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There was no doubt that Sky News presenters and reporters promoted Rishi Sunak heavily before, during and after the last major debate of the Conservative Party leadership contest on Thursday, August 4, 2022.

All of them were talking about Rishi while downplaying or ignoring any mention of Liz Truss’s achievements at the Departments of the Treasury, Education, International Trade — or the Foreign Office.

It was all Rishi, Rishi, Rishi.

Sky claimed to have an audience of undecided Conservative Party members. I’ll address that claim below.

Prior to the debate, Sky presenters interviewed their colleagues, some of these undecided voters and two MPs, Dominic Raab on Team Rishi and Kwasi Kwarteng on Team Truss.

Raab, who looked rattled, kept interrupting Kwarteng on the subject of tax. Kwarteng politely asked him not to interrupt, especially as he had given Raab an opportunity to speak freely about his candidate.

Although Guido Fawkes’s tweet and video say this was after the debate, it was actually before the debate:

Sky’s clock says 19:18. The debate did not start until later:

Guido’s post says (red emphases his):

It seems Team Rishi forgot to send the ‘don’t shout over your opponent, it looks bad’ memo to their star backer…

Too right, but this was Sky and only Liz’s supporters probably took any notice.

Kay Burley, 61, was the moderator. The video of the coin toss determining who went first is here. Truss won the toss and said she would go first. Kay was all smiles at the end, so much so that she looked weird. Clearly, there was an opportunity for Sunak to shine later on.

During the debate, Burley asked questions after the audience of ‘undecideds’ had posed theirs.

Afterwards, the audience voted on their choice for the better candidate.

This is Truss’s Q&A session:

The Mail‘s Henry Deedes filed the following report (emphases in purple mine).

We had Truss’s use of the word ‘bold’:

Up first was Miss Truss, having won the coin toss. ‘It really is make or break,’ said Kay, doing the introductions. Cue Rocky soundtrack. Duff-duff-duff!

We heard from someone called Diana who worried about the Bank of England’s doom and gloom forecast yesterday that recession was inevitable. Liz insisted it wasn’t

‘We can change the outcome,’ she said. ‘Now is the time to be bold.’ That’s what voters want to hear! Diane beamed. This was Elgar to her ears. One ticked ballot paper in the box marked ‘Truss’.

Deedes noted how Truss’s demeanour has improved over the past few weeks:

Remarkable how much the Foreign Secretary has grown during this contest. She was fluent – no ums and ahs. The joints too have loosened up. She was able to shimmy around the stage as she answered questions. At her launch a month ago, she was stiffer than a store mannequin.

An audience member criticised Truss’s proposal on realigning public sector pay outside of London — one that she ditched within 24 hours — and said he was deeply offended, especially as it would have included nurses and teachers. The man asked Truss whether she would apologise. A second man, sitting in the front row, said that he could not understand why every mis-step had to have an apology tacked on to it. Truss stood by waiting for the two men to finish.

It was a spiky exchange:

Now we get to Sky’s claim of having undecided Conservative Party members in the audience.

Guido reported on the offended man who asked Truss to apologise. It turns out that he, Tom Harding, was chief of staff to former MP Anna Soubry, a hardline Remainer who lost the Party whip in 2019. She did not win re-election later that year.

Guido told his readers the next day about Harding and another person in the audience, Jill Andrew:

To say questions have been raised about Sky’s debate audience last night would be an understatement. Despite two polls this week giving Liz a 32-34 point lead over rival Rishi, the audience was incredibly hostile towards her, with Rishi coming out on top. Sky News has said the audience was made up of undecided members. Guido’s not sure they did their homework properly…

One very critical anti-Liz audience member has already been identified as Jill Andrew, a former CCHQ lawyer and party candidate who stood against Boris for his Henley seat in 2001. Hardly a typical member…

The jewel in Sky’s audience crowd, however, was undoubtedly Tom Harding, who went to town on Liz over her regional pay boards u-turn before almost starting a fight with a fellow audience member standing up for her. Harding, it transpires, is none other than Anna Soubry’s former chief of staff…

It turns out that Harding has form, having appeared in a BBC Question Time audience two months ago criticising Boris:

Astute viewers at home were not impressed:

Guido had a closer look at Sky’s claims of an audience of undecided Party members and concluded it was bunkum:

The Times had more on Truss’s economic policy on the day that the Bank of England raised interest rates:

Liz Truss said last night that recession in Britain was “not inevitable”, as she claimed her plan to cut taxes could prevent an economic downturn.

In the last televised debate of the Tory leadership campaign the foreign secretary cast doubt on the Bank of England’s predictions of a slump and defended her plans for a multibillion-pound stimulus for the economy …

… Truss claimed that she had the policies to build towards growth.

“What the Bank of England has said is extremely worrying, but it is not inevitable,” she said.

“We can change the outcome, and we can make it more likely that the economy grows.”

The Mail reported that Truss was eager to get civil servants off their Pelotons and back into the office:

Liz Truss last night pledged to get more civil servants back to the office after it emerged many Whitehall desks are still empty.

She backed Cabinet Office minister Jacob Rees-Mogg‘s efforts to curb the work from home culture in the civil service.

The Foreign Secretary, who has previously suggested flexible working should ‘become the norm’, made the vow as Cabinet Office figures showed that in the week commencing July 25, just over half of Whitehall desks were occupied.

The worst culprits were the Scotland Office on 27 per cent and Miss Truss’s own department on 34 per cent. Numbers are falling as the weeks go on.

Miss Truss said: ‘I support the work Jacob Rees-Mogg has been doing… and I will be looking at that very carefully.’

Truss must be careful about flip-flopping. It is careless and gives her opponents ammunition.

After Truss finished answering questions from the audience, Burley invited her to sit down opposite her for questions. I thought this was terribly rude:

You can have a drink of water. You’re welcome.

Burley asked Truss about violations of lockdown rules, hinting at Boris.

Truss, recalling Burley’s 2020-2021 suspension from Sky for her 60th birthday bash in London’s West End, gave a tactful response, yet one that Burley would have found hard to miss:

Many mistakes were made during lockdown, Kay, by many people.

Here’s the video. The reply has another Burley incident involving a fellow journalist outside a London courthouse several years ago:

Then it was Sunak’s turn to shine:

At this point in the polls, Rishi was far behind and every Conservative knew it.

The Mail‘s Henry Deedes noted:

On came Rishi. He seemed jittery. Hyper. A man in a hurry. Much like his whole campaign, he was playing catch-up.

Going second was clearly a massive disadvantage. Good on him though. He must know his bid by now is doomed. Yet still he ploughed on, smiling and joking, charming the audience with his polished public school manners. He reminded me of a dutiful airline steward aboard a plummeting plane, insisting all’s tickety-boo.

There was an early question as to whether he was going to withdraw from the leadership contest. Course he wasn’t. He’d given up a holiday in sunny Californ-I-A to do this. He wasn’t going to pack it in early. 

‘I’m sure we’ll get to talking about the economy in a minute,’ he said at one point. Translation: Please, please ask me about the economy.

Here’s the video of that exchange at 1:50 in. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get to talking about the economy, the best part:

Contrary to what Deedes wrote, going second was clearly a winning position for Sunak.

The Murdoch-owned Times gave much more coverage to him than to Truss. Recall that they came out immediately for Sunak as party leader, beginning with a hit on Truss:

In the last televised debate of the Tory leadership campaign the foreign secretary cast doubt on the Bank of England’s predictions of a slump and defended her plans for a multibillion-pound stimulus for the economy.

But she was attacked by Rishi Sunak, her rival, who said the Conservative Party needed to “get real and fast”.

He said: “The lights on the economy are flashing red and the root cause is inflation. I’m worried Liz Truss’s plans will make the situation worse.

