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

Friday, October 14

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

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

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

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

The article also said (purple emphases mine):

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

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

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

Liz prefaced the announcement with:

This is difficult.

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

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

He concluded (emphases his):

The mother of all U-turns…

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

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

Saturday, October 15

Saturday’s papers were scathing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the issue:

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday night was grim.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 19

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

Guido’s post said, in part:

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

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

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

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

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

Holy mole, guacamole!

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

As with Hunt, Truss had to scrape the barrel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tory MPs are.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As such, she had to go:

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

As for her successor and the Party:

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

Thursday, October 20

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

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

She remained PM until Rishi Sunak succeeded her:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sterling began surging the second Truss finished her announcement:

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

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

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

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

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My most recent post on Liz Truss examined her first two weeks in office as Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister, from September 6th through the 16th.

Things had started out so well. Ironically, Jeremy Hunt, who is now Chancellor, told ITV’s political editor Robert Peston on September 7 that Truss would be ‘formidable’. An amazing endorsement from someone who was her natural ally:

Hmm. Did he know anything at that point? We’ll probably never know.

On September 20, The Sun‘s political editor Harry Cole was delighted to announce his and James Heale’s book on Truss, Out of the Blue, which later had to have hastily written chapters added to it:

Yes, it is still coming out by Christmas — November 24, to be precise:

King Charles and COP27

Liz saw King Charles on Sunday, September 18, the day before the Queen’s funeral. It was not their usual day to meet, but the Royal Family went into private mourning until the end of September:

On Saturday, October 1, The Times reported that Liz had asked the King not to attend COP27, which ran between November 6 and 18, despite an invitation from the organisers.

This was a good move, in my opinion, as climate change, or whatever it’s being called this week, has turned highly political.

The article said (emphases mine):

The King, a passionate environmental campaigner, has abandoned plans to attend next month’s Cop27 climate change summit after Liz Truss told him to stay away.

He had intended to deliver a speech at the meeting of world leaders in Egypt.

Had she remained PM, Liz would not have attended, either:

Truss, who is also unlikely to attend the Sharm el-Sheikh gathering, objected to the King’s plans during a personal audience at Buckingham Palace last month.

There were no hard feelings between the Palace and No. 10:

… a Downing Street source claimed the audience had been cordial and there had “not been a row”.

No doubt he was expecting it:

A senior royal source said: “It is no mystery that the King was invited to go there. He had to think very carefully about what steps to take for his first overseas tour, and he is not going to be attending Cop.”

They said the decision was made on the government’s advice and was “entirely in the spirit of being ever-mindful as King that he acts on government advice”.

In the end, the King held a reception at Buckingham Palace for world leaders before they flew to the summit. In light of that, this was rather interesting:

Charles is still determined to make his presence felt there, and how he will do that is “under active discussion”. A senior royal source said: “Just because he is not in physical attendance, that doesn’t mean His Majesty won’t find other ways to support it.”

A source who knows Charles said he would be “personally disappointed” to miss it and was “all lined up to go”, with several engagements planned around his Sustainable Markets Initiative (SMI) which aims to persuade businesses to invest in environmentally friendly initiatives.

Public v parliamentary opinion

In late September, a poll showed that Truss was ahead of Labour’s Keir Starmer in Red Wall seats, boosting the Conservatives by eight points:

Admittedly, that was before Kwasi Kwarteng’s fiscal event, or mini-budget, of Friday, September 23.

That said, I will go out on a limb and say that most conservative voters thought that Kwarteng’s — Truss’s — plan was the right one. My better half and I thought it was refreshingly libertarian.

However, Conservative MPs vehemently disagreed with the public and started writing in to Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee, the all-powerful group that Margaret Thatcher dubbed ‘the men in grey suits’.

On September 26, the Northern Echo reported:

A former Tory minister MP has told Sky News the new Prime Minister is “f*****” and the party are already looking to bring her down following Friday’s mini-budget.

The MP said: “They are already putting letters in as they think she will crash the economy. The tax cuts don’t matter as all noise anyway – mainly reversing back to the status quo this year …

Another Tory MP told the broadcaster that Friday’s announcement – which included reversing a 1.25% hike in National Insurance – had been a “s***show”.

