest city:

Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi went on stage to endorse Liz.

Liz then went on stage (5:36) and embraced him to big applause and cheers from the audience.

Andrew Mitchell followed her by announcing his support for Rishi (16:34). Rishi’s newer campaign film, The Underdog, was played.

Rishi then pledged to continue levelling up the Midlands, as he has been doing (21:47).

Of his speech, Pienaar said (33:01):

That was punchy!

Someone in the audience booed when Liz took to the stage for her Q&A (33:49).

Pienaar gave her a hard time in the beginning, but she got a huge round of applause from the audience. 

Recall that The Times came out for Rishi almost immediately in July.

However, Rishi also had his beefs with Pienaar. He looked irritated (yet again) and said (1:06:00):

John, you’re acting as if this is already over.

He went on to explain how well his furlough programme worked during the pandemic (1:18:00).

On the subject of Scottish independence, he said that nationalism (1:34:00):

is a romantic ideal.

Then he complained:

There’s not been a single question about tax!

He then expanded on corporation tax and the largest companies. He became really agitated in an oddly friendly way.

This tells us tax is his main consideration, nothing else, no matter what he says.

The man is a technocrat.

Guido Fawkes had an excellent round up of sound bites, starting with Liz (emphases his):

If you want a flavour of the current state of Tory hustings, last night in Birmingham Liz Truss came out with the following two statements within 60 seconds of each other: “I’m not a massive fan of mice”, and asked how she’d feel in the event of having to launch a nuclear weapons strike, “I think it’s an important duty of the PM and I’m ready to do that.” A casually blasé statement committing the UK to potential nuclear armageddon…

Also:

Suggesting she won’t replace the government ethics adviser, saying: “The PM needs to take responsibility – you cannot outsource ethics to an adviser”

Suggesting she would redirect this year’s £12 billion extra funding for the NHS into social care

Asked why she cut funds to the Environment agency as DEFRA secretary she said “I think there’s a way with the way utilities are regulated. We were one of the first countries to regulate and privatise utilities but the world has moved on since then… some of those regulators get mission creep, they don’t necessarily keep the market as properly as they should. I certainly think it’s the case that water companies need to be better are stopping leaks, I think they should be better at dealing with pollution and we need to sort that out.” Sounds a lot like Guido’s story last Friday that she believes in a single utilities regulator

As for Rishi:

Rishi’s answers last night were less alarming albeit equally newsworthy. Primarily, he refused to commit to voting for Liz’s proposed emergency budget should he lose, saying it is a hypothetical question. He reiterated his belief that her tax cut plans will result in “millions of people facing destitution.”

Rishi suggested UK aid programmes should be cut in countries that refuse to accept deportations of “failed asylum seekers” from Britain.

Rishi spoke movingly of yesterday’s horrific shooting of a nine-year-old in Liverpool, saying he reacted by calling his wife, and daughter who is the same age as the victim. Rishi says the government needs to finish the Tories’ 2019 policy of recruiting 20,000 policemen.

Let’s go to the Rishi-supporting Times for their journalists’ verdicts.

Daniel Finkelstein said:

Liz Truss is far better speaking without notes and, having delivered the same remarks over and over, she no longer needs them. Both her opening remarks and her answers to what will have been familiar questions were much better than in the early stages of the campaign. There were even flashes of the humour she shows in private …

But, however good Truss may now be, she still trails Sunak, who is just a better performer. Particularly in his answers, he was fluent, tough and compelling. His opening comments about the flaws in the Truss plan — suggesting it would leave many people destitute — were particularly arresting.

… Whoever wins, their policies have to appeal to those who are not Conservatives and need to actually work.

Winner: Rishi Sunak

Katy Balls said:

The state of the Tory leadership contest can be summed up in the video that welcomed Rishi Sunak to the stage. Last week, his team changed it from the montage played in the earlier hustings. It now has a Ray Winstone-style gangster voice boom that the former chancellor is the underdog — and the country loves an underdog. It points to Sunak’s dilemma: if the polls are correct, only something drastic can change the state of play.

Although he was well received in the hall, with some of the loudest cheers, it’s hard to pinpoint a “change moment” from the display. He again depicted himself as the only candidate willing to tell people hard truths about the economy. He tried again to invoke the spirit of Thatcher by pointing out that many of those who had worked with the late prime minister were backing his plan …

It helped Truss that she focused on her own plans. She came across as confident and assured. This also played well to a party growing tired of blue-on-blue. As the frontrunner, she needs only to hold the line — and she did that.

Winner: Liz Truss

Patrick Maguire said that both won but in different ways:

So how did Truss fare? As a rubber-chicken circuit speaker, just fine. They loved the answers on grammar schools, wokery and nukes. But as a prospective PM? On the biggest question — what to do about rampant inflation and crippling energy costs — Truss was revealingly unrevealing. Cagey, even. Asked how pensioners and the poor would be shielded from the coming storm, she said only that she would “look at” helping them. How to fund social care once Sunak’s £13 billion national insurance hike is scrapped? “General taxation.” Her cure for the mouse infestation in the Commons — “more cats” — was more detailed and offered with a good deal more enthusiasm.

Sunak attacked her economics with the kamikaze self-confidence that is likelier than not to lose him this race. It’s telling. He is as sure as Ted Heath was that he will, in time, be vindicated by his rival’s demise. Sunak is embracing the inevitable. Has Truss? She sounded as if she could not admit to herself — let alone the country — that compromise is coming.

Winner: on the clapometer, Truss. But Sunak won the argument.

Norwich

On Thursday, August 25, talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer moderated the TalkTV hustings in Norwich in East Anglia.

Hartley-Brewer had a great set of questions for the candidates. One wonders if some came from her and TalkTV’s listeners:

While she was preparing her questions, Guido says that some Conservative MPs were annoyed with Rishi:

Allies of Liz’s have slammed Rishi over his “scorched earth” policy, saying it risks destroying chances of bringing the party back together again when the contest is over. They accuse him of “behaving like a wounded stoat” and “framing us as Tory scum” over the course of the campaign. Given he said the likely next PM’s plans would lead to mass homelessness, they’re arguably correct…

Guido also included a photo of Rishi at his mother’s former pharmacy in Southampton. Stefan Rousseau is an incomparable photographer:

His mother was a chemist you know…

I just checked Rousseau’s Twitter feed, and here’s the exterior of the pharmacy:

The Telegraph had a running commentary on the candidates’ day and the hustings.

This was the day after Rishi’s criticism of coronavirus policy appeared in The Spectator:

Rishi Sunak’s interview with The Spectator magazine – in which he revealed that he was told not to talk about the “trade offs” of lockdown – has prompted a row with former Downing Street employees.

He had more difficulties when he went on BBC Radio 4’s The World at One:

On whether he will quit if he loses the leadership vote, Mr Sunak told BBC Radio 4’s World at One earlier today: “Absolutely not. Of course not.

“And I would dispute the characterisation. I’m working incredibly hard going around the country talking about my ideas for the future, and actually having a very positive reception where I’m going, and I think there’s everything left to play for.

“There’s still weeks to run in this campaign, and that’s why I’m continuing to give it everything I’ve got.”

Meanwhile, Liz visited a food manufacturing plant:

Liz Truss has been out and about in Norwich today, visiting Condimentum Ltd at the Food Enterprise Park in Norwich. 

Ms Truss told reporters at the factory near the Norfolk city that tax cuts and boosting energy supply were the key to addressing the cost-of-living crunch.

I think they make Colman’s Mustard there.

Now on to the hustings.

The co-chairman of the Conservative Party defended the length of the leadership campaign:

Andrew Stephenson, chairman of the Conservative Party, addresses the Norwich audience. He defends the leadership contest amid criticism that it has dragged on for too long. 

Health Secretary Steve Barclay came out in support of Rishi.

Rishi said that levelling up is for all corners of the UK:

Levelling up is not just about big cities and the north – it is for everyone, including right here in east Anglia, he says and receives a round of applause.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey declared her support for Liz:

She ends her introduction by saying: “Back Liz for leader, you can trust her to deliver.”

As Liz, the MP for South West Norfolk, was on home turf, she got a standing ovation:

Huge applause and a standing ovation for Liz Truss as she takes the stage, who is the MP for South West Norfolk so this is very much home turf for her. 

“We have travelled around the entire United Kingdon but there is nothing better than being back in my adopted county of Norfolk,” she says, and the audience break out into applause once again.

Rishi had to answer a question about lockdown:

Rishi Sunak defends his interview in the Spectator, saying one of the most “tragic” aspects of lockdown was the damage to children of school closures

He said it is always important to have an honest discussion about “trade-offs”, adding: “If something sounds too good to be true it probably is”.

Hartley-Brewer presented each candidate with the same series of quick-fire questions.

These were Rishi’s answers:

Can you name a single public service that works well? The furlough scheme.

Macron, friend or foe? Friend

Mask mandates or no mask mandates? No mask mandates

Is a trans woman a woman? No

Who would you rather be stuck in a lift with, Keir Starmer or Nicola Sturgeon? Take the stairs

If not you, who would be a better PM, Boris Johnson or Liz Truss? Liz Truss

Hartley-Brewer had to get tough with a heckler:

Rishi Sunak is heckled by an audience member and Julia Hartley-Brewer intervenes telling him to “Sit down, Sir!”

Meanwhile another audience member asks about housing supply. Rishi Sunak says we need to overcome our aversion to “flat pack” housing.

He says he wants to help young people get on the housing ladder much faster by “turbo-charging” a scheme that allows first time buyers to purchase a home with a small deposit.

I can’t believe he still peddles his daughters’ concern for the environment when he’s just had a full-size swimming pool installed at his home. Egregious:

Rishi Sunak tells the audience that the only thing his daughters ask him about is: “Daddy, what are you going to do for the environment?”

Then it was Liz’s turn.

Hartley-Brewer asked her about lockdown:

I did question lockdown, Liz Truss says. 

“Clearly in retrospect, we did do too much. It was too draconian. I don’t think we should have closed schools,” she said. “A lot of children have ended up suffering.”

She adds: “I can assure you that I would never impose a lockdown if I am selected as PM.”

These were Liz’s answers to the quick-fire questions:

Name me a single public service that works well: Our education system has got a hell of a lot better in the last ten years. 

Macron, friend or foe? The jury’s out. If I become PM I will judge him on deeds not words

Mask mandates or no mask mandates? No mask mandates

Is a trans woman a woman? No

Who would you rather be stuck in a lift with, Keir Starmer or Nicola Sturgeon? I think Nicola Sturgeon. I’d hope to persuade her to stop being a separatist by the time we got to the ground floor.

If not you, who would be a better PM, Boris Johnson or Liz Truss? Boris Johnson

Hartley-Brewer asked her about unisex changing rooms at Marks & Spencer:

“M&S is a shop, they can decide their policies as they see fit,” Ms Truss said. “I have been to the bra fitting service in M&S and it is behind a curtain. No one has ever tried to open the curtain while I am in there.”

Liz explained why she does not want asylum seekers to work:

The Foreign Secretary says we also have huge numbers of people who are “economically inactive” and it should be our “first port of call” to get those people into work.

The reason why we don’t allow asylum seekers to work is because the UK will become “even more of a magnate” for people to travel here illegally, she adds.

Good answer.

Liz reiterated her support for Net Zero.

Media outlets picked up on the candidates’ responses to the ‘stuck in a lift’ question:

https://image.vuukle.com/af49e1b0-abd8-4147-a73a-be8ab0fdccee-3e389bcd-aee7-410a-99bc-6316b427958c

Their divergent answers on Emmanuel Macron also made the news.

Liz got both barrels, from Labour and Conservatives alike. The BBC reported:

… she was asked if Mr Macron was a “friend or foe” of the UK at a Tory leadership hustings.

She added that if elected PM she would judge him on “deeds not words”.

But Labour’s David Lammy accused Ms Truss of “a woeful lack of judgement”, saying she had insulted one of “Britain’s closest allies”.

Ms Truss, widely seen as the clear front-runner to be the next Conservative leader and prime minister, made the remark at the penultimate leadership hustings in Norwich, to loud applause.

Her comment came at the end of the hustings during a series of “quickfire questions” posed by the host, TalkTV’s Julia Hartley-Brewer.

When asked the same question Mr Sunak said Mr Macron was a “friend”.

One Conservative minister said Ms Truss’s comments had “completely undermined our relationship with France”, calling her a “faux Thatcher”, a reference to the infamously Eurosceptic former Tory prime minister.

In a tweet, former foreign minister Alistair Burt said Ms Truss has made a “serious error” and should have struck a more diplomatic tone.

Former Conservative minister Gavin Barwell also questioned Ms Truss’s comment saying: “You would have thought the foreign secretary was aware we are in a military alliance with France.”

Guido reported Macron’s reaction:

Macron replies to Liz’s comments on the French President at last night’s husting:

“The United Kingdom is a friendly nation, regardless of its leaders, sometimes in spite of its leaders”

As for the ‘better Prime Minister’ question, Guido says:

When asked whether Rishi or Boris would be a better PM, Liz emphatically shot back “Boris”. Not unsurprising, though rather awkward given Rishi was asked the same question of Liz and graciously chose his opponent…

Conclusion

So, here we are, at long last.

At 12:30 p.m, on Monday, September 5, Sir Graham Brady of the 1922 Committee announced that Liz Truss will be our new Prime Minister. She will meet the Queen at Balmoral on Tuesday, at which point she will form a new Government. More on that later this week.

Liz Truss is our third Party leader in six years.

Conservative MPs must stop the regicide and support her premiership.

This is the final instalment of my series on Boris Johnson’s downfall.

Those who missed them can read parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

Also of interest are:

Developing news: how long can Boris last as PM? (July 5-6)

Boris stays as PM for now but stands down as Conservative leader: ‘When the herd moves, it moves’ (July 6-7)

This post discusses two groups of people who are still wild about Boris: British voters and the Ukrainians.

British voters

On June 11, 2022, one week after Boris survived a vote of confidence by his fellow Conservative MPs, The Observer — the Sunday edition of The Guardian — posted the results of a poll they commissioned.

The findings were surprising for a left-wing newspaper (emphases mine):

Boris Johnson makes a better prime minister than Keir Starmer would despite Partygate, the cost of living crisis and the confidence vote in Johnson held by his MPs, according to the latest Observer poll.

Granted, the results were close, but Boris managed to come out on top, with the Conservatives two points behind Labour:

The Opinium figures, which will raise further concerns within Labour over the party leader’s performance, shows that the prime minister has a two-point lead over his opponent. It also reveals that Starmer’s party holds a narrow two-point lead, compared with a three-point lead in the last poll a fortnight ago. Labour are on 36% of the vote, with the Tories up one point on 34%. The Lib Dems are on 13% with the Greens on 6% …

While 28% think Johnson would make the best prime minister, 26% opted for Starmer.

On June 13, the i paper‘s Hugo Gye posted a few pages from the book Moonshot, by Pfizer’s chairman Albert Bourla:

Two excerpts follow. These pertain to late 2020 and early 2021:

From my perspective, the UK was doing an exceptional job under tremendous pressure.

At that time, the UK was the only vaccinating so quickly that demand surpassed supply. As a result, we worked on a plan to meet the UK’s needs

Yet, in the UK, it was only the Conservatives and conservatives remembering Boris’s efforts during that time period:

On June 14, the Mail‘s Alex Brummer wrote a positive article about the British economy, explaining why things weren’t as bad as the media and pundits portray them:

So, yes, we face serious challenges. And yet I simply do not believe there is any justification for the gloom-laden interpretation by large sections of the broadcast media and fierce critics of Boris Johnson’s government.

These Cassandras peddle a diet of relentless financial woe as they carelessly claim that the nation is in recession or heading for one.

But closer inspection shows not only that things are nowhere near as bad as they claim, but that there are serious grounds for hope in certain sectors, too.

Brummer explored the possibilities of what could happen either way:

True, the UK economy lost momentum recently, shrinking by 0.3 pc in April.

But what no one has mentioned is that this was largely down to a statistical quirk, and respected City forecasters are still actually predicting a 3.2 pc expansion of the UK economy this year, followed by 0.9 pc in 2023.

The big danger is that the constant barrage from the doom merchants could begin to influence events and destroy the resilience of consumers and enterprise — resilience which is still delivering for this country.

What is more, with a change of tack in the Government’s approach, I believe the economy could be recharged.

Of course, the country will struggle if it is required to contend with inflation, rising interest rates and a mountainous tax burden all at the same time. If consumers and businesses are doubly squeezed by higher interest rates and higher taxes, household incomes will be devastated

Brummer disagreed with Rishi’s tax hikes:

The truth is that, with the nation close to full employment and the City of London and services — comprising more than 70 pc of national output — performing well, there was absolutely no need to urgently hike taxes, if at all.

Income tax, national insurance receipts, VAT and corporation tax receipts have all been flowing into the exchequer in record volumes. All that future rises will do is stymie spending and the willingness of companies to invest.

And the main reason for that fall in output of 0.3 pc in April? It is because the Government suddenly ended the NHS’s Test and Trace operations — which had grown into a formidable industry, employing tens of thousands of people — as the country emerged from the pandemic.

In fact, April saw activity in consumer services jump by 2.6 pc. In spite of the £100-a-tank of petrol, the £8-a-pint of best IPA and rocketing food prices, a recession — defined as two quarters of negative growth — is unlikely.

Brummer did support Rishi’s help to the neediest families:

Even if Rishi Sunak does not cut taxes, his £15 billion package of targeted support to help poorer households with the rising cost of living means incomes should now rise in the second and third quarter of the year. It is equal to nearly 2 pc of their earnings and will boost the country’s spending power.

There were more reasons not to believe the doom-mongers, who, as I write in early September, are getting shriller and shriller:

What the doom-mongers fail to tell you is that investment bankers Goldman Sachs recently pointed out that consumer services are ‘robust’ and Britain’s economy is 0.9 pc larger now than it was before the nation went into lockdown.

Economic activity in the crucial services sector, meanwhile, is 2.6 pc higher.

But it is not just the consumer activity — along with the £370 bn plus of pandemic savings in the current and savings accounts of households — propping up the economy.

New data just released shows that the drive towards the UK becoming a high-tech, high-value nation continues to make Britain prosper.

So far this year, the country has sucked in £12.4 bn of investment into the tech industry, the highest level of any country other than the United States.

And let no one blame Brexit:

As for the argument that Brexit has done for Britain, it is comprehensively rubbished by the City consultancy firm EY, which argues that, when it comes to financial services, ‘six years since the EU referendum, we can be confident that Brexit has not damaged the UK’s fundamental appeal’.

