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Those who missed my retrospective on Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy can read parts 1 and 2.

Today’s post, the last one about this holy man, looks back at lesser known facts about his life.

N.B.: This is a lengthy post!

Let’s start with Charles Moore’s January 3 article for The Telegraph, ‘Pope Benedict XVI was the last of the generation of leaders that knew war’.

Conversations about the Second World War with John Paul II

Charles Moore met Benedict only once, about 20 years ago. At that time, he was Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, popularly known as God’s rottweiler.

Moore says that (emphases mine):

the bit of the job he enjoyed the most was each Friday evening when he, a German (who had been forced into the Hitler Youth, aged 12) would spend an hour or more in informal conversation with the Polish pope (who had endured the Nazi persecution of his church about an hour’s drive from Auschwitz).

These two men, both born in the 1920s, had experienced Germany’s disgraceful assault on Poland, which plunged the world into violence. They had seen Hitler’s diabolical destructiveness followed by Stalin’s reign of atheistic tyranny over eastern Europe. Yet here in Rome, half a century later, the German and the Pole were friends, co-workers and men of God, talking about theology, in a world largely at peace.

I think this shared experience, from unwillingly opposite sides, gave the two popes a depth of understanding which those of us brought up in easier times tend to lack. The passing of their generation should be acknowledged as a loss. There are many lessons to be learnt from them … and indeed from their entire age-cohort.

John Paul II and the future Benedict XVI agreed on most things, but had different emphases. The Pole, a philosopher by training, was obsessed by the possibilities of human love, which he saw fulfilled in Jesus Christ. This made him full of optimism and courage. “Be not afraid” was the text of his great inaugural sermon as pope, which inspired millions suffering behind the Iron Curtain.

The German agreed but, being a theologian and an official of the Curia, he thought more specifically about the Church. He had a strong sense of the depth and continuity of Christian civilisation, particularly in Europe. This made him passionately interested in liturgy. It should not be rendered “flatter” in order to improve superficial comprehension, he argued, because liturgy is not “like a lecture”: it works “in a manifold way, with all the senses, and by being drawn into a celebration that isn’t invented by some commission but that comes to me … from the depth of the millennia and, ultimately, of eternity”.

Benedict also, perhaps, had more cultural pessimism than John Paul II. Living in the post-war West, he witnessed not tyranny but consumerism, triviality and boredom. The Church’s duty to understand the spirit of the age did not mean it had to accept it. It had to shelter truth, as well as proclaiming it.

Being Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

The then-Cardinal Ratzinger told Moore that, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under John Paul II:

it was his job to “help the Pope with the necessary Noes”, given that John Paul II was temperamentally inclined to say “Yes”.

Margaret Thatcher met two Popes

Margaret Thatcher and her husband Denis were Protestant but, for whatever reason, were among the couples who received a papal blessing from Paul VI in June 1977, some years after they had married.

Moore has the story, which she related to him when they met Benedict XVI:

When Margaret Thatcher was old, a kind friend, Carla Powell, invited her to stay with her near Rome and meet Pope Benedict in the Vatican. I was asked to accompany the party. By this stage, Lady Thatcher had poor short-term memory. I felt I should remind her of what was happening. “Isn’t it exciting?” I said to her. “We’re going to see the Pope tomorrow.” “Yes,” she replied, “but what does one say to a pope?”

It was a reasonable question. I must admit that I had no answer to it, and still don’t. The formalities of a brief audience leave no time to ask for useful tips about the secrets of the universe. Besides, Benedict XVI was a shy man and Lady Thatcher had become, as I say, rather vague.

I need not have worried. Even in old age, she was a tremendous actress, and once she was on the dais and recognised by the crowds, she behaved with perfect poise as pope and ex-prime minister exchanged pleasantries. As we descended, I pointed out to her the pen in which newly married couples, in their finery, always gather for a papal blessing. Lady T rushed up to them, “We did that a long time ago,” she announced, recalling her wedding with Denis nearly 60 years earlier, “and it’s a wonderful thing to do.”

Joseph Ratzinger’s childhood dream

Melanie McDonagh’s New Year’s Day column for The Telegraph tells us that young Joseph Ratzinger’s childhood dream was to be a priest.

I was somewhat envious reading the following, as I, too, wanted to be a priest in my childhood but, unlike the young Bavarian, had to make do with my grandmother’s green silk scarf for a vestment and the coffee table as an altar:

The death of Pope Benedict has left me desolate, not least because I muffed a chance to have a last interview with him. I thought I could postpone a meeting until I was properly prepared, which is always stupid when you’re talking about a 95-year-old. Yep. I am an idiot. But his death led me back to Peter Seewald’s biography, which is revelatory about his early life. It recalls little Joseph’s Christmas letter to the Christ Child at the age of seven, asking for a green vestment to play at saying mass with his brother and sister. Back then in Bavaria, you could get tiny altars, with all the kit, for the purpose. In later life, Pope Benedict would recall that playacting at saying mass somehow made the future come to life. But the real giveaway about his direction of travel was that when people asked the little boy what he wanted to be when he grew up. He would answer solemnly: “A cardinal”. He went one better than that though.

Amazing. Childhood really can influence our adult lives.

Rosamund Urwin’s obituary of the late Pope for The Sunday Times was excellent. It also includes a photograph of young Joseph Ratzinger in his Luftwaffe uniform. Excerpts follow in the next several sections.

Childhood

Urwin tells us that the Ratzinger household was a devout one:

Born Joseph Ratzinger in 1927 in Bavaria, the son of a policeman, his pious parents had him baptised four hours after delivery. He was a child when Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933.

The home atmosphere also influenced his brother Georg. I wonder if Joseph shared his Mass kit with him:

In 1951, he was ordained alongside his brother, who died in 2020.

The Guardian has more:

Born in the village of Marktl am Inn, Bavaria, Joseph was the third child of three and second son of a former hotel cook, Maria (nee Peintner) and a police commissioner, also Joseph, both devout Catholics. His childhood was unusual because of the extraordinary piety of the family, which separated him from his contemporaries. There was never, it seems, a time when young Joseph did not want to be a priest.

His father’s opposition to the Nazis is reported to have curtailed his police career. A lasting memory for Joseph was, as a boy, seeing Nazi supporters beat up his local parish priest in Traunstein, near the Austrian border. On another occasion, in 1941, a younger cousin who had Down’s syndrome was taken away by Nazi officials under their eugenics programme to perish with many others.

Membership of the Hitler Youth was compulsory for the two Ratzinger boys.

Wartime

Returning to Rosamund Urwin’s article, it is hard to imagine what serving a sick despot must have been like:

The family opposed fascism and the Nazi party, but he was forced to join the Hitler Youth at 14 when it became compulsory, and was later drafted into the German military, serving on the auxiliary staff in the Luftwaffe and then digging trenches on the Hungarian border. After Hitler’s death, he deserted, risking being shot if captured.

His horror at Nazi Germany and the bloodshed was part of the inspiration for his becoming a priest after the war ended, when he found consolation in the sight of Ulm Cathedral. When he arrived home, he said: “The heavenly Jerusalem itself could not have appeared more beautiful to me.”

The aforementioned Guardian obituary has more about his wartime service:

Like other 16-year-olds, Joseph was called up in 1943, serving first with an anti-aircraft battery in Munich and then with an infantry unit on the Hungarian border, before finding himself for six weeks in an American prisoner of war camp.

Ministry

Rosamund Urwin says that the Revd Joseph Ratzinger did not spend much time as a pastor. Academia took him to the top:

His time in parish ministry was limited: he preferred academia, becoming a professor of theology at Bonn University. In 1977, he became archbishop of Munich and Freising, and then a cardinal. This allowed him to vote in the conclave to elect the new pope after the deaths of Paul VI and John Paul I.

In Rome, Ratzinger met the charismatic Polish cardinal Karol Wojtyla, on whose behalf he campaigned and who became Pope John Paul II. The pair grew close and Ratzinger became the pontiff’s right-hand man, their partnership shaping the church for the next three decades.

However, it appears that Cardinal Ratzinger wanted to retire but John Paul II refused his request:

Benedict did not appear to want to be Pope before he was elected in 2005. Then simply Cardinal Ratzinger, he was already 78 and had previously stated that he would like to retire to his house in Bavaria and write books. The historian Michael Hesemann, who interviewed Ratzinger’s older brother Georg at length, said the brothers, who were close, had intended to travel together. After a number of mini-strokes in the 1990s, the cardinal asked the man he would succeed as pope, John Paul II, if he could retire from his position, but was turned down.

It was his leadership of John Paul II’s funeral that put him in the media spotlight and made cardinals see him as John Paul II’s natural successor, and he became the first German to be elected pope in almost a thousand years.

It was a good funeral. The BBC televised it, and I ran across many non-Christians who watched it with great interest, glued to the screen. I was happy to answer their questions.

From progressive to conservative

When I was growing up, my mother found Ratzinger’s pronouncements appalling. This was before he was put in charge of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. She went so far as to vent her frustration to the nuns at my school. Unfortunately for her, the nuns were on Ratzinger’s side of the argument. Those were the days of the later and looser implementations of Vatican II in parish churches.

By the time he became Benedict XVI, she was too ill to notice, but she would have been pleased to know that he became theologically conservative over the years:

In his younger years, Ratzinger had been viewed as a progressive, but he became a resolute theological conservative as he aged, earning the nickname “God’s rottweiler”.

The aforementioned Guardian obituary states that Ratzinger’s views on Vatican II began to change in 1968:

His personal Road to Damascus came in 1968 at Tübingen, which had embraced the Europe-wide outbreak of student unrest of that period. It profoundly disturbed Ratzinger and caused him to decamp the following year for the more traditionally minded Regensburg, and, more significantly, prompted a wholesale re-evaluation of his commitment to the reform movement in the church.

In Catholic circles, he began to voice his disillusion at the effects of the modernisation ushered in by the council, and at the constant demand for change and innovation. He started to advocate a reinvigorated central church government to hold the line against liberals, and to defend the traditions of Catholicism that he came to see increasingly as its strength. As a symbol of this change of heart, in 1972 Ratzinger defected from Concilium to the group of conservative-minded theologians who were founding a rival journal, Communio.

The need to halt the reform process was fast becoming mainstream thought in the European Catholic church. When, in 1977, Ratzinger was appointed by the Vatican as cardinal archbishop of Munich, he used his new platform to attack progressive theologians, such as his former academic colleague and friend the Swiss theologian Father Hans Küng.

Such a stance chimed well with the incoming regime of Karol Wojtyła, elected in 1978 as Pope John Paul II. He was another second Vatican council figure who was also now wary of what it had set in train. In 1981, Ratzinger was named head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, one of the most senior positions in the Roman curia. He worked closely and harmoniously with John Paul, notably to rein in the radical liberation theologians of Latin America, whom both suspected of importing Marxist thought into Catholicism by the back door, and to silence dissenters such as the distinguished American scholar Father Charles Curran, who had publicly questioned official teaching on sexual morality …

It was often easier for otherwise loyal Catholics concerned by the draconian actions of the Vatican in regard to popular, liberal theologians to blame Ratzinger rather than John Paul II. The pope managed to evade any sort of categorisation within his lifetime, not least by dint of his personal charisma, while, as his right-hand man, the apparently dour, inflexible Ratzinger was a more convenient target. But, as pope, Benedict largely avoided such targeting of individuals. The attack on dissidents was, it seems, his master’s bidding.

I am not surprised. I never liked John Paul II, having always suspected there was something else behind his ever-present smile. It was during his tenure that I left the Catholic Church and became an Episcopalian.

The Guardian has more on this topic:

In September 2005, soon after his election, he spent four hours in discussion with his former friend Küng. Under John Paul II, Küng had been banned from teaching in Catholic universities. Yet at the end of their meeting, Benedict put out a statement praising Küng’s work on dialogue between religions. His guest remained to be convinced. “His stances on church policy,” Küng remarked, “are not my own.”

Benedict was also rather better than John Paul II at giving the impression of listening and consulting. Some spoke of him having a “big tent” approach to the church, wanting to restore harmony to what had become a fractured and fractious world Catholic family. His decision in 2007 to relax restrictions on the use of the Tridentine Rite, a 16th-century form of the mass that had been largely withdrawn, to the distress of many elderly and traditionally minded Catholics in the late 1960s, was another aspect of the same all-inclusive approach (though his move was later reversed by Pope Francis).

He was also the first Pope in years to don traditional papal garb, engaging in:

the occasional bout of dressing up in long-discarded items from the wardrobes of medieval popes such as the camauro, a red bonnet trimmed with white fur. He may not have had charisma, like his predecessor, the former actor John Paul II, but he undeniably had charm.

Fanta, cats and a pilot’s licence

Urwin tells us how Ratzinger enjoyed spending his free time:

Those around him described him as warm but shy. A bibliophile, he was reported to have told visitors: “My true friends are the books.” He played the piano and loved classical music, especially Mozart and Beethoven, his pet cats and Fanta having a can of the fizzy drink every day.

Benedict held a pilot’s licence and when he was younger used to fly a helicopter from the Vatican to the Pope’s summer residence, Castel Gandolfo. He had an interest in style too, wearing fashionable sunglasses and slip-on shoes that many thought were made by Prada (they weren’t).

A clerical outfitters near the Vatican supplies all the Popes with their clothing and shoes. Pope Benedict opted for the traditional garments, including papal slippers, which are made of the softest leather.

Benedict was the first Pope to adopt social media:

Though traditional, he — or his advisers — did embrace social media, joining Twitter a decade ago using the handle @Pontifex, which Francis has since inherited.

By the way, the 2019 film about him and his successor Francis has a fictitious scene in it:

The 2019 film The Two Popes, which starred Anthony Hopkins as Benedict and Jonathan Pryce as Francis, fuelled wider interest in their relationship. It was a heavily fictionalised account, ending with the pair watching football as Francis tried to teach Benedict the joys of the sport. Its director later admitted the bromance-style denouement was made up — Benedict was more of a Formula One fan.

Papal problems

Benedict had many problems to face during his time as Pope:

It would not be an easy eight years: accusations of child sexual abuse by priests and a broader cover-up by the church dogged his tenure.

He repeatedly spoke out against misconduct, demanded investigations and issued new rules to make it easier to discipline predatory priests, but was criticised for seeming unwilling to hold the wider church hierarchy to account. The sexual abuse scandals threatened to overshadow his trip to the UK in September 2010, but in the end it was deemed a success and Benedict was applauded for his warmth and for urging Britain to work for the common good of society.

As head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under John Paul II, it had been his responsibility to read dossiers compiled about priests accused of child abuse, and many, even among the faithful, felt he should have done more to stem and to punish abuse.

He later became the first pope to meet victims of clerical paedophiles. In February, he asked for forgiveness from victims of sexual abuse, but denied accusations that he was involved in concealing cases while he was Archbishop of Munich and Freising.

However, as I wrote, a group of French men and women stated in a 2010 letter that Benedict XVI was, in their words:

the first pope to address head-on, without compromise, the problem. Paradoxically, he is the subject of undermining and personal attacks, attacks relayed with a certain complacency on the part of the press.

Even The Guardian agrees with that assessment. John Paul II, the darling of everyone everywhere, did not even look at it:

He was the first pope to look the abuse scandal in the eye and attempt to tackle it. He may have made only a start, but his predecessor had simply swept it under the carpet and even given sanctuary to known abusers. Benedict withdrew that protection and promised a thorough review that would stop such a betrayal happening again. Delivery of the promise, though, was patchy

Benedict, to his credit, did not try to bury his head in the sand over the scandal. When details had first emerged in the late 1980s in the US and Canada, some reports ended up on the desk of Cardinal Ratzinger at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Later, it was alleged that he had failed to acknowledge them, but the cardinal archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Schönborn, presented a different picture – of Ratzinger wanting to set up full investigations into accusations against a number of senior clerics – including Schönborn’s own predecessor, Cardinal Hans Groër, later exposed as a paedophile – but being blocked by other senior figures around the now grievously ailing John Paul II, notably the secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano.

By 2001, the reports of abuse and cover-up had grown so serious and so widespread that Ratzinger was placed in charge of coordinating the church’s response. His first act was to demand that every accusation be reported to him – in an effort to stop local bishops sweeping reports of abuse under the carpet, paying off victims with out-of-court settlements that bought their silence, and then reassigning the culprits to new parishes where they could carry on preying on the young. However, John Paul’s inner circle continued to limit Ratzinger’s ability to act in his new role.

It is possible that he was too elderly by the time he became pope to effect any real change:

His efforts, though sustained, were insufficient in their scope. There remained a tendency – clearly expressed in his letter to the Irish – to lay the blame on the local bishops and therefore to distance the Vatican from any responsibility. In such a centralised, hierarchical structure as world Catholicism, the buck should always end up in Rome.

Try as he undoubtedly did, with sincerity and anguish, Benedict was perhaps too old and too set in the ways of the church he had grown up with to contemplate more radical change.

Returning to Urwin’s article, ill health continued to dog him, and his retirement paved the way for Francis to take a similar decision, should he wish to do so:

When he was asked why he had chosen to resign, Benedict explained that the decision had come about during a mystical experience: “God told me to do it.”

It is likely that he has set a helpful precedent for his successor: Francis, who had half of his colon removed in 2021, has repeatedly said that he too would step down if his health became a barrier to serving as pope.

Benedict’s death makes the possibility of retirement for Francis less contentious, as it would mean there would be only two popes — one serving and one emeritus — rather than three. However, his retirement plans would again expose their differences: the humble Francis has said he would call himself the emeritus bishop of Rome and would not live in the Vatican — instead choosing a home for retired priests in the Italian capital “because it is my diocese”.

‘The devil worked against him’

In my second post, I said that I had read years ago that the devil was plaguing Benedict and there were certain rooms in the Vatican that he no longer felt comfortable entering because he felt a deep spiritual attack in those places.

I was relieved to find a new article on the subject to share with you. On January 2, Crux posted ‘Personal secretary to Benedict XVI says “the devil worked against him”‘:

Retired Pope Benedict XVI’s longtime personal secretary has given an interview in which he says he believes the devil was working against Benedict throughout his papacy, but the scandals which erupted during his reign had nothing to do with his historic resignation.

Speaking to the Italian newspaper La Reppublica, German Archbishop Georg Gänswein said the word “scandal” was perhaps “a bit strong” to describe the many crises that erupted during Benedict XVI’s papacy, but that “it’s true that during the pontificate there were many problems” …

“It’s clear, he always tries to touch, to hit where the nerves are exposed and do the most damage,” he said, saying he could often feel the devil at work, and, “I felt him very against Pope Benedict.”

Gänswein, 66, currently serves as Prefect of the Papal Household and was Benedict XVI’s personal secretary since before his election to the papacy in 2005, meaning he accompanied the late pontiff throughout his eight-year reign and remained with him after his historic resignation and the nearly 10 years since.

Gänswein recalled the moment when Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI. He found it unusual, even portentous:

Gänswein said the large doors to the Sistine Chapel swung open and he entered the chapel, but didn’t know that his boss had been elected until “I saw him, down at the end. He was all white, even his face. His hair was already white.”

Benedict, he said, was already wearing the white papal zucchetto and his white cassock,

“But he was pallid, very pallid. And there, in that moment, he looked at me,” Gänswein said, saying his response was, “Holy Father, I don’t know what to say, congratulations or prayers.”

He then pledged his life to serve the newly elected pope, in life and “until or also in death.”

Gänswein said that his experience of his boss’s resignation was far from straightforward:

Reflecting on the day Benedict’s historic resignation went into effect, Gänswein said the first thing that comes to mind is the moment they left the apostolic palace to board the helicopter for Castel Gandolfo.

“I turned out the lights, and this for me was already a very emotional act, but also very sad,” he said, saying he tried to hold himself together, “but the pressure was too big,” and he began to weep, describing the feeling as “a type of tsunami above, under, around. I no longer knew who I was.”

Benedict, he said, “was in a state of incredible calm, as he was in the days preceding.”

Gänswein said Benedict XVI had first confided his decision to resign several months prior, in September 2012, and that his first reaction was “Holy Father it’s impossible. We can think of reducing your commitments, this yes, but to leave, to renounce, it’s impossible.”