Note that MPs were siding with the Bank of England. Very establishmentarian of them:

“The issue is government fiscal policy is opposite to Bank of England monetary policy – so they are fighting each other. What Kwasi [Kwarteng] gives, the Bank takes away.”

The mood among Conservative ‘wets’, to borrow Thatcher’s name for such weaklings, only escalated.

At Liz’s one — and only — appearance before the 1922 Committee on Thursday, October 13, Robert Halfon, a wet, told Truss she had ‘trashed the past ten years’.

The Times had the story:

Liz Truss was accused by a senior MP of trashing “the last ten years” of Conservative government as her party turned on its new leader over the mini-budget.

Robert Halfon, a former minister who chairs the education select committee, unleashed a furious attack on her financial measures, saying they disproportionately benefited the wealthy and meant she had abandoned “workers’ conservatism”.

Anything but, however:

According to an MP present, Halfon told Truss in a meeting of the 1922 Committee of backbenchers — her first as prime minister — that “in the last ten years we had the living wage, a focus on apprenticeships and skills”, contrasting that with “bankers’ bonuses, benefits cuts and now cuts to affordable housing targets”.

His intervention came after Truss tried to assuage Conservative MPs by saying she had “shielded families and businesses from bills of up to £6,000 this winter and for the winter ahead, while Labour has no plan beyond the next six months”.

The meeting did not go well. Halfon seemed to voice other MPs’ concerns:

a Tory MP who has been in the Commons for more than a decade said: “It was the worst 1922 I’ve ever been to.” They added: “With each tough question she looked like she’d had the wind knocked out of herthe 31st of October could finish her off on the basis of the reception she got in that room.”

Halloween — who schedules these things? — was supposed to be the day Kwasi was going to set out more detail behind his fiscal event. Liz’s friend and neighbour in Greenwich was on hand to support her:

Thérèse Coffey, the deputy prime minister, told reporters outside the 1922 meeting that the chancellor would meet MPs before presenting his medium-term plan on Halloween, stressing that engagement was key.

In the event, Truss had to sack Kwarteng and appoint (ahem) the aforementioned Jeremy Hunt as Chancellor. He delivered his shocking budget on Thursday, November 17, to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s approval. Sunak nodded several times during the presentation.

Returning to The Times‘s article of October 13, what other wets said presaged the future:

Even those who back the prime minister expect some sort of climbdown. One MP said: “She will have to unwind everything fiscal in the statement. They have to backtrack. There is no alternative. They’ve done it on the 45p and they’ll have to do it on the rest.

“Then if we are still 20 points behind in the polls we will have to change leader. We are cold-blooded like that.”

Another admitted there was “definitely still a big split between her and the Rishi [Sunak] side of the party”. Asked if Truss would have to perform another U-turn, they said: “Ultimately, I suppose it depends if she’s leveraged into that position by our own party, but it’s all by those with 20,000 majorities.”

Hmm … Hmm.

However, one Rishi Sunak supporter — Esther McVey — is deeply unhappy over his Chancellor’s budget:

On Tuesday, November 22, McVey rightly tore the budget apart in ConservativeHome, saying that Hunt’s tax rises are ‘socialist measures’ that are ‘punishing Conservative voters’:

… It wasn’t helped by the Chancellor’s statement being such a pendulum swing from the Liz Truss / Kwasi Kwarteng mini budget. People went from thinking they were getting their taxes cut to seeing them hiked.

The Autumn Statement was clearly an over-correction to that mini-budget. Going from one extreme to the other is hardly reassuring for people. A middle ground was needed: an acceptance of Conservative principles, with a costed plan and the accompanying narrative to reassure the markets.

Instead, Hunt delivered his statement with a doom and gloom that would have appropriate were the country on the brink of financial collapse. However, despite some serious challenges, things are not so dire that we had to have such excessive medicine.

For instance, the ten-year gilt yield – the interest rate the Government must pay on a new decade-long loan – was 3.14 per cent, whereas, even before the notorious mini-Budget in late September, that same yield was much higher at 3.49 per cent.