“It’s not the tax burden which is causing the recession. That’s simply wrong”

“What I’m not going to do is embark on a borrowing spree worth tens of billions of pounds,” he said. “We need to be really careful about policies that will make it worse”

During the debate Sunak was confronted with polling suggesting that he was trailing Truss in the contest. But the former chancellor insisted that he would not concede. “I’m fighting for something I really believe in,” he said.

Sunak also gave a spirited defence of his decision to resign from Boris Johnson’s cabinet.

“Everyone remembers what was going on with Chris Pincher, that was a serious ethical question that the government was on the wrong side of again, and I couldn’t defend it,” he said, referring to the former deputy chief whip who has been accused of groping men.

“Maybe you’re OK to defend that, I wasn’t OK to defend it, 60 other members of the government were not OK to defend it because it was wrong.”

After Truss secured a number of high-profile endorsements in recent days, Sunak insisted that he was the most popular candidate with Tory MPs.

“Every single round of the parliamentary process, I led,” he said. “And since it finished, more and more people have come and joined the team.”

At the end of the programme, the audience was asked for a show of hands on who they thought would make a better prime minister, with Sunak emerging as the clear winner.

Sky were eager for everyone to pile on in support of Sunak.

After the debate, reporters and audience members gave their view.

Only one person, a manager in the social care sector, supported Truss. The reporter tried to change her mind. The woman felt awkward, shifting in her chair. She was unshakeable, however, and repeated that she thought Truss had a better solution for social care.

Journalists at The Telegraph gave their views on the debate.

Madeline Grant thought that Truss won, despite having to admit policy U-turns:

Liz Truss won. Both she and Kay Burley, the compere, had arrived in the same shade of red, like a pair of awkward accidentally-matching wedding guests. Liz’s outfit was offset with a Frodo Baggins ring around her neck – appropriate on a day when the Bank of England was predicting Mount Doom.

Rishi Sunak looked more like a Moss Bros dummy than ever, with his sharp suit and matinee idol quiff …

Faced, for the first time in ages, with real grassroots rage, Liz garbled in that weirdly jolty way of hers, hands outstretched like an angler lying about his catch …

Kay stirred the pot by presenting the Liz of 2022 with a quote from the Liz of 2019 about the necessity of building on the green belt. Liz squirmed again. “I’ve changed my view on that What I don’t want to do, Kay, is build on the green belt”

After a series of irritating one-on-one questions that told us more about the host than the interviewee, it was Rishi’s turn, and he did his best to shake off his reputation as the establishment candidate by listing all the Tory grandees who had lined up behind him.

Despite invoking Michael Howard and William Hague, he reprised his old Tony Blair impression, with lots of gesticulations and compliments to the audience. However, like his campaign, it was a patchy mix, half New Labour, half Ukip – his Blairite intonation, “I wanna deliver”, was matched with a Faragean dig at “Lefty lawyers”.

Kay began a question in Latin. “Et tu, Rishi?”, she snarled. The Wykehamist tried unconvincingly to pretend he didn’t know what this meant. In the end, it took a man from the audience shouting in plain English – “you stabbed Boris in the back!” – for the message to seep in … 

The audience poll pointed to a decisive win for Rishi, but he’ll need to land many more body blows if he is to win the ultimate toss of the Tory coin.

In another Telegraph article, Ross Clark and Tim Stanley gave their impressions of the candidates’ performance.

Ross Clark pointed out that Truss never recovered from having to defend her public sector pay policy reversal:

Truss was less wooden, less awkward than on some previous occasions. She showed a sense of humour. But, thanks to her rapidly-withdrawn policy of regional pay boards, she spent much of her 45 minutes on the back foot. Her most difficult moment was when a man from Newcastle [Tom Harding] said he had been ‘offended’ by the suggestion that his work in the North East was of less value than someone doing the same job in London.

Truss was also a little hampered when answering questions on Ukraine and Taiwan – she is the foreign secretary, and her answers really mattered.

… But she never explained why she had come up with her regional pay policy in the first place if she was going to drop it so quickly.

Truss came across as someone more prepared to answer questions directly. The more that Sunak’s 45 minutes went on, the more he came across as someone who was repeating prepared questions on autopilot – and the more you understood why support for him in this contest was draining away. But not was not, it appeared, how the studio audience saw it – a show of hands at the end suggested he had firmly won over the audience.

Tim Stanley said the audience won the debate, in a sense, but Truss’s weak spots mean the contest between her and Sunak is far from over:

The winner of the Sky debate was the audience. It was invited, said Kay Burley, to reflect the demographics of the Conservative party, so I was anticipating something like Cluedo: a vicar, a professor, a colonel and an inebriated peacock.

Instead we got some marvellous characters who, when the candidates failed to answer a question, argued with themselves instead. A debate broke out between Tom from Gateshead who found Liz’s regional pay policy insulting and a fellow in the front row who thought politicians should stop apologising.

“When someone’s asking for your vote, you don’t expect to be offended,” said Tom. If looks could kill! Who murdered the Tory Party? Tom from Gateshead, in the TV studio, with passive aggression.

On the subject of *that* policy, Liz, who was dressed as Miss Scarlett, refused to admit an error while also trying to make a virtue out of being willing to make a u-turn …

Rishi Sunak, meanwhile, tried to combine being a safe pair of hands with being a radical reformer. His vibe is “recklessly sensible”, and it won over this sceptical crowd. The polls, and the pundits, say Liz is the favourite, but given the alarming rise in inflation, and combined with the late arrival of ballots – I still think the election is up for grabs.

Guido reported a snap poll that Redfield & Wilton Strategies took after the debate:

A second poll in a row has found Liz to be more popular than Keir Starmer, widening her lead to three points. A Team Liz source joked to Guido that with Rishi we’ll get socialism for two years followed by socialism for another 5”

The poll shows that Labour’s Keir Starmer would beat Sunak 39% to 32%.

Truss holds a narrow lead over Starmer, 37% to 35%.

Readers interested in more policy detail from the candidates can read about it here, here and here.

On Tuesday, July 26, the UK’s fledgling news channel TalkTV scheduled a Conservative Party leadership debate with The Sun for 6 p.m.:

Kate McCann was the moderator.

She was to have been joined by Guido Fawkes alumnus Harry Cole, The Sun‘s political editor, but he had coronavirus:

TalkTV asked for questions from viewers, as well as their audience, half of whom had voted Conservative in 2019.

It promised to be a debate quite unlike the ones on Channel 4 and the BBC:

With The Sun involved, one knew that the candidates would get hard-hitting questions rather than boring ones from the media establishment.

In the opening round, Kate McCann gave the candidates 60 seconds each to present themselves and their platform.

Rishi Sunak did well …

… even if he was still in Tony Blair mode and sounded like Labour’s Keir Starmer …

… but Liz Truss had to glance at her notes:

Then it was on to the questions.

It was gratifying to see that the audience members, both in person and remotely, asked them of the candidates directly.

The first one came from John Hughes in Birmingham, who spoke remotely. He is a cancer patient and said that, since the pandemic, he has had a very difficult time getting the care and the support he needs. He said that a cancer charity has been helping him but the NHS and Macmillan Cancer Support nurses have not been available:

Rishi said that it was good that John was getting the support he needed. John retorted that he was not getting the support he needed. Rishi corrected himself.

Rishi gave a long answer, which did not respond to the question.

The Times has the dialogue:

Sunak said that he had been criticised for raising national insurance contributions to tackle the NHS backlog and fund social care reform, but that it was a “brave decision” and the right thing to do.

Liz said that she would reform the NHS, reducing layers of management so that the focus could be on patient care rather than bureaucracy:

I want to see fewer layers of management in the National Health Service and less central direction because I simply don’t think that people can sit there in Whitehall and direct everything that happens in local communities across our country.

