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In December 2022, the then-GB News presenter Mark Steyn suffered two heart attacks within days of each other.

The first one he ignored, because he had never suffered a heart attack and didn’t recognise the symptoms.

The second occurred when he and a female friend were in France. Fortunately, he got to the hospital just in time. Fifteen minutes more and he would have died.

While he recuperated in France — there was no chance of his returning to Canada, doctors said — some of GB News’s sharpest hosts stepped in to sub for him between 8 and 9 p.m. They told viewers that Mark was on the mend, until the end of January, at which point they mentioned him no more.

Don’t mention the vaccines

Then, late on Monday, February 6, 2023, Guido Fawkes posted that Mark would not be returning to GB News. The news channel’s CEO wanted to make Steyn liable for any Ofcom fines they received over his segments that criticised the coronavirus vaccine:

Guido tells us, complete with the relevant video clip (emphases in red his):

Mark Steyn has quit GB News on fairly bad terms after a protracted leave of absence owing to his health. A few weeks ago Guido picked up that the channel had been trying to formalise Steyn’s contract, having operated on a fairly ad hoc basis since starting his show. Part of trying to get him on board as a properly contracted presenter was also an attempt to rein in his output, given that in a rather short space of time he’d managed to spark two separate Ofcom investigations into claims made on his show.

GBN offered him a new contract to sign, otherwise he’d face termination. It now looks like Steyn is declining to sign the new contract, so he’s out.

In a video put out on his website today, Mark doesn’t hold back on his opinion of the channel’s CEO Angelos Frangopoulos, ranting about the terms of the new contract that would have made him financially liable for any fines imposed on GB News by Ofcom because of his show’s output. He also calls Frangopoulos an “habitual liar”. Shame – Steyn managed to consistently beat Piers’s view count…

After a few months, Mark Steyn Show regularly trounced Piers Morgan’s TalkTV show Monday through Thursday in the same time slot.

GB News has been scrupulous about offering both sides of any story on their shows in order to avoid censure from Ofcom. This entails having a left-wing guest oppose the host’s centrist or conservative perspective.

In 2022, Press Gazette reported on the channel’s potential Ofcom violations. I’ll start with the story from August 8, with the communications regulator’s examination of two segments, one on Nigel Farage’s evening show and one from a morning show with Patrick Christys, who now hosts a three-hour afternoon slot Monday through Friday:

The first two investigations by broadcast regulator Ofcom into GB News have ended with no rebukes, keeping the TV channel’s record clean as it enters its 15th month.

Critics feared the opinion-led news channel would rub up poorly against the UK’s strict impartiality rules, a problem not faced by broadcasters in the US such as Fox News.

But by balancing views from presenters and guests across its schedule, GB News has avoid any Ofcom rebukes despite airing some strident views on Covid-19 lockdowns and vaccines. Two Ofcom investigations into GB News TV and radio broadcasts remain ongoing.

In October 2022, complaints about Mark Steyn’s show were still ongoing:

Ofcom has opened an investigation into an episode of Mark Steyn’s 4 October programme on GB News after it received 411 complaints from viewers about comments made by author and journalist Dr Naomi Wolf in relation to Covid-19 vaccines.

Ofcom said: “Specifically, our investigation will consider whether this programme broke our rules designed to protect viewers from harmful material.”

Wolf was banned from Twitter last year for spreading unfounded theories about vaccines.

Ofcom is already investigating Steyn’s show for a potential breach of standards on 21 April when he claimed people who had a Covid-19 booster vaccine were three times more likely to die than those who had two doses or fewer.

Press Gazette says that the April 21 episode was removed from YouTube:

In a monologue that day, Steyn said: “Why aren’t we talking about this? It seems, if the booster shot is making it thrice as likely that you’re going to be deadsville, that they’re going to carrying you out by the handles, why aren’t we talking about that?”

Fact-checking charity Full Fact said the figures used by Steyn were “broadly accurate” but that he was “wrong to claim the booster ‘increases your chances of hospitalisation and death’”.

Interestingly:

No Ofcom investigations have yet been started into rival TalkTV, which Rupert Murdoch’s News UK launched in April.

The Guardian had more, especially about Dr Matthew Sweet, who was interviewed on the BBC and had been monitoring Steyn’s show for soundbites that criticised the vaccines. Steyn often mentioned Sweet:

The latest investigation relates to an interview with the author Naomi Wolf in which she claimed women were being harmed by Covid-19 vaccines as part of an effort to “to destroy British civil society”.

Ofcom said it would investigate whether the programme broke “rules designed to protect viewers from harmful material” after receiving more than 400 complaints from members of the public.

In the interview, which was originally broadcast on 4 October, Wolf also compared doctors’ support for the vaccine rollout to the behaviour of the medical profession in Nazi Germany and described herself as the “last remaining independent journalist” willing to question this.

She was being interviewed on the Mark Steyn Show, which has repeatedly raised doubts over the safety of vaccines. Steyn’s claims that the jabs cause “every conceivable kind of damage” have been disputed by factchecking websites. He is already the subject of a separate Ofcom investigation over previous comments about vaccination.

Wolf began as a prominent feminist writer but in recent years her career has taken a hit after she wrote a book partly based on a misunderstanding of English court records. Since then she has veered into the world of conspiracy theories about the impact of 5G telephone masts and the coronavirus vaccine.

Presenter Matthew Sweet, whose BBC interview exposed the flaw in Wolf’s book, has since kept tabs on her work and GB News’s coverage of the pandemic and accused the channel of repeatedly “broadcasting misinformation about vaccines and presenting conspiracy theorists as legitimate experts on medical matters”.

In a letter to Sweet tweeted last month, GB News insisted that at no point had Steyn’s programme adopted an “anti-vax” approach. Instead it said he was conducting probing journalism in the face of people who want GB News to be “more supportive of government policy”.

As I wrote in my post last week on Big Brother Watch’s exposé of Government departments’ surveillance of politicians’ and journalists’ Twitter accounts during the pandemic, the one thing one cannot do is criticise the vaccines.

The best of Mark Steyn’s GB News output

Having watched nearly every Mark Steyn show once he began broadcasting weeknights in January 2022, I bookmarked the most notable ones.

Any interested readers should view the videos sooner rather than later. YouTube have already removed some of Steyn’s GB News output.

Ratings

It took a while for people to tune into Steyn, which was no fault of his. He did a memorable series in March 2022 in Ukraine and told us that he was partly of Ukranian descent. He hoped to return when the war was over. You can read more about those programmes here.

At the end of that month, he had a special edition on the second anniversary of the first coronavirus lockdown, March 23, 2020. It’s a good thing I described the content, because YouTube removed the video for the usual reasons.

Then on Monday, May 16, Mark hit the jackpot, beating TalkTV’s Piers Morgan for the first time in the 8 to 9 p.m. slot. Mark wasn’t the only ratings star that night — all the GB News evening shows beat TalkTV’s:

The following day, Guido wrote:

The slow motion collapse in ratings of Talk TV is astounding. Until now, Piers Morgan has always held his lead in his slot against Mark Steyn on GB News. Last night Steyn beat Morgan for the first time…

And it would not be the last time, either. In fact, it became a regular occurrence.

Coronavirus

On Wednesday, January 12, 2022, Steyn interviewed Lord Ridley — Matt Ridley — about the coronavirus lab leak (30:00 – 40:00):

In February, he covered the Canadian truckers’ protest in Ottawa against mandated vaccines:

He also interviewed a Canadian policewoman about the protests:

On April 21, he cited UK government data which said that people over 50 who had three jabs were five times more likely to get the virus:

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On Monday, May 9, he interviewed vaccine victims:

On May 11, he interviewed people who became seriously ill after taking the Astra Zeneca vaccine. No wonder it’s no longer on the Government’s vaccine list.

This man got a blood clot on the brain:

This lady suffered blood clots on her liver and lungs:

That day, Laura Perrins from The Conservative Woman waxed lyrical about Steyn’s show. I, too, was a bit ambivalent about him many years ago, but as she pointed out:

It is true that a few decades ago he was considered an Establishment journalist; he has written for all your mainstream Right-wing publications. But he had long left that scene by the time I had my political awakening.

Anyway, somehow I stumbled across him, Praise be the Lord. The more I started listening, the more I read, I thought: ‘Goodness gracious, hold the phone, shut the front door, this guy is the Real Deal.’ This guy knows that we are being had by the political and media establishment and he is not afraid to say it …

Not only is Steyn the best-dressed, most-polished, most-sophisticated of all the presenters on TV, he says what you are thinking. For the last week or two he has been giving a voice to those the MSM have shamefully ignored – families who have lost loved ones through the ‘safe and effective’ non-vaccine vaccine.

… While Piers ‘Lock Me Down Harder, Daddy’ Morgan is interviewing Bruce Jenner, Steyn is pointing out that the lockdown has caused economic damage and inflation that the MPs like to ignore.  

He also points out that when the Conservatives tell you they are getting a hold on illegal immigration, they are lying to you, they are lying to your face, dear reader.  

So, do yourself a favour and watch Mark Steyn, Monday-Thursday, 8pm on GB News

You can also catch up on YouTube when they haven’t censored him for ‘disinformation’. This is not a man who could ever be bought or sold for any price. I say again, Mark Steyn is the Real Deal.  

The following day, news emerged that the WHO wanted nations to sign up to their pandemic treaty which would supercede national sovereignty. Unbelievable. Steyn said, ‘The permanent abnormal staggers on’:

On Tuesday, May 17, he talked about the WHO’s involvement in the pandemic:

One week later, he interviewed a fellow broadcaster, Andrew Griffiths, who experienced serious side effects after getting the vaccine:

The Powers That Be tried to stir up fear over what is now called MPOX. On May 25, Steyn discussed Natalie Winters’ findings for the National Pulse about an alleged link to the Wuhan lab:

Steyn had more on that and other topics on June 1, calling it ‘the controlled demolition of the free world’:

That was an exceptional show. Former ONS statistician Jamie Jenkins, one of Mark’s regulars, alleged that the UK government had not collected any official statistics on vaccine injuries:

Claire Hibbs returned to discuss her injuries and the lack of compensation from the Government:

On June 16, he discussed the disastrous economic results of lockdown with Leilani Dowding:

Other Steyn broadcasts of note

In May 2022, he tapped into Canada’s Rebel News output on Davos: excellent and entertaining.

On July 12, he was the only broadcaster to cover the July 12 celebrations in Northern Ireland in a non-confrontational way.

He interviewed Baroness Hoey — former Labour MP Kate Hoey — on her love for Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom:

He also spoke at length with the former leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, now-Baroness, Dame Arlene Foster:

These are just tasters. More to follow tomorrow.

No stranger to controversy

Mark Steyn has never been a stranger to controversy. Thank goodness.

Going way back in my Mark Steyn bookmarks, in 2004, he reviewed Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, an incredible but much-criticised film, for The Spectator (full text here):

Those who believe in Christ the Redeemer are booming, and Mel Gibson has made a movie for them. If Hollywood was as savvy as it thinks it is, it would have beaten him to it. But it isn’t so it didn’t. And as most studio execs have never seen an evangelical Christian except in films where they turn out to be paedophiles or serial killers, it’s no wonder they’re baffled by The Passion’s success …

… Mel Gibson was driven by his own passion to make a movie that speaks to millions of people. As I said a couple of weeks back, if it’s not the Jesus movie you’d have made, then go make your own. I saw it on a Monday night full house – a rare event in itself – and the crowd was rapt and eerily hushed, except for the occasional sob. It’s true that if you don’t believe that Christ’s death on the cross is the central event in His time on earth then Mel’s telling won’t convince you and the film will look, as it does to Christopher Hitchens, like an S&M flayfest. One can regard this as a criticism of Gibson. On the other hand, all manner of movies – Star Wars, X-Men – leave you cold if you’re not already a devotee. For millions of people, Mel Gibson shows them their Jesus and their salvation.

In 2009, Steyn wrote an article for Canada’s Macleans about the danger that political correctness and censorship (i.e. ‘hate speech’) pose to human lives — the Fort Hood massacre (full text here):

… the old refrain echoes through the corridors of power: vigorous honest free speech will lead to mass murder unless we subject it to “reasonable limits.”

Actually, the opposite is true: a constrained and regulated culture policed by politically correct enforcers leads to slaughter. I’m not being speculative here, as Commissar Lynch [Jennifer Lynch, Q.C., Canada’s censor at the time] is about my murderous prose style. It’s already happened, just a couple of weeks back. Thirteen men and women plus an unborn baby were gunned down at Fort Hood by a major in the U.S. Army. Nidal Hasan was the perpetrator, but political correctness was his enabler, every step of the way. In the days that followed, the near parodically absurd revelations piled up like an overripe satire

Instead, asked “Who ya gonna believe—The Celebrate Diversity Handbook or your lyin’ eyes?”, more and more of us plump for the former, if only for a quiet life. Commissar Lynch has it exactly backwards: it’s the craven submission to political correctness, the willingness to leave your marbles with the Diversity Café hat-check girl, that leads to death—real death, with real corpses, from Texas to Ontario.

It’s amazing that the hot topics really have not changed since the Millennium. It’s been the same-old, same-old for over 20 years now.

To be continued tomorrow

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On Wednesday, January 11, 2023, the outspoken Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen had the whip removed for remarks he tweeted about the coronavirus vaccines.

He now sits as an Independent.

Before going into that news, let us look at Bridgen’s past history in Parliament.

Watchdog

Bridgen, who has represented North West Leicestershire since 2010, has always been a watchdog, in and out of Parliament.

Holding his own on Brexit

On April 8, 2019, when Theresa May and Parliament were at loggerheads on how to proceed with Brexit, Bridgen appeared on the BBC’s Politics Live to say that most voters would prefer No Deal. He was the only Leave supporter on a panel of four. Everyone else was a Remainer, including the host, Jo Coburn. They piled in on Bridgen, but the MP was correct. He had cited a poll from YouGov which said that 44% of Britons preferred No Deal. By contrast 42% wanted to remain in the EU.

One month later, he rightly objected to MPs who wanted to have a customs union with the EU instead of a full exit:

The impasse in the House of Commons worsened as the months dragged on. On September 10, Bridgen supported Boris’s prorogation, which ended up being overturned. He talked with talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer just before that prorogation:

In late November, The Sun tweeted an excellent video of Bridgen canvassing North West Leicestershire voters before the general election on December 12 that year. They had strong opinions on Brexit, Labour and Boris. Incidentally, North West Leicestershire is the happiest place to live in the East Midlands:

Pointing out ‘modern slavery’ in Leicester

In January 2020, Bridgen called to the Government’s attention the working conditions at certain women’s garment factories in Leicester. They would be considered sweatshops in the United States.

The city of Leicester is not in Bridgen’s constituency, but he was concerned enough to call the companies out, directing a question to Kelly Tolhurst MP, the then-BEIS (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) in Parliament:

Will the Minister agree to meet me to discuss the situation in Leicester, where I believe that approximately 10,000 people in the clothing industry are being paid £3 to £4 an hour in conditions of modern slavery?

Guido Fawkes reported that nothing was done until July that year, when Leicester showed unusually high rates of coronavirus (emphases in the original):

What happened at the meeting months ago?

The Labour Behind the Label campaign has a report out alleging there is evidence which indicates that conditions in Leicester’s factories, primarily producing for Boohoo, are putting workers at risk of COVID-19 infection. Grim reading…

Leicester’s rates remained high throughout the rest of 2020. By contrast, North West Leicestershire — Bridgen’s constitutency — had the lowest rates in Leicestershire. On October 12, he debated the knotty problem of full lockdowns with talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer, who advocated sequestration of the vulnerable only:

Calling out West Midlands mayoral candidate

In the week before the 2021 local elections in England, he asked IPSA (the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority) to investigate Labour MP Liam Byrne’s alleged use of parliamentary expenses to fund his campaign for the mayoralty of the West Midlands. Byrne fired back that Bridgen put his own London accommodation on expenses, which is what every other MP, including Byrne, does. Then Byrne accused Bridgen of having one of the worst voting attendance records in Parliament. Byrne was wrong there, too, as records show that Bridgen voted 88% of the time, whereas Byrne voted only 63% of the time between 2010 and 2019.

Calling out the BBC

On May 21, 2021, Bridgen complained about the BBC in a tweet, saying that Britons are forced to pay for it, while the organisation shows inadequate accountability in the face of broadcasting scandals it hid under the carpet.

Objecting to coronavirus vaccine passports

On July 22, 2021, Bridgen told GB News that showing a vaccine passport upon entry to various places was ‘unworkable’, saying that most people were already vaccinated and that it would take too much extra time to check everyone’s vaccine status:

2022 signalled big trouble ahead

In 2022, Andrew Bridgen became known as an MP with a reputation.

Initially, his letters of no confidence in previous Prime Ministers became clear, all the way from David Cameron’s time through to Liz Truss:

However, later on, his relationship with his family’s potato business would begin to bring matters to a head, affecting his standing as a Conservative MP.

On September 3, The Times reported (purple emphases mine):

A Conservative MP branded “dishonest” by a judge has been ordered to pay £800,000 and evicted from his luxurious country home after a dispute involving his family potato business.

Andrew Bridgen, 57, has spent years suing his family business, AB Produce, which supplies potatoes and other vegetables to catering companies and supermarkets.

In March, a High Court judge ruled that he “lied” under oath, behaved in an “abusive”, “arrogant” and “aggressive” way, and was so dishonest that nothing he said about the dispute could be taken at face value.

The North West Leicestershire MP had accused the firm of forcing him out of a £93,000-a-year second job, which required him to attend a monthly board meeting. The judge found that, rather than being bullied out of the job as he alleged, Bridgen resigned in order to reduce the amount he might owe his first wife, Jackie, in divorce proceedings.

Judge Brian Rawlings also found that Bridgen pressured the police inspector in his parliamentary constituency to launch a costly one-year investigation into vexatious allegations against his estranged younger brother, Paul Bridgen, 55, who runs AB Produce, which is based in Derbyshire.

In a later judgment in June, which came to light only last week, the MP has been forced by the judge to vacate the Old Vicarage, a five-room property reportedly valued at about £1.5 million. He was given a final deadline of August 24 and Bridgen, his wife and their child complied with the deadline. It is not known where they now live …

Bridgen and his second wife, Nevena, 42, a Serbian blogger and former opera singer, had lived in the restored 18th-century home without charge since 2015. During this period, it is understood that he refused to pay rent, or bills for water and electricity, according to court filings.

Bridgen was told to pay in excess of £800,000 in legal costs to three shareholders at his family’s firm, of which one is his brother, Paul, after bringing claims of unfair treatment. He could yet be ordered to pay £244,000 in rent arrears.

It is understood that Bridgen, who earns a basic salary of £84,144 as an MP, has paid the money he already owes, although the source of the funds is unknown and is likely to come under scrutiny

Parliamentary rules stipulate that MPs who are declared bankrupt must step down if a bankruptcy restrictions order is made against them. He is also vulnerable to another referral to the parliamentary commissioner for standards as he failed to declare AB Produce as the entity paying his rent and utility bills.

According to the guide to the rules relating to the MPs’ code of conduct, MPs must declare “taxable expenses, allowances and benefits such as company cars”, as well as “financial support and sponsorship” and “gifts of property”.

On November 3, Guido reported that the Commons Committee on Standards recommended that Bridgen be suspended from Parliament for five sitting days for the aforementioned controversy:

They also describe an email he sent to the Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone as “completely unacceptable behaviour” as he ‘sought assurance’ about a rumour that Stone was shortly to be ennobled provided she arrived “at the ‘right’ outcomes when conducting parliamentary standards investigation[s]”.

The full list of aggravating factors are as follows:

    • Mr Bridgen breached the rules of the House on registration, declaration and paid lobbying on multiple occasions and in multiple ways. (The Committee noted that each of these breaches could have led it to recommend a suspension from the service of the House);
    • Mr Bridgen has demonstrated a very cavalier attitude to the rules on registration and declaration of interests, including repeatedly saying that he did not check his own entry in the register;
    • Mr Bridgen is an established Member of the House, having been elected in 2010;
    • Mr Bridgen’s email to the Commissioner called her integrity into question on the basis of wholly unsubstantiated and false allegations, and attempted improperly to influence the House’s standards processes …

For Andrew’s clarification, no you cannot submit a letter of no confidence in the Standards Committee…

But, by then, Bridgen had already turned his attention to the coronavirus vaccines, saying that, if there is an investigation in the EU Commission, there should be one in the UK, too:

On Tuesday, December 13, Bridgen was granted an adjournment debate in which he criticised the vaccines and cited Dr Aseem Malhotra, a cardiologist who saw his own father, a healthy man, die of unusual heart problems after taking one of the vaccines. Bridgen, like Malhotra, wanted the mRNA vaccines stopped and offered evidence as to why. As I wrote on December 22, Maria Caulfield, the Government minister and a practising nurse, did not approve of Bridgen’s speech. Danny Kruger, another Conservative MP, supported Bridgen’s statements, but Caulfield reiterated the Government’s line on vaccines.

On Wednesday, December 28, the British Heart Foundation disparaged Bridgen’s claims in the adjournment debate, which I also wrote about the following day.

2023 can make or break Bridgen

On Monday, January 9, 2023, Bridgen began the day by tweeting the link to a discussion about alleged lies told during the pandemic and the response to coronavirus:

Later that day, The Guardian reported that Bridgen had been suspended for five working days for lobbying and undeclared interests, matters unrelated to coronavirus:

The MP for north-west Leicestershire was found to have repeatedly broken the MPs’ code of conduct by a cross-party committee, which endorsed findings from Kathryn Stone, the parliamentary commissioner for standards.

He was unsuccessful in an attempt to overturn the recommendation in December and a motion was approved by parliament on Monday.

The suspension is due to start on Tuesday 10 January, and will run for five sitting days.

Bridgen was found to have approached ministers and officials on behalf of a forestry company, Mere Plantations, that had given him a donation, a visit to Ghana and the offer of an advisory contract, a role that ended up being unpaid.

Two of the days were recommended by the committee for the breaches of rules on advocacy and interests. The other three days of suspension were advised in response to what the committee said was a “completely unacceptable” attempt by Bridgen to put pressure on Stone.

Bridgen attempted to appeal against the decision, criticising the investigation as “flawed” and arguing that it had not fully considered the motivations of the person who had made the initial complaint.

He argued that he was just helping a local company that worked with Mere, and that it was thus simply a “constituency interest” that brought him no personal benefits. The committee disagreed with this, saying the MP had breached lobbying rules.

The committee, chaired by the Labour MP Chris Bryant, found that Bridgen breached the rules “on multiple occasions and in multiple ways”.

Meanwhile, Bridgen continued to sound the alarm about coronavirus vaccines.

On Tuesday afternoon, January 10, he tweeted a Project Veritas interview with a Pfizer scientist who alleges that they were aware that their vaccine was responsible for the unusual spike in cases of myocarditis. This is short, subtitled and well worth watching:

That afternoon, Bridgen tweeted a video featuring Dr Peter McCullough, who alleges that the vaccines are responsible for myocarditis cases and deaths. This, too, is a short video well worth watching:

On the morning of Wednesday, January 11, Bridgen retweeted a message from Dr Malhotra which included a video of Tucker Carlson and vaccine watchdog Robert F Kennedy Jr discussing the omerta on coronavirus vaccines:

Bridgen followed up with his own tweet about the alleged dangers of the vaccines, including a quote from Robert F Kennedy Jr:

Worse news than a five-day suspension came later that morning, after Bridgen had tweeted a cardiologist’s comment that the global rollout of coronavirus vaccines will have been the worst human rights violation since the Holocaust. Bridgen later deleted the tweet, but other MPs saw it and strongly objected to it. Pictured along with Bridgen is Conservative MP Simon Clarke:

It then came to the attention of the Conservative Chief Whip Simon Hart, who withdrew the whip from the MP:

On Wednesday morning, Guido reported what Simon Hart had said in defending his decision:

Andrew Bridgen has crossed a line, causing great offence in the process. As a nation we should be very proud of what has been achieved through the vaccine programme. The vaccine is the best defence against Covid that we have. Misinformation about the vaccine causes harm and costs lives. I am therefore removing the Whip from Andrew Bridgen with immediate effect, pending a formal investigation.

However, that afternoon, the Daily Sceptic reported that a Jewish academic in Israel came to Bridgen’s defence:

Andrew Bridgen, the British politician suspended as a Conservative MP over allegations of being anti-Semitic in a tweet criticising the Covid vaccines, has been defended by the Jewish Israeli academic whose article he linked to in the tweet in question.

Dr. Josh Guetzkow, a senior lecturer in criminology and sociology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, told the Daily Sceptic that as a Jew living in Israel he was “surprised” by the accusations against Mr. Bridgen, because “there is nothing at all anti-Semitic about his statement”

John Mann, the Government’s independent anti-Semitism adviser, was unequivocal, saying: “There is no possibility that Bridgen can be allowed to stand at the next election. He cannot claim that he didn’t realise the level of offence that his remarks cause.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that he “completely condemn[ed] those types of comments in the strongest possible terms”.

“Obviously it is utterly unacceptable to make linkages and use language like that and I’m determined that the scourge of antisemitism is eradicated,” he told the Commons on Wednesday …

However, Dr. Guetzkow, whose tweeted article details the alarming, recently-released analysis of vaccine adverse event data from the U.S. CDC, said this is a “tempest in a teapot”.

“The hollow accusations against him only distract from genuine examples of anti-Semitism and ultimately hinder attempts to draw attention to them, much like the boy who cried wolf,” he said.

It is clear from the statement by the Chief Whip that Mr. Bridgen’s chief sin is to have criticised the vaccines. Mr. Hart’s statement notably does not mention anti-Semitism, but rather says that Mr. Bridgen is having the whip removed for “misinformation about the vaccine”, which “causes harm and costs lives”, adding only that he had caused “great offence in process”.

The allegations of anti-Semitism therefore appear to be just the opportunity party chiefs needed to mete out the punishment to the vaccine heretic

Stop Press: Dr. Guetzkow has pointed out that Holocaust survivor Vera Sharav has been drawing parallels between the extreme and discriminatory public health measures during the pandemic and the Holocaust throughout the the last three years.

Rishi Sunak’s comment came up during Wednesday’s PMQs (Prime Minister’s Questions), the first of 2023, which I watched on BBC Parliament.

One might well ask who asked the question.

None other than Matt Hancock, who has just returned from a short holiday in Turkey, which seemed to involve shopping.

The Daily Sceptic reported:

Matt Hancock, the disgraced lockdown Health Secretary, hit out at Mr. Bridgen’s “disgusting, antisemitic, anti-vax conspiracy theories” at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday. He said the comments were “deeply offensive” and “have no place in this House or in our wider society”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak replied that he joined Mr Hancock in “completely condemning those types of comments in the strongest possible terms”.

In closing, the Daily Sceptic calls to readers’ attentions Andrew Bridgen’s qualifications:

Mr. Bridgen, who has a science background, has become Parliament’s most vocal critic of the Covid vaccines. He thus made himself a big target for the pro-vaccine zealots who will have been looking for an excuse to punish and cancel him, and who have predictably leapt on the first ‘offensive’ thing they could find.

Wikipedia states that Bridgen studied genetics and behaviour at the University of Nottingham and graduated with a degree in biological sciences.

The Government does not want their big achievement of the past three years — the vaccine rollout, Europe’s first — to be tainted in any way.

However, judging from the comments, Daily Sceptic readers are supportive of Andrew Bridgen and look forward to hearing more from him on the vaccines this year, which is more than can be said of Matt Hancock, who, as of December 28, was still searching for a celebrity agent to kickstart his new career in reality television.

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UPDATE Guido Fawkes has reported Andrew Bridgen’s statement on having lost the Conservative whip, complete with video:

The fact I have been suspended over this matter says a lot about the current state of our democracy, the right to free speech, and the apparent suspension of scientific method of analysis of medicines being administered to billions of people.

This is my final instalment on the rise and fall of Matt Hancock, the former Health and Social Care Secretary.

Those who missed them — and the drama of the pandemic — can catch up on parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

July 2021

Britons, including some Conservative MPs, were angry that Hancock was not-so-secretly embracing his female adviser while imposing draconian coronavirus restrictions on the rest of us. Thankfully, The Sun revealed the truth in a ‘world exclusive’.

On July 3, 2021, journalist Isabel Oakeshott, who recently co-authored Hancock’s Pandemic Diaries — now on sale — explained in The Spectator how she missed the scoop, even when presented with the evidence (emphases mine, unless otherwise indicated):

I was sent a compromising picture of the then health secretary and his mistress almost a week before the Sun newspaper sensationally revealed their relationship — and I did not believe it was him

Here’s what happened. On the morning of 20 June I was leafing through the Sunday newspapers when I received a message from an important contact. ‘Good morning. This might brighten your day, I have a guy who says he has incriminating footage of Matt Hancock,’ he wrote breezily. Accompanying the text was a grainy image, no bigger than a postage stamp, of a man in a suit, leaning forward to embrace a raven-haired woman in a figure-hugging dress. ‘What to do next?’ the message asked …

I only had the one poor-quality screen grab (not the video that would later be released) and no information about the original source. The picture had been sent to my contact via an untraceable ProtonMail account. Moreover, the pandemic has sent all manner of conspiracy theorists and pranksters into overdrive, creating perilous working conditions for journalists …

My contact agreed that his source was ‘probably a chancer’, but said he would see what else he could get. ‘No rush,’ the original source said when they discussed arrangements for viewing the full video — and then he or she hotfooted it to the Sun.

A former counter-terror detective studied past photos of Hancock’s office and deduced that Hancock might have had his office extended by appropriating some of the corridor space. The corridor would probably have had a security camera:

On July 1, in Parliament, Labour Shadow Leader of the House Thangham Debbonaire took the then-Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg to task for having previously defended the Health Secretary throughout the pandemic:

That same day, Hancock was in his West Suffolk constituency to apologise to the locals.

The London Evening Standard reported that Conservatives there:

vowed to stick by him after he gave a “heartfelt apology”, despite calls for his deselection.

The former health secretary was on Wednesday told to “do the honourable thing” and stand down by a local Tory councillor …

Tory councillor Ian Houlder told the Standard he was “disgusted” by Mr Hancock’s behaviour and had written to his local association calling for him to be deselected before the next election.