Britain is no more indebted than other comparable countries. Our national debt (albeit too high) stands at 97 per cent of GDP,  whereas France, Canada and the US stands at 115 per cent, 116 per cent and 132 per cent respectively. Across the G7, only Germany has lower levels of government debt than the UK.

So when I stood up in the House of Commons at PMQs the day before the budget and said –

Given that we have the highest burden of taxation in living memory, it is clear that the Government’s financial difficulties are caused by overspending and not due to undertakings. Does the Deputy Prime Minster therefore agree, if the government has got enough money to proceed with HS2 at any cost then it has sufficient money not to increase taxes, if however, it has so little money it has to increase taxes (which is the last thing for a conservative government to do) then it doesn’t have sufficient money for HS2 [High Speed Rail 2]?

So can I gently urge the Deputy Prime Minister not to ask Conservative MPs to support any tax rises, unless and until, this unnecessary vanity project is scrapped, because I for one won’t support them.

– it was to remind everyone there are better choices for our Conservative government than hiking up taxes.

In fact, given that unprecedented tax burden, any self-respecting Conservative would instinctively know that the answer is to spend less. Dropping HS2  – an out-of-date white elephant, costing north of £150 billion which (as Andrew Gilligan revealed on my show on GB News) the Ministers themselves know will deliver less economic benefit than the cost of it – would have been an ideal place to start.  That would certainly have been more desirable than increasing taxes on hard-working families who are already feeling the severe pain of higher energy prices and increased mortgage payments.

If a Conservative government with a sizeable majority – in a time of financial pressure – won’t cut public expenditure to start living within our means, then when on earth will that ever happen?

Parliament is debating Jeremy Hunt’s budget this week. In Monday’s proceedings, a number of Conservative MPs spoke out against it.

Liz’s U-turn on windfall tax

On October 12, two days before she sacked her friend and neighbour Kwasi Kwarteng, she appeared to do a U-turn on ‘no new taxes’ by allowing an announcement for a new levy on green energy firms.

Her ally, then-Business (BEIS) Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg, defended the move and claimed it was not a windfall tax:

Guido Fawkes reported (emphases his):

The government has announced a new plan to impose a multi-billion pound levy on green energy firms to fund support to consumers. Renewable and nuclear electricity generators in England and Wales will now have their revenues capped after windfall tax-hating Liz Truss seemingly bowed to pressure to limit profits. The announcement came from BEIS last night, which is calling the new policy a “Cost-Plus-Revenue Limit” and spinning that it isn’t in any way a windfall tax “as it will be applied to ‘excess revenues’ as opposed to profits”. If it walks like a tax, swims like a tax and quacks like a tax…

The latest backtracking on free market values by the government comes just 41 days after Liz Truss told party members at the London husting that they could read her lips, and there would be no new taxes under her leadership …

On Today this morning, Rees-Mogg tried performing a Jedi mind trick, saying “this is not a windfall tax…this is rationalising the market”…

Despite the government’s denial that the new revenue limit is a tax, the boss of RWE – the third biggest renewable power generator in Britain – has told The Times the move “is a de facto ‘windfall tax’ on low-carbon generators that, if not designed and implemented correctly, could have severe negative consequences for investment in the renewable and wider energy market and so for the energy transition.”

Guido warned that Labour’s support for the new levy is not a good sign:

Ed Miliband welcoming the policy with open arms should give the government sufficient pause for thought before it buys its own spin…

The mystery of Liz signing UK up to EU’s PESCO

Early in October, Liz did a strange thing, considering she is a staunch Brexit supporter.

She attended the first ever meeting of the European Political Community in Prague. The European Political Community is Emmanuel Macron’s brainchild.

This group is made up of EU member countries, yet, somehow Liz got an invitation. No one knows for certain.

However, she went.

She met with Macron on Thursday, October 6, in an effort to get the Channel dinghy crossing issue resolved.

GB News reported:

Liz Truss hailed Emmanuel Macron as a “friend” on Thursday, as the two countries signalled that a new agreement could be close to tackle small-boat crossings in the Channel.

The pair met at the first summit of the European Political Community in Prague, a gathering pushed for by the French president.