It seemed that John preferred her answer to Rishi’s. At least Liz offered a plan. Kate McCann asked John what he thought. He said that:

he remained unconvinced by their answers and stated that the Conservative Party had been given 12 years to fix the NHS.

The next question came from a member of the studio audience. A lady said that she was used to buying steak several times a week, however, the price has gone up so much that she can no longer afford to buy meat of any kind. She asked whether she should become vegetarian:

The Times reported:

The debate then moved on to the cost of living, with Gemma from Manchester, a Sun reader, telling the candidates about the rising cost of meat in supermarkets and asking if more people should go vegetarian to save money.

Rishi said:

he would ensure that prices came down by “making sure that the supermarkets and all the other people in the supply chain are being fair in how they price these things [and that] no one is taking advantage of the situation to pass on price rises.”

Surely, although I agree with the principle, if everyone in the supply chain is being fairly remunerated, prices will go up even further.

Liz told Gemma that becoming vegetarian was ‘a choice’ and one that the Government leaves to individuals.

I understood what Gemma meant by asking about vegetarianism, because with this year’s price rises, it does seem as if that is the end game.

Bloomberg’s Alex Wickham summed up this refreshing debate well:

For once, we had real people asking about real problems.

However, the candidates reverted to a subject with which they were more comfortable — tax cuts.

As the i paper‘s Hugo Gye pointed out, it seemed as if Rishi and Liz still couldn’t connect with the audience as well as a certain Prime Minister — Boris Johnson:

Harry Cole, watching from home, tweeted this at 6:27 p.m.:

The Times reported:

The candidates’ response quickly turned to the economy, with Truss saying that Sunak’s manifesto-breaking tax rises had been “morally wrong” as she accused the former chancellor of having policies which are “making us less competitive” as a country.

Sunak said that tackling inflation remained his priority but suggested that some businesses were also profiteering from the cost of living crisis. He said he would ensure that prices came down by “making sure that the supermarkets and all the other people in the supply chain are being fair in how they price these things [and that] no one is taking advantage of the situation to pass on price rises.”

Sunak also defended his plans to increase corporation tax. He said: “I think it’s entirely reasonable to ask the largest companies in this country, just the top 10 per cent of companies, to pay a bit more because they’re received a lot of help during the pandemic.”

Truss countered by telling Sunak: “You’ve made it worse”. “Companies have a choice about whether they invest in the UK or whether they invest elsewhere. Rishi’s policies are making us less competitive,” she said.

The Mail‘s Henry Deedes described other exchanges between the candidates and the optics. Rishi still looked vexed when Liz contradicted him. Liz almost fell into the same trap this time (emphases mine):

Rishi seemed to have eased a little on the caffeine since the night before.

He’d also rediscovered his manners and used his opening spiel to wish his opponent a happy birthday. Truss, 47 yesterday, shot him an icicle smile

The Foreign Secretary wore a purple dress the colour of a Cadbury’s Dairy Milk wrapper. Très snazzy. She went into a brief monologue about how her upbringing was more modest than Sunak’s. ‘I know what it looks like when economic times are hard,’ she said. Rishi bit down and resisted making a tart response. There was a bit of early tit-for-tat, but nothing that required Kate to pull them apart. The candidates had a brief struggle over who had the stronger family connections to the NHS. ‘My father was GP,’ said Rishi. ‘Well, my mother was nurse!’ countered Liz

Tempers frayed whenever Truss began to discuss her economic plans. Rishi’s blood pressure would visibly spike, his eyes flickering from side to side as if to say: ‘Leave the maths to me, luv.’ 

Once again their main beef was over taxes – Liz wants to cut them, Rishi thinks it’s unaffordable to do so. 

He accused Truss of funding her cuts by saddling future generations with more debt. ‘That’s not true, that’s not true!’ Liz retorted, shaking her head crossly. 

Kate McCann was doing an excellent job as moderator, keeping everything going at a rolling pace which made it interesting. I was settling into an unusual comfort zone, which I normally don’t do when watching debates.

Just after 6:30 p.m., Kate asked Liz a question.

While Liz was speaking, viewers at home could hear a soft rocking noise, possibly a perspex podium against the floor.

Seconds later, there was a crash of perspex on the floor.

Viewers saw this:

The Telegraph‘s Tim Stanley was also watching from home and describes what happened:

It was one of the strangest, most shocking moments in TV history. Liz Truss was in the middle of denouncing Russia with her characteristic tics – her hands gripping that invisible tea tray for dear life – when there was an almighty crash off-screen.

“Oh my God!” Liz covered her mouth. Then she stepped towards the camera.

Turns out that poor Kate McCann, the talented journalist and host, had fainted.

Rishi also went to Kate’s aid, but we didn’t see that.

We didn’t know what had happened.

The Mail reported:

A loud noise caused the clearly worried Foreign Secretary to hold her face in shock as she exclaimed: ‘Oh my God!’. Ms Truss was then seen leaving her podium and walking towards where Miss McCann had been standing.

The broadcast feed was swiftly cut, with viewers shown the message: ‘We’re sorry for the disruption to this programme. We’re working hard to fix the issue and will return to normal programming soon.’

Stanley wrote:

For 25 excruciating minutes, viewers speculated if a light had fallen, a bomb had gone off, or Boris Johnson had rushed the stage demanding to be heard – all the while that producers tried to carry on as normal by cutting to a promo for their other shows.

What were they thinking? That this was a great chance to promote their product? We’re lucky they didn’t try to flog us some diamante earrings …

debating tax policy is exactly how Liz would want to spend her birthdayand though the evening took an alarming turn, the gods did her a favour by having the camera focused on her when Kate passed out. Liz’s instinct to run towards the disaster did her credit, a reminder that whatever her job, she is first and foremost a mum.

And her mother was a nurse!

Just before 7 p.m., when the debate would have ended:

TalkTV put on two talking heads who calmly discussed what we’d been watching – vegetarian options, clown doctors – without substantial reference to the one bit we were all shouting at the telly about: “What the hell just happened?!”

It was surreal: the commercial equivalent of Soviet TV cutting from the coup against Gorbachev to 72 hours of Swan Lake. Thankfully, Twitter was still reporting the news: Kate was ok. By then it was 7pm and time for Piers Morgan’s landmark show on Ukraine – at which point what was probably TalkTV’s largest ever audience, all 250 of us, turned off.

Kate, you’re a star and your peers wish you the very best.

Henry Deedes said:

Doctor’s orders were that she was done for the evening. It must have been frustrating for Team Rishi, who are running out of time. The former chancellor has agreed to be interviewed by that fearsome rottweiler of an interviewer, Andrew Neil, on Channel 4 on Friday. For politicians, such encounters rarely end well.

The candidates spent the remaining half hour talking to the studio audience:

Kate received many supportive messages.

Harry Cole tweeted:

BBC Newsnight‘s Nicholas Watt complimented Kate on her moderation of the debate:

The candidates also sent their best wishes, saying they would like to return to finish the debate:

I hope the debate is rescheduled — and agree that it should pick up where it left off:

Harry Cole is an excellent journalist.

That night, The Sun reported that, after all these days of insisting his tax plan was the right thing to do, Rishi decided to do an about-face and cut VAT on energy bills.

But has he stolen Work and Pensions Minister Thérèse Coffey’s idea? Hmm:

Polling results must have been eating away at the former Chancellor.

The Telegraph also carried the story on its front page for Wednesday:

The Mail alleges that this was Boris’s plan but Rishi wouldn’t allow it:

Rishi Sunak makes a desperate bid to claw back lost ground in the Tory leadership race today by promising a £4billion VAT cut on energy bills just hours after he and his rival Liz Truss led tributes to TalkTV presenter Kate McCann after she fainted live on air.