However, after days of silence, the MP’s local association has spoken out in support of Mr Hancock saying he has “faced up to the mistakes” he made.

In a statement, the West Suffolk Conservative Association said: “Following Matt Hancock’s resignation as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, West Suffolk Conservative Association has taken soundings.

“We wish to express our support for Matt, who has served our Constituency tirelessly over the past 11 years.

“Matt has given us a heartfelt apology for recent events, has faced up to the mistakes he has made on both a human and a professional level and expressed sincere contrition.

“We want to thank Matt for the extraordinary job he has done as Health Secretary leading the country through the pandemic and overseeing the roll out of the world’s best vaccination programme, and look forward to working with him as he continues to represent his constituents in Parliament.”

Councillor Houlder said the MP’s actions were “beyond the pale” and added: “It’s nothing to do with his sordid affair because otherwise you’d have an empty parliament wouldn’t you?

“It’s the very fact he stood up there for a year spouting, pontificating, ordering, browbeating, slagging off people who broke his rules.”

Mr Hancock’s constituency association was said to be divided in the wake of his decision to leave his wife of 15 years, Martha, who is a popular figure. He is said to have delegated much of the work of networking with local worthies to his wife.

One anonymous councillor told the Telegraph there was not “outrage” but a “sense of sadness” for the family. They added: “There is support for Matt as a constituency MP and that seems to be holding up.”

On July 3, The Sun accused Labour’s Shadow Deputy Leader Angela Rayner, a grandmother, of hypocrisy in slamming Hancock’s affair when she was allegedly having one herself, with a fellow Labour MP:

ANGELA Rayner has been accused of hypocrisy after calling out Matt Hancock over his affair — while keeping quiet on the nature of her relationship with a married MP.

The Labour deputy leader, 41, grew close to Shadow Minister Sam Tarry after being wed for a decade and it is understood his marriage is now in crisis.

Her bond with the father of two was revealed in The Sun on Sunday last October.

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen declared: “The public deserves the same transparency from Angela Rayner as she has demanded of Matt Hancock.

“She’s taken the moral high ground on this matter on every occasion. You can always bank on the Left for their constant hypocrisy.”

Mrs Rayner, who has two children with estranged husband Mark, wrote to Boris Johnson demanding he sack Mr Hancock following the revelations.

The following day, the paper’s veteran columnist Trevor Kavanagh said that publishing Matt Hancock’s security camera photo and video was the right thing to do:

FREE at last! The Sun did Britain a huge favour last week with our “Hancock – The Movie” scoop.

Nothing else would have dislodged this limpet’s grip on our daily lives.

Since then, it’s been like waking from an anaesthetic to find test-and-trace manacles and Covid leg irons being unlocked and removed.

New Health Secretary Sajid Javid’s comforting bedside ­manner and vow of freedom from July 19 are a relief from the teasing menace of his predecessor.

On July 5, former Conservative MP Norman Tebbit wrote in The Telegraph that this never would have happened in Margaret Thatcher’s day, although he did admit the Cecil Parkinson affair:

I see that Mrs Coladangelo is described as being an “non-executive director” at the Department of Health, but what are the duties of such a post? By whom was she appointed and to whom did she report? That I do not know.

In my time as a Secretary of State in the government of Margaret Thatcher, things were arranged rather differently. I had a Permanent Secretary who was a career civil servant responsible for all the officials throughout the Department and was in turn responsible to me. That was a clear and sensible arrangement which was wrecked by Prime Minister Tony Blair’s half-witted scheme to bring in outsiders from the private sector to take senior posts in the civil service.

Before then, had a minister begun to form an emotional or sexual relationship with one of his staff, she (or he) would have been promptly moved to another post before things became dangerous. It was not that politicians in those days had higher moral standards, but there was an effective way of stopping them from making fools of themselves and it generally worked well. However, even in those days there was nothing which could have saved my old friend Cecil Parkinson from his foolish affair with his constituency secretary, who was not a civil servant. The affair was exposed when she bore him a daughter.

On July 10, the Mail on Sunday reported that Hancock would need more money to fund his new life. Hmm. This seems to presage what happened late in 2022, with his appearance on I’m A Celebrity … Allegedly, the show paid him £400,000 to appear in the Australian jungle. Interesting:

Matt Hancock is already plotting how to salvage his political career – despite being urged by some former Cabinet colleagues to quit the Commons entirely.

The ex-Health Secretary has appealed to current and former Ministers for advice on how to fight back after his resignation, The Mail on Sunday can reveal …

They also warned that even if he stayed on, he could struggle to supplement his backbench MP’s salary of nearly £82,000 with outside jobs, which they say he would now need to.

One former Minister he has consulted said that Mr Hancock, who has left his wife for Ms Coladangelo, would need more money to ‘fund his new life’.

The Sun also reported the story.

On July 15, the Information Commissioner’s Office seized computers and other electronic equipment connected with the leak of the CCTV leak leading to Hancock’s resignation:

Guido Fawkes reported (red emphases his):

The statement just released goes on to say “Personal computer equipment and electronic devices were seized as part of the operation”. The ICO’s Director of Investigations says it’s vital everyone, including government employees, have trust and confidence in the protection of their personal data. Victoria Newton recently said she’s “done everything I can to protect” The Sun’s source…

On July 31, the Mail reported, complete with photos, that Hancock and his girlfriend were still living apart:

Matt Hancock and his lover Gina Coladangelo are ‘together, apart’ as they try to build a relationship out of the public gaze, say friends.

The former Health Secretary is understood to be in regular contact with Ms Coladangelo – but they are not yet living together.

On Thursday, Mr Hancock was pictured collecting his belongings from his former marital home in London.

The father-of-three was handed a bin bag containing his clothes, along with ten boxes, two suitcases, a child seat and a coffee machine – and was watched at the garden gate by a confused-looking family dog.

August 2021

On August 1, The Telegraph‘s Gordon Rayner wrote:

It is a measure of the brutal nature of politics that scarcely a month has passed since Matt Hancock’s resignation, yet he already has the air of a figure from history.

The former Health Secretary risked everything to pursue an affair with his aide Gina Coladangelo, and four weeks after it was so humiliatingly exposed, the future of his relationship with her, as well as the future of his career, appears to be up in the air.

Mr Hancock has not given up hope of rescuing his ministerial career, and in recent days has begun to re-engage with fellow MPs via a backbenchers’ WhatsApp group in what colleagues interpreted as an attempt to test the water …

There was no sign of contrition, however, from Mr Hancock, who was blamed for the Tories’ narrow defeat in the Batley and Spen by-election, which came days after the scandal over his affair …

That night former Conservative/UKIP MP Douglas Carswell told GB News:

We must never be in a position where someone like Matt Hancock can tell us if we can hug our grandma.

On Tuesday, August 17, GB News reported that Hancock’s lack of action as Health Secretary might have worsened the pandemic. There was a point where the Test and Trace app was pinging people’s phones constantly, advising them to stay at home. It was called the pingdemic:

The article says:

Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock was reportedly asked whether the NHS Covid-19 app should be amended to alert contacts of positive cases from two days back rather than five days, but no change was made.

The app was tweaked earlier this month amid the so-called “pingdemic”, which had seen hundreds of thousands of alerts sent out telling people to isolate because they had come into contact with someone who had the virus.

The high number of alerts caused disruption to several sectors as workers had to stay at home after being pinged.

It was announced on August 2 that fewer contacts would be notified in future after the app’s “logic” was updated to alert only those contacts two days prior to a positive test, rather than five days.

But the Guardian has reported an unnamed Whitehall source as saying Mr Hancock, who resigned on June 26 amid public outrage after leaked CCTV footage showed him kissing an aide in breach of coronavirus social distancing rules, had previously been told that the app was working to five days, rather than two.

The person told the newspaper: “The standard definition of a contact in all the scientific and public stuff from Public Health England and NHS Test and Trace is someone who has been in contact from two days before they have symptoms and if they don’t have symptoms but test positive, you go back two days from the test.

“But the app had five days in it. A submission was made to Hancock from Test and Trace people around the time of his resignation saying ‘it’s five days but it should be two days: should we change it now?’ And it didn’t happen.”

On August 17, The Spectator and Guido Fawkes got footage of Hancock travelling on the Tube’s District Line.

The Spectator reported:

the 42-year-old has become an unlikely star on TikTok after recently encountering a group of youthful commuters on the District Line. 

The group were apparently unaware of Hancock’s identity but delighted in teasing the poor ex-minister about his choice of hat wear and stealing the baseball cap to wear themselves. Videos recorded of the encounter detail how ‘The whole tube was singing… We love you Matt, we do!’ — something which ‘made our night’ according to the adolescent uploader.

Guido said:

He’s lost his wife, his job, his home and now his hat: footage has emerged of Matt Hancock being ribbed by members of the public on a tube. The video shows a lady stealing Matt’s headwear, before running off with it at Embankment station. He then appears to take his mask off as he shouts after her. Would SAGE approve, Matt?

On August 20, Guido Fawkes posted that the then-Secretary for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden pinched the fetching pop art portrait of the Queen for his own office. It’s not a Warhol, by the way. It’s by a British artist who paints in the same style:

Guido explained:

Oliver Dowden has posted a photo to social media with a notably redecorated Whitehall office, resplendent with some well-known pop-art of the Queen. Politicos will immediately recognise the artwork given it spent the entirety of the pandemic positioned behind Matt Hancock during interviews in his ex-DHSC office. One of Sajid’s first decisions in office was to replace the piece with an 1890s oil painting…

While Hancock wasn’t able to take home the prized painting, which belongs to the Government Art Collection, he thankfully didn’t leave his personalised ‘movie director‘ chair around for Dowden to pinch. With rumours of a reshuffle circulating, perhaps the painting isn’t the only thing from the DHSC office Dowden has his eye on…

Hat Tip: Hugo Gye

September 2021

On September 3, The Telegraph reported that a source told them Hancock was no gentleman:

Matt Hancock is “no gentleman” and has failed to apologise to his wife for cheating on her, according to a source close to the family.

The source said Mr Hancock’s wife, Martha, had been “crushed” and “shattered” by his infidelity and that he had shown a “lack of concern” for her and their three children. It has been reported that she is suffering from long Covid, having contracted the virus from her husband …

The ongoing upset and distress have prompted a source close to the family to speak out for the first time, saying they have been “appalled” by his behaviour … 

The source said: “Martha has been crushed by this, and Matt is only interested in his career and his mistress. He is a despicable individual.

“He has shown no concern for Martha or the children. He has been uncaring to Martha even though she backed him throughout his career and introduced him to the people that made his career. She has always defended him throughout.”

Hancock’s attempts at getting back in the public’s good books were failing dismally.

On September 4, the Mail reported:

Matt Hancock’s bid to rebuild his reputation by running the London Marathon has hit the buffers after pranksters flooded his charity page with mocking taunts.

The former Health Secretary is running in next month’s event to raise funds for St Nicholas Hospice Care in his West Suffolk constituency – a decision that critics say is a crude bid at rehabilitating his reputation.

But the move already appears to have backfired, with his JustGiving page flooded by people donating the minimum sum and using the opportunity to write an accompanying message condemning his philandering and record in office.

By last night, 459 ‘supporters’ had pledged £3,653, but the majority of messages were critical.

Matt Reilly wrote: ‘If you break an ankle, I’ll donate another £100’

Dauda Bappa wrote: ‘Happy to donate to this hospice, but you are a truly terrible human being, Matt. I guess hate can be used for good. Break a leg xx.’

Another said: ‘You, sir, are the worst kind of over-privileged slug pretending to be a human.’

On September 6, Guido had an update:

Hancock’s attempted return back to the Tory fold isn’t going as smoothly as he may have liked. Back in recess he made his first appearance on the Commons’ backbenches, though didn’t make a speech as he instead attempted to schmooze colleagues in the tea room. At least one of his colleagues told Guido they found it pretty uncomfortable…

Last week, he made headlines after announcing his participation in a sponsored run for a local hospice, only to see plenty of online trolls pay money just to throw abuse at him in the donation comments section.

Matt clearly didn’t see the funny side to this; while he can’t stop the trolling entirely, he’s forced all donations to now come from ‘anonymous’. Meaning jokers can no longer pose as his mum or Gina Coladangelo.

His luck isn’t set to improve this week either. On Thursday he’s to be a Tory association’s guest of honour for the first time since The Sun turned him into a persona non grata. Tory members in Chipping Barnet will be the first to enjoy his company at venue. Guido hears the room can cater for up to 350 bodies. The number of ticket sales so far? Around 70…

October 2021

Matt Hancock ran the London Marathon as planned in order to raise money for the hospice in his constituency. The Mail included a video of him in their report of October 3.

On October 12, the Mail reported that there was good news for Hancock, at last:

Matt Hancock made a surprise comeback last night as he was given a United Nations role just four months after resigning as health secretary.

The former Cabinet minister will advise African nations on how their economies can bounce back from the pandemic.

The Daily Mail understands he won the unpaid job thanks to Nimco Ali, a campaigner against female genital mutilation who is a close friend of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s wife Carrie.

Guido has a copy of his acceptance letter.

Alas, Hancock’s good news was short-lived.

On October 16, The Telegraph reported that the UN rescinded his appointment:

Matt Hancock has lost his new job at the United Nations just four days after being appointed, following outrage from figures who condemned the “jaw dropping” decision to appoint him as a special envoy for Covid recovery in Africa.

The UN’s Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said his appointment was “not being taken forward,” following days of criticism.

Mr Hancock, who resigned his job as Health Secretary in June after he was pictured on CCTV kissing an aide, had said he was “honoured” to take up the role of Special Representative for Financial Innovation and Climate Change.

The Telegraph understands Mr Hancock was told by the United Nations that it cannot appoint sitting MPs to be special representatives, and that it was forced to rescind the appointment.

Mid-month, Hancock began getting his own back on the public.

His first article appeared in the Mail on Sunday, September 18, in which he called anti-vaxxers ‘blinkered and dangerous’. However, it was only in October when we found out how much he got paid for penning it. Guido’s Christian Calgie revealed that Hancock received £2,000:

His second that I know of, co-authored with Labour MP Rupa Huq — not a natural political pairing by any means — appeared in The Times on Wednesday, October 20. If the anti-vaxxer article infuriated me, this one took the biscuit. 

The two of them attempted to portray the two tragic assassinations of MPs David Amess, who had just been stabbed at his local surgery (to meet members of the public), and Jo Cox, slain a week before the Brexit referendum in June 2016, as results of online harassment. Neither was anything of the sort!

‘MPs need more protection online’ reads, in part:

The assassination of our kind friend and colleague Sir David Amess — he genuinely was a friend to so many — has shocked parliament to its core, but the aftermath, too, has not been a pretty sight. We were both disgusted to see Michael Gove harassed walking along the pavement. Coming so painfully soon after the murder it shows the urgent need for action. Tightening security at MPs’ surgeries addresses the symptoms not the cause.

There have been hecklers as long as there have been public meetings. But using online social media, keyboard warriors post accusatory, aggressive messages often based on conspiracy theories and lies. Our timelines and inboxes are awash with threats. Women, particularly from ethnic minority backgrounds, get it worst. But white men are not immune either. One user said, “just execute matt hancock live on bbc one i say”

The online harms bill is a good start, but it does not yet tackle anonymous abuse. It is a particular problem that libel laws don’t work in the internet age. It is hard to prove that a single post by a social media user with a few hundred followers causes significant damage, but when that post is shared and added to by hundreds or thousands of others, it has the same effect as a defamatory newspaper piece in days gone by.

A few days later, social media had captured Hancock and his friend on holiday in Split, Croatia:

On October 25, Guido wrote:

Matt Hancock treated his lover Gina Coladangelo to another romantic getaway over the weekend, this time in the port city of Split, Croatia. The pair were spotted sipping wine outside the Lvxor Café on Saturday night. Split? Cynics didn’t expect them to still be together…

Later that day, Guido posted that Hancock wrote to IPSO — the Independent Press Standards Organisation — demanding that images of him be removed from the public domain:

Guido’s post has the text of Hancock’s long letter and this comment:

That horse has bolted through the office doorway. As for the video of Matt and Gina in Split which was circulating widely on social media after a holidaying Briton spotted them and whipped their smartphone out, asking IPSO to intervene would not make any difference. More importantly, as Matt told parliament after the Leveson Inquiry, when he was the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport:

Over many centuries in Britain, our press has held the powerful to account and been free to report and investigate without fear or favour. These principles underpin our democracy and are integral to our freedom as a nation.

The harm done to his children was, as he must know in his heart, a consequence of his own actions. The pictorial reminder disappearing from the papers won’t change that…

How true!

November 2021

Still smarting from public backlash, Hancock put out an advert for a Communications Officer. Oddly, the application dates ran from November 13 to November 14.

On November 15, Guido posted a screenshot of the ad and this commentary:

Over the weekend Guido noticed the former Health Minister looking for a new Communications Officer to undertake his media and press activities. The advert said he wants someone to be “pro-active and re-active communications with all media”, and to create content for social media and assist with wider communication activities. Possibly spurred on by yet more embarrassing headlines over the weekend that he is to write a £100,000 autobiography called entitled “How I Won the Covid War”?

Matt also wants the prospective hire to “Establish, monitor and update” social media, which is surely a mammoth and hardly heartening task.

Unusually, Hancock gave prospective applicants just 24 hours to apply after publishing the ad on Saturday, and closing it on Sunday. Was Matt actually offering fair competition for the job or did he already have a mate in mind? He’d surely avoid giving preferential contract treatment to mates…

The month’s Hancock news ended with The Spectator awards. Hancock’s successor Sajid Javid won the Comeback of the Year Award and thanked ‘the CCTV guy’ who leaked the incriminating visuals:

December 2021

December’s news was mercifully brief.

On December 11, Hancock attempted to get down with the kids at the Jingle Bell Ball held at London’s O2 Centre. Had he seen a fashion stylist? One wondered:

On December 8, The Sun‘s political editor Harry Cole won the Scoop of the Year prize at the British Journalism Awards and took a swipe at attempts to censor the images that brought about Hancock’s downfall.

On December 13, the Press Gazette reported:

Sun political editor Harry Cole has pledged “we will keep fighting on” amid a “continuing erosion of journalistic rights”.

Cole made the comments after The Sun picked up the Scoop of the Year prize at the British Journalism Awards on Wednesday night for revealing then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s office affair with aide Gina Coladangelo while Covid-19 restrictions were in place.

Cole collected the award alongside Sun head of news Alex Goss and executive news editor Ben O’Driscoll …

But he warned the aftermath of the Hancock scoop had demonstrated an ongoing “systematic decay of freedom of the press”.

The Information Commissioner’s Office raided the homes of two suspected whistleblowers in the case who may have leaked the CCTV footage of Hancock and Coladangelo’s incriminating office snog.

Cole said The Sun also witnessed threats from government officials and even heard accusations of involvement by Chinese and Russian agents and spies.

“Everyone in this room, whether they read The Sun or not, should know that this has a chilling effect on the freedom of the press and we are really glad that public interest journalism is recognised in this way,” he said.

Cole said the Hancock story was a “really important scoop for us”, adding: “We pride ourselves on our reputation as protectors of free speech and democracy.

“There are sometimes stories you write that you have to make a public interest argument for. It was so clearly and obviously in the public interest we just knew it was a story that was going to leave everyone in our trail. As a journalist there’s no better feeling than knowing you’ve got one of those in the bag.”

As well as the ICO investigation, Cole pointed to the threat posed by proposed reform to the Official Secrets Act which could see journalists treated like spies for reporting on matters of public interest.

January 2021

On January 21, 2022, the Mail reported on the actual costs of MPs, which are much higher than one thinks: an average of £240,000 per MP per annum.

Hancock came in for special mention:

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was the most expensive MP in the Cabinet, with total costs of £225,305. This compared with £174,454 for Boris Johnson and £164,545 for Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

On January 18, the Evening Standard reported that Hancock took an icy dip in the Serpentine in Hyde Park:

The 43-year-old Tory MP had been jogging in a foggy Hyde Park with members of the Parliamentary Running Club, including former Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland and former junior health minister Lord Bethell.

On reaching the Serpentine, where other swimmers had broken a thin layer of ice on the surface, the trio stripped off and took to the murky waters.

Mr Hancock, who has only just emerged from isolation after testing positive for Covid for the second time last week, swam for about 20 metres in water chilled by a frosty winter’s night before deciding that was enough.

However, the Serpentine (Serps) Swimming Club was not impressed. Hancock was an interloper:

The Serps Swimming Club had tweeted a photo of him with a notice saying that only members were allowed — no guests:

February 2022

On February 21, Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle called on Hancock to contribute to a debate. Hoyle quipped:

The man for the rules, Matt Hancock!

Guido commented:

He just can’t catch a break…

That month, Hancock decided to reveal more about his new relationship in a podcast.

On February 27, the Mail on Sunday‘s Emily Prescott reported:

Now the dust is settling, he is opening up about the romance. 

My pictures show Matt and Gina at the recording of a yet-to-be released podcast, The Diary of a CEO with Dragons’ Den star Steven Bartlett, which was recorded a couple of weeks ago.

My mole tells me Matt, 43, became very emotional talking about falling in love and said it was ‘totally out of his control’

Matt said it happened quite suddenly, despite knowing Gina since university at Oxford.

He conceded it had been the ‘most difficult year of his life’. 

But Gina was sitting behind the cameras offering loving and supportive glances throughout.

The Mail had more the next day, when the podcast aired. What he said was all very confusing:

Former health secretary Matt Hancock has denied he broke the law by having an affair with a close aide during lockdown that destroyed his political career …

Speaking to The Diary of a CEO podcast, released this morning, Mr Hancock said he ‘fell in love’ with Coladangelo after bringing her in to work with him. 

He told the podcast host, entrepreneur and Dragons’ Den investor Steven Bartlett: ‘It actually happened after the rules were lifted, but the guidance was still in place. I resigned because I broke the social distancing guidelines by then.

‘They weren’t actually rules. They weren’t the law. But that’s not the point.

‘The point is they were the guidelines that I’d been proposing. And that happened because I fell in love with somebody.’ 

People had to stay two metres apart from anyone outside their household or bubble, under the guidance at the time. 

Mr Hancock stressed that his relationship with Miss Coladangelo was serious, saying he hated that some had ‘got the impression somehow that this was [casual sex]’.

Mid-month Steven Bartlett tweeted that he had interviewed Hancock:

He said: ‘Matt Hancock x The Diary Of A CEO! Matt Hancock stopped by with his new partner Gina to speak to me.

‘It’s time to find out what really happened, it’s time to ask the questions we’ve not had answers to; Party gate? Where did the CCTV footage come from? What mistakes did he make?’

He added: ‘This is the first time in the history of The Diary Of A CEO that things got a little heated between me and a guest at one point.

‘However, Matt did answer all of the tough questions I asked him and nothing will be edited out. You will see it all.’

Mr Bartlett also tweeted pictures of Mr Hancock and Ms Coladangelo at the interview, with the former health secretary wearing blue jeans and a navy roll-neck jumper.

Guido had more, along with a video clip. Hancock didn’t think Bartlett was being respectful enough:

Here’s the video clip:

Guido wrote:

Inevitably Hancock was uncomfortable with the topic, clearly unhappy at Bartlett referring to the affair as “casual sex”. He repeatedly asks Bartlett to restart the segment by asking the questions “in a little bit more respectful way”, and seems to think the moment would be edited out of the final interview. It wasn’t.

He advised:

Watch at your own discretion…

March 2022

On March 2, The Telegraph‘s Alison Pearson commented on the podcast, saying that Hancock was ‘dressed as the Milk Tray man’:

Talking to Steve Bartlett on the Diary of a CEO podcast, Hancock, dressed like the Milk Tray man, said he “fell in love” and “it all happened quite quickly. It actually happened… after the rules were lifted, but the guidance was still in place… I resigned because I broke the social distancing guidelines. By then, they weren’t actually rules. They weren’t the law. But that’s not the point. The point is they were the guidelines that I’d been proposing. And that happened because I fell in love with somebody.

Let us pause for a moment to unpick that knotty thicket of delusion and self-justification. Hancock clearly knew full well that what he was telling the British people they must do after a certain date was just guidance not regulation. As Lord Sumption has observed: “I think the Government knew people did not understand the difference and exploited their confusion.”

Now, Hancock has the brass neck to exploit that confusion to his own advantage. Hey, it was fine to be canoodling in his office because no law said that he couldn’t, even though lesser mortals stayed well away from their best beloved for a year in case they got caught. 

Unfortunately, such a realisation would require a degree of self-knowledge to which Hancock is a stranger. He is certainly in love – with himself mostly – and that fierce self-love leads him to think that, if he keeps bouncing up … then the public will forgive and forget.

We won’t, believe me. 

I’m not at the forgiveness point, either.

I have many more Matt Hancock pandemic bookmarks but will wait for the official inquiry before going into them.

The podcast was still a hot topic on March 6, as the Mail on Sunday had more about Hancock’s accusation that Bartlett wasn’t respectful enough:

During the two-hour interview for a podcast last week, Mr Hancock protested when Mr Bartlett mentioned ‘casual sex’ while questioning him about his extra-marital affair with aide Gina Coladangelo – in breach of his own Covid restrictions.

Mr Hancock raised his hand and asked Mr Bartlett to ‘ask the question in a little bit more respectful way’. He added: ‘I have not had casual sex with anybody, I fell in love.’

Mr Hancock asked the host if could ‘start this section again’, and this newspaper understands that the MP also told Mr Bartlett ‘this is off’ – meaning off the record – as they discussed rephrasing the question to remove the reference to casual sex.

Mr Bartlett said: ‘OK, let me ask the question and we can crack the question, all right?’ He then continued the interview.

Mr Hancock and his aides thought the brief exchange would be cut and were horrified to discover it had been left in when the podcast was posted online last week. But Mr Hancock’s words ‘this is off’ were not included.

The Mail on Sunday understands that Mr Hancock feels ‘stitched up’ and that he had agreed to do the interview with Mr Bartlett on the basis that nothing would be left in that he considered to be ‘hurtful’ to his estranged wife, Martha, or their three children.

On March 25, Will Lloyd wrote a brilliant article for UnHerd listing all of Hancock’s best quotes before and during the pandemic in ‘The tragedy of Matt Hancock’, which is well worth reading.

Lloyd concluded with the fallout of the present day:

The number of children referred for specialist mental health help rises above one million for the first time in 2021. Cases involving those 18 and under increase by 26% during the pandemic. The Royal College of Psychiatrists warns it is “becoming an impossible situation to manage”.

People, including Hancock, like to talk about learning the lessons of the pandemic. So we can prepare better for the next one. They don’t realise that between the million mentally hamstrung teenagers, the NHS waiting list hitting 9.2 million within two years, an endless backlog of cases in criminal courts, and inflation, that the pandemic hasn’t ended yet. It’s barely started.

April 2022

On April 13, the investigation into the leaked CCTV images ended with no charges brought:

Guido reported the text from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and his own summary:

The Information Commissioner’s Office closed their investigation into the Department for Health CCTV leak that saw Hancock’s snog with then-aide Gina Coladangelo splashed on the front page of The Sun. The ICO announced this afternoon that their investigation had found “insufficient evidence to prosecute two people suspected of unlawfully obtaining and disclosing CCTV footage from the Department for Health and Social Care”. They shouldn’t have been investigating anyway…

On April 24, GB News’s Dan Wootton interviewed Hancock for 30 minutes about the pandemic policies:

Hancock justified himself throughout. I felt sorry for Wootton, who was — and still is — trying to get the truth:

May 2022

On May 5, Hancock opened his home to Ukrainian refugees.

The Telegraph reported:

Matt Hancock has welcomed seven Ukrainian refugees and their four dogs into his family home in Suffolk.

Mr Hancock, the former health secretary, first revealed that he would take part in the Homes for Ukraine scheme last month after being contacted by a constituent.

The MP for Suffolk West has now housed the constituent’s mother, two sisters, niece, nephew, and the nephew’s partner and grandmother.

“I’ve enjoyed getting to know Ukrainian food and picking up the basics of the language,” he said. “It’s humbling living with three generations from one family who have escaped war with little more than the clothes on their backs. It brings perspective.”

Writing in The Spectator, he added that the teenagers staying with him had continued their studies through remote learning …

July 2022

On July 19, Hancock presented a guest phone-in on LBC.

A guest got the better of him and Hancock muted him:

Guido has the story and video, including an update from a friend of Hancock’s saying he was right to mute the man:

Matt Hancock is spending the day behind the LBC mic, presenting what should be a radio phone in, though it’s coming across as a prolonged party political broadcast on behalf of Rishi Sunak™. Matt was left hot under the collar at one point following some searing criticisms from a member of the public. John from Edinburgh called out Hancock’s legacy in dealing with the management of rare conditions, calling him a “totally useless health secretary”. Before too long Matt could clearly no longer take the barrage, angrily signalling for a producer to mute the call before launching into an uninterrupted rant. For the second time in recent history, Matt was unfortunately undermined by a camera he presumably forgot was running…

Here’s the video:

October 2022

On October 24, as Rishi Sunak received his coronation as Conservative Party leader, Matt Hancock was one of the Party’s MPs meeting at CCHQ to congratulate him.

Sunak brushed past him as if he weren’t there:

The Telegraph reported:

He was once the health secretary, at the helm of one of the most important government departments during the Covid-19 pandemic.

But Matt Hancock appeared to have slipped down the hierarchy on Monday, after being ignored by Rishi Sunak on his way into Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) as party leader for the first time.

The former health secretary, who nominated Mr Sunak for the Conservative Party leadership this week and sat next to him in Cabinet when the pair served under Boris Johnson, looked on as his old colleague greeted others.

On October 31, Guido told us that Hancock dropped his bid to run as the new chair of the Treasury Select Committee:

Matt Hancock’s campaign for the chairmanship of the Treasury select committee has come to a premature end. Passed over by Rishi, the former Health Secretary was keen to stress he was still in play, and that “a number of people suggested I should go for Chair”. The number just wasn’t large enough…

November 2022

Undoubtedly, November was Britain’s longest month of enduring Hancock since the pandemic.

If Parliament wouldn’t acquiesce to bringing him back into the fold, perhaps a television audience would do so.