He said Benedict let him speak, but responded saying, “you can imagine that I have thought well about this choice, I have reflected, I have prayed, I have fought, and now I communicate to you a decision made, not a thesis to be discussed. It is not a quaestio disputanda, it is decided.”

From that moment, Gänswein said he was sworn to silence.

In hindsight, Gänswein said he recalled that Benedict had been “very closed, very pensive,” since the summer of 2012, which he thought was because the late pontiff was concentrated on finishing the last in his Jesus of Nazareth book series.

“When he revealed his decision to me, I understood that I was mistaken: it was not the book that worried him, but it was the internal battle of this decision, a challenge,” he said, saying things went ahead like normal for the next few months.

Gänswein said that the child abuse scandals affected Benedict deeply. He began dealing with them as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and was the first senior prelate so to do:

Asked if Benedict XVI was referring to the clerical abuse scandals when, shortly after his election, he denounced “filth in the church” while presiding over the Via Crucis at the Colosseum during Holy Week in 2005, Gänswein said, “It must not be forgotten that as prefect he was the first, one of the first, to come into contact with this terrible scourge of abuse.”

“It’s obvious that that experience couldn’t not be present in the Via Crucis of 2005,” he said, recalling how Benedict at the beginning of his papacy asked for prayers so that “I may not flee for fear of the wolves.”

Gänswein said he is unaware of what exactly, or who, Benedict was referring to, but the image of the wolf in that context “means it is not easy to be coherent, counter-current, and maintain this direction if many are of another opinion.”

Gänswein also said that Benedict’s visit to Celestine V’s tomb in 2009 had nothing to do with his resignation, either. Celestine V was the last pope to retire. He retired 600 years before Benedict did.

Furthermore, the other problems during Benedict’s papacy did not influence his decision to retire:

Gänswein also rejected rumors that the crises which erupted during Benedict’s papacy, and the intense criticism he endured, were factors in his decision to resign. He said he once asked Benedict about it, and the response was, “No, the question never influenced my resignation.”

“Feb. 11, 2013, I said my motives: I lacked the strength to govern. To guide the church, today, strength is needed, otherwise it doesn’t work,” was Benedict’s response, Gänswein said …

Responding to critics who frowned on Benedict’s decision to resign while his predecessor, John Paul II, continued to reign while openly afflicted by the effects of Parkinson’s, Gänswein said Benedict was never bothered by the comparison.

“He told me once: I cannot and do not want to copy the model of John Paul II in sickness, because I have to face my life, my choices, my strengths. This is why the pope allowed himself to make this decision, which to me required not only a lot of courage, but also a lot of humility,” he said.

Gänswein said the decision to announce Benedict’s resignation on Feb. 11 was made to coincide with the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes

He and Benedict were together that morning but, outside of praying, they were silent.

Gänswein described the atmosphere in the room when Benedict announced his retirement to the cardinals:

Benedict chose to make his announcement in Latin, Gänswein said, because he insisted that “an announcement like that must be made in the language of the church, the mother tongue.”

“You heard from his voice that the pope was moved and tired, both things,” he said, saying he began to notice “movement” among the cardinals when Benedict began to speak in Latin, and that some understood “there was something strange” happening faster than others.

By the time the former dean of the College of Cardinals, Italian Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who passed away last year, got up and responded to Benedict, saying his announcement came like lightening in a clear blue sky, “everyone realized what was happening,” Gänswein said.

In terms of Benedict’s post-retirement title of “pope emeritus,” Gänswein said it was chosen by Benedict himself.

“I think that faced with a decision so exceptional, to return to cardinal would not have been natural. But there is no doubt that there was always only one pope, and he is called Francis,” he said.

Benedict’s resignation, he said, shows that “the sacred is sacred, and it also has human aspects.”

“I believe that with his resignation Pope Benedict also demonstrated that the pope, if he is always the successor of Peter, remains a human person with all of their strengths, but also with their weaknesses,” he said, saying, “one is needed, but you must also live the other. Because strength is needed to accept one’s own weakness.”

Defender of celibacy in the priesthood

The Guardian‘s obituary tells us that Benedict felt strongly about Catholic priests remaining celibate:

In January 2020, Benedict publicly defended clerical celibacy, as Francis was considering allowing married men to become priests in limited circumstances. “I cannot keep silent,” he wrote in a book, From the Depths of Our Hearts: Priesthood, Celibacy and the Crisis of the Catholic Church, arguing that priestly celibacy protected the mystery of the church.

An atheist’s apologia for Benedict

Brendan O’Neill, an atheist, wrote a moving post for Spiked on the day Benedict died, December 31, 2022.

In it, he explored the late Pope’s understanding of freedom and the Enlightenment:

In the 2000s, both before and during his papacy, Benedict devoted his brilliant mind to doing battle with moral relativism. He viewed relativism, where the very ‘concept of truth has become suspect’, as the great scourge of our times. He railed against ‘the massive presence in our society and culture of [a] relativism which, recognising nothing as definitive, leaves as the ultimate criterion only the self with its desires’. He said that the cultural elites’ dismantling of truth, even of reality itself (witness transgenderism’s war on biology), might present itself as ‘freedom’ but it actually has severely atomising and authoritarian consequences. The postmodern assault on truth is pursued under the ‘semblance of freedom’, he said, but ‘it becomes a prison for each one, for it separates people from one another, locking each person into his or her own ego’.

In short, absent any notion of universal truth, devoid of social standards we might define ourselves by (or against), we’re left with just the individual, playing around in his own prison of identity. ‘A large proportion of contemporary philosophies… consist of saying that man is not capable of truth’, said Benedict. ‘But viewed in that way, man would not be capable of ethical values, either. Then he would have no standards. Then he would only have to consider how he arranged things reasonably for himself…’ Relativism means letting oneself be ‘tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine’, he said. We’re in that moment now. The march of moral relativism has not made a freer, more content society but an agitated, uncertain one. Post-truth, post-reality, even post-biology, the individual is not liberated, but lost, left utterly alone to ‘arrange things reasonably for himself’.

Perhaps Benedict’s most important insight was that this dictatorship of relativism represented a negation of the Enlightenment.Too many right-wingers and ‘Trad Caths’– youthful influencers who take refuge from wokeness in the incense-fused safe space of the Catholic Church – blame every ill on the Enlightenment. Technocracy, scientism, the pseudo-rational deconstruction of language and reality – it’s all apparently a logical consequence of man’s grave folly of believing he could master nature and shape the future.

Benedict knew better. What we are witnessing is a ‘radical detachment of the Enlightenment philosophy from its roots’, he said. Modern rationalists tell us that ‘man, deep down, has no freedom’, and also that he ‘must not think that he is something more than all other living beings’, Benedict noted. This is proof, he said, that those who pose as the contemporary guardians of Enlightenment thought have in fact come to be ‘separated from the roots of humanity’s historical memory’. Enlightenment thinkers did believe man was higher than beasts. They did believe man was capable of freedom. Today’s supposed rationalists act ‘in total contradiction with the starting point of [Enlightenment thought]’, Benedict said.

It should not be surprising that Benedict had a deeper, more subtle understanding of the Enlightenment than many of the coarse rationalists in the New Atheist set did. For he was a critical student of Enlightenment thought, as Maurice Ashley Agbaw-Ebai outlined in his excellent study of Benedict published last year: Light of Reason, Light of Faith: Joseph Ratzinger and the German Enlightenment. Agbaw-Ebai argues that Benedict’s theology was one steeped in rationality, speaking to his decades-long engagement with Enlightenment thinkers.

Indeed, Benedict held that Christianity was a ‘religion according to reason’. He argued, rightly, that the Enlightenment sprung from the traditions and tensions within Christianity itself – ‘the Enlightenment is of Christian origin’, he said. One of his most striking utterances was to say that the Enlightenment had ‘given back reason its own voice’. That is, it took ideas of reason from Christianity and expressed those ideas in the voice of reason alone …

Benedict’s beef was not with reason, then, as his ill-read critics would have us believe, but with what he referred to as ‘purely functional rationality’. Or scientism, as others call it: the modern creed of evidence-based politics that judges everything by experiment rather than morality. Ours is a ‘world based on calculation’, Benedict lamented. ‘[It] is the calculation of consequences that determines what must or must not be considered moral. And thus the category of good… disappears [my emphasis]. Nothing is good or bad in itself, everything depends on the consequences that an action allows one to foresee.’

We see this cult of calculation everywhere today. Industry and growth are judged not according to whether they will be good for us, but through the pseudo-science of calculating their impact on the planet. Human activity is likewise measured, and reprimanded, by calculating the carbon footprint it allegedly leaves. Parenting has been reduced from a moral endeavour to a scientific one – you must now follow the calculations of parenting experts and gurus if you don’t want your kids to be messed up. Benedict was right about our world of calculation – it chases out questions of morality, truth and freedom in preference for only doing what the calculating classes deem to be low-risk in terms of consequences. When everything is devised for us by a calculating elite, freedom suffers, said Benedict – for ‘our freedom and our dignity cannot come… from technical systems of control, but can, specifically, spring only from man’s moral strength’.

Benedict was most concerned with defending the specialness of humankind against the claim of the ‘functional rationalists’ that man is essentially little more than a clever animal. This is why he agitated so firmly against the calculating classes’ belief that ‘man must not think that he is something more than all other living beings’. He’d be branded a speciesist if he said this today – how dare you assume that polluting, marauding mankind is superior, more important, than the beasts of the Earth? One of my favourite comments from Benedict was made at his installation Mass as pope in April 2005. He said: ‘We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.’

No, I do not share Benedict’s belief in God. I am an atheist. But Benedict’s agitation against the idea that humanity is a consequence of evolution alone was a profoundly important one. A key part of today’s functional rationalism is evolutionary psychology, a science particularly beloved of Dawkinites and the so-called Intellectual Dark Web. It holds that virtually everything human beings think and do can be explained by evolutionary processes, as if we are indistinguishable from those monkeys that first came down from the trees; as if we are propelled into tribal affiliations and warfare and sex by traits stamped into us by the ceaseless march of nature. This, too, chases out the small matter of morality, the small matter that we have risen above our nature and now really are ‘more than all other living beings’, in Benedict’s words. We are capable of choice, we are capable of good. Good – a terribly old-fashioned concept, I know.

A life in pictures

The Guardian has a marvellous selection of photographs of Joseph Ratzinger throughout his life, including a family photo and one of the joint ordination with his brother Georg, who predeceased him in 2020.

Benedict’s legacy

Commonweal‘s obituary states that opinion will be divided on Benedict’s papacy:

After the “long nineteenth century” (as characterized by John O’Malley) of the Catholic Church was brought to an end by the calling of the council in 1959, Benedict XVI was in some ways the last pope of the delayed conclusion of the twentieth-century Catholic Church, a short century beginning with John XXIII and Vatican II and ending in 2013 with the election of the first non-European and non-Mediterranean pope. Joseph Ratzinger was a brilliant theologian and public intellectual, but also a provocative cleric who as pope had the courage to risk unpopularity. He will remain one of the most widely published and widely read popes in Church history, and likely one of the most controversial. Few committed Catholics will be indifferent or dispassionate about him.

Lying in state and funeral

On New Year’s Day 2023, the day after Benedict’s death, the Vatican issued an announcement about his funeral. The Sunday Telegraph reported:

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI will have a “solemn but simple” funeral this week, the Vatican said, in a ceremony that will be presided over by a sitting pope for the first time in centuries.

The funeral on Thursday will be in accordance with the former pontiff’s wishes and will be led by Pope Francis.

The unusual circumstances will mean the Vatican is navigating uncharted waters as it hammers out the finer details of the event.

I am certain that everything worked out well. His funeral was held today, Thursday, January 5.

The article has a photo of him lying in state privately at the Vatican in a chapel. That was taken before he was moved to St Peter’s Basilica for public viewing:

The Vatican released the first photos of Benedict following his death on Saturday at the age of 95, showing him resting on a catafalque in the chapel of the former convent inside the Vatican city state where he spent his retirement.

His head resting on a pillow, the former pope was dressed in red vestments and a cream-coloured mitre, his hands clutching a rosary.

The corpse was flanked on one side by a Christmas tree and on the other by a Nativity scene.

On Monday morning, Benedict’s body will be transferred to St Peter’s Basilica, where the faithful will be able to pay their respects.

After the funeral, he will be buried in the papal tombs under St Peter’s Basilica.

On Monday, January 2, the Mail reported on the crowds paying their respects at St Peter’s. The paper included many moving photographs:

Catholics bowed their heads and say prayers as they fill up St Peter’s Basilica to pay their respects to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI – this is where he will lie in state for three days before a ‘simple’ funeral at the Vatican on Thursday.

The doors of the basilica were swung open just after 9am today so the public, some of whom had waited for hours, could visit the late pontiff …

His body – dressed in a mitre, the headgear of a bishop, and a red cloak-like vestment in preparation – was placed on a simple dais, with two Swiss guards standing on either side as mourners walked by … 

Before the rank-and-file faithful were allowed into the basilica, prayers were intoned and a small cloud of incense was released near the body, its hands clasped on its chest.

By mid-morning the queue to enter the basilica snaked around St Peter’s Square.

Once allowed to enter, the public filed up the centre aisle to pass by the bier with its cloth draping.

While the number of visitors was large, there were no signs of the huge crowds who came to pay their respects to Pope John Paul II in 2005, when millions waited for hours to enter the basilica. 

Last night, Benedict’s long-time secretary, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, and a handful of consecrated laywomen who served in his household, followed a van by foot in a silent procession toward the basilica. 

Some of the women stretched out a hand to touch the body with respect.

The Catholic News Agency has the prayers for Benedict’s funeral Mass, some of which were read in Latin.

Francis’s future

News reports have been circulating that Pope Francis could retire.

On the day that Benedict died, The Guardian reported:

For the first time in almost 10 years, there will be only one pope. But that may be temporary.

Pope Benedict XVI’s death, nine years and 10 months after he unexpectedly stepped down, eases the way for his successor, Francis, to follow suit. It is a move he has long suggested he wants to make.

Benedict was the first pontiff for 600 years to retire rather than die in office – a shock move that was a gamechanger, according to Vatican experts.

Soon after Francis greeted hundreds of thousands of followers gathered in St Peter’s Square following his election, Benedict’s successor began hinting at the possibility of his own retirement.

He said he would like to see the resignation of popes become normalised, and later said he had a feeling his pontificate would be brief, describing his predecessor’s decision to step down as “courageous”.

Last summer, he raised the prospect again. On his return to Rome after a papal visit to Canada, he told reporters the “door is open” to his retirement. It would not be “a catastrophe”, he said

The Vatican is a deeply factional place. There are many enemies of Pope Francis’s relatively progressive agenda with its focus on poverty, refugees and the climate crisis. This Christmas, he criticised “hunger for wealth and power”.

Some of Francis’s opponents have tried to rally support for conservative values around Benedict as an alternative figurehead.

In thinking about the possibility of retirement, Francis – who turned 86 earlier this month – will have considered the impact of two retired popes on his own successor.

With Benedict’s death, the path to retirement becomes a little easier. 13 March will be the 10th anniversary of Francis’s election as the Roman Catholic church’s 266th pontiff. Some time around then, or in the following months, perhaps after a key synod of bishops in the autumn, may seem an appropriate time for an announcement.

The veteran Catholic journalist Catherine Pepinster gave us more of a picture for the paper, ‘It’s a papal version of Succession: at Benedict XVI’s funeral, the plotting will begin’:

Airlines usually upgrade cardinals to first class and offer them champagne. But when the leaders of the Roman Catholic church fly into Rome’s Fiumicino airport this week for the funeral of the former pope Benedict XVI, they may well forgo the fizz as a sign of their mourning. It’s hard to imagine, though, that they will refrain from engaging in the whispers and the politicking that is so typical of a gathering of top Catholic prelates. The funeral will be a time to remember and mourn Benedict – but the plotting that will take place may resemble an episode of Succession

When a pope dies in office, cardinals come from across the globe to bury him and elect his successor. This time, of course, there is no need to do so. There is already a pope – Francis, the man picked in 2013 to succeed him. But when he leads Benedict’s funeral on 5 January, the cardinals may well wonder if they will be back in Rome soon for another conclave. At 86, Francis himself is already physically frail

There are some in the Roman Catholic church who would dearly love another pope to be elected very soon …

Certain followers of Benedict who asserted that all Catholics should be utterly loyal to a pope when he sat on the throne of Peter have shown no such fidelity to Francis, and have constantly criticised his efforts at reform …

In 2005, when John Paul II died, the conservatives were well-organised and encouraged the voting members of the College of Cardinals ­– those under 80 – to pick Joseph Ratzinger, who took the name Pope Benedict XVI. When Benedict quit eight years later, the liberals were better organised

Who will the cardinals elect next time? We Catholics in the pew, whether conservatives or progressives, have to accept that cardinals are as human as the rest of us, and not averse to plotting. But maybe we should offer a prayer that the Holy Spirit may, on the next occasion, help them find someone who could be what a pope always used to be – a unifying figure.

On January 3, The Times reported that the conservatives are gearing up:

The death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI could deepen divisions at the top of the Catholic Church by both “removing a brake” from Pope Francis and emboldening his conservative critics to try to succeed him, analysts said today.

Giuseppe Rusconi, a leading Vatican journalist, said the death of Benedict, formerly Joseph Ratzinger, at the age of 95 would have consequences for his conservative followers and his more progressive successor.

“The conservatives have been weakened by Ratzinger’s death but they will now feel authorised to be more openly critical of Pope Francis, while Francis will no longer feel overshadowed by Pope Benedict and be free to cross new boundaries in his reforms,” Rusconi said. “A brake has been removed, both as regards the conservatives’ criticisms and the radical quality of Francis’ reforms” …

Sandro Magister, another veteran Vatican observer, noted there was a void on the conservative wing of the church, and predicted a competitive “free for all” in the Vatican, with different agendas jostling for influence. Magister said Benedict’s continued presence in the Vatican after his retirement had acted as a check on Francis and his supporters. “[Now] there’s likely to be a free for all, without any clear guidelines. We are in a phase of confusion now, the opposite of the clear, limpid, rational thought of Pope Benedict,” he added.

Of the 132 cardinals aged under 80, and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope, 83 were appointed by Francis. About a dozen cardinals, mainly senior conservatives, will also lose the right to vote this year.

Unlike other commentators, these two journalists do not think Francis will retire any time soon:

Rusconi does not expect Francis, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Buenos Aires, to follow Ratzinger’s example any time soon …

Magister said Francis was unpredictable but was unlikely to resign soon. “His resignation is more practicable now, but I don’t see it as imminent,” he said. “His activism is remarkable for a man of his age. His diary is packed with engagements.”

However, the editor of the Catholic paper La Croix International said that Francis’s health is very poor:

Robert Mickens, the editor-in-chief of La Croix International, a Catholic newspaper, said he expected Francis to resign as early as this year, possibly after the October synod. Mickens said the Pope was having difficulty with unscripted speech, sometimes slipping into Spanish expressions and rambling. “He’s way overweight, which doesn’t help his knee problem,” he added …

Mickens said there would be a gathering of ultra-conservative political leaders and representatives of European royalty at Benedict’s funeral on Thursday. “Ratzinger represents a Europe that is no longer or is slipping away. His funeral brings down the curtain on an era.”

Although Francis may have stacked the deck in favour of church liberals with his appointments to the college of cardinals, it was impossible to predict who might emerge as Pope from the next conclave, he said. “I know conservatives are working right now, trying to influence the succession. Bergoglio has opened a Pandora’s box with synodality [increased democratic debate] and conservatives are alarmed that it could result in radical changes that can’t be undone,” Mickens added.

Talk about the end of an era, which is where I began this post.

Fortunately, Joseph Ratzinger is now at rest with such temporal worries behind him. I hope to meet him one day in eternity.

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May Benedict XVI’s soul rest in peace with his Lord and Saviour.

Before going into little-known facts about the former Pontiff’s life and influences, below are news items about his papacy (April 19, 2005 – February 28, 2013), reflecting his thoughts and attitudes towards Christianity.