The former chancellor has repeatedly refused to match rival Liz Truss on cutting taxes, labelling her plans a ‘fairytale’ and insisted such cuts must wait until inflation is curbed.

But today he pledges to scrap the 5 per cent VAT rate levied on domestic energy bills for a year.

Last night No10 insiders told the Daily Mail that this plan was something Boris Johnson tried to implement to ease the burden on consumers – but was blocked by Mr Sunak.

‘Boris begged him to do it – but he wouldn’t budge’, said the source. ‘It’s astonishing that he’s now claiming it as his own policy.’

A source close to Liz Truss’s campaign told The Telegraph: ‘It’s good that Rishi has finally woken up and decided to offer something to people struggling with the rising cost of living.

‘However, this feels like a screeching U-turn from someone who has spent the last few weeks of the leadership campaign branding everyone else’s tax cuts immoral and fairytales.’

The article states that this was also Labour’s policy:

Mr Sunak’s energy bill tax move, which would save an average household £160, has been Labour Party policy for nearly a year, and Mr Sunak voted against the proposal in the Commons in January.

He told the Commons in February that the policy would ‘disproportionately benefit wealthier households’.

He added: ‘This would become a permanent £2.5billion Government subsidy… when we are trying to rebuild the public finances.’

This month he argued that tax cuts are ‘immoral because there is nothing noble or good about racking up bills on the country’s credit card that we then pass on to our children and grandchildren’.

One can understand his point, but when the Work and Pensions Minister and the Prime Minister both want it, it’s the right thing to do.

I read only this week that VAT is an EU tax. Therefore, we can scrap it.

No one ever mentions that VAT is an EU tax. Why not?

The Mail says:

Until yesterday [Wednesday] Mr Sunak had refused to consider tax cuts before autumn 2023, the earliest point when a 1p cut in the basic rate of income tax could come in.

Autumn 2023 would be way too late, especially if our next general election is held in May 2024.

The Telegraph reported that Rishi’s team denied a U-turn:

The Sunak camp denied there had been a U-turn, adding that the tax cut was “a tool that was always in our arsenal”.

“We didn’t use it back in spring because the size of the jump of the bills was way bigger, and it wouldn’t have touched the sides,” a source said. “This is a response to latest estimates that suggest the rise might be £100-200 more than anticipated.”

For me, this volte face comes too late in the contest, because Rishi was adamant in three debates that he would not cut taxes.

As such, in Truss we trust.

———————————————————–

UPDATEGuido Fawkes posted TalkTV’s ratings for Tuesday night. The debate’s ‘off air’ message beat Piers Morgan’s show by far:

Morgan tweeted McCann, who has since recovered:

On Wednesday, July 27, the i paper reported ructions at TalkTV about the interruption of the debate, with staff asking why it didn’t continue with another presenter:

Rupert Murdoch’s TalkTV is holding an inquest into why there was no “plan B” to keep its Prime Ministerial debate on air after presenter Kate McCann fainted.

Presenters at TalkTV and its sister radio station were said to be ready and able to jump in and replace the stricken presenter during the abandoned live broadcast, i has been told.

As panic spread, executives asked Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss to remain at their podiums at the Ealing studio, normally used for Piers Morgan’s nightly programme, while they considered their options.

However it was decided that stunned viewers would continue to be shown a recorded message saying normal programming would resume, rather than restart with a new presenter.

Trouble began behind the scenes when planned co-presenter Harry Cole was forced to pull out on the morning of the debate after contracting Covid.

An insider said: Tom Newton Dunn (presenter of TalkTV’s 7pm news show) would have stepped up to co-present but the bosses wanted Kate to front it solo as a showcase for her.”

McCann, Talk’s political editor, was said to be “nervous” at fronting the high-profile event but had shown no sign of ill health, even during the broadcast’s first half hour.

The source said: “It was very sudden. She crashed forward into the podium. That was the loud bang viewers heard.”

Truss, speaking on camera at the moment, said “oh my god” and rushed over towards McCann. At that point, with the clock showing 6.31pm, the channel cut from the debate.

“Rishi also rushed over. He knelt on the floot and held Kate’s hand, he was very comforting,” the insider said.

Faced with a crisis playing out live on TV and social media, some in the building believed that the show must go on.

“There were plenty of experienced on-screen talent already there who felt they could have taken over. They could have winged it.”

“All the News UK bigwigs were there. There was a panicked pow-wow. Some said ‘who can we get to fill in?’ but they decided against it.”

Instead the candidates were asked to stay in the studio and take questions informally from The Sun readers in the audience.

The insider added: “Today there is an inquest into why there wasn’t a Plan B to keep the debate on air. It’s a given for any serious broadcast channel”

The incident gave a brief boost to TalkTV’s struggling ratings. The channel has recorded zero viewers at low points in its schedules and Piers Morgan’s flagship show has even been beaten by rival GB News on occasions.

The screen message telling viewers TalkTV was off air was watched by one of the channel’s highest ever audiences.

Some 141,000 people tuned in, numbers comparable to Morgan’s opening week on Talk in April before his figures tumbled.

The debate peaked with 183,000 viewers tuning in shortly after its 6pm start. However Talk’s numbers dropped across the night with Morgan’s programme dropping to 14,000 viewers at its conclusion.

Despite the lure of the debate, Sky News, BBC News and GB News all recorded a greater audience than TalkTV across the whole of primetime, according to Barb data.

Insiders said this would disappoint NewsUK’s bosses who had hoped to relaunch TalkTV off the back of the debate, which was shared with sister title, The Sun

The podium “crash” even gave TalkTV what it has been seeking since it launched three months ago – highly-shareable viral content that creates a buzz on social media.

On this occasion though, that content, seized upon by media rivals including the BBC, was unintended.

On Monday, July 25, 2022, Conservative Party leadership candidates Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak headed to Stoke-on-Trent, comprised of three Red Wall constituencies, for a BBC debate:

Burning issues: earrings and China

The day began with controversies over handling China and how much each candidate had spent on their respective wardrobes.

Boris loyalist Nadine Dorries, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport tweeted about the latter. The photo is from last week on the final day of Conservative MPs voting:

The normally charming Angela Richardson MP tweeted a rather sharp reply to Dorries, requesting that she be quiet.

On China, things were more complex, as Guido Fawkes reported:

Neither candidate has the edge here.

Guido wrote (red emphases his):

It’s unsurprising, given his tacit endorsement from the Chinese propaganda arm Global Times, that Rishi has decided to go in hard on the country’s security threat this morning. Declaring the Chinese Communist Party “the largest threat to Britain and the world’s security and prosperity this century”, Sunak attacks Liz for “[rolling] out the red carpet” and turning “a blind eye to China’s nefarious activity and ambitions”. He calls for a new NATO alliance to be set up to counter it the threat, and pledges to close all 30 Confucius centres, which teach Mandarin in the UK and are thought to be used as fronts by the Chinese intelligence services.

In response Team Truss returned fire last night, using Iain Duncan Smith to call the policy “surprising” and asking where Sinophobe Sunak has been for the last two years. Her team points to the above Sunak’s endorsement by Global Times, and says he has been consistently soft on China.

Sunak’s Confucius closure policy is directly levelled against Truss’s supposed record at DfE, where during her two-year stint nine of the 31 centres were established:

His team pointed out that nine of the 31 Confucius centres in Britain were established when Ms Truss was an education minister between 2012 and 2014.

Hmm.

Who is behind Rishi’s race to No. 10?

Before I get to the debate, I have been thinking more about Rishi than Liz. Who is pulling Rishi’s strings? I don’t think Liz has an unseen agenda, but Rishi could well do.