On November 1, we discovered that the disgraced former Health Secretary was planning to go Down Under in I’m a Celebrity … Get Me out of Here:

Guido told us more:

Intent on proving his midlife crisis hasn’t yet peaked, Matt Hancock is jetting off to Australia to enter the jungle as the 12th campmate on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here, the Sun has revealed. The new series kicks off on November 6th, with Hancock arriving as a late contestant soon after. Cabinet hopes dashed, he’s now off to become the King of the Jungle…

A political ally of Hancock’s sent Guido a lengthy justification for the decision, which includes promoting Hancock’s notional dyslexia campaign, of which we had never heard before this. Excerpts follow:

I’m A Celeb is the most watched show on TV. Matt doesn’t expect to serve in Government again, so it’s an incredible opportunity for him to engage with the 12million Brits who tune in every single night

There are many ways to do the job of being an MP. Whether he’s in camp for one-day or three weeks, there are very few places people will be able to see a politician as they really are.

Where better to show the human side of those who make these decisions than with the most watched programme on TV? …

Matt’s talked to the whips, in the same way any MP would when going on a foreign visit, which happens all the time. As I say, Matt doesn’t expect to serve in Government again, but he can support Rishi and the Government in different ways.

This is an amazing opportunity to engage with the public and talk about issues he really cares about – including his dyslexia campaign.

Hancock’s friend said he’d had discussions with the Whips Office and that everything was fine.

Well, it wasn’t fine at all. Hancock had the Conservative whip withdrawn and, to this day, still sits as an Independent:

Guido wrote, ending with the show’s familiar catchphrase:

… A statement from the Chief Whip Simon Hart:

Following a conversation with Matt Hancock, I have considered the situation and believe this is a matter serious enough to warrant suspension of the whip with immediate effect.

He was a Tory MP… now he’s out of there.

The Sun also had the story:

The news of Hancock’s imminent television appearance for days on end did not please everyone in his West Suffolk constituency.

Guido posted:

Matt Hancock’s local constituency deputy chairman tells PA [the Press Association]:

I’m looking forward to him eating a kangaroo’s penis. Quote me. You can quote me that.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper disagreed with that assessment but did think it was right that Hancock had the whip removed:

Guido had more:

In headlines Guido never thought he’d be writing, the new Transport Secretary Mark Harper told Sky News he is not looking forward to watching his now-ex colleague Matt Hancock eat a kangaroo’s penis on I’m A Celebrity. As a former Chief Whip himself, Harper agrees with Simon Hart’s decision to sack Hancock and said it was correct given mincing off to the Jungle is not compatible with being an MP. Maybe eating kangaroo penis should be added to the list of potential Chief Whip punishments…

While Hancock denied that he’d lost his marbles for deciding to go on the reality television programme, his fellow Conservatives made a laughing stock out of him at PMQs on November 2, including Anthony Mangnall and Anne-Marie Trevelyan:

On November 8, some of his West Suffolk constituents were deeply unhappy, as The Telegraph‘s Gordon Rayner revealed:

After accusing him of abandoning his constituents, the council in the biggest town in Mr Hancock’s constituency has held a show of hands on his future – and decided that he should “do the honourable thing and resign”

Mr Hancock, 44, has been the MP for West Suffolk since 2010. However, there is speculation that he might stand down at the next general election after being overlooked for a Cabinet job by Rishi Sunak, the new Prime Minister, and then leaving his post to appear alongside celebrities including [Princess Anne’s son-in-law] Mike Tindall, Boy George and [DJ] Chris Moyles … 

He has also filmed a series of another show, Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins, which will be shown next year.

In Haverhill, where around 27,000 of his constituents live, the town council has told him to “clear the pitch” after its members held a vote and decided by a majority that it should tell him to quit.

In a letter sent to his office, the 13-member authority, which has several Tory councillors, accused the MP of losing interest in his day job.

Written by Colin Poole, the council clerk, it said: “By a majority vote members of the council have directed me to express their displeasure at your decision to absent yourself from your duty to your constituents to join the cast of ITV’s I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! …

Currently there is no one to speak for West Suffolk in the House of Commons and your actions are unlikely to gain any sympathy for the area when all the other parliamentarians are in the chamber fighting their own corners.

“By your actions you have made it clear to everyone that you see your future outside of politics.”

On November 12, The Telegraph gave the previous day’s I’m a Celebrity … instalment three out of five stars. The other contestants grilled Hancock on his pandemic policies. Hancock pleaded for forgiveness:

On I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! (ITV), the skiving MP was voted by viewers to face his third Bushtucker Trial in as many days. This looks set to become a nightly occurrence.

Hancock’s latest challenge was this year’s first eating trial: “La Cucaracha Cafe”, a Mexican-themed dinner-à-deux with campmate Boy George.

For pudding, Hancock got a long overdue grilling about his pandemic blunders and wound up weeping for forgiveness. This was the much-maligned minister’s day of reckoning and the reason ITV gambled on signing him up. They will surely be rewarded with big ratings and copious column inches …

When he trotted out the same “falling in love” excuse, newsreader Charlene White rightly gave him short shrift: “My aunt died from Covid in the first wave. We couldn’t visit her in hospital. I had to sit by myself at her funeral. We couldn’t hug each other because we were following guidance. I get that you fell in love but for a lot of families like mine, sorry doesn’t really cut it.”

When White tackled him on PPE procurement and the care homes fiasco, you could almost hear viewers nationwide cheering her on. Referring to the impending public inquiry, England Lioness Jill Scott wondered whether “Bushtucker Trials are practice for your big trial”. DJ Chris Moyles was more succinct, calling Hancock a “b***end”.

Hancock eventually admitted: “What I’m really looking for is a bit of forgiveness.” When he became tearful – marginally more believably than when he pretended to blub on breakfast TV – White surprised herself by hugging him. Moyles was less convinced: “He’s pulled the mask slightly off his chin but I still think he’s not telling us the full truth.” The majority at home were equally unmoved by Hancock’s brazen bid for sympathy …

Just 18 months since he resigned in disgrace, Hancock trousering £400,000 for larking around on a light entertainment show left a sour taste in many mouths. At least Friday night’s bestial buffet was equally tough to stomach. That campfire interrogation also made for vital viewing. Nearly three years since the start of the pandemic, it’s high time that politicians were answerable to the people who lived through their failures. Strange how it happened 9,000 miles away on reality TV but these are the times we live in.

On November 13, The Sunday Times told us more about the decisions behind Hancock’s appearance in Australia:

When Matt Hancock eventually leaves the I’m A Celebrity … jungle, his girlfriend, Gina Coladangelo, will be waiting for him on the TV show’s wooden bridge.

The former health secretary has said that seeing her will be the “best thing about being kicked out”, but friends say he also sought her public relations wisdom before agreeing to appear on the ITV show. “He consulted her at length,” said a friend of the couple. “They are very much a team.”

Before he entered the jungle, Hancock, MP for West Suffolk, sought the advice of his family, friends, his Westminster staff and colleagues, although sources say he kept the circle tight to prevent the news leaking.

“I told him there were pros and cons to it, and it basically depended on what he wanted to do career-wise over the next decade,” said a friend he consulted in the summer. “If he wanted to climb the greasy pole, play the Westminster game, sit around waiting for a call to be a cabinet minister again, and otherwise just be a Tory backbencher for the next 20 years, that he shouldn’t do it.

“But if he wanted a platform to engage with millions of viewers, push a lot of the campaigns he cares about, show what he’s actually like as a person, and didn’t mind probably not serving in government again, then it could be a good opportunity … It was obviously very high risk.”

Friends say Hancock, 44, was torn. When he was forced to resign as health secretary in June 2021, he told acquaintances that he was expecting to be back in the cabinet “by Christmas”. While that did not happen, friends say he still believed he could be back on the front bench one day. He turned down the show twice before agreeing to take part

sources close to Hancock say his children were keen for him to go on the show, and he was there to raise awareness of dyslexia

On that night’s episode, viewers voted Hancock in as camp leader. The Guardian reported:

Matt Hancock has said being voted leader of the I’m a Celebrity campsite “more than makes up for” losing the 2019 Tory party leadership election.

Talk about selling one’s soul for a mess of pottage!

There was more:

Sunday’s episode of I’m A Celebrity saw Hancock receive enough votes from the public to enter a head-to-head with former England rugby star Mike Tindall for control of the campsite …

After their win, Hancock said: “Obviously, it’s a great honour and privilege to be camp leader. I want to thank everybody who voted for me.”

[Fellow contestant Christine] White said: “Does this win feel sweet, especially after you lost to Boris? Do you feel like you have been vindicated?” Prompting him to reply: “This more than makes up for it.”

On November 15, Guido kept his readers up to date. The previous day — Day 6 — Hancock was in a snake-filled coffin and had to:

hunt for keys in the dark to unlock stars … He managed a middling 7 of 11, though did stay surprisingly calm considering snakes had been one of his major fears. To be fair, as an MP he should be used to snake-infested spaces.

Meanwhile, back home, The Telegraph reported on the complaints flooding in to Kathryn Stone, the Parliamentary standards commissioner:

Rules for MPs would need to be changed to investigate Matt Hancock’s I’m A Celebrity appearance, the standards commissioner said on Tuesday, despite suggesting he had brought the Commons “into disrepute”.

Kathryn Stone, who will step aside from her post in January, revealed her office received dozens of complaints about Mr Hancock, the former health secretary who lost the Tory whip after flying to Australia to take part in the ITV reality show.

But Ms Stone admitted it was not something she had the power to investigate, adding his appearance had raised “really important questions” about the activities of parliamentarians.

“There is no job description for MPs but we have to think very carefully about the conflict between public and private interests, about bringing the House into disrepute, and so on,” she told the standards committee …

She recalled one member of the public who contrasted “the dignity of veterans on Remembrance Sunday with a former secretary of state”, and said Mr Hancock’s “buffet of animal genitalia” during an eating challenge prompted them to question the dignity of public office.

It came as Rishi Sunak condemned Mr Hancock for his I’m A Celebrity stint, telling reporters at the G20: “I think politics at its best can and should be actually quite noble.

“Everyone is going to do it in a slightly different way but I think it’s important that we have our constituents and our country and the forefront of what we do when we go around our day-to-day lives.”

On November 16, Guido told us that on Day 7, Hancock discussed politics but not dyslexia, as promised:

In a first for Matt’s time in the jungle, he hasn’t had to do the daily trial, and he’s certainly been making the most of his free time. Not only did he wake up well rested, he found the time to have his say on Westminster politics. Matt revealed he had called Boris as he was mulling another stab at the leadership, urging him to hold off and “back Rishi”. He also said Liz’s [Truss’s] political career was “totally finished… no ambiguity at all”. That makes two of them.

… At least one public servant is enjoying himself while the country suffers double-digit inflation. With all this free time on his hands, you’d think he might have mentioned his dyslexia campaign. Alas, no.

On Friday, November 18, The Times said that Hancock shared a beach barbecue reward with another contestant. He was also getting on Boy George’s nerves:

While on the other side of the world Jeremy Hunt delivered his autumn statement, attempting to sort out the nation’s dire economic situation, Matt Hancock was sipping drinks on a beach, one of three lucky contestants in I’m a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here! to be flown by helicopter to enjoy a barbecue.

The former health secretary was gloriously oblivious of his colleague’s plans to confront the nation’s woes

Ofcom said on Wednesday it had received 1,968 complaints about the ITV show, with about 1,100 people protesting about Hancock being in the jungle. Other viewers expressed concerns about his treatment by other contestants …

On Wednesday viewers saw Boy George, 61, the pop singer, become increasingly frustrated with his camp mates. He appeared to be irritated by a growing friendship between Hancock and Scarlette Douglas, the property expert.

Guido also recapped the episode — Day 9 — noting the absence of the dyslexia campaign:

… Hancock received the privilege of a surf and turf barbecue, which he described as “one of the best meals of your life”. The experience was won in a lucky dip at the expense of his campmates, who plotted in his absence. Finally, Hancock sung his heart out to some pop classics with his campmates around the fire. Matt’s now showcased his singing ability three times on the show. His dyslexia campaign… not once.

Guido also featured Hancock’s tweet urging viewers to vote for him:

On Saturday, November 19, one of Hancock’s former special advisers (Spads), Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, wrote a puff piece for The Times on how great it was working for him. I’ll let readers delve into it for themselves. Was this product placement? One wonders.

On November 20 — Day 11 — Hancock was still surviving the jungle. He mentioned dyslexia for the first time. He also received a letter from his girlfriend.

On November 22 — Day 13 — Hancock outlasted Boy George, but the two sang a duet together beforehand:

On Day 15, November 24, Hancock saw off DJ Chris Moyles. Guido commented:

His constituents must surely agree that would make up for his dereliction of duty as their Member of Parliament…

Hancock ended up being one of the finalists on the last episode, broadcast on Sunday, November 27:

Guido said:

Fair play Matt, it was a surprisingly decent run. Now get back to Blighty and do your job…

Incredibly, Hancock outlasted rugby player Mike Tindall, Princess Anne’s son-in-law. Hollyoaks actor Owen Warner came second and England Lioness Jill Scott won the contest: Queen of the Jungle. It is fitting that she did win, given that the Lionesses won the UEFA — European — Women’s Championship on July 31, the first time England won a major football championship since the 1966 World Cup.

Gina was there to meet her beau.

The Telegraph told us how Hancock’s 21 days in the jungle boosted ratings and changed his perception among the public:

ITV pulled off a coup by signing up the controversial minister. The broadcaster has been amply rewarded for its gamble. Hancock made this series far more talked about than usual. Ratings rose from 8m to 11m. It’s been a resounding return to form for the khaki-clad franchise.

In the process, Hancock went from whipping boy to team player. His success can be seen as two fingers up to the bullies and backbiters, humanising him more than anyone thought possible.

Another Telegraph article reported that Transport Secretary Mark Harper still thought Hancock’s participation was wrong:

Mr Hancock recognised entering the I’m A Celebrity jungle was “controversial” as a former health secretary and MP while Parliament is sitting after leaving the jungle.

He told I’m A Celebrity presenters Ant and Dec: “I know that it was controversial me coming here, I know some people said people in your position shouldn’t put themselves in embarrassing situations.

“But we’re all human and we all put ourselves in it.”

He stressed: “We are normal people.”

It comes after cabinet minister Mark Harper said Mr Hancock should not have gone into the jungle – regardless of how well he did.

The former chief whip told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “If you are a member of Parliament and Parliament is sitting, I think your job is to be representing your constituents, either in your constituency or in Parliament. I don’t think serving members of Parliament should be taking part in reality television programmes.

“However well they do on them, I still think they should be doing the job for which they are paid a good salary – which is representing their constituents.”

Good man.

Unfortunately, that same day, Conservative MP Theresa Villiers told Sophy Ridge of her votes for Hancock (video here).

On Monday, November 28, The Times featured another puff piece about Hancock’s humanity and brilliance. Again, I leave that for readers to decide and wonder if it was a second PR-instigated article.

That day, his Pandemic Diaries, co-authored with the aforementioned Isabel Oakeshott, was on Amazon’s best seller list. Guido revealed that the Mail would be serialising it.

However, that day, storm clouds were brewing.

Guido revealed that Hancock’s people denied that he would be leaving Parliament to pursue life as a celebrity:

This morning, his team is having to firefight allegations from The Sun that he’s planning on leaving politics to pursue celebritydom. The paper’s morning splash reports that Gina contacted “PR pal Mayah Riaz” last week to discuss “a change of career for him… They’re aware they need to act fast and capitalise on the huge interest in him post-jungle.” In response his team shot out a denial:

… They added: “Gina hasn’t even heard of Mayah Riaz”. 

For good measure, Guido asked his office if they could provide a precise date when he’d be back. Apparently, it’s up in the air at the moment. Though his dyslexia bill – of which he made no mention during his stint in the jungle – is up for its second reading on Friday…

Deeper trouble came from Newmarket, the famous racing town in his West Suffolk constituency. The Times reported:

Newmarket town council voted last night officially to call for Hancock to resign. Twelve councillors backed the motion for him to resign, one abstained, and none voted against.

A spokesman for the West Suffolk Conservative Association said: “We are still waiting to hear from Matthew Hancock. There is increasing disappointment about the situation”

A West Suffolk source told The Times: “There would appear to be effectively no support for him to remain as a MP. I think if I put it this way, if you look up the definition of narcissist . . . it’s been endless publicity of the things he has done. It’s about living up to responsibilities, doing the right thing.”

Hancock still had (and has) the Conservative whip suspended. Even his fellow Conservative MP, Business Secretary Grant Shapps, put the boot in:

Grant Shapps, the business secretary, said yesterday it would be “for the whips to decide what to do”. He told Times Radio: “Why would you go off and spend all that time in the jungle if you were going to carry on in parliament? I’m only speculating.”

He added: “I think he may therefore have come to the conclusion that his parliamentary career is pretty much done.”

December 2022

On Thursday, December 1, things were becoming painfully clear about Matt Hancock’s future.

Early that morning, the Mail reported:

Matt Hancock ‘underestimated’ the scale of the backlash at his decision to star on I’m A Celebrity, his girlfriend Gina Coladangelo will say today … 

During the post-series Coming Out Show today, he will be seen exiting the campsite to be reunited with his partner and attending a wrap party. 

The episode also sees Ms Coladangelo saying: ‘I think it’s fair to say that Matt underestimated the scale of the reaction to him coming into the jungle

Sir Desmond Swayne, an MP I’d previously highly respected, lauded his colleague in Parliament that day for his ‘sheer spunk’ in the jungle and appealed for the Conservative whip to be restored (video here).

Hancock graced the House of Commons on Friday, December 2, to put forward his Private Members Bill on dyslexia (video here). It was the third bill of the day, prompting Deputy Speaker of the House Nigel Evans to quip:

The third Bill of the day and I know that Mr. Hancock, you appear to be making a habit of coming third these days.

There seemed to be good news on Wednesday, December 7, when Guido received the text of Hancock’s letter saying he would stand down at the next general election:

As one would expect, it’s a lengthy letter. Here are the opening and closing paragraphs (emphases Guido’s):

I am writing to tell you that I do not intend to stand for the Conservatives at the next General Election. I am very grateful for my conversation with the Chief Whip last week, in which he made clear he would restore the whip in due course, but that is now not necessary.

It has been an honour to serve in Parliament and represent the people of West Suffolk. I will play my part in the debate about the future of our country and engage with the public in new ways.

Shortly afterwards, Conservative MPs snubbed him as he sat down for PMQs. Guido’s Simon Carr has the report:

He turned into the fourth bench up, and began the long trek across to an open seat at the end. Sidling, he touched knees and patted the backs of the locals, the indigenous representatives. Some looked up and others didn’t. One or two spoke to him. What were they saying? They’re politicians so it will have been different from what they were thinking. That can only have been: “What on earth are you doing here, you nob? This bench is for Conservative MPs. You lost the whip. You’re not one of us. You don’t exist.”

When Matt got to the furthest space above the gangway he stopped and squeezed himself in beside actual Conservative MPs. One of them, James Gray, didn’t look up from his phone. As far as it’s possible to do while sitting down, Gray turned his back on the interloper, the migrant, the illegal alien.

Hancock smiled, he beamed, he laughed it all off. In his mind, he was blending back in. Acting as if nothing was out of the ordinary, that he had never been away. That being thought of as a nob was actually a compliment.

The great thing about celebrity is that being thought of as a nob counts as recognition, and recognition is the only currency of that happy land. Alas, it is not negotiable coin in the tropical Commons. He was, as far as decently possible, ignored.

Unfortunately, for those of us who want to see the back of Matt Hancock sooner rather than later, that afternoon his team denied that his letter announcing he would stand down had any merit.

Guido explained:

… A close ally of Hancock tells Guido:

This letter is irrelevant. It hasn’t been sent on behalf of the Association, and the chief whip told Matt he was going to get the whip back. Matt had already decided not to stand again when it came to light.

In theory, a no-confidence vote would need to come after an executive council meeting, rather than an Officers’ Group. Guido understands that Hancock’s decision to step down in 2024 doesn’t change the government’s existing line that any decision to return the whip is still entirely within the gift of Simon Hart, something a source refused to deny could still happen. Bizarrely, he could still return to the parliamentary party within the next two years… even with senior members of his own association declaring him unfit for the job.

It would be salutary for everyone in the UK if Hancock’s local Conservative Association keeps piling on the pressure for him to resign. We can cope with another by-election, even if the Conservative candidate loses to a Lib Dem, a possible outcome.

Matt Hancock is not fit for public office. As for what he did to us during the pandemic, well, I don’t have the words for what I’d like to see happen to him in terms of justice.

End of series

My most recent post discussed Liz Truss’s commitment to libertarianism and the part she played in her own downfall.

At the end, I mused whether she would still be in office were she a man. Having thought about it some more, I do believe that would have been the case. Truss has better morals than Boris Johnson and more integrity than Rishi Sunak. Furthermore, she is far more trustworthy than our de facto Prime Minister, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt. She has flaws. They have flaws.

It is curious that all of them, men, are given a pass. Truss, an honest woman, was not afforded that opportunity.

Let us look at who was out to finish Liz Truss’s premiership.

The media

During the summer Conservative Party leadership campaign, most papers — right and left — came out in favour of Rishi Sunak.

Only the Daily Mail and The Telegraph consistently supported Truss. Truss also saw The Sun as a friendly paper, particularly its political editor Harry Cole.

Broadcast media also largely favoured Sunak. Only GB News supported Truss for the most part.

Why that was is unclear.

One could point to Truss’s U-turns, evident as soon as the leadership campaign for Party members’ votes started, but most of the media — print and broadcast — were already in the tank for Sunak when Conservative MPs were still voting in July.

On November 16, veteran columnist Andrew Gimson wrote about the media outlets covering Parliament, known as the ‘lobby’: ‘Lobby journalism holds power to account. But it’s often cruel, trivial — and unfair’.

Guido Fawkes liked what he had to say:

Gimson’s article for ConservativeHome discussed the attacks on other Conservative ministers in Rishi Sunak’s Cabinet. Suella Braverman, Home Secretary once again, is one of them and Justice Secretary/Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab is another.

Gimson says that journalists find their witch hunts as exhiliarating as blood sports (emphases mine):

Hunting is reckoned to improve the health of the fox population.

That is not, however, why people want to hunt them. They yearn to do so because it is a wonderful, exhilarating sport.

Forget for a moment any impulse to moralise. High-minded theories are all very well. Politics as actually practised is a blood sport.

Dominic Raab, Gavin Williamson and Suella Braverman are or were the most recent quarry, closely preceded by Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng, before which a blond beast rampaged across the political landscape for three years with excited members of the Westminster lobby in close pursuit.

Four of the six were hunted down, while Raab and Braverman have so far (with intermissions) survived, but might at any moment find themselves once more in mortal danger.

The lobby is trained and ready at a moment’s notice to follow any scent, no matter how faint, rival correspondents for different newspapers acting as a pack of hounds, each leaping at whichever politician is the hunted animal, drawing blood and emboldening the others to fresh frenzies of aggression …

It is impossible, if one is a lobby correspondent at Westminster, to stand aside from the full-blown crisis which rages, and any case, few experiences are more exhilarating than to be in at the death of a Prime Minister.

Every journalist, indeed everyone in the slightest bit interested in politics, will remember the first time he or she witnessed such a drama: in my case I was lucky enough in November 1990 to be in the Press Gallery to watch the fatal resignation speech delivered by Sir Geoffrey Howe, and 19 days later was in the crammed Committee Corridor on the evening it was announced amid almost unbearable excitement that Margaret Thatcher had fallen four votes – four votes! – short of beating Michael Heseltine by the necessary margin in the first round.

Such crises becomes all-consuming. You surrender yourself to the experience, and nothing else seems to matter. If you are a reporter, your news editor and editor demand constant reports from the front, and you want to distinguish yourself by revealing dramatic new charges, whether solid or flimsy, against the embattled minister, rather than just repeating what your rivals have said.

Such work requires the ruthless expertise to spot in an instant the two or three words in some dreary speech or answer which can be held to constitute a new development. The lobby are brilliant at this: they see the new angle, the incriminating admission, where a normal person would notice nothing.

News becomes an artificial commodity, an esoteric language only comprehensible to highly intelligent and practised correspondents, who translate it into the latest thrilling episode of a story which is intelligible to the dimmest of us, for it is as old as history: will the ruler live or die?

This question of life and death simplifies everything, and lends it a personal flavour. Does one like the look of whichever minister is just then being hunted, and hope he or she will get away? Or would one much rather see him or her bumped off?

The tyranny of the story extends to the comment pages. Leading articles and columns are written for or against the hunted person, most likely against, for it is much easier to write a vivid piece denouncing a politician for being disreputable than to compose a vivid defence.

In order to purify public life, the offending minister must be drummed out of it. Nothing which might serve this noble end is too cruel to be said; too piffling to be taken down and repeated.

Let the victim and his or her family cope as best they can. It would be wrong to spare them the full blast of public disgust. We find ourselves in a primitive world where human sacrifice is demanded; not in a rational one where events can be weighed and assigned their due importance, or unimportance

There is a deep satisfaction to be derived from getting rid of a Prime Minister, so deep that we have in recent years got rid of three. For a short time, very short in the case of Liz Truss, we allow them to triumph, before restoring equality, for which all democracies have a deep yearning, by dragging them down with brutal abruptness to our own level …

What the lobby does, or helps Conservative politicians to do, is the modern version of an ancient and savage tradition. All else is forgotten while the tribe slays its chief.

And no tribe is better at slaying its chiefs than the Conservative Party.

Afterwards, some enemies of the prey express their empathy for the slain, such as Jenny Murray did for Truss on October 27 in The Mail. Murray’s headline read ‘I never expected to feel sorry for Liz Truss’ and, upon closer inspection, she doesn’t really feel sorry at all. She uses the piece to lick her own wounds after retiring from the BBC at the age of 70:

I was not sorry to see her go. Her short time in power was a disaster.

I’d known her professionally for a good few years and had often found her a bit weird with her oddly truncated speech patterns, bizarre facial expressions and apparent lack of emotional intelligence. She was no public speaker and I certainly never saw her as Prime Ministerial material.

In that I was right, but despite her self-serving, unapologetic final speech and her typically arrogant and selfish, ‘Well at least I’ve been Prime Minister!’ goodbye, I can’t help sympathising with what she has to face next.

As an ordinary constituency MP, she’ll join what I have dubbed, from bitter personal experience, the ‘Once I Was Hot, But Now I’m Not,’ club. I know she’ll be asking herself, ‘Who am I now?’

It’s two years since I left the job that defined me for 33 years. I was Jenni Murray, presenter of Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.

It had been my greatest ambition since childhood. I’d presented Newsnight and Today, but the moment I heard the announcer first say on Monday, September 14, 1987, ‘And now Woman’s Hour, with Jenni Murray’ remains the most thrilling of my life.

I loved every minute of those 33 years and, unlike Liz Truss, I was not forced out of my position (though even when you leave a top job of your own volition, it doesn’t stop others speculating). I made the choice to leave as my 70th birthday came and went.

So, nothing like Liz Truss after all. The rest of Murray’s lengthy column is all about herself. Sickening.

On a positive note, I was surprised to read that Andrew Neil, normally a supporter of the status quo, supported Truss and Kwarteng’s mini-budget just after it was announced in Parliament:

After 12 years of Tory government we finally get a Tory budget. Yesterday’s not-so-mini-budget was a watershed event, taking the country in a new economic direction and creating clear blue water between government and opposition.

The Tory faithful couldn’t quite believe it. Labour struggled to grapple with its implications. The political dividing lines will now be starker and fiercer than they’ve been for a generation.

No more tax rises by stealth (or, more recently, in plain sight). Or endless, futile tinkering with the minutiae of spending and taxation to give voters a false impression of constructive activity. Or the relentless doling out of taxpayers’ dosh to whatever fashionable vested interests managed to catch ministers’ attention.

Instead, Prime Minister Liz Truss and her Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, junked all of that in favour of one overriding economic priority: higher economic growth. Many of the verities of Britain’s economic establishment have been slaughtered in the process

Scrapping next April’s planned rise in corporation tax (on businesses’ profits) won’t win any popularity contests outside company boardrooms. But an essential part of Britain’s post-Brexit future is surely to be a magnet for foreign investment. Whacking up the country’s key business tax was a strange way of going about it

New ways require new justifications. The Treasury estimates that abolishing the 45 per cent top rate of income tax will cost £2 billion a year.

This is a typically static official calculation. If it results in more top earners declaring their income in Britain, then it could soon more than pay for itself.

Ditto bankers’ bonuses. The cap is a relic of EU regulation. Banks simply increased pay to compensate for reduced bonuses, thereby making their compensation costs more fixed and less flexible.

Frankfurt, Paris and Amsterdam have tried hard to lure our financial services away from the City since Brexit, with only limited success. Bonuses in those centres are still capped. London now has the advantage.

And, remember, with the new top rate of tax at an internationally competitive 40 per cent, every £1 million banker’s bonus is £400,000 more for schools and hospitals

for more than a decade now I’ve watched chancellors take tough, painful decisions on tax and spending based on OBR borrowing forecasts that turned out to be huge over-estimates, so much so that in retrospect neither the tax rises nor spending cuts were necessary.

Indeed, as Truss attempts to take the country in a new, less orthodox direction, I’d argue that it’s a blessing that she’s been able to do so unencumbered by the OBR’s dubious forecasting.

We’ll get the OBR’s latest workings in two months anyway, when it might have a better idea of what 2023 will look like. Nor are we entirely in the dark. The Treasury says the tax cuts and energy price cap measures will increase borrowing this year from £162 billion to £234 billion — an extra £72 billion.

The IFS thinks we’ll still be borrowing £100 billion a year through the middle years of the decade.

These figures have spooked the markets. The pound continued its decline against the dollar after Kwarteng’s statement and the yield (or interest rate) on short-term government debt rose to close to 4 per cent, making it a lot more expensive to borrow than only two years ago, when it was 0.4 per cent.

These are real constraints on the Government’s ability to borrow even more. A falling pound merely fuels inflation, especially when it comes to imported energy, which is priced in dollars.

Interest rates are already rising. If excessive government borrowing forces them even higher, that will merely choke off the economic growth the Government so desperately seeks.