World Youth Day 2005

In August 2005, Benedict addressed the young people attending World Youth Day. He hoped for ecumenism, not through plans and programmes, but through a deeper belief in Christ through the gifts of the Holy Spirit:

We cannot “bring about” unity by our powers alone. We can only obtain unity as a gift of the Holy Spirit. Consequently, spiritual ecumenism – prayer, conversion and the sanctification of life – constitute the heart of the ecumenical movement (cf. Unitatis Redintegratio, 8; Ut Unum Sint, 15ff., 21, etc.). It could be said that the best form of ecumenism consists in living in accordance with the Gospel. I see good reason for optimism in the fact that today a kind of “network” of spiritual links is developing between Catholics and Christians from the different Churches and ecclesial Communities: each individual commits himself to prayer, to the examination of his own life, to the purification of memory, to the openness of charity.

Address to young Poles

On May 27, 2006, Benedict addressed Polish youth in Krakow.

His address was excellent. It explored the notion of the family home, which can only exist in a house built upon faith in Christ. The allegories are wonderful:

Jesus is here with us. He is present among the young people of Poland, speaking to them of a house that will never collapse because it is built on the rock. This is the Gospel that we have just heard (cf. Mt 7:2427).

My friends, in the heart of every man there is the desire for a house. Even more so in the young person’s heart there is a great longing for a proper house, a stable house, one to which he can not only return with joy, but where every guest who arrives can be joyfully welcomed. There is a yearning for a house where the daily bread is love, pardon and understanding. It is a place where the truth is the source out of which flows peace of heart. There is a longing for a house you can be proud of, where you need not be ashamed and where you never fear its loss. These longings are simply the desire for a full, happy and successful life. Do not be afraid of this desire! Do not run away from this desire! Do not be discouraged at the sight of crumbling houses, frustrated desires and faded longings. God the Creator, who inspires in young hearts an immense yearning for happiness, will not abandon you in the difficult construction of the house called life.

My friends, this brings about a question: “How do we build this house?” Without doubt, this is a question that you have already faced many times and that you will face many times more. Every day you must look into your heart and ask: “How do I build that house called life?” Jesus, whose words we just heard in the passage from the evangelist Matthew, encourages us to build on the rock. In fact, it is only in this way that the house will not crumble. But what does it mean to build a house on the rock? Building on the rock means, first of all, to build on Christ and with Christ. Jesus says: “Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock” (Mt 7:24). These are not just the empty words of some person or another; these are the words of Jesus. We are not listening to any person: we are listening to Jesus. We are not asked to commit to just anything; we are asked to commit ourselves to the words of Jesus.

To build on Christ and with Christ means to build on a foundation that is called “crucified love”. It means to build with Someone who, knowing us better than we know ourselves, says to us: “You are precious in my eyes and honoured, and I love you” (Is 43:4). It means to build with Someone, who is always faithful, even when we are lacking in faith, because he cannot deny himself (cf. 2 Tim 2:13). It means to build with Someone who constantly looks down on the wounded heart of man and says: “ I do not condemn you, go and do not sin again” (cf. Jn 8:11). It means to build with Someone who, from the Cross, extends his arms and repeats for all eternity: “O man, I give my life for you because I love you.” In short, building on Christ means basing all your desires, aspirations, dreams, ambitions and plans on his will. It means saying to yourself, to your family, to your friends, to the whole world and, above all to Christ: “Lord, in life I wish to do nothing against you, because you know what is best for me. Only you have the words of eternal life” (cf. Jn 6:68). My friends, do not be afraid to lean on Christ! Long for Christ, as the foundation of your life! Enkindle within you the desire to build your life on him and for him! Because no one who depends on the crucified love of the Incarnate Word can ever lose

My friends, what does it mean to build on the rock? Building on the rock also means building on Someone who was rejected. Saint Peter speaks to the faithful of Christ as a “living stone rejected by men but in God’s sight chosen and precious” (1 Pet 2:4). The undeniable fact of the election of Jesus by God does not conceal the mystery of evil, whereby man is able to reject Him who has loved to the very end. This rejection of Jesus by man, which Saint Peter mentions, extends throughout human history, even to our own time. One does not need great mental acuity to be aware of the many ways of rejecting Christ, even on our own doorstep

Dear friends, what does it mean to build on the rock? Building on the rock means being aware that there will be misfortunes. Christ says: “The rain fell and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon the house … ” (Mt 7:25). These natural phenomena are not only an image of the many misfortunes of the human lot, but they also indicate that such misfortunes are normally to be expected. Christ does not promise that a downpour will never inundate a house under construction, he does not promise that a devastating wave will never sweep away that which is most dear to us, he does not promise that strong winds will never carry away what we have built, sometimes with enormous sacrifice. Christ not only understands man’s desire for a lasting house, but he is also fully aware of all that can wreck man’s happiness. Do not be surprised therefore by misfortunes, whatever they may be! Do not be discouraged by them! An edifice built on the rock is not the same as a building removed from the forces of nature, which are inscribed in the mystery of man. To have built on rock means being able to count on the knowledge that at difficult times there is a reliable force upon which you can trust.

My friends, allow me to ask again: what does it mean to build on the rock? It means to build wisely. It is not without reason that Jesus compares those who hear his words and put them into practice to a wise man who has built his house on the rock. It is foolish, in fact, to build on sand, when you can do so on rock and therefore have a house that is capable of withstanding every storm. It is foolish to build a house on ground that that does not offer the guarantee of support during the most difficult times. Maybe it is easier to base one’s life on the shifting sands of one’s own worldview, building a future far from the word of Jesus and sometimes even opposed to it. Be assured that he who builds in this way is not prudent, because he wants to convince himself and others that in his life no storm will rage and no wave will strike his house. To be wise means to know that the solidity of a house depends on the choice of foundation. Do not be afraid to be wise; that is to say, do not be afraid to build on the rock!

Dear young friends, the fear of failure can at times frustrate even the most beautiful dreams. It can paralyze the will, making one incapable of believing that it is really possible to build a house on the rock. It can convince one that the yearning for such a house is only a childish aspiration and not a plan for life. Together with Jesus, say to this fear: “A house founded on the rock cannot collapse!” Together with Saint Peter say to the temptation to doubt: “He who believes in Christ will not be put to shame!” You are all witnesses to hope, to that hope which is not afraid to build the house of one’s own life because it is certain that it can count on the foundation that will never crumble: Jesus Christ our Lord.

No more limbo

On April 20, 2007, the Catholic Church finally did away with the teaching of limbo, where the souls of unbaptised infants notionally went instead of going directly to be with the Lord. Reuters reported:

In a long-awaited document, the Church’s International Theological Commission said limbo reflected an “unduly restrictive view of salvation”.

The 41-page document was published on Friday by Origins, the documentary service of the U.S.-based Catholic News Service, which is part of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Pope Benedict, himself a top theologian who before his election in 2005 expressed doubts about limbo, authorized the publication of the document, called “The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptised”.

The verdict that limbo could now rest in peace had been expected for years. The document was seen as most likely the final word since limbo was never part of Church doctrine, even though it was taught to Catholics well into the 20th century.

Before that declaration, rumours had been circulating that Benedict had opposed the teaching of limbo when he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Tradition in Action has the excerpt from the 1985 book, The Ratzinger Report, further excerpted as follows in his own words:

Limbo was never a defined truth of faith … Baptism has never been a side issue for faith; it is not now, nor will it ever be.

Fear from modernisers about Vatican II

In July 2007, Benedict stated that he wanted Latin Mass — the Tridentine Mass — to be more widely celebrated.

Modernisers — Vatican II supporters — were worried, as the Washington Post reported on July 21:

In making two controversial decisions this month — opening the door to wider celebration of the Latin Mass and asserting the Roman Catholic Church as the one true “church of Christ” — the Vatican insisted that no essential Catholic belief or practice had been changed.

Pope Benedict XVI and other Vatican officials stressed their decisions’ coherence with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, the international assembly that ushered in a series of reforms during the 1960s.

But the pope also made clear his conservative understanding of the council, stressing its continuity with the church’s traditions, rather than the innovative and even revolutionary spirit that many believe the council embodied.

Some observers thus view the recent decisions as an effort by Benedict to correct misunderstandings of Vatican II and its teachings — an effort some say could undermine the council’s legacy …

On July 7, Benedict issued a papal decree making it easier for priests to celebrate the Tridentine Mass, or Latin Mass, which had been the traditional form of the liturgy until Vatican II made Mass in local languages the norm.

In a letter to bishops accompanying his decree, Benedict dismissed any “fear that the document detracts from the authority of the Second Vatican Council.”

Rather, the pope affirmed the “spiritual richness and theological depth” of the Missal — or text that guides the Mass — approved in the council’s wake, which “obviously is and continues to be the normal form.”

But Benedict also noted that the newer Missal had been widely misunderstood as “authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear.”

Three days after that decree, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith decreed — with Benedict’s approval — that the church established by Christ exists in its complete form only in the Catholic church, though other Christian denominations can be “instruments of salvation.”

“The Second Vatican Council neither changed nor intended to change this doctrine,” the Vatican explained, suggesting that any understanding to the contrary was due to “erroneous interpretation” …

The article explained that Benedict was of the continuity school, which says that both the traditional Mass and the Vatican II version can co-exist:

Interpreters of Vatican II have long been divided between those who stress the continuity of its teachings with traditional Catholic doctrine and those who characterize the council as a dramatic break with the past.

Benedict, who as the Rev. Joseph Ratzinger was deeply involved in the deliberations of the council, is a longstanding member of the continuity school.

2007 Advent address

Benedict gave an address to a general audience at the Vatican on December 19, 2007 about the meaning of Advent and of Christmas.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In these days, as we come gradually closer to the great Feast of Christmas, the liturgy impels us to intensify our preparation, placing at our disposal many biblical texts of the Old and New Testaments that encourage us to focus clearly on the meaning and value of this annual feast day.

If, on the one hand, Christmas makes us commemorate the incredible miracle of the birth of the Only-Begotten Son of God from the Virgin Mary in the Bethlehem Grotto, on the other, it also urges us to wait, watching and praying, for our Redeemer himself, who on the last day “will come to judge the living and the dead”

Each one of the invocations that implores the coming of Wisdom, of the Sun of justice, of the God-with-us, contains a prayer addressed by the people to the One awaited so that he will hasten his coming. However, invoking the gift of the birth of the promised Saviour also means committing ourselves to preparing his way, to having a worthy dwelling-place ready for him, not only in the area that surrounds us but especially within our souls.

Letting ourselves be guided by the Evangelist John, let us seek in these days, therefore, to turn our minds and hearts to the eternal Word, to the Logos, to the Word that was made flesh, from whose fullness we have received grace upon grace (cf. Jn 1: 14, 16).

This faith in the Logos Creator, in the Word who created the world, in the One who came as a Child, this faith and its great hope unfortunately appear today far from the reality of life lived every day, publicly or privately. This truth seems too great.

As for us, we fend for ourselves according to the possibilities we find, or at least this is how it seems. Yet, in this way the world becomes ever more chaotic and even violent; we see it every day. And the light of God, the light of Truth, is extinguished. Life becomes dark and lacks a compass. Thus, how important it is that we really are believers and that as believers we strongly reaffirm, with our lives, the mystery of salvation that brings with it the celebration of Christ’s Birth!

In Bethlehem, the Light which brightens our lives was manifested to the world; the way that leads us to the fullness of our humanity was revealed to us. If people do not recognize that God was made man, what is the point of celebrating Christmas? The celebration becomes empty.

We Christians must first reaffirm the truth about the Birth of Christ with deep and heartfelt conviction, in order to witness to all the awareness of an unprecedented gift which is not only a treasure for us but for everyone. From this stems the duty of evangelization which is, precisely, the communication of this “eu-angelion”, this “Good News”

Reconciliation for Vatican II opponents

On January 24, 2009, Benedict reconciled four prominent Vatican II opponents to the Church, reversing a previous excommunication from years before:

In a gesture billed as an “act of peace,” but one destined both to fire intra-Catholic debate about the meaning of the Second Vatican Council and to open a new front in Jewish/Catholic tensions, the Vatican today formally lifted a twenty-year-old excommunication imposed on four bishops who broke with Rome in protest over the liberalizing reforms of Vatican II (1962-65).

Ironically, news of the move came just one day before the 50th anniversary of the announcement by Pope John XXIII of his intention to call Vatican II.

The four bishops had been ordained in defiance of the late Pope John Paul II in 1988 by French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, whose Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X clung to the old Latin Mass after Vatican II and also expressed deep reservations about both ecumenism and religious freedom. Lefebvre died in 1991.

The four prelates involved are Bernard Fellay, superior of the Fraternity of St. Pius X; Alfonso de Gallareta; Tissier de Mallerais; and Richard Williamson. Their legitimacy as bishops has never been in question, since under Catholic law, Lefebvre was a legitimately ordained bishop and hence any ordination he performed is considered “valid” but “illicit.”

Advice about the 2008 economic crisis

At the end of February 2009, Benedict told Catholic clergy why the economic crisis of 2008 happened. The Cleveland Plain Dealer featured an editorial by Kevin O’Brien:

Pope Benedict XVI is soon to publish an encyclical commenting on the errors that have led the world to the current economic crisis.

In a public address last week to members of the Roman clergy, he tipped his hand, saying the church must denounce “fundamental mistakes that have been shown in the collapse of the great American banks.”

He said the current global financial crisis is a result of “human avarice and idolatry that go against the true God and the falsification of the image of God with another god — Mammon.”

Accept or reject the theological construction as you will, but few would disagree that human avarice is what started us down the progressively darkening alley that our financial institutions and our government travel today …

Regulations aren’t enough. They never will be. What’s really needed is something the government cannot compel: morality in the marketplace.

That’s the fetter that capitalism needs. Oddly enough, it’s the same fetter that government needs …

The solution to the clear problem of immorality in business is not to be found in government. The solution is in ourselves, and in moral standards that our declining culture has worked for 50 years to declare irrelevant.

The culture is wrong about that, but I’ll bet the pope gets it right.

The encyclical, Caritas in veritate (“Love in Truth” or “Charity in Truth”), was signed on 29 June 2009 (the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul) and released on 7 July 2009. The Pope criticised the economic system:

where the pernicious effects of sin are evident

and called for a renewal of personal morality and ethical responsibility.

The Church was always African

On March 19, 2009, Benedict went to Africa to address the Special Council of the Synod for Africa in Yaoundé (another copy here).

He discussed the history of the Church, which has its roots in Africa — not Europe:

Dear Cardinals,
Dear Brother Bishops,

It is with deep joy that I greet all of you here in Africa. A First Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops was convoked for Africa in 1994 by my venerable predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II, as a sign of his pastoral solicitude for this continent so rich both in promise and in pressing human, cultural and spiritual needs. This morning I called Africa “the continent of hope”. I recall with gratitude the signing of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa here at the Apostolic Nunciature fourteen years ago on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, 14 September 1995 …

Dear friends, at the beginning of my address, I consider it important to stress that your continent has been blessed by our Lord Jesus himself. At the dawn of his earthly life, sad circumstances led him to set foot on African soil. God chose your continent to become the dwelling-place of his Son. In Jesus, God drew near to all men and women, of course, but also, in a particular way, to the men and women of Africa. Africa is where the Son of God was weaned, where he was offered effective sanctuary. In Jesus, some two thousand years ago, God himself brought salt and light to Africa. From that time on, the seed of his presence was buried deep within the hearts of this dear continent, and it has blossomed gradually, beyond and within the vicissitudes of its human history. As a result of the coming of Christ who blessed it with his physical presence, Africa has received a particular vocation to know Christ. Let Africans be proud of this! In meditating upon, and in coming to a deeper spiritual and theological appreciation of this first stage of the kenosis, Africa will be able to find the strength needed to face its sometimes difficult daily existence, and thus it will be able to discover immense spaces of faith and hope which will help it to grow in God.

The intimate bond existing between Africa and Christianity from the beginning can be illustrated by recalling some significant moments in the Christian history of this continent.

According to the venerable patristic tradition, the Evangelist Saint Mark, who “handed down in writing the preaching of Peter” (Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses III, I, 1), came to Alexandria to give new life to the seed planted by the Lord. This Evangelist bore witness in Africa to the death of the Son of God on the Cross – the final moment of the kenosis – and of his sovereign exaltation, in order that “every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:11). The Good News of the coming of the Kingdom of God spread rapidly in North Africa, where it raised up distinguished martyrs and saints, and produced outstanding theologians.

Christianity lasted for almost a millennium in the north-eastern part of your continent, after being put to the test by the vicissitudes of history …

American convert receives sacraments at Vatican

On April 6, 2009, the National Catholic Register reported on a young wife and mother from California who received multiple sacraments from Benedict at the Easter Vigil Mass that year. Hers is a fascinating conversion story, but I have included only the beginning and end:

Heidi Sierras has been selected to represent North America and be baptized, confirmed, and receive first Communion from Pope Benedict XVI at the Easter Vigil in Rome.

Sierras didn’t grow up with any particular faith background. Marriage first introduced her to the Catholic Church. Now, after 2 1/2 years of Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults preparation, the Ceres, Calif., mother of four will enter the Church during the Easter Vigil at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. She recently spoke with Register senior writer Tim Drake about her anticipation for the trip and what led her to the Church …

‘It’s hard to describe how I feel. I feel very honored and amazed. It’s hard to put into words how incredible this will be.

‘My husband and two older children (my son, who is 11, and daughter, who is 9) will be traveling to Rome as well, and will receive Communion from the Pope. My daughter was to receive her first Communion in May. They allowed her to receive first Communion beforehand so that she could receive from Pope Benedict, as well.

‘In addition, there will be 30 other people from our parish, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Modesto, Calif., going to Rome, and the priest, as well. Because our priest will be gone for the Easter Vigil, our bishop is coming to our parish to baptize those who are coming into the Church. There will be 35 people coming into the Church. So, in some ways, everyone is going to benefit from us traveling to Rome.’

2009 Easter Vigil sermon

This is Benedict’s sermon that Heidi Sierras heard at that Easter Vigil Mass, excerpted below:

During the Easter Vigil, the Church points out the significance of this day principally through three symbols:  light, water, and the new song – the Alleluia

At the Easter Vigil, the Church represents the mystery of the light of Christ in the sign of the Paschal candle, whose flame is both light and heat.  The symbolism of light is connected with that of fire: radiance and heat, radiance and the transforming energy contained in the fire – truth and love go together.  The Paschal candle burns, and is thereby consumed:  Cross and resurrection are inseparable.  From the Cross, from the Son’s self-giving, light is born, true radiance comes into the world.  From the Paschal candle we all light our own candles, especially the newly baptized, for whom the light of Christ enters deeply into their hearts in this Sacrament.  The early Church described Baptism as fotismos, as the Sacrament of illumination, as a communication of light, and linked it inseparably with the resurrection of Christ.  In Baptism, God says to the candidate:  “Let there be light!”  The candidate is brought into the light of Christ.  Christ now divides the light from the darkness.  In him we recognize what is true and what is false, what is radiance and what is darkness.  With him, there wells up within us the light of truth, and we begin to understand.  On one occasion when Christ looked upon the people who had come to listen to him, seeking some guidance from him, he felt compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd (cf. Mk 6:34).  Amid the contradictory messages of that time, they did not know which way to turn.  What great compassion he must feel in our own time too – on account of all the endless talk that people hide behind, while in reality they are totally confused.  Where must we go?  What are the values by which we can order our lives?  The values by which we can educate our young, without giving them norms they may be unable to resist, or demanding of them things that perhaps should not be imposed upon them?  He is the Light.  The baptismal candle is the symbol of enlightenment that is given to us in Baptism.  Thus at this hour, Saint Paul speaks to us with great immediacy In the Letter to the Philippians, he says that, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, Christians should shine as lights in the world (cf. Phil 2:15).  Let us pray to the Lord that the fragile flame of the candle he has lit in us, the delicate light of his word and his love amid the confusions of this age, will not be extinguished in us, but will become ever stronger and brighter, so that we, with him, can be people of the day, bright stars lighting up our time.