On Thursday, July 21, The Express gave us background on Rishi, some of which not all of us knew (emphases in purple mine):

recently made headlines after he became . He and his fashion designer wife Akshata Murty’s fortune stands at an eye-watering £730m. The recently resigned Chancellor owns four properties with his 42-year-old wife, including in Santa Monica, California, but now hopes to add another to his collection, in the shape of No 10.

Before landing a job with Goldman Sachs and making his millions, Mr Sunak studied at one of the most expensive private schools in the country before heading to the University of Oxford.

The 42-year-old was born in Southampton to GP mother Yashvir and pharmacist father Usha Sunak.

Mr Sunak — the eldest of three — first attended Oakmount Preparatory School in Southampton, Hants, before attending Stroud School, King Edward IV Preparatory, where the school fees grow alongside the student: the older they get, the higher the tuition.

It is thought Mr Sunak joined Stroud School in Year 4 after Oakmount closed suddenly in 1989.

In Lord Michael Ashcroft’s biography, Going For Broke: The Rise of Rishi Sunak, it is claimed that the former Chancellor was well-liked, being both head boy and captain of the Stroud cricket team

After leaving in 1992, Mr Sunak joined the 600-year-old Winchester College as a boarder, where the yearly school fees today amount to £45,936 per year, and £33,990 for day pupils …

Winchester College, founded in 1382 by William of Wykeham, has numerous notable alumni — known as “Old Wykehamists” — including several archbishops and Chief of Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Carter.

Why does Rishi want to be PM when he could be leading a charmed life?

His wife has non-dom status. Do they intend to move to India? It would be a return to that nation for her, as her father founded Infosys.

There’s a story here.

In any event, so far, Rishi has more than 20,000 Conservative Party supporters, apparently.

He also agreed to allow Andrew ‘Brillo’ Neil, a notorious tough interviewer, to question him on Channel 4 this Friday evening:

In 2019, when Neil was still on the BBC, he was frustrated that Boris did not go on his television show to be grilled for the leadership contest that year.

Guido says that Liz Truss might follow Boris’s example:

Rishi Sunak has agreed to do a sit-down Andrew Neil interview this Friday on his Channel 4 show at 19.30. Liz Truss’s team are yet to say whether she’ll also agree. Given she’s the Boris continuity candidate, there’s a past precedent she may not…

Boris petition gets 10,000+ signatures

Speaking of Boris, the petition from Conservative Party members to add him to the ballot surpassed 10,000 signatures on Monday:

Guido said:

On Wednesday, Guido reported that 3,500 Conservative Party members had signed a petition calling for Boris to be allowed to compete in the leadership contest. Since then, that number has tripled, with 10,000 fully paid-up Tories now adding their names to the list, and presumably ruining the CCHQ inbox. As Rishi and Liz take to the campaign trail, this demographic may well prove difficult to ignore. It’s already over 20% of Boris’s stonking majority from the last leadership election…

BBC debate

The BBC chose to hold Monday night’s debate in Stoke-on-Trent — the Potteries.

Stoke-on-Trent has three constituencies, all of which are Red Wall. I wrote about their first-ever Conservative MPs earlier this year: Jo Gideon, Jonathan Gullis and Jack Brereton.

It was commendable of the BBC to get an audience of local residents who voted Conservative in 2019.

Sophie Raworth was the moderator. Off to one side were BBC experts Economics Editor Faisal Islam and Political Editor Chris Mason, who also asked questions of the candidates.

During the debate, one of the voters said that she was concerned about the ongoing issue of trust in the Government overriding the all-too-real need for strong policies.

The Express has the video. The woman spoke briefly and eloquently:

It just seems very very easy, and as we’ve heard a lot, to blame Boris over trust issues, as though everything is going to be fine now.

But it seems to me there is a more fundamental issue around a culture in Westminster.

It seems very much more focused on the short term, you know, the catnip of a media soundbite.

Rather, it should be focussing on, okay, ‘What are the difficult things that need a long-term solution’.

She actually said, ‘the short-term catnip of a media soundbite’.

She should copyright that. It sounds just like something Boris would say.

Liz had gravitas. I would rather have a reserved presentation from her than Rishi’s Tony Blair impersonation, which was unsettling to watch — and hear.

Rishi also should have worn a tie. Maybe he wanted to look in touch with the audience. Even so, these debates are interviews for the next Prime Minister. One should look the part.

Overall, Rishi interrupted Liz too much. Guido counted a total of 14 times.

Often, Rishi looked as if he were mansplaining:

He was irritated. We saw this during his parliamentary campaign.

Rishi’s facial expressions and voice inflection show that he does not like being contradicted:

That’s not the best look and it will not go over well if he tries that with Andrew Neil on Friday. Neil will zero in on it.

Sophie Raworth only interrupted Rishi’s interruptions of Liz once. That is likely because Liz is the ‘continuity candidate’, meaning she is loyal to Boris. By now, we should all know that the BBC, along with others, wanted desperately to get rid of Boris because of Brexit.

Ergo, Raworth was not there to do Truss any favours.

Rishi was adamant that his tax rises were the right thing. Liz said they were Project Fear:

Here’s the video:

Nadine Dorries’s tweet about attire came up:

Liz said that she would not give Rishi any fashion advice:

She did, however, advise him to be ‘bolder’ in carrying out Government policies. She did not specify any, but one that comes to mind is the amount we are still paying the EU for our exit. He should have nipped that in the bud in January 2020.

Rishi grilled Liz over her conversion to Brexit. She had been an active Remain campaigner before the 2016 referendum.

However, Guido points out that Rishi has not always been consistent. Corporation tax comes to mind:

Guido says:

Rishi’s going in hard on Liz over her change of mind on Brexit – it turns out it’s quite easy for them to hit back at him with even more recent examples of political conversions…

The debate ended with a quick-fire round of questions:

The candidates agreed on nearly everything. The only difference was when Sophie Raworth asked them to rate Boris on a scale of 1 to 10.

Liz Truss gave the former Party leader a 7.

Rishi hemmed and hawed a bit, then gave Boris a 10 for handling Brexit and the 2019 election well.

The Express has the exchange:

Mr Sunak said: “You know what, my views are clear: when he was great, he was great; but it got to a point where we needed to move forward.”

BBC host Sophie Raworth asked: “What does that mean? Five out of ten?”

Mr Sunak replied: “Well, actually, in delivering a solution to Brexit and winning an election, that’s a 10 out of 10.

“You have got to give the guy credit for that. No one else could have probably done that.”

The crowd then erupted into a loud round of applause.

So, Liz did well on the topic of Boris …

… but did Rishi do better?

The hint might be that Conservatives prefer Liz.

Afterwards, Opinium took a snap poll. Liz won the Conservative vote hands down:

Guido offered this analysis:

Overall Rishi bests Liz by 1% among all voters. Rishi needed a slam dunk victory, this is the opposite of what he’d have wanted polling to show…

YouGov also polled Conservative Party members who watched the debate. Guido has the detail.

YouGov’s summary results show that Liz is streets ahead of Rishi:

The UK’s newest channel, TalkTV, hosted a debate sponsored by The Sun on Tuesday night:

Too bad that GB News couldn’t have pipped them to the post. Then again, TalkTV and The Sun are Murdoch outlets.

More about that debate in a separate post.

On Monday morning, July 18, 2022, this was where the candidates for the Conservative Party leadership stood with their fellow MPs:

A third vote took place this afternoon. Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee, announced the result at 8 p.m. More on the outcome in tomorrow’s post.

Weekend debates

The final five candidates participated in two debates this weekend: one on Channel 4 on Friday evening and the other on ITV on Sunday evening.