There’s another factor at work here. The global currency and debt markets have had a ‘down’ on Britain for some time. It’s not clear why. Britain’s debt-to-GDP ratio is among the lowest in the G7 club of big economies. Our budget deficit is on a par with many other major economies. Economic growth is anaemic — as it is everywhere, from the Eurozone to America to China.

I suspect it’s a Brexit hangover. The publications global market players read most closely include the New York Times, the Economist, the Financial Times and leading European papers such as Le Monde and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. All — and others like them — have been relentlessly negative about Britain since the 2016 referendum

It is said she’s taking a great gamble. That’s true. But sticking with the failed policies of the recent past was probably an even a bigger gamble. The stakes are certainly high.

If by this time next year the economy is still in the doldrums, then it’s not just Truss who will be finished. So will any prospect of the Tories winning the next election.

Read it and weep. We are back to square one.

There is much that the media didn’t tell us about the global picture of economic pandemonium.

Early in the week following Kwarteng’s mini-budget, US mortgage rates went up to 7%:

The EU’s average deficit is worse than the UK’s:

https://image.vuukle.com/9b30bb2c-838f-44c2-bf35-a8380d75711b-80a8ed1b-f697-4bc1-bc25-d18521aa563f

At the end of October, by which time Truss had gone, inflation in the Euro zone increased to 10.7% as growth slowed:

At the beginning of November, a Fed hike caused sterling to trade below £1.13 against the dollar:

And, finally, within three weeks of becoming Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak made new spending commitments, pledging billions to the world. This graphic appeared on November 7:

https://image.vuukle.com/afdabdfb-de55-452b-b000-43e4d45f1094-6f3d3b31-5e82-478e-b97c-3802370621e8

Objection from the media came none.

Conservative MPs

On October 20, in the immediate aftermath of Truss’s stoic resignation, The Sun gave us the reaction from three Conservative MPs:

Responding to today’s bombshell announcement, former minister and Red Wall poster boy Neil O’Brien tweeted: “The next PM must return to the national conservatism represented by our election winning 2019 manifesto and put us back on the side of normal working people.”

If anyone was going to have done that, it would have been Truss, for whom Party members voted in the majority. Sunak and Hunt certainly aren’t on the side of ‘normal working people’: tax ’em until the pips squeak.

Next up was Steve Baker, now an apologetic Northern Ireland Minister:

Brexit hardman Steve Baker urged colleagues that whatever the result, “we must accept and back the new Prime Minister”.

Millions of us wish he had shown the same allegiance towards Truss.

The only one to say anything complimentary was Greg Hands, who served as an International Trade Minister:

He said:

A dignified exit as Prime Minister from Liz Truss. A difficult day for the country, the Party and for Liz personally.

She wasn’t long as PM, but served at the Cabinet table longer than any of her three predecessors. She has long served the country – and I wish her very well.

At least Truss wasn’t removed from the top table Chinese-style:

On October 27, one week after Truss’s resignation, The Telegraph‘s Matthew Lynn said that backbench Conservatives just could not bring themselves to support Truss’s economic plan, which Kwasi Kwarteng fronted.

In other words, Conservative MPs shy away from libertarianism, even though I think it would do the UK a lot of good:

The timing, to put it mildly, was unfortunate. It was a difficult transformation to pull off at the best of times, but against the backdrop of rising inflation and an out-of-control dollar, it was doubly difficult. 

Truss’s programme did not have the necessary support within the Parliamentary Conservative Party either. Massive opposition from Labour, the Scottish Nationalists, and the Twitter mob was to be expected. 

But very few MPs were willing to support the plan, and without that backing it was always going to be hard to push through. Even before it got on to the genuinely difficult stuff – investment zones, planning reform, the green belt – the opposition was overwhelming. 

The Bank of England

Matthew Lynn points the finger of blame at the Bank of England (BoE):

the real failure of Trussonmics may well have been the fault of the Bank of England. As Narayana Kocherlakota, a former President of the Minneapolis Fed, and now Professor of Economics at New York’s Rochester University, argued in an opinion piece for Bloomberg this week, it was the Bank’s failure to support the gilt market that killed the plan

“The way the Truss government collapsed should concern all who support democracy,” he warned. 

In his Bloomberg article of October 26, Narayana Kocherlakota defended Truss and criticised the BoE:

Markets didn’t oust Truss, the Bank of England did — through poor financial regulation and highly subjective crisis management.

Truss won the leadership of the Conservative Party, which the UK electorate had voted into power, by promising a range of deep tax cuts and government spending increases. Whatever one might think of her policies, they were her mandate. I agree with the many observers who expected them to lead to higher inflation, higher interest rates and quite possibly higher unemployment. But such adverse outcomes take months and years to play out. Her government fell in a matter of weeks. How could this happen?

The common wisdom is that financial markets “punished” Truss’s government for its fiscal profligacy. But the chastisement was far from universal. Over the three days starting Sept. 23, when the Truss government announced its mini-budget, the pound fell by 2.2% relative to the euro, and the FTSE 100 stock index declined by 2.2% — notable movements, but hardly enough to bring a government to its knees.

The big change came in the price of 30-year UK government bonds, also known as gilts, which experienced a shocking 23% drop. Most of this decline had nothing to do with rational investors revising their beliefs about the UK’s long-run prospects. Rather, it stemmed from financial regulators’ failure to limit leverage in UK pension funds. These funds had bought long-term gilts with borrowed money and entered derivative contracts to the same effect — positions that generated huge collateral demands when prices fell and yields rose. To raise the necessary cash, they had to sell more gilts, creating a doom loop in which declining prices and forced selling compounded one another.

The Bank of England, as the entity responsible for overseeing the financial system, bears at least part of the blame for this catastrophe. As a result of its regulatory failure, it was forced into an emergency intervention, buying gilts to put a floor on prices. But it refused to extend its support beyond Oct. 14 — even though its purchases of long-term government bonds were fully indemnified by the Treasury. It’s hard to see how that decision aligned with the central bank’s financial-stability mandate, and easy to see how it contributed to the government’s demise.

The way the Truss government collapsed should concern all who support democracy. The prime minister was seeking to fulfill her campaign promises. She was thwarted not by markets, but by a hole in financial regulation — a hole that the Bank of England proved strangely unwilling to plug.

Two days before Truss resigned, Daniel Lacalle wrote an article for Mises Wire: ‘The Bank of England Made Liz Truss a Scapegoat’.

Lacalle points out that economic turmoil was worldwide, something not reported widely in the British media. No surprise there:

I find it astonishing that not one of the so-called experts that have immediately placed the cause of the British market volatility on Liz Truss’s budget have said anything about the collapse of the yen and the need for Bank of Japan intervention, which has been ongoing for two weeks.

Why did so many people assume the Truss minibudget was the cause of volatility when the euro, the yen, the Norwegian krone, and most emerging market currencies have suffered a similar or worse depreciation versus the US dollar this year? What about the bond market? This is the worst year since 1931 for bonds all over the world, and the collapse in prices of sovereign and private bonds in developed and emerging market economies is strikingly similar as those of the UK fixed income peers.

He blames British pension funds’ liability-driven investing (LDI) strategies on the abuse of quantitative easing (QE) over the years. Who was in charge of that? The BoE.

Lacalle wrote while Truss was still Prime Minister:

British pension funds are not selling sovereign bonds because of lack of trust in this or another government’s budget. They are selling negative-yielding sovereign bonds because they jumped wholeheartedly into the debt bubble created by artificially cheap money believing that central banks would keep fixed income prices elevated with constant repurchases.

British pension funds’ unfunded liabilities are not a problem caused by the mini budget nor solely a UK problem. It was an enormous problem in 2019–20 disguised by insane currency printing. Unfunded global liabilities for state pension funds in the US were already $783 billion in 2021 and rose to $1.3 trillion in 2022 according to Reason Foundation. The funded ratio of state pensions was just 85 percent in 2021 and has fallen below 75 percent in 2022.

What happened in the years of negative rates and massive currency printing? Pension funds used liability-driven investing (LDI) strategies. Most LDI mandates used derivatives to hedge inflation and interest rate risk. And what happens when inflation kicks in and rates rise? “As interest rates have risen, the notional value of some of the derivatives held in LDI portfolios has fallen. The result: increased collateral calls. The speed at which rates have risen means some pension plans have had to liquidate portfolios to meet collateral calls” according to the Investment Association’s latest report in September and Brian Croce at Pensions and Investment.

The total assets in LDI strategies almost quadrupled to £1.6 trillion ($1.8 trillion) in the ten years through 2021. Nearly two-thirds of Britain’s defined benefit pension schemes use LDI funds, according to TPR and Reuters. Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng are not to blame for this insanity. The policy of negative real rates and massive liquidity injection of the Bank of England is. Kwarteng and Truss are only to blame for believing that the party of policies of spending and printing defended by almost all mainstream Keynesian economists should work even when the music stopped

Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng are not to blame for the insanity of the past years or Rishi Sunak’s ultra-Keynesian budgets. They are only to blame for believing that another dose of Keynesian deficit insanity would not harm.

Mr. Kwarteng’s demise is just a casualty delivered by the modern monetary theory crowd and the monetary laughing gas city to justify that the problem was a ludicrous tax cut not years of currency printing and deficit increases.

What has happened in the UK or Japan is likely to happen soon in the eurozone, which accumulated more than twelve billion euro of negative-yielding bonds in the years of cheap money and reckless stimulus plans.

Liz Truss is not to blame for twenty years of monetary insanity and fiscal irresponsibility. She is to blame for a budget that increases spending without cutting unnecessary expenses.

The irony of it all is that the defenders of monster deficits and borrowing if it comes from bloating the size of government feel vindicated. It was the evil tax cuts!

The political analysis of the mini budget is astonishing. No one in the UK parliament sees any need to cut spending it seems, yet those expenses are consolidated and annualized, which means that any change in the economic cycle leads to larger fiscal imbalances as receipts are cyclical and, with it, more currency printing. The assumption that raising taxes will generate perennial annual increases in receipts no matter what happens to the economic cycle can only be defended by a bureaucrat.

Well, Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt are those bureaucrats.

There are global players in pension fund management, BlackRock being one of them, as The Conservative Woman revealed on October 27:

BlackRock is heavily involved in the charity sector, managing over £4.5billion for more than 3,000 UK charities alone. ‘Sustainability’, food security and renewable energy rank very highly in their priorities in that sector.

The role of BlackRock in the recent selling off of derivatives by UK pension funds, said to be behind the triggering of a fall in sterling following the ill-fated Kwasi Kwarteng mini-Budget, is an intriguing one. BlackRock executives would defend their actions by stating they were merely protecting clients who were financially overcommitted in that sector and that pension fund managers ought to have known the risks involved in leveraged investment strategies in the first place, and that there is far more to that type of riskier investment than just following trends. Either way the political fallout was profound, triggering a chain of events which led to the fall of Prime Minister Liz Truss. BlackRock executive defends pensions strategy that fuelled UK crisis

Interestingly, Jeremy Hunt has appointed a BlackRock executive who is pro-Net Zero and anti-Brexit as one of his chief advisers:

A business with the financial resources of BlackRock will naturally attract well-connected people to its payroll. People such as Rupert Harrison, chief of staff to Chancellor George Osborne from 2006 to 2015. An opponent of Brexit, he tweeted in July 2017 that ‘the rest of Europe is booming and we’re not’.

Intriguingly, Harrison is now one of new Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s most senior advisers. On the surface, Hunt seemed to have been parachuted in from nowhere, having failed in two leadership elections and spending more than two years on the back benches, yet from the moment he was appointed he already had a highly expert team, including Harrison, ready to start at once and acting promptly with great self-assurance as though he knew he already had the backing of those who really matter.

However, Conservative Party members are unhappy with Hunt and Sunak’s economic policy based on higher taxes, which are, in reality, much higher than they read on paper. This poll is from November 29:

Guido Fawkes wrote (emphases his):

The Tory membership doesn’t support their own government’s economic policy, according to the latest Conservative Home panel poll. Opposition stands at 48.78% and support at 41.87%. 9.35% don’t know. 

It can’t come as much surprise. As Rishi’s supporters point out, he was warning of the consequences of Liz Truss’s policies during the summer contest, and the membership still voted for Liz’s low tax package. Support at 41.87 is actually 0.8% lower than Rishi received from the members during the summer…

Let us return to the BoE.

In the December 2022/January 2023 issue of The Critic, Jon Moynihan published ‘How the Bank broke the Government’, which refers to Narayana Kocherlakota’s aforementioned article for Bloomberg and expands on the use of LDIs in pension fund management:

Kocherlakota’s view was that the Bank of England was responsible for the crisis, through “poor financial regulation and highly subjective crisis management”. Outside the UK chatterati, this view is widely supported.

The beef against the mini-budget was that it spooked the market. But virtually all of the policy announcements made by Kwasi Kwarteng on the day were not new; they had been pledged during the Truss campaign or — in the case of the energy price guarantee — confirmed shortly after her arrival in Downing Street

Sure, the mini-budget stated that clarifying how all the spending/lowered tax revenue would be paid for was to be put off until the later financial statement, due some weeks later. But the only new thing was the change to the top rate of income tax from 45 per cent to 40 per cent

Given the well-known dynamic impact of lowered tax rates, this change would arguably have been revenue neutral or even beneficial; even without any dynamic benefit, it could have cost at most £2 billion in tax revenue. That is a rounding error compared to the amounts already absorbed by the market and a fraction of the costs Rishi Sunak has accepted at COP 27 — to which the markets have reacted entirely complacently. It is just not credible to blame the mini-budget for the market turmoil.

Moynihan explains more about how LDIs work:

The prime obligation of a pension fund is to match its assets (the money it uses to make payments) to its liabilities (the payments it expects make to its pensioners over the years). For a fund to be as sure as it can that it will be able to pay its future pension liabilities, it buys assets whose coupons and maturity match its (actuarially expected) future pension payments.

So far, all well and good. The problem is with LDI funds. These, like so many pension funds these days, use gilts to accomplish that matching (in a popular meme of the past couple of decades, “gentlemen prefer bonds”). However, in addition the idea has been sold that they can goose up their returns a bit, to compensate for the low yields they are getting on their gilts

This little bit of extra profit is accomplished by borrowing some further money, short-term, and with it buying long, higher-yielding assets — either real assets, or derivatives. It’s a well-known and always risky bet on interest rate movements; in some markets it’s known as the “Carry Trade”; in the Japanese markets it’s known as the “Widow Maker”. It’s entirely inappropriate for “safe” pension funds. 

If rates move against the bet, the bet sours. To cover the risk they are taking, the funds are required to give over their other assets (the gilts) as collateral to the bank that lent them the money. 

When the bet sours, the bank that lent them the money “calls the collateral”, selling off the gilts in order to repay the borrowing a wave of such sales can destabilise the gilts market and create a disorderly environment, as happened in late September 2022.

Some would say that the Bank of England should have known all of this and not allowed such risk to be taken by this huge market in LDI funds. Some would raise an eyebrow at the news that until the middle of 2022, the Bank of England itself held 100 per cent of its £5 billion pension fund in just one single LDI Fund, and therefore blithely seemed to believe it was OK for such risks to be taken (their 100 per cent recently was reduced to a scarcely less concerning 82 per cent).

For whatever reason, the Bank and other regulators did allow LDI funds to become more and more the fashionThe total value of liabilities hedged with LDI strategies was $1.8 trillion in 2021, around half of the total of LDI funds in the world, a sure sign that the Bank Of England had been far too lenient in allowing LDIs to flourish in the UK. That is Strike One.

Why then did the LDI funds start collapsing specifically in late September? It starts with the rapid appearance this year of inflation, caused in no small part — as the Bank has finally admitted — by the bank’s excessive growth of the money supply in recent years. As inflation consequently shot up, so, all year, did gilt yields rise, putting increasing pressure on those rickety LDI funds. That is Strike Two against the BoE for its role in worsening inflation in the UK, leading to this instability.

Two days before Kwarteng delivered his mini-budget, Saxo Bank and Deutsche Bank correctly predicted a fall in sterling.

Saxo predicted:

“If the BoE fails to hike 75 basis points, let’s shield our eyes for what is going to happen to the pound here.” (They were predicting a fall in sterling, which duly happened. Low sterling leads to higher inflation leads to higher gilt yields.) 

Deutsche Bank said that the BoE needed a ‘hawkish response’. It never materialised.

In the end:

Both Deutsche and Saxo were right. Only days after the Bank failed to step up to the 75 basis points mark, sterling momentarily dropped to $1.04, just as Deutsche had predictedyet for reasons that remain to be explained, the drop was blamed on the mini-budget, not on the Bank’s failure to sufficiently raise rates. The failure to raise rates enough, two days before the mini-budget, is Strike Three.

In addition, the BoE announced a fortnight-long programme of selling £40 billion of gilts, which ended in mid-October.

In other words, it moved from QE to QT, quantitative tightening.

Reuters noted the BoE was the first central bank to do that, at least in recent years. Bloomberg called the move ‘historic’ for the same reason:

In 2013, all it had taken was the Fed to announce it was doing less QE — not stopping, just doing less — for the markets to go into a “Taper Tantrum”.

Ever since, most central banks have been cautious not to move too fast in shutting down their QE. But not the BoE. Why did it see itself as in a position to be the first in the world to take this very risky step, aware as they were that the mini-budget was about to be announced?

Not surprisingly, the markets responded:

market participants move fast to get ahead: they quickly sell their own bonds before their value is hammered by the BoE sales. Yields immediately go up and the price of bonds immediately falls. Which is why it was — Strike Fourstupid for the central bank to announce its moves ahead of time: it’s like the time that Gordon Brown announced he was selling all our gold, and the price collapsed so he made much less from the sale. But now the LDI pension funds started to get really hammered: as the market moved to dump gilts, the price of gilts fell and fell — this is still before the mini-budget — and collateral calls began to come thick and fast on the LDI funds.

The doom loop began:

And even more collateral calls then came in, and we were in an accelerating doom loop. All this was happening as the mini-budget was announced, and the lazy financial press, not seeing what had happened earlier, blamed the rout in the gilts market on the mini-budget. But it was started by the Bank of England’s earlier decision to go full tonto QT. Strike Five.

Cue the headlines that Liz Truss ‘crashed the economy’, to borrow Labour’s words, which they are still using in Parliament:

The Prime Minister is accused the following day of destroying the economy.

The BoE backtracked immediately, announcing it would move from QT back to QE:

The Bank of England, of course, immediately announces that it is not after all going to sell £40 billion of gilts — it is going to buy £60 billion of them — back from QT to QE in a blink of the eye. 

Of course, by then, it was too late for Truss and Kwarteng. Their collective goose was well and truly cooked:

… by now the gods of havoc have been unleashed. Truss’s enemies in the Conservative party get to work, using the mini-budget narrative to undo the mini-budget, to oust the Chancellor, and finally to oust the Prime Minister herself. Job Done

The BoE defended its actions:

The post-mortem speech by the Bank’s director for financial stability, entitled “Risks from leverage: how did a small corner of the financial industry threaten financial stability?” makes for interesting reading; in this telling, the Bank staved off a crisis from what, for anyone, would have been an unexpected direction, dealing more than adequately with the non-bank sector. If anything, the director claims, the UK was ahead of the curve!

As for the current Sunak-Hunt government, Jon Moynihan has also noted the presence of David Cameron’s Chancellor and the former BlackRock executive:

George Osborne and Rupert Harrison, late of BlackRock, the UK’s second largest provider of LDI funds, are now advising the new government.

Moynihan ends his article by pointing out that the BoE’s governor, Andrew Bailey, has the nickname of ‘Lullaby’ because he tended to doze off during meetings in a prior position:

As head of the Financial Conduct Authority from 2016 to 2020, he saw first-hand the sort of shenanigans firms and funds will get up to if, pressed by smooth talking salesmen, they are given the freedom to act as they will.

It has been alleged that while in that role, Bailey “dozed off” during meetings over a pensions scandal. Now, the organisation he runs is accused of being asleep at the wheel on LDI pension funds, not to mention on inflation, the currency, the stability of markets.

It looks like the BoE’s laxity led to the fall of a government:

All that led to the end of a government, in a way that will continue to reverberate, to the detriment of many people’s view of democracy in this country, for decades to come.

What the British think

Only last week, on November 23, IPSOS published a poll saying that politicians are the least trustworthy of working Britons. Pictured alongside Rishi is a very young Piers Morgan when he edited The Mirror. Journalists have a trustworthiness rating of 29%, compared to politicians in general at 12%:

Guido has the full chart of occupations participants were asked to rank in order of trustworthiness:

Hardly unsurprisingly, public trust in politicians to tell the truth has fallen to its lowest level ever, according to the latest Ipsos poll. Just 12% of the public now trusts politicians to tell the truth, lower than advertising executives (14%) and government ministers (16%).

Unfortunately for journalists they don’t fare much better, at just 29% – one percent above estate agents…

Nurses and doctors ranked the highest at 89% and 85%, respectively.

Television news readers ranked at 58%, above clergy/priests and the man in the street, both of which tied on 55%.

Conclusion

On November 22, roughly one month after Truss resigned, Dan Wootton did a follow up on GB News.

Nigel Farage told him:

Hunt was the coup. Sunak is little more than a puppet.

Wootton also interviewed Ranil Jayawardena, who served as Secretary of State for DEFRA, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. He was very gracious and didn’t want to get into any controversies. Wootton, who was a big Truss supporter, wanted to know how both of them were faring. He said that they were fine.

I’m including the nine-minute interview here just so you can hear Ranil Jayawardena’s voice. He should record audio books in his retirement. Someone in the comments to the video said that he sounds like Boris. He sounds a thousand times better than Boris. This is received pronunciation, rarely heard today in such mellifluous tones:

The Liz Truss saga ends here.

I fear the worst, for the Conservative Party and for the British.

End of series

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

Friday, October 14

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

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

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

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

The article also said (purple emphases mine):

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

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

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

Liz prefaced the announcement with:

This is difficult.

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

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

He concluded (emphases his):

The mother of all U-turns…

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

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

Saturday, October 15

Saturday’s papers were scathing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the issue:

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday night was grim.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 19

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

Guido’s post said, in part:

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

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

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

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

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

Holy mole, guacamole!

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

As with Hunt, Truss had to scrape the barrel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tory MPs are.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As such, she had to go:

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

As for her successor and the Party:

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

Thursday, October 20

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

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

She remained PM until Rishi Sunak succeeded her:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sterling began surging the second Truss finished her announcement:

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

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

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

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

My most recent post on Liz Truss examined her first two weeks in office as Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister, from September 6th through the 16th.

Things had started out so well. Ironically, Jeremy Hunt, who is now Chancellor, told ITV’s political editor Robert Peston on September 7 that Truss would be ‘formidable’. An amazing endorsement from someone who was her natural ally:

Hmm. Did he know anything at that point? We’ll probably never know.

On September 20, The Sun‘s political editor Harry Cole was delighted to announce his and James Heale’s book on Truss, Out of the Blue, which later had to have hastily written chapters added to it:

Yes, it is still coming out by Christmas — November 24, to be precise:

King Charles and COP27

Liz saw King Charles on Sunday, September 18, the day before the Queen’s funeral. It was not their usual day to meet, but the Royal Family went into private mourning until the end of September:

On Saturday, October 1, The Times reported that Liz had asked the King not to attend COP27, which ran between November 6 and 18, despite an invitation from the organisers.

This was a good move, in my opinion, as climate change, or whatever it’s being called this week, has turned highly political.

The article said (emphases mine):

The King, a passionate environmental campaigner, has abandoned plans to attend next month’s Cop27 climate change summit after Liz Truss told him to stay away.

He had intended to deliver a speech at the meeting of world leaders in Egypt.

Had she remained PM, Liz would not have attended, either:

Truss, who is also unlikely to attend the Sharm el-Sheikh gathering, objected to the King’s plans during a personal audience at Buckingham Palace last month.

There were no hard feelings between the Palace and No. 10:

… a Downing Street source claimed the audience had been cordial and there had “not been a row”.

No doubt he was expecting it:

A senior royal source said: “It is no mystery that the King was invited to go there. He had to think very carefully about what steps to take for his first overseas tour, and he is not going to be attending Cop.”

They said the decision was made on the government’s advice and was “entirely in the spirit of being ever-mindful as King that he acts on government advice”.

In the end, the King held a reception at Buckingham Palace for world leaders before they flew to the summit. In light of that, this was rather interesting:

Charles is still determined to make his presence felt there, and how he will do that is “under active discussion”. A senior royal source said: “Just because he is not in physical attendance, that doesn’t mean His Majesty won’t find other ways to support it.”

A source who knows Charles said he would be “personally disappointed” to miss it and was “all lined up to go”, with several engagements planned around his Sustainable Markets Initiative (SMI) which aims to persuade businesses to invest in environmentally friendly initiatives.

Public v parliamentary opinion

In late September, a poll showed that Truss was ahead of Labour’s Keir Starmer in Red Wall seats, boosting the Conservatives by eight points:

Admittedly, that was before Kwasi Kwarteng’s fiscal event, or mini-budget, of Friday, September 23.

That said, I will go out on a limb and say that most conservative voters thought that Kwarteng’s — Truss’s — plan was the right one. My better half and I thought it was refreshingly libertarian.

However, Conservative MPs vehemently disagreed with the public and started writing in to Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee, the all-powerful group that Margaret Thatcher dubbed ‘the men in grey suits’.

On September 26, the Northern Echo reported:

A former Tory minister MP has told Sky News the new Prime Minister is “f*****” and the party are already looking to bring her down following Friday’s mini-budget.

The MP said: “They are already putting letters in as they think she will crash the economy. The tax cuts don’t matter as all noise anyway – mainly reversing back to the status quo this year …

Another Tory MP told the broadcaster that Friday’s announcement – which included reversing a 1.25% hike in National Insurance – had been a “s***show”.

Note that MPs were siding with the Bank of England. Very establishmentarian of them:

“The issue is government fiscal policy is opposite to Bank of England monetary policy – so they are fighting each other. What Kwasi [Kwarteng] gives, the Bank takes away.”

The mood among Conservative ‘wets’, to borrow Thatcher’s name for such weaklings, only escalated.

At Liz’s one — and only — appearance before the 1922 Committee on Thursday, October 13, Robert Halfon, a wet, told Truss she had ‘trashed the past ten years’.

The Times had the story:

Liz Truss was accused by a senior MP of trashing “the last ten years” of Conservative government as her party turned on its new leader over the mini-budget.

Robert Halfon, a former minister who chairs the education select committee, unleashed a furious attack on her financial measures, saying they disproportionately benefited the wealthy and meant she had abandoned “workers’ conservatism”.

Anything but, however:

According to an MP present, Halfon told Truss in a meeting of the 1922 Committee of backbenchers — her first as prime minister — that “in the last ten years we had the living wage, a focus on apprenticeships and skills”, contrasting that with “bankers’ bonuses, benefits cuts and now cuts to affordable housing targets”.

His intervention came after Truss tried to assuage Conservative MPs by saying she had “shielded families and businesses from bills of up to £6,000 this winter and for the winter ahead, while Labour has no plan beyond the next six months”.

The meeting did not go well. Halfon seemed to voice other MPs’ concerns:

a Tory MP who has been in the Commons for more than a decade said: “It was the worst 1922 I’ve ever been to.” They added: “With each tough question she looked like she’d had the wind knocked out of herthe 31st of October could finish her off on the basis of the reception she got in that room.”

Halloween — who schedules these things? — was supposed to be the day Kwasi was going to set out more detail behind his fiscal event. Liz’s friend and neighbour in Greenwich was on hand to support her:

Thérèse Coffey, the deputy prime minister, told reporters outside the 1922 meeting that the chancellor would meet MPs before presenting his medium-term plan on Halloween, stressing that engagement was key.

In the event, Truss had to sack Kwarteng and appoint (ahem) the aforementioned Jeremy Hunt as Chancellor. He delivered his shocking budget on Thursday, November 17, to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s approval. Sunak nodded several times during the presentation.

Returning to The Times‘s article of October 13, what other wets said presaged the future:

Even those who back the prime minister expect some sort of climbdown. One MP said: “She will have to unwind everything fiscal in the statement. They have to backtrack. There is no alternative. They’ve done it on the 45p and they’ll have to do it on the rest.

“Then if we are still 20 points behind in the polls we will have to change leader. We are cold-blooded like that.”

Another admitted there was “definitely still a big split between her and the Rishi [Sunak] side of the party”. Asked if Truss would have to perform another U-turn, they said: “Ultimately, I suppose it depends if she’s leveraged into that position by our own party, but it’s all by those with 20,000 majorities.”

Hmm … Hmm.

However, one Rishi Sunak supporter — Esther McVey — is deeply unhappy over his Chancellor’s budget:

On Tuesday, November 22, McVey rightly tore the budget apart in ConservativeHome, saying that Hunt’s tax rises are ‘socialist measures’ that are ‘punishing Conservative voters’:

… It wasn’t helped by the Chancellor’s statement being such a pendulum swing from the Liz Truss / Kwasi Kwarteng mini budget. People went from thinking they were getting their taxes cut to seeing them hiked.

The Autumn Statement was clearly an over-correction to that mini-budget. Going from one extreme to the other is hardly reassuring for people. A middle ground was needed: an acceptance of Conservative principles, with a costed plan and the accompanying narrative to reassure the markets.

Instead, Hunt delivered his statement with a doom and gloom that would have appropriate were the country on the brink of financial collapse. However, despite some serious challenges, things are not so dire that we had to have such excessive medicine.

For instance, the ten-year gilt yield – the interest rate the Government must pay on a new decade-long loan – was 3.14 per cent, whereas, even before the notorious mini-Budget in late September, that same yield was much higher at 3.49 per cent.

Britain is no more indebted than other comparable countries. Our national debt (albeit too high) stands at 97 per cent of GDP,  whereas France, Canada and the US stands at 115 per cent, 116 per cent and 132 per cent respectively. Across the G7, only Germany has lower levels of government debt than the UK.