Since the financial and professional services are the biggest generator of income for HMRC, and the UK’s most successful export to the rest of the world, this should surely be a source of national pride rather than Remoaner carping.

Indeed, wherever you look, the excellence of Britain’s life sciences sector — as evidenced by the rapid development and distribution of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine during the pandemic — continues to shine

Ultimately, taxes do need to be cut:

But more needs to be done. And by that I mean Rishi Sunak must put an end to the tax hikes — or even reverse them

… he froze personal tax allowances until 2025-6, along with the thresholds for capital gains tax.

… this will provide additional revenues to the Government of about £20.5 bn a year.

Sunak also opted to raise corporation tax from 19 pc to a whopping 25 pc next year. And to help pay for the NHS and social care, every employee and employer in the country is now paying a 1.25 pc surcharge on national insurance.

Together, all these measures (before inclusion of the windfall tax on oil production) mean that Boris Johnson’s government is raising more tax from the British people and commerce than any UK government since the 1940s.

Such a position, given the precarious economic circumstances we face, is completely unsustainable. If the Johnson government wants to fight the next election with a healthy economy, taxes have to be cut with a decisive policy shift.

And if that happens, it could just be the magic pill for a Tory revival.

Meanwhile, Boris took a brief staycation in Cornwall while he helped campaign for the Conservative candidate in Neil ‘Tractor Porn’ Parish’s constituency for the by-election, which, unfortunately, the Liberal Democrats won.

The Mail reported on Boris’s schedule:

Boris Johnson has been pictured walking on a Cornish beach with his son Wilfred as he chose a staycation amid weeks of chaos at Britain’s airports for millions desperate for a post-pandemic foreign break.

The Prime Minister has been in the West Country campaigning as he tries to win the Tiverton and Honiton by-election for the Tories on June 23, but is squeezing in a short family holiday.

And after a flying visit to the Devon constituency he headed to Cornwall to launch his food strategy at the wheel of a tractor before relaxing on the award-winning Porthminster beach, St Ives.

Unfortunately, on Wednesday, June 15, Lord Geidt quit as Boris’s ethical adviser, which made all of his opponents question whether he should still be in office. This came a day after Geidt had appeared before a parliamentary select committee. I saw parts of that session. Geidt did not exactly inspire me with confidence.

The Times reported:

Lord Geidt, a former private secretary to the Queen, announced his resignation in a 21-word statement the day after MPs accused him of “whitewashing” Johnson’s conduct and questioned whether there was “really any point” to him.

Geidt, 60, came close to quitting last month after concluding that there were “legitimate” questions about whether the prime minister breached the ministerial code. He said that Johnson’s fine for breaking coronavirus rules threatened to undermine his role and risked leaving the ministerial code open to ridicule.

He also received a “humble and sincere” apology from Johnson in January after the prime minister withheld critical messages from Geidt’s inquiry into the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat.

A statement from Geidt published on the government website this evening said simply: “With regret, I feel that it is right that I am resigning from my post as independent adviser on ministers’ interests.”

In a bruising encounter with the public administration and constitutional affairs select committee yesterday, Geidt admitted that he had been “frustrated” by the prime minister’s approach to the scandal.

William Wragg, the Conservative chairman of the committee, told The Times: “Lord Geidt is a person of great integrity, motivated by the highest ideals of public service. For the prime minister to lose one adviser on ministers’ interests may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose two looks like carelessness.”

Then again, William Wragg is not a fan of Boris’s, prompting his supporters to think there was a stitch up, especially as Tony Blair had just been installed as a new member of the Order of the Garter.

Geidt’s letter seems to be focused on Boris’s fixed penalty notice for Partygate, but Boris’s response, published in The Guardian, is about steel tariffs:

https://image.vuukle.com/ec8968d1-827d-4c2c-be0c-d7788eecf909-246cc61d-a889-436e-a38d-8a75e6feb480

GB News’s Patrick Christys explained this before going into Tony Blair’s offences during his time as Prime Minister, including the Iraq War and letting IRA terrorists walk free. It’s a shame the video isn’t clearer, but the audio is compelling. After Christys introduced the subject, a panel debate took place:

Christys ran a poll asking if Boris is more unethical than Blair. Seventy per cent said No:

Blair’s former adviser John McTernan said that, unlike Boris, Blair had been cleared of a fixed penalty notice (for an irregularity in paying London’s congestion charge). But was Blair actually cleared? The BBC article from the time suggests that he wasn’t:

On June 24, after the Conservatives lost Neil Parish’s seat to the Lib Dems and the Wakefield seat to Labour, The Telegraph reported that the co-Chairman of the Conservative Party, Oliver Dowden MP, resigned. He seemed to blame the loss on Boris, although mid-term by-election victories often go to an Opposition party, something Dowden should have known:

Oliver Dowden has resigned as chairman of the Conservative Party after it suffered two by-election defeats, saying in a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson that “someone must take responsibility”.

Mr Dowden’s resignation came at 5.35am, shortly after the announcement of the two defeats. He had been scheduled to appear on the morning media round before he decided to step down.

In Tiverton and Honiton the Liberal Democrats overturned a 24,000 Tory majority to win, while Labour reclaimed Wakefield.

The contests, triggered by the resignation of disgraced Tories, offered voters the chance to give their verdict on the Prime Minister just weeks after 41 per cent of his own MPs cast their ballots against him.

Guido Fawkes posted Boris’s generous letter of thanks to Dowden and his video explaining that mid-term by-election results often explain voters’ frustration with the direction of the Government:

As usual, Blair’s former spin doctor Alastair Campbell posted another inaccuracy, this time about Labour’s by-election results:

At the time, Boris was away in Kigali, Rwanda, for CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting). While there, he clarified sex and gender. The Times reported:

A woman cannot be born with a penis, Boris Johnson said last night, adding that there were “particular problems” around “issues of gender”, but he said it was important to be “as understanding of everybody else as possible”.

Asked whether a woman could be born with a penis, Johnson replied: “Not without being a man”.

This has been an ongoing controversy for the past year. Neither Rishi Sunak nor Keir Starmer have been willing to answer that question. Boris met that challenge.

By the time Boris resigned on Thursday, July 7, millions of voters thought it was a stitch up.

Dan Wootton expressed our thoughts magnificently in his editorial that evening on GB News:

Excerpts from his transcript follow:

They won, folks.

They got him in the end.

Let’s be honest for a moment, they were never going to stop until they’d secured Boris Johnson’s head.

Since December, the campaign by the political establishment, the Remoaner elite, the civil service blob and – crucially – the country’s biased broadcast media, notably BBC News, ITV News and Sly News, has been fever pitch.

Eventually, the Conservative Party decided it was impossible to govern while also fighting such dark and powerful forces.

These are deeply depressing times for British democracy.

Boris is the third Tory Prime Minister brought down in six years.

The febrile and hostile establishment and the MSM knows the power they have to bring political paralysis to the country.

And why were they so determined to destroy Boris?

Think about it.

He was a transformational Prime Minister.

A Prime Minister who stared them all down to finally deliver Brexit.

A Prime Minister who had vowed to cut the size of the civil service and demanded they return to their damned desks.

A Prime Minister who was going to scrap the hated BBC licence fee and sell the far-left Channel 4 News.

It’s not hard to see why they would stop at nothing to discredit him.

I mean, last night the BBC quoted a source saying Boris Johnson “is now like Putin”.

That’s how deranged and determined his critics have become.

The celebration that broke out across the airwaves today – especially on the Boris Bashing Corporation once known as the BBC – blew up any final suggestion that we have an impartial broadcast media here in Britain

I wanted to share with you part of a conversation I had earlier today with a source close to the Prime Minister.

They told me: “People had no interest in talking about the quite historic leadership achievements be that dragging us through a pandemic, a world leading vaccine programme rollout and a quite uniquely special performance in regards to that European war.”

“Those people who wanted him gone never wanted to acknowledge that at any point. Never ever. It was always just the Westminster personality stuff. That was the only focus.”

“Labour has had not one policy or grown-up policy discussion. It has been an out and out campaign to remove Boris. And you always have to ask yourself why. Why did they want to get rid of Boris so much? Why did sections of the media do that? Ultimately, wounded or not, he is the Conservative’s best chance of winning an election” …

As the Daily Mail said today: The truth is, Mr Johnson stands head and shoulders above almost all his assassins. Compared with the mountains he has scaled, their combined achievements are little more than molehills

To Boris Johnson, it was a project not completed, largely down to external forces.

But thank you for delivering us Brexit; that is an achievement for the ages that will go down in the history books.

It was a sad evening, indeed.

However, in time, there might be an upside. Maybe he could appear on GB News now and again:

Boris won that night’s Greatest Briton accolade:

Wootton’s focus on Brexit was confirmed by The Telegraph‘s Sherelle Jacobs the following day. She fears that Boris’s resignation will give a lift to prominent Remainers:

With the implosion of Boris Johnson, the Brexit war threatens to start anew. Tory Leavers must accept their vulnerability. The Prime Minister who ended the last battle by getting a Brexit deal done has just fallen in ignominious circumstances. Meanwhile, Remainers – who will never give up the fight – scent weakness.

While Andrew Adonis rallies against a “revolution which devours its children”, Michael Heseltine has declared that “if Boris goes, Brexit goes”. It might be tempting to dismiss all this as the hopeful rantings of bitter men. After all, Sir Keir Starmer has been at pains to reassure voters in recent days that Labour will not take Britain back into the European Union.

But even if the leader of the Opposition – a Remainer who voted six times against a Brexit deal – is genuine, he is powerless to stop the rejuvenation of the Remainer campaign. As support for Brexit in the polls has seeped away in recent months, in part because of the chaos that has gripped the Government, ultra-Remainers have been on manoeuvres. With the fall of Johnson, they think their time has almost come.

Over the next two years, they will likely proceed with a calculated mixture of boldness and caution. Already the public is being relentlessly bombarded with misinformation, which erroneously links every ill facing Britain with the decision to leave the EU. As the Tory party is distracted by internal dramas, negative Brexit sentiment will mount. This is already starting to happen, as critics in the business world become blunter in their criticisms – from the aviation industry to the CBI.

Meanwhile, some Tory MPs have been discreetly arguing in favour of a softer Brexit. Indeed, while the removal of the PM was by no means a Remainer plot, some of his internal enemies were motivated by a desire for greater alignment with EU rules – or at least by their opposition to what they consider to be an excessively aggressive attitude towards fixing the Northern Ireland protocol …

In truth, Conservative fealty to the Brexit cause has been disintegrating even under Boris Johnson, as the Blob has sapped the Government’s will

The great fear is that the Tory party now elects a closet Remainer who does not have the conviction to take all this on. That Brexit dies with a whimper, smothered by bureaucratic inertia and then finally strangled after the next election. If Brexiteers want to avoid this fate, they must think like war strategists once again. That means confronting the extent of their current weakness, and taking their opponents seriously.

Boris also shares that same worry and said so in Parliament on July 19, the day of his final Prime Minister’s Questions:

Right after Boris’s resignation, an online petition appeared: ‘Reinstate Boris Johnson as PM’. It currently has over 23,000 signatures making it one of the top signed petitions on Change.org.

On Saturday, July 9, the i paper had an interesting report with several interviews:

The atmosphere sounded surreal:

“It was a bit weird”, a source said of the Cabinet meeting Boris Johnson convened on Thursday just two hours after he said he would step down, effectively putting Britain on pause.

The Prime Minister was flanked by senior ministers, some of whom, less than 24 hours, had earlier led a delegation of men and women in grey suits to No 10 to urge him to quit

Bill committees examining legislation line-by-line had to be cancelled, or they had newly resigned ministers sitting on them as backbenchers, while the whips who lacked the required specialist knowledge of the issues at stake were leading for the Government …

Contenders to take over as PM, when Mr Johnson does go, have been preparing for a contest months as the writing has slowly been scrawled on the wall of No 10.

Tom Tugendhat, Penny Mordaunt, and Jeremy Hunt were the most active hopefuls this week, contacting MPs and arranging meetings …

As the leadership contenders jostled, the Whitehall blame game began over Mr Johnson’s spectacular fall from grace. The Prime Minister entirely overhauled his inner circle in February, after the initial “Partygate” allegations broke, and it is largely this team that will shepherd the Government through the final few months of his premiership …

The arrival of Guto Harri, one of Mr Johnson’s oldest allies, as director of communications is seen by many as a contributor to the Prime Minister’s downfall

The spin chief had a habit of making up policies off the cuff, prompting advisers in other departments to joke about “the Guto special” when confronted with unexpected announcements from No 10. One Whitehall official concluded: “He is good for journalists, I’m not sure he’s good for HMG [Her Majesty’s Government]”

But others pin the ultimate blame firmly at Mr Johnson’s door.

One of Mr Johnson’s closest former advisers told i that it “all went wrong for the PM” when he stopped listening to those from Vote Leave

One of the former ministers who quit said on Thursday simply: “Everything is his fault. I spent months defending, or at least being generous about, his mistakes.

“Not after the last 24 hours. Appalling.”

On July 12, Guido reported that Boris loyalist Jacob Rees-Mogg thought that the Prime Minister’s name should be on the Conservative MPs’ ballot (emphases his):

… he affirmed it was “unjust” to deny the Prime Minister the opportunity to fight for his position amongst Tory members. This comes in the context of his previous arguments for the growing presence of personal mandates in British political leaders. Unfortunately, Guido doesn’t believe this strategy is quite in line with the contest rules…

I think this gave Boris’s supporters false hopes:

People in Conservative constituencies began emailing their MPs:

With no result, the question then turned to whether Boris’s name should be on the ballot for Conservative Party members.

On Saturday, July 16, The Times‘s Gabriel Pogrund and Harry Yorke posted an article: ‘How the Tories turned the heat on Rishi Sunak’. In it, they introduced Lord Cruddas, who would go on to campaign for Boris’s name to be on the members’ ballot:

Both men were Eurosceptics who had supported the Vote Leave campaign when it might have been politically advantageous not to do so. Both were the beneficiaries of Boris Johnson’s patronage. Cruddas had been given a peerage despite official objections. Sunak had been plucked from obscurity the previous year and made one of the youngest chancellors in history.

In 2021:

Sunak was the most popular politician in Britain and second only to Liz Truss in Conservative Home members’ polls, having overseen the furlough and Eat Out to Help Out schemes. In the chamber, Cruddas gave his own vote of confidence, saying Sunak’s budget “had established a clear path for the country to move from these difficult times”, praising his “thoughtful” approach and arguing it would “not just to reinvigorate the economy post Covid but to help propel the post-Brexit opportunities”.

By July 2022, everything had changed:

A week into the most toxic Tory leadership election in memory, the fact such comments were made feels inconceivable. Cruddas, 68, who remains close to Johnson, has shared posts on social media describing Sunak as a “rat”, “a snake”, a “little weasel”, a “backstabber”, “a slimy snake”, a “treacherous snake”, “Fishy Rishi”, “Hissy Rishi”, “Judas”, “the traitor”, “the Remainer’s choice”, a “sly assassin”, a “Tory wet” promoting high taxes and the leader of a “coup” who “must be removed at all costs”. Cruddas also retweeted claims about the financial affairs of Sunak’s wife, Akshata Murty.

Tonight the peer said there had indeed been a “coup”, adding: “I planned to donate a total of £500,000 this year but that is on hold and will not be paid unless the membership have a chance to vote on Boris being PM. I have no interest in Rishi who I deem to be not fit for high office due to his plotting and the orchestrated way he and others resigned to remove the PM.” He also accused Sunak, 42, of setting up his leadership “before Christmas” and choreographing his resignation to inflict maximum damage.

The problem for Sunak is that such sentiment — especially the notion that he behaved improperly and cannot be trusted on the economy — is not confined to a fringe on social media. He might be the frontrunner but “Anyone But Rishi” reflects the opinion of Johnson and a coalition within the party. This includes cabinet ministers, staff inside Downing Street and Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ), Johnson’s biggest donors, MPs opposed to higher taxes, and rivals for the leadership.

On July 22, The Telegraph‘s Christopher Hope added support for Boris’s return and, in the meantime, addition to the ballot:

Tim Montgomerie, a former aide to Mr Johnson who has since been critical of him, said he had been told by sources close to the Prime Minister that he was convinced he would be back.

In a well-sourced post on social media, Mr Montgomerie wrote: “Boris is telling aides that he’ll be PM again within a year” …

It comes as a row broke out among senior Conservatives about a campaign among party members to allow them a vote on whether Mr Johnson should continue as Prime Minister.

By Friday night, 7,600 members – all of whom have given their membership numbers – had signed a petition calling for the vote.

Lord Cruddas of Shoreditch, the former party treasurer who organised the petition, said “several MPs” had started to “make noises” about supporting his campaign

Conservative MPs panicked:

The next day, The Times stirred the pot even more with ‘Is Boris Johnson really planning another run at No 10?’

On Wednesday afternoon, moments after Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak were announced as the final two Conservative Party leadership contenders, a group of “red wall” MPs met on the House of Commons terrace to reflect on the result. “Is it too late to withdraw my resignation letter?” mused an MP, who held a junior ministerial role until the coup against Boris Johnson. “Shouldn’t we just bring back Boris?” she said, leaving the question to hang in the air …

… Much like the Roman republic after Caesar’s assassination, Whitehall is now riven by internecine warfare and a government paralysed by indecision …

For a man who just 18 days ago was brutally ousted from the job he has coveted his entire political life, Johnson appears to be living out his final days in Downing Street in a cheerful mood. Freed from the never-ending cycle of Westminster scandals, Johnson is relaxed and has spent the past few days hosting friends, relatives and other allies at Chequers and preparing a number of set-piece events leading up to his departure from No 10 in September …

Johnson, who allies claim remains furious with Sunak for his part in the coup, has sought to distract himself from the race to select his successor through media-friendly stunts …

Several MPs who helped oust Johnson have received a backlash from their constituents, stoking fears that they may face the same electoral retribution inflicted on Conservative MPs who ousted Margaret Thatcher. Backbenchers in red wall seats have been inundated with emails from voters who are furious at their role in ousting the prime minister.

They added that their postbag was filled with messages from newly converted Tory voters who have warned they will not vote for the party again now Johnson is gone. A colleague of Gary Sambrook, MP for Birmingham Northfield, claimed he had received hundreds of emails from constituents since he stood up in the Commons earlier this month and accused Johnson of refusing to accept responsibility for his mistakes …

Johnson leaves, aides say, with the air of someone with unfinished business. Whether this is the end of the Johnsonian project, or a precursor to his own Hollywood-esque sequel, remains to be seen.