There, the pair said they looked forward to “an ambitious package of measures this autumn” to address issue of migration across the Channel.

And in a sign that Ms Truss hopes to improve relations with Mr Macron, she had no hesitation in labelling him a “friend”, just weeks after refusing to do so …

Mr Macron later suggested it was a “problem” if Britain could not call itself a friend of France.

But Prime Minister Ms Truss adopted a different tone ahead of a meeting with Mr Macron in Prague on Thursday.

She told broadcasters: “I work very, very closely with President Macron and the French government and what we’re talking about is how the UK and France can work more closely together to build more nuclear power stations and to make sure that both countries have energy security in the future.

“We’re both very clear the foe is Vladimir Putin, who has through his appalling war in Ukraine threatened freedom and democracy in Europe and pushed up energy prices which we’re now all having to deal with.”

Asked if he was then a friend, Ms Truss said: “He is a friend.”

The bi-lateral meeting between the two leaders, which took place towards the end of the day, appeared to signal some progress on the issues of migration and energy, both areas Ms Truss had raised as priorities ahead of the summit.

“Thank you for being here,” Mr Macron told the PM when they met.

It also emerged that the two countries have agreed to hold a joint summit next year to “take forward a renewed bilateral agenda”, in a further sign of the desire for warmer relations between the two countries.

On migration, a joint statement said the leaders “agreed to deepen cooperation on illegal migration within the bounds of international law, to tackle criminal groups trafficking people across Europe, ending in dangerous journeys across the Channel”.

But the big, and secret, news was that Liz had signed the UK up to the EU’s PESCO — Permanent Structured Co-operation — which is a military initiative.

Nigel Farage announced the move on his GB News show as soon as he had heard.

On Friday, October 7, The Express said that the move could affect British armed forces by dragging them into an EU army:

The Prime Minister has been warned not to allow the UK to be dragged into an EU Army by accident after she signed a military deal this week at Emmanuel Macron’s European Political Community (EPC) summit in Prague. The decision to go into part of the PESCO has alarmed some Brexiteers who fear it could undermine the UK’s sovereignty.

Former defence minister Sir Gerald Howarth, a leading Brexiteer has led the campaign to resist joining PESCO for many years.

He said: “This is very serious and we must be very careful. The issue around PESCO is that the structures are permanent.

“We must not sign up to anything which undermines our sovereignty and where we do not have a veto.

“Second, we must not do anything that undermines NATO. If we have learnt anything over the last few months is that we need NATO for the defence of western values and Europe against our enemies which at the moment is clearly Russia.”

Even if this has to do with Ukraine, and enables us to move troops and military equipment more easily, it still raises questions:

At the EPC meeting on Thursday, the EU member states voted unanimously to allow the UK to join the the mobility project that would allow the UK to move troops and military equipment more quickly.

The UK Government decided to enter the strand in case Britain is called upon as a NATO ally to defend the Baltic states from a Russian invasion.

However, staunch Brexiteer Mark Francois MP was relaxed about it:

One senior Brexiteer, former Armed Forces Minister, Mark Francois, who now chairs the powerful group of Tory Brexiteers the European Research Group (ERG), said he believes that the move was the right one.

He said: “As we are outside the EU, we can opt in to individual PESCO projects if they have merit and looking at how we could speed up reinforcing the Baltic States from the UK, across internal EU borders, may well have military advantages.

“However, it is NATO that remains the bedrock of our security, especially in deterring further Russian adventurism and we should never forget that.”

On October 9, David Kurten, a former London Assembly member and founder of the Heritage Party, said that signing the UK up to PESCO was a betrayal of Brexit:

One month ago, the aforementioned Sir George Howarth appeared on Farage to say that we still do not know what part of PESCO Liz signed us up to. He was clearly concerned, saying that the implications could be important, especially as none of the countries involved has a veto. The EU calls all the shots:

Today, one month on, we are none the wiser about our involvement in PESCO.

Someone must know what’s going on. In fact, a lot of people probably do know.

Liz’s final week

All of Liz’s opponents, whether on the right or the left, told us that Liz and Kwasi, joined at the hip politically, had to go.