So when I stood up in the House of Commons at PMQs the day before the budget and said –

Given that we have the highest burden of taxation in living memory, it is clear that the Government’s financial difficulties are caused by overspending and not due to undertakings. Does the Deputy Prime Minster therefore agree, if the government has got enough money to proceed with HS2 at any cost then it has sufficient money not to increase taxes, if however, it has so little money it has to increase taxes (which is the last thing for a conservative government to do) then it doesn’t have sufficient money for HS2 [High Speed Rail 2]?

So can I gently urge the Deputy Prime Minister not to ask Conservative MPs to support any tax rises, unless and until, this unnecessary vanity project is scrapped, because I for one won’t support them.

– it was to remind everyone there are better choices for our Conservative government than hiking up taxes.

In fact, given that unprecedented tax burden, any self-respecting Conservative would instinctively know that the answer is to spend less. Dropping HS2  – an out-of-date white elephant, costing north of £150 billion which (as Andrew Gilligan revealed on my show on GB News) the Ministers themselves know will deliver less economic benefit than the cost of it – would have been an ideal place to start.  That would certainly have been more desirable than increasing taxes on hard-working families who are already feeling the severe pain of higher energy prices and increased mortgage payments.

If a Conservative government with a sizeable majority – in a time of financial pressure – won’t cut public expenditure to start living within our means, then when on earth will that ever happen?

Parliament is debating Jeremy Hunt’s budget this week. In Monday’s proceedings, a number of Conservative MPs spoke out against it.

Liz’s U-turn on windfall tax

On October 12, two days before she sacked her friend and neighbour Kwasi Kwarteng, she appeared to do a U-turn on ‘no new taxes’ by allowing an announcement for a new levy on green energy firms.

Her ally, then-Business (BEIS) Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg, defended the move and claimed it was not a windfall tax:

Guido Fawkes reported (emphases his):

The government has announced a new plan to impose a multi-billion pound levy on green energy firms to fund support to consumers. Renewable and nuclear electricity generators in England and Wales will now have their revenues capped after windfall tax-hating Liz Truss seemingly bowed to pressure to limit profits. The announcement came from BEIS last night, which is calling the new policy a “Cost-Plus-Revenue Limit” and spinning that it isn’t in any way a windfall tax “as it will be applied to ‘excess revenues’ as opposed to profits”. If it walks like a tax, swims like a tax and quacks like a tax…

The latest backtracking on free market values by the government comes just 41 days after Liz Truss told party members at the London husting that they could read her lips, and there would be no new taxes under her leadership …

On Today this morning, Rees-Mogg tried performing a Jedi mind trick, saying “this is not a windfall tax…this is rationalising the market”…

Despite the government’s denial that the new revenue limit is a tax, the boss of RWE – the third biggest renewable power generator in Britain – has told The Times the move “is a de facto ‘windfall tax’ on low-carbon generators that, if not designed and implemented correctly, could have severe negative consequences for investment in the renewable and wider energy market and so for the energy transition.”

Guido warned that Labour’s support for the new levy is not a good sign:

Ed Miliband welcoming the policy with open arms should give the government sufficient pause for thought before it buys its own spin…

The mystery of Liz signing UK up to EU’s PESCO

Early in October, Liz did a strange thing, considering she is a staunch Brexit supporter.

She attended the first ever meeting of the European Political Community in Prague. The European Political Community is Emmanuel Macron’s brainchild.

This group is made up of EU member countries, yet, somehow Liz got an invitation. No one knows for certain.

However, she went.

She met with Macron on Thursday, October 6, in an effort to get the Channel dinghy crossing issue resolved.

GB News reported:

Liz Truss hailed Emmanuel Macron as a “friend” on Thursday, as the two countries signalled that a new agreement could be close to tackle small-boat crossings in the Channel.

The pair met at the first summit of the European Political Community in Prague, a gathering pushed for by the French president.

There, the pair said they looked forward to “an ambitious package of measures this autumn” to address issue of migration across the Channel.

And in a sign that Ms Truss hopes to improve relations with Mr Macron, she had no hesitation in labelling him a “friend”, just weeks after refusing to do so …

Mr Macron later suggested it was a “problem” if Britain could not call itself a friend of France.

But Prime Minister Ms Truss adopted a different tone ahead of a meeting with Mr Macron in Prague on Thursday.

She told broadcasters: “I work very, very closely with President Macron and the French government and what we’re talking about is how the UK and France can work more closely together to build more nuclear power stations and to make sure that both countries have energy security in the future.

“We’re both very clear the foe is Vladimir Putin, who has through his appalling war in Ukraine threatened freedom and democracy in Europe and pushed up energy prices which we’re now all having to deal with.”

Asked if he was then a friend, Ms Truss said: “He is a friend.”

The bi-lateral meeting between the two leaders, which took place towards the end of the day, appeared to signal some progress on the issues of migration and energy, both areas Ms Truss had raised as priorities ahead of the summit.

“Thank you for being here,” Mr Macron told the PM when they met.

It also emerged that the two countries have agreed to hold a joint summit next year to “take forward a renewed bilateral agenda”, in a further sign of the desire for warmer relations between the two countries.

On migration, a joint statement said the leaders “agreed to deepen cooperation on illegal migration within the bounds of international law, to tackle criminal groups trafficking people across Europe, ending in dangerous journeys across the Channel”.

But the big, and secret, news was that Liz had signed the UK up to the EU’s PESCO — Permanent Structured Co-operation — which is a military initiative.

Nigel Farage announced the move on his GB News show as soon as he had heard.

On Friday, October 7, The Express said that the move could affect British armed forces by dragging them into an EU army:

The Prime Minister has been warned not to allow the UK to be dragged into an EU Army by accident after she signed a military deal this week at Emmanuel Macron’s European Political Community (EPC) summit in Prague. The decision to go into part of the PESCO has alarmed some Brexiteers who fear it could undermine the UK’s sovereignty.

Former defence minister Sir Gerald Howarth, a leading Brexiteer has led the campaign to resist joining PESCO for many years.

He said: “This is very serious and we must be very careful. The issue around PESCO is that the structures are permanent.

“We must not sign up to anything which undermines our sovereignty and where we do not have a veto.

“Second, we must not do anything that undermines NATO. If we have learnt anything over the last few months is that we need NATO for the defence of western values and Europe against our enemies which at the moment is clearly Russia.”

Even if this has to do with Ukraine, and enables us to move troops and military equipment more easily, it still raises questions:

At the EPC meeting on Thursday, the EU member states voted unanimously to allow the UK to join the the mobility project that would allow the UK to move troops and military equipment more quickly.

The UK Government decided to enter the strand in case Britain is called upon as a NATO ally to defend the Baltic states from a Russian invasion.

However, staunch Brexiteer Mark Francois MP was relaxed about it:

One senior Brexiteer, former Armed Forces Minister, Mark Francois, who now chairs the powerful group of Tory Brexiteers the European Research Group (ERG), said he believes that the move was the right one.

He said: “As we are outside the EU, we can opt in to individual PESCO projects if they have merit and looking at how we could speed up reinforcing the Baltic States from the UK, across internal EU borders, may well have military advantages.

“However, it is NATO that remains the bedrock of our security, especially in deterring further Russian adventurism and we should never forget that.”

On October 9, David Kurten, a former London Assembly member and founder of the Heritage Party, said that signing the UK up to PESCO was a betrayal of Brexit:

One month ago, the aforementioned Sir George Howarth appeared on Farage to say that we still do not know what part of PESCO Liz signed us up to. He was clearly concerned, saying that the implications could be important, especially as none of the countries involved has a veto. The EU calls all the shots:

Today, one month on, we are none the wiser about our involvement in PESCO.

Someone must know what’s going on. In fact, a lot of people probably do know.

Liz’s final week

All of Liz’s opponents, whether on the right or the left, told us that Liz and Kwasi, joined at the hip politically, had to go.

Project Fear started as soon as Kwasi delivered his mini-budget on September 23.

On September 27, Bloomberg told us that UK markets had lost $500 billion in combined value since Liz Truss became PM. Really?

‘Investor confidence’ means international markets, ergo part of the Establishment.

Also at that time, former Conservative Chancellor George Osborne, who served under David Cameron, stuck the boot in.

On September 29, a comment from an UnHerd reader appeared in response to one of their articles, beginning with ‘Is this the end for Liz Truss?’:

https://image.vuukle.com/cd72018a-5f0a-4709-9803-e23f8e87646b-764e1fe1-a6f9-4692-939c-102335eb4ec9

Osborne features heavily in it. The reader quotes him saying, ‘The markets are punishing Liz Truss for failing to balance her budget’.

The UnHerd reader says:

Right.

Of all people, George Osborne knows full well that is not what is happening. We can be sure he knows this — and is therefore engaging in a bout of very useful political lying — because Mr Osborne also dropped higher rate taxes [the 50% rate], on a backdrop of media squealing … and yet the tax receipts after making those cuts … went up.

So Mr Osborne is a classic shill of the modern era …

As to whether Liz would have to go, the reader supplies the answer at the top of his message:

well, if the globalists and left-leaning power brokers who’ve comfortably controlled global affairs for the past few decades still retain control, then yesit is the end for Truss

It doesn’t matter if that thing is related to tax, or to immigration, or to frackingthat’s not the point. The chattering and Davos classes are used to being in charge and controlling the direction of travel no matter who we elect.

Speaking of such people, on Wednesday, October 12, King Charles greeted Liz with, ‘Dear, oh dear’, while the press were still there to record it for posterity:

What did he know and when?

The beginning of the end came two days later on Friday, October 14, when Liz sacked Kwasi and appointed (ahem) Jeremy Hunt as Chancellor. This was the shortest and most painful press conference — she only took four questions — in living memory. She looked like a rabbit in the headlamps or a hostage being forced at gunpoint to read out a message:

As soon as she announced it, we knew Hunt was, at that point, the de facto Prime Minister.

Hours later, The Telegraph reported:

Mr Hunt, a former foreign secretary, took the helm at the Treasury following the sacking of Kwasi Kwarteng over the mini-Budget fiasco. Ms Truss turned to him even though the pair have strongly disagreed on economic policy.

Mr Hunt, also an ex-health secretary, endorsed Rishi Sunak for the Tory leadership after being voted out of the race in July, saying: “This is the wrong time for populist crowd-pleasing and the right time for honesty.”

He will hold huge power over a weakened Prime Minister, raising the likelihood that much of her growth plan will now be axed. Allies said that he would act as her “chief executive”.

Mr Hunt ran for the Conservative leadership on a platform of slashing corporation tax to 15 per cent to boost growth but also opposed cuts to personal levies such National Insurance and income tax, with which Ms Truss still intends to press ahead.

His appointment was announced moments before the Prime Minister unveiled her U-turn on corporation tax at a press conference. She ditched what had been a core leadership pledge, meaning the rate companies pay on their profits will go up from 19 to 25 per cent in April. It means she has reverted to the plan put in place by Mr Sunak when he was chancellor.

Quelle surprise!

Conservative Party members had voted Liz Truss in largely on her economic policy.

The elites took out her Chancellor. Soon afterwards, they came for her in the form of Conservative MPs and the 1922 Committee. It was a grand game of political chess, not seen since Margaret Thatcher was removed from office in 1990.

To be continued on Friday.

While this is a change to the previous schedule of analysing Liz Truss’s premiership, more about which next week, there are references below as to why hers and Kwasi Kwarteng’s plan was the right one for the UK.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt delivered his Autumn Statement — a Labourite Conservative budget — on Thursday, November 17, 2022.

Compared with Kwasi Kwarteng’s fiscal event of September 23, this will be a disaster for most middle class Britons.

It was clear that Hunt designed this budget to placate the all-hallowed — for whatever reason — OBR (Office for Budget Responsibility) and the markets. Stability is their watchword. Growth, regardless of what Hunt said yesterday, plays little part in our economy for the foreseeable future.

Unlike Kwarteng’s, which did focus on growth, Hunt’s statement had little to no consideration of the British taxpayer in a cost of living crisis.

What Hunt said

Before going into Hunt’s address, Guido Fawkes has a brief summary and the full detail from the Treasury, a 70-page document.

Below are excerpts from Hunt’s Autumn Statement to the House of Commons (emphases mine):

… today we deliver a plan to tackle the cost of living crisis and rebuild our economy. Our priorities are stability, growth and public services. We also protect the vulnerable, because to be British is to be compassionate and this is a compassionate Conservative Government.

Remember when then-Chancellor Rishi Sunak told us we did not have to worry about the cost of borrowing and borrowing itself during the pandemic? Well, now we have to worry:

Most countries are still dealing with the fallout from a once-in-a-century pandemic. The furlough scheme, the vaccine roll-out and the response of the NHS did our country proud, but they all have to be paid for.

Hunt paid homage to the Bank of England and had a poke at Kwarteng for not doing so:

So the Bank of England, which has done an outstanding job since its independence, now has my wholehearted support in its mission to defeat inflation and I today confirm we will not change its remit. But we need fiscal and monetary policy to work together, and that means the Government and the Bank working in lockstep.

He delivered a deeper attack on Kwarteng:

I understand the motivation of my predecessor’s mini-Budget and he was correct to identify growth as a priority, but unfunded tax cuts are as risky as unfunded spending, which is why we reversed the planned measures quickly. As a result, Government borrowing has fallen, the pound has strengthened and the OBR says today that the lower interest rates generated by the Government’s actions are already benefiting our economy and public finances. But credibility cannot be taken for granted and yesterday’s inflation figures show we must continue a relentless fight to bring it down, including a rock solid commitment to rebuild our public finances.

He bowed before the all-powerful OBR, whose forecasts have not been terribly accurate over the past few years. Let us see if these come true in the coming months:

Richard Hughes and his team at the OBR today lay out starkly the impact of global headwinds on the UK economy, and I am enormously grateful to him and his team for their thorough work. The OBR forecasts the UK’s inflation rate to be 9.1% this year and 7.4% next year. It confirms that our actions today help inflation to fall sharply from the middle of next year. It also judges that the UK, like other countries, is now in recession. Overall this year, the economy is still forecast to grow by 4.2%. GDP then falls in 2023 by 1.4%, before rising by 1.3%, 2.6% and 2.7% in the following three years. The OBR says higher energy prices explain the majority of the downward revision in cumulative growth since March. It also expects a rise in unemployment from 3.6% today to 4.9% in 2024, before falling to 4.1%.

This is Hunt’s strategy, with the blessing of the OBR and borrowing Sunak’s morality from the August leadership campaign about leaving debts to the next generation:

I also confirm two new fiscal rules. The first is that underlying debt must fall as a percentage of GDP by the fifth year of a rolling five-year period. The second is that public sector borrowing over the same period must be below 3% of GDP. The plan I am announcing today meets both rules.

Today’s statement delivers a consolidation of £55 billion, and means inflation and interest rates end up significantly lower. We achieve this in a balanced way. In the short term, as growth slows and unemployment rises, we will use fiscal policy to support the economy. The OBR confirms that, because of our plans, the recession is shallower and inflation is reduced. Unemployment is also lower, with about 70,000 jobs saved as a result of our decisions today. Then, once growth returns, we increase the pace of consolidation to get debt falling. This further reduces the pressure on the Bank to raise interest rates, because as Conservatives we do not leave our debts to the next generation.

So this is a balanced path to stability, tackling inflation to reduce the cost of living and protect pensioner savings, while supporting the economy on a path to growth. But it means taking difficult decisions.

Hunt then discussed the fiscal drag elements of the budget. Fiscal drag means drawing the unsuspecting into paying new and more tax:

I start with personal taxes. Asking more from those who have more means that the first difficult decision I take on tax is to reduce the threshold at which the 45p rate becomes payable from £150,000 to £125,140. Those earning £150,000 or more will pay just over £1,200 more in tax every year. We are also taking difficult decisions on tax-free allowances. I am maintaining at current levels the income tax personal allowance, higher rate threshold, main national insurance thresholds and the inheritance tax thresholds for a further two years, taking us to April 2028. Even after that, we will still have the most generous set of tax-free allowances of any G7 country.

I was amazed he could talk about 2028 with a straight face. By then, we will probably have a Labour government. Oh well, he’s done their work for them.

Continuing on tax rises, he said:

I am also reforming allowances on unearned income. The dividend allowance will be cut from £2,000 to £1,000 next year, and then to £500 from April 2024. The annual exempt amount for capital gains tax will be cut from £12,300 to £6,000 next year, and then £3,000 from April 2024. Those changes still leave us with more generous allowances than countries such as Germany, Ireland, France, and Canada.

Because the OBR forecasts that half of all new vehicles will be electric by 2025, to make our motoring tax system fairer, I have decided that from then electric vehicles will no longer be exempt from vehicle excise duty. Company car tax rates will remain lower for electric vehicles, and I have listened to industry bodies and will limit rate increases to 1 percentage point a year for three years from 2025.

At least he kept one thing from Kwarteng’s statement:

The OBR expects housing activity to slow over the next two years, so the stamp duty cuts announced in the mini-Budget will remain in place but only until 31 March 2025. After that, I will sunset the measure, creating an incentive to support the housing market, and the jobs associated with it, by boosting transaction during the period when the economy most needs it.

He won’t even be Chancellor then.

Moving on to businesses:

I now turn to business taxes. Although I have decided to freeze the employers national insurance contributions threshold until April 2028, we will retain the employment allowance at its new higher level of £5,000. That means that 40% of all businesses will pay no NICs at all. The VAT threshold is already more than twice as high as the EU and OECD averages. I will maintain it at that level until March 2026.

Then came the windfall tax:

Can I just say that any such tax should be temporary, not deter investment and recognise the cyclical nature of energy businesses? So, taking account of that, I have decided that from 1 January until March 2028 we will increase the energy profits levy from 25% to 35%. The structure of our energy market also creates windfall profits for low-carbon electricity generation, so we have decided to introduce, from 1 January, a new, temporary 45% levy on electricity generators. Together, those measures will raise £14 billion next year.

Business rates have been a thorn in the side of those enterprises on our high streets. Here, it would seem, Hunt offered some relief:

Finally, I turn to business rates. It is an important principle that bills should accurately reflect market values, so we will proceed with the revaluation of business properties from April 2023, but I will soften the blow on businesses with a nearly £14 billion tax cut over the next five years. Nearly two thirds of properties will not pay a penny more next year and thousands of pubs, restaurants and small high street shops will benefit. That will include a new Government-funded transitional relief scheme, as called for by the CBI, the British Retail Consortium, the Federation of Small Businesses and others, benefiting around 700,000 businesses.

Then he turned to people on benefits, proving that Sunak’s furlough scheme during the pandemic was more than adequate:

… I am proud to live in a country with one of the most comprehensive safety nets anywhere in the world. But I am also concerned that we have seen a sharp increase in economically inactive working-age adults of about 630,000 people since the start of the pandemic. Employment levels have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, which is bad for businesses who cannot fill vacancies and bad for people missing out on the opportunity to do well for themselves and their families, so the Prime Minister has asked the Work and Pensions Secretary to do a thorough review of issues holding back workforce participation, to conclude early in the new year.

Alongside that, I am also committed to helping people already in work to raise their incomes, progress in work and become financially independent. So we will ask over 600,000 more people on universal credit to meet with a work coach so that they can get the support that they need to increase their hours or earnings. I have also decided to move back the managed transition of people from employment and support allowance on to universal credit to 2028, and will invest an extra £280 million in the DWP to crack down on benefit fraud and error over the next two years. The Government’s review of the state pension age will be published in early 2023.

He then discussed foreign spending:

… I salute the citizens of another country right on the frontline … the brave people of Ukraine. The United Kingdom has given them military support worth £2.3 billion since the start of Putin’s invasion, the second highest contribution in the world after the United States, which demonstrates that our commitment to democracy and open societies remains steadfast. In that context, the Prime Minister and I both recognise the need to increase defence spending. But before we make that commitment, it is necessary to revise and update the integrated review, written as it was before the Ukraine invasion. I have asked for that vital work to be completed ahead of the next Budget and today I confirm that we will continue to maintain the defence budget at at least 2% of GDP to be consistent with our NATO commitment.

I was pleased to hear that overseas aid will stay at 0.5%:

Another important international commitment is to overseas aid. The OBR’s forecasts show a significant shock to public finances, so it will not be possible to return to the 0.7% target until the fiscal situation allows. We remain fully committed to that target, and the plans I have set out today assume that official development assistance spending will remain around 0.5% for the forecast period. As a percentage of GNI, we were the third highest donor in the G7 last year, and I am proud that our aid commitment has saved thousands of lives around the world.

Net Zero is still going ahead:

I also confirm that, despite the economic pressures, we remain fully committed to the historic Glasgow climate pact agreed at COP26, including a 68% reduction in our own emissions by 2030.

He discussed schools, beginning with those in England:

we have risen nine places in the global league tables for maths and reading in the last seven years.

… as Chancellor I want to know the answer to one simple question: will every young person leave the education system with the skills they would get in Japan, Germany or Switzerland? So, I have appointed Sir Michael Barber to advise me and my right hon. Friend the Education Secretary on the implementation of our skills reform programme.

Some have suggested putting VAT on independent school fees as a way of increasing core funding for schools, which would raise about £1.7 billion. But according to certain estimates, that would result in up to 90,000 children from the independent sector switching to state schools, giving with one hand only to take away with another.

So instead of being ideological, I am going to be practical: because we want school standards to continue to rise for every single child, we are going to do more than protect the schools budget—we are going to increase it. I can announce today that next year and the year after, we will invest an extra £2.3 billion per annum in our schools.

He has asked a former Labour MP, Patricia Hewitt, to help him reform the NHS. Oh, my days:

I have asked the former Health Secretary and chair of the Norfolk and Waveney integrated care system, Patricia Hewitt, to help me and the Health Secretary to achieve that by advising us on how to make sure that the new integrated care boards, the local NHS bodies, operate efficiently and with appropriate autonomy and accountability. I have also had discussions with NHS England about the inflationary pressures on their budgets.

More money will be pumped into the system:

With £3.3 billion for the NHS and £4.7 billion for social care, there is a record £8 billion package for our health and care system. That is a Conservative Government putting the NHS first.

Barnett consequentials, which come from the hard-pressed English taxpayer, will also increase:

The NHS and schools in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland face equivalent pressures, so the Barnett consequentials of today’s decisions mean an extra £1.5 billion for the Scottish Government, £1.2 billion for the Welsh Government, and £650 million for the Northern Ireland Executive. That means more resources for the schools and hospitals in our devolved nations next year, the year after and every year thereafter.

A new energy strategy will be forthcoming from the Business Secretary.

These are Hunt’s infrastructure commitments:

… today I can announce that I am not cutting a penny from our capital budgets in the next two years, and I am maintaining them at that level in cash terms for the following three years. That means that although we are not growing our capital budget as planned, it will still increase from £63 billion four years ago to £114 billion next year and £115 billion the year after, and will remain at that level—more than double what it was under the last Labour Government.

Smart countries build on their long-term commitments rather than discarding them, so today I confirm that because of this decision, alongside Sizewell C, we will deliver the core Northern Powerhouse Rail, HS2 to Manchester, East West Rail, the new hospitals programme and gigabit broadband roll-out. All these and more will be funded as promised, with over £600 billion of investment over the next five years to connect our country and grow our economy.

Our national Conservative mission is to level up economic opportunity across the country. That, too, needs investment in infrastructure, so I will proceed with round 2 of the levelling-up fund, at least matching the £1.7 billion value of round 1. We will also drive growth across the UK by working with the Scottish Government on the feasibility study for the A75, supporting the advanced technology research centre in Wales and funding a trade and investment event in Northern Ireland next year.

He is bringing devolution to England in the form of mayoralties:

Our brilliant [Conservative] Mayors such as Andy Street and Ben Houchen have shown the power of civic entrepreneurship. We need more of this inspirational local leadership, so today I can announce a new devolution deal that will bring an elected Mayor to Suffolk, and deals to bring Mayors to Cornwall, Norfolk and an area in the north-east to follow shortly. We are also making progress towards trailblazer devolution deals with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the West Midlands Combined Authority, and soon over half of England will be covered by devolution deals. Taken together, that £600 billion investment in our future growth represents the largest investment in public works for 40 years, so our children and grandchildren can be confident that this Conservative Government are investing in their future.

Hunt is altering the Truss-Kwarteng investment zones to be more in line with Michael Gove’s aspirations for levelling up:

I will also change our approach to investment zones, which will now focus on leveraging our research strengths by being centred on universities in left-behind areas, to help to build clusters for our new growth industries. My right hon. Friend the Levelling Up Secretary will work with Mayors, devolved Administrations and local partners to achieve this, with the first decisions announced ahead of the spring Budget.

The Truss-Kwarteng energy support plan remains in place until the end of March 2023:

I pay tribute to my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Kwasi Kwarteng), and to the former Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Norfolk (Elizabeth Truss), for their leadership in this area. This winter, we will stick with their plan to spend £55 billion to help households and businesses with their energy bills—one of the largest support plans in Europe. From April, we will continue the energy price guarantee for a further 12 months at a higher level of £3,000 per year for the average household. With prices forecast to remain elevated throughout next year, this will mean an average of £500 of support for every household in the country.

There is more help for the most vulnerable:

At the same time, for the most vulnerable, we will introduce additional cost of living payments next year of £900 to households on means-tested benefits, £300 to pensioner households and £150 for individuals on disability benefit. We will also provide an additional £1 billion of funding to enable a further 12-month extension to the household support fund, helping local authorities to assist those who might otherwise fall through the cracks. For those households that use alternative fuels such as heating oil and liquefied petroleum gas to heat their homes, I am today doubling the support from £100 to £200, which will be delivered as soon as possible this winter. Before the end of this year, we will also bring forward a new targeted approach to support businesses from next April.

But I want to go further to support the people most exposed to high inflation. Around 4 million families live in the social rented sector—almost one fifth of households in England. Their rents are set at 1% above the September inflation rate, which means that on current plans they are set to see rent hikes next year of up to 11%. For many, that would just be unaffordable, so today I can announce that this Government will cap the increase in social rents at a maximum of 7% in 2023-24. Compared with current plans, that is a saving for the average tenant of £200 next year.

Labour started a commotion at this point. Hunt then announced a rise in the minimum wage:

This Government introduced—[Interruption.] I thought they cared about the most vulnerable! This Government introduced the national living wage, which has been a giant step in eliminating low pay, so today I am accepting the recommendation of the Low Pay Commission to increase it next year by 9.7%. This means that, from April 2023, the hourly rate will be £10.42, which represents an annual pay rise worth over £1,600 to a full-time worker. It is expected to benefit over 2 million of the lowest-paid workers in our country, and it keeps us on track for our target to reach two thirds of median earnings by 2024. It is the largest increase in the UK’s national living wage ever.

Benefits will increase by the rate of inflation:

today I commit to uprating such benefits by inflation, with an increase of 10.1%. That is an expensive commitment, costing £11 billion, but it means that 10 million working-age families will see a much-needed increase next year, which speaks to our priorities as a Government and our priorities as a nation. On average, a family on universal credit will benefit next year by around £600. To increase the number of households that can benefit from this decision, I will also exceptionally increase the benefit cap by inflation next year.

Finally, I have talked a lot about the British values of compassion, hard work, dignity and fairness, but there is no more British value than our commitment to protect and honour those who built the country we live in, so to support the poorest pensioners I have decided to increase pension credit by 10.1%, which is worth up to £1,470 for a couple and £960 for a single pensioner in our most vulnerable households, but the cost of living crisis is harming not just our poorest pensioners but all pensioners.

The triple-lock stays:

Because we have taken difficult decisions elsewhere today, I can also announce that we will fulfil our pledge to the country to protect the pension triple lock. In April, the state pension will increase in line with inflation, an £870 increase, which represents the biggest ever increase in the state pension. To the millions of pensioners who will benefit from this measure, I say: “Now and always, this Government are on your side.”

Hunt did not receive a jubilant reception from Conservative MPs, some of whom had concerns.

Dr Liam Fox asked about quantitative easing and interest rates:

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on a balanced and skilful statement prioritising fiscal stability. He will be aware that some of us believe that the Bank of England maintained monetary conditions that were too loose for too long, but that it would also be a mistake to maintain monetary conditions that are too tight for too long. Can he therefore confirm that the anti-inflationary measures that he has taken today will mean that the pressure to raise interest rates will be minimised, and that there is a much greater chance that they will fall earlier than would otherwise have been the case?

Hunt replied:

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to focus on this issue, because every 1% increase in interest rates is about £850 more on the average mortgage, so it is hugely important to families up and down the country. The OBR has said that the measures that we have taken today will mean that inflation is lower than it would otherwise have been. That means that the Bank of England is under less pressure to increase interest rates, which for reasons that he knows are such a worry for so many families.

Sir William Cash was concerned about the ever-increasing costs of the HS2 rail project:

My right hon. Friend argued for sound money and sound foundations. Would he be good enough to explain how it is that High Speed 2 will continue beyond Birmingham at a verifiable cost of at least £40 billion, when every independent report on HS2 condemns the project and confirms that phase 2 will make rail services to all west coast destinations north of Birmingham much worse? I ask him to make a clear commitment to keep this matter under review at all costs; it is in the national interest.

Hunt said:

My hon. Friend is right that the increases in the budget for HS2 are disappointing, but a strong economy needs to have consistency of purpose, and that means saying we will make sure that we are a better connected country. The lack of those connections is one of the fundamental reasons for the differences in wealth between north and south, which we are so committed to addressing. There is a bigger issue about the way that we do infrastructure projects: it takes too long, and the budgets therefore get out of control. We are just not very good at it, and we have to sort it out.

Theresa Villiers rightly asked how soon we could move to a lower-tax economy if the forecasts are wrong. For me, this was the question of the day:

I thank the Chancellor for the announcement on schools funding, which, as he knows, is something that I raised with him as being crucial. Can he also confirm that, if current forecasts about economic recovery and inflation prove to be overly pessimistic, we will move more quickly than he has announced today towards delivering a lower-tax economy?

Hunt was non-committal:

My right hon. Friend is an immensely experienced colleague. She is right to point out that there is always inaccuracy in any forecast, and there is always variation from fiscal event to fiscal event, so we keep all those decisions under review in the round. I think it is still important to have forecasts—that is better than not to have them—but we keep all those decisions under review.

Virginia Crosbie from Ynys Môn in Wales asked how soon the new nuclear programme would begin:

This Government’s commitment to Sizewell C and large-scale nuclear is welcome, and it was noted that Labour’s shadow Chancellor failed to mention nuclear. When will the launch of Great British Nuclear be announced, and will its scope include large-scale gigawatt nuclear at sites such as Wylfa in my constituency, as well as small modular reactors?