On July 25, Christopher Hope wrote that the Boris petition had garnered 10,000 signatures:

Insiders say he is obsessed with delivering for the 14 million voters who voted Conservative in 2019, many for the first time because of him.

There are already stirrings of a revolt among the members. By Saturday night, 10,000 Conservative members had signed a petition organised by Lord Cruddas of Shoreditch, former Party treasurer, and David Campbell-Bannerman, former Tory MEP, demanding a say over his future.

The members want a second ballot to confirm MPs’ decision to force his resignation, to run concurrently with the official leadership ballot between Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak.

That evening, Dan Wootton stated his belief that Boris’s name should be on the members’ ballot:

He asked his panel, which included Boris’s father Stanley about it:

You can see relevant portions in these shorter extracts: Stanley supporting his son, Stanley verbally sparring with a journalist for the i paper as well as the opinion of former Boris adviser, Tim Montgomerie.

In the end, nothing happened. There was no Boris ballot.

Early this week, I heard one of the campaigners tell GB News that CCHQ are asking the organisers to do a sanity check on the signatories, confirming their Party membership number and clearing out any duplicates. If the number is still sizeable, CCHQ will discuss a possible changing of the rules for any future contests.

This is good news, in a way, but it will not help the Conservatives in the next general election. Boris’s supporters are still angry.

Ukrainians

The Ukrainians will miss their biggest supporter.

They were saddened by his resignation:

Boris offered them his reassurance:

Volodymyr Zelenskyy even made a special announcement to the Ukrainian people about it:

Guido Fawkes wrote:

After leaving office Guido suspects Boris may end up reflecting more proudly on his work supporting Ukraine than even his Brexit legacy. Since the announcement of his resignation, Ukrainians have come out en masse to voice their sadness about his impending departure … Taking to Telegram late last night, Zelenksyy posted a touching video saying “Today, the main topic in our country has become the British topic – Boris Johnson’s decision to resign as party leader and Prime Minister”

Boris’s hair has become a bit of an icon there (just as Trump’s had in the United States). Guido has the images:

Boris’s popularity among Ukrainians has already been well-reported since the outbreak of war. Streets have been named after him, as have cakes in a Kyiv patisserie. Yesterday Ukraine’s national railways redesigned their logo to include an unmistakable mop of blonde hair, as did major supermarket Сільпо…

Boris once joked that the reason he’d left journalism for politics was because “no one puts up statues to journalists”. It seems that, thanks to his efforts in Ukraine, he did manage achieved his wish for public deification – just not in the country in which he was elected…

On July 8, Ukraine’s youngest MP made a video praising Boris:

Boris Johnson took a clear stand when so many others looked the other way.

In August, someone was inspired to paint a mural of Boris:

On August 24, Boris made his farewell — and surprise — visit to Ukraine on the nation’s Independence Day:

Guido wrote:

Boris has made yet another surprise visit to Ukraine on its independence day — and the sixth month anniversary of its invasion. He used the visit, his last as PM, to announce a £54 million aid package to the country of 2000 state-of-the-art drones and loitering munitions …

Slava Ukraini…

Guido also posted this video:

GB News had more on the story:

Mr Johnson’s visit came as Ukraine marked 31 years since its independence from Moscow’s rule.

And it also came six months on from Russia’s invasion of Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s nation …

He said in Kyiv today: “What happens in Ukraine matters to us all.

“That is why I am in Kyiv today. That is why the UK will continue to stand with our Ukrainian friends. I believe Ukraine can and will win this war” …

The Prime Minister used his meeting with Mr Zelenskyy to set out a further package of military aid, including 2,000 drones and loitering munitions.

He also received the Order of Liberty, the highest award that can be bestowed on foreign nationals, for the UK’s support for Ukraine.

Mr Johnson said: “For the past six months, the United Kingdom has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine, supporting this sovereign country to defend itself from this barbaric and illegal invader.

“Today’s package of support will give the brave and resilient Ukrainian armed forces another boost in capability, allowing them to continue to push back Russian forces and fight for their freedom.”

The package includes 850 hand-launched Black Hornet micro-drones – smaller than a mobile phone – which can be used to provide live feeds and still images to troops, particularly important in urban warfare.

The support also includes larger drones and loitering weapons, which can be used to target Russian vehicles and installations.

The UK is also preparing to give mine-hunting vehicles to operate off the coast, with Ukrainian personnel being trained in their use in UK waters in the coming weeks.

Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK Vadym Prystaiko marked the occasion by urging UK citizens to be “patient” as the war-torn country “cannot afford to lose your support”.

He said: “You are playing a very important part in this fight. Ukraine will do what it takes to claim victory.”

But will Britons continue to love Ukraine as much when the winter and higher fuel bills kick in?

Boris told us that we must do it, we must suffer, for Ukraine:

He has a point, but I do wonder how well this will play by the end of the year.

At least Boris got his Churchillian international claim to fame.

What next?

This week, Boris made a farewell tour of the UK, topped off with a dawn police raid of a house:

Guido has the video and explains the greeting:

This morning Boris accompanied the police on a home raid. Given we’re now comfortably into the 21st century, it didn’t take long for one of the occupants to realise the PM was in his home and film the experience, asking Boris ‘wagwan‘. Boris politely asked the filming resident “how you doing?”. The Snapchatter could have at least offered Boris a cuppa…

It’s rumoured that Michael Gove might be off to edit a newspaper:

Guido has the story and the audio of Gove’s plans:

This morning Michael Gove laughed off the suggestion he’s planning an imminent return to Fleet Street, insisting on the Today Programme he’s “definitely planning to stay in Parliament” and won’t be stepping down any time soon. Rumours have been building in SW1 that Gove had his eye on the editorship of, erm, one particular Murdoch-owned broadsheet, should a vacancy become available …

No, no. I think my first responsibility and duty is to my constituents in Surrey Heath. I’m going to stay on as MP, argue for them, and also argue for some of the causes in which I believe. I think it’s vitally important that we continue to make the case for levelling up. I think Boris Johnson is absolutely right to focus on the need to provide additional support for overlooked and undervalued communities…

Gove added he still has “a reservoir” of affection for Boris despite being the only Minister the PM actually sacked in July. Boris is also rumoured to be sticking around until the next election. Could make for awkward small talk on the backbenches.

I predict they will stay on as MPs until the next election, just show up less often in the Commons.

As for Rishi, The Guardian said on Friday, September 2, that he was being compared with Michael Heseltine, one of the MPs who brought down Margaret Thatcher:

One of the most familiar refrains of the Conservative leadership contest was candidates earnestly inviting comparisons to Margaret Thatcher.

But after his resignation as chancellor brought down Boris Johnson’s wobbling house of cards, a Tory insider said Rishi Sunak found himself with “the curse of Heseltine hanging round his neck”.

Despite long having been talked of as a likely future prime minister, Sunak struggled to shed the parallel with the man who helped bring down Thatcher but failed in his own tilt at the top job – before coining the famous political cliche: “He who wields the knife never wears the crown.”

I’ll leave the final word to The Spectator‘s political editor James Forsyth, who muses on what politics will look like after Boris leaves:

His absence will reshape the political landscape because his presence defined it.

We will find out who Boris’s successor is on Monday. The Guardian has a report on what we should expect:

The candidate who receives the most votes will be revealed on Monday by Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 Committee, a gathering of Conservative backbench MPs (not named after the average year of birth of its members but the year in which it was founded) …

The formal handover will take place on Tuesday. The Queen is recovering from the outgoing prime minister’s tenure in her Scottish pile Balmoral and will appoint the new PM there, which will be a challenge as it requires the winner to leave Westminster.

Johnson is expected to make a farewell address outside 10 Downing Street at about 9am on Tuesday. It is not known whether he has written two versions of the speech, one based on staying, one based on leaving.

More next week as a new chapter in Conservative politics begins.

End of series

This is the penultimate instalment of Boris Johnson’s downfall.

Earlier ones can be found here: parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

Before I get to the heart of the matter, one of Boris’s former aides, Cleo Watson, wrote about her time in Downing Street for the September 2022 issue of the high society magazine Tatler: ‘Exclusive: how PM’s former aide had to “nanny” him through lockdown’.

Cleo Watson tells the story of how she went from working on Obama’s 2012 campaign to the Vote Leave one that preceded the 2016 Brexit referendum. As she worked with Dominic Cummings on the latter, he asked her if she would like to work at Downing Street when Boris became Prime Minister.

She accepted but had no idea what fate awaited her. Who knew then about the pandemic, which she had to get Boris through: frequent coronavirus testing, recovering from his near-death viral experience with nourishing drinks rather than Diet Coke and putting up with his silly, schoolboy jokes.

Then there was Dilyn, his and Carrie’s Welsh rescue terrier, which they acquired in 2019. Dilyn never was properly house-trained and left little surprises in Downing Street and at the prime ministerial weekend retreat, Chequers.

Watson has just finished writing her first novel, Whip!, a fictionalised account of what life is like in Downing Street. It is scheduled to be published in 2023.

One thing that struck me is just how pervasive Dominic Cummings was during his time there.

She describes what the penitential press conference he had to give in May 2020 after his forbidden trip to County Durham during lockdown was like (emphases mine):

Dom’s ‘eye test’ itself led to moments of strange humour as we struggled to respond to the public anger it caused. Remember his press conference in the rose garden? What you didn’t see was the group of advisers loitering behind the cameras, clutching ourselves with worry. Dom’s natural sunny attitude …

‘Sunny attitude’? Surely some sarcasm there, methinks:

… seemed to be waning, so halfway through I took to standing directly in his eyeline, bent over like a tennis linesman, gesticulating for him to sit up straight and, if not smile, be tolerant and polite when responding to the repetitive questions being fired at him.

She left around the same time as Cummings, in November 2020:

As so many in politics know, the end comes sooner or later – generally sooner, if you’re employed by this prime minister. (Although I suppose he’s had karma returned with interest recently.) The end for me came in November 2020, about two weeks after Dom’s hurried departure.

These were her final moments with Boris:

The PM had been isolating after his latest ‘ping’ and he and I finally reunited in the Cabinet room, where we had an exchange that I am sure may have been familiar to many of his girlfriends. Him: ‘Ho hum, I’m not sure this is working any more.’ Me: ‘Oh, OK, you seem to be trying to break up with me. I’ll get my things.’ Him: ‘Aargh… I don’t know… yes, no, maybe… wait, come back!’ I suppose it went a little differently. He said a lot of things, the most succinct being: ‘I can’t look at you any more because it reminds me of Dom. It’s like a marriage has ended, we’ve divided up our things and I’ve kept an ugly old lamp. But every time I look at that lamp, it reminds me of the person I was with. You’re that lamp.’ A lamp! At least a gazelle has a heartbeat. Still, he presumably knows better than most how it feels when a marriage breaks up.

So I left No 10 – without a leaving party, contrary to what has been reported. What actually happened is that we agreed to go our separate ways and I went to the press team to say goodbye. The PM, unable to see a group of people and not orate, gave a painful, off-the-cuff speech to a bewildered clutch of advisers and I left shortly after.

More work followed, then came a holiday in Barbados:

I was asked to work on the COP26 climate change summit (quite cleansing for the brand after Vote Leave and Johnson’s No 10), which took place in Glasgow in November 2021. It was a brutal year, no less dogged by Covid than the previous one, and I was lucky enough to top it off with a recovery holiday in Barbados in December.

The sun, the sea, the cocktail bar… Welcome to paradise. Except something was off. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but whenever I was indoors at Cobblers Cove, the lovely hotel my husband, Tom, and I were staying at, I had a strange, uneasy feeling that I’d been there before. Where had I seen muted green print on jolly green print on rattan before? The place had been revamped by none other than Lulu Lytle, of the Downing Street flat fame.

Downing Street stays with a person, not unlike memories of an ex:

It’s often the way that looking at a period of your life later on can frame it as much happier than it really was. It’s like remembering the good times with an ex. You’ll smell or hear something that nearly knocks you over with a wave of nostalgia and before you know it, you’re thinking: ‘I wonder what they’re doing now…’

I’m very fortunate in that I know exactly what they’re doing and what I’m missing out on. Yes, you get the chance to serve the country and on an individual level you can change people’s lives. But there is also the constant work that gets gobbled up by the news cycle. The gut-busting effort behind every speech that flops. The policy that gets torn to shreds. The constant lurk of an MP rebellion. From the moment you’re awake, you’re on your phone(s).

These days I’ll be walking my dog (far too big to be used as a handheld prop now) and delighted – literally delighted – to be picking up after him rather than dealing with the latest catastrophe I can see playing out just a couple of miles away.

I’ve weaned myself off my phone, cancelled my newspaper subscriptions and studiously avoided social media. I’ve really understood what burnout means. It has taken months to recover

Now on to the final weeks of Boris and his wife Carrie.

The thing that sticks most in my mind is that awful — and awfully expensive — refurb of the Downing Street flat.

The next occupant will want to rip it all out and start again with something quiet and tasteful.

Boris must have thought he would be there for years. Otherwise, why would he have agreed to it?

Another disappointment for them must have been not being able to use Chequers for their big wedding party.

The couple married in 2021 at Westminster Cathedral (Catholic), but because of coronavirus restrictions, could have only a small number back to Downing Street to celebrate.

They had looked forward to having a big party at Chequers. Unfortunately, once Boris resigned as Party leader, he became a caretaker PM and was refused permission.

Fortunately, Lord and Lady Bamford of construction equipment manufacturer JCB fame lent their sprawling Gloucestershire estate to the Johnsons:

On Wednesday, July 27, GB News reported:

The Prime Minister and his wife are said to be planning on hosting family and friends at 18th-century Daylesford House, in Gloucestershire, this weekend.

A huge white marquee topped with bunting had been erected in the property’s expansive grounds on Wednesday, with staff going in and out amid apparent party preparations.

Owned by Lord Bamford, the Grade I-listed mansion has been found as a replacement to Chequers – where the Johnsons had originally planned to host the party.

The Tory peer, chairman of construction equipment manufacturer JCB, has donated millions to the Conservative Party …

Lord Bamford is covering at least some of the cost of the party, the Mirror reported, quoting unnamed sources.

No 10 declined to comment on the “private matter”.

The Johnsons decided on a unique celebration.

Reporters from The Mail were on hand earlier on Saturday, July 30, to find out more:

Guests at Boris and Carrie Johnson‘s wedding party are set to dine in style on South African street food at the Cotswolds retreat of Tory mega-donor Lord Bamford today.

Caterers from eco-friendly BBQ eatery Smoke and Braai were spotted setting up shop on the grounds at Daylesford House on Friday in advance of the fanfare.

Around 200 guests including a dozen Conservative MPs will gather at the idyllic, Gloucestershire Grade I-listed mansion for drinks from 5.30pm.

Grass-fed locally sourced meat will be the mainstay of the food menu in line with Mrs Johnson’s well-known commitment to green causes, The Telegraph reported.

At least three street food outlets were pictured arriving at the gorgeous countryside manor house on Friday afternoon, with helicopters heard amassing above …

Daylesford House is the 18th-century home of Lord Bamford, 76, the founder of construction giant JCB and one of the Conservative party’s most prolific donors.

The billionaire Bamfords, who gave £4million to the party in the run-up to the 2019 general election, after handing £100,000 to the Vote Leave campaign, stepped in to fill hosting duties after furore surrounded the Johnsons’ prior plans to hold their wedding party at Chequers.

Lady Bamford and Carrie, in particular, joined forces to orchestrate today’s proceedings, the newspaper reported.

The South African street food menu is set to include lime and mint-infused pineapple, skin-on fries, cherry wood-smoked pork with honey and mustard slaw, and Aberdeen Angus ox cheeks.

South Africa’s answer to the barbecue, a braai is typically the setting for an hours-long cookout in which all are welcome. 

The Telegraph told us that Steve Bray, the braying anti-Brexit chap from College Green near Parliament, was a short distance away. The article has a photo of him.

Caterers and entertainers could not miss him:

… they were greeted by Steve Bray, an activist known as the “Stop Brexit Man”, who had positioned himself at one of the entrances holding a banner which read: “Corrupt Tory Government. Liars, cheats and charlatans. Get them out now.”

The article told us more about the menu:

Rum punch is also available to guests, as well as barbecue chicken and beef with salad. Handmade ice-cream from a family run dairy farm in the Peak District is also being served, adding to the laid back atmosphere at Daylesford House, Gloucestershire …

Mrs Johnson is thought to have worked closely with Lady Bamford to organise the event and set the theme of a South African-style barbecue laid on by Corby-based Smoke and Braai, with the 200 guests served from eco-friendly street food trucks amid hay bale benches.

On the menu is grass-fed British beef braai boerewors rolls, masa corn tortilla tacos, smoked barbacoa lamb and what was described as “ancient grain salad”

Adding to the festival atmosphere, for dessert there is ice-cream courtesy of Dalton’s Dairy, a family-run dairy farm in the Peak District which produces handmade ice creams, including wild strawberries and cream, pineapple, and amaretto and black cherry.

The guest list included MPs, singers and millionaires:

The guests, who include several Conservative MPs, began to arrive at the estate at around 5pm. Australian actress and singer Holly Valance, who is married to British property developer Nick Candy, was also pictured arriving at the estate in a Rolls Royce.

Mr Johnson’s younger sister, Rachel Johnson, was seen arriving via the back entrance, as did the Prime Minister’s father, Stanley Johnson, who arrived alongside a female companion.

Nadine Dorries and Jacob Rees-Mogg were also among the first guests to arrive.

Other politicians in attendance included Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary; Jake Berry, who previously served as minister for the Northern Powerhouse; Amanda Milling, the MP for Cannock Chase; and John Whittingdale, the former culture secretary.

More elusive and camera shy guests preferred to arrive by helicopter, landing on a helipad positioned in the grounds of the estate. They were then ferried to the garden party in a black Range Rover.

The Mail on Sunday had more, complete with lots of photographs:

Boris and Carrie Johnson danced the night away at their festival-style wedding party in the Cotswolds last night, with the bride wearing a £3,500 dress that was rented for £25

Carrie opted to stick to her sustainable fashion principles with the dress by designer Savannah Miller, the older sister of actress Sienna.

The floor-length, halter-neck gown named Ruby has an original price tag of £3,500 but is available for a day rate of £25 on London-based website Wardrobe HQ, which Carrie, 34, has been using for more than three years.