Guido Fawkes summed up the results as follows (purple emphases mine):

The polls after both Channel 4’s Friday debate and ITV’s Sunday debate will have provided major morale boosts to Team Tom and Team Rishi, though whether they change the dials for tonight’s vote – set to be released at 8 pm – remains to be seen. Certainly Liz Truss’s declared supporters haven’t relented in promoting their candidate over the weekend despite said polls saying she came across rather poorly, the moniker ‘Maybot 2.0’ already cranking into gear by rival camps.

I’ll go into more detail below.

Sky debate cancelled

A third debate was to have taken place on Sky News on Tuesday, July 19, however, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss pulled out, so, despite Penny Mordaunt and Kemi Badenoch saying they would participate, the broadcaster has cancelled it:

Guido’s post says:

Guido has confirmed Steve Swinford’s report that Rishi and Liz have decided to avoid another round of the blue-on-blue mutually assured destruction of a televised debate. Last night candidates accused each other of being socialists.

Team Truss say: “It is not the right time to be doing more debates when this part of the contest only has 358 voters. The broadcasters should stop squabbling amongst themselves. The C4 debate in particular was a massive mistake and candidates were wrong to take part in it.”

Hmm.

Channel 4 debate

It would have been great if GB News had been able to host a debate, but, since the American-style format launched here before the general election in 2010, Channel 4 has always hosted one.

News presenter Krishnan Gurumurthy was the host. I remember the years when he was reasonably objective, but, for some time now, he makes no effort to hide his political leanings. Furthermore, it’s all about him:

Conservative Home journalist thought that GB News would have been a better channel for the debate:

Krishnan put what he described as ‘floating voters’ in the studio audience, but they looked like left-wing radicals to many viewers.

His main debate theme was trust.

He asked the candidates whether they trusted Boris.

Rishi Sunak gave the most pointed answer, more about which at the end of this post:

Here’s the video of Rishi saying that he resigned because ‘enough was enough’:

Not surprisingly, Rishi’s policies were front and centre of the debate.

He looked irritated when another candidate pointed out what he or she would have done better.

Rishi looked irritated quite a lot.

Liz Truss, on the other hand, looked wooden and stiff.

It’s no wonder why neither of them wants to do a third debate.

At the end of the first round, Krishnan asked whether Boris was honest. He wanted a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ answer.

Three of the candidates refused to say either way. Of the other two, Kemi Badenoch said ‘Sometimes’ and Tom Tugendhat shook his head. His was the only definite ‘no’:

This is why viewers called it Krishnan’s show:

One of the more memorable exchanges of the evening was between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss over tax cuts. We saw irritable Rishi once more:

Guido has the video of Rishi disparaging Liz’s tax cut plan:

However, experts say that Liz’s plan is affordable. Guido explains why, beginning with the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR):

The OBR’s latest economic and fiscal outlook estimates that for each 1% of higher nominal GDP, public borrowing in 2024/25 will be 0.8% lower. The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) forecast is that nominal GDP in 2024/25 will be 5.7% points higher than the OBR assumes. If they are right this alone generates £133 billion of net additional revenues. Against that needs to offset some likely higher spending.

The CEBR argues that

If we assume that public spending will be the same share of GDP as in the OBR projections, this increases the cost of public spending by £34 billion; higher inflation will raise indexed debt payments by about £7 billion while higher interest rates could raise debt payments by as much as £30 billion. Even allowing for all these, it is pretty clear that the OBR’s forecasting failures mean that substantial additional net revenues are likely to be generated compared with those expected. Which in turn means that net tax (after allowing for expenditure) receipts in 2024/25 will be about £60 billion more than the OBR’s base estimates.

Since these receipts will come from the effects of inflation and fiscal drag meaning that people will be paying more tax than they would have expected, it would not be unreasonable for the additional revenues to be used for tax cuts.

Economist Douglas McWilliams points out that since these receipts will come from the effects of inflation and fiscal drag meaning that people will be paying more tax than they would have expected, it would not be unreasonable for the additional revenues to be used for tax cuts. The £60 billion will cover the tax cuts being advocated by Liz Truss…

Another memorable moment was when gender identity came up:

Penny Mordaunt denied that she supports self-ID, but Kemi Badenoch said that she did. Kemi and Liz Truss worked in the department that Penny did. Kemi urged, ‘Tell the truth, Liz’, which she reluctantly did.

Guido says (emphases in red his):

Kemi insisting self ID was government policy when she took over as Minister, and had to reverse it herself…

True. It’s all in Hansard.

Guido ran a poll on who was more believable — Penny or Kemi and Liz. The latter won by a landslide:

And the other memorable moments were when Tom Tugendhat talked constantly — so it seemed — about his military service.

Of course, he gave us no actual details.

Over the weekend, social media saw many people criticising Tugendhat’s many mentions of his service to his country, prompting comparisons to characters on past British sitcoms.

Tugendhat also thanked the NHS for giving him two children. He clarified the statement, but it was a comedy gold moment.

One of Guido’s readers compared Tugendhat to Uncle Albert of Only Fools and Horses:

Cripes! Please don’t encourage Uncle Albert with any more of this military fetishism. His “defend the nation” slogan might be a bit more passable if he didn’t look like a foppish library monitor. Come to think of it, maybe the NHS really did give him 2 childrenlike just handed them over. Not sure how he’d get his leg over otherwise.

Although the debate lasted 90 minutes, time moved quickly.

Notable by their absence were questions about coronavirus lockdowns and immigration. Then again, Channel 4 supports both.

Subsequent polling showed varying approval ratings.

Opinium said that Tom Tugendhat won. Really?

But Tom Harwood of GB News said that Kemi and Rishi performed the best. I agree on Kemi but not on Rishi:

Earlier in the evening, GB News panellists on Patrick Christys’s show discussed the candidates. One said that Penny wasn’t trustworthy and that Liz was better:

The Sunday Times had more about Truss, who has a problem gaining traction among certain Conservative MPs, it would seem:

Truss is seen as the Johnson continuity candidate, supported by staunch allies of the prime minister such as Nadine Dorries and Jacob Rees-Mogg. The born-again-Brexiteer from Paisley and Leeds has been marked out as a strong contender by influential figures on the Tory right for some time. In December, shortly after his return to the Daily Mail as editor-in-chief of its parent company, Associated Newspapers, Paul Dacre tipped her as a “comer”. He wrote in The Spectator: “She is clearly a toughie, possessed of a steely self-belief, an imperviousness to the media, a healthy contempt for the male species, a seemingly genuine belief in a low-tax, small-state economy and a disarming habit of asking abrupt questions and dismissing the response as ‘bollocks’ — a tactic clearly designed to gain further elucidation.”

But Truss is in third place after the second round of parliamentary voting, with the backing of 64 MPs. Despite trying to channel Margaret Thatcher in a pussycat-bow blouse and winning the backing of Suella Braverman, who was ejected from the race on Wednesday, she seemed unsure of herself on Friday night. One observer described her as a “robot on Valium”. References to her record in government prompted derision in the “spin room” next to the studio, where the Tugendhat supporter Anne Marie Trevelyan, who succeeded Truss as trade secretary last year, openly laughed at her. Truss allies are pleased, though, that the contest is being framed as a battle between her and Sunak. The idea of a ideologically driven run-off between the former chancellor and the foreign secretary could propel her into the final two.

Liz was more relaxed on Sunday evening. She gesticulated a bit more.

ITV debate

ITV’s debate on Sunday evening was an hour long.

Julie Etchingham was an excellent moderator.

Unfortunately, she had no questions about either coronavirus lockdowns or immigration.

Tom Tugendhat banged on again about his military service, prompting this response:

The same flashpoints reappeared: tax cuts and gender identity.