Project Fear started as soon as Kwasi delivered his mini-budget on September 23.

On September 27, Bloomberg told us that UK markets had lost $500 billion in combined value since Liz Truss became PM. Really?

‘Investor confidence’ means international markets, ergo part of the Establishment.

Also at that time, former Conservative Chancellor George Osborne, who served under David Cameron, stuck the boot in.

On September 29, a comment from an UnHerd reader appeared in response to one of their articles, beginning with ‘Is this the end for Liz Truss?’:

https://image.vuukle.com/cd72018a-5f0a-4709-9803-e23f8e87646b-764e1fe1-a6f9-4692-939c-102335eb4ec9

Osborne features heavily in it. The reader quotes him saying, ‘The markets are punishing Liz Truss for failing to balance her budget’.

The UnHerd reader says:

Right.

Of all people, George Osborne knows full well that is not what is happening. We can be sure he knows this — and is therefore engaging in a bout of very useful political lying — because Mr Osborne also dropped higher rate taxes [the 50% rate], on a backdrop of media squealing … and yet the tax receipts after making those cuts … went up.

So Mr Osborne is a classic shill of the modern era …

As to whether Liz would have to go, the reader supplies the answer at the top of his message:

well, if the globalists and left-leaning power brokers who’ve comfortably controlled global affairs for the past few decades still retain control, then yesit is the end for Truss

It doesn’t matter if that thing is related to tax, or to immigration, or to frackingthat’s not the point. The chattering and Davos classes are used to being in charge and controlling the direction of travel no matter who we elect.

Speaking of such people, on Wednesday, October 12, King Charles greeted Liz with, ‘Dear, oh dear’, while the press were still there to record it for posterity:

What did he know and when?

The beginning of the end came two days later on Friday, October 14, when Liz sacked Kwasi and appointed (ahem) Jeremy Hunt as Chancellor. This was the shortest and most painful press conference — she only took four questions — in living memory. She looked like a rabbit in the headlamps or a hostage being forced at gunpoint to read out a message:

As soon as she announced it, we knew Hunt was, at that point, the de facto Prime Minister.

Hours later, The Telegraph reported:

Mr Hunt, a former foreign secretary, took the helm at the Treasury following the sacking of Kwasi Kwarteng over the mini-Budget fiasco. Ms Truss turned to him even though the pair have strongly disagreed on economic policy.

Mr Hunt, also an ex-health secretary, endorsed Rishi Sunak for the Tory leadership after being voted out of the race in July, saying: “This is the wrong time for populist crowd-pleasing and the right time for honesty.”

He will hold huge power over a weakened Prime Minister, raising the likelihood that much of her growth plan will now be axed. Allies said that he would act as her “chief executive”.

Mr Hunt ran for the Conservative leadership on a platform of slashing corporation tax to 15 per cent to boost growth but also opposed cuts to personal levies such National Insurance and income tax, with which Ms Truss still intends to press ahead.

His appointment was announced moments before the Prime Minister unveiled her U-turn on corporation tax at a press conference. She ditched what had been a core leadership pledge, meaning the rate companies pay on their profits will go up from 19 to 25 per cent in April. It means she has reverted to the plan put in place by Mr Sunak when he was chancellor.

Quelle surprise!

Conservative Party members had voted Liz Truss in largely on her economic policy.

The elites took out her Chancellor. Soon afterwards, they came for her in the form of Conservative MPs and the 1922 Committee. It was a grand game of political chess, not seen since Margaret Thatcher was removed from office in 1990.

To be continued on Friday.

At midday on Wednesday, October 20, 2022, Liz Truss did a good job at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs).

She looked normal and bouncy, like the woman we saw in the Conservative Party leadership hustings only a few weeks ago. She was good at the despatch box, including against the leader of the Opposition, Labour’s Keir Starmer.

Afterwards, I thought, ‘Phew. Looks like a drama-free day for once’.

By mid-afternoon, all hell broke loose and continued into the evening.

Suella Braverman

Suella Braverman was doing a great job as Home Secretary.

Liz Truss appointed her on September 6.