The second symbol of the Easter Vigil – the night of Baptism – is water.  It appears in Sacred Scripture, and hence also in the inner structure of the Sacrament of Baptism, with two opposed meanings.  On the one hand there is the sea, which appears as a force antagonistic to life on earth, continually threatening it; yet God has placed a limit upon it.  Hence the book of Revelation says that in God’s new world, the sea will be no more (cf. 21:1).  It is the element of death.  And so it becomes the symbolic representation of Jesus’ death on the Cross:  Christ descended into the sea, into the waters of death, as Israel did into the Red Sea.  Having risen from death, he gives us life.  This means that Baptism is not only a cleansing, but a new birth:  with Christ we, as it were, descend into the sea of death, so as to rise up again as new creatures.

The other way in which we encounter water is in the form of the fresh spring that gives life, or the great river from which life comes forth.  According to the earliest practice of the Church, Baptism had to be administered with water from a fresh spring.  Without water there is no life.  It is striking how much importance is attached to wells in Sacred Scripture.  They are places from which life rises forth.  Beside Jacob’s well, Christ spoke to the Samaritan woman of the new well, the water of true life.  He reveals himself to her as the new, definitive Jacob, who opens up for humanity the well that is awaited: the inexhaustible source of life-giving water (cf. Jn 4:5-15).  Saint John tells us that a soldier with a lance struck the side of Jesus, and from his open side – from his pierced heart – there came out blood and water (cf. Jn 19:34).  The early Church saw in this a symbol of Baptism and Eucharist flowing from the pierced heart of Jesus.  In his death, Jesus himself became the spring.  The prophet Ezekiel saw a vision of the new Temple from which a spring issues forth that becomes a great life-giving river (cf. Ezek 47:1-12).  In a land which constantly suffered from drought and water shortage, this was a great vision of hope.  Nascent Christianity understood:  in Christ, this vision was fulfilled.  He is the true, living Temple of God.  He is the spring of living water.  From him, the great river pours forth, which in Baptism renews the world and makes it fruitful;  the great river of living water, his Gospel which makes the earth fertile.  In a discourse during the Feast of Tabernacles, though, Jesus prophesied something still greater:  “Whoever believes in me … out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water” (Jn 7:38).  In Baptism, the Lord makes us not only persons of light, but also sources from which living water bursts forth.  We all know people like that, who leave us somehow refreshed and renewed; people who are like a fountain of fresh spring water  …  Let us ask the Lord, who has given us the grace of Baptism, for the gift always to be sources of pure, fresh water, bubbling up from the fountain of his truth and his love!

The third great symbol of the Easter Vigil is something rather different;  it has to do with man himself.  It is the singing of the new song – the alleluia.  When a person experiences great joy, he cannot keep it to himself.  He has to express it, to pass it on.  But what happens when a person is touched by the light of the resurrection, and thus comes into contact with Life itself, with Truth and Love?  He cannot merely speak about it.  Speech is no longer adequate.  He has to sing.  The first reference to singing in the Bible comes after the crossing of the Red Sea.  Israel has risen out of slavery.  It has climbed up from the threatening depths of the sea.  It is as it were reborn.  It lives and it is free.  The Bible describes the people’s reaction to this great event of salvation with the verse:  “The people … believed in the Lord and in Moses his servant” (Ex 14:31).  Then comes the second reaction which, with a kind of inner necessity, follows from the first one:  “Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord …”  At the Easter Vigil, year after year, we Christians intone this song after the third reading, we sing it as our song, because we too, through God’s power, have been drawn forth from the water and liberated for true life.

Catholicism ‘a positive option’

In April 2009, Benedict said that the Catholic Church was ‘a positive option’:

“Christianity, Catholicism, is not a collection of prohibitions,” the Pope said. “It is a positive option.

“It is very important that we look at it again because this idea has almost completely disappeared today.

“We have heard so much about what is not allowed that now it is time to say: we have a positive idea to offer.”

2009 survey from the US

Benedict visited the United States in 2008.

On May 17, 2009, a poll of Americans’ views of the then-Pope and moral issues was published. Despite the constant negative media coverage of his trip the previous year, a Knights of Columbus-Marist College survey showed that Americans in general and Catholics in particular had a positive view of Benedict.

By a nearly 3:1 margin — 4:1 among Catholics — Benedict was seen as being ‘good for the Church’. Americans were eager to hear him speak on not only moral issues but also, and more importantly, his message of hope and love in Jesus Christ as Saviour.

Margaret Thatcher’s 2009 visit

On May 27, 2009, former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher visited the Vatican:

Margaret Thatcher met Pope Benedict XVI at the end of his weekly general audience today.

The 83-year-old former British prime minister, who led the country from 1979 to 1990, had earlier in the day laid flowers at the tomb of John Paul II.

An Anglican, it was Baroness Thatcher’s second visit to the Vatican in less than two years, leading some to speculate whether she is thinking of joining the Church. During her previous trip, she also visited John Paul II’s tomb to pay her respects. According to those who were with her at that time, she made it clear in her characteristically loud voice that it was thanks to John Paul that Soviet communism was brought down

Baroness Thatcher also met Paul VI back in June 1977.

Call to laity

On May 28, 2009, Benedict issued an appeal to Catholic laity for ministry:

The Pope called on the laity to become more aware of their role when he inaugurated Tuesday an ecclesial conference for the Diocese of Rome on “Church Membership and Pastoral Co-responsibility.” The conference is under way through Friday.

“There should be a renewed becoming aware of our being Church and of the pastoral co-responsibility that, in the name of Christ, all of us are called to carry out …”

John Cardinal Newman beatified

On July 2, 2009, Benedict XVI announced that John Cardinal Newman would be beatified:

Cardinal Newman, the Anglican vicar who shocked Victorian Britain by converting to Roman Catholicism, is a step closer to becoming the first English saint for 40 years …

It follows the recognition by the Vatican of the healing of an American man with a severe spinal condition as a miracle which came about as a result of praying to the Cardinal.

A second miracle is needed to recognise Newman as a saint.

The beatification took place on September 19, 2010, during Benedict’s visit to the UK.

A second miracle took place, and Pope Francis canonised John Henry Newman on October 13, 2019, in St Peter’s Square. His feast day is on October 9 in the Catholic Church and on August 11, the day of his death, in the Anglican Church.

The Taliban warn Benedict

On July 5, 2009, the Taliban sent a warning to Pope Benedict:

The Taliban on Thursday threatened “harsh reprisals” if Pope Benedict XVI does not immediately intervene to stop Christians proselytising in Afghanistan.

In a message posted on their official website, the Taliban made the threat against the pope and Christians for spreading their faith.

The message followed video footage aired on Arabic satellite TV channel Al-Jazeera earlier this week apparently showing Christian soldiers proselytising outside the Afghan capital, Kabul, and handing out copies of the bible in Pashtun.

‘One of the brightest Popes in history’

On September 25, 2009, a long-time Vatican spokesman gave his views on Benedict XVI:

Joaquin Navarro-Valls, who was the Vatican’s official spokesman for 22 years, said in an interview that the Church currently has one of the brightest popes in history, and that one of the most unique aspects of Benedict XVI is his confidence in the rationality of individuals.

Navarro-Valls, who worked for almost two years with Benedict XVI, was interviewed by the Spanish daily El Mundo about his work at the Vatican and some aspects of the two Popes he served under.

Speaking about Benedict XVI, he said he considers him “the Pope with the largest and most brilliant personal bibliography in all of Church history. His conceptual wealth is fascinating. And I think people also outside the Catholic circles are aware of it. “

The former Vatican spokesman does not believe that the Holy Father is a cold person. “I would say the opposite. The manner in which he is moved—which is more frequent than believed—is to not react passionately in response to things,” he said.

He also found that the most unique aspect of his Pontificate is his “confidence in the rationality of people, in their ability to seek the truth,” and the great obstacle he faces is, “as he himself said a few days before he was elected pope, the dictatorship of relativism.”

An Anglican take on Benedict

In October 2009, the Anglican Centrist took issue with Benedict’s papacy. What seems to have rankled in particular was his creation of personal ordinariates which saw Anglican priests accepted into the Catholic Church:

The pope’s decision to allow the Tridentine mass and the reinstatement of the leading figures of anti-Vatican II Roman Catholicism back into the fold may also be seen to be theologically and ecclesiologically connected to his decision to receive disgruntled Anglican clergy and laity into the Roman Catholic Church via the creation of personal ordinariates. The connection consists of Benedict’s long-held antipathy for the conciliar/collegial vision of authority pointed to by Vatican II — and his long-held preference for the supremacy of papal authority. Benedict is the chief architect of the re-emphasis of central papal authority.

The debate between Cardinal Kasper and then Cardinal Ratzinger over the relationship between local and universal church — between local bishop and pope — which occurred some ten years ago — has clearly been decided in the election of Ratzinger to the throne. He is simply enforcing his top-down, centralized model of imperial authority for the papacy that Kasper and Vatican II opposed.

French support for Benedict’s investigation into paedophilia scandals

On March 31, 2010, a varied group of French men and women signed a letter, ‘Call to Truth’, which supported Benedict’s investigation into scandals involving priests and minors.

One would have thought that the media would have been relieved that a Pope wanted to investigate the scandals. Instead, they excoriated him for so doing.

Andrew Cusack reproduced the letter in English, available at the link, and introduced it as follows:

A number of prominent French men & women have written a ‘call to truth’ supporting Pope Benedict XVI in the current media storm and pedophilia scandal. As the Appeal’s about page says, Pope Benedict XVI “is the first pope to address head-on, without compromise, the problem. Paradoxically, he is the subject of undermining and personal attacks, attacks relayed with a certain complacency on the part of the press”.

The list of original signatories includes writers, essayists, literary critics, bloggers, professors, philosophers, businessmen, senators, members of parliament, mayors, publishers, actors, a Protestant minister, a Fields medal winner, and even a sexologist.

I will have more on Benedict XVI’s papacy tomorrow. He was a holy man and very wise. I will never understand how and why the media despised him to the extent that they did.

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.

Pity our Prime Minister Liz Truss.

The choice of Conservative Party members, the lady who wanted a Thatcherite premiership of low taxation and high growth, is now silent.

On Thursday, October 13, in her private weekly meeting with King Charles, he greeted her with ‘Dear, oh dear’:

He could have at least waited until the press were out of the way.

On Friday, October 14, she was forced to sack her Chancellor and good friend Kwasi Kwarteng.

The two of them were not playing the globalist game for high taxation and low growth.

Kwarteng’s brilliant mind

Kwarteng was elected as MP for Spelthorne in 2010, part of Prime Minister David Cameron’s fresh, youthful Conservative intake that year.

He worked on Brexit in 2019 as part of Theresa May’s government. Later that year, he was keen for Nigel Farage to stand down candidates in order for Conservatives to win convincingly in the general election — and get Brexit done:

Under Boris Johnson, in 2021, as Business Secretary, he became the first black — and first Conservative — Secretary of State. In that role, he refused to lift the moratorium on fracking. On the other hand, on July 6, 2022, he ensured that two coal plants are staying open to help ensure that the UK has adequate energy supplies this winter.

He was not a man in favour of high taxes, even in the wake of the pandemic, telling LBC radio on March 2, 2021:

Obviously we have to balance the books over time, but I’m a low tax conservative. The real key is to grow the economy. The best remedy for the deficit, the best remedy for the economy is to open up the economy, allow people to get on with their lives, allow businesses to start trading again.

In July 2021, he politely opposed the National Insurance tax hike.

In June that year, he supported the Government’s caution on lifting final coronavirus restrictions in England and sagely predicted that there would be no more lockdowns in England.

Once Liz Truss was made Prime Minister, we found out more about his friendship with her, which began when she, too, was first elected to Parliament in 2010.

On September 6, 2022, the Mail posted an old photo from earlier parliamentary days of the new Chancellor and the new Prime Minister with this caption:

The new Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng is a close friend of Liz Truss, so close that he lives 350 yards away in Greenwich.

The article also told us more about his towering height and intellect (emphases mine):

Although he is not widely known to the public, the 47-year-old MP for Spelthorne, Surrey, comes equipped with a solid academic background.

At 6ft 5in, Mr Kwarteng is a powerhouse physically and intellectually …

He speaks German, Greek and French, and writes poetry in Latin.

One friend recalled how, when the school introduced Italian to the curriculum, ‘the teachers were trying to teach rudimentary Italian but Kwasi learnt the whole language – the teachers were struggling to keep up with him’.

Like Boris Johnson, who attended Eton a decade earlier, Mr Kwarteng shone at the Wall Game, a hybrid of football and rugby, where he played First Wall, described by an Etonian as ‘an almost suicidal position that involved spending much of the match having his head scraped against brickwork’ …

He was a prefect at the school and is still, it is said, held up as an example of how to succeed in Oxbridge interviews.

He went up to Trinity College, Cambridge:

He excelled at Cambridge where friends described him as ‘supremely confident, but not arrogant’.

One said he ‘had quite a few girlfriends – he had catching up to do after his boys’ private school upbringing’.

Professor Tim Whitmarsh, who taught him Latin and Greek, was quoted as describing him as ‘a bit of a young fogey’, saying: ‘I once saw a 19-year-old Kwasi in full brown tweed bumbling around with a pipe in his mouth on a baking hot day.’ 

More recently:

Last year, Mr Kwarteng bought a Victorian villa just 350 yards from Miss Truss’s £1.5million four-storey townhouse in Greenwich, south London.

Now they are neighbours in Downing Street too.

At one point Mr Kwarteng was dating Amber Rudd, the former Conservative home secretary, but the pair split up.

He then met Harriet Edwards, 36, a former pupil of Cheltenham Ladies’ College and now a high-flying corporate lawyer specialising in advising private clients on ‘succession’ planning.

The pair married in 2019 and have a baby daughter, Ida, born last year

Said to be a ‘pragmatist rather than an ideologue’, the free-marketeer’s ministerial office allegedly boasts a large whiteboard on which are scrawled the letters ‘MSH’, standing for ‘making s*** happen’.

With the multiple challenges facing the new chancellor, it is a mantra that may serve him well.

On September 7, The Telegraph had a profile of Kwarteng, which gave Truss supporters further hope.

We discovered that he wrote for the newspaper and had decidedly conservative opinions even in his 20s. The article featured a screenshot of his column of August 1, 1997 about higher education — ‘Don’t go to university, make money instead’:

The man appointed the 109th Chancellor of the Exchequer had been considered a rising star well before he entered Parliament and first made his name at the age of 22 with a column in The Telegraph.

From higher education to the rise of “lad mags”, Mr Kwarteng left a trail of published evidence showing his youthful thinking on the state of Britain. 

According to Mr Kwarteng, universities were not just a waste of time for those hoping to make lots of money but “a trick of the mind”. They offered value of a sort as “a place for reflective thought, like the monasteries of the Middle Ages,” but were only really popular as a way of proving one’s smarts …

While universities might be conducive to research, on the whole, Mr Kwarteng thought, “the university added little to the talent which was already in them”. 

For that reason, the MP for Spelthorne thought it “ridiculous” that everyone should go to university.

Also in August 1997, he also wrote about his scepticism of those who know best in ‘”Experts”: it’s the same old story’, wherein he expressed his doubts about climate change:

“We live in the age of the expert,” he declared, “of course, all these experts are invariably self-appointed, and they all contradict each other.”

Mr Kwarteng lamented the loss of Western “reason and objective investigation” and said that the witchdoctors of “simple peoples” had been “reincarnated in a modern, Western, suit-wearing capacity.

“They are the consultants, health gurus, constitutional experts, psychologists and sociologists who seem to spring from the ground at every opportunity.”

In his column, he highlighted global warming as an example of “conjecture” dressed up as “granite fact”.

It’s a pity he later changed his mind. Perhaps he did it for political expediency. Who knows?

On at least one issue, however, Mr Kwarteng has clearly come to accept the views of the experts …

As Business Secretary, he has declared it essential for governments to intervene to tackle climate change. 

The Telegraph article has several more of his columns to explore.

Kwarteng as Chancellor

A fortnight before he delivered his fiscal event to Parliament, he pledged that his focus on growth would be ‘relentless’. The Times reported:

The new chancellor has promised a shift in economic policy towards an “unashamedly pro-growth agenda” rather than worrying about redistribution.

Kwasi Kwarteng promised “to do things differently” as he acknowledged the need for higher borrowing over the winter to help households with their energy bills. However, he promised “fiscal discipline over the medium term” by ensuring the economy would grow faster than government debt, saying this would require deregulation and tax cuts.

After meeting key City figures, including the chief executives of Barclays, NatWest, Lloyds Banking Group and HSBC, Kwarteng said that he wanted to deal with economic problems through growth, with a goal of getting the underlying rate up to 2.5 per cent.

“The prime minister and I are committed to taking decisive action to help the British people now,” he said. “That means relentlessly focusing on how we unlock business investment and grow the size of the British economy, rather than how we redistribute what’s left.”

He and Truss needed to work quickly to come up with the fiscal event. The nation had been in mourning for the Queen from September 8 through September 19. Meanwhile, the Conservatives’ opponents were braying for a statement.

On Thursday, September 22, Kwarteng tweeted:

That day, The Spectator‘s Katy Balls explained that Truss wanted to move quickly:

Liz Truss is in a race against time. It’s not just the prospect of an election in two years. It’s the political problems – from party management to events outside of one’s control – that quickly clog up a prime minister’s in-tray. It’s why for all the efforts to play down Friday’s fiscal event as a mini-Budget, it is likely to be anything but small. Truss and her Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng plan to push through as much as possible while their stock is highest

Truss and Kwarteng have said their priority is to boost growth. In order to do that, they are undoing plenty of policies by their predecessors. The plan for investment zones – areas that could benefit from a lighter planning regime and various tax breaks – has already been briefed as a change of priorities compared to the former Levelling Up secretary Michael Gove. A government insider told the Financial Times this week: ‘The plans make Gove look like a socialist.’ There will also be further measures to undo more of the policies brought in by Rishi Sunak as Chancellor. 

Coffee House understands one plan under consideration is the return of tax-free shopping for tourists. As Chancellor, Sunak axed the 20 per cent discount for foreign visitors – leading to an outcry from MPs who said it would make Britain less attractive to businesses. At the time, the Treasury defended his decision on the grounds that ‘this is getting rid of a tax cut that mainly benefits foreign billionaires.’ However, the sector has voiced frustrations that this has led UK business to drop off while European capitals have seen business go up.

How will all this go down? As the Bank of England raise interest rates by 0.5 percentage points to 2.25 per cent in an attempt to combat inflation, already there are warnings about the effect of the government’s planned borrowing. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that the planned tax cuts are likely to push UK borrowing and debt to unsustainable levels. The hope in government is that rather than spark alarm, the markets will have already priced in the new direction they are taking, and what happened in August suggests they may well have done so.  

‘The strategy is do everything now,’ says one person close to Liz Truss. ‘This government has balls of steel’. In adopting this approach, Truss and Kwarteng are taking a gamble – and it won’t be too long before it becomes clear whether or not it is paying off.