Meanwhile, the festivities started with Boris joining Carrie on the dancefloor for their first dance to Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline – chosen because Carrie’s full first name is Caroline

They were joined by friends and family at the picturesque venue that sits within 1,500 acres and boasts stunning amenities including a heart-shaped orchard, painstakingly manicured gardens, an 18th century orangery and a luxurious pool

For anyone wondering if this Daylesford is related to the eponymous organic food brand, it is, indeed:

Lady Carole Bamford OBE, became famous for launching Daylesford Organic Farm, based in the private village but with farm shops across London.

Daylesford House, which is just a mile from Lord and Lady Bamford’s organic farm of the same name, boasts 1,500 acres of manicured gardens including pristine lawns, an 18th-century orangery and a secret garden – complete with octagonal swimming pool, shell grotto and alfresco pizza oven.

The article had more on the Bamfords and their involvement with the Conservative Party:

Downing Street has refused to comment on the occasion, stating it does not discuss private events which do not involve taxpayer funds or ministerial declarations.

Beyond cash handouts, the Tories have also benefited from repeated press conferences staged at JCB’s Staffordshire headquarters.

Boris Johnson made his headline-grabbing Brexit stunt at the factory as part of his general election bid in 2019.

The global digger manufacturer paid him £10,000 just three days before he smashed through a brick wall in a JCB digger.

Beyond politics, the Bamfords hold sway with a long list of British elites, including their friends the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall.

Lady Bamford, whose precise age is unknown, sits on JCB’s board of directors and was awarded in OBE in 2006 for services to children and families.

A former air hostess, Lady Bamford OBE married Sir Anthony in 1974.

They have four children and a haul of houses around the world in addition to a prolific car collection worth tens of millions of pounds.

The article beneath it, by Adam Solomons, had more about Steve Bray’s presence. One photo shows a policeman seemingly asking him to leave. Bray alleged that his friend was arrested:

So-called ‘Stop Brexit Man’ Steve Bray flouted the tight guest list for Boris and Carrie Johnson‘s wedding party to conduct a solo protest yesterday after a friend and fellow campaigner was allegedly arrested nearby.

Photographer Sylvia Yukio Zamperini was taken away in a police car after turning up close to opulent party venue Daylesford House, Gloucestershire, Mr Bray claimed.

In a Facebook post this evening, he wrote: ‘I was supposed to meet Sylvia […] but she called me. She was searched by Police.

‘A police van and car passed me 20 minutes ago. She was crying and waving frantically from the back of the car. She’s been arrested.’

He added in a subsequent tweet: ‘Police using dirty tactics.’

Gloucester Constabulary did not respond to a MailOnline request for clarification or comment this afternoon.

The notorious Parliament demonstrator put out an appeal for urgent legal help on Sylvia’s behalf.

Ms Yukio Zamperini has been Bray’s right-hand woman throughout years of noisy campaigning in and around the parliamentary estate over the past six years.

Describing herself as a ‘proud European’, she often shoots footage of Bray’s flags and banners.

Sylvia travelled to the gorgeous Cotswolds wedding venue from Birmingham, with Steve commuting from London. 

They were supposed to meet close to Daylesford House, but Sylvia had reportedly already been arrested. 

Bray also posted a video in which he spoke to a local police officer, who’d warned him that loud amplifiers set up to disrupt the party would be confiscated.

The unidentified officer, who Bray’s followers noted was polite and respectful, said he was giving ‘Stop Brexit Man’ a ‘pre-pre-warning’ in the event he tried to sabotage the postponed wedding party.

The infamous campaigner tells the policeman: ‘Look what these guys have done to our lives. I don’t care if it’s a wedding party.’

Guido Fawkes has a video of Boris and Carrie dancing to Sweet Caroline, which young Wilf interrupted. Carrie picked him up and swayed from side to side. Of Boris, Guido says:

Some questionable dad dancing moves from Boris there.

On August 6, The Telegraph‘s Gordon Rayner had more in ‘Inside Boris and Carrie Johnson’s secret wedding party’:

The bride wore a gold mini dress, the groom wore a baggy cream suit and the guests wore expressions of mild bemusement.

At the Prime Minister’s wedding celebration, Sweet Caroline had been chosen for the first dance as a romantic tribute to Caroline Johnson, better known as Carrie – but her husband seemed to think he was at an England football match, where the song has become a fan favourite.

His dad-dancing at the couple’s wedding celebration last weekend was more “let’s all have a disco”, as sports crowds chant, than “how can I hurt when holding you”, in the words of Neil Diamond’s song.

The moment, however, was entirely in keeping with the eccentricity of the whole event, held in the middle of a field where guests had no escape from the speeches, the South African street food or the bitching about Rishi Sunak.

It featured slut-drops, congas, rum punch, hay bales, a steel band and Jacob Rees-Mogg, but without an actual wedding for the guests to attend, it was an event that appeared not to know quite what it was trying to be

The Prime Minister, who had worn a charcoal suit on what was his third wedding day last year, struggled to pull off the Man From Del Monte look, wearing a cream suit with trousers that needed taking up and a jacket that appeared too long for his body.

Mrs Johnson, 34, had greeted guests earlier in the day wearing a £3,500 halter-neck Ruby wedding gown by Savannah Miller, the designer, which she had rented for £25 a day. However, by the time the first dance happened at 8.30pm, she had changed into a shimmering gold mini dress with a plunging neckline that was more disco diva than blushing bride.

Neither she nor the 58-year-old Prime Minister looked comfortable dancing in front of their guests. They may have been relieved when their two-year-old son Wilfred, dressed in a navy blue sailor suit, toddled across to them halfway through the dance and became the centre of attention, as he was twirled around on the hips of his parents …

The event officially ended at 11.30pm, although many guests, with long journeys home, had already left by then.

Ms Johnson said the party was held in “a magical flower-filled field”, but other guests whispered that the party had the vibe of a failed pop festival, complete with portable lavatories

Before the dancing, the guests were treated to a succession of speeches, starting with Ms Johnson, followed by Carrie Johnson – whose words were “full of affection” for her husband – and finishing with the Prime Minister himself, who stood with one hand in his trouser pocket and the other clutching A4 sheets of notes.

In a defiant and typically joke-filled speech, Mr Johnson told his guests that he had received “masses of letters to resign, mostly from my closest family”, according to The Times.

He went on: “There are many opportunities, which lead to disasters, and disasters can lead to new opportunities, including to opportunities for fresh disasters.”

He also described the mass ministerial resignations that forced him to resign as: “The greatest stitch-up since the Bayeux Tapestry.”

The guest list was light on parliamentarians, partly because so many of them had turned on the Prime Minister only days before. Only the most ultra-loyal Johnsonites received an invitation.

As a former head of communications for the Conservatives, Mrs Johnson knows all about messaging. She was keen to put the word out that her dress was rented, because she is keen to promote sustainable fashion, and that the food on offer was eco-friendly because the catering firm buys its ingredients from local farmers.

But the messaging was somewhat undermined by the reality of the event. Guests arrived in a steady stream of Range Rovers, Rolls-Royces and other gas guzzlers, with some even arriving by helicopter.

By choosing to hold their party in such a rural location, the couple ensured that it had the largest possible carbon footprint. In only a matter of weeks, though, worrying about political mis-steps will cease to be much of a concern for them.

The party — especially with Bray’s presence — would make a great film for television. You could not make this up.

On August 2, Telegraph reporter Rosie Green poured cold water on Carrie’s renting of dresses. I’m including this as a caution for women thinking it’s a failsafe solution: ‘Renting a dress sounds like a good idea — until you face the logistics’.

She went through the process herself, which sounds tiresome:

I book appointments at the places offering “trying on” services (Front Row, Harrods and Selfridges) and let them know which dresses I would like to road test.

At the My Wardrobe HQ pop up concession at Harrods, although the manager was friendly and helpful, disappointingly only one of the four pieces I had requested was there. Then the dress I had loved on screen wouldn’t do up. Hmm.

Thankfully I found another wonderful gown by the same designer which fits beautifully (the same size weirdly). But at £1,861 to buy and with a long train that looked perfect for stepping on I was worried about incurring damage. Another dress I loved had a broken zip …

I leave for my next appointment at Front Row to meet one of its founders and to try on a selection of dresses, but when I arrive at the showroom she is not there and the doors are locked. I am stumped. I can’t get through on the phone. I later discovered she had her handbag snatched by a man on a motorbike. Front Row confirms they’ll send the dresses to my home instead. In the meantime, I get a message from Selfridges saying my requested dress (the only one on the website I found suitable) is not available as it is being repaired. Hmm.

I head home to Oxfordshire a little dispirited. So I start delving deeper into By Rotation and discover that they act as a middle man between the renter and the owner. This means the clothes are kept by their owners and so effectively you are reliant on Sandra from Surrey or Carla from Cheshire posting you their gown. This makes me very nervous.

There’s more, so I’ll skip to the chase:

Then, on the day I’m expecting the My Wardrobe dress to arrive, I’m told I have to pick it up from Harrods. I have a minor heart attack. I tell them I live in Oxfordshire and not only is it impractical but the cost of the return train ticket to London would be more than the rental. They arrange for it to be couriered and it arrives the morning of the event.

According to UPS the Front Row dresses are stuck at the depot. Then they are officially AWOL. Renting has not been stress free. Buying my dress is now feeling like a much more attractive proposition …

… my advice if you’re planning to rent would be to get your choices a few days before you need them. Try them on first, and always have a back-up plan.

Would I hire a wedding dress this way, like Carrie did? No way. My nerves couldn’t take it.

On another cautionary note, provocative dance moves can prove difficult as one ages.

Guido Fawkes found a 2018 Celebrity Big Brother clip with Boris’s sister Rachel boasting about how Liz Hurley taught her one of these dance moves then demonstrating it.

Unfortunately for Rachel, 56, things didn’t go so well with it at her brother and sister-in-law’s party, as she wrote in her Spectator diary of August 6:

The Season has ended and – apart from The Spectator’s summer bash of course – the two bang-up parties of July were discos in the Cotswolds. They do things differently there. At Jemima Goldsmith’s I danced so hard in high heels with a selection of her handsome young swains that I suspect the double hip replacement will be sooner rather than later. At Carrie and Boris’s Daylesford wedding do in a magical flower-filled field we all busted out our best moves. I was taught the slut-drop by Liz Hurley years ago in Nick Coleridge’s party barn in Worcestershire. She demonstrated how to collapse to the floor like a broken deckchair on the count of three. My problem at Daylesford was getting up again – not a challenge shared by my sister-in-law. She could win a Commonwealth gold hands-down in this particular high-risk dance move. I’d kicked off my shoes (to save on physio bills later) but still ripped off a big toenail during the conga. Conclusion: I can no longer slut-drop but I can still name-drop for Britain till the cows come home.

Sometimes I feel as if I live in another world.

Anyway, by early August, the party was over for Boris.

Although he surpassed Theresa May’s tenure at No. 10 on August 5

… Boris faces a hearing by the parliamentary Privileges Committee in September, led by Labour’s Harriet Harman.

Note that Boris’s opposite number, Keir Starmer, gets away with multiple violations. Yet, Boris will be quizzed on whether he knowingly — rather than accidentally — misled Parliament over a piece of cake in a Tupperware container:

To make matters worse, Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin is on that committee. He is not one of Boris’s biggest fans:

The topic came up on Dan Wootton’s GB News show on August 8. Nearly 75% of his viewers thought the committee hearing would be a witch hunt:

Panellist Christine Hamilton agreed:

Boris’s supporters among the general public were eager to get his name on the Conservative Party leadership ballot along with Liz Truss’s and Rishi Sunak’s. The fight on that still continues. The best they can hope for now is a change in the Conservative Party rules. I will have more on that in a separate post. The feeling for Boris continues to run deeply among many voters.

On Friday, August 12, a reporter asked Boris why he was not taking calls from Rishi Sunak:

Boris said:

That’s one of those Westminster questions that doesn’t change the price of fish…

He quickly deflected to move the discussion towards resolving the cost of energy crisis and said that the future would be very bright.

On Saturday, August 13, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Minister of State for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency, gave an interview on GB News to two of his fellow Conservative MPs, Esther McVey and her husband Philip Davies.

In this segment, he explains why Boris has always had his support, dating back to 2016. His only criticism is that the Government could have handled the economy better post-pandemic:

As for Boris coming back as PM, Rees-Mogg said it was highly unlikely. The Telegraph reported:

“Nobody’s come back having lost the leadership of the party since Gladstone,” Mr Rees-Mogg replied. “And I just don’t think in modern politics, the chance of coming back is realistic.

“Lots of people think they’re going to be called back by a grateful nation which is why Harold MacMillan waited 20 years before accepting his peerage… Life just isn’t like that.”

Rees-Mogg also explained why Boris was hounded out of office:

In the interview, Mr Rees-Mogg claimed that Mr Johnson’s downfall was partly the result of anti-Brexit campaigners – even though a number of Brexiteer MPs, such as Steve Baker, called for his resignation.

Mr Rees-Mogg said: “There’s a lot of people who resent the fact we left the European Union. And therefore to bring down the standard bearer of Brexit was a triumph for them.”

In August, Boris and Carrie took a summer holiday in Slovenia.

He no sooner returned than he jetted off again, this time to Greece, for reasons to be explored tomorrow.

My series on Boris Johnson’s downfall continues.

Those who missed them can catch up on Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Also of interest are:

Developing news: how long can Boris last as PM? (July 5-6)

Boris stays as PM for now but stands down as Conservative leader: ‘When the herd moves, it moves’ (July 6-7)

On July 8, Bloomberg had an interesting article: ‘Boris Johnson’s Downfall: The Inside Story of How His Government Collapsed’.

It states:

This account of how the Johnson administration unraveled is based on conversations with senior members of his inner circle, cabinet ministers, political advisers, civil servants and Tory MPs who were present at the key moments and spoke to Bloomberg News on condition of anonymity.

The journalists who wrote it say (emphases mine):

the man that Johnson’s inner circle blame for his downfall is Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor, who triggered that final, frantic act that ultimately forced the prime minister to quit.

Boris, being a survivor, stayed true to character. He survived a Conservative MP vote of confidence held the Monday after the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations the first weekend in June 2022. Then the Chris Pincher groping scandal broke, but he was not worried. In early July:

Johnson had spent last weekend largely ignoring the latest scandal raging around him.

There was another slew of allegations in the newspapers, this time related to what Johnson had known about the claims of sexual harassment against an MP who the prime minister had promoted to a senior party post. 

But Johnson had grown accustomed to riding out controversy, from his efforts in November to extricate an ally who breached lobbying rules, to the lockdown parties, the investigation into whether he misled Parliament and the resignation of his own ethics adviser.

His judgment, and that of his No. 10 team, was that revelations relating to his former chief whip Chris Pincher, damaging and unseemly though they were, did not pose an existential threat

That Sunday evening, July 3, Boris headed next door:

to Sunak’s flat in No. 11 Downing Street for one of their regular weekend dinners.

Johnson’s team had been wary of a potential leadership challenge from Sunak for months and suspected that he would already have moved against the prime minister if he hadn’t been fined over lockdown parties himself.

That night was businesslike, focused on plans for a new economic strategy and a joint speech. Sunak briefly mentioned his unease at the handling of the Pincher situation, but people close to both men said the meeting was good-natured and there was no hint of the coming storm.

Meanwhile:

Elsewhere in London though, Health Secretary Sajid Javid was discussing his own concerns about the Pincher case with his own advisers and starting to think he might decide to resign.

The week began normally:

No. 10 remained bullish throughout Monday despite the growing furor as Javid watched and waited.

On Tuesday, a Cabinet meeting took place (Bloomberg has a photo of it). There were signs that things could unravel quickly:

… there were ashen faces around the Cabinet table on Tuesday morning as ministers gathered to discuss Sunak’s plans for tackling rampant inflation. Johnson uber-loyalist [and Culture Secretary] Nadine Dorries told the room that the “dogs of hell” would be unleashed if Johnson was removed.

One Cabinet minister who spoke to Bloomberg that day warned that Johnson might be in real trouble. He had had an unspoken contract with the Conservative Party since surviving a confidence vote among his own MPs in early June, the minister said: he could remain in place only if the scandals stopped.

That compact had lasted barely a month.

Later that day:

Around 5 p.m., at a meeting in the prime minister’s office in Parliament, Javid told Johnson he was resigning. Johnson felt the announcement an hour later could be weathered by appointing a strong replacement.

But nine minutes after Javid published his resignation, Sunak also quit. And this blow came without warning.

Suddenly, Johnson was facing a rout.

A person with knowledge of Javid’s plans said that his team had had no meaningful contact with Sunak’s advisers before the double resignation, but they suspect that the then-chancellor got wind of what was coming and accelerated his own plans. A person with knowledge of Sunak’s thinking said there had been no collusion.

Sunak had worked in the Treasury for Javid when the latter was Chancellor from 2019 to February 2020. They were good friends.

The resignations became a game of whack-a-mole:

As the prime minister rushed to replace two key ministers, a wave of more junior officials announced that they too were abandoning his government.

Nadhim Zahawi became the new Chancellor and Steve Barclay succeeded Javid as Health Secretary:

Nadhim Zahawi and Steve Barclay were recruited late on Tuesday to solve the most immediate problem and Johnson’s advisers believed that both men were determined to take their jobs seriously. They understood that they had buy-in from Zahawi, the chancellor, for a new tax-cutting agenda to be announced imminently, though a person close to Zahawi says he made no such commitment.

All the same, as Johnson and his advisers surveyed the damage on Wednesday morning, they could tell that the situation was critical

That’s when [Levelling-Up Secretary Michael] Gove demanded his meeting. To Johnson’s aides, the timing seemed designed to inflict maximum pain.

Boris sacked Gove later on Wednesday, the only firing he made. He did it via a telephone call.

At that point:

the number of officials quitting his government climbed past 50.

That evening must have been a long one for Boris:

He returned to No. 10 after 6 p.m. for a series of meetings with his senior ministers.

Chief Whip Chris Heaton Harris advised Johnson that he no longer had the numbers to prevent Tory MPs from removing him, but that he would remain loyal. Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevalyan and arch Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg also made clear they would stay supportive. Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told Johnson he would not resign, changing for a formal white-tie event and then leaving via a side entrance.

Other meetings were more difficult.

Home Secretary Priti Patel had an emotional and teary meeting with the premier where she told him he had to go. A spokesman for Patel wasn’t able to comment on the details of the conversation. 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who kept a spreadsheet of Johnson supporters, agreed that the numbers were against them. Policing minister Kit Malthouse delivered a long monologue about how it was over. An exasperated Johnson told Malthouse that if he was going to resign, he should just do it

Malthouse had worked for Boris ever since the latter was Mayor of London.