Many outsiders do not know that Braverman is of mixed race, born to parents of Kenyan and Mauritian heritage.

On September 7, ice cream moguls Ben & Jerry were quick to criticise her plans to stem immigration:

The Telegraph reported (purple emphases mine):

Ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s is facing criticism for publishing a to-do list for Suella Braverman, the new Home Secretary, suggesting she should “scrap the Rwanda plan” and take dessert breaks.

The firm’s UK Twitter account tweeted a message of congratulations to Ms Braverman, accompanied with the image of a list including various objectives for her first day in the role on September 7, such as to “introduce safe routes to the UK for people seeking asylum” and “lift the ban and give people seeking asylum the right to work” …

It came as Ms Braverman made her first speech to Home Office staff on Wednesday, after which it was suggested that she could seek joint beach patrols with the French to help prevent Channel migrant crossings as part of any deal to continue UK funding …

On Wednesday in an address to a packed out atrium of Home Office staff, Ms Braverman said that tackling the Channel migrant crisis was going to be one of her “clear priorities” as she told them she was going to “develop some obsessions.”

“This is not just a manifesto pledge, people are dying,” she said, as she promised to take a “firmer line” against people traffickers. It was one of three priorities alongside making streets safer through a back-to-basics approach to crime with the extra 20,000 officers and counter-terrorism

Braverman, who is a barrister, has a brilliant mind but takes time out for mindless entertainment:

Asked on Wednesday by Home Office staff what she does to unwind, she said that other than spending time with her family, it’s “trash TV” and singles out Married at First Sight, Love Island and First Dates.

The Times had more:

Home Office officials appeared relaxed about Braverman’s appointment, with one source in the department telling the journalist Nicola Kelly: “Anyone — Suella included — would be better than what we’ve had.”

Braverman became the first practising Buddhist to be appointed to the Cabinet and took her oath of office when appointed an MP on the Dhammapada, one of the best known Buddhist scriptures.

The new home secretary, born Sue-Ellen Cassiana Fernandes to a mother from Mauritius and a father from Kenya, married Rael Braverman in 2018 in a ceremony in the House of Commons.

He said that she invited him to the Houses of Parliament as their first date and the couple have told how their shared love of politics is what “allowed their romance to blossom”.

They have two children, aged three and one, and Braverman became the first cabinet minister to go on maternity leave.

It was a huge deal. I remember watching her in Parliament on the day before she went on maternity leave. She was grateful for that opportunity:

As Attorney General, she banned diversity training in her department when she returned from maternity leave.

On August 4, 2022, the Mail reported:

Mrs Braverman, the Government’s chief legal adviser, has scrapped diversity and inclusion training in her department having discovered that hundreds of her lawyers spent 1,900 hours on the woke lectures last year.

Speaking to Talk TV yesterday, she said: ‘I looked at the training materials and I was very sad at what very intelligent, fair-minded, professional people were being taught.

‘This training stuff was based on a premise that someone like me, an Asian woman from a working-class background, must necessarily be a victim, must necessarily be oppressed, must necessarily be a victim of white privilege and white fragility.’

She said that rather than uniting people, it divides them by cohorts ‘based on different kinds of grievances’.

‘I don’t think it’s the right way to spend taxpayers’ money, I don’t think it’s the right way to use vital civil service resource when we’ve got a Passport Office that needs to work harder on delivering passports and we’ve got a DVLA that needs to be quicker at issuing driving licences,’ she added.

Her first achievement was to be in post during the Queen’s funeral events, which went superbly.

Her second was to order an urgent enquiry into why June’s scheduled flight to Rwanda had to be abandoned.

On October 15, The Telegraph told us of the results:

A company owned by a lawyer who helped block the Government’s Rwanda deportation flight was given taxpayers’ money to train immigration advisers, The Telegraph can disclose.

More than £100,000 was awarded to HJT Training – a firm run by two barristers at the chambers which grounded a flight to the African country in June.

A Home Office source said Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, had instructed civil servants to undertake an “urgent review” of the contract, amid claims from Tory MPs the quango responsible for overseeing immigration advice could have been hijacked by activism.