True conservatives cheered the package Kwarteng delivered to Parliament on Friday, September 23:

We felt as if Brexit would finally become the reality that would thwart Labour:

Our debt would remain the second lowest in the G7:

Guido Fawkes posted Kwarteng’s economic plan in full as well as a summary, excerpted below:

Price of Energy

    • Government freezes household energy bills at £2,500
    • Government will subsidise wholesale energy prices for businesses
    • Total cost of energy package for 6 months from October will be approximately £60 billion

Inflation

    • Government plan will reduce peak inflation by 5%
    • Chancellor: Bank of England independence is “sacrosanct”

Growth

    • Government will focus on growth target of 2.5%

Barriers to Enterprise

    • Government will bring forward bill to unpick regulation and launch a review into decision making
    • Increase disposal of government land to build more homes
    • Government will remove cap on bankers’ bonuses

Tax

    • Planned rise in corporation tax is cancelled, it will remain at 19%
    • Annual investment allowance will not fall to £200,000 as planned, will remain at £1 million
    • Office of tax simplification abolished, tax simplification mandated in all government departments
    • IR35 rules changed: 2017 and 2021 reforms scrapped
    • Planned increases in duty for beer, wine and spirits cancelled
    • VAT free shopping for overseas visitors
    • Increases to National Insurance contributions cancelled
    • Stamp duty threshold raised from £125,000 to £250,000; for first time buyers it will rise from £300,000 to 425,000
    • Kwasi will abolish the highest 45% rate of income income tax. Top rate now 40%.
    • Basic rate of income tax cut to 19% from April

Ahead of Kwasi’s statement:
FTSE 100 is at 7,120
£/$ 1.1163
£/€ 1.1435
10 year gilt yield 3.49%

That afternoon, The Telegraph‘s Allister Heath was over the moon:

This was the best Budget I have ever heard a British Chancellor deliver, by a massive margin. The tax cuts were so huge and bold, the language so extraordinary, that at times, listening to Kwasi Kwarteng, I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, that I hadn’t been transported to a distant land that actually believed in the economics of Milton Friedman and FA Hayek.

But Liz Truss and Kwarteng are very much for real, and in revolutionary mood. The neo-Brownite consensus of the past 20 years, the egalitarian, redistributionist obsession, the technocratic centrism, the genuflections at the altar of a bogus class war, the spreadsheet-wielding socialists: all were blown to smithereens by Kwarteng’s stunning neo-Reaganite peroration.

Hardcore, unapologetic liberal Toryism is back. This fiscal statement is in some ways an even bigger deal than that previously greatest of Budgets, Lord Lawson’s extravaganza of 1988, so long ago that my generation cannot remember it. All the taboos have been defiled: the fracking ban, the performative 45pc tax rate, the malfunctioning bonus cap, the previous gang’s nihilistic corporation tax and national insurance raids. The basic rate of income tax is being cut, as is stamp duty, that dumbest of levies. There will be more reforms, more deregulation from a Chancellor explicitly committed to a flatter and simpler tax system.

It wasn’t merely the policies that were astonishingly good: just as remarkable was Kwarteng’s language, the arguments he deployed to explain his decisions, the lucid free-market philosophy from which they emanated. He spoke of the need to bolster incentives, to encourage business investment, to increase work, to reward savings. He explained that this meant that the returns on capital and labour had to be improved. He wants to usher in a new Big Bang in the City and launch dozens of new Canary Wharfs on steroids.

At a stroke of a pen, Britain’s competitiveness, its attractiveness to investors and top talent, has been transformed. Money and jobs will flow in, especially from the Eurozone. Britain’s central pathology is low growth, held back by faulty economic, fiscal, monetary and regulatory policies: higher spending begets higher taxes, which lead to a vicious cycle of even lower growth, and hence yet more taxes, and so on.

I watched Kwarteng’s speech to Parliament and the debate that followed. Allister Heath was right in everything he wrote.

On Sunday, September 25, The Sun wrote that its polls indicated the British public supported nearly all of Truss’s proposals that Kwarteng delivered:

DELIGHTED Brits overwhelmingly back Kwasi Kwarteng’s key income tax and stamp duty cuts, a poll found …

And PM Liz Truss says their radical plan will usher in a “decade of dynamism”

A Deltapoll survey for The Sun on Sunday found many of his central policies have gone down a storm.

His pledge to slash the basic rate of income tax from 20p in the £1 to 19p from next April, benefitting 31million workers, got the backing of 63 per cent of respondents.

A majority of Labour and Tory supporters like the plan.

Meanwhile, the decision to ditch stamp duty for first-time buyers on homes worth up to £425,000 was approved by 61 per cent of respondents.

The move to reverse the 1.25 percentage point hike in National Insurance Contributions was liked by 59 per cent of the 1,553 people surveyed.

Some parts of the mini Budget, however, were far less popular. Just 30 per cent of voters backed the decision to scrap the bankers’ bonus cap.

And even fewer — 28 per cent — approved of the move to do away with the 45p top rate of income tax, which will put more cash in the pockets of society’s top earners …

Some delighted Tory MPs punched the air in delight after Mr Kwarteng detailed his mini Budget to the Commons.

One senior Tory said: “I am delighted. Finally, we have a proper Thatcherite budget.”

But others warned it was a punt that may cost the Tories the next election.

One minister crossed his fingers as he said: “It is a huge gamble. If we see growth then it will have worked. It’s a roll of the dice.”

The annual Labour Party conference convened that Sunday.

The Spectator‘s editor Fraser Nelson pointed out that their leader Sir Keir Starmer opposed only the abolition of the 45% tax rate:

The Sun‘s editorial that day reminded Britons that it was Gordon Brown who put the 45% rate in place — and that was late in his premiership, around 12 years ago. His predecessor Tony Blair had not. As such, Labour had no room to complain:

For too long — if partly by necessity of the pandemic in recent years — the Conservatives have been parked on the centre ground, often operating from a Blairite or Brownite playbook.

The spleen-venting over Mr Kwarteng’s most controversial call — ditching the 45 per cent top tax rate for those on over £150,000 — ignores the fact that, throughout the Blair years, it was the exact same as the new 40 per cent levy.

Nonetheless it’s true that the move does give Labour an easy line of attack, as does the Government’s reluctance to trumpet the fact that it IS already subjecting energy giants to a windfall tax — one which is raising around £30billion.

Yesterday Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer confirmed he would retain the vast majority of the Chancellor’s tax cuts if he gained power.

Already, however, the doomsayers, including Torsten Bell, were already weighing in, as Guido Fawkes wrote that day (emphases his):

Labour have accepted two thirds of the personal income tax cuts. They are only rejecting one cut, the top rate cut…

So the the dividing line between the parties is: Will “new era” economics work and crank growth up to 2.5% before the next election?

Not a chance say Rachel Reeves and the assembled hardline-centrists of the broadsheet punditry, plus all the orthodox economists from the IFS, Institute for Big Government and gloomy Torsten Bell with his distribution charts. Kwasi and Liz say it will work. It won’t surprise co-conspirators that Guido thinks it is less of a gamble than the BBC’s Faisal Islam reckons. Barring oil going to $300 or some other catastrophe, it is far more likely to work than the doomsters would have you believe. If Kwasi and Liz fail to hit the 2.5% target they have set for themselves, they will deservedly lose the next election. The choice now is pull out all the stops and go for growth, or go into opposition…

At conference, two Labour MPs of colour criticised the Conservatives’ choice of Chancellor in Rishi Sunak, his successors and Kwasi Kwarteng. Guido reported on Rupa Huq’s words about Kwarteng, which earned her a suspension from the Party, despite her apology. Shadow Rail Minister Tan Dhesi said he wanted to see white males in the Conservative Cabinet rather that persons of colour:

Guido doesn’t consider Tan’s comments to be half as bad as Rupa Huq’s. His quote about Boris having an Asian do his dirty work for him, alongside Huq’s referral to Rishi as “a little brown guy”, is indicative that Labour somehow questions the legitimacy of non-white Tory Cabinet ministers. Does anyone get the sense Labour are slightly panicked about the Tories having a more diverse front bench than they do?

Fatal criticism despite global problems

But that was nothing compared to the big anti-Truss, anti-Kwarteng fallout that took place elsewhere that week.

On Monday, September 26, the IMF criticised the fiscal event.

Lord Frost defended Truss and Kwarteng in an article for The Telegraph:

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The IEA’s head of public policy said that one of Margaret Thatcher’s budgets — that of then-Chancellor Geoffrey Howe — was similarly criticised and ended up being wildly successful:

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On Thursday, September 29, Labour MPs were back at home but outside criticism of the Truss-Kwarteng plan continued from globalist sources.

The US Treasury had weighed in against the plan after the IMF had.

The markets wobbled that week.

It should be noted that the UK was not the only country suffering from jitters — it was every other main economy, too.

With regard to us, however, the Bank of England had to step in with a fortnight of measures, too complicated to explain here, that put an end to risky measures that British pension funds had been using for several years.

Nevertheless, Truss and Kwarteng got it in the neck.

The Telegraph had a running diary of events that Thursday morning. Excerpts follow, covering the period from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m.:

The Prime Minister is due to undertake a tour of regional BBC radio stations this morning when she will be grilled on her tax cuts and spending plans after they sparked economic turmoil.

Lord Clarke, the Tory former chancellor, has argued this morning that no other Conservative government would have made a “mistake” like Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-Budget. 

The Tory former chancellor told Times Radio: “If the pound sinks any further, then they will have to perhaps retract some of the measures because the more the pound goes down, the more inflation goes up.”

The Treasury has said Kwasi Kwarteng will deliver a follow up statement to the mini-Budget in November in which he will set out the Government’s medium-term economic plans. 

But the Chancellor is under mounting pressure to deliver a statement to reassure the markets and the nation much sooner than that.

Chris Philp, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has defended the Government’s decision to scrap the 45p top rate of income tax.

Asked why it was necessary to make the move now, he told Sky News: “The top rate of now 40 per cent, reducing from 45, makes us internationally competitive, it puts us on a par with a number of other economies.”

After the Bank of England was forced to step in to calm the markets, Mr Philp told Sky News: “No one’s perfect but I’m not going to apologise for having a plan to grow the economy …”

Chris Philp, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has dismissed suggestions that Kwasi Kwarteng should resign as Chancellor over his handling of the mini-Budget. 

Liz Truss has defended her mini-Budget plans as she said as Prime Minister she is prepared to take “controversial and difficult decisions”. 

Liz Truss has said the world is facing “very, very difficult economic times” as she also insisted Kwasi Kwarteng is working “very, very closely” with the Bank of England.

Liz Truss said that “we have seen difficult markets around the world because of the very difficult international situation we face”

Liz Truss has defended the decision to scrap the 45p top rate of income tax as she argued that lower taxes “help everybody”.

BBC Radio Bristol presenter James Hanson challenged Liz Truss over her repeated claim that financial markets around the world have been facing turmoil. 

Daisy Cooper, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, has claimed Liz Truss is in “complete denial” following the Prime Minister’s morning media round. 

The Conservative Party is due to meet in Birmingham from Sunday this weekend for its annual conference. 

Sir Ed Davey, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, has called on the Tories to scrap the event.

Sir Ed said repeated his call for Parliament to be recalled.

Chris Philp, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, was told this morning that the mini-Budget needs to be changed. 

Speaking to LBC Radio, he said: “No, well, if you listen to the reaction of British business organisations to Kwasi Kwarteng’s growth plan on Friday, like, for example, the Confederation of British Industry, the CBI, the Federation of Small Businesses, the British Chambers of Commerce, they all strongly welcomed the growth plan, and they are the organisations that represent British business…”

The Bank of England’s £65 billion intervention in the UK economy yesterday is a “very targeted, time-limited intervention”, according to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. (You can read the full story on the bailout here) …

Chris Philp was asked during an interview on LBC Radio this morning if that bailout indicated the economy is experiencing “serious problems”.

He said: “Look, they were making a very targeted, time-limited intervention. There was a particular idiosyncrasy to do with the way that particular pension vehicles used long-dated gilts.

“It was a very targeted, very specific intervention to address that issue, which they’ve successfully done – independently, of course, the Bank of England act independently.

“And they’re not the only central bank to have had to make an intervention. Like I said, the Bank of Japan intervened in the Yen dollar market just a few days ago.”

Chris Philp, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has rejected the suggestion that the UK is now in the middle of a financial “crisis”

Asked if he accepted it is a “crisis”, Mr Philp told LBC Radio: “Look, I don’t accept the word crisis at all. Look, in the last six to nine monthsthe financial markets have been in some volatility around the world.”

Sterling has fallen sharply again as former Bank of England governor Mark Carney accused Liz Truss of “undercutting” the central bank

He said there was an “undercutting” of key City institutions, pointing to the lack of an OBR forecast, a lack of detail about costing and working at “cross-purposes” with the Bank of England.

Ms Truss later told BBC Radio Kent that she is “very clear the Government has done the right thing by taking action urgently to deal with inflation, to deal with the economic slowdown, and to deal with high energy bills”.

Were those accusations from globalists really true?

Was day-to-day business in Britain disrupted so dramatically? And wasn’t the Government helping Britons with their energy bills? As to the latter question, the UK has been providing the most assistance of any European government:

That week, Kwarteng was under much pressure to meet with the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), which, as I posted on October 6, has a lot of Torsten Bell alums from his charity, the Resolution Foundation.

On Friday, September 30, he met with the OBR. Guido reported:

The highly-anticipated meeting between the OBR and government wrapped up after 48 minutes. The OBR says they’ll deliver an initial forecast on the October 7, however the government’s readout of the meeting sticks to the line that it will be published alongside Kwarteng’s medium-term growth plan on November 23 …

Meanwhile, Labour were still banging on about the abolition of the 45% tax rate. The cost of subsidising Britons’ energy bills kept increasing, too. Naysayers were pumping up the total expenditure from £60bn to £100bn:

That morning, The Telegraph posted Kwarteng’s editorial defending his fiscal event, which ended with this:

Even in the face of extreme volatility in global markets, with major currencies wrestling an incredibly strong US dollar, we will show financial markets and investors that our plan is sound, credible and will work to drive growth.

By combining our immediate energy support with bold action to reset the fundamentals of the UK economy, we are helping households and businesses today – and putting the United Kingdom on a more prosperous, competitive path for years to come.

That evening, The Times reported that the Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said that Truss delivered what she had promised in the leadership hustings and reminded us that she and former Chancellor Rishi Sunak disagreed on how the British economy should proceed:

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland on Friday, Jack said: “When you say ‘huge shock’, over the summer [Truss] was very clear that her strategy was to reduce taxes.

“She and Rishi Sunak argued that out over the summer, he said one thing, she said the other, but it shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone when she said she believed the strategy was to be more of an Asian tiger economy, where you keep your higher spending but you grow your economy, and she said to do that she would be cutting taxes.

“To anyone paying any attention to that leadership contest it was plain as day what was going to happen”

In response to the plans announced by Kwarteng last week, the International Monetary Fund said it was monitoring the situation and urged a rethink, while the Bank of England began buying government bonds to avert what it described as a “material risk to UK financial stability”.

More controversy, ending with Truss’s sacking of Kwarteng, followed.

I will dissect the tragic conclusion tomorrow and, on Thursday, what it means for Truss’s premiership.

On Friday, September 23, 2022, just four days after the Queen’s funeral, Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng delivered a ‘fiscal event’ designed to kick start the British economy.

In the days leading up to the fiscal event, so-called because it wasn’t a full budget, the media and Labour were clamouring for it. However, the nation was in mourning for the late monarch and, accordingly, Parliament was in recess.

Conservative critics — i.e. Brexit critics — asked, ‘Where’s Liz? Where’s the Chancellor? Something must be done!’

Parliament reconvened on that Friday to hear Kwarteng deliver a big, bold and beautiful economic plan, which included the abolition of the 45% upper tax rate.

Even Nigel Farage approved, going back in history to Margaret Thatcher’s time as PM:

What happened? The same critics blasted Kwarteng and Prime Minister Liz Truss for their rather Thatcherite plan, designed to reverse the nation’s economic course since the Labour days of the early Millennium under Gordon Brown to the present Conservative government:

Small-c conservatives hoped that Boris Johnson would have done this, but it was too big to take on. With the flak Truss and Kwarteng caught, it now appears that Johnson probably feared it would dent his popularity. That’s only my guess, but it makes sense.

Mortgage rate fears

I went to a small local event on Saturday, September 24. Before it began, one woman of pensionable age asked, ‘Has anybody seen the news today? I didn’t have time to look. Has the economy crashed yet?’ It was clear she was angry. Other people in attendance responded with jokes about supply-side economics.

Throughout the week, it was nothing but doom and gloom, even on GB News, which offered few correctives. The Labour Party conference took place last week, which did not help.

I went to the shops on Wednesday, September 28. On my walk, I overheard an estate agent talking to an older couple about their mortgage rate fears as a result of the fiscal event. The media had sent out ominous messages about rising interest rates. The estate agent told the couple that the turbulence would be short term and that it was taking place all over Europe — which is true.

On Thursday, September 29, the BBC’s Question Time aired. One young woman stoked fears about a hike in interest rates on mortgages, claiming — claiming — that hers was going up to over 10%:

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But was this claim true?

Apparently, the claim is false:

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Skipton Building Society said they had not offered a 10%+ mortgage rate for many years:

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Once again, the Left — including the media — took charge of the Conservative narrative. They’re still at it.

Conservative Party conference opens

On Sunday, October 2, the Conservative Party conference began in the UK’s Second City, Birmingham, once our industrial capital:

Penny Mordaunt MP, Leader of the House of Commons, paid an excellent tribute to our late Queen, which was followed by a minute’s silence and the singing of the National Anthem.

Having seen the first few speeches on GB News, the mood from the MPs speaking was upbeat. However, the mood in the conference hall was sombre.

Rishi Sunak and several of his supporters, prominent MPs, did not attend. Sunak said he wanted to be absent so that Truss ‘could own the moment’. Ouch.

Boris Johnson also sent in his regrets.

Earlier that day, Truss appeared on Laura Kuenssberg’s Sunday show on BBC1.

Kuenssberg asked her about the abolition of the 45% tax rate. Truss said that was Kwarteng’s decision. Oh, dear. Guido Fawkes has the video:

Because the fiscal event had to be done quickly, Truss and Kwarteng did not consult other Cabinet members.

Also, because it was such a departure from the norm, it appeared shocking to Britons expecting more of the same. Truss told Kuenssberg that she and the Chancellor could have communicated it better (see video):

Truss rightly pointed out that ‘optics’ — rather than reality — dominated the fiscal event:

In the video, Kuenssberg ended by saying that optics were terribly important, implying that they make just as much of an honest representation as does reality. Oh, my days!

Returning to the Conservative Party conference opening day, Michael Gove stuck his oar in, saying that tax cuts are not conservative.

Whaaat?

Former Conservative MP Michael Portillo explained on his GB News show that Gove became an MP during David Cameron’s time as Prime Minister and, therefore, has a different take on economics.

The economy wasn’t the only issue on MPs’ minds. Other of Truss’s leadership rivals in this summer’s contest for PM were not happy.

As is common with party conferences, smaller events took place outside of the main venue.

Last week, Truss said she would like to see more immigration, something that won’t please folks who voted Conservative for the first time in 2019.

On Sunday evening, Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch — the MP whom conservatives deeply admire — attacked Truss’s immigration plans:

Guido has the story, which reveals rifts in the Party (emphases his):

If Liz Truss thought the furore over the 45p rate would distract attention from MPs rebelling on other policy areas, Guido’s sorry to disappoint her. At the IEA/TPA DrinkTanks reception last night, guest of honour Kemi Badenoch openly rebuked the PM’s plans to let in more immigrants to boost growth. The Trade Secretary ignored any sense of collective responsibility as she told the assembled free marketeers:

Simply taking in numbers to boost GDP while GDP per capita falls is not the right way to do that. We need to look again at resolving our productivity issues and that means using capital better, not just getting cheaper and cheaper labour.

Kemi’s brazen and deliberate speech last night all but confirmed The Times’ article on Sunday reporting major Cabinet divisions over the plan, with Kemi and Suella Braverman at odds with the PM’s preferred free market solution. Like Liz, Guido doesn’t have a problem with skilled, legal immigration, it is the illegal immigration which is concerning. It seems Tory Cabinet ministers aren’t even pretending to play happy families anymore…

Also that evening, Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt spoke at a small gathering to complain — rightly — about poor Conservative communication over policy making:

She made her views known at an event called ‘Conservatives in Communication’.

Sadly, Guido points out:

… host Adam Honeysett-Watts had to tell the crowd to shut up and listen. Unfortunately, most of the attendees were far more interested in guzzling free booze and chatting to each other.

Meanwhile, Truss addressed a group of Conservatives, explaining the need for growth — now. She, too, said that Party communications are lacking:

She is not wrong, and she has to make up for the past two years, consumed by dealing with the pandemic.

The second day of conference brings U-turn on 45% tax rate

Did Michael Gove, the Scot who wants to become PM, exercise his influence once again?