Hunt was encouraging:

There is no more formidable advocate for big nuclear investment on Ynys Môn than my hon. Friend. Indeed, when I went on a family holiday to Ynys Môn this summer, she tried to persuade me to visit the potential site of a nuclear power station with my children. I apologise that I did not take her up on the offer, but it shows her commitment. My right hon. Friend the Business Secretary will be making an announcement soon on things such as the launch of Great British Nuclear—I hope before Christmas, but if not just afterwards—because we want to crack on with our nuclear programme.

Richard Drax was concerned about the burden on the taxpayer, another excellent question:

I have huge sympathy for my right hon. Friend. We are facing severe financial challenges for the reasons he explained so well, but Members on both sides of the House are promising to spend billions and billions more pounds. I remind the House that it is the private sector, and hardworking people through their taxes, who pay for Government expenditure. Does my right hon. Friend agree that raising taxes on both risks stifling the growth and productivity that he and I both want, and that would counter the recession we are now in?

Hunt defended his budget:

My hon. Friend is right to make the case for a lightly taxed dynamic economy, and I would like to bring taxes down from their current level. We are faced with the necessity of doing something fast to restore sound money and bring inflation down from 11%, which is why we have made difficult decisions today. But yes, my hon. Friend is absolutely right: there is no future for this country unless we get back on the path to being a lower taxed economy.

Mark Pawsey asked about small businesses:

My constituents in Rugby and Bulkington will not enjoy the tough decisions that the Chancellor has had to make today, but they will understand the need for sound finances after the huge expenditure that the country has made on the pandemic and supporting people with their energy costs as a consequence of the war in Ukraine. They will also want to know that businesses will continue to invest to grow and to create jobs. Will he speak about the incentives that still exist for businesses to do exactly that?

Hunt pledged his support:

I am happy to do that. My hon. Friend is quite right to raise those issues. We are doing a lot of short-term things, including help with energy bills as well as business rates. As we move to a new business rates system, we are freezing the levels at which business rates can increase and introducing a 75% discount next year for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses. Fundamentally, as a Conservative Government, we know that we cannot flourish as an economy without flourishing small businesses, and we will back them to the hilt.

Greg Smith asked what Hunt was doing about reducing fuel duty:

I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend when he talks about the inflationary pressures coming from the aftershocks of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. We see that at the fuel pumps and, more significantly, our haulage and logistics sector sees it with the enormous level of taxation on diesel in particular driving inflation to get food and goods on to our shelves. As he prepares for the March Budget, will he look at the inflationary impact of fuel duty on top of the high cost of diesel and see whether we can reduce it?

Hunt said he was looking at the issue:

I assure my hon. Friend that I will absolutely do that. We have a little time, and I know that fuel duty is an important issue to him and many other colleagues.

March 2023 — fuel duty hike

Hunt’s answer to Greg Smith on the fuel duty hike sounded reassuring, but GB News’s economic editor Liam Halligan uncovered a planned fuel duty hike of 23% for March 2023 from the OBR forecast. It would be the first since 2011:

Here’s Liam Halligan talking about it:

Forbes noticed it, too, bringing the news to an even wider international audience:

https://image.vuukle.com/8d46442a-2514-45e7-9794-98dfc370ce1b-94c4922a-473b-4f2c-bf6c-332bb8ccac4e

Fiscal drag

The Times had an article on the upcoming fiscal drag following Hunt’s budget:

Disposable incomes, after adjusting for inflation, will fall by 4.3 per cent in 2022-23, which would be the largest fall since records began in the 1950s. It is set to be followed by the second largest fall — in 2023-24 — of 2.8 per cent.

… Despite the aspirations of Rishi Sunak to create a low-tax economy, Britain is on course for its biggest ever tax burden as hundreds of thousands of workers are dragged into higher income tax bands by the freezing of thresholds and allowances while businesses also face a jump in levies, including employment taxes.

The tax burden is set to rise to 37.5 per cent of GDP in the financial year ending 2025, reaching the highest level since records began shortly after the Second World War.

The level of taxation as a share of the national income will rise to 36.4 per cent of GDP this year and 37.4 per cent in the financial year ending 2024, breaking the previous record.

Recovery is not likely to begin until 2025, several months after the next general election. This is accurate only if Conservatives are still in power by then:

GDP is expected to rise by 4.2 per cent this year before falling by 1.4 per cent next year, only returning to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2024. However, growth is expected to pick up to 2.6 per cent the following year and 2.7 per cent in 2026, following a recovery in real incomes, consumption and investment.

The Telegraph also had an article on fiscal drag:

Nearly a quarter of a million workers will be dragged into paying the 45p rate of income tax after Jeremy Hunt slashed the threshold at which it is charged.

The salary on which the additional rate is payable will be reduced from £150,000 to £125,140 effective next April, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced in the Autumn Statement, and frozen until 2028, forcing 232,000 workers into paying the top rate of tax for the first time and costing these quarter of a million taxpayers £620 on average, according to wealth manager Quilter.

The number of workers paying 45pc has more than doubled since the rate was first introduced in 2010 – rising from 236,000 to 629,000 today – as wage inflation has pushed more taxpayers into the highest income tax band.

Lowering the threshold will cost the 629,000 workers earning over £150,000 who are already impacted by the 45pc tax an additional £1,250 …

Just two months ago, then-Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng promised that the top rate would be abolished altogether. But now the Government is hoping to earn £420m in 2023-24 by catching more taxpayers in the 45pc net, and almost double that – £855m – in 2027-28.

Neela Chauhan of accountancy firm UHY Hacker Young said the move was “a major attack” on higher earners.

She added: “It’s going to bring in people into the upper rate who feel that they are far from being rich.”

Tax firm RSM said that there are also unexpected consequences of slashing the additional-rate threshold and the Chancellor had opened the door to a new 67.5pc tax rate.

Taxpayers earning over £100,000 lose their personal allowance at a rate of £1 for every £2 of income.

This means for every £100 they earn between £100,000 and £125,140, a worker takes home just £40 – because £40 is lost to income tax and another £20 to the tapering of the personal allowance – creating a 60pc tax trap.

Dismal headlines

The Guardian has a breakdown of last Friday’s front pages, which were bleak.

The Telegraph noted the austerity of George Osborne, Chancellor when the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition took over from in 2010, and the Labourite policies of his predecessor Gordon Brown. At the bottom of the page is an analysis from Lord Frost:

Lord Frost’s analysis is pro-Truss/Kwarteng

Lord Frost points out that the OBR are predicting what Liz Truss did just a few weeks ago:

This was a very curious Autumn Statement. For the last month, we have been told that Britain needed to re-establish the confidence of the markets and put in place renewed fiscal discipline, supposedly so carelessly squandered by Liz Truss. “Eye-wateringly painful decisions” were coming for all of us …

… public spending will be at its highest since the 1970s and taxation the highest since the Second World War. Both only start to fall, gently, in the late 2020s, and then only because of some pretty heroic assumptions about growth. Indeed, under Liz Truss we were told that 2.5 per cent growth was impossible – yet the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) is predicting exactly that for 2025 and 2026.

How do we explain this?

To do so, I think, we have to go back to that extraordinary week in mid-October, when Truss’s government blew up on the launch pad

She was levered out of Downing Street with the argument that she had been careless about the public finances, casual about fiscal discipline and had lost market confidence. An emergency correction was needed – tax rises or spending cuts, and probably both.

Yet on taking office, our current government will have found – as the OBR has now acknowledged – that we were already into a deepening recession. Tightening fiscal policy with growth collapsing and interest rates increasing globally would clearly have been an insane policy, one at variance with what virtually every economist would suggest. But, having destroyed the Truss administration for being insufficiently fiscally disciplinarian, the Government could hardly overtly change course itself.

That is why we got what we got. Keep growing spending, raise taxes now on unpopular groups, defer deficit reduction and everything else until 2025, and meanwhile talk a lot about austerity and discipline to disguise the reality that this is likely a similar fiscal policy to what Truss’s would have been, just at higher levels of tax and spend. Then, after the election, if the Conservatives are still in power, it can all be looked at again …

… Taxes on business wreck investment and growth. Taxes on the (not very) rich destroy incentives. Britain’s hard-won reputation for being a low tax country is permanently lost. And we all have less of our own money and are less free.

Another defence of Trussonomics

The Mail reminds us that the Truss plan was to cap energy prices for two years. Hunt has reduced this to the end of March 2023:

Average energy bills will rise to £3,000 a year from April as Chancellor Jeremy Hunt confirmed he was scrapping previous Government plans.

In his Autumn Statement to the House of Commons, Mr Hunt revealed changes to the ‘Energy Price Guarantee’ would leave Britons facing higher gas and electricity payments next year.

When former prime minister Liz Truss first announced the cost of living support in September, she outlined how average energy bills would be frozen at £2,500 a year for the next two years

Delivering details of an altered plan today, Mr Hunt revealed the Energy Price Guarantee would now be set at a higher level of £3,000 a year for average households until April 2024.

Of course, those who use less energy at home might have less to pay:

The plan only caps the cost per unit that households pay, with actual bills still determined by how much is consumed.

Sarah Coles, senior personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said:

The fact that this comes on top of so many other price rises means life is going to get even tougher next spring.

More Trussonomics

The Spectator‘s editor Fraser Nelson wrote an analysis of the budget for The Telegraph, ‘This could turn out to be the week that the Tories lost the next election’.

I noted above that some of what Hunt said points far into the future.

Fraser Nelson also observed that fact:

Suspiciously, almost all of this austerity is due to take place after April 2025, after the election. The Tory benches were very quiet during Hunt’s speech, perhaps because they were piecing all this together. It was not just an Autumn Statement being written, but the next Conservative manifesto, too – with all the bad stuff saved for after the vote. Hardly the behaviour of a party expecting to win.

As one minister put it: “This was the day we lost the election.” This is how some Tories see the Autumn Statement: a suicide note, wrapping a poison pill for a Keir Starmer government to swallow.

This is the alarming rate of borrowing today. Factor in the previous QE and the generous Sunak pandemic programmes when he was Chancellor:

Even now, the Government is borrowing £485 million a day – or £20,000 by the time you finish this sentence. It all needs to be repaid. And the interest we all have to pay for such debt is, broadly, treble what it was a year ago.

The new forecasts show a UK Government expecting to pay £484 billion in debt interest over the next five years – almost £300 billion more than was expected this time last year. This year alone it’s £120 billion, twice last year’s sum.

This extra £60 billion has had to come from somewhere. It’s enough to double the size of the military, treble the police force or rebuild every school or hospital. But instead it is dead money, servicing an old debt – and things need to be squeezed to make room for it. For years, Tories wrote cheques, for HS2 and more, barely thinking about the cost. Now the bill has landed.

Nelson doesn’t mention the number of times long-serving Conservative backbenchers warned Sunak over the past two years that the bill would come due, but I saw them in parliamentary debates being duly ignored. To Sunak, those men were mere Thatcherites, so last century. Rishi told us we could borrow with little consequence. Not so.

He created a lot of our current problems and campaigned in August that he would be the candidate to get us out of this situation.

Now he is No. 10, just as he wanted to be from the beginning:

Sunak can’t be blamed for the debt interest. But he might have been expected to have better ideas of how to get out of the mess.

Of the Autumn Statement, Nelson writes:

Liz Truss said her message was “growth, growth, growth,” but Sunak’s seems to be “brace, brace, brace”. A massive fiscal impact lies ahead, he says – and our mission is to recognise it, make our peace with it, and accept that talk about a low-tax future is futile. So his Autumn Statement did not kick-start a recovery. It was, instead, a requiem for growth.

Of the August leadership campaign, he reminds us:

During the leadership debate, Truss was asked what advice she would give to Sunak. Don’t be so fatalistic, she told him. Don’t go along with narratives of decline. She had a point. Groundless optimism ended her premiership very quickly, but groundless pessimism can also be deeply damaging.

Nelson wonders how a government can so quickly discount its people:

A million more Brits, for example, are expected to join the 1.7 million already claiming disability or health-related benefits over the next five years. They will, in turn, join the 3.5 million others on out-of-work benefits. Was it so unreasonable to hope that this number might go down, with people helped back to work? We’ve been promised a review into all this, but not much else.

Another assumption is that most of the 400,000 who have dropped out of the economy since the pandemic started, citing long-term sickness, will never work again. It’s hard to find many other countries giving up so readily on such a stunningly large chunk of the population.

Is a uniquely British malady at work here? Or is the real problem a kind of Tory fatalism, where an exhausted governing party thinks the country is now too old, too sick or simply too workshy to get back to where it was in January 2020?

Many conservative voters said at the time that Rishi’s furlough scheme was a bit too helpful — and we were paying for it.

Now we are paying even more for it.

Nelson concludes:

the risk is that voters make up their mind now – and associate Toryism with chaos, broken promises and a general counsel of despair. Labour just needs to promise to do things better. As things stand, it’s not a very high bar.

Feeling fleeced yet?

The Telegraph‘s editorial warned, ‘Hard times ahead for British taxpayers’:

Unlike the tumultuous response to Kwasi Kwarteng’s unfunded growth measures in September, the market reaction was muted, which is precisely what Mr Hunt hoped for, even if the pound fell against the dollar amid forecasts of a year-long recession …

… benefits and the old age pension will rise in April by 10.1 per cent, the inflation rate in October.

This continues a trend of recent years whereby working people are expected to pay more in tax to protect social programmes that successive governments have been reluctant to reform. Although headline tax rates have not risen, the extended freeze on allowances at a time of double-digit inflation is a serious hit to the incomes of millions who will be dragged into higher bands. Some three million earners will pay income tax for the first time.

This year will see the sharpest fall in living standards on record, while the tax burden rises to its highest level as a share of GDP in decades. More than 47 per cent of national income will be spent in the public sector. In fact, spending will actually rise in real terms. The cuts are to planned budgets.

Rishi Sunak and Mr Hunt consider this social democratic approach to be fair and compassionate, closing off attack lines from Labour as a general election approaches. But there are consequences for the long-term well-being of the country if working people and businesses feel they are being fleeced to prop up failing public services and a benefit system in need of a drastic overhaul.

Essentially, the productive part of the economy is being squeezed to prop up the unproductive. The problem Mr Sunak faces is that, by 2024, the Conservatives will have been in office for 14 years and they need to offer voters a better slogan than “Labour will be worse”. In fact, Labour would support many of the measures in the Autumn Statement, from loading more tax on the wealthy to increasing windfall taxes on the energy companies.

ministers need to prepare for the worst and could proactively address the biggest drags on the economy, above all the NHS, social care and welfare benefits. The health service continues to soak up huge sums – with another £6 billion announced yesterday – and yet produces worse outcomes. Its shortcomings are causing problems throughout the economy, with treatment backlogs contributing to acute manpower shortages which the Government intends to fill by increasing immigration.

The Spectator‘s political editor James Forsyth, a close friend of Rishi Sunak’s, explained in The Times why this recession is different to previous ones and why we need more people in the workforce. I hope his friend pays attention to this:

One bright spot amid the gloom is the unemployment rate, which is just 3.6 per cent, down from 3.8 per cent this year. This is close to historic lows. But even this glimmer is tarnished. The low unemployment number disguises how many people have left the labour force: one in five working-age Brits are economically inactive, meaning they are neither in work nor looking for it. More than five million are claiming out-of-work benefits.

The recession may last a year, perhaps two — but it will be different. Unemployment, as formally defined, won’t exceed 5 per cent even during the worst of the downturn — in the 1980s it went into double digits. Seldom have there been more vacancies in the economy. It’s an odd form of recession where almost anyone who wants a job can find one, but that’s the situation we’re in. Almost every month, the number of those not looking for work grows: it jumped by 169,000 in the three months to August. That is more than the population of Oxford.

This has consequences. The OBR thinks the cost of health and disability benefits will rise by £7.5 billion — quite a sum. A shrinking labour market is also one of the reasons why the Bank of England thinks potential growth is now a mere 0.75 per cent even in 2024-25. The Tories desperately need to get back to moving people from welfare into work — not just to reduce the welfare bill but also to boost the economy

Alongside those not in work nor looking for it, there are 970,000 people on Universal Credit who are working very limited hours in an economy where employers are offering shifts. Hunt announced that about 600,000 of them will now be required to meet a work coach to try to increase their hours. This signals a return to Tory welfare reform …

to ensure taxes don’t need to keep going up indefinitely, two things are needed. The first is a renewed emphasis on public-sector reform. The Tory mantra used to be more for less from public services. But in recent years, it has felt like the opposite is the case. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies pointed out this week, the NHS has more money and more staff than it did before Covid yet is treating fewer people on the waiting list. This needs reversing if the tax burden is not to continue climbing ever higher.

The second is the economy needs to grow. Meat needs to be put on the bones of the growth agenda that Sunak and Hunt set out this week, with further incentives for businesses to invest.

After the debacle of the mini-budget, this autumn statement was always going to be about steadying the ship. Yet satisfying the markets is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a successful government. Sunak and Hunt must now deliver on public service reform, moving people from welfare into work and getting more out of the health and education budgets.

The Telegraph had more on the parlous state of the NHS, despite more taxpayer money being dumped into it, all for nought:

An analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows the health service in England carried out 600,000 fewer procedures in the first nine months of 2022, compared with the same period in 2019.

The NHS’s budget rose from £123.7 billion in 2019-20 to £151.8  billion in 2022-23, with the extra funding tied to a target of increasing elective hospital activity by 30 per cent compared with pre-pandemic levels. This will not only be missed but matters have worsened. Why is no one being held to account?

Record sums have been poured in for years, yet there is now a waiting list of more than seven million patients. Working practices remain stuck in the past, with consultants complaining that hospitals are “like the Mary Celeste” at weekends, while most GP surgeries are only open on weekdays, pushing patients to overstretched A&E services.

The NHS unions are not helping in their demands for more money.

The article concludes:

There is something fundamentally wrong with the NHS which politicians must confront before it crashes and brings the rest of the economy down with it.

Hunt puts economic hope in migrants

It seems the OBR, a quango started by the Conservative Chancellor George Osborne and staffed by Labourites, has convinced Jeremy Hunt that he should increase our already heavy migration levels to boost the economy.

That’s a left-wing idea that has never worked.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman will oppose that, but can she succeed? Only a few weeks ago, a 90-minute argument with Liz Truss and Hunt resulted in Braverman’s resignation. Her security violations were a likely smokescreen for what really happened.

The Telegraph reported:

Jeremy Hunt is relying on a surge in net migration to more than 200,000 people per year to help deliver economic growth as he oversees a sharp rise in the tax burden to its highest ever peacetime level.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) predicted net migration – the numbers entering the UK minus those leaving – will be 224,000 next year, before gently declining to settle at 205,000 a year from 2026 onwards.

This is dramatically higher than the OBR’s March estimate, when it predicted that net migration would be between 139,000 and 129,000 in the same years, some 80,000 lower.

It is also significantly higher than the long-term “ambition” of Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, to reduce net migration to below 100,000 – similar to the target of Theresa May, one of her predecessors in the post.

The increase in migrant labour will help to buttress Britain’s economy as Mr Hunt imposes higher taxes on earnings, jobs and investment. The OBR said that an increase in migration would help add to the potential size of the economy.

However, rising costs from tax are creating “growing disincentives to work”, reduce business investment and depress wages, according to the OBR itself.

Business groups were even more damning. The Chancellor talked a lot about “hard work” and “fairness” in his Autumn Statement. But workers, entrepreneurs and businesses have been left to pick up the bill to keep Britain’s welfare state on the road.

The OBR are being deeply irresponsible in advocating city-sized populations coming from abroad each year.

Where will these people live? How is our infrastructure — medical facilities, schools, water supply — increase to meet this demand year upon year?

Anyone travelling by Tube can pick up a copy of the Evening Standard to read about how many British twenty-somethings in London cannot find a room to rent. In many cases, there are 100 of them chasing every available room. The Standard interviews them. Their stories are heart-breaking. These young people are signed up to every rental app, to no avail.

Council tax increasing

On top of all of this, The Times reported that Hunt has given the green light to councils to increase council tax:

… the chancellor announced “more council tax flexibilities”, enabling councils in England to raise council tax by 3 per cent a year (up from 2 per cent) from April 2023 and increase the adult social care precept by 2 per cent a year (up from 1 per cent) without having to hold a referendum — leaving councils free to raise the tax by up to 5 per cent next year.

Their article has charts of various council tax rates and offers this example:

If they decide to increase council tax by the full 5 per cent, council tax band D payments would rise by £115 from £2,300 to £2,415 a year in Rutland in the East Midlands — the local authority with the most expensive tax bills in England — while in Westminster in central London, the cheapest authority, they would increase by just £43 from £866 to £909 a year.

Short takes

The Telegraph has an article on winners and losers from the Autumn Statement. There are only two groups of winners: housebuyers and pensioners/benefits claimants.

The Guardian interviewed some of Hunt’s constituents in leafy South West Surrey. They are unhappy with him as MP and are equally unhappy with the Government.

Guido Fawkes’s sketchwriter summed up Hunt’s announcement as follows:

What was the job of the day? To persuade the markets that all was under control. That debt-to-GDP would fall in reasonable time, that things would get back to normal in his cool, technocratic, managerial hands.

It’s what we all need, to believe that someone knows how things work and that they know what they’re doing. That there is such a thing as “sound money”. That the great, communal hallucination of financial reality may be preserved.

In Guido’s view, the Chancellor did exactly that. (Pound crashes, housing market collapses, the global financial architecture disappears into the Pacific Trench)

The readers’ comments near the end of that post have to do with the raw deal Liz Truss got. Here’s the exchange:

I find it impossible to believe that Liz Truss did so much damage in a couple of weeks with a mini budget which was never even enacted to require today’s grotesque socialist budget. Hunt and Rishi must be following an ideological policy and using Truss as their excuse.

Yes, she’s been made a convenient scapegoat by the WEF shills, to cover all their earlier and current mistakes and wrongdoings.

She went too far too fast and, by doing so, gave the one nation Tories and SunakHunts the opportunity to bring her down. The real villains are Sunak and Bailey [Bank of England governor] with their money printing and inflation denial. We are paying for their mistakes.

She didn’t go too far too fast. That is the Conservative spin. The Socialist spin is that she crashed the economy. It was cautious and a promising start, a direction of travel being set, nothing more – except for that huge two year package on the gas bills which was pure socialism and not mentioned by anyone.

The true Conservative spin is that, as an experienced Cabinet minister, she didn’t scan the political and financial hinterlands and underestimated the faux Conservative forces ranged against her. Once she u-turned she was done for.

On another of Guido’s posts, a reader posited that this is all about reversing Brexit:

The champagne socialist billionaire Rishi Sunak and arch remainer narssisist Jeremy Hunt have nailed the final nails in the socialist party AKA as the Conservative party coffin. They will be wiped out at the next GE for a generation. They want to tank the economy and make everyone feel financial pain so they can say BREXIT didn’t work. They will then seem to come to the rescue with every excuse on the planet and join us up first to the single market and customs union. Then kicking and screaming back into the EU. Why do you think they staged this remainer coup and got rid of Truss? The Truss budget of low tax, high wages, high growth, low government spend and the scrapping of the 2300-3000 EU laws retained on the UK statue book would have taken advantage of BREXIT and boosted the economy. They could not allow that to happen. They want to ditch plans to scrap the EU laws as that will make it harder to leave. They have folded on the NI Protocol and leaving the Jurisdiction of the ECHR. Why? Because they want to rejoin. We now are having forced on us a low wage, high tax, low growth, high government spend economy that will cripple most people financially and small businesses. Who wants to invest in the UK now?

On that note, another reader posted a photo of Hunt and Sunak sharing a laugh, with this fictitious caption:

Hunt: Told you you didn’t need the support of the members.

Sunak: Yes, it was so easy to stab Truss in the back, too. Who needs democracy?

What taxpayers can do

All is not lost for taxpayers. There are ways to mitigate the effects from Hunt’s statement.

Anyone who needs to cut back on food costs, protein in particular, should start eating eggs, which are cheap and the best source of protein around. Supposedly, they’re in short supply, but I bought a dozen only yesterday.

The Telegraph has an excellent article on various egg preparations, whether sweet or savoury. It’s well worth reading.

The paper also has a helpful article about what taxpayers can do to mitigate Hunt’s raid on their money. Some will require advice from a financial planner. The most important tip is to get one’s capital gains in order and start liquidating shares or funds to put into an ISA — a process called ‘bed and ISA’ — without exceeding the CGT thresholds. This has to be started well before the end of the 2022-23 tax year in April, when the current capital gains threshold of £12,300 expires and becomes £6,000 for one year, then £3,000 the year after that.

Good luck!

Thursday, November 17 is a historic day, because the UK will be seeing a return to high taxes, this under a ‘Conservative’ government.

I’m writing this before Chancellor Jeremy Hunt gives his budget, or ‘statement’, but Guido Fawkes has a preview, which includes this:

Cutting capital gains tax allowance from £12,300 to £6,000;

Raising dividend tax rate across all three bands and cutting tax-free allowance to £1,000.

Shocking.

On the other hand, we have this:

Raising benefits in line with inflation;

Protecting the triple lock on pensions.

Liz: ‘No new taxes’

Let us cast our minds back to Liz Truss, who did not want to penalise ordinary Britons:

Clearly, she was the wrong person for Prime Minister.

Since Rishi became PM, I have read very little criticism of him in the media, recalling that, for whatever reason, they all wanted him in No. 10.

And, now that he is in No. 10, everything has been rolled back to a very Establishment Government, including the Treasury. There is no criticism of Jeremy Hunt, either, even though his budget will have a deleterious impact on Britain’s middle class.

Rishi’s Cabinet is more of the same old, same old, as I wrote yesterday. The media don’t criticise him for it, either.

Liz’s refreshing Cabinet

Liz made some splendid Cabinet appointments, some of which I covered yesterday.

Two others included Jacob Rees-Mogg as Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary and Simon Clarke as Levelling Up Secretary.

Out were Boris’s chaps, including Steve Barclay …

… Grant Shapps …

… and Dominic Raab, whose departure was also warmly welcomed. Note the warning in the reply tweet:

Interestingly, she kept Kit Malthouse, transferring him from Policing to Education. I, too, would have preferred Kemi Badenoch in that post:

Liz gave Tom Tugendhat, one of the summer’s Conservative Party leadership candidates, his first Cabinet role, one which he holds on to today under Rishi Sunak — that of Security Minister.

The Times noted that there was no longer a Minister for Women in Cabinet, which is a good thing. This is a hangover from Tony Blair’s time:

Liz Truss will not have a cabinet-level minister for women, having handed the equalities brief to a man.

Truss was minister for women and equalities in conjunction with her role as foreign secretary before she became prime minister on Tuesday.

The ministerial post, which Truss had held since February 2020, means taking charge of the government equalities office (GEO), which was created in 2007. This oversees government policy on women, sexual orientation, transgender rights and related issues.

Truss has appointed Nadhim Zahawi, the new chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, to succeed her in the position. Because he is a man, it was decided his title would be minister for equalities. But No 10 confirmed yesterday that his job was the same as when Truss held it …

The title of minister for women was created by Tony Blair in 1997, before the GEO was set up …

With regard to education and diversity, Liz’s Cabinet was a testament to opportunity in the United Kingdom.

On Thursday, September 8, The Times told us that she had the most privately-educated Cabinet since John Major’s time (1990-1997):

The new prime minister’s cabinet are more than nine times more likely to have gone to an independent school than the general population, according to analysis by the Sutton Trust, a social mobility charity.

It found that 68 per cent of the cabinet were educated at fee-charging schools, while 19 per cent went to a comprehensive and 10 per cent attended a grammar school. This compares with around 7 per cent of the wider population.

Under Boris Johnson’s first cabinet, 64 per cent of members were alumni of private schools and the proportion is more than twice that of Theresa May’s 2016 cabinet, of which 30 per cent were privately educated.

David Cameron — who like Johnson attended Eton — appointed 50 per cent alumni of private schools in his first cabinet and for the 2010 coalition cabinet the proportion was 62 per cent

The article noted that Liz herself attended a private secondary school:

Roundhay School in Leeds. She was criticised during her leadership campaign for suggesting the outstanding school, in an affluent suburb, had low expectations and a lack of opportunity.

Margaret Thatcher and John Major had higher percentages of privately educated Cabinet members:

John Major (71 per cent in 1992) and Margaret Thatcher (91 per cent in 1979).

The Sutton Trust disapproved of Liz having such a high proportion of privately educated Cabinet members, but, considering how diverse everyone was, it was a positive optic.

Thankfully, on Sunday, September 11, The Sunday Times pointed out ‘Cabinet heavyweights crown the success of post-colonial African migrants’. Why hadn’t the Sutton Trust done a press release on that?

The article said:

The sound of glass ceilings cracking could be heard all over Whitehall last week, as Liz Truss announced her first cabinet. With the elevation of Kwasi Kwarteng to chancellor of the exchequer, Suella Braverman to home secretary, James Cleverly to foreign secretary and Kemi Badenoch to trade secretary, Truss’s cabinet represents the most diverse ruling cadre ever appointed in Britain. At least when it comes to ethnicity.

The arrival of these individuals into the great offices of the British state also represents the culmination of an extraordinary and underplayed success story: post-colonial African migration into the UK. All four are children of parents who arrived in the waves of late 20th century migration that followed the retreat of the British empire.

Kwarteng’s parents came from Ghana in the 1960s. Although Braverman’s parents are of Indian ethnicity, they lived in Kenya and Mauritius before emigrating to the United Kingdom in the 1960s. Cleverly’s mother emigrated from Sierra Leone in that decade. Badenoch’s parents both come from Lagos, Nigeria. Although Badenoch is British, she spent much of her childhood there.

Furthermore, previous Cabinet members at the time also had parents who emigrated from Africa:

Two recently departed cabinet heavyweights, Priti Patel and Rishi Sunak, also have parents who migrated to Britain from east Africa: Uganda in Patel’s case, Kenya and Tanzania in Sunak’s. Each individual story is different of course, and all faced a variety of economic and social hurdles to success in Britain. But taken together, they reflect a journey from post-imperial Africa to the very heart of the British establishment, over the course of just two generations.