HJT Training and the quango – the Office for the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) – both denied there was any conflict of interest and they are not accused of any wrongdoing

Two of HJT Training’s four directors – Mark Symes and David Jones – are barristers at Garden Court Chambers.

On June 14, the chambers secured injunctions at an emergency hearing before the Court of Appeal which prevented a plane from removing asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Mr Symes, who is listed on Companies House as having a “significant control” in HJT Training, was a member of the team.

Mr Jones did not act in the case. Garden Court Chambers said the asylum seekers they were representing all “had strong cases for asylum in the UK” and their stories demonstrated the “inhumanity in the Rwanda policy”.

Her third achievement was deporting 11 Albanians shortly after they crossed the Channel in small vessels.

On October 18, The Guardian reported concerns from human rights groups, but this is the nub of the story:

The Albanians are thought to have arrived in the UK last week and were taken from Manston in Ramsgate where the Home Office processes small boat arrivals, to Stansted airport from where they were put on a plane back to Albania on Wednesday. It is thought to be the first time small boat arrivals have been put on a plane directly from Manston.

Her fourth achievement was seeing the Public Order Bill debated and passed in the Commons that day:

Her closing remarks in that debate will be remembered for some time to come:

When I was the Attorney General, I went to court to establish that it is not a human right to commit criminal damage. The Court of Appeal agreed with me in the Colston statue case that serious and violent disorder crosses a line when it comes to freedom of expression. That is common sense to the law-abiding majority.

Since 1 October alone, the Metropolitan police have made over 450 arrests linked to Just Stop Oil, and I welcome this, but more must be done. That is why I welcome the fact that, today, Transport for London has succeeded in securing an injunction to protect key parts of the London roads network. That is an important step forward in the fight against extremists. However, these resources are vital and precious, and this has drained approximately 2,000 officer days at the Met already. Those are resources that are not dealing with knife crime and are not dealing with violence against women and girls.

I am afraid to say—and I will come to a close soon—that that is why it was a central purpose of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, now an Act, to properly empower the police in face of the protests, yet Opposition Members voted against it. Had Opposition Members in the other place not blocked these measures when they were in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, the police would have already had many of the powers in this Bill and the British people would not have been put through this grief. Yes, I am afraid that it is the Labour party, the Lib Dems, the coalition of chaos, the Guardian-reading, tofu-eating wokerati and, dare I say, the anti-growth coalition that we have to thank for the disruption we are seeing on our roads today. I urge Opposition MPs and Members of the other place to take this second chance, do the right thing, respect the rights of the law-abiding majority and support this Bill.

The bill passed: 283 to 234.

The next day, Wednesday, I tuned in to GB News late that afternoon to find out that Braverman had resigned or been sacked:

As such, Braverman holds the record for being the shortest-serving Home Secretary at 43 days.

The next shortest-serving was fellow Conservative Donald Somervell at 62 days, says The Guardian:

Somervell held the post from May to July 1945 in Winston Churchill’s caretaker government before it was defeated in a general election.

Truss will have the shortest record as a serving Prime Minister when she leaves next week.

Grant Shapps, former Transport Secretary, replaced Braverman as Home Secretary. It is hard to imagine that he could do the job.

Nigel Farage said that this was a coup:

You could not make this up.

Guido Fawkes reported, alluding to her Public Order Bill closing speech (emphases his):

The Guardian gets the scoop that Suella Braverman is out as Home Secretary “at the behest of the Chancellor”.

Sources claimed the move was at the behest of the new chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, who has taken over control of the government’s economic response following Truss’s disastrous mini-budget, but who they claimed was now “pulling the strings”.

A major victory for tofu lovers everywhere…

UPDATE: Reports suggesting she was fired for breaching the ministerial code, after handling sensitive documents on a private phone. Chaos…

Anyone wondering if they are part of what Braverman called the ‘tofu wokerati’ can take a Times quiz and find out for sure.

Not surprisingly, I came in the middle with mostly ‘B’ answers to the multiple-choice questions:

Borderline. You know, in your heart, that the wokerati are a real and dangerous thing and definitely not some made-up term chucked about by a desperate home secretary. Come on! You know tofu is bad, nicely crisped