Nothing against Scots, but their politicians do seem to think that people need to be micro-managed, which Gove does, and that we should continue a globalist agenda in, well, nearly everything.

For the first time in years, Gove is not in Cabinet.

That said, he has never supported PMs he has served, going all the way back to David Cameron. This comment comes from one of Guido’s readers (purple emphases mine):

Cameron, don’t forget Cameron. Gove mortally wounded him too with Brexit. I don’t disagree with Gove supporting Brexit obviously but the way he went about it was like a serpent to someone who called him his friend. His whole front line career has been poisonous towards the sitting leader.

At 7:17 a.m., Guido tweeted that Truss and Kwarteng were backing down on abolishing the 45% tax rate:

Kwarteng said he would still be going ahead with the rest of the fiscal event policy.

That U-turn will empower Gove and the Left — again, media included — to control the narrative even more.

Baroness Thatcher would have been so disappointed:

And I know what Thatcher would have done with Gove: withdrawn the Party whip.

Guido says that the reversal came about on Sunday evening and that The Sun had the exclusive:

After The Sun broke the exclusive of conference late last night, the Lobby’s just been informed that the government will now not be going ahead with the 45p rate abolition, with a u-turn expected to be announced within the next hour. Just yesterday the press were briefed that Kwasi was to tell conference “We must stay the course. I am confident our plan is the right one.”

This morning the course has not been stayed – it has been re-directed in another direction altogether. Kwasi’s statement:

From supporting British business to lowering the tax burden for the lowest paid, our Growth Plan sets out a new approach to build a more prosperous economy. However, it is clear that the abolition of the 45p tax rate has become a distraction from our overriding mission to tackle the challenges facing our country. As a result, I’m announcing we are not proceeding with the abolition of the 45p tax rate. We get it, and we have listened. This will allow us to focus on delivering the major parts of our growth package. First, our Energy Price Guarantee, which will support households and businesses with their energy bills. Second, cutting taxes to put money back in the pockets of 30 million hard-working people and grow our economy. Third, driving supply side reforms – including accelerating major infrastructure projects – to get Britain moving.

The move came after crisis talks yesterday between the PM and Chancellor; their hands forced by Tory MPs continuing to state on the record they couldn’t vote for the plans, despite an open warning from [new Party chairman, MP] Jake Berry that they’d lose the whip. Gove was at the forefront of the rebellion…

Guido’s cartoonist came up with this:

It is unclear how much of this has to come up for a vote in Parliament in order to proceed.

However, it is becoming apparent that a significant number of MPs have not united behind Liz Truss:

If enough Conservative MPs rebel in a vote, the Government could collapse. A collapse could trigger an imminent general election (GE). With the way things are, Labour could win and form a coalition with the other Opposition parties. That would be a disaster, particularly in voting reform if they push through a vote for 16-year-olds and immigrants to vote in a GE. Furthermore, they would probably also want some type of proportional representation to replace the centuries-old first-past-the-post.

Of course, the alternative is that Conservative MPs have another leadership contest, but that would look as if they were incompetent. One MP suggested that Conservative Party members be locked out of that vote altogether, which would anger them deeply.

An hour after Kwarteng announced the U-turn, he was on BBC Radio 4 with Conservative-loathing Nick Robinson. This is so sad:

Then Kwarteng went on Nick Ferrari’s LBC breakfast show. Ferrari pressed him to say ‘no more U-turns’ but the Chancellor repeated, ‘I’ve said what I’ve said’. Guido has the video:

As a result of the U-turn, the markets were no longer predicting a 6% rise in interest rates, but something slightly lower — 5.5% and 5.75%. Guido is right in saying this is an emotional response:

Sterling was also slightly up, but not hugely:

In closing, let’s return to Gordon Brown, who succeeded Tony Blair as PM — without an election, I might add.

Conservative MP Gillian Keegan put the blame squarely on Brown in an interview with Times Radio on Monday morning.

Guido has the story:

Foreign Office Minister Gillian Keegan was spot on when she told Times Radio this morning that the top rate of tax was a political time bomb left behind by Gordon Brown:

I always knew that it was going to be a political problem. I mean, let’s be honest, this was a political trap that was set by Gordon Brown in the dying days of his role as PM, right. And I paid the 50% tax. I was in business then. And I remember how devastating it was because actually, it meant you were paying about 65% tax. And there’s something in your mind, which is like, really, you know, only 35% for me? And I’m doing all these hours. I was a business person, then it was set as a political trap…. In theory it [the top rate of tax] should never have been there.

There is something immoral about the government taking the majority of your income in tax. It is also a disheartening disincentive; reversing this spiteful tax is the correct policy, though this might perhaps be the wrong time. Getting rid of a political tax that was only set up by Gordon Brown when he knew he was likely to be ousted –to hurt the Tories rather than raise revenue – was the right thing to do. Even the IFS’ Paul Johnson thinks in revenue terms “It might plausibly cost nothing at all”. The tax was not about raising revenue – it was about political positioning.

Back in Fife, Brown will be rocking in his chair laughing that his tax booby trap, announced only weeks before he left office, and which was expected to cause problems for his successor David Cameron, has finally exploded in the face of a Tory Chancellor. The fuse wire on Brown’s time bomb turned out to be 12 years long…

Truss and Kwarteng have learned a lot in the past month.

I do hope that they have learned something from their baptism by fire, especially Truss, for whom I have the greatest empathy. The Queen’s death delayed her getting off the ground running. Then when she was finally able to do something, the media attacked her even more for it. Now the Party’s MPs are angry with her. Some have already submitted no confidence letters to Sir Graham Brady of the 1922 Committee. The polls have been tanking. Two show voters giving Labour a 30% lead in the polls, something not seen for decades.

No one has even given Truss or the Chancellor a chance.

I will continue to pray for hers and Kwarteng’s success against all odds.

They are doing the right thing …

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… which is why they are being attacked mercilessly.

The UK experienced a busy and historic weekend as Operations London Bridge and Unicorn became reality after the Queen’s death on Thursday, September 8, 2022.

The nation is now in a 10-day period of mourning, which continues through Monday, September 19, the day of the Queen’s funeral in Westminster Abbey. King Charles III has declared the day to be a bank holiday. The Royals, including their staff, will mourn for an additional week.

Before going into the weekend’s events, I have a few items to add from the end of last week.

Wednesday and Thursday, September 7 and 8

Last Wednesday, possibly having been busy preparing for her parliamentary statement on the energy crisis on Thursday, Liz Truss’s office cancelled the weekly update on Operation London Bridge, the funeral plans for Queen Elizabeth II. However, Simon Case, the civil servant who is Cabinet Secretary, informed the Prime Minister of the Queen’s decline early on Thursday morning.

Former Metropolitan Police Chief Superintendent Parm Sandhu told GB News that Operation London Bridge was originally planned in the 1960s and has been regularly reviewed since.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s — Prince Philip’s — plans were Operation Forth Bridge, so named for the magnificent bridge that links the Scottish capital to Fife.

Operation Unicorn involves funeral plans for Scotland in the event the Queen died there.

As my post on Friday explained, the Prime Minister found out about the Queen’s death during the energy debate in the Commons.

On Friday, September 9, Conservative MP Michael Fabricant told GB News that the note she received at lunchtime might well have said:

London Bridge is down.

At that point, the Queen was receiving medical attention and her closest family members were on their way to Balmoral.

The Times reported how Thursday afternoon’s events unfolded (emphases mine):

The six hours that followed brought together a fractured royal family and seemed to unite a nation in apprehension. At 12.32pm, moments after the first signs in the Commons, a Buckingham Palace spokesman said: “Following further evaluation this morning, the Queen’s doctors are concerned for Her Majesty’s health and have recommended she remain under medical supervision.”

It was immediately clear the news was more significant than previous announcements about the Queen’s health. Newspaper websites swiftly reported the announcement …

… At 12.45pm the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall announced that they were travelling to Balmoral. They were already in Scotland after hosting a dinner at Dumfries House in Ayrshire the previous evening. A minute later the Duke of Cambridge, 40, announced that he would be travelling from London. It was now clear that the situation was grave.

The Duchess of Cambridge, 40, remained at their Windsor home and drove to collect Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis following their first full day at their new school to tell them of the news. At 1.30pm the Duke of York, 62, who was stripped of his royal duties after the scandal surrounding Jeffrey Epstein, said that he would also be flying to Scotland. Six minutes later the Earl and Countess of Wessex confirmed that they would also be travelling to Balmoral.

The Princess Royal, 72, had been on the Isle of Raasay on Wednesday and stayed at Balmoral overnight. The Duke of Sussex, despite his long- running troubles with the monarchy, announced at 1.52pm that he was also travelling to Scotland, separately from other senior royals but “in co-ordination with other family members’ plans”. He arrived at Balmoral almost two hours after the announcement of his grandmother’s death. He had flown into Aberdeen airport alone, and his wife remained in Windsor.

Prince Harry, 37, happened to be in the UK anyway, and had been due to attend a charity event in London last night.

The first signs of serious concerns about the Queen’s health had emerged at 6pm on Wednesday, when it was announced that she had “accepted doctors’ advice to rest” rather than attend a virtual meeting of the privy council that evening.

That would have been only an hour after I’d heard a long pealing of bells from Westminster Abbey on Wednesday, which I mentioned in my post on Friday.

More of the timeline continues, including the hour when the Queen’s death was announced:

Soon after the announcement of concerns of the Queen’s doctor, Charles, 73, was seen clutching a large briefcase as he boarded the royal helicopter from Dumfries House with Camilla, 75, for the journey to Balmoral.

The flight carrying William, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward and Sophie took off from RAF Northolt in northwest London at 2.39pm. Royal Air Force flight KRF23R landed at Aberdeen airport at 3.50pm. A short while later, at 4.30pm, the prime minister was informed of the Queen’s death by Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, according to her official spokesman.

Meanwhile, the Duke of Cambridge was driving his two uncles the 40 miles from Aberdeen airport to Balmoral, arriving just after 5pm. William was behind the wheel of the Range Rover, with Andrew in the passenger seat and Edward, 58, and Sophie, 57, in the back

The Palace said in a statement: “The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon. The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow.”

Charles had acceded to the throne immediately.

The flags in Downing Street were lowered to half mast at 6.36pm. BBC One played the national anthem following the announcement of the monarch’s death, showing a photograph of the Queen, followed by a royal crest on a black background and the words Queen Elizabeth II …

The double rainbow, which I also referenced on Friday, appeared as soon as the flags were lowered to half mast, not only in London but also in Windsor.

On Friday afternoon, The Telegraph reported that only Princess Anne and Prince Charles made it to Balmoral in time to see the Queen before she died:

The King and the Princess Royal were the only two senior members of the Royal family who made it to Balmoral before Queen Elizabeth II’s death, it is understood

As for Prince William and his uncles and aunt:

Royal Air Force flight KRF23R took off shortly after 2.30pm, according to flight tracking website Flightradar24.com, landing in Aberdeen at 3.50pm.

Prince William drove the quartet from the airport to Balmoral and they were pictured sweeping into the gates of the castle shortly after 5pm.

It is possible they had known they would not make it, perhaps even before their plane took off.

In the event, by the time they arrived, it was too late.

Prince Harry’s flight was delayed and he did not arrive until 8 p.m.:

he is believed to have been mid-air when Buckingham Palace announced at 6.30pm that the Queen had died, arriving at Balmoral an hour and a half later.

The Duke’s Cessna had been due to land at 6.29pm, a minute before the historic statement. But it was 20 minutes late taking off at Luton Airport, meaning he did not land in Aberdeen until 6.46pm.

The grief-stricken Duke was photographed as he was driven into Balmoral Castle just before 8pm to join other members of his family.

That evening, France paid the Queen tribute by turning off the lights on the Eiffel Tower at midnight and on Friday, at 10 p.m.:

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Friday, September 9

On Friday morning, the Telegraph article said that Prince Harry left Balmoral early:

Prince Harry was the first to leave Balmoral on Friday morning, driven out of the gates at 8.20am.

He had to take a commercial flight back to Windsor:

He later boarded a British Airways flight from Aberdeen to Heathrow and is thought to have returned to Frogmore Cottage, Windsor, where the Duchess of Sussex was waiting for him.

Later that morning, the RMT (Rail, Maritime and Transport Union) head, Mick Lynch, announced that the rail strikes planned for September 15 and 17 were cancelled.

Guido Fawkes said that a postal strike was also cancelled (emphases his):

The Communication Workers Union has also called off a planned Royal Mail strike, with General Secretary Dave Ward saying “Following the very sad news of the passing of the Queen, and out of respect for her service to the country and her family, the union has decided to call off tomorrow’s planned strike action.”

Fair play to both Lynch and Ward, whether they’re genuinely in mourning or its cynical comms, they made the right call…

England’s three main political parties suspended campaigning during the mourning period. This is fine, except that Parliament is adjourned until after the Queen’s funeral, at which point it will continue to be adjourned for three weeks’ worth of annual political party conferences.

If Liz is smart, she will find a way to get the Commons, at least, to reconvene during conference season. There is no justification, especially this year, for every MP to attend these rather superfluous events. Furthermore, the evening events are also times of revelry, which seems inappropriate at this time.

Guido‘s Friday post says:

With King Charles instituting 17 days of mourning, the death of Queen Elizabeth will certainly cast shadows over all three of the major parties’ conferences. Guido understands the Tories are having conversations about how to proceed with their Birmingham gathering in light of the news. With politics grinding to a halt, it’s going to be difficult for PM Truss to enjoy the full political dividend from yesterday’s energy policy announcement…

Parliament is not due to reconvene until October 17. October is the month when the new energy ‘price cap’ — i.e. a dramatic increase — comes into effect. This will affect everyone and a policy really needs to be finalised before then. Conservative MP John Redwood tweeted:

As I write on Monday afternoon, GB News’s Tom Harwood says that a ‘fiscal event’ — an energy policy announcement — could be made on one of the four consecutive days after mourning and before conference recess. He says that his sources tell him that separate legislation would not be required. Let’s hope he is right.

Friday is not normally a day when either House of Parliament meets. However, both MPs and the Lords met to pay tribute to the Queen. The sessions, which also included taking the Oath of Loyalty to King Charles — optional, as the Oath includes successors — continued into Saturday. Every MP and Lord who wanted to speak was able to do so.

The Commons session on Friday afternoon began with a minute’s silence:

Afterwards, the Prime Minister began the tributes:

Guido has the video and pulled out the key quote from her address:

The United Kingdom is the great country it is today because of her, the Commonwealth is the family of nations it is today because of her.

Hansard has the full transcript of Friday’s and Saturday’s tributes from MPs. I commend them to everyone, because many MPs mentioned that the Queen visited their respective constituencies more than once during her reign. Only a handful had never had met her. The contributions reflected a monarch with not only dignity but also good humour. Everyone who met her said that she knew how to put them at ease.

Truss pointed out other historical highlights in her address:

In the hours since last night’s shocking news, we have witnessed the most heartfelt outpouring of grief at the loss of Her late Majesty the Queen. Crowds have gathered. Flags have been lowered to half-mast. Tributes have been sent from every continent around the world. On the death of her father, King George VI, Winston Churchill said the news had,

“stilled the clatter and traffic of twentieth-century life in many lands”.

Now, 70 years later, in the tumult of the 21st century, life has paused again.

Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known. She was the rock on which modern Britain was built. She came to the throne aged just 25, in a country that was emerging from the shadow of war; she bequeaths a modern, dynamic nation that has grown and flourished under her reign. The United Kingdom is the great country it is today because of her. The Commonwealth is the family of nations it is today because of her. She was devoted to the Union of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. She served 15 countries as Head of State, and she loved them all

Her devotion to duty remains an example to us all. She carried out thousands of engagements, she took a red box every day, she gave her assent to countless pieces of legislation and she was at the heart of our national life for seven decades. As the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, she drew on her deep faith. She was the nation’s greatest diplomat. Her visits to post-apartheid South Africa and to the Republic of Ireland showed a unique ability to transcend difference and heal division. In total, she visited well over 100 countries. She met more people than any other monarch in our history.

She gave counsel to Prime Ministers and Ministers across Government. I have personally greatly valued her wise advice. Only last October, I witnessed first hand how she charmed the world’s leading investors at Windsor Castle. She was always so proud of Britain, and always embodied the spirit of our great country. She remained determined to carry out her duties even at the age of 96. It was just three days ago, at Balmoral, that she invited me to form a Government and become her 15th Prime Minister. Again, she generously shared with me her deep experience of government, even in those last days.

Everyone who met her will remember the moment. They will speak of it for the rest of their lives. Even for those who never met her, Her late Majesty’s image is an icon for what Britain stands for as a nation, on our coins, on our stamps, and in portraits around the world. Her legacy will endure through the countless people she met, the global history she witnessed, and the lives that she touched. She was loved and admired by people across the United Kingdom and across the world.

One of the reasons for that affection was her sheer humanity. She reinvited monarchy for the modern age. She was a champion of freedom and democracy around the world. She was dignified but not distant. She was willing to have fun, whether on a mission with 007, or having tea with Paddington Bear. She brought the monarchy into people’s lives and into people’s homes.

During her first televised Christmas message in 1957, she said:

“Today we need a special kind of courage…so that we can show the world that we are not afraid of the future.”

We need that courage now. In an instant yesterday, our lives changed forever. Today, we show the world that we do not fear what lies ahead. We send our deepest sympathy to all members of the royal family. We pay tribute to our late Queen, and we offer loyal service to our new King.

His Majesty King Charles III bears an awesome responsibility that he now carries for all of us. I was grateful to speak to His Majesty last night and offer my condolences. Even as he mourns, his sense of duty and service is clear. He has already made a profound contribution through his work on conservation and education, and his tireless diplomacy. We owe him our loyalty and devotion.

The British people, the Commonwealth and all of us in this House will support him as he takes our country forward to a new era of hope and progress: our new Carolean age. The Crown endures, our nation endures, and in that spirit, I say God save the King. [Hon. Members: “God save the King.”]

Labour’s Keir Starmer, Leader of the Loyal Opposition, spoke next. Guido has the video:

The highlight of his speech was this:

She did not simply reign over us, she lived alongside us. She shared in our hopes and our fears, our joy and our pain, our good times, and our bad.

Interestingly, when they were younger, both Starmer and Truss wanted to abolish the monarchy.

Boris Johnson spoke a short time later, declaring the Queen:

Elizabeth the Great.

Historian David Starkey would disagree and did so on GB News on Sunday, September 11. He said that ‘the Great’ has applied exclusively to monarchs who waged war, e.g. Peter the Great.

Guido has the video. Boris began by saying that the BBC contacted him recently to speak about the Queen in past tense:

I hope the House will not mind if I begin with a personal confession. A few months ago, the BBC came to see me to talk about Her Majesty the Queen. We sat down and the cameras started rolling, and they requested that I should talk about her in the past tense. I am afraid that I simply choked up and could not go on. I am really not easily moved to tears, but I was so overcome with sadness that I had to ask them to go away.

I know that, today, there are countless people in this country and around the world who have experienced the same sudden access of unexpected emotion, and I think millions of us are trying to understand why we are feeling this deep, personal and almost familial sense of loss. Perhaps it is partly that she has always been there:

a changeless human reference point in British life; the person who—all the surveys say—appears most often in our dreams; so unvarying in her pole-star radiance that we have perhaps been lulled into thinking that she might be in some way eternal.

But I think our shock is keener today because we are coming to understand, in her death, the full magnitude of what she did for us all. Think what we asked of that 25-year-old woman all those years ago: to be the person so globally trusted that her image should be on every unit of our currency, every postage stamp; the person in whose name all justice is dispensed in this country, every law passed, to whom every Minister of the Crown swears allegiance; and for whom every member of our armed services is pledged, if necessary, to lay down their lives.

Think what we asked of her in that moment: not just to be the living embodiment, in her DNA, of the history, continuity and unity of this country, but to be the figurehead of our entire system—the keystone in the vast arch of the British state, a role that only she could fulfil because, in the brilliant and durable bargain of the constitutional monarchy, only she could be trusted to be above any party political or commercial interest and to incarnate, impartially, the very concept and essence of the nation.