Also:

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart was the only one who threatened to quit, handing Johnson a resignation letter and telling him that if he was not gone by the morning it would be published.

The most difficult meeting was with Zahawi who looked visibly awkward, according to one witness, as he told the prime minister that he too thought he should quit. The meeting left Johnson’s aides suspecting that Zahawi had simply been preparing for his own tilt at the top job.

Correct. Zahawi did not get far with his campaign.

The meetings lasted into the night:

Towards the end of the night, Johnson gathered his closest aides in his office to assess the damage.

No. 10 policy chief Andrew Griffith was the most determined to battle on, along with Nigel Adams, a minister and old friend of Johnson. Heaton Harris, the party enforcer, had accepted the situation but was staying in the bunker to the end.

Together they rehearsed arguments for and against resigning, as they briefed the media that he would not quit and appoint a new Cabinet. The reality was that no one was accepting jobs.

Political commentators, eager for Boris to go, compared him with Donald Trump:

Johnson told his team that he didn’t want to spark a constitutional crisis by clinging to office.

“I can’t do this,” he told them. “It’s all too ghastly. It’s not me.”

Eventually, he went to the Downing Street flat to see his wife and retire for the night:

As he went up the stairs to his Downing Street flat to see his wife, Carrie, the decision was becoming clear in his mind. Carrie did not advise him either way and insisted it had to be his own decision, according to a person with knowledge of the conversation.

On Thursday, July 7:

Johnson woke early on Thursday and drafted a resignation speech to read out to his staff at their 7.30 a.m. meeting.

He announced his resignation in front of No. 10 early that afternoon.

That evening, The Spectator team held their annual garden party, a major highlight of the political year. Something always happens and this one was no different:

Johnson’s communications chief Guto Harri got into a blazing and public row with Gove adviser Josh Grimstone, who accused Harri of briefing against his boss.

A Sunak aide spotted Harri and went over for a hug. According to people present, a smiling Sunak, standing next to her, asked Harri: “Don’t I get one?”

“You want a hug?” Harri said in disbelief, knowing that the former chancellor had made no contact with Johnson since his shock resignation. Harri had spent his week fighting to save the prime minister, Sunak was aiming to replace him, and in front of London’s political elite, the two men shared an awkward embrace.

Guido Fawkes has more (Guto Harri is on the right and the magazine’s Katy Balls is in the background):

His post says the argument went all the way back to Gove’s desertion of Boris in the 2016 leadership election, leaving Boris out of the race that year (emphases in the original):

… Leadership candidates Rishi Sunak, Nadhim Zahawi and Tom Tugendhat worked the crowd. Later in the evening as things were winding down the Spectator’s Katy Balls mischeviously introduced Josh Grimstone, the newly unemployed former Special Adviser to Michael Gove, to soon-to-be unemployed Guto Harri, the Prime Minister’s Director of Communications. Josh definitely had something to communicate to Guto about Gove’s late night sacking the night before…

Josh firmly protested that his boss had been loyal to the PM, that he personally loved Boris and that both Gove and himself had been nothing but loyal. He accused Guto of sacking Gove out of spite and attempting, unfairly, to make it look like Gove had been sacked for disloyalty. Guto was sceptical about Josh’s protestations of innocence and insistence that his boss had been loyal. The toing and froing went on in front of a silently listening audience that included Guido, Tim Shipman and Steve Swinford. Neither of the protagonists backed down from their position. Grimstone said Guto’s behaviour was a “f***ing disgrace”.

Guto eventually retorted that it was Gove’s fault that in 2016, when he betrayed Boris, the country was as a result put into 3 years of dismal turmoil under Theresa May. Guto’s stance seemed to be that even if it was true that he had been loyal of late, Gove had it coming to him for the 2016 trauma that he inflicted on the party and country. Unresolved and unreconciled Grimstone broke off leaving hushed onlookers uncertain that the summary justice of last night was entirely justified by recent events. Guto seemed relaxed and satisfied that it was amends for the sin of the past. 

But that wasn’t the only verbal dust-up that evening.

On the BBC’s Question Time, Tony Blair’s spin doctor Alastair Campbell and The Telegraph‘s Tim Stanley, who once ran for MP as a Labour candidate, argued about who was worse in terms of being economical with the truth, Tony Blair for the illegal war in Iraq or Boris Johnson with a piece of cake during lockdown. Campbell is on the left in the photo:

Guido has the video:

A few days later on July 11, Stanley wrote an article about it for The Telegraph: ‘My TV encounter showed everything that is wrong with the Left’:

I’m not a friend of Boris Johnson: my most recent contact was a Christmas card that I’m sure was signed by someone else. This didn’t stop Alastair Campbell from calling me part of the same “corrupt class” on Question Time, a grim experience I didn’t enjoy but my editor says I’ve got to address.

Around the five-minute mark, I was invited to give my take on Boris’s resignation – and Campbell butted in with the first of many attacks on my profession and character. Afterwards, a producer said: “How long have you known Alastair?” I replied: “I’ve never met him before.” Given how he spoke to me, many people assumed we had a feud going back decades.

No, he was just horrible, and the nastiness was camera ready. Campbell was nice as pie before the recording; he gave me a cheery goodbye after. My conclusion is that he’s an act. When he launched his on-air assault, I was shocked and considered walking off; I couldn’t take a whole hour of this. Instead, I pulled a one-liner out of the bag, noting that the Blair government took us into a war that cost thousands of lives, while Boris ate some cake.

The point was that Boris might have been chaotic, but it’s often the best organised regimes that make the biggest mistakes.

The line was hardly Oscar Wilde; the audience was furious that I appeared to make light of the Downing Street parties. I thought my career was over, and was wondering if Lidl might be hiring. But what I couldn’t see till I watched the show back was that Campbell shrugged away the reference to Iraq as if it were mundane. It was an ugly moment. By not bursting into tears, I think I came out better.

What irritates me about some people on the Left is that they talk about mental health and kindness yet they treat their opponents like dirt, not giving a damn how it might make them feel – and if a Conservative hits back, they act like we have crossed a line that doesn’t apply to them

And I wasn’t trying to defend Boris on Question Time, just explain his thinking. I have my own views, of course; but in that format I try to put both sides of a story, so the audience can make up its mind. I often find that Left-wing panellists can’t process this. They claim to be empathetic yet have zero interest in how other people think. It will be the Tory party that will produce the first non-white prime minister and how will the Left respond? They’ll call them a “racist”.

That night on Dan Wootton’s GB News show, opinions about Boris’s successor flew in thick and fast.

Former Conservative Home Secretary and later Brexit Party MEP Anne Widdecombe was adamant that the next Party leader be firmly committed to completing the Brexit process. We still have the Northern Ireland Protocol and French fishing difficulties to deal with:

Opinions swirled around the time it should take Boris to vacate Downing Street.

Someone in the know told the Daily Mail that Theresa May — a Remainer — should be caretaker PM. GB News reported:

While Mr Johnson is expected to stay on until Prime Minister, he could choose to relinquish his duties with immediate effect.

In which case an interim Tory leader would be appointed, who would in turn also become the caretaker Prime Minister.

And former Prime Minister Ms May, who held office between 2016 and 2019, could reportedly make a dramatic return to No.10.

A report in the Daily Mail said: “She knows the ropes and the security stuff, she’s a party woman through and through, she’s definitely not interested in standing for it herself and would be credible.

“She is uniquely placed.”

Thank goodness that didn’t happen.

Another Remainer, former Conservative Prime Minister John Major, apparently told the 1922 Committee, headed by Sir Graham Brady, to get rid of Boris pronto. Edwina Currie, a former MP who served with him in Parliament at the same time and who was Major’s mistress between 1984 and 1988, said that the former PM was being ‘a bit of a prat’:

The 2021 Conservative candidate for Mayor of London, Shaun Bailey, agreed. He would have made a great mayor, by the way:

However, biographer Tom Bower explained that Boris and Carrie had no other home, therefore, he would stay at Downing Street until such time as the couple buy a house:

And what about Carrie?

A lot of conservatives blame her for Boris going off the boil with a libertarian-Conservative manifesto to focus on damagingly expensive Net Zero policies, never mind the gaudy refurbishment of the Downing Street flat, allegedly paid for by a Party donor.

The day Boris resigned, The Telegraph‘s Celia Walden wrote ‘The Carrie conundrum: What next for the Prime Minister’s wife?’

Over the past two years and 11 months our outgoing First Lady has certainly garnered criticism – some unfair, some fair. And already commentators are saying that Carrie “helped blow it for Boris”. But it is surely her husband’s sociopathic behaviour over the past few days, weeks and months – and what has been described not as Boris’s downfall but his “clownfall” – that will have been most brand-damaging. So how easy will it be for Carrie to rid herself of that toxicity, and what next for the Prime Minister’s wife? …

Before Carrie became involved with Boris, and his special brand of bedlam, the daughter of Matthew Symonds, co-founder of the The Independent, and lawyer Josephine McAfee was described as “controlled” and “confident”.

Politics may have seemed a world away from the creative fields she immersed herself in at the University of Warwick – where she studied theatre and art history – but after a stint working for Zac Goldsmith, who was MP for Richmond at the time, Carrie moved on to the Conservative party’s press office, where she quickly rose through the ranks, working on her future husband’s re-election campaign, when he ran for Mayor of London in 2012, before becoming the youngest director of communications for the party at just 29.

That a woman who forged a career in the business of public perception – and was credited with taking charge of the Prime Minister’s image (and weight) after they first got together in 2019 – could go on to make the series of missteps Carrie made at No 10 remains baffling today.

It may always have been strenuously denied that the PM’s wife played any part in the prioritising of dogs over humans for evacuation from Afghanistan, but it was without a doubt the First Lady who oversaw No 10’s controversial maximalist redesign. It was she who picked out the infamous gaudy wallpaper estimated to cost £840 a roll and, as I write, Twitter is alive with memes about the one “burning question” that remains: “Now that the Prime Minister has finally resigned what happens to Carrie’s gold wallpaper?”

Because of this, reports that the Johnsons planned to build a £150,000 treehouse for their son at Chequers (but were stopped when police raised security concerns) prompted some to interpret this as “yet more Carrie”. Which might have been unfair. But then there was Carrie’s involvement in partygate.

The Sue Gray inquiry was told that it was she who was keen to throw a party during the first lockdown and “offered to bring cake” – so these cannot be written off as “sexist”, “misogynistic” slurs along with the rest. And while other First Wives have been busy out in Ukraine, shaking Zelensky’s hand, Carrie has been notably low profile in recent months, presumably acting on advice from spin doctors.

according to Craig Oliver, former director of politics and communications for David Cameron: “Leaving No 10 could be the making of Carrie. She’s an intelligent woman, interested in a lot of issues. Being the PM’s wife has an inevitable chilling effect on what you can do and say. She’ll now be free to speak her mind.” 

Lord Ashcroft, whose biography, First Lady: Intrigue at the Court of Carrie and Boris Johnson, was published in March, describes Carrie as “an impressive person – with a high-level career in politics and a record of campaigning on animal rights and the environment”. Another political writer, meanwhile, assures me that any toxicity will be shrugged off with characteristic ease both by Boris and his wife. “He will be a very successful ex-Prime Minister. His star quality is shoulders above any of the others and he will become very rich on the back of it. So very shortly, everything will settle down, and she will be glad to have left the fishbowl.”

… although Carrie is clearly a political animal, it seems likely that she’ll choose to concentrate next on animal rights campaigning, perhaps deepening her involvement with The Aspinall Foundation, for whom she has worked as head of communications since 2021 – which in itself is in a period of transition. Every PR knows that charity work is the best “brand rehab” there is, and her passion for the cause isn’t in doubt.

We can but see.

There was more to come with Mr and Mrs Johnson: their belated wedding celebration, which they weren’t able to have earlier because of the pandemic.

More to come tomorrow.

Yesterday’s post, ‘The Western world is changing, from coronavirus to climate change’, discussed the outrage that Britons felt on reading Rishi Sunak’s revelations in The Spectator about the UK’s coronavirus policy:

Rishi, Liz Truss’s rival in the Conservative Party leadership contest, did not do himself any favours. If he hoped to garner votes from the Party’s coronavirus sceptics, he was mistaken.

From March 2020 to the present, any sceptics voicing an opinion were thrown under the bus, such as Bev Turner, who featured in yesterday’s post.

On Thursday, August 25, the day that the ex-Chancellor’s revelations were published, another sceptic, GB News’s Dan Wootton, aired his views:

Wootton rightly took issue with Rishi’s claim that the wrongful promotion of the SAGE scientists to an all-powerful level was wrong and that he should have changed it.

After all, next to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the Chancellor is the next most powerful position in the Government. Yet, Rishi stayed quiet — for two years. Only now has he said anything.

He did nothing. Yes, he could have changed the course of events but did not:

At the end of that night’s show, the Union Jackass nominees — prominent names in the news cycle for dumb things — were Boris Johnson for flying to Ukraine again instead of visiting the Channel to see migrants being escorted in, Nicola Sturgeon for saying she will always be British in spite of pushing for a second Scottish independence referendum and Rishi Sunak for not resigning or doing anything about our damaging coronavirus policy. Wootton chose Rishi Sunak:

Another coronavirus sceptic, Robert Taylor, wrote for The Telegraph about his own experience over the past two years and Rishi’s revelations (purple emphases mine):

 … Take a bow, Rishi Sunak.

I had to do a double take when I saw the reports. For those long lockdown months, nobody in government, let alone the Cabinet, was prepared to say any such thing. It was left to a few courageous journalists and scientists to take on the overwhelming force of the lockdown fanatics, with police fining people for sitting on park benches and neighbours eagerly shopping each other like this was some authoritarian country.

The brave few kept the flag of personal freedom alive. That really is no exaggeration. And they paid heavily for it. On social media the abuse was intense. You don’t care about lives! they snarled. You’re murderers! they claimed. And in the mainstream, things weren’t much better. You’re a “small, disproportionately influential faction,” moaned a Guardian Leader, that “denies the virulence of the virus”. Thanks for that.

One MP, Neil O’Brien, took it upon himself to publicly discredit any sceptic, declaring “they have a hell of a lot to answer for”. No, you do Mr O’Brien, for stifling free debate, along with certain mainstream news outlets for failing over a two-year period to examine whether lockdown might cause more harm than good

But while I welcome and applaud Sunak’s intervention, I also have a question. He was second only to the Prime Minister for power and influence, and lockdown was the most consequential, freedom-destroying government initiative since the war. He had severe doubts about it. So why didn’t he resign? Yes, it would have been another headache for Boris. But given the massive consequences of the wrong strategy, didn’t he owe it to the British people?

It’s tragedy upon tragedy. Okay, it’s a relief to hear that someone in the heart of government had the guts to challenge the dangerous group-think. But it’s cold comfort to millions of children whose schooling was irreparably damaged along with their long-term prospects, and to patients who only discover now that they have cancer, diabetes or heart disease, and to those who were denied the chance simply to hug lonely, dying relatives.

For all these lockdown victims, Sunak’s words come two years too late.

Publican Adam Brooks tweeted the article, which didn’t get any replies in support of the former Chancellor:

However, earlier that day, two former Government advisers weighed in against Rishi: Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain.

Cummings blasted Rishi. The trolley in the tweet is Cummings’s symbol for Boris, who veers off in all directions like a supermarket trolley:

Then he had a go at The Spectator‘s editor Fraser Nelson who conducted the interview with Rishi. Recall that Cummings’s wife, Mary Wakefield, writes for the magazine:

Guido had a post on Cummings and Cain:

But, wait. Wasn’t Rishi a friend of Cummings?

Guido’s post says, in part (emphases his):

Whilst many sources disagree with some of Rishi’s more lockdown-sceptic policy views, his criticism of the decision-making process by which those policies were reached are more widely supported. Lee Cain and Dominic Cummings, however, are not playing ball…

Former comms director Lee Cain argues that whilst he is a “huge admirer” of Rishi, “his position on lockdown is simply wrong. It would have been morally irresponsible of the govt not to implement lockdown in spring 2020.”

Dominic Cummings is, characteristically, less diplomatic. Taking on Twitter he says, “the Sunak interview is dangerous rubbish, reads like a man whose epicly bad campaign has melted his brain & he’s about to quit politics. Also pins blame *unfairly* on 🛒 & others”. A very rare defence of Boris. He ominously promises more blogging on the topic later…

I checked Cummings’s Twitter account, but he hasn’t posted anything more on the subject.

He defends his former boss here because he, too, wanted lockdown, even though he sneaked off to County Durham with his family one weekend during the first one in Spring 2020. He got rumbled, and, as penance, Boris made him give an agonising televised press conference about it. Cummings left Downing Street later in November that year.

Professor John Edmunds, a prominent SAGE member, pointed out that it was not SAGE’s remit to do a cost-benefit analysis of lockdown. That would have been the responsibility of the Chancellor and the Treasury:

So, Conservative Party members should elect Rishi Sunak as their next leader when he couldn’t be bothered to do a cost-benefit analysis during the pandemic? The Treasury has a lot of civil servants. That would have been part of their job. If only someone had asked them to do it:

GB News had a good article with reaction from Government advisers, including scientists:

Boris Johnson’s former communications chief, Lee Cain, dismissed Mr Sunak’s assessment of the situation, saying he is “simply wrong” …

He said No 10, the Treasury and Department of Health and Social Care “met multiple times daily and discussed the trade-offs”.

Mr Cain added: “We all knew lockdown was a blunt instrument that had many downsides but in a world without vaccinations it was the best option available.”

… A No 10 spokesman said: “At every point, ministers made collective decisions which considered a wide range of expert advice available at the time in order to protect public health.”

Prof Graham Medley, a member of Sage, said: “Government have the power, so if one member of Cabinet thinks that scientific advice was too ‘empowered’ then it is a criticism of their colleagues rather than the scientists.

“The Sage meetings were about the science, not the policy options, and the minutes reflect the scientific consensus at the time.”

… Another scientist who contributed advice to the Government during the pandemic said Mr Sunak’s comments “are very misleading as they suggest that he was alone in thinking about the wider impact of lockdown on schools and other social impacts”.

The source said the SPI-B group, which investigated behavioural impacts, and other advisers spent a lot of time examining the issues around school closures.

“If the former chancellor was arguing against school closures he would have found plenty of evidence to support his case from the very group of scientists he now appears to be criticising,” the source said.

On Friday, August 26, Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave an interview in which he discussed the controversy. GB News reported:

Boris Johnson said he is “very confident” the Government made the “right” decisions about lockdowns.