Liz pointed out that Rishi as Chancellor raised taxes to their highest level in 70 years:

The subject came up again with Penny. Rishi accused her of being to the left of Labour’s former leader Jeremy Corbyn on economic policy:

Yet, Rishi did borrow for daily Government spending during the pandemic:

Here’s the gender identity clash between Kemi and Penny. Note the tweeted reply:

China was a new entry, with Rishi insisting he supported the Government’s stance:

The Mail has a brief summary of the debate:

    • Mr Sunak insisted he had never had non-dom tax status but pointed out his billionaire heiress wife was from India, and said he was ‘incredibly proud’ that his father-in-law had ‘built’ a highly successful business from nothing; 
    • Ms Truss took a backhanded swipe at Mr Sunak’s style, saying she is ‘not the slickest presenter on this stage… I’ve shown I can deliver as Foreign Secretary’;
    • All the hopefuls dismissed the idea of a snap general election when the new PM takes over, saying the focus should be on addressing the cost of living; 
    • The would-be PMs were asked to put up their hands if they backed Brexit at the referendum, with Ms Truss unable to say she did;  
    • Mr Tugendhat said all the other candidates were tainted by having served in Boris Johnson’s government; 
    • Mr Sunak issued a campaign video directly trolling Ms Truss for backing Remain in 2016, and describing him as a ‘real Brexiteer from day one’;
    • Ms Mordaunt used a BBC interview to vent fury at ‘smears’ and ‘toxic politics’ as she struggles to stop her PM bid being derailed by a backlash at her trans rights stance.

Kemi took issue with Tom’s ‘clean start’ approach, pointing out that he has never served in Government:

Serving in Government is not easy. It requires taking difficult decisions. Tom has never done that. It’s very easy for him to criticise what we’ve been doing, but we have been out there on the frontline making the case.

Here is the dialogue between Kemi and Penny on gender issues:

Ms Badenoch reiterated that she had been responsible for reversing the trans policy put in place by Ms Mordaunt as equalities minister.

‘I’m saying that when I took on the role of equalities minister, we had to change the existing Government policy which previous ministers had put in place,’ Ms Badenoch said.

‘What I’m challenging or what I challenged Penny on is what that policy was. She is saying she did not agree with it, but I don’t understand how that would be the case if she had been the previous minister. If she didn’t agree with it, why was the policy as it was?’

Ms Mordaunt replied: ‘I wasn’t the previous minister. The stuff in the papers today demonstrates what my policy was and refutes this. I think this whole thing is unedifying, and I would just say to all four of my other colleagues and candidates here, I know why this is being done.

‘But what I would say to you is that all attempts to paint me as an out-of-touch individual will fail. I’m the only person on this stage that has won and fought a Labour seat. My constituents do not elect people who are out of touch.’

Ms Badenoch responded: ‘Penny I was just telling the truth. I’m telling the truth.’

I would love to see Kemi as our next Prime Minister. She’s upfront and straightforward. She manages expectations, not promising a lot.

In the Channel 4 debate she said that increased spending in one area often means less spending in another. We cannot have everything, and the Government simply cannot provide everything for everyone.

Boris’s weekend

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson visited RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire for the flight of his life and hosted a barbeque at the Prime Minister’s weekend home, Chequers:

Guido has a report:

… the PM held a well-timed BBQ at sunny Chequers, which unlike his belated wedding party, managed to avoid being scuppered by a relentless media onslaught. According to Politico, 130 people ate burgers and sipped sparkling wine in the sun. Among the guest list were the remaining Cabinet loyalists, No. 10 aides and Dilyn the Dog. Chequers staff may be happy to see the back of him after numerous stories about Dilyn gnawing on antique furniture…

As ever, Boris delivered plenty of gags in his well written, well delivered speech to guests.

He took a gentle swipe at Neil Parish, who stood down for having looked at tractor porn twice on the parliamentary estate. Parish was replaced by a Liberal Democrat, who took his place in the Commons last week:

Boris’s tubthumping valedictory speech went down a treat, with one of the best received gags celebrating his successful fibre optic broadband rollout:

Not only has it delivered incredible choice for consumers in the way in which we consume content but farmers in tractors up and down the land can watch whatever they like at any time of day to their hearts’ content

We will never see the likes of Boris’s speeches again in Government. How I will miss them.

He spoke about his flight at RAF Coningsby and took a dig at former Chancellor Rishi Sunak:

… we flung that eager craft through footless halls of air and generally put it through its paces and after a while the wing commander said to me do you want to have a go? I said are you sure, it seems very expensive – we only have 148 of them and they cost about £75 million.

He said don’t worry, you can’t break it and I thought ‘oh well famous last words’.

I pushed the joystick right over to the right and we did an aileron roll and then I hauled the joystick right the way back and we did a loop the loop and then I tried a more complicated thing called a barrel roll and we started as they say to pull a few Gs and when I came back to consciousness I could see the sea getting closer and closer.

And I want you to know that after 3 happy years in the cockpit and after performing some pretty difficult if not astonishing feats: getting Brexit done and restoring this country’s ability to make its own laws in parliament; vaccinating the population faster than any other comparable country; and ensuring the fastest growth in the G7; and being the first European country to give the Ukrainians the vital military help they need see off Putin’s aggression; cutting neighbourhood crime by 31%; lowest unemployment for almost 50 years; gigabit broadband from 7 to 69%; I am about to hand the controls over seamlessly to someone else.
 
But whoever it is I can tell you the twin engines of this conservative government will roar on fantastic public services, dynamic market economy, each boosting the other and there could be no better example of that relationship that symbiosis between government and the private sector than the aviation industry and if you want a final example of this government’s ambition I give you not just FCAS or Jet Zero but space flight.
 
This year if all goes well we will launch the first UK satellite in history to enter space from UK soil as Newquay becomes this country’s equivalent of Cape Kennedy and I leave it to you to imagine who I would like at this stage to send into orbit but with so much to look forward to and with the UK at the leading edge of progress not just for our national security and prosperity but for the protection of the planet itself.

The Mail on Sunday reported that Downing Street is most unhappy with Rishi:

Mr Johnson is keen to stay out of the contest, but his allies are clear: if Mr Sunak continues to cast doubt on Mr Johnson’s integrity, then there will be consequences

One ally says: ‘Rishi is being extremely pious in his disapproval about the [lockdown] parties, but he was working in the same building the entire time, so he must have known about them too. And he picked up exactly the same number of fines as Boris.’ 

It is clear that resentment is still boiling over at the manner of Mr Johnson’s eviction from Downing Street, catalysed by Mr Sunak’s resignation.

The PM is understood to have grown increasingly frustrated with Mr Sunak during the past year, complaining to aides that his Chancellor would go missing in a crisis

One Government source said: ‘Sunak was constantly physically and emotionally absent from the project. He governed in a parallel universe, and would refuse to answer his phone when he was needed most.’ 

The source said that during the many crises which have dogged Mr Johnson’s time in power, he felt he could not rely on Mr Sunak for constructive advice.

A Johnson ally said: ‘If Rishi was asked about an issue in Cabinet, usually as either the very first or the very last person he turned to, Rishi would just say, “Oh you don’t need to hear from me” – and would often turn his back as he said it, probably unconsciously. 

And he was conspicuously absent from the media when the s*** hit the fan. He was the submarine Chancellor.’ 

Despite Mr Johnson’s vow not to interfere in the contest, his closest supporters have been critical of Mr Sunak. 

Jacob Rees-Mogg, who called Mr Sunak ‘the Socialist Chancellor’, and Nadine Dorries have both publicly backed Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in the race.

It has also been claimed that Mr Johnson would be open to Ms Mordaunt succeeding him if it meant that Mr Sunak did not win the leadership, with the Prime Minister voicing concerns that Mr Sunak would go soft on Vladimir Putin and ease sanctions on Russia

The saga continues tomorrow.