Think what we asked of her, and think what she gave. She showed the world not just how to reign over a people; she showed the world how to give, how to love and how to serve. As we look back at that vast arc of service, its sheer duration is almost impossible to take in. She was the last living person in British public life to have served in uniform in the Second World War. She was the first female member of the royal family in a thousand years to serve full time in the armed forces.

That impulse to do her duty carried her right through into her 10th decade to the very moment in Balmoral—as my right hon. Friend said—only three days ago, when she saw off her 14th Prime Minister and welcomed her 15th. I can tell you, in that audience she was as radiant and as knowledgeable and as fascinated by politics as ever I can remember, and as wise in her advice as anyone I know, if not wiser. Over that extraordinary span of public service, with her naturally retentive and inquiring mind, I think—and doubtless many of the 15 would agree—that she became the greatest statesman and diplomat of all.

She knew instinctively how to cheer up the nation, how to lead a celebration. I remember her innocent joy more than 10 years ago, after the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, when I told her that the leader of a friendly middle eastern country seemed actually to believe that she had jumped out of a helicopter in a pink dress and parachuted into the stadium. [Laughter.] I remember her equal pleasure on being told, just a few weeks ago, that she had been a smash hit in her performance with Paddington Bear.

Perhaps more importantly, she knew how to keep us going when times were toughest. In 1940, when this country and this democracy faced the real possibility of extinction, she gave a broadcast, aged only 14, that was intended to reassure the children of Britain. She said then:

“We know, every one of us, that in the end all will be well”.

She was right

It was that indomitability, that humour, that work ethic and that sense of history that, together, made her Elizabeth the Great.

When I call her that, I should add one final quality, of course: her humility—her single-bar-electric-fire, Tupperware-using refusal to be grand. I can tell the House, as a direct eyewitness, that unlike us politicians, with our outriders and our armour-plated convoys, she drove herself in her own car, with no detectives and no bodyguard, bouncing at alarming speed over the Scottish landscape, to the total amazement of the ramblers and tourists we encountered.

It is that indomitable spirit with which she created the modern constitutional monarchy—an institution so strong, so happy and so well understood, not just in this country but in the Commonwealth and around the world, that the succession has already seamlessly taken place. I believe she would regard it as her own highest achievement that her son, Charles III, will clearly and amply follow her own extraordinary standards of duty and service. The fact that today we can say with such confidence, “God save the King” is a tribute to him but, above all, to Elizabeth the Great, who worked so hard for the good of her country not just now but for generations to come. That is why we mourn her so deeply, and it is in the depths of our grief that we understand why we loved her so much.

Theresa May’s speech was the funniest. I do wish she had shown this side of herself as Prime Minister. Her comic timing was impeccable:

Guido has a video of most of her address:

Arguably one of May’s most poignant speeches. Some needed light relief for the day...

Here’s the best part:

This excerpt follows:

Of course, for those of us who had the honour to serve as one of her Prime Ministers, those meetings were more frequent, with the weekly audiences. These were not meetings with a high and mighty monarch, but a conversation with a woman of experience, knowledge and immense wisdom. They were also the one meeting I went to that I knew would not be briefed out to the media. [Laughter.] What made those audiences so special was the understanding the Queen had of issues, which came from the work she put into her red boxes, combined with her years of experience. She knew many of the world leaders—in some cases, she had known their fathers—and she was a wise and adroit judge of people.

The conversations at the audiences were special, but so were weekends at Balmoral, where the Queen wanted all her guests to enjoy themselves. She was a thoughtful hostess. She would take an interest in which books were put in your room and she did not always expect to be the centre of attention; she was quite happy sometimes to sit, playing her form of patience, while others were mingling around her, chatting to each other. My husband tells of the time he had a dream: he dreamt that he was sitting in the back of a Range Rover, being driven around the Balmoral estate; and the driver was Her Majesty the Queen and the passenger seat was occupied by his wife, the Prime Minister. And then he woke up and realised it was reality!

Her Majesty loved the countryside. She was down to earth and a woman of common sense. I remember one picnic at Balmoral that was taking place in one of the bothies on the estate. The hampers came from the castle, and we all mucked in to put the food and drink out on the table. I picked up some cheese, put it on a plate and was transferring it to the table. The cheese fell on the floor. I had a split-second decision to make: I picked up the cheese, put it on a plate and put the plate on the table. I turned round to see that my every move had been watched very carefully by Her Majesty the Queen. I looked at her, she looked at me and she just smiled. And the cheese remained on the table. [Laughter.]

This is indeed a sad day, but it is also a day of celebration for a life well spent in the service of others. There have been many words of tribute and superlatives used to describe Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, but these are not hype; they are entirely justified. She was our longest-serving monarch. She was respected around the world. She united our nation in times of trouble. She joined in our celebrations with joy and a mischievous smile. She gave an example to us all of faith, of service, of duty, of dignity and of decency. She was remarkable, and I doubt we will ever see her like again. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.

Saturday’s session in the Commons was another marathon.

Shortly after 1 p.m., Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle opened it with this:

I now invite the House to resume its tributes to Her late Majesty. I expect to conclude tributes at 10 o’clock, when I shall invite Ministers to move the motion for a Humble Address to His Majesty. A hundred and eighty-two Members contributed yesterday, and many want to contribute today. I hope Members will therefore keep to the informal time limit of three minutes.

An excerpt from John Redwood’s speech follows.

On Friday, he pointed out how historically significant three of our Queens were in British history and for women:

On Saturday, he said:

What always came across to all of us was just how much she respected every person and every institution that she visited. She showed that respect by impeccable manners and great courtesy—always on time, always properly briefed, always appropriately dressed for the occasion.

But, as so many have said from their personal experiences, there was something so much more than that. She was not just the consummate professional at those public events: there was the warm spirit, the personality, and above all the understanding that everyone else at that event was terrified that something was going to go wrong, that they had not understood the protocol, or that there was some magic way of doing it—as my right hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Grant Shapps) was explaining—that they had to get right. At those public events, the Queen always relaxed people and showed them that there was no right way, because she was there for the people; she was there for the institution; she was there for the event. That is what we can learn from.

Of course, she was also Our Majesty. She was the embodiment of the sovereignty of people and Parliament; she represented us so well abroad and represented us at home, knowing that as a constitutional monarch, she represented us when we were united. She spoke for those times when we were gloriously happy and celebrating, or she spoke for those times when there was misery and gloom and she had to deal with our grief and point to the better tomorrow. That was why she held that sovereignty so well and for so long—a constitutional monarch who did not exercise the power, but captured the public mood; who managed to deal with fractious and difficult Parliaments and different political leaders, but who was above the politics, which meant that our constitution was safe in her hands. I wish her son, the new King, every success in following that great lead as he has told us he will do, and I can, with others, say today—“God save the King.”

Redwood later tweeted that he had omitted an important part of his speech:

Indeed.

The Queen attended only two of her former Prime Ministers’ funerals, those of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.

These are links to Friday’s (continued here) and Saturday’s (continued here) tributes from the Lords, both Spiritual and Temporal.

On Sunday, our vicar said that the Church of England lost her greatest evangelist, the Queen.

I cannot disagree with that.

The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke earlier on Friday afternoon, excerpted below.

He recalled her deep faith, something I wish more CofE clergy had:

… What has been said already today has been extraordinarily eloquent. I do not intend to repeat it but to say something about the Queen’s links to faith and to the Church of England. First is her assurance, her confidence, in the God who called her. At her coronation, so long ago, conducted by Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher—the first of seven Archbishops of Canterbury who had the privilege of serving her—the service began with her walking by herself past the Throne, where she would very shortly be seated, and kneeling by the high altar of Westminster Abbey. The order of service said, “She will kneel in private prayer”—and so she did, for some time. The next thing to happen was that homage was paid to her, starting with the Duke of Edinburgh. What that said about her understanding of her role was that she pledged her allegiance to God before others pledged their allegiance to her. She had this profound sense of who she was and by whom she was called.

Then there was her profound, deep and extraordinary theological vision. Many years ago now—seven or eight years ago—I was travelling abroad, and someone who had no knowledge of these things said, “Well, of course, she’s not really got that much intellect, has she? I mean, private tutors and all this—what can she know?” Well, what ignorance. In 2012, she spoke at Lambeth Palace on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee, and the speech she made there is one we return to very frequently, because she set out a vision for what an established Church should be. It was not a vision of comfort and privilege; it was to say, put very politely, “You are here as an umbrella for the whole people of this land”. The subtext was, “If you are not that, you are nothing”. That is a deep vision of what it is to be the Church—of what it is to be not an established Church but a Christian Church. That came from her deep understanding of faith. Every five years, at the inauguration of the Church of England’s General Synod, she came with messages of encouragement and assurance of her prayers. In 2021, her message was,

“my hope is that you will be strengthened with the certainty of the love of God, as you work together and draw on the Church’s tradition of unity in fellowship for the tasks ahead.”

Publicly, Her late Majesty worshipped regularly and spoke of her faith in God, particularly in her Christmas broadcasts, with quiet, gentle confidence. Privately, she was an inspiring and helpful guide and questioner to me and to my predecessors. She had a dry sense of humour, as we have heard already, and the ability to spot the absurd—the Church of England was very capable of giving her material—but she never exercised that at the expense of others. When I last saw her in June, her memory was as sharp as it could ever have been. She remembered meetings from 40 or 50 years ago and drew on the lessons from those times to speak of today and what we needed to learn: assurance of the love of God in her call, and then humility. It would be easy as a monarch to be proud, but she was everything but that. It was her faith that gave her strength. She knew that, but she knew also her call to be a servant, the one whom she served, and the nation she served, the Commonwealth and the world. Over the last 24 hours, I have had so many messages from archbishops, bishops and other people around the world, within the Commonwealth and way beyond it—from China, Latin America and many other places—in a deep sense of loss.

It has been the privilege of those on these Benches to be intimately involved with momentous occasions so often throughout Her late Majesty’s life. As has been said, she has been a presence for as long as we can remember. Jesus says in the Gospel of St Matthew:

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”.

May God comfort all those who grieve Her late Majesty’s loss, and may God sustain His Majesty King Charles III in the enormous weight and challenges that he takes on immediately, at the same as he bears the burden of grief, and those around him in his family. May God hold Her late Majesty in His presence, firmly secured in the peace that passes far beyond our understanding.

The Archbishop of York, the Right Revd Stephen Cottrell, spoke in the first of Saturday’s sessions in the Lords. He added some light relief:

My Lords, like most Bishops from these Benches, I have stories to tell; stories of doing jigsaws in Sandringham on Sunday evenings and of barbeques in the woods at Sandringham in the middle of January—I even have a slightly scurrilous story about healing the Queen’s car. Perhaps I will tell it.

I had preached in Sandringham parish church. We were standing outside and the Bentley was there to get the Queen. It did not start. It made that throaty noise cars make in the middle of winter when they will not start, and everybody stood there doing nothing. I was expecting a policeman to intervene, but nothing happened. Enjoying the theatre of the moment, I stepped forward and made a large sign of the cross over the Queen’s car, to the enjoyment of the crowd—there were hundreds of people there, as it was the Queen. I saw the Queen out of the corner of my eye looking rather stony-faced, and thought I had perhaps overstepped the mark. The driver tried the car again and, praise the Lord, it started. The Queen got in and went back to Sandringham, and I followed in another car. When I arrived, as I came into lunch, the Queen said with a beaming smile, “It’s the Bishop—he healed my car”. Two years later, when I greeted her at the west front of Chelmsford Cathedral, just as a very grand service was about to start and we were all dressed up to the nines, she took me to one side and said, “Bishop, nice to see you again; I think the car’s all right today, but if I have any problems I’ll know where to come.”

When I became the 98th Archbishop of York, during Covid, I paid homage to the Queen by Zoom conference. I was in the Cabinet Office; everyone had forgotten to bring a Bible, including me, but there was one there—which is kind of reassuring. Just as the ceremony was about to begin, the fire alarm went off.

The Queen was at Windsor Castle, but we all trooped out of the Cabinet Office, on to the road, and were out there for about 20 minutes until they could check that it was a false alarm and we could go back in. When I went back into the room, there was the screen, with Her late Majesty waiting for things to begin again. I do not know why I find myself returning to that image of her, faithful watching and waiting through those very difficult times. That was a very small part of a life of astonishing service.

The other thing I have noticed in the last couple of days is that we are all telling our stories. Yesterday, I found myself sharing stories with somebody in the street. I at least had had the honour of meeting Her late Majesty; this person had never met her, but we were sharing stories. I said, “Isn’t it strange how we need to tell our stories? It’s not as if she was a member of our family.” Except she was. That is the point. She served the household of a nation. For her, it was not a rule but an act of service, to this people and to all of us.

I remind us, again and again, that that came from somewhere: it came from her profound faith in the one who said,

“I am among you as one who serves.”

The hallmark of leadership is service, watchfulness and waiting. It was her lived-in faith in Jesus Christ, day in and day out, which sustained, motivated and equipped her for that lifetime of service. How inspiring it was last night and this morning to see the baton pass to our new King, King Charles, in the same spirit of godly service to the people of a nation.

I had not thought of this, but the Archbishop of York pointed out the important feast day that coincided with the Queen’s death, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary:

Her Majesty the Queen died on 8 September, the day on which the blessed Virgin Mary is remembered across the world and the Church. Another Elizabeth, the cousin of Mary, said of her when she knew she would be the mother of the Lord:

“Blessed is she who believed that the promises made to her would be fulfilled”.

Shot through all our tributes in this House and another place, and across our nation, is that which we have seen, especially as it was only on Tuesday—I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, for reminding us—that the Queen received a new Prime Minister. Can it really be possible? She served to the end—a life fulfilled.

I will finish with a handful of her words. This is what the Queen wrote in a book to mark her 90th birthday, reflecting on her faith in Jesus Christ in her life:

“I have indeed seen His faithfulness.”

I am not supposed to call noble Lords “brothers and sisters”, but dear friends, we have seen her faithfulness too, and we see it now in our new King. May Her late Majesty the Queen rest in peace and rise in glory. God save the King.

Friday, September 9

At 6 p.m. on Friday, two significant events occurred.

The first was an hour-long service of prayer and reflection held at St Paul’s Cathedral:

This service was for people who work in the City of London along with a limited number of members of the public who could apply for wristbands — tickets — to attend. St Paul’s posted a page on how to obtain a wristband and how to queue on Friday afternoon for admittance.

Cabinet members attended and sat in the choir stalls. Prime Minister Truss and her Cabinet Secretary Simon Case sat in the front row. On the opposite side were Labour’s Keir Starmer and other Opposition MPs.

This was an excellent service. The Cathedral helpfully posted the Order of Service, which can be downloaded from the aforementioned webpage.

Truss read Romans 14:7-12:

We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live
to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

Why do you pass judgement on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgement seat of God. For it is written,

‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.’

So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

This prayer in memory of the Queen is beautiful:

Eternal Lord God,
you hold all souls in life;
send forth, we pray, upon your servant, Elizabeth,
and upon your whole Church in earth and heaven
the brightness of your light and peace;
and grant that we,
following the good example of those
who have faithfully served you here and are now at rest,
may at the last enter with them
into the fullness of eternal joy
in Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Amen.

Meanwhile, King Charles III addressed the nation for the first time as monarch:

He spoke for ten minutes, first discussing his late mother then pledging his service to the people of the United Kingdom.

He ended his address by saying that Prince William would become the new Prince of Wales and that he had much love for Prince Harry as he and Meghan continue building their life together overseas.

The Telegraph included the following blurb. The last line comes from Shakespeare:

The broadcast was recorded in the Blue Drawing Room of Buckingham Palace, after the King and Queen greeted crowds of mourners outside the gates.

In a final message to his mother, the King said: “To my darling Mama, as you begin your last great journey to join my dear late Papa, I want simply to say this: thank you.

“Thank you for your love and devotion to our family and to the family of nations you have served so diligently all these years.

“May ‘flights of Angels sing thee to thy rest’.”

The walkabout the paper refers to involved much emotion from members of the public, especially women. One lady kissed him on the cheek and another shook his hand. Historically, one does not touch the monarch. That also applied to the Queen, even if a few people did touch her.

Another similar walkabout by the new King and Queen Consort occurred on Saturday afternoon outside the Palace.

The Accession Ceremony took place on Saturday morning. More about that tomorrow.

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

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

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

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

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

Tim Stanley makes excellent points, summarised below.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also of interest are:

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

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

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

British voters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brummer explored the possibilities of what could happen either way:

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

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

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

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

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

Brummer disagreed with Rishi’s tax hikes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And let no one blame Brexit:

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

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

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

Ultimately, taxes do need to be cut:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mail reported on Boris’s schedule:

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

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

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

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

The Times reported:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpts from his transcript follow:

They won, folks.

They got him in the end.

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

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

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

These are deeply depressing times for British democracy.

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

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

And why were they so determined to destroy Boris?

Think about it.

He was a transformational Prime Minister.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was a sad evening, indeed.

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

Boris won that night’s Greatest Briton accolade:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The atmosphere sounded surreal:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Not after the last 24 hours. Appalling.”

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

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

I think this gave Boris’s supporters false hopes:

People in Conservative constituencies began emailing their MPs:

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

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

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

In 2021:

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

By July 2022, everything had changed:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conservative MPs panicked:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ukrainians

The Ukrainians will miss their biggest supporter.

They were saddened by his resignation:

Boris offered them his reassurance:

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

Guido Fawkes wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guido wrote:

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

Slava Ukraini…

Guido also posted this video:

GB News had more on the story:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least Boris got his Churchillian international claim to fame.

What next?

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

Guido has the video and explains the greeting:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End of series

So much happened in the UK this week that it is hard to find the time and the space to write about it all.

Conservative leadership contest

Liz Truss’s campaign continues to motor ahead, gaining powerful MPs’ backing.

On Wednesday, August 3, a new Conservative Home poll appeared, its results matching those of polling companies, e.g. YouGov. Liz is 32 points ahead:

Conservative Home‘s Paul Goodman analysed his site’s results and YouGov’s (emphases mine):

Granted, neither can be proved right or wrong: as our proprietor has it, a poll is a snapshot, not a prediction. If our survey is correct, all that follows is that Truss would win the contest, were it held now, by 32 points among those who have declared their hand.

However, if we and YouGov are right it is very hard to see how Sunak recovers in the month or so between the opening and closing of the poll. For even if during that time he won over that 16 per of undecideds and others, Truss would still beat him by 58 per cent to 42 per cent.

In short, if our survey is correct he would have to add to that 16 per cent of don’t knows and others some nine per cent of Truss’s supporters – i.e: persuade them to switch.

This seems most unlikely if YouGov’s question about certainty of intention is taken into account. For it finds that 83 per cent of Truss voters and 70 per cent of Sunak voters have made their minds up.

What odds would you give on Sunak winning over all those don’t knows and others (from our survey), and then adding to that pile over half of Truss’s soft support (using YouGov’s figure)? I would say that they are very long indeed

Those interested in events slightly further back will recall that Boris Johnson beat Jeremy Hunt by 66 per cent to 34 per cent during the leadership election of 2019.  That’s exactly the same margin as the Truss-Sunak forced choice I spell out above from our new survey.

One way of looking at Conservative leadership election as matters stand might be to forget the thrills and spills, hype and blunders – such as Truss’s yesterday over regional public sector pay.

And stick instead to the simple thought that the Tory membership divides right-of-party-centre to left-of-party-centre by about two to one and so, all other things being equal, the leadership candidate perceived to be right-wing than the other will win by a margin about two to one.

Finally, Opinium promises a Conservative members poll next week, and it has tended recently to find better results for Sunak than ours or YouGovs.

The YouGov poll from August 3 showed that Britons believe Truss is better than Sunak on the main issues:

Liz gained another supporter in former Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who was also Boris Johnson’s first Chancellor from the summer of 2019 through to February 2020, at which point Rishi Sunak took over.

Sunak worked for Javid when the latter was Chancellor. Javid mentored his younger MP friend:

However, the dynamic changed when Chancellor Sunak locked horns with Health Secretary Javid during the pandemic in 2021.