The Prime Minister was asked to address the comments made by his former chancellor during a visit to South West London Elective Orthopaedic Centre in Surrey …

Speaking to broadcasters at the orthopaedic centre , Mr Johnson said if the Government did not lock the country down during the pandemic, “the delays for cardiac, the delays for hips, the delays for cancer treatment, or the other procedures that people care about” would have been “even greater”.

He added: “I’m just giving you my view, which is that the… about the decision to try to stop the spread of Covid, and with all the things that we did.

“Of course, the inquiry will have to look at those decisions. I’m very confident that they were the right ones. I just want to remind people of the logic because I think there’s a bit of… it all gets turned upside down.

“People say, ‘Oh, well, it was because of the lockdowns that people’s health was impaired’. Actually, the purpose of using those methods, imperfect though they were, to restrict the spread of Covid, was to reduce the huge numbers in the NHS.

“Forty-thousand people at one stage occupying beds in the NHS because of Covid, and therefore, to reduce the numbers of patients with other complaints, other sicknesses, other needs, who were displaced by Covid, and are now coming back into the NHS. That was the purpose of what we were doing.”

Unfortunately, lockdown has made the NHS worse. We still cannot see a GP. The A&E wards are full, even early in the evenings on a weekday. Six million patients are awaiting various medical procedures.

Lockdown was the worst thing we could have done. I know the UK is not in an isolated position here, but we should have been better at this.

Rishi Sunak could have come up with a cost-benefit analysis during those two years, yet he never did.

And he’s running to be our next Prime Minister?

It turns out that Conservative Party members are asking the same question. On Saturday, August 27, The Telegraph featured an article: ‘The moment Rishi Sunak knew his leadership dream was over’.

It had nothing to do with The Spectator interview, but with remarks he made earlier in the month during the hustings in Eastbourne, on the south coast:

It was when Rishi Sunak mentioned California for the third time in less than 10 minutes that his campaign team realised it was all over.

On stage at the Conservative leadership hustings in Eastbourne on Aug 5, Mr Sunak answered a question about the career he would choose as a young graduate by reflecting on the “culture” of enterprise he saw while living on the West Coast between 2004 and 2006.

“I think it’s incredibly inspiring and empowering,” he said. “If I was a young person, I’d want to go and do something like that.”

But back at his campaign headquarters in Holborn, Central London, his strategists were far from inspired.

Staff felt his focus on California showed he was out of touch and summed up his failure to win over grassroots Tory members as polls showed members backing Liz Truss by more than two to one.

“People started to say that it wasn’t going to happen now and he wasn’t connecting with voters in the room,” a source on the campaign told The Telegraph.

“He kept talking about California and tech. It became an open secret within the campaign that he wasn’t going to win. That hustings was the point things really took a turn as everyone started to realise that.”

Just as well, really.

All this talk of California? He must be wondering how he’ll get his Green Card back.

Knowing Rishi and his in-laws’ connections, he’ll find a way.

Those who missed the first two instalments of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s downfall can read them here and here.

Today’s post will focus on Michael Gove.

Yesterday, I left off with Boris firing Gove in a telephone call.

Gove must have been stunned.

Yet, even he cannot deny that he and Boris got on well. Apparently, they knew each other at Oxford and were hardly best friends then.

2016 betrayal

As for more recent events, author and journalist Douglas Murray gives us a précis of Gove’s parliamentary career in an article for UnHerd: ‘Michael Gove’s faultless prophecy’.

Unlike me, Murray is a Gove fan, but there are a few excerpts from his article worth exploring.

Gove has been in various Cabinet and ministerial positions since 2010, when we had a coalition government under David Cameron (Conservative) and Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrat).

Under Cameron in those years, Gove was in the Department for Education.

After Cameron’s re-election in 2015 which gave the Conservatives a clear majority without the need for another coalition, Gove continued receiving appointments to various departments:

After the 2015 election, he became known in Whitehall for his mastery of his brief. Most ministers who go from portfolio-to-portfolio struggle to understand the complexities of just one of their jobs, let alone each of them in turn. Yet this is exactly what Gove did at Justice — even though he was there for less than a year — and in each of the cabinet positions he subsequently held.

He knew what way the wind was blowing with the 2016 Brexit referendum:

Before Gove chose to vote for “Leave”, there were concerns that the Brexit campaign would suffer from being led by too few senior politicians: an operation with Chris Grayling and Bernard Jenkin as its figureheads was unlikely to inspire a democratic revolt. Gove recognised this — and while campaigning to leave the EU was entirely in keeping with the principles that defined his political career and the years in journalism that preceded it, it still took bravery for him to step up. It alienated Gove from much of his friendship group (not least the Camerons), and could have cost him dearly politically.

Cameron resigned as Party leader the morning after the referendum result, as if suffering from sour grapes because things didn’t go his way. It was around 9:30 a.m., if I remember rightly.

A Conservative leadership contest resulted, which Theresa May won.

However, Boris and Gove were in the mix, too.

Murray describes the atmosphere not only in Parliament but in the country as well from June 24, the day of Cameron’s resignation, throughout much of the summer. This period also turned Conservative voters against Gove (emphases mine):

The thing, though, that Gove was most right about, and for which he has been praised for the least, is the act which made him most infamous. It gave him a reputation for snakery. This was, of course, his decision in the immediate aftermath of the referendum to turn on Boris Johnson.

It is not easy to forget the febrile atmosphere of June 2016; every hour turned up enough news to last a month in normal times. But it was also a perilous time: people were genuinely afraid. Basic questions remained unanswered. Would EU citizens be allowed to remain in the UK? Who is running the country? Once David Cameron left office and his Chancellor, George Osborne, decided to punish the country further by disappearing completely, only the Governor of the Bank of England emerged to say anything on behalf of the nation. “We are all prepared for this,” Mark Carney reassured the country. Yet it was a moment of maximal instability.

The Leave campaign “victory” press conference the morning after the referendum was like a funeralPerhaps the news of David Cameron’s political demise, and the looming Tory chaos that would follow, cast a pall over proceedings. Or perhaps it was the realisation of the task that lay ahead. In those uncertain hours, the one thing that seemed clear was that to the victor most go the spoils. Boris Johnson had led the Leave campaign and it seemed inevitable that he should become the leader of the Conservative Party and the Prime Minister

But Michael Gove put a stop to all that. Over the weekend after Brexit, something changed. Some people claim that Gove suddenly had visions of his own ascent to a higher officeOr was it that, in the aftermath of the referendum, Gove watched Boris Johnson and saw a man who was fundamentally unfit for the role of Prime Minister?

Murray would disagree with my assessment, but Michael Gove really did stab Boris in the back that summer:

When Gove held a press conference in which he announced that he would not be leading Johnson’s campaign for the leadership, he immediately assumed a new role in the public imagination. Suddenly, he was Gove the turncoat, Gove the assassin, Gove the backstabber. The Gríma Wormtongue of British politics. The party swiftly showed its disapproval.

Murray has left out a few details here. Gove ran for Party leader that year along with Andrea Leadsom and Theresa May.

Gove despatched Boris quickly. The referendum was held on June 23, and one week later, on July 1, this was the state of play, as Isabel Hardman reported in The Spectator:

As Michael Gove finished speaking, the bookmakers have reported that Andrea Leadsom has overtaken the Justice Secretary when it comes to betting on who will be the next Tory leader. Theresa May remains the favourite at 1/3, with Leadsom at 7/2 and Gove at 12/1.

Now of course the bookies are not clairvoyants and can get elections—and referendums—very wrong indeed. But these odds reflect the mood in the Tory party, which is currently registering a sense of disbelief that Michael Gove could do something like this. Many senior figures believe that the way he has turned on Boris Johnson is beyond the pale, and are preparing to back Andrea Leadsom, while I understand that a group of former Boris backers are considering declaring their support as a block for Leadsom on Monday too.

Leadsom had a good referendum campaign, performing well for the Leave side. Her key disadvantage is that she has never held a Cabinet role – though this is not down to lack of ability so much as it is down to George Osborne’s personal dislike of her following criticisms she made of the Chancellor in 2012. He bears grudges, and exacts revenge by slowing down the careers of people who have angered him. Leadsom took much longer to make it into government than she should have done. But this disadvantage may be a little easier to shrug off now Gove has such a trust problem with his own party.

Boris’s sister Rachel had much more to say in the Daily Mail on July 2: ‘Michael Gove’s wife Sarah Vine “detonated the Boris Johnson bomb” claims RACHEL JOHNSON’. Sarah Vine was, and still is, a Mail columnist.

Rachel tells us how Gove’s candidacy unfolded with his wife’s help:

It was funny ha-ha at first when she wrote in her column that she and her hubby Michael Gove would be running the country on a joint mandate.

‘Given Michael’s high-profile in the Leave campaign,’ she wrote, ‘that means he – we – are now charged with implementing the instructions of 17 million people. And that is an awesome responsibility.’

That royal ‘we’ between dashes was borderline bonkers enough, but it was followed by a leaked private email that ended up on the front pages because in it, Vine urged Gove to be his ‘stubborn best’, as he deployed his ‘leverage’ with his Brexit buddy Boris

Nobody knew whether it had been leaked, or had misfired, but it was a bit whiffy and rum.

Even at that stage only the most crackpot conspiracy theorists could have guessed what was to come next in this multi-act, rolling, live-blogged Shakespearean tragedy.

Michael Gove knifed Boris Johnson in the back and in the front, pushed him under a bus, ran over him several times (thank you Piers Morgan for this image) and then declared he was running for the leadership himself.

This, coupled with the new arithmetic in terms of supportive MPs, meant that Gove’s co-skipper was holed below the waterline and forced to abandon ship at his own launch.

Now we are where we are, as everyone keeps saying, and we know a bit more about where that is. 

Rachel gave us more insights into the real Michael Gove:

Brexit means Brexit. At some point Article 50 will be invoked. And never again listen to what a politician says. Watch what he or she does.

Gove was well known to be an ideological ninja, with his posters of Che Guevara and Chairman Mao on his wall, but when it came to the top job he was an avowed cleanskin. 

He had no leadership ambitions. After all, he’d said so many times: ‘If anyone wants me to sign a piece of parchment in my own blood saying I don’t want to be PM I’m happy to do that.’

‘I’m not equipped to be PM. I don’t want to be PM.’

‘I am an inconceivable choice. I don’t want to do it. I wouldn’t do it. It wouldn’t matter how many people asked me to do it,’ etc, etc…

And then, on Thursday, he executed the most egregious reverse ferret and act of treachery in modern political history since… well, let’s just say since Michael Gove backed Brexit against the wishes of his good friend David Cameron.

He did a lap of honour of the studios, saying to interviewers that friends had been begging him to do it and telling him: ‘Michael, you’d be marvellous.’

‘I’ll explain to anyone who asks why I think I am the right person to be PM,’ he said.

Then on Friday he delivered a substantial 5,000-word manifesto that he’d obviously prepared earlier, to be acclaimed on his new home, Twitter (he has come aboard with the handle @gove2016, so far following no one).

She went on to tell us that Gove had as his adviser Dominic Cummings, who was also part of the Leave campaign, masterminding proceedings in the background. However, the Goves and the Osbornes were closer:

OK, I accept that it was more likely detonated by the combined agency of his wife; his former adviser, Dominic Cummings; and also of course George Osborne, with whom the Goves maintain close contact

They are, indeed, due to go on family holiday ensemble this summer.

So of course it was inevitable, given this domestic scenario, for the Goves to dump a chap who is very much not numero uno assoluto with the Osbornes either. 

Think of the pressure from the wives to stick the knife in, get the job done, before the two families had to break bread over the prosecco and antipasti in Italy.

Rachel cited two longstanding Conservative MPs’ reservations about Gove:

As it happens, Westminster suicide bomber is not a good look for anybody, which explains why many former Govistas – even one of the newspaper barons who supported him as recently as last week – are leaping on to the TM4PM (Theresa May for PM) bandwagon so fast.

As Michael Heseltine warned: ‘I personally would keep an eye open for Gove. First he abandoned his friend David Cameron now Johnson has felt the blade.’

Ken Clarke has told Gove to fall on his sword and fast. The classical quotation that comes to mind in all this is not so much ‘Et tu, Brute’ but ‘Those whom the Gods want to destroy, first they make mad.’

However much Gove tries to remind us what a nice, caring guy he is in his long leadership pitch, the ‘signalling’ around this personable and civilised candidate is, I’m afraid, that he’s acted like a political psychopath run by his wife (Vine), an acknowledged sociopath (Cummings) and a lame duck Chancellor. 

And this Machiavelli still wants us to want him to be Prime Minister

At his leadership launch, Michael denied his wife had urged him to run, denied he was giving Dom Cummings a job, but I don’t necessarily take everything the most polite man in Parliament says on trust any more.

Rachel was and is a Remainer. And political people, whatever their stripe, often mix in the same circles, as she acknowledges of the Goves:

I like them. They are both lively company and huge fun. 

Indeed, we sometimes say that we must have supper soon, and perhaps we will, when the bleeding bodies of the fallen are removed from the smoking battlefield of this campaign.

Murray makes no mention of this intrigue but says that Gove might have been dismayed with Boris’s seeming lack of gravitas:

… perhaps there really were things in the immediate aftermath of the referendum that persuaded him that Johnson was fundamentally unfit to lead the country; the weekend after the vote, as the country desperately looked around for a leader, Johnson decided it was the perfect time to host a “boozy barbecue” and a cricket match.

And why not celebrate? No one but no one in the media or politics on the Remainer side thought that 52% of the nation would vote Leave in the largest plebescite in British history.

In the end, Gove lost Conservative MPs’ votes to Andrea Leadsom and Theresa May.

Afterwards, Leadsom said she could not understand why May did not want children. Leadsom got a lot of Party backlash for that. She stood down, leaving May as the last candidate standing.

As such, Conservative Party members did not have a vote that year.

Murray admits that no one ever forgot his hero’s betrayal but says that Gove appeared to be a loyalist — on the surface, anyway, as far as I am concerned:

This cloud, by and large, has not left him. Only yesterday, one embittered newspaper columnist saw fit to describe Gove as “a conniving, reptilian politician”. Is this really true? He did, after all, survive through Theresa May’s premiership, and stuck loyally beside her when other people would not. He even entered Johnson’s own cabinet, and excelled in the roles he held in that short-lived administration. And not only is he the only politician who has remained at cabinet level through this tumultuous decade and a half, but he is also one of the few people from Cameron’s cabinet who is still in the House of Commons. Some lost out on the top prize and huffed off. Others whose abilities could have been of use to the country decided that the country did not deserve them — though various investment funds, as chance would have it, did.

A few days ago, Gove announced that he did not expect another role in the high echelons of government.

But did he really mean that?

It seems unlikely that Gove will actually remove himself from frontline politics. I read his announcement at the weekend as an act of cynical self-deprecation. Or perhaps a hint that he needs to simply “step back” for a bit.

Murray’s conclusion is interesting:

In 2016, Gove didn’t simply backstab Johnson; he issued a warning. It took the rest of the Parliamentary party and much of Britain another six years to decipher his warning: that when Johnson finally lumbers out of No 10, he will leave defeated and humiliated. Don’t say we weren’t warned.

The Goves’ break-up

In June 2021, The Sun published photos of Matt Hancock and his female adviser in a tight clinch in his office at a time when social distancing was still in force. Hancock abruptly left his wife when the photos were published.

On July 2, the Goves announced they, too, would be divorcing, although for different reasons:

Guido Fawkes’s post referenced Sarah Vine’s Mail on Sunday column a week earlier on June 26:

This official announcement to the Press Association will surprise no one in SW1 where rumours have been rife for months. At one point Lobby hacks were asking the PM’s spokesman under what roof was Michael Gove sleeping. Sarah Vine’s article this week in the Mail on Sunday was not subtle.

While she did not mention her husband at all, she did write that politics can alter home life irrevocably, as in the case of the Hancocks:

The problem with the wife who has known you since way before you were king of the world is that she sees through your facade.

She knows your fears and your insecurities. She knows that, deep down inside, you are not the Master of the Universe you purport to be. And some people don’t like to be reminded of that …

In the end, there are two types of politicians. Those who can walk away from power – and those who can’t. And who will compromise everything for the sake of it.

How the Gove family found out about his sacking

On July 7, 2022, Sarah Vine wrote an article for The Mail about how she and the children found out that Boris sacked Michael.

Note that she is still friends with Rachel Johnson.

The news came via text messages as Sarah and the children were watching Love Island:

The teenagers and I were watching Love Island when the news broke — a text, to my son, from a mate: ‘Is it true that Boris has fired ur dad?!’

A split second later, my phone also pinged. It was my friend Rachel (Johnson, Boris’s sister): ‘My bro has just fired your ex!!’ Blimey, I thought. Even I wasn’t expecting that.

They turned off the television to find out more:

‘Get him on speakerphone, get him on speakerphone!’ squealed my daughter. So we got him on speakerphone (Michael, not Boris). What on earth happened?

‘Well,’ he explained, ‘The Prime Minister rang me a few minutes ago and told me it was time for me to step back. I said, respectfully, ‘Prime Minister, if anyone should be stepping back, it is you.’

‘Go on!’ said my son, leaping off the sofa and punching the air.

‘What are you going to do now?’ I asked. ‘Have a glass of wine and a slice of salami and see what tomorrow brings,’ he replied.

What tomorrow brought, of course, was the Prime Minister’s resignation, following the resignations of pretty much anyone of any consequence.

Vine was generous in her assessment of Boris’s premiership but she, too, agreed with her husband that he just wasn’t serious enough:

I still don’t quite see what is to be gained, politically, from getting rid of him. There isn’t a brilliant replacement waiting in the wings, and the country could really do without the disruption of a whole summer of rudderless government, or worse, a snap general election.

Especially since, as prime ministers go, he was not by a long shot the worst this country has seen.

He delivered Brexit, albeit imperfectly — but then after the horlicks Theresa May made of it, it was a miracle he managed it at all.

Like every other leader on the planet, he was blindsided by Covid — but handled the pandemic with bravery and vision, rolling out the vaccination programme at record speed, pulling the country out of lockdown as quickly as possible.

He was spot-on with the war in Ukraine, moving quickly to offer Britain’s support against Russia.

On the big stuff, as the cliche goes, he was good. Better than good, actually. But in politics, that’s not enough any more

It’s not enough to be a serious politician; you also have to be a serious human being. And the problem with Johnson is that he just isn’t. That, ultimately, has been his downfall.