And, they are all Conservatives!

Jimi Famurewa, food critic for the Evening Standard and author of a new book, Settlers, about African migration to Britain, told The Sunday Times that private education for African immigrants was very important:

My family and a lot of families from west African countries that came here in the 1980s were very aspirational middle class. There’s a huge culture around the importance of education, across the African diaspora. It’s drummed into you that that’s your route to success.

It was really important to my parents that if they were in any way able to send us to private schools, that’s something they would do.

Education was seen as the silver bullet to advance socially and professionally. You can see reverberations of that in people like Kemi and Kwasi.

He was not surprised they are Conservative rather than Labour MPs:

Given their generally middle-class background and private education, it is perhaps no coincidence that many of the first black or Asian figures to hold the great offices of state are Conservative MPs. “It doesn’t hugely surprise me that they are all Conservatives,” said Famurewa. “By and large west African families are quite socially conservative in their beliefs.”

On a lighter note, the previous Leader of the House, Mark Spencer, received a food brief as Minister of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Someone on Twitter did a play on words with Marks & Spencer’s advert, including their brand Simply Food:

Thérèse Coffey’s plan for the NHS

Yesterday, I mentioned Liz’s Secretary for Health and Social Care, Thérèse Coffey. I neglected to mention that Coffey was also her Deputy Prime Minister.

Coffey is shown here at a 2015 Spectator summer party. Yes, she enjoys cigars:

The photo shocked those on social media:

On Wednesday, September 7, the Mail‘s Andrew Pierce told us that Coffey, whom Liz refers to as Tiz, is her long-time confidante:

Truss knows she owes a large part of her victory to her ever-faithful parliamentary companion. She has rewarded her lavishly – appointing her as Deputy Prime Minister and Health Secretary.

In a cut-throat political world, Coffey has shown absolute loyalty to her new boss over many years. She not only ran Truss’s successful campaign against Rishi Sunak for the leadership, but wisely persuaded her not to stand against Boris Johnson in the 2019 leadership contest – paving the way for her to become his successor instead.

The two have been friends since their student politics days more than 25 years ago and are known by some colleagues as ‘Yin and Yang’. Truss refers to Coffey affectionately as ‘Tiz’.

Interestingly, they started out as rivals, running against one another to be the Tory parliamentary candidate in South West Norfolk in 2007. It was Truss who triumphed.

She then took Coffey under her wing, coaching her on how to raise her game in selection meetings. Coffey was duly chosen for the neighbouring Suffolk Coastal constituency in 2010.

The two share a love of karaoke – which has got them into trouble in the past. Their regular karaoke evenings on the ministerial corridor in the Commons have on occasion become so boisterous that they were ticked off by Parliamentary authorities.

Coffey herself has had her own problems with karaoke – and they were nothing to do with how tuneful she is. During the 2021 Tory conference in Manchester, the then Work and Pensions Secretary was filmed at 1am belting out the classic song from the film Dirty Dancing, (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life.

Alas, only one hour earlier, her department had withdrawn the £20 weekly increase in universal credit for benefit claimants introduced during the pandemic. Coffey was upbraided over her lack of tact and her insensitive choice of song. She now prefers singing Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now.

However, Coffey has never lived down a picture taken at a Spectator magazine party in 2015 at which she was snapped puffing away on a large cigar and clutching a glass of champagne.

‘I do enjoy a cigar. I hadn’t realised I had spilt something on my top. I looked very odd. You’ll never see me smoke a cigar in front of anyone again,’ she said later. ‘It’s not a photograph I’m proud of.’

But despite all her faux pas, she is generally regarded as a safe pair of hands who avoids controversy

Both campaigned for Remain in the 2016 referendum and both backed Boris Johnson in the 2019 leadership contest. Truss was made Foreign Secretary, while Coffey entered the Cabinet as Work and Pensions Secretary.

A proud Scouser, Therese Anne Coffey was brought up in Liverpool. The daughter of two teachers, George and Alice, who worked in state schools, she was privately educated at St Mary’s College boarding school in North Wales and remains a practising Catholic to this day.

After sixth form at St Edward’s College in Liverpool (a grammar school that has since turned independent) Coffey read chemistry at Somerville College, Oxford – the same degree course at the same college as her political heroine Margaret Thatcher.

It was Thatcher’s battle with Militant Tendency, a Marxist group that had infiltrated Liverpool’s council and driven the city to the edge of bankruptcy in 1985, that converted Coffey to Conservative politics. She was only 14 when she joined the Young Conservatives.

By the time Mrs Thatcher visited Somerville College in 1994, the Tories were languishing in the polls behind Labour’s telegenic leader Tony Blair and many students had to be dragooned into a line-up to greet her. But one student – Coffey – broke ranks and ran noisily across the concourse to shake Mrs Thatcher’s hand.

After university she qualified as a chartered accountant, serving as finance director for Mars and as a finance manager at the BBC – one parallel with Truss, a chartered accountant who became economic director at Cable & Wireless.

Coffey’s Roman Catholicism defines her worldview, says Andrew Pierce. She has never married — and she is Liz’s next door neighbour in Greenwich. Kwasi Kwarteng lives nearby.

In 2018, Coffey became gravely ill because of an ear infection, which spread to her brain. She was diagnosed with meningitis and required hospitalisation as well as an operation. She was in hospital for one month:

At times, she had difficulty forming sentences and suffered memory loss. When her sister Clare, who runs her parliamentary office, came to visit, she said: ‘I have forgotten what these things on my feet are called.’ She was pointing at her slippers.

She later said she felt she’d had a ‘near miss’ and her recovery had made her enjoy life, adding: ‘You realise that you can be gone tomorrow. Cherish what you have.’

Liz was a regular visitor while her friend was in hospital – and again when she was recuperating at home.

On Thursday, September 8, The Times told us about Coffey’s plan for greater efficiency in the NHS:

Thérèse Coffey has demanded to know why all GPs and hospitals cannot match the best performers as she attempts to fulfil Liz Truss’s promise of enabling people to see a doctor easily.

The new health secretary said she wanted to set out “clear expectations” for the NHS after Truss said that dealing with the dire state of the health service would be a priority for her government. Coffey acknowledged yesterday she was not a “role model” after being criticised on social media about her weight and smoking …

Coffey has said her “A-B-C-D” priorities will involve focusing on ambulances, backlogs of routine treatment, care, doctors and dentistry.

She is due to set out her plan for the NHS next week but is understood not to have yet finalised specific actions. However, Coffey has asked for detail on “unwarranted variation” in the NHS, including ideas on how this could be used for performance management of hospitals and GPs …

The MP for Suffolk Coastal added: “My focus is on how we deliver for patients and I appreciate I may not be the role model but I am sure the chief medical officer and others will continue to be role models in that regard and I will do my best as well.”

Coffey had to take an early morning newsround, the first of the new premiership. LBC listeners discovered that the 50-year-old enjoys rap music, too:

“I’ve just realised my alarm is going off on my phone, I apologise,” Coffey said. “You’re getting a bit of Dr Dre. It’s just an eight o’clock alarm.”

The song was Still D.R.E., a 1999 track by Dr Dre, the American rapper, featuring Snoop Dogg. Dre, 57, whose real name is Andre Young, was a member of the rap group N.W.A. before becoming a solo artist and producer. Coffey is known as Dr Coffey thanks to her doctorate in chemistry from UCL.

No. 10 advisers

Liz also cleared out Boris’s advisers from No. 10.

On Tuesday, September 6, The Telegraph reported (emphases mine):

Liz Truss has appointed a new chief economic adviser who previously warned against heavy-handed green energy measures and wrote a book on how to shrink the state.

Matthew Sinclair – described by former colleagues as a “safe pair of hands” – has been appointed as the country faces an unprecedented rise in energy costs amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.

He will enter Downing Street as part of an inexperienced top team under the new Prime Minister, after she ordered a mass clear out of officials who had served under Boris Johnson.

Ms Truss wielded the axe shortly after taking power on Tuesday, with even … Mr Johnson’s deputy chief of staff David Canzini, who had been tipped to stay on at No 10 – failing to survive the cull.

Mr Sinclair has held a number of roles in the private sector, most recently at the accounting firm Deloitte, where he led its work on the digital economy. He has also worked on projects for the UK and European Parliaments.

The 38-year-old previously rose through the ranks of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, joining as a policy analyst but rising to chief executive in 2012. During this time, he made the case for small government, low taxes and ensuring British families get value for money.

Matthew Elliott, founder of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, who hired Mr Sinclair, said: “He is very much an ideas person, but he’s able to deliver the detail in spades. That’s going to prove very useful in government” …

He has also spoken out in favour of clear tax and spending rules, with fiscal targets and a system that prizes simplicity, as well as abolishing unnecessary quangos, maintaining a lean civil service, and decentralising power.

Mr Sinclair has also criticised MPs for using “climate change as an excuse to take your money”.

Clearly, supporting the public would turn out to be too good to be true. This could not last.

Matthew Sinclair’s former boss, Andrew Lilico, wrote a glowing recommendation for The Telegraph:

Liz Truss’s new chief economic adviser is Matthew Sinclair. In the Westminster world, Matthew is probably best-known for his stint as Chief Executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, arguing vigorously for all kinds of cuts to public expenditure, against tax rises and for greater transparency in taxes (including the campaign to get beer duty reported on till receipts and the end of the “fuel duty escalator”). He went on from there to work for me at Europe Economics as an economics consultant, doing hard-core economics projects for bodies such as the European Parliament on the sharing economy, the Department for Business on theories of competition in online platforms, and the Woodland Trust on the economic value of trees. He moved on from us to Deloitte, where until now he has been a Director in the Economic Advisory team, leading its work on the digital economy

He was a keen Brexiteer when the moment came, but having worked on projects for the EU agencies, he understands why they function as they do and their strengths as well as their weaknesses. His Italian wife also offers him an additional European perspective. No caricatured anti-European he. As well as wanting to diverge from the EU he will be keen that policy should learn from them where what they do is good.

Unafraid to look at the world squarely and challenge his own points of view, he likes to consider what would make his beliefs and recommendations prove to be wrong, after the event, as well as what might prove them to be right. Politically pragmatic and savvy, we can expect him to be closely interested in whether enough MPs might support this or that measure to get it through, as well as whether it would be right in an ideal world.

On Wednesday, September 7, the Mail told us more about Liz’s other advisers:

Mark Fullbrook, a former business partner of the Tory strategist Sir Lynton Crosby is set to become Miss Truss’s chief of staff, despite initially running the campaign for her rival Nadhim Zahawi.

Jason Stein, who worked with the new Prime Minister when she was chief secretary to the Treasury and helped her leadership campaign, will come on as a senior adviser with Ruth Porter, who worked with Miss Truss when she was justice secretary.

Adam Jones, who ran Miss Truss’s communications operation during her leadership campaign will be political director of communications. John Bew, Boris Johnson’s foreign policy adviser, is the only one to stay on with Miss Truss, having worked with her when she was foreign secretary.

Some of the 40 roles that Mr Johnson had in his team will not be filled as Miss Truss attempts to shrink the size of the Downing Street operation in a bid to set an example to the rest of Whitehall.

Miss Truss had said she will wage war on Whitehall waste and make billions of pounds of cuts. It is believed Mr Sinclair will be a key ally in helping her achieve her aims.

In 2012, Mr Sinclair set out a six-point plan to cut Whitehall spending.

His first idea was to abolish the Equality and Human Rights Commission to save £48.9million in funding. Even a decade ago, he complained that the EHRC had taken on ‘a campaigning role that is inappropriate for a public sector body’.

This drive for efficiency could not last, could it?

No, it could not. Nor would it.

Shaky perception

The prospect of Liz Truss as Prime Minister had not moved the polls at the end of August, as YouGov demonstrated:

Guido Fawkes wrote (emphases his):

Labour leads the Tories by 15 points, 43% to 28%. It is a big mountain to climb before the next election. Good luck…

On September 6, The Telegraph‘s Allison Pearson analysed Truss’s victory and the criticism she received:

Few believe that Truss is the cat’s whiskers. Not even on her own side. Of the 172,437 Tory party members who were eligible to vote, 30,712 didn’t bother at all and 60,399 voted for Rishi Sunak. It’s the narrowest margin of victory since members were allowed to decide. A YouGov poll suggested that only 21 per cent of the public like Truss and, of those who voted Conservative at the last general election, 50 per cent don’t trust her.

Even before she was declared the winner, the brickbats were coming thick and fast. I don’t use the word misogyny lightly, but I have been shocked by the hateful abuse hurled at Liz Truss by lofty male commentators. “The worst PM ever,” suggested one …

Although Truss ended up reading PPE, I’m told by one of her contemporaries that she got into Merton College to read maths. A girl from a Northern comprehensive does not win a mathematics place at Oxford without being seriously clever.

If anything, I reckon it is a slight spoddy tendency, inherited from her maths-lecturer father, which inhibits Truss’s ability to communicate with feeling. A deficiency in expressiveness and verbal felicity doesn’t mean a lack of thinking power. Quite the contrary. Wiffly, wordy arts graduates have had their turn running the country; time to let the numbers girl have a go.

Pearson was referring to Boris in that sentence.

Also:

Shame on those backbench Tory MPs who are rumoured to be murmuring about confidence votes and slyly manoeuvring against their new leader before she’s even got her feet under the desk. Have we really reached a point of such decadence, after 12 years in power, that Conservatives prefer to devote their energies to undermining a loyal friend than smiting the enemy? If so, electoral wipeout in 2024 will be richly deserved – even welcome.

This was a typical anti-Liz comment:

The outspoken Labour MP Chris Bryant who, somehow, had won the Civility in Politics award, said this:

It feels like pretty much anyone with a brain, a conscience and a work ethic has been purged from government either by Johnson or Truss. It’s an empty vessel of a government – loud, noisy but dangerously vacuous.

By contrast, when he accepted the award, he said:

Politics doesn’t have to be brutal. Our opponents are human and nobody has a monopoly on truth, so I try to be polite, civil and empathetic in every engagement… Manners maketh humanity.

Queen postpones Privy Council meeting

Bad news arrived on Wednesday, September 7, when the Queen postponed a virtual meeting of the Privy Council.

The Times reported:

The Queen has postponed a meeting of the Privy Council on the advice of her doctors, Buckingham Palace said today …

“After a full day yesterday, Her Majesty has this afternoon accepted doctors’ advice to rest,” a spokesman said. “This means that the Privy Council meeting that had been due to take place this evening will be rearranged.”

A royal source said that there would be “no running commentary” on the Queen’s health.

The meeting was necessary in order for Elizabeth Truss to become First Lord of the Treasury, a title that goes to the Prime Minister. The Mail said:

During the proceedings, Ms Truss would have taken her oath as First Lord of the Treasury and new cabinet ministers would have been sworn into their roles, and also made privy counsellors if not already appointed as one in past.

The Privy Council is a formal body of advisers to the Sovereign of the United Kingdom. As of last month, there were 719 members on the council, with membership lasting for life.

It is composed of politicians, civil servants, judges, members of the clergy as well as Prince Charles and the Duke of Cambridge

There is no constitutional issue with the delay to the proceedings, the palace said.

King Charles held the meeting the weekend after his mother died.

On Thursday, September 8, the world was shocked to learn of Her Majesty’s death. Earlier that afternoon, the extraordinary news that she was unwell filtered to the House of Commons, where Liz was outlining her energy support plan.

On Saturday, September 10, The Times reported that Liz had a lot on her plate, beginning with her energy statement, knowing that the Queen was dying:

Truss had got to her feet knowing the Queen’s death was “imminent”. She was with her team in her House of Commons office preparing for the energy statement when she heard …

If Truss is prime minister for a decade she may never have a bigger day than Thursday: a head of government less than two days into the job making an even bigger economic intervention than the pandemic furlough scheme, battling to finalise her ministerial team and facing the death of a beloved head of state whose final public act was to make her prime minister.

However, Liz and her team were beginning what they hoped would be a new era of reform:

The Queen’s death robbed the government of media coverage to publicise details of its help for families at a time when the public wants to know how they will deal with soaring inflation. As these problems piled up, the new team began, under the radar, one of the most radical shake-ups of how government is run that anyone can remember. It has left Conservative MPs wondering if Truss has bitten off more than she can chew.

One of the big ructions earlier that week involved Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng sacking Gordon Brown’s Chief of Staff, Sir Tom Scholar, who, inexpicably, had been made Permanent Secretary to the Treasury and served under no fewer than five Conservative Chancellors between 2016 and 2022. Before that, he was the Prime Minister’s Adviser for Europe and Global Issues to David Cameron.

Many conservatives were delighted, but, in the Blob (our equivalent of the Swamp), the news did not go down well:

At the start of the week, it looked like officials were being sidelined. Dozens of civil servants in Downing Street received a peremptory email on Tuesday telling them to leave No 10. Sir Tom Scholar, the permanent secretary at the Treasury, was told he was no longer required in his first meeting with Kwasi Kwarteng, the new chancellor. The mood in the civil service was “sulphurous”. One official phoned a friend in the Labour Party and said: “They’re making a real rod for their own backs.”

Liz’s ambition for a leaner structure in Downing Street also upset the Blob:

when photos of Truss’s first cabinet emerged on Wednesday morning MPs were surprised to see that not one of her spin doctors or political aides, from chief of staff Mark Fullbrook down, was present. Only Truss’s closest civil service aide, Nick Catsaras, her new principal private secretary, was there. One politico from a previous Downing Street regime remarked drily: “The irony was that those people had to be in cabinet when she was a secretary of state as you had to deal with all her leaks.”

“Liz doesn’t want a presidential style No 10,” an aide said. “She wants it to be lean, professional and relentlessly focused on delivery — policymaking and legislating. You’ll see fewer prime ministerial visits, fewer events in No 10, and in its place more meetings on the economy, on energy and the things people really care about.”

Ironically, although the Blob were complaining, she was actually giving some among them more power than ever before:

… in this she has handed huge power to the civil servants. One close ally explained: “The good ones will be deeply empowered by her. The civil service are always in the ascendancy with Liz as long as they actually do their job.”

When she announced the outline of her energy support plan, she had no details:

Key details of how the plan will work were left unexplained in her statement to parliament on Thursday, not least the estimated cost. Aides argued that this depends on the price of gas. “If I knew what that was going to be in a year’s time I would be working for a hedge fund, not the government,” one said.

As for a leaner No. 10, some were sceptical it could work. Others remained positive:

Scepticism remains about whether a slimmed-down No 10 can really deal with the challenges it faces. A former No 10 aide said: “PMs always go in with some great new structure that will streamline things and then discover they’ve just handed away power before spending 12 months scrabbling to get it back” …

… from their point of view, the new team has been tested early, something that will stand them in good stead through the turbulence ahead. “Officials have described it as the busiest week in No 10 in living memory,” an aide said. “We had no idea when we wrote the line ‘Together we can get through the storm’ into Liz’s Downing Street speech how apposite it would come to feel.”

In policy areas, Liz was keen on fracking and, towards that end, sacked the eco-friendly Lord Goldsmith in his DEFRA ministerial post in the House of Lords.

On Friday, September 16, Guido reported:

Despite the reshuffle being formally paused until after the Queen’s funeral, Liz Truss has ploughed on with sacking Tory tree-hugger-in-chief Zac Goldsmith from his DEFRA ministerial post. While the government is still paying lip service to the Net Zero target, they’ve signalled climate and animal welfare issues could be de-prioritised over the coming months. The Guardian speculates that the Animal Welfare Bill could be first up for slaughter. The PM’s next royal audience should be interesting… 

The news comes as The Guardian reports Liz is planning to follow through on her leadership election pledge and lift the ban on fracking as soon as possible, with first licences set to be issued as early as next week. This will no doubt come as welcome relief as energy bills continue to rise during winter. The decision comes despite the paper’s ominous quote from a forthcoming report that forecasting fracking-induced earthquakes “remains a significant challenge”. In August 2019 Caudrilla halted work after recording the UK’s “biggest fracking tremor”. The tremor in question was 1.55ML on the Richter scale, “which it likened to ‘a large bag of shopping dropping to the floor’”…

Former Labour adviser John McTernan wrote an article for UnHerd, saying that Liz’s policy strategy could unhinge Labour:

The abandonment of the sugar tax, and possibly the entire government anti-obesity strategy has been floated. As has ending the cap on bonuses in the City. These give the flavour of what the 100 Days Plan must have looked like. Sir Lynton Crosby famously talks of “getting rid of the barnacles”: that before a government can campaign effectively, it needs to rid itself of unnecessary distractions. These could be unpopular policies, ungrasped nettles, or unresolved disputes, but the Queen’s death has prevented this, disrupting the Government’s momentum.

The Prime Minister wants to govern as she campaigned for the leadership. Directly, clearly and simply. She has said she wants a smaller state, and Labour have taken the bait. Without waiting to see any government policy, some Labour frontbenchers have immediately attacked Truss as a Thatcherite intent on cutting public spending. That’s hard to argue in the face of the energy price cap — one of the biggest unfunded public spending commitments ever made by a UK government.

Worse, it showed that some in Labour haven’t been listening to Truss, or taking her seriously. There’s more than one way to shrink the state — and getting out of people’s lives is an effective and popular one. One of the greatest weaknesses of progressive politics is the belief that what the country is crying out for is “more government”. A large part of the fuel that drives the campaign against political correctness is the sense that government is over-reaching, interfering in bits of life where it has no place. Liz Truss wants to tap into that. She instinctively knows that most people want to look after themselves, their families and their communities without government interference.

The other headline announcement — uncapping City bonuses — has trapped Labour too. Missing the wood for the trees, opposition frontbenchers have spluttered in outrage at policies that would benefit fat-cat bankers rather than the general public. The point, of course, is what David Cameron’s team used to call the politics of “aroma”. It is not the specific policy detail that matters; it is the sense of the overall direction.Hugging a husky” showed a greener, more compassionate, modern Conservative party. Uncapping City bonuses shows a government committed to Go For Growth — no old-fashioned prejudices or well-meaning sacred cows will be allowed to stand in the way. The point is to grow the pie, not, as Labour want, to talk about tax and redistribution of the proceeds of growth.

Note what he says about Rishi Sunak:

Is this a risky approach? Yes. Is it a clear one? Absolutely. The trap for Labour is that they adopt the Sunak Strategy. Liz Truss’s ideas are simplified not simplistic; and as Rishi Sunak’s defeat showed, treating the new PM as a simpleton won’t win votes. Truss may not have the right answers, but she has asked the right question. Growth is the only game in town. If Truss manages to keep it on The Grid when parliament returns next month, her lost 100 days might not be fatal.

Unfortunately, for the British people, it was the beginning of the end, with all roads leading to Rishi.

To be continued tomorrow.

Yesterday’s post looked back at Liz Truss’s leadership campaign during the latter half of August 2022.

As September started, most ordinary conservatives were happy to know that Liz was likely to be the next Party leader.

On September 3, the veteran journalist Janet Daley wrote an empathetic column about her for The Telegraph, ‘Ignore conventional wisdom: the new prime minister is not doomed’.

CCHQ — Conservative Party headquarters — had not yet finished counting the members’ votes, but Daley thought that people would give Liz their support in the face of the cost of living crisis (emphases mine):

Given that virtually everyone in the country accepts that the current dilemma is both desperately urgent and, in the short term, utterly hopeless, Liz Truss will begin her premiership with the lowest possible expectations and, given the inherent fair mindedness of the British population, even a little sympathy

Whether Daley realised it or not at the time, she hit the proverbial on the head in the second paragraph:

Standing up in the House – or better, at that podium in Downing Street – to address a nation that has been terrified out of its wits by predictions of the devastation that is to come, will look like an act of singular bravery and resolve. Most of the country, apart from sworn partisan enemies (the most pathologically vicious of whom are inside her own party), will be willing her to succeed in whatever terms success can be measured, against the impossible odds. She will not have a honeymoon as such, but she can gain points for rigorous resolve and determination – especially if she seems to be in touch with the justifiable fears of real people. That will be the key to it. Every word, every pronouncement, every policy will have to be communicated with infinite humaneness: genuine compassion for the impact that this crisis is having on daily life and future prospects …

Although this was Daley’s prediction at the time, this is how things played out with most fair-minded voters:

Ordinary people who do not have an ideological dog in the fight know that this is uncharted territory. What disagreements there are – and will continue to be – over the right way to proceed will be accepted as reasonable argument and not necessarily discrediting to the sitting government providing that it remains proactive and committed.

I particularly liked the next bit, which posited that, as the year went on, things might turn out to be less gloomy than forecast during the summer:

there is the possibility of some good (or less bad) news in the coming months. What if the combined efforts and ingenuity of the Western economies produce more optimistic projections for energy subsistence sooner than was expected? Already we hear that gas storage in Europe is exceeding expectations and, as a result, commodity prices are beginning to fall.

However, Daley, for all her brilliance, did not foresee the savage attack from Liz’s fellow MPs.

North of the border, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was still seething that Liz had called her an ‘attention seeker’ during the campaign:

During her premiership, Liz never did contact Nicola Sturgeon.

On Monday, September 5, these were the main news stories. We could rely on The Independent for negative stories about our new Prime Minister:

https://image.vuukle.com/4ece1f13-7c15-4fa7-aac3-2c3f9e556168-84991a44-e32a-4b2e-8428-41fa907f8388

The Mail on Sunday‘s Dan Hodges was thrilled. He had predicted Liz’s ascendancy on Boxing Day 2021:

His article says that Liz’s rise began when she replaced Dominic Raab as Foreign Secretary. During his time in post, he said that all ministers (MPs) serving under him were to be called Junior Ministers (JMs) rather than Ministers. The MPs were none too happy with that move.

Then, when Biden’s sudden withdrawal from Afghanistan took place in mid-August 2021, Raab was on holiday in the Mediterranean with his family. Boris replaced him with Liz:

On her first day in the job, she issued a note to her officials ordering the JM designation be dropped.

‘Liz gets it,’ a Minister said. ‘She knows how to treat her colleagues properly. It’s one of the reasons she’s been so successful.’

Spectacularly successful. 2021 has been Liz Truss’s year

She’s now in charge of masterminding the final fraught stages of Britain’s EU exit.

And – were Boris to suddenly fall beneath a heavily laden wine-and-cheese platter – favourite to replace him in No 10 Downing Street.

At the time Hodges had written his article, Boris was becoming more embroiled in Partygate allegations, which had begun in November 2021.

We thought that Boris had a diverse Cabinet. It was nothing like Liz’s, however:

The Mail reported:

Ms Truss is expected to make long-term ally Kwasi Kwarteng chancellor, with Suella Braverman moving to the Home Office and James Cleverly to the Foreign Office.

If selected, Mr Kwarteng would be the fourth non-white chancellor in a row, directly following Sajid Javid, Rishi Sunak and Nadhim Zahawi.

And Ms Braverman would become the third minority home secretary, after Priti Patel and Mr Javid

Mr Cleverly, currently the Education Secretary, would become the first ever non-white foreign Secretary.

Cleverly continues in post today under Rishi Sunak, as does Kemi Badenoch, International Trade Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities:

Would the media — our diversity champions — give her, our third female Conservative PM, any credit? Never:

On a related note, Liz gave us a Health and Social Care Secretary with a fondness for cigars, the likes of which we had not seen since Kenneth Clarke in the 1990s. Here is Thérèse Coffey, one of her close friends, pictured at a Spectator summer party a few years ago:

However, just as important were the people no longer in Cabinet. This is worth noting. Some said later that this is where Liz’s premiership became unstuck, that she should have held on to some opponents:

There is expected to be a clear out of Rishi Sunak and his supporters after a bitter blue-on-blue campaign in which he seems almost certain to be defeated.

Into the political wilderness too will go Michael Gove, after serving under the three previous PMs. Dominic Raab, the First Secretary of State, and Boris Johnson himself, are expected to return to the backbenches. Both have question marks over whether they can hold on to their seats at the next election.

I think she did the right thing. We’d seen enough of all of them over the past three years and, in Gove’s case, much longer than that.

They would not have been friendly:

Other backbench Conservative MPs were unfriendly, too:

Rishi was unaccustomed to being on the backbenches, and his first opportunity to participate in a debate came that Tuesday afternoon. Guido Fawkes reported:

Backbencher Rishi Sunak making a debate intervention today on “unavoidably small hospitals“:

Thank you for accommodating me at a late stage in this debate. I hadn’t planned on speaking but this morning I saw the order paper and it turns out I had more time on my hands than I anticipated.

Tuesday’s Mail pointed out the Conservatives have had three women PMs. Labour have had none, not even a female Party leader:

We were also entering a new generation of PMs who were younger than we:

Liz’s supporters in the media were hopeful:

James Johnson’s Politico article said:

The main qualities the public look for from their leaders in the 2020s are honesty, strength and authenticity. It will require care and calibration, but Truss has a path to come closer to these than Starmer.

If she stands in Downing Street on Tuesday and levels with the public about the challenge ahead and tells them to judge her on results in two years’ time she will not only create a reputational shield for herself but also have the opportunity to make a novel mark on the public — many of whom will be tuning into her for the first time — as someone who gives it to them straight.

Some have suggested that her more libertarian instincts and views, such as decrying a focus on redistribution, make her unelectable. But voters, especially those new Tory converts in the Red Wall, value consistency — a quality they feel is so lacking in modern politicians — as much as an individual policy position. Focus group attendees praise Thatcher and Blair when asked if there are any politicians they admire not because they agreed with them on everything, but because they felt they held beliefs and stuck with them.

One of Truss’ biggest applause lines in one of the early debates was that she is not the slickest media performer, but she gets things done. If she successfully harnesses that sentiment, the ideological gap between her and the public on specific issues or an awkward communication style may matter less …

It could all come undone, of course. Moments in the summer would have been similarly disastrous for Truss in a live election campaign environment. The calibre of her team will be crucial

There is a pathway for the Conservative Party. If followed, the optimistic scenario for Liz Truss is underpriced.

Like the aforementioned Janet Daley, James Johnson underestimated the opposition on the Conservative backbenches.