The Times explains:

… those who know both men say there are more prescient personal and political reasons behind Javid’s decision [to back Truss].

They say that tensions emerged after Javid was brought back into the government as health secretary. Sunak regarded the NHS as a bottomless drain on resources and was exasperated by what he saw as Javid’s failure to spearhead fundamental reform of the health service.

Javid for his part was frustrated with the highhanded manner in which the Treasury dealt with the Department of Health and its refusal to countenance the type of spending he believed was necessary to tackle treatment backlogs coming out of the pandemic. He felt that Sunak had not shown the loyalty that he had when the power dynamics were reversed.

There are now significant policy differences as well. When Javid threw his hat in for the leadership he set out a tax-cutting agenda broadly similar to that proposed by Truss. He proposed cutting national insurance and reversing the planned corporation tax rise while Sunak stuck to his policies as chancellor.

One ally said Javid sincerely believes that only by kick-starting growth through tax cuts can public services be properly funded. They said it would have been “odd” if Javid had backed Sunak, given their different and genuinely held views on how to deal with Britain’s economic uncertainties.

This is what Javid had to say about Truss in his article for The Times:

“I fought for strong fiscal rules in our last manifesto,” he wrote. “But the circumstances we are in require a new approach. Over the long term, we are more likely to be fiscally sustainable by improving trend growth.

“Only by getting growth back to pre-financial crisis levels can we hope to support the high-quality public services people rightly expect.”

In a direct attack on Sunak, he said: “Some claim that tax cuts can only come once we have growth. I believe the exact opposite — tax cuts are a prerequisite for growth. Tax cuts now are essential. There are no risk-free options in government. However, in my view, not cutting taxes carries an even greater risk.”

He added: “With only two years before the next election, there has been a temptation to just ‘get the barnacles off the boat’ and avoid any short-term political pain for long-term national gain.

“We must reject that. As a nation we are sleepwalking into a big-state, high-tax, low-growth, social democratic style model which risks us becoming a middle-income economy by the 2030s with the loss of global influence and power” …

A senior Truss campaign source described Javid’s endorsement as the “big one for us”.

They added: “The bigger beasts of the party are uniting behind Liz because they believe in her vision for the economy. We can’t have the Treasury orthodoxy and tired status quo. They believe she will turn things around in time for the next election by getting on and delivering quickly in No10.”

On Wednesday, August 3, Truss and Sunak canvassed separately in Wales before meeting up for a televised hustings in Cardiff later in the day.

A Conservative Welsh Senedd (Senate) member, James Evans, changed his mind about Sunak and decided to support Truss instead. He got a lot of flak in response to his tweet:

Truss’s former party, the Liberal Democrats, criticised her for taking a helicopter around Wales to get to the various Conservative associations there. Pictured is the Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey:

Guido Fawkes points out that the Lib Dems are suffering an attack of sour grapes — and hypocrisy (red emphases his):

Rishi’s been known to use them, so why should Liz be confined to the rail network…

i News were the ones to reveal Liz’s chartering this afternoon, juxtaposing the decision against her backing of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The LibDems were only too happy to butt in, providing a quote for the copy that it “makes a complete mockery of her promises on Net Zero. It’s clear that she is not serious on climate change.” This quote came from Vera Hobhouse rather than Sir Ed Davey himself, who surely wouldn’t mind the coverage…

Guido’s sure Sir Ed’s decision not to provide the comment has little to do with the fact that, in 2013 as Energy Secretary, he hitched a ride in the helicopter of EDF boss Henri Proglio, after handing him a nuclear deal at double the going rate for electricity. The decision raised objections from Friends of the Earth at the time, who said it “confirms how close the Big Six energy firms are to our decision-makers.”  A source close to Liz Truss calls the political attack “the usual sanctimonious hypocrisy from the LibDems”. Sir Ed may need to refuel his own spin machine…

While in Wales, Truss took the opportunity to have a go at First Minister Mark Drakeford (Labour), calling him:

the low energy version of Jeremy Corbyn.

Bullseye!

John McTernan, who advised Tony Blair between 2005 and 2007, wrote in UnHerd why Labour should be afraid of Truss.

I’ve seen John McTernan on GB News and he knows whereof he speaks.

He explains Truss’s strengths:

One of her overlooked strengths is that she has been on a political journey. Changing your mind is often thought of as a weakness in politicians, whereas in reality an unchanging commitment to ideology is one of their most eccentric habits. In normal life, we change our minds frequently and without fuss. As economist Paul Samuelson said, in a line so good it is often attributed to Keynes: “Well when events change, I change my mind. What do you do?” In itself, changing their mind humanises a politician — a particular asset in a time of popular revolt against out-of-touch elites.

But, more than that, making a political journey shows character. Three of the most significant politicians of the Blair era — John Reid, Alan Milburn, and David Blunkett — were great New Labour reformers who had started on the hard Left. Their politics had been tempered and strengthened by their journey. Liz Truss was brought up on the Left and attended anti-nuclear peace camps with her mother. She then became a Liberal Democrat activist, famously demanding an end to the monarchy to Paddy Ashdown’s discomfort. And when a Tory Cabinet minister she backed Remain not Leave, though she is now a passionate Brexiteer. Those surprised that Tory party members overwhelmingly see a former Remainer as the best defender of Brexit need to remember their New Testament: “There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” The redemption narrative is one of our most powerful stories: she who once was blind, but now can see.

The fact Liz Truss has been on a political journey also makes her a powerful communicator. Some of the most persuasive arguments in politics are based on empathy rather than angry disagreement. Liz Truss knows why voters find progressive policies attractive, which can strengthen the persuasive power of her arguments for people to change their views. And her speaking style is clear and simple. The listener readily understands what she thinks and believes. Her opponents who too readily dismiss her as simplistic are missing the point. Politics is not a mathematical equation — a ten-point plan won’t beat a five-point plan 10-5. The messages and policies that win are those that connect with the heart as much as the head.

The Truss agenda is straightforward. The educational system is failing kids. Grammar schools would identify and help some bright working-class and minority children. The cost-of-living crisis is hitting wallets and purses. A tax cut would give money back to the public. Energy prices are spiking. Pausing the green levy would reduce prices. Now, there are good arguments against each of these policies, but they are superficially strong one-liners. It takes time to explain how grammar schools distort the education of the vast majority of pupils who don’t get into them, or to make the case that there is a danger that tax cuts lead to more inflation. The arguments against Liz Truss’s policies are strong but they need to be explained. And, as the old political saying goes, “when you’re explaining, you’re losing”.

… One of the best jokes in the US TV show Veep comes when Selina Myers uses the slogan “continuity with change” for her Presidential campaign. It works because it is bizarrely true — and it is true because that is what most voters want. They’re not revolutionaries, they’re realists.

The Truss offer is continuity with the spirit of Johnson and Brexit while meeting the demands of the voters who were, and are, angry with the status quo. That anger has been the fuel of politics since the Global Financial Crisis — it was there in Brexit, in the Scottish independence referendum, in the rise of Corbyn, and in Boris Johnson’s 2019 landslide. The fact that such competing and conflicting political forces can harness that same anger signals that there is an underlying volatility in British politics that can be channelled in different directions by strong and intelligent leadership.

It is in leadership that Labour must contest most convincingly. Liz Truss will likely be undone by events. The cost-of-living crisis is of such a scale that it is hard to see any of her policies — or any of Rishi Sunak’s — that will be more than a drop in the ocean. To win, Keir Starmer must learn from New Labour [Tony Blair’s government]. Attack the new Prime Minister and her government, but don’t nit-pick. The critique must be based on a vision of hope and a positive project that positions Labour once more as the “political wing of the British people”. Otherwise, Keir Starmer risks being just one more man, in a long line of men, who have underestimated Liz Truss at their peril. After all, there are no accidental Prime Ministers, and like the rest, Truss has guile, will and talent.

Guido Fawkes adds another point:

… Truss will be the Tories’ third female PM to Labour’s big fat nought …

Exactly. And Conservatives didn’t need to have all-women shortlists, either, unlike Labour.

For Conservative Party member Toby Young, General Secretary of the Free Speech Union, Truss’s strength lies in opposing another lockdown, which she said ‘No’ to on Monday night in Exeter:

Also in Exeter, on Monday, Truss said that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (SNP) was an ‘attention seeker’ who should be ignored. Again, I’m pretty sure Truss meant that with regard to appeals for a second independence referendum.

The Telegraph‘s Alan Cochrane, who lives in Scotland, said that some would sincerely welcome those words: ‘Amen to that! Liz Truss finally puts the boot into Nicola Sturgeon’:

It is easy to sympathise with Liz Truss’s presumably exasperated and outspoken statement that the best way to deal with Nicola Sturgeon was to ignore her

After watching, listening and responding to this ambitious politician for more than 20 years, ignoring her is something I’d rather have been doing than countering every one of her largely lame-brained arguments for breaking up Britain.

Furthermore, the First Minister is every bit the “attention seeker” that the Foreign Secretary portrays her as – most especially when she dons her “Mother of Scotland” role and seeks to insist that she, and only she, speaks for the whole of Scotland. 

The truth, of course, is that she speaks only for her party and government, neither of which commands an overwhelming majority of Scottish opinion

while Ms Truss is being assailed for her choice of words by the Nationalists and those faint hearts who seek a peaceful political life, there will be more than a few who will shout “Amen to that!” when she talks of Ms Sturgeon’s perpetual attention seeking.

Furthermore, a great deal more candour from Westminster in its dealings with the SNP is long overdue. Far too long. Successive UK administrations have bent over backwards not to be seen as provoking the cause of independence when the truth is that it is already on a life support system, with a fast declining appeal to the Scottish people.

The fact is that Ms Truss knows that she cannot just ignore the devolved Scottish Government and its leader. But she is to be commended for putting the boot in. It’s about time someone did.

While Truss and Sunak were in Wales, Iain Duncan Smith MP was north of the border in Scotland.

He was at an event for Scottish Conservatives in Stirling, in Scotland’s central belt.

The Times has the story:

The former work and pensions secretary backtracked on comments made by Truss that Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, should be “ignored” as he criticised the UK government’s approach towards the Union.

“I don’t want to ignore her,” he said. “What I want to do is to let the world know just exactly why Scotland is suffering so much under this incompetent regime at Holyrood. The truth is, it is a disaster: everything from health, the police, the railways — they can’t even build ships sometimes on time and on budget.”

He’s not exaggerating. It’s the raw truth.

The MP wants the next PM to have greater powers of scrutiny over the way Scotland’s SNP government is run. They get billions from taxpayers in the Barnett Formula and waste it. No one, not even Scots, has any idea where the money goes.

He said:

I am desperate for greater powers for scrutiny. It is only scrutiny that unearths all this nonsense and … that the weaker scrutiny up here has allowed the Nationalists to get away with it. So I am going to take that straight back and talk to her about it and see what we could do.

Not surprisingly, the SNP were furious and, as usual, blamed Westminster:

Kirsten Oswald, the SNP deputy leader at Westminster, said: “This is an utterly ridiculous suggestion, showing that even the Tories are out of ideas for how to fix the broken Westminster system. It is not the SNP’s job to explain why Westminster control is increasingly making life more difficult for the people of Scotland — even if the Tories are out of excuses.

“The job of SNP MPs in Westminster is to stand up for Scotland against a UK government choosing to ignore our interests at every turn. That is what they will continue to do.”

Duncan Smith justified his desire for scrutiny saying that SNP MPs are part of the Scottish government, too:

Duncan Smith said: “We need to turn the tables on them and start saying, ‘Well, can we have a period of question time for you lot to talk about what you are doing in Scotland as the devolved administration?’

“And start examining some of this stuff because they’re not just SNP protesters down in parliament, they are actually part of the government up here.”

Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak told the audience in Cardiff that Truss was wrong about her public sector pay reform and tried to scare Welsh Conservatives into thinking that Truss was going to cut the pay of every single public sector worker in Wales:

However, Sunak got himself into a bit of hot water when he ‘misspoke’ on wind turbines at the event:

On Thursday, August 4, Guido reported:

Rishi’s team has said he “misspoke” during the hustings last night when it appeared he’d u-turned on his opposition to new onshore wind. At the Wales’ husting, Sunak was asked “will you be bold enough to scrap the embargo on onshore wind in England?”, replying “So, yes, in a nutshell.” This appeared totally contradictory to one of his previous policy announcements:

Wind energy will be an important part of our strategy, but I want to reassure communities that as prime minister I would scrap plans to relax the ban on onshore wind in England, instead focusing on building more turbines offshore,

Team Liz immediately leapt on his words as sign of yet another u-turn from Rishi, alleging it was his eleventh campaign u-turn.

This morning Team Rishi, asked to justify his words, bluntly replied “he misspoke”. Much like Britain under Rishi’s actual wind energy policy, he’s losing fans rapidly…

Sunak is also being economical with the truth when he says that he personally came up with the idea of British freeports, which were first mooted in an early Margaret Thatcher manifesto for the Conservatives:

However, Rishi managed to get two notable endorsements, one from former Conservative Party leader Michael Howard and Nigel Lawson, who was Chancellor under Margaret Thatcher. He is also Nigella Lawson’s father.

Guido has more:

    • Finally got an endorsement from Nigel Lawson himself, who writes in The Telegraph that Rishi is “the only candidate who understands Thatcherite economics” …
    • Michael Howard opened for Rishi at Wales’ Tory husting last night, saying he can provide the leadership needed “not only in this country, but across the wider western world”

Lawson must have felt obliged to endorse Sunak, given that the latter has a photo of him in his office.

Sunak was over the moon about Lawson’s Telegraph article:

Boris looms large

Prime Minister Boris Johnson still looms large in the psyche of British voters.

Normally, we are all too happy when a Prime Minister stands down. When Margaret Thatcher’s MPs booted her out, we breathed a sigh of relief. We’d had enough of Tony Blair when he left No. 10 to Gordon Brown. We didn’t care too much about David Cameron’s resignation, although we did think he was petty-minded for resigning the morning after the Brexit referendum result. And we were only too happy for Theresa May to go, although we did feel sorry for her as she cried at the Downing Street podium.

However, Boris is a different kettle of fish.

The August 3 YouGov poll showed that a) most Conservative Party members thought their MPs made a mistake in getting him to resign as Party leader and b) he would make a better PM than either Truss or Sunak:

In response to the aforementioned Welsh Senedd member’s tweet, someone responded with this:

Incredibly, as ballots are currently being posted to Conservative Party members, Alex Story, the leader of the Bring Back Boris campaign, still thinks there is time to add Boris’s name to the list of candidates.

He spoke to Nigel Farage on Wednesday, August 3:

He said that 14,000 members of the public wrote to Conservative Party headquarters after Boris stood down as leader.

He added that most Boris supporters knew he was economical with the truth, but they felt that his ouster was forced.

Nigel Farage countered by saying that 40% of Conservative voters wanted Boris to leave. Furthermore, he could no longer command the support of his MPs.

Story responded by saying that Boris will be like ‘Lazarus [rising] from the dead … something romantic and quirky’.

That’s one way of putting it, I suppose.

It is highly unlikely that Boris’s name will be on the ballot, butone cannot fault Story and Lord Cruddas for trying on the public’s behalf.

More news next week.

John Redwood certainly has a bee in his bonnet over former Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Unusually, Redwood has been tweeting several times daily in Trumpian style over which candidate — Sunak or Liz Truss — is better as the future leader of the Conservative Party and our new Prime Minister.

He has also continued to keep his readers updated in his eponymous diary.

On July 20, 2022, the final day of Conservative MPs voting for leadership candidates, he tweeted:

Later that day, he wrote a brief diary entry, ‘Then there were two’:

I am delighted Liz Truss will be in the final with Rishi Sunak. I want a change of economic policy as readers of this site will know. Liz Truss will give us that change. Rishi has accepted Treasury and Bank advice which has given us a high inflation and if unaltered will give us a recession next year. We can do better.

Redwood has been an MP since Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister. Not only does he understand her monetary policy but also the way Treasury and Bank of England forecasts have gone wrong over the past 40 years. He advised Thatcher in the middle years of her long premiership.

Boris Johnson also understands that the Treasury gets things wrong. In his final PMQs on Wednesday, July 20, he gave advice to his successor, saying (emphases mine):

I love the Treasury, but remember that if we had always listened to the Treasury, we would not have built the M25 or the Channel Tunnel.

That day, the OBR (Office for Budget Responsibility) came out with a revised forecast.

On July 21, Redwood wrote ‘Some funny numbers from the Treasury and OBR’:

The OBR has had to explain why it was so far out in its forecasts of the deficit and borrowings last year. They have written:

“Our latest forecast for (Central government borrowing) 2021-2 is £48.3bn below the October forecast and £131.2bn below our March 2021 forecast (the Budget)”. They accept they underestimate tax revenues by a massive £77bn and overstated state spending by £48.7bn. It should be easier to forecast what you spend when you are running the spending controls.

We can all make mistakes. Forecasting is difficult. What is more difficult to forgive is that this was not the first time they have underestimated the revenues and overstated the deficit. Worse still is they used their precise forecasts of revenue and deficit to tell the Chancellor he needed to raise more taxes to reduce the gap between spending and taxing. It turns out they need not have asked him to do that as the numbers were so much better than the numbers they tried to create with tax rises.  So when I am asked how do we pay for the tax cuts, the first answer is we are so far ahead of plan there is no problem. The second answer is if you cut the right tax rates to a sensible amount you can end up with more growth and more revenue, not less.

The Treasury also needs to come clean about the debt interest. They have been using their current high figure of £83bn which includes index costs on the repayment of inflation linked debt which does not entail making any cash payments before redemption. They use this figure to scare politicians into accepting more austerity to control the debt interest. What they omit to point out is on their definition of debt interest they forecast a collapse in the cost of it to £46.7bn by 2024-5. That is a fall of £36.3bn or 44% in debt interest.

The Treasury has a tradition of overstating deficits when there is good growth and understating them in recession. There is also a danger their policy advice based on very wrong forecasts could drive us unnecessarily into recession.

Redwood tweeted that our current inflation is likely to be temporary:

As soon as Truss and Sunak were the final two contenders in the Conservative Party leadership contest, The Times endorsed Sunak.

Much of the media have also swung behind Sunak, except for the more conservative news outlets which feature more articles on Liz Truss’s candidacy and Kemi Badenoch as the future of the Conservative Party, even though she was eliminated from the leadership contest.

Redwood tweeted:

True.

The Remainer media have attacked Truss’s proposed policies. Sunak’s softness on the EU are why the media back him. They want a return to the EU:

Sunak has been pushing the line that Margaret Thatcher had an initial high tax policy that worked well. Therefore, Sunak is high tax, in a Thatcherite mode. In reality, once Thatcher got new advisers, she began cutting taxes, which brought economic growth.

Redwood tweeted:

Redwood believes that Liz Truss has the Thatcherite economic policy in this contest:

Redwood had more to say about Sunak’s performance while he was Chancellor:

I particularly enjoyed this next tweet, in which Redwood compares Sunak to Labour Chancellor Gordon Brown, who later became Prime Minister, succeeding Tony Blair:

Redwood said that he tried to advise Sunak on the economy, but to no avail:

On Friday, July 22, Redwood correctly predicted that Rishi would send a message of panic:

Sure enough, the next day, Rishi said he wanted to declare a state of national emergency:

We can only hope that Redwood is right in saying that panic puts off voters:

Sunak made the statement in Grantham, Margaret Thatcher’s home-town. Redwood finds it curious that Sunak never mentioned an interest in Thatcher until this leadership contest:

As I write on Monday afternoon, I will look at that day’s BBC debate between the two candidates in a separate post.

Before the debate, Redwood shared his thoughts:

In closing, Redwood reiterates why Liz Truss is the better candidate:

Even though I have no vote in this contest, Liz Truss has accomplished far more in trade deals and foreign policy than Rishi Sunak as Chancellor. His time in No. 11 was disappointing for the most part.

Conservative Party members will receive their ballots early in August, enabling them to vote by post or online. The deadline for them is August 2. A new Prime Minister should be in place by September 5.

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