Everything that has gone wrong for him — the lockdown parties, the questionable donations, the dinners with oligarchs, the misguided loyalties, the tenuous grasp of the factsit all stems from that.

Vine then tells us how angry Gove got with Boris when he was running for Mayor of London, a post he held for two terms, from May 2008 to May 2016:

At the time Boris was running for mayor of London, doing a round of fundraisers. My (now) ex-husband and I had been to one the night before, a dinner somewhere or other, where Boris was speaking.

It was a disaster. I remember he arrived late, delivered a thoroughly lackadaisical performance and left early, underwhelming the assembled, many of whom were astonished that such a man could even contemplate a life in politics. He seemed incapable of buttering a bread roll, let alone a room of donors.

The next day, Michael rang Boris and gave him both barrels. How dare he waste everyone’s time and effort like that; didn’t Boris realise how many people had put themselves out to organise that evening, for his benefit? It was embarrassing, it was rude — and, worst of all, it was irresponsible.

Boris was suitably contrite. ‘Sorry, Gover, I hear you Gover,’ was his response, deploying his customary bashful charm. It didn’t wash. Michael hung up.

Despite being almost two decades ago, the incident sticks in my mind because a) I had never seen Michael so angry and b) it is emblematic of Johnson’s biggest problem, one that lies at the root of all his troubles: he just can’t take anything seriously.

She brought up Boris’s childhood ambition of being ‘king of the world’, which I covered in Part 1.

Then she told us about his 2016 candidacy for leader of the Conservative Party:

Everyone was exhausted, but they threw themselves into it. Meetings, phone calls, speeches, media rounds — it was relentless. Boris was running to replace Cameron, Michael having decided — largely at my behest — not to.

There was support to be garnered, deals to be brokered — all the usual stuff that goes on in a leadership contest.

Everyone was going all out to get Boris elected. Except, it seemed, for one person: Boris. While the rest of the team were busting several guts, he appeared to have taken a leaf out of Cameron’s book — and seemed to be mostly chillaxing.

He was supposed to meet so-and-so; he didn’t. He was supposed to draft a letter; he didn’t. Make a phone call; didn’t happen. Oh, I’ll do it in the morning, oh I left it at home. Not quite the dog ate my homework, but not far off. Sometimes he would just go AWOL, leaving the team scrabbling for excuses.

Everyone was taking things deadly seriously; Boris, meanwhile, seemed to think it was all just one big joke. 

Things finally came to a head when the team found him holed up at home in the countryside, flipping burgers, drinking rosé and playing cricket with his mates while the fate of Brexit — this thing that he had supposedly been so passionate about, that had brought down a government, that had overturned everyone’s world order — hung in the balance.

That night, Michael walked through the front door ashen-faced. ‘I’ve made a terrible mistake,’ he said. ‘Boris is a disaster.’ And the rest, as they say, is history.

Michael paid a very heavy price — both politically and personally — for that judgment call. As we saw from this week’s events, Boris never quite forgave him — and who can blame him

She left out the part where Gove then decided to throw his hat into the ring!

She still stands by her man in this respect:

It’s hard to hear the truth about yourself at the best of times, even harder when it’s from an old friend. As it was again this week when Michael told him the game was up.

In closing, Tim Loughton MP described Boris’s sacking of Gove the best, even if he makes it sound as if it were done in person:

I think it was Michael Gove who went to Number 10 with the metaphorical bottle of whisky and the revolver – well, clearly Boris has downed the whisky and turned the revolver on Michael Gove.

Finally.

I do hope that Liz — or Rishi (we still have nine days to go) — forgets about Gove and moves ahead with fresher, newer talent in Cabinet: people who are actually in tune with what Britons are thinking.

Tomorrow’s post will highlight other resignations from early July. I’ll never forget keeping track of Guido’s Twitter feed during that time.

Those who missed the first instalment of Boris Johnson’s downfall can read it here.

The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend at the beginning of June cannot have been an easy one for the Prime Minister, who turned up with his wife Carrie at the public events.

Pressure was mounting for a vote of confidence by Conservative backbenchers.

On the morning of Sunday, June 5, the last day of the Jubilee weekend, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the BBC that there would be no such vote, but even if one took place, Boris would win it (video):

By the time the Queen had celebrated her historic jubilee that weekend, Sir Graham Brady, chair of the Conservative 1922 Committee, had received the requisite number of letters from the Party’s backbench MPs to trigger such a vote.

The vote took place on Monday, June 6. Shapps was correct in saying that Boris would win it. Shapps went on to run for the Party leadership himself in July.

Unfortunately, after the confidence vote, more events occurred making Boris’s position as Party leader untenable.

Earlier, in May, the Conservatives had taken a drubbing in the local elections.

Then came the two by-elections on Thursday, June 23.

One was for Neil Parish’s seat of Tiverton and Honiton in Devon. The farmer had stood down on April 30 after two fellow Conservative MPs saw him viewing tractor porn on his phone in the Palace of Westminster. Liberal Democrat Richard Foord won handily.

The second was further north, in Wakefield, where another disgraced Conservative-then-Independent MP, Imran Ahmad Khan, had to stand down for being convicted on April 11 of assault on a 15-year-old boy in 2008. On May 23, Khan was sentenced to 18 months in prison. The West Yorkshire seat reverted to Labour, with the election of Simon Lightwood.

Then came the Chris Pincher groping scandal. Pincher was Deputy Chief Whip but resigned on Thursday, June 30, after a lubricious episode at the Carlton Club in St James. The Carlton is a private club for Conservatives. Pincher had allegedly groped two men at an event there.

Boris had to sign off on Pincher’s appointment as Deputy Chief Whip. However, even if Boris had objected, the Chief Whip could have appointed Pincher, anyway. As I explained on July 6, whoever the Chief Whip wants for a deputy, the Chief Whip gets.

However, the Party whip had not been withdrawn from Pincher, and MPs were incandescent.

On Friday, July 1, an article appeared in The Telegraph: ‘The “disturbing” call about Chris Pincher’s lurid behaviour that forced Boris Johnson to act’.

GB News interviewed Neil Parish, who was furious.

The Telegraph article says:

The low point of yet another chaotic 24 hours for Boris Johnson came when disgraced “tractor porn MP” Neil Parish popped up on the airwaves to give him a lecture on moral standards in government.  

As the Prime Minister and his aides were holed up in Number 10 deciding how to respond to the growing Chris Pincher scandal, the “very cross” former backbencher was giving them both barrels on television. 

“I can’t believe they haven’t done it,” he said incredulously, when asked why the whip had not been removed. Referring to his own punishment for watching pornography in the House of Commons, he added: “It’s double standards. Come on, let’s be fair.”

His righteous outrage encapsulated how untenable Downing Street’s insistence that Mr Pincher would be able to remain a Conservative MP, despite accusations he drunkenly groped two men, had become.

Someone must have been watching GB News that afternoon or the fury from MPs must have increased to the extent that the Chief Whip, Chris Heaton-Harris, withdrew the Party whip:

Just over two hours later, Chris Heaton-Harris, the Chief Whip, put out a statement reversing that decision, following a day of growing anger amongst backbench Tories at the Prime Minister’s failure to act. 

However, there was a problem in that, the day before, Boris did not think things needed to go that far. He thought that Pincher’s resignation from the Deputy Chief Whip role sufficed (emphases mine):

Downing Street was bullish as the news broke at 8pm, with a Tory source insisting: “The PM thinks he’s done the decent thing by resigning. There is no need for an investigation and no need to suspend the whip.”

Even into Friday afternoon, Boris’s stance had not changed:

… at noon, No 10 still remained defiant – with the Prime Minister’s spokesman telling reporters he considered the matter closed, since Mr Pincher had resigned and that there was no investigation into his conduct.

Heaton-Harris and Boris received pushback for their inaction.

Finally, later on Friday Pincher became an Independent MP:

Early in the evening Downing Street was eventually forced to act and announced it had stripped Mr Pincher of the whip, given that a formal complaint had been made to Parliament’s harassment watchdog.

The question was how much did Boris know about Pincher — past and present — and when did he know it?

Regarding the Carlton Club:

The Prime Minister had also been “troubled” by a “disturbing” call from one of the MPs who witnessed the incident and relayed to him a detailed account of what had happened, according to a source close to him.

The article has the details of what happened with Pincher at the club.

One MP was so unnerved that he rang Heaton-Harris at 3 a.m.:

One Tory MP who was present at the scene told The Telegraph how they “threw out” a “very drunk” Mr Pincher after being told about one of the two sexual assaults and then called the chief whip at 3am to inform him.

Another waited until daylight to inform him:

A second MP who witnessed at least one of the groping incidents also informed Mr Heaton-Harris the following morning. “This is not something that should be brushed over,” the MP told The Telegraph.

That MP says Pincher’s reputation was known, and it is true that he did have to stand down from another post when Theresa May was Prime Minister:

“Given the nature of the behaviour and the seniority of the role he held, it was highly inappropriate behaviour. This is not the first time there have been conversations about this person either. Many of us were surprised when that appointment was made.”

It is the second time that Mr Pincher has been forced to resign from the whips’ office over allegations of sexual impropriety. In 2017, he quit a more junior position after being accused by a former Tory candidate of trying to chat him up.

Returning to Boris:

“Boris has set the level and now everyone else is trying to imitate him, it is a constant drip drip. It all adds up, doesn’t look good,” one former minister told The Telegraph.

“The worrying thing is this is beginning to shape up so much like sleaze in the 90s under Major, where it was a whole series of inappropriate and pretty seedy actions by ministers and Tory MPs that completely undermined him.”

Lord Hague, the former Conservative leader, said the Prime Minister had been too slow to act, with a “whole day of everybody speculating and talking”. He added: “These things need dealing with decisively.”

That day, The Telegraph had a related article, ‘Boris Johnson v John Major: How Tory sleaze scandals under the two leaders stack up’. The scores are pretty even. I remember reading it and thinking that things did not look good for Boris.

There were two other things that did not bode well for him that week: a proposed treehouse for his son and an upcoming investigation by the Privileges Committee over Partygate.

Let’s look at the treehouse first. Labour MPs were apoplectic that Boris wanted to have one built at Chequers for young Wilf.

Guido Fawkes has the story (emphases his):

Eyebrows were raised in Downing Street over the weekend after the publication of a story in The Sunday Times that Boris had looked into having a £150,000 treehouse built for son Wilf at Chequers. The story – undisputed since publication – goes he had once again entered into discussions about Lord Brownlow forking out for the cost, however plans were eventually scuppered by police security concerns given the house would be visible from the road. Despite the design including bulletproof glass, which raised the cost significantly…

Guido was amused to learn that Downing Street’s eyebrows weren’t raised by the Sunday Times’s story, instead by Labour MPs’ attacking the plans on the grounds of Boris being out of touch. Vauxhall’s Florence Eshalomi, Rhondda’s Chris Bryant, Wallasey’s Angela Eagle, and Hull’s Karl Turner were all among those laying into the PM.

Guido points out Labour’s hypocrisy, because it was Tony Blair who had a tennis court complex installed at the Prime Minister’s weekend retreat (purple emphases mine):

No. 10 sources wryly note, however, that it wasn’t that long ago when it was a Labour PM splashing huge wads of cash to renovate Chequers – without a whimper of controversy. In 1999, one Tony Blair added a luxury tennis court complex to the PM’s Buckinghamshire residence, something since enjoyed by successive MPs including David Cameron and Boris Johnson. Sources in the know tell Guido that the courts weren’t built using public cash, nor did they come out of the Chequers Trust, implying the extortionate costs either came out of Blair’s personal pocket, or a private donor. Given Guido unfortunately can’t make it to Blair’s big centrist jamboree today, perhaps an on-hand hack might like to raise the question of who paid for the courts…

Labour: it’s okay when they do it.

The Privileges Committee are investigating Boris for Partygate, specifically on whether he deliberately lied to the House of Commons in saying he was unaware any coronavirus rules were breached. That was before he received his fine.

Labour’s Harriet Harman is leading the investigation. Labour’s Chris Bryant recused himself from that responsibility because he has made no secret of his dislike for Boris.

However, as Guido pointed out on June 17, Harman is hardly impartial:

It’s now emerged his replacement, Harman, has not been neutral on the question up until this point either. She has tweeted her views relating to allegations around the PM’s truthfulness, with one saying “If PM and CX admit guilt, accepting that police right that they breached regs, then they are also admitting that they misled the House of Commons”. You wouldn’t favour your chances going to trial if the judge was on the record with such levels of preconceived bias…

Conservative MPs are also aware of her bias:

Yesterday in the Commons, Andrew Murrison asked Michael Ellis whether he agreed “that those placed in a position of judgment over others must not have a previously stated position on the matter in question”. The Cabinet Office minister replied:

It is, of course, an age-old principle of natural justice that no person should be a judge in their own court.

Where an individual has given a view on the guilt or innocence of any person, they ought not to then sit in judgment on that person. I know that point he is referring to, and I have no doubt that the right honourable lady will consider that.

It seems to be yet another own goal by Labour, mind-made-up Harman’s appointment totally undermines the impartiality of the privileges committee investigation…

The investigation formally began on June 29:

The problem with this investigation is that it has to prove intent on Boris’s part to mislead the House. How will Harman prove it?

If Boris is found guilty of deliberately misleading the House, it will have severe ramifications for parliamentary proceedings. Ministers might fear expanding on certain subjects in case they get a figure or another type of detail wrong.

We should find out the result in September.

What Labour are trying to do with this process is ensure that Boris loses his parliamentary seat for good, which is what will happen if he’s guilty. That way, he can never be an MP again.

Meanwhile, some Conservative MPs were disgruntled that Boris had won the confidence vote in June. Under the current 1922 Committee rules another one cannot be held until 12 months have elapsed. They wanted Sir Graham Brady to change the rules to allow another vote before then.

On Monday, July 4, Mail+ said that Boris was ‘still the best man to lead Britain’:

THE Prime Minister returns to his desk today after an impressive display of statesmanship on the world stage.

Following a Commonwealth conference in Rwanda aimed at building a common future, he returned to Europe to galvanise Nato and a wavering G7 into hardening their support for Ukraine.

Sadly, though, his achievements were overshadowed by yet another Tory sleaze row, leading to inevitable further attacks on his leadership. There are even reports that rebel backbenchers are plotting another attempt at regicide – just a month after the last one failed.

When will this self-mutilation end? Yes, the Chris Pincher affair is ghastly and should have been handled better. But there are far bigger issues at stake.

There’s a painful cost of living crunch, war in Europe and a migration crisis. Meanwhile, Tony Blair and his embittered Remainer chums are on a renewed mission to strangle Brexit.

Instead of dissipating energy on brainless infighting, the parliamentary Conservative Party needs to focus on the problems its constituents actually care about. They can only do that by getting behind their leader.

For all his recent troubles – some self-inflicted – this paper unequivocally believes Boris Johnson is the right man to lead the party and the country.

None of the potential replacements has his almost unique ability to connect with voters across the social and political spectrum. Crucially, he is the only one capable of winning the next election

That Mail+ editorial has its finger on the pulse of the nation. I will come back to what voters think in a future post.

On Tuesday, July 5, Chris Pincher was in the news again after Baron McDonald of Salford — Simon McDonald — the Permanent Under-Secretary to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office between 2015 and 2020, wrote about the MP’s past and what he thought Boris knew to Kathryn Stone OBE, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards for the House of Commons.

I wrote about this at length on July 6, concluding that there was bad blood between the life peer and Boris. Boris sacked him when the Foreign Office was merged with the Department for International Development. To soften the blow, Boris elevated him to the House of Lords. It should be noted that Baron McDonald is also a Remainer.

Wikipedia has a summary of Pincher’s parliamentary history of appointments under Theresa May and Boris Johnson:

Pincher served as an Assistant Whip and Comptroller of the Household in 2017, before he resigned after being implicated in the 2017 Westminster sexual misconduct allegations, having been accused of sexual misconduct by Tom Blenkinsop and Alex Story. Two months later, in January 2018, he was appointed by Theresa May as Government Deputy Chief Whip and Treasurer of the Household. After Boris Johnson became Prime Minister in July 2019, Pincher was appointed Minister of State for Europe and the Americas. In the February 2020 reshuffle, he was appointed Minister of State for Housing. In February 2022, he returned to his former role of Government Deputy Chief Whip and Treasurer of the Household.

As to what the peer alleges Boris knew about Pincher, here are two possibilities:

The matter was discussed on that morning’s Today show on BBC Radio Four.

Guido has the dialogue, with Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab responding for the Government. Raab said:

Aside from the Westminster rumour mill, any allegation that had resulted in formal disciplinary action… whilst there was inappropriate behaviour [from Pincher], it didn’t trip the wire into disciplinary action… the individual who made the complaint did not want formal disciplinary action taken.

McDonald was on next. He said:

I disagree with that, and I dispute the use of the word ‘resolved’… the complaint was upheld… Number 10 have had five full days to get the story correct, and that still has not happened… it’s sort of telling the truth and crossing your fingers at the same time and hoping people aren’t too forensic in their subsequent questioning.

Guido said:

In a matter of hours, the line has gone from “it’s not true” to “the PM didn’t know of any formal complaints”. Chaos.

The Paymaster General, Michael Ellis, addressed the matter in Parliament, intimating that Boris forgot a prior briefing on Pincher:

From that point, the spiral turned ever downward.

That day, Sajid Javid resigned as Health and Social Care Secretary.

Shortly afterwards, Rishi Sunak resigned as Chancellor.

That evening, an article by Lord Frost appeared in The Telegraph: ‘It is time for Boris Johnson to go’:

No one is more downhearted than me at the events of the last few days. Over the years, I have worked as closely as anyone with Boris Johnson. I know, therefore, that he is a remarkable man and a remarkable politician. Only he could have cut through the mess left by Theresa May and delivered on the verdict of the people in the Brexit referendum. He took the country with him through the pandemic and has shown huge leadership on policy towards Ukraine.

But this country now faces formidable challenges. Facing them requires not just the ability to talk about a vision but the determination and steeliness to establish a credible pathway to it. It requires a leader who knows where he wants to take the country and can set out how he intends to get there, in a way that is consistent with the traditional Conservative vision.

I had hoped Boris Johnson could be that person, but I have realised that despite his undoubted skills he simply can’t be. As I have often said, his Government has drifted far too much to the Left on economic matters, not only on tax and spend but by being too quick to regulate and too willing to get captured by fashionable trivia. It is tax-raising while claiming to be tax-cutting, regulatory while claiming to be deregulatory. It purports to be Conservative while too often going along with the fashionable nostrums of the London Left

I can’t honestly see what this Prime Minister’s economic philosophy is, beyond the content-free concept of “levelling up”, and accordingly I no longer believe we will ever see a consistent drive towards low taxation, low spending, attractiveness to investment, and deregulation on the scale needed. 