After flying back from Aberdeen, the closest airport to Balmoral, Liz gave her first address as Prime Minister. Heavy downpours punctuated the afternoon. The weather, combined with London’s rush hour traffic, delayed her. The rain let up long enough for her to give her speech, in which she borrowed a line from Churchill, ‘Action this day’. Her husband, Hugh O’Leary, stood on the sidelines:

Liz’s first call to a foreign leader was to Volodymyr Zelenskyy to reassure him that the UK would continue to support Ukraine:

One of her economic advisers, Gerard Lyons, was confident that a low-tax economic plan would help to stave off recession:

The cost of living crisis made Wednesday’s papers, September 7. These front pages show Liz’s husband:

The Telegraph borrowed words from her speech, ‘We can ride out the storm’:

Wednesday saw Liz’s first Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs). This is the full half hour:

She managed to lob a few witty grenades Keir Starmer’s way.

To roars of applause from Conservatives, Liz pointed out that there is nothing new about a Labour leader wanting tax rises:

Guido noted that the comment painted Starmer the same colour as his predecessor, the very left-wing Jeremy Corbyn (emphases his):

It only took a free marketeer PM to bring out Starmer’s inner Corbynite…

Directing her aim at both Starmer and Corbyn, she asked aloud why Labour can’t find a leader who lives outside of north London, home of the metropolitan elite. She also wondered why there had been no female Labour Party leaders (video):

After PMQs ended, Guido said that Liz’s Cabinet was more diverse than Labour’s shadow team, although you cannot see that in the photo that he posted. He calculated:

… up to seven BAME members: 23% of the total. 

By Guido’s reckoning, Labour’s shadow cabinet has six ethnic minority members, or a mere 20%.

Meanwhile, Labour continue thrashing the Tories on gender and state school educations. All completely irrelevant, but nonetheless, interesting to note …

That evening, The Telegraph analysed Liz’s first full day as PM.

Madeline Grant provided a sketch of PMQs:

Therese Coffey, radiating gung-ho enthusiasm, looked ready to crack out another celebratory cigar. A dazed Suella Braverman wandered into the Chamber via the Westminster Hall route used by most MPs, then remembered she is Home Secretary now and hot-footed it to the “VIP entrance” at the back.

Notable by their absence were Rishi Sunak, and, predictably, Boris Johnson, though Sajid Javid was there …

A huge roar enveloped Liz Truss as she sashayed in, looking sleek in a blue pantsuit – shades of Keeley Hawes in the Bodyguard. The Tory troops, clearly desperate for things to go well, cheered raucously no matter what she said or did. Yet again beating Labour in the identity politics stakes seemed to have sparked particular joy. When Sir Keir Starmer congratulated Truss on her appointment, a Tory backbencher snarled “3-nil!”. James Cleverly, the Foreign Secretary, brandished three fingers and jabbed them in the air.

Theresa May also congratulated Truss on becoming Britain’s third female prime minister. “Why does she think it is that all three female prime ministers have been Conservative?”, she asked. Truss positively beamed at her. “I look forward to calling on her advice,” she said. (Oh no).

“There does seem to be an extraordinary inability of the Labour Party to find a female leader,” continued Truss, “or indeed a leader who doesn’t come from north London.” The Tory hordes roared at this, and even Starmer repressed a chuckle.

Her presentation was as wooden as ever:

But her replies were assured, refreshingly direct. There were even a few one-word answers – no to a windfall tax, for instance – a quasi-mythical event in Westminster. It was almost as if the sphinx was at the despatch box. All of this seemed to flummox Keir Starmer, who is more used to spending PMQs trying to prise answers out of Boris Johnson – occasionally wincing as if pulling out his own teeth with a pair of rusty pliers.

Truss’s true-blue rhetoric seemed to bring out Starmer’s inner Corbyn too. He railed against “excess profits” with the wild-eyed conviction of a politburo member sounding off about Kulaks. “Same old Tories… There is nothing new about the Tory fantasy of trickle-down economics”, he scoffed.

The Times‘s Quentin Letts noted Liz’s calm demeanour:

The Tory benches mooed when they saw her but once Truss started answering questions, the composure was striking. Most of all it was the slower pace that one noticed, and the evaporation of most of the performance-venom that tarnished the late Johnson era. Where Boris used to gabble, Truss spoke slowly. The voice, which seems to emanate from near the tip of her nose, was clear. It may pink a little, like a novice musician’s recorder, but it is strong enough to cut through a full Commons

Truss referred to “my chancellor” and “my new health secretary”. She was asserting her power. There wasn’t a quiver visible in her fingers and she maintained a consistent tempo, andante rather than allegretto. Talking slowly makes you sound more authoritative and means you need not say so much. Helen Hayes (Lab, Dulwich & West Norwood) essayed a zinger. Would the government’s response to some report be published by the end of the year? “Yes,” said Truss, and she slowly, serenely resumed her seat, suffused with calmness. One should not over-interpret this performance. PMQs debuts usually go well. But the story is not quite conforming to the catastrophists’ narrative.

Returning to The Telegraph‘s articles, Daniel Martin told us that Liz wanted proper dress in Downing Street:

The Prime Minister has made it clear she wants to re-introduce a dress code, with officials told to wear shirts and ties as part of a new, more formal style of government

One government source said Ms Truss had made her views plain when she arrived back to Admiralty House from her victory party in the City of London, the night before she became Prime Minister.

The source said: “This is all born from Liz coming back from winning and telling the staff in Admiralty House that ties were back.”

We also found out that she wanted a leaner operation:

Ms Truss has also ordered a wider operational shake-up at Downing Street, including a new economic unit whose role is to help her take on “Treasury orthodoxy”.

She has brought in Matthew Sinclair, the former director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, as her chief economic adviser …

In a bid to strengthen the relationship between Ms Truss and her most important ministers, new offices are being created in Downing Street for both Wendy Morton, the new chief whip, and Thérèse Coffey, the Deputy Prime Minister.

An aide told The Spectator: “We’ve blown up the No 10 floor plan”, saying the idea is to create a leaner, nimbler operation.

Allister Heath was fully behind Liz and her plans:

I’m optimistic about the Truss Government. Yes, of course, nobody can possibly know how well it will do – whether it will outwit the Blob to push through genuine improvements. But it is absurd to state, almost as self-evident fact, that it is bound to collapse, that it cannot last even two years, based in part on an insulting dismissal of the credibility and intellect of all of the members of the new Government.

It is astonishing that pundits with no understanding of economics dismiss the Prime Minister’s ability in this area: she actually worked as an economist for Shell (ideal in the current climate) and as an economic director for Cable and Wireless. The first accountant ever in No 10 – she holds the qualification from the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants – she is more financially literate and comfortable with complex policy matters than almost all of those who patronise her. The fact that she is reflexively written off as lightweight, a dilettante even, is more a reflection of the bizarrely misogynistic and classist minds of some of her more extreme critics than of any objective reality.

Kwasi Kwarteng, the Chancellor, holds a PhD in economic history from Cambridge, perhaps the ideal qualification for the moment; his War and Gold and Ghosts of Empire remain timely. Thérèse Coffey, Truss’s deputy, is another PhD: in her case, in chemistry, showing how much more intelligent she is than the ignoramuses who hate her.

Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, is an extremely competent, bright and personable lawyer who drives the Left crazy. Kemi Badenoch holds degrees in engineering and law, and is fiendishly clever. Jacob Rees-Mogg, with his background in finance, is the perfect pick for Business (and Energy), given the technical and intellectual complexity of his mission. Kit Malthouse, the Education Secretary, another accountant, has experience running a medium-sized business; Chris Philp, the Chief Secretary, has a degree in physics.

The list goes on. Of course, some ministers are weaker than others, but the average quality is a great improvement on many past governments. Matthew Sinclair, one of Truss’s advisers, is the best free-market economist of his generation in Britain today.

The paradox is that it is a policy that I’m uncomfortable with that is likely to send the Government’s poll ratings surging, discrediting its Leftist critics. Truss’s energy plan is rightly a big bazooka; it is regrettable that, for a variety of practical and political reasons, she appears to have decided to freeze all energy bills, rather than to opt for targeted subsidies to small firms and the bottom half of earners. The Government’s bill will be at least 5 per cent of GDP, with enormous potential liabilities. This is the biggest welfare programme in British history, one that helps the well-off as much as the needy.

But we are where we are. The Government felt that an alternative, non-universal plan could not be targeted correctly, that the cliff-edge from means testing would be too extreme, that the public’s allergy to high prices had become too toxic. Truss feared she would be destroyed on arrival if she didn’t go for broke. Her gambit is that the scale of this intervention will cripple the Left: it’s a statist umbrella protecting her free-market reforms

Our new Prime Minister likes economic growth, not merely because she values material prosperity, but because she buys into the very idea of progress, of improvement. Boris Johnson agreed in theory, but didn’t understand what to do. Unlike Theresa May, Truss is inherently anti-Malthusian: her Chancellor talks of growing the economy, rather than arguing about how to redistribute a stagnant pie, the vanishing “proceeds of growth” taken for granted by David Cameron.

Yes, Truss will address our immediate crisis via costly, short-term policies. But she’s deadly serious about principled long-term measures to accelerate the economy by boosting energy output, housebuilding, private investment, scientific innovation and entrepreneurship. It will be tough, but the Twitter Lefties are entirely wrong to be betting so emphatically against her.

The Telegraph‘s main editorial compared her to Margaret Thatcher:

Opinion polls indicate that Labour’s windfall levy is popular, but Ms Truss is right to identify the flaws in this approach. Her declaration that we cannot tax our way to higher growth could have been uttered by the first woman prime minister 30 years ago.

Balancing short-term expediency with long-term economic requirements will require skill and determination. Ms Truss has set out her position and is clearly intent on sticking to her guns, even if the polls are tempting her to abandon them. It was an encouraging start.

The Mail provided us with short takes from the more left-of-centre broadcasters, who also thought Liz did a great job at PMQs. These were not her natural allies.

The BBC’s Chris Mason noted:

As Prime Minister’s Questions finished, there appeared to be a warm, one-on-one brief chat between Liz Truss and Keir Starmer.

I think Starmer said “well done” to his opponent: all party leaders regularly acknowledge that PMQs is a tough gig

It felt less personal, much less theatrical and more ideological …

TalkTV’s Tom Newton Dunn said:

Liz Truss is not a legendary orator, and some Tory MPs lived in terror at the thought of her robotic despatch box style.

But that was a very strong debut

The Mail had several more comments, so I will end with this one from the i newspaper’s Richard Vaughan:

If Liz Truss’s aim for her first PMQs was to kill the usual heat and rancour in the Commons chamber, then she succeeded. It was a solid, no-frills performance.

… Ms Truss’s arrival onto the front bench was greeted with cheers, but it was by no means a deafening welcome by backbenchers to their new leader – perhaps a portent of things to come.

On the evidence of her no-nonsense opening appearance in her new role, they would be wise not to underestimate her. Her next trick will be to try and inspire those on the benches behind her.

Aye, there’s the rub.

To be continued tomorrow.

As I need something positive to think about while awaiting Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s awful budget on Thursday, November 17, here is a retrospective on Liz Truss’s rise to power, however short-lived.

The Conservative Party leadership campaign dominated the latter half of July and all of August.

By Tuesday, August 16, like the Telegraph‘s Tim Stanley, I, too, had watched every hustings up to that point.

Who could have guessed that, in an extraordinary turn of events, both she and Rishi Sunak would be in No. 10 within weeks of each other?

Reporting on what happened north of the border in Perth, Stanley wrote:

The hustings had become so repetitive, I know the speeches by rote. Rishi grew up in a pharmacy, Liz sat on a planning committee. My only pleasure has been waiting for the day they cross their wires and Rishi announces he grew up on a planning committee and Liz that she sat on a pharmacy.

But on Tuesday we were in Scotland, so the script was rewritten. Lots of references to whisky, gas and Nicola Sturgeon, who Liz once said we should ignore, so Rishi said: “I don’t just want to ignore [her], I want to take her on and beat her!” Big clap for that …

“I grew up in a small business,” he said. And the cream for your burn, sir, can be found on the fourth aisle.

Liz did a much better job of showing that she knew she was in Scotland, referencing Adam Smith, JK Rowling and salmon fishing – and reminding us that she understood what poverty was because she grew up in a recession in Paisley in the 1980s (when the Tories were in power) and later in Leeds in the 1990s (ditto). 

In fairness to Liz, she meant local councils, not the Government.

The Mail highlighted the disagreement Liz and Rishi had on taxes:

Miss Truss has pledged to reverse the national insurance hike to help struggling families, but has not ruled out offering further support. But Mr Sunak said the right way to help people with higher energy bills is through direct support.

He told the hustings: ‘The tax cuts that Liz is proposing are worth about £1,700 to someone on her income. For someone working very hard on the national living wage, it’s worth about a quid a week …’

On Wednesday, August 17, the duo were in Northern Ireland, where, yes, there is a Conservative Party. It has around 600 members. I had no idea.

The Guardian had unearthed an old video of her saying that the British weren’t very good workers. The Mail said that she defended her remarks to the press in Northern Ireland:

Pressed by reporters in Northern Ireland today whether she believes British workers are not working hard enough, Ms Truss replied: ‘What I believe is that we need more skills in our country, we need more capital investment in our country, we need more opportunity in our country. That is what I would deliver as prime minister …

She added : ‘I’m fundamentally on the side of people who work hard, who do the right thing. Those are the people I want back.’

Conservatives did not object to Liz’s views (emphases mine):

Despite the furore, Ms Truss was delivered a major boost today with the latest ConservativeHome poll showing she is firmly on track for victory on September 5. She was 60 per cent to 28 per cent ahead of Rishi Sunak in a survey of activists.

The Belfast hustings was the only uncomfortable one of the campaign. It was clear neither candidate had any grasp of Northern Ireland or people’s concerns:

The furthest Liz could connect with the small group of Conservative members was to say that she knew that a ‘woman is a woman’, for which she received applause (somewhere around the 12-minute mark). Near the end of her Q&A, a man expressed concern about abortion, which was foisted on them by Westminster. He asked about the fairness of that, since Northern Ireland has its own Assembly. She bristled at the question and brusquely replied that all the devolved nations had to have the same health policies (somewhere between 32 and 35 minutes in).

Rishi’s intro and Q&A followed Liz’s.

The London Evening Standard had an excellent report from Rebecca Black following the hustings at the Culloden Hotel on the outskirts of Belfast:

The Brexit protocol, the Stormont Assembly, the health service, abortion, foreign policy and support for the party in Northern Ireland were among the issues raised …

Martin Craigs said he remained undecided after hearing their pitches.

He said he felt their content in terms of Northern Ireland had been “very weak”.

“They’re sitting on the fence, this isn’t the audience they’re playing to, the audience they’re playing to are the 160,000 Conservative members, and there are very few of them in Northern Ireland, but they obviously have to go to all corners of the UK to be seen to be democratic,” he told the PA news agency.

“I might actually not vote at all because I think the performance has been so poor.”

Matthew Robinson, chairman of the Northern Ireland Conservatives, welcomed the candidates’ visit and paid tribute to the commitment they were showing to the region.

He said he had been holding back on deciding who to vote for, but based on what he heard at the hustings he would back Ms Truss.

“I think she outlined an unwavering commitment to what we do locally here as a political force,” he said.

“I’m not just encouraged but excited about what we can achieve together during her hopeful premiership.”

David Trimble’s widow said that, just before he died, he wanted to make sure he voted for Liz. Lord Trimble had originally been a member of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) but became a Conservative in 2007. The following year, a voting alliance was created between the UUP and Conservatives in Northern Ireland.

The Standard reported on Lady Trimble’s article in the Telegraph in which she supported Liz. The Stormont Assembly has not been meeting for several months now:

The powersharing structures Lord Trimble helped create in the landmark 1998 agreement are currently in limbo, with the DUP blocking the creation of a governing executive in protest at Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol.

Lady Trimble wrote: “I believe that in this contest, Liz Truss has the best record and a viable plan to protect our Union and Northern Ireland’s integral place within it.

“I know David thought the same.

“One of the last things he did before we lost him was to ask his son to collect his voting papers so he could vote for Liz.

“He was adamant that she was what the country needed and I agree.

“She has already proven her resolve and bravery in the face of opposition to our most valuable asset, and I am confident that my husband’s legacy, peace in Northern Ireland, will be safe with her.”

Lady Trimble, born Daphne Orr, is an academic who served as a member of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.

Another article in the Standard showed that Liz understood the difficulty with the post-Brexit Protocol:

The Foreign Secretary also said she would not accept any compromises on a renegotiated Northern Ireland Protocol as prime minister if it meant key UK demands were not met.

She made the comments during a visit to Belfast, where she and Rishi Sunak were quizzed by Tory members during a hustings event.

She told party members that until the Northern Ireland Protocol is sorted, Stormont will not be back up and running.

The Standard‘s Rebecca Black wrote a separate article on the abortion question:

Abortion laws in the region were liberalised in 2019 in laws passed by Westminster at a time when the power-sharing government at Stormont had collapsed.

During a Conservative Party leadership hustings event at the Culloden Hotel on the outskirts of Belfast, Ms Truss was asked if she would abolish abortion in Northern Ireland, “ending infanticide”, or let the people of the region have their say on the issue.

She responded to applause [for the man, not her]: “I’m afraid I don’t agree with you.

“We are a United Kingdom and we need all of our laws to apply right across the United Kingdom – that is what being a union is.”

Rishi’s highlight of the hustings was about Liz’s £50 billion black hole:

Rishi Sunak has warned that Tory leadership rival Liz Truss’s tax plans would add £50 billion to borrowing while failing to give direct support to the most vulnerable in society, as the cost-of-living crisis deepened.

The former chancellor said the Foreign Secretary would be guilty of “moral failure” if she does not focus on the nation’s poorest, and warned her policies could further stoke inflation.

Ms Truss instead insisted “taxes are too high and they are potentially choking off growth”, as she promised an emergency budget to tackle the situation.

On Thursday, August 18, the eminently sensible Lord Moylan told GB News that he was voting for Liz because Rishi’s economic plans did not make sense:

On Saturday, August 20, Sir John Redwood MP criticised the pro-Rishi media:

Redwood laid out his Thatcherite economic plan for Liz in that day’s Telegraph:

Britain’s fiscal rules should be ripped up by Liz Truss if she wins the Conservative leadership race, one of her key allies has said.

Sir John Redwood, who served as the head of Margaret Thatcher’s Downing Street policy unit and is tipped to return to government if Ms Truss wins, said she should abandon the practice of targeting a set percentage of GDP for national debt and the deficit.

He also called for a review of both the Bank of England and Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), and suggested the Foreign Secretary should be inspired by Mrs Thatcher in removing utilities and transport from state control.

Since 1997, fiscal rules have been announced by chancellors during Budget statements in an attempt to control government spending.

They usually set a restriction on the proportion of national debt or deficit as a percentage of economic output.

But in an interview with The Telegraph, Sir John said the practice is a hangover from EU fiscal regulation agreed between member states at the Maastricht conference in 1992, and does not encourage economic growth or limit inflation.

“I think having a fiscal rule, which is a variant of state debt as a percentage of GDP, and the public deficit as a percentage of GDP in any given year, is not really the right couple of rules for the two targets you’re trying to meet,” he said.

The Tory backbencher said ministers should maintain “sensible controls over growth in public spending and in public debt” by instead monitoring the amount of money paid by the Treasury to lenders in interest payments.

In a coded rebuke to Rishi Sunak, who was the chancellor until last month, he added: “You have to elect governments that take controlling public finances seriously, and they then have to take them seriously.

“If you have a government that doesn’t take controlling public finances seriously, it won’t matter what your fiscal rules say, as we know from recent past experience,” he said.

Sir John is expected to be appointed as a Treasury minister in Ms Truss’s government and is understood to have helped shape her thinking on economic issues during the campaign

Sir John said he had not had “any discussions” with Ms Truss about taking a role if she wins the contest, but told The Telegraph he would accept a job if he was offered one.

The Times also thought that Liz would give Redwood a role. One campaign source said:

“There are a lot of crumpled up bits of paper. I’ve been in three meetings about the cabinet and it keeps changing.”

Among the names on the pieces of paper: Iain Duncan Smith, who is heading back to cabinet, and John Redwood, who was last a minister 27 years ago and is earmarked for a junior Treasury post.

This weekend Truss will take a team of her senior aides to Chevening, the grace and favour home in Kent which she enjoys as foreign secretary, with the aim of getting people and policies more firmly nailed down.

In the past few days she has repeatedly told her team “no complacency”. As an ally puts it more prosaically: “No f***-ups, basically.”

Sadly, Liz never offered Redwood a role. If she had, she might still be Prime Minister today.

The Times was also wrong about Iain Duncan Smith, who was not part of Liz’s Cabinet, either.

Also on August 20, the Mail‘s Dan Hodges wrote that Rishi’s campaign was effectively over because of his mansplaining:

It was the moment Rishi Sunak‘s leadership campaign started to unravel. Actually, it was one of 20 moments. ‘Please let me respond,’ Liz Truss chided, as her opponent butted in during their first head- to-head TV debate. ‘Absolutely, let Liz Truss respond,’ the BBC‘s moderator Sophie Raworth was forced to interject.

Sunak didn’t. Time and again he talked over his rival, interrupting and silencing her. It was a strategy his team seemed to think would put Truss on the defensive.

They were wrong

the damage was done. Sunak was branded a ‘Mansplainer’.

To some, this episode provided further evidence of Sunak’s poor political tradecraft. But he’d actually fallen into a well-prepared trap.

‘We were ready for him!’ one Truss campaign ally told me. ‘For years, Liz has been patronised by men who are a bit full of themselves. She’s not going to just stand there and take it.’

In 15 days’ time, Britain will have our third woman Prime Minister. And unlike her predecessors, Liz Truss isn’t going to be shy of reminding people of it.

Let us recall that only the Conservatives have had female Party leaders, all of whom were Prime Minister.

By contrast, Labour have yet to elect a woman leader.

On August 21, The Sunday Times told us what Labour-to-Conservative voters in Oldham thought of the two candidates:

If Rishi Sunak (the ferret) and Liz Truss (the budgie) had put a glass to the wall of the room in Oldham where ten swing voters gathered by Public First, all of whom voted Conservative in the last general election, were sharing their impressions of the Tory leadership hopefuls, they would have blushed. But mostly not with pride.

They had been asked to say which animal, item of clothing or single word would best describe each of the candidates (Truss was also a “bunny rabbit”, for the record). As someone who has posed for photos atop a tank and astride a motorbike during her cabinet career, she might have been surprised to hear herself described as “mumsy”, “dull as dishwater”, a “cardigan”, “Jemima Puddle-Duck” and, possibly worst of all, an “unknown”.

Sunak would have heard that he was a “suit” a “backstabber” and a “traitor” (to Boris Johnson, that is) and he would have certainly regretted wearing a pair of £490 suede Prada shoes to visit a Teesside building site as he did last month. This did not go down well at all with many of these C2DE (aka working class) voters. It suggested, said Rachel, 33, a bar worker, that he was so rich he had “no respect for money”; after all a building site, she said, is going to be messy. She said “quite a lot of people were upset” by it, especially those struggling to make ends meet. “I certainly couldn’t afford to buy a £500 pair of shoes,” she said.

Matthew, 40, who works in the oil trade, asked how Sunak could possibly relate to low-wage people. The group wondered what his PR advisers were thinking, allowing it to happen. It was quite simple, said Mandy, an educator in a prison: “If you are going to an area where . . . people are on the minimum wage, don’t wear £500 shoes.”

But there was happier news for Sunak when it came to which of the two leadership candidates they preferred. Five chose Sunak, compared with three for Truss while two didn’t know, though by the end of the discussion a couple had changed to “don’t know”.

Sunak, according to those who picked him, had a higher profile due to the furlough scheme during lockdown. Jodie, 33, a school administrator, said she associated him with helping people during that period. “I had never heard of Liz Truss before this race, but Rishi Sunak . . . we’ve seen him in action. He’s helped out, like, working class people.”

Mandy, however, who chose Truss, said the foreign secretary had been growing as a force in the “background” for some time now. She mentioned the “scandals” involving Sunak. This was a reference to a recent video in which he boasted to Conservative party members in Kent of taking money from deprived urban areas in order to give it to other parts of the country

That day, Guido Fawkes revealed that Rishi’s team broke down Liz’s £50 billion black hole, which is actually tax savings.

Even now, with Thursday’s Rishi-Hunt budget in view, Guido still appears to be correct in his assessment:

Guido also thought that the Conservatives would win the next general election:

Guido’s post has Rishi’s breakdown of Liz’s black hole. This is Guido’s analysis of Liz’s savings for the taxpayer (emphases his):

According to figures just released by the Rishi campaign, taxpayers will get a net saving of £48.3 billion in reduced taxes under Liz as Prime Minister compared to Rishi. This is a similar figure to calculations made by the Guardian newspaper. This is intended to be an attack line, the argument Rishi is making is that Liz will have to choose between tax cuts or handouts. When you consider that this is equivalent to some £2,000 per taxpayer you will understand what Liz means when she says she wants to “help people in a Conservative way”

In the Rishi campaign’s press release the tax savings are described as “costs”. This approach hasn’t been seen since 2010, when Gordon Brown would point to any tax saving proposed by the opposition and demand to know from Cameron and Osborne what spending would be cut. It is a mindset that considers the public’s money to belong to the government and any income not taxed to be a “cost”. Guido’s not sure why Liam Booth-Smith, Rishi’s policy guru, ever thought this orthodox Brownian line of attack would appeal to Tory members…

By Monday, August 22, with a week and a half left to go in the seemingly endless campaign, Rishi’s poll ratings were tanking.

The Guardian warned that Labour found that Liz could boost the Conservatives in the polls, which Labour had been leading for several months by that point. They still are in the lead.

However, the paper said that any poll boost would be short lived:

Tory leadership frontrunner Liz Truss could give the government a double-figure bounce in the polls once she is installed in No 10, according to internal Labour analysis.

A memo drawn up by Keir Starmer’s director of strategy, Deborah Mattinson, claimed the foreign secretary could dramatically improve Conservative fortunes.

The document, dated 18 August and leaked to the Guardian, comes amid speculation that Truss could be tempted to capitalise on the upswing and call a snap general election.

However, the research also suggests that any improvement in the government’s position could be very short-lived, with voters already concerned about aspects of Truss’s character.

“Our focus groups suggest that as voters get to know Truss better they like her less,” it says. “Serious negatives – untrustworthiness, inauthenticity, U-turns, lack of grip – are starting to cut through suggesting that any bounce may be very short-lived.”

Meanwhile, Rishi allegedly scoffed at the idea he would take a post in Liz’s Cabinet. That day, The Times reported on his interview with BBC Radio 2:

Truss has said that she would offer Sunak a cabinet job if she were to win. The Times reported at the weekend that she is considering asking him to become health secretary.

Sunak appeared to scoff at the prospect today, however, suggesting he did not want to serve in a cabinet in which he and the prime minister would disagree on “the big things”.

Liz’s poll results were buoyant. An Italian firm, Techne, cut their teeth in the UK on this campaign:

In the end, the result was much closer, although Liz still had a clear majority.

However, on the same day, a GB News Peoples Poll (Peoples Poll being the name of the polling organisation) showed that Britons overwhelmingly prefer Labour’s Keir Starmer as the next Prime Minister, viewing Liz Truss as ‘untrustworthy’:

A poll exclusively commissioned by GB News has found that British people would prefer Keir Starmer to be Prime Minister over both Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss.

41 percent of the 1,235 Brits polled said they would be more likely to vote for a Labour Party led by Keir Starmer than the Conservatives led by Liz Truss, who received 22 percent of the vote.

And Rishi Sunak, also standing to become the next Tory leader and Prime Minister, only fared one percent better than Ms Truss when compared with Sir Keir, who received a share of 40 percent of the poll.

In both cases, 28 percent of people said they didn’t know who they would prefer, with nine percent preferring not to say.

The results raise questions about the popularity of both candidates, with the Conservatives faring better in a straight contest with Labour.

When asked which party they would vote for if there was a General Election tomorrow, Labour came out on top with 31 percent.

But the margin between the two parties was a lot smaller than between the leaders, with 20 percent voting Conservative

When asked to give one word they associated with Liz Truss, Brits’ top answer was “untrustworthy”.

Unfortunately for Ms Truss, second most popular answer was “useless”, with the even less flattering “idiot” in third.

On Monday, August 29, the anti-Liz media went into a tizz when she declined an interview with the BBC’s Nick Robinson.

The Telegraph reported:

Liz Truss has pulled out of a BBC interview with Nick Robinson because she can “no longer spare the time”.

Ms Truss, the Tory leadership front-runner, committed to the primetime sit-down interview with Mr Robinson, who presents the Today programme, on Aug 18.

But the Foreign Secretary now appears to have changed her mind as the race to succeed Boris Johnson enters its final week. Rishi Sunak, her leadership rival, was interviewed by Mr Robinson on Aug 10 …

Mr Sunak has taken part in nine one-on-one broadcast interviews throughout the leadership campaign, including three appearances on the Today programme.

Ms Truss has done two such interviews, including the Today programme, when she was interviewed at the start of the head-to-head stage of the contest, and the People’s Forum show on GB News.

A bigger controversy that day was that Liz was preparing to cut VAT. She never did, but someone should, because VAT is an EU law. Here is smoked salmon king Lance Forman’s wise opinion, saying that the people who object to a VAT cut are on the Left:

On the penultimate day of Conservative Party member voting, Liz pledged to revive Conservative grassroots activism, but readers of ConservativeHome were unimpressed.

One of the comments read:

This and other similar pieces of rhetoric just prove to me that it’s all about strategies to win elections rather than a coherent, well thought-out set of policies that will benefit the country in both the short- and long-term, much the same as some of the statements made by both candidates in this “leadership” election.

Surely we are capable of better?

Yes, we are capable of better.

On the last day of members voting, Wednesday, August 31, The Telegraph asked readers who should be in and out of Liz’s Cabinet.

Interestingly, everyone the readers wanted out are in Rishi Sunak’s Cabinet. Priti Patel is the only exception. And, Alok Sharma is still COP26 president, although he is not in Cabinet.

In conclusion, within weeks, we went back to the same old, same old thing.

I still have a few more items about Liz Truss to cover. Stay tuned.

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