Andrew Neil’s Spectator TV posted its sixth episode of The Week in 60 Minutes on Thursday, October 8, 2020:

Guests included Prof David Nabarro, World Health Organization special envoy for Covid-19; Andy Preston, mayor of Middlesbrough; Pat Leahy, political editor of the Irish Times and a few Spectator journalists.

The programme began with the status of coronavirus measures in Ireland.

Pat Leahy, political editor of the Irish Times, says that the Irish government was surprised by the recent recommended lockdown which they ultimately rejected. The Irish government were highly critical of the proposed measures, privately and publicly. Leahy explained that the head of the public health advisers has been off work because of compassionate leave, then, last Sunday, he returned and recommended another lockdown. The Irish government took it as, he says, a ‘power play’.

The government objected to the health experts’ very quick meetings amongst themselves and with government officials. Leahy said that the government were ‘annoyed’.

The government did not disagree with the recommended measures per se, but there was a fine balance to be achieved. The minister of finance warned of employment and social consequences, because a number of jobs would not be coming back. He and his staff needed to consider if other measures could be taken instead.

Neil mentioned today’s minimal COVID-19 deaths in Ireland. Leahy agreed and said that the so-called second wave has much less severe than the first. That said, the admissions to hospitals have been rising dramatically. So, there is a question about whether the second wave is different from the first. The Irish government felt they could weigh the statistics, adopting a wait-and-see approach. Leahy said that Dr Leo Varadkar, a physician who was formerly the prime minister and is now the deputy prime minister, essentially threw the nation’s chief medical officer Tony Holohan ‘under the bus’.

Leahy said that the part of Ireland’s problem was assigning decisions to scientists and doctors in the first wave earlier this year. Currently, scientific advice ‘is only one factor’ in the decision making process that the Irish government will take with regard to coronavirus measures. Leahy said that time will tell whether the public will back the government. The economic factors are such that things could change in the weeks to come.

Katy Balls was up next, advocating Swedish models that a number of Conservative MPs back. A number of backbenchers disapprove of Drs Whitty and Vallance.

Conversation then turned to the WHO’s Prof David Nabarro who says we are still in a bit of the first wave and we’re not over it, so we need to learn how to live with the virus without lockdown and the ‘closing down of economies’. What he calls ‘the middle path’ requires holding the virus at bay while allowing the economy to resume in order to make certain we can put safeguards in place, so that we can stop the virus whilst getting local ‘actors’, as well as testing and tracing, involved as much as possible and a common commitment to each other to keep everything as safe as possible. He said that lockdowns serve only to give a health service some breathing space.

Nabarro said that is what South East Asian countries are doing, also Germany and Canada. As lockdown lifts, nations can deal with increased cases ‘elegantly’.

As for Ireland, Nabarro sided halfway with the Irish government and halfway with the scientific advisors. He did caution that public buy-in was necessary for any success.

Nabarro predicted many more weeks of uncertainty but that we would feel ‘much more comfortable’ in the New Year.

Neil asked Nabarro about Prof Sunetra Gupta’s views on a milder lockdown. Nabarro said that the WHO do not advocate lockdowns as an absolute principle. (UK government: please take note!) He cited the damage done to the Caribbean and Pacific tourist industry. As a result, many more people could lapse into poverty.

Neil brought up Scotland’s coming lockdown and a possible one in the North of England.

Kate Andrews had current statistics, comparing them to Sir Patrick Vallance’s alarming case graph from the third week of September. So far, we are not close to Vallance’s projection, but the UK is higher than France’s and Spain’s cases, respectively.

The effect of local lockdowns showed a skyrocketing in positive tests (‘cases’).  According to statistics, it is possible that Leicester should have already been taken out of lockdown.

Kate Andrews showed graphs that revealed that hospitality was responsible for a very low number of cases: around four per cent, not dissimilar to this pie chart, which I cited last Friday.

Nabarro intervened, saying he preferred ‘local integrated responses’, because breaking the virus involves input from every institution, be it a factory or a house of worship. He praised Leicester for its diversity, holding it up as a model for the world.

The Spectator‘s political editor, James Forsyth, came on to comment about the former Labour ‘Red Wall’ in the North. Much of that Red Wall voted for Conservatives in December 2019. Forsyth said that lockdown will be viewed as flooding has been in recent years: even if measures taken are not political, they look as if they ARE political. Northerners see that London and the surrounding Home Counties will not be locked down, and, as a result, will suffer fewer socio-economic casualties.

Andy Preston, the Independent mayor of Middlesbrough, was the next guest. He has been positively incandescent about lockdown. The transmission is a bit choppy, but Preston said that many of his residents didn’t personally know many people who had or died of COVID-19. He added that Middlesbrough’s residents have paid more in tax whilst losing out locally. He felt that ‘the Government is doing stuff to us’.

Preston has asked for a temporary ban on in-house socialising but supports frequenting restaurants. He said that local government and the UK government need to work together on measures.

Preston said that he thought there was an ‘inside group’ of advisers to the government, with no one from Middlesbrough involved.

He said that this type of decision making could go ‘very badly wrong for the country’.

Talk then turned towards the American vice presidential debate. Freddy Gray covered this segment. He said that Mike Pence is ‘a very accomplished performer’, ‘intelligent and he spoke very fluently’. He disclosed that he has never been a Pence fan but predicted that he could be the next Republican nominee in 2024.

Neil said that a Trump-Biden virtual debate would not be the first. Nixon broadcasted in 1960 from Los Angeles. Gray said that no one knew what is going on in Trump’s mind and said that the American president had gone ‘full gonzo’.

Viewers’ questions came next.

The first had to do with successful measures against COVID-19. Nabarro commented on coronavirus success in South East Asia, which he attributed to community buy-in and no delay in taking action, which can result in more problems later.

Another viewer said that England’s mayors needed to come together with regard to England’s lockdown. Andy Preston said he would back Manchester’s Andy Burnham, a former Labour MP.

A third viewer wondered about the vote coming up this week on England’s 10 p.m. curfew. Katy Balls said she doubted whether Labour would oppose the vote, but Conservative rebels might have their chance in the weeks to come to succeed in voting against the Government. (Personally, I don’t think it will happen. Most of the Opposition support lockdown measures and restricting civil liberties.)

James Forsyth says that half the Conservative MPs really detest the Government’s coronavirus restrictions. He cited the communications surrounding them and questioned what the £12bn poured into the ‘test and trace’ programme has actually achieved. He said it was ‘not delivering’.

Andrew Neil asked about the Great Barrington Declaration, which Prof Sunetra Gupta and many other physicians signed a week ago in Massachusetts. Kate Andrews said that Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there would be a ‘game changer’ with no social restrictions a year from now. As such, time is not a big deal for Boris. Neil said that Boris sounded like Chauncey Gardiner. I don’t like saying this, but I tend to agree with his assessment. Boris seems off the rails right now.

Leahy had the final word, measuring the rising positive tests with closed pubs and other measures. The Irish government, he says, needs to give these new measures time to work, including buy-in from the public to avoid another lockdown. He predicts another two to three weeks.

The final question came to Nabarro about the origin of the virus. He said, in short, that there was no definitive answer. ‘You [have to] bring in independent actors’, therefore, the WHO would need ‘to bring in other staff to help’.

Hmm. Interesting.

Then, in an abrupt change of tone, Nabarro sounded a blast at certain countries, including Belarus and Spain, saying that a second wave could come soon and that no nation should be complacent.

Hmm.

Charles Stanley Wealth Managers sponsored this week’s programme. For that, we are most grateful. Agree or disagree, Spectator TV is manna in a desert of dry, one-way MSM broadcasts.

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