But even more than that I have become worried by the style of government. The whole partygate affair could have been dealt with more straightforwardly and honestly by setting out right from the start what had gone wrong in No 10, taking responsibility, and explaining why it would not happen again. By the time those things had been said, they seemed to have been dragged unwillingly from the Prime Minister rather than genuinely meant. Accordingly they lacked credibility …

The Pincher affair then showed in a real-life case study that [reform of Downing Street] was not going to happen. Confronted with a problem which appeared to reflect badly on the Prime Minister’s judgment, we saw once again the instinct was to cover up, to conceal, to avoid confronting the reality of the situation. Once again that instinct, not the issue itself, has become the story and the problem. Worse, this time round, ministers have been sent out repeatedly to defend suspect positions that came apart under closer examination. This is no way to run a government

Boris Johnson’s place in history is secure. He will be one of the past century’s most consequential prime ministers. If he leaves now, before chaos descends, that reputation is what will be remembered. If he hangs on, he risks taking the party and the Government down with him. That’s why it is time for him to go. If he does, he can still hand on to a new team, one that is determined to defend and seek the opportunities of Brexit, one that is able to win the next election convincingly. That is in the Conservative Party’s interest, in Leave voters’ interest, and in the national interest. It needs to happen.

On Wednesday, July 6, all hell broke loose.

The Times reported:

The prime minister’s authority over his party is crumbling as three more ministers plus two parliamentary aides resigned this morning and a string of previously loyal MPs turned on his leadership.

Rebel MPs believe that a routine meeting of the executive of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers this afternoon could be the trigger point for changing the rules that at present mean Johnson cannot be ousted for another 11 months.

Sir Graham Brady, the 1922 Committee chairman, has told the 16 members of the executive to arrive promptly for the meeting, an instruction being taken by some of those on the executive as a sign that he wants to discuss options for ousting Johnson …

At midday he will take prime minister’s questions knowing that about half — perhaps more — of the Conservative MPs on the benches behind him want him gone

Rebel Conservatives have been contacting Brady today to demand a rule change that would allow Johnson to be ousted as soon as possible. “It is being made very clear to Graham that this needs to happen sooner rather than later,” said one …

One former minister said that there was a very strong feeling amongst MPs that the issue needed to be brought to a conclusion. “Boris has made very clear that it will take a forklift truck to get him out of Downing Street. So it’s now up to us to assemble the forklift truck.”

The article goes on to list the resignations which came in by 11:30 a.m. that day. More followed in the afternoon.

To make matters worse, Boris got a grilling during his appearance at the Liaison Committee, comprised of the heads of the Commons select committees.

That evening during a telephone call, Boris sacked Michael Gove, who was the Levelling-up Secretary.

Gove had contacted Boris that morning to tell him he should resign before PMQs at noon.

Somehow, the news reached the media.

The Times has the story:

Gove’s allies claimed it was Downing Street that had briefed the media that Gove had told Johnson to resign. They said it was an attempt to make him look disloyal and distract attention from the wider revolt.

“It did not come from us,” one said. “They want to paint Michael as the villain trying to orchestrate a revolt against the PM. Nothing could be further from the truth.” They added that the sacking had then come out of the blue in a call from Downing Street. “He just told Michael that given their conversation in the morning he had no choice but to sack him,” the ally said.

I wonder. Gove is incredibly untrustworthy and, according to the article, he and Boris have had a difficult relationship since their days at Oxford.

Before Boris sacked Gove, a number of Cabinet ministers had urged him to stand down, including Priti Patel and Kit Malthouse, who had worked with Boris during his time as Mayor of London:

Patel’s intervention was striking because of her longstanding support of Johnson, having been home secretary throughout his time as prime minister.

In a one-to-one meeting in No 10 she is understood to have conveyed to him the overwhelming views of the parliamentary party. She said there was no way he could continue to govern without the support of his party.

A similar message was conveyed by Malthouse, her deputy, who was also one of Johnson’s deputies when he was mayor of London.

[Brandon] Lewis travelled back from Belfast to tell the prime minister that he believed he should resign. On his flight a passenger heckled him, telling him: “You are complicit in the betrayal of this country by Boris Johnson,” the BBC said.

[Grant] Shapps told the prime minister that he stood little chance of commanding a majority in a second confidence vote. [Kwasi] Kwarteng told Chris Heaton-Harris, the chief whip, that Johnson should resign for the good of the country.

I will have more on the resignations tomorrow.

At the weekend, it seemed as if more and more people began waking up to the fact that coronavirus policies of lockdowns and forced ‘vaccines’ did more harm than good.

Sweden was right

First, let’s go back to the end of July 2022 to an article in City Journal: ‘The WHO Doesn’t Deserve the Nobel Peace Prize’.

Its author, John Tierney, says that if anyone merits the Nobel it’s Anders Tegnell, the state epidemiologist of Sweden.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

While the WHO and the rest of the world panicked, he kept calm. While leaders elsewhere crippled their societies, he kept Sweden free and open. While public-health officials ignored their own pre-Covid plans for a pandemic—and the reams of reports warning that lockdowns, school closures, and masks would accomplish little or nothing—Tegnell actually stuck to the plan and heeded the scientific evidence.

Journalists pilloried him for not joining in the hysteria, but he has been proven right. In Sweden, the overall rate of excess mortality—a measure of the number of deaths more than normal from all causes—during the pandemic is one of the lowest in Europe. Swedish children kept going to school and did not suffer the learning loss so common elsewhere. Swedish children and adults went on with their lives, following Tegnell’s advice not to wear masks as they continued going to schools, stores, churches, playgrounds, gyms, and restaurants. And fewer of them died than in most of the American states and European countries that delayed medical treatments, bankrupted businesses, impoverished workers, stunted children’s emotional and cognitive growth, and stripped their citizens of fundamental liberties.

If it hadn’t been for Tegnell and a few other heretics in places like Florida, we would not have clear evidence to prevent a similar catastrophe when the next virus arrives …

Tegnell was aided by another worthy candidate to share the Nobel, Johan Giesecke, who had formerly held Tegnell’s job and served during the pandemic as an advisor to the Swedish public health agency. Decades earlier, he had recruited Tegnell to the agency because he admired the young doctor’s willingness to speak his mind regardless of political consequences

Politicians in Sweden were ready to close schools, too, but Tegnell and Giesecke insisted on weighing costs and benefits, as Tegnell had done in a 2009 article reviewing studies of school closures during pandemics. The article had warned that the closures might have little or no effect on viral spread and would cause enormous economic damage, disproportionately harm students and workers in low-income families, and create staff shortages in the health-care system by forcing parents to stay home with young children. Given all those dangers, plus early Covid data showing that schoolchildren were not dangerously spreading the virus, Tegnell and Giesecke successfully fought to keep elementary schools and junior high schools open—without masks, plastic partitions, social distancing, or regular Covid tests for students

The virus would eventually spread to other countries despite their lockdowns and mask mandates, Tegnell warned in July 2020 as he advised his colleagues and critics to take the long view. “After next summer,” he said, “then I think we can more fairly judge what has been good in some countries and bad in other countries.”

Sure enough, by summer 2021, Sweden was a different sort of “cautionary tale.” Without closing schools or locking down or mandating masks, it had done better than most European countries according to the most meaningful scorecard: the cumulative rate of excess mortality. Critics of Tegnell’s strategy were reduced to arguing that Sweden’s rate was higher than that of several other nearby countries, but this was a weak form of cherry-picking because two of those countries—Norway and Finland—had also avoided mask mandates and followed policies similar to Sweden’s after their lockdowns early in the pandemic …

With the possible exception of the Great Depression, the lockdowns were the costliest public-policy mistake ever made during peacetime in the United States. The worst consequences of lockdowns have been endured by people in the poorest countries, which have seen devastating increases in poverty, hunger, and disease. Yet the WHO has refused to acknowledge these errors and wants to change its pandemic planning to promote more lockdowns in the future. It has even proposed a new global treaty giving it the power to enforce its policies around the world—thereby preventing a country like Sweden from demonstrating that the policies don’t work.

The last thing the WHO deserves is encouragement from the Nobel jurors. The prize should reward those who protected the lives and liberties of millions of citizens during this pandemic, and whose work can help protect the rest of the world during the next pandemic …

Now let’s move on to last weekend’s news and views.

Lockdown and excess deaths

On Friday, August 19, The Telegraph‘s Camilla Tominey discussed lockdown, the effective closure of the NHS and excess British deaths in ‘Lockdown fanatics can’t escape blame for this scandal’.

She began with the story of Lisa King, a bereaved widow whose husband died an agonising death at home because he was not allowed to see his GP:

The father of two, 62, did not catch coronavirus. He died on October 9, 2020 because he was repeatedly denied a face-to-face GP appointment during the pandemic – only to be told that an urgent operation to remove his gallbladder had been delayed because of spiralling NHS waiting lists.

His sudden death, in agonising pain, was completely avoidable.

As Mrs King told me at the time: “To the decision makers, he is nothing more than ‘collateral damage’, but to me, he is the love of my life.”

Tominey points out that several doctors and journalists in the UK opposed lockdown but were told in no uncertain terms how hateful they were:

we were accused of being mercenary murderers intent on prioritising the economy ahead of saving lives.

Scientists who dared to question the severity of the restrictions were, as Lord Sumption put it at the time, “persecuted like Galileo”. Falsely branded “Covid deniers” simply for questioning some of the “science” that was slavishly followed, they were subjected to appalling online abuse by a bunch of armchair experts who claimed to know better.

Two years later, those who objected to lockdowns and an effective closure of the NHS, all the way down to GP practices, have been proven right:

… they were right to raise their concerns in the face of pseudo-socialist Sage groupthink.

Official data now suggests that the effects of lockdown may be killing more people than are currently dying of Covid.

An analysis by the Daily Telegraph’s brilliant science editor Sarah Knapton (another figure who was pilloried for questioning the pro-lockdown orthodoxy) has found that about 1,000 more people than usual are dying each week from conditions other than coronavirus.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Tuesday showed that excess deaths are 14.4 per cent higher than the five-year average, equating to 1,350 more deaths than usual in the week ending August 5. Although 469 deaths were linked to Covid, the remaining 881 have not been explained. Since the start of June, the ONS has recorded almost 10,000 more deaths than the five-year average – about 1,086 a week – none of them linked to coronavirus. This figure is more than three times the number of people who died because of Covid over the same period – 2,811.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has asked for an investigation into the data amid concern that the deaths are linked to delays and deferment of treatment for conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease …

The horror stories are everywhere you look: from people dying needlessly at home like Mr King, to elderly patients waiting 40 hours for ambulances, to cancer sufferers now dying because they didn’t get appointments during lockdown, or didn’t want to be a burden.

It’s tempting to blame this on the NHS being in urgent need of reform – and that’s surely part of the explanation. We all know how staff shortages – again, exacerbated by the pandemic – are crippling the system.

But this isn’t simply a result of a lack of resources. Healthcare spending has risen sharply as a percentage of GDP in recent years.

The nettle that needs to be grasped is that these figures suggest that the country is facing a growing health crisis that has been caused by our overzealous response to the pandemic – scaremongering policies that kept people indoors, scared them away from hospitals and deprived them of treatment.

These excess deaths may well turn out to be a direct consequence of the decision to lock down the country in order to control a virus that was only ever a serious threat to the old and the vulnerable.

Had a more proportionate approach been taken, akin to Sweden’s, then would we be in this mess right now? Perhaps only a government inquiry will be able definitively to answer that question, but what’s certain now is the debate over the severity of lockdown was never about the economy versus lives – as pro-shutdown fanatics would have it – but over lives versus lives

Lest we forget that in the last quarter of 2020, the mean age of those dying with and of Covid was estimated to be 82.4 years, while the risk of dying of it if you were under 60 was less than 0.5 per cent. Who wouldn’t now take those odds compared to being diagnosed with cancer, circulatory or cardiovascular related conditions and being made to wait months for post-pandemic treatment?

None of this has come as a surprise to those running organisations like the British Heart Foundation or the Stroke Foundation, which had predicted a sharp rise in deaths because “people haven’t been having their routine appointments for the past few years now” …

The World Health Organisation said at the time that the Great Barrington Declaration “lacked scientific basis”, but nearly three years on from the start of the pandemic there has been precious little analysis of whether the raft of Covid restrictions either served the collective good – or actually saved lives in the round – compared with the lives that are now being lost as a result.

These numbers aren’t just statistics – they are people’s husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, daughters and sons. The appalling truth is that a lot of these people would probably still be here today were it not for the lockdowns; lockdowns which seemingly did little to stop tens of thousands of people dying of Covid in the UK.

We stayed at home to “protect the NHS”. It turns out the NHS isn’t there now to protect us.

The ambulance waits are a horrorshow. This is going on throughout the UK. Scotland and Wales experienced long waiting times before England did.

This photo shows a recurring scene outside a London hospital and explains the situation. Ambulances are backed up because the patients inside cannot be accommodated in the hospital:

Here’s a chart of the UK’s excess deaths this year:

Blame belongs on both sides of political spectrum

Who can forget how the media, especially the BBC, ramped up Project Fear over the past two years?

Although the media don’t legislate, judging from the response to the pandemic, they heavily influence what our MPs do.

So, who is to blame?

Someone thinks it is Michael Gove, who was the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster from 2019 until September 2021. He was also a Minister for the Cabinet Office at the same time.

talkRADIO host Julia Hartley-Brewer says Gove bears a lot of the blame for coronavirus policy. Interesting:

What about the Left? Labour’s Keir Starmer held Wales’s First Minister Mark Drakeford as a paragon of wisdom during the pandemic. Drakeford’s government made ‘non-essential’ shops close and supermarkets put tape over the aisles the Welsh were forbidden to shop in. That meant they could not buy greeting cards, party favours, toys, books or shoes. That’s only a partial list, by the way. That lasted for a few months.

Following Drakeford’s example, Keir Starmer wanted earlier and longer lockdowns in England. So did other Labour MPs.

They voted for every Government restriction in Westminster. Boris must have been relieved.

However, this brings up the definition of ‘liberal’. How I wish that we had not adopted this American perversion of the word. ‘Liberal’ in its original definition is akin to ‘libertarian’. It certainly isn’t ‘leftist’.

Rapper and podcast host Zuby brought up the subject last Saturday:

Here comes the conflict of blaming, because both sides of the House of Commons voted in unison on pandemic policy:

Vaccine harm

Then there is the vaccine harm done to young hearts via myocarditis.

Dr Aseem Malhotra is opposed to vaccines being given to children. Here he links to a study from Thailand about the adverse effect a second Pfizer dose can have on one in six teenagers:

Apparently, the Thailand study did not get much publicity at home:

Neil Oliver’s editorial on coronavirus

On Saturday, Neil Oliver delivered an excellent opening editorial on pandemic policy, which he said should be a sacking or resigning offence:

He rightly pointed out that those responsible feel no remorse.

Dan Wootton’s coronavirus hour

Dan Wootton had a blockbuster coronavirus hour in the first half of his GB News show on Monday, August 22. It was marvellous:

His opening Digest was brilliant:

The transcript is here:

The damage, both to our health, our economy and our future way of life, has been obvious to me since the first national lockdown was imposed in March 2020, following the playbook of communist China.

My overarching mission on this show has been to have the important conversations about the most damaging public health policy of all time, which the vast majority of the media, the establishment and our so-called leaders want to avoid at almost any cost.

This was my opening night monologue on the first night of this channel in June 2021 that, at the time, sparked total outrage from all the usual suspects, who campaigned to see me reprimanded by Ofcom for daring to question the efficacy of lockdowns on a national news channel.

I said then: “Lockdowns are a crude measure. Mark my words, in the years to come we will discover they have caused far more deaths and devastation than the Government has ever admitted.

“They should be wiped from the public health playbook forever more. But, tragically, the doomsday scientists and public health officials have taken control.

“They’re addicted to the power and the Government are satisfied its 15-month-long never-ending scare campaign has suitably terrified the public into supporting lockdowns.

“But if we don’t fight back against this madness, some of the damage will be irreversible.”

It was always going to take some time to get the devastating statistics to back-up the idea that a policy of lockdowns was catastrophically wrong – but it was obvious to me what was just around the corner.

Those statistics are now coming in thick and fast; the conclusions are unavoidable and undeniable.

This striking front page of the Daily Telegraph, suggesting the effects of lockdown may now be killing more people than are dying of Covid, should be leading every news bulletin in the country.

Here’s the front page to which he refers:

He discussed the statistics I cited above and rightly pointed out that The Telegraph is the only media outlet (besides GB News) talking about it:

Instead, our dramatic excess death toll is virtually ignored by the BBC, ITV News and Sly News, which used to trumpet Covid death figures on an almost hourly basis

The officials who terrified the public on a daily basis, backed up by a crazed media and gutless politicians, have blood on their hands.

A small group of honourable folk – many of whom now appear regularly on this show, like Professor Karol Sikora – shouted from the rooftops that delays and deferment of treatment for a host of conditions like cancer, strokes, diabetes and heart disease were going to be responsible for thousands upon thousands of deaths in years to come.

We tried to warn people and wake up the rest of the population, while being dismissed as Covidiots, deniers and the anti-vaxx brigade.

And yet, there’s still no apology. Still no acceptance of a gigantic error.

In fact, the same irresponsible and evil idiots who got us into this mess want lockdowns, mass vaccination and muzzling to return this winter.

We cannot and will not rest until the true damage of lockdowns is exposed and accepted so we learn the mistakes of our recent history.

A panel discussion followed:

Cardiologist Karl Sikora gave his view and found it astonishing that health experts, including former SAGE member, behaviourist Susan Michie, whom they did not name, want everlasting masks and lockdowns:

Susan Michie, by the way, has just taken up a plum job with the WHO. Says it all, really.

Neil Oliver told Wootton that he was not optimistic about no future lockdowns, which is one of Liz Truss’s proposed policies:

And, finally, the Fairbrass brothers from Right Said Fred presented their scepticism over coronavirus policies. They’ve lost a few gigs because of it but also picked up a new set of fans:

Conclusion

This past weekend really gave me a lot of encouragement about examining coronavirus policies more closely.

For once, it seemed as if a lot of news items and editorials hit at the same time.

I do hope this augurs well for the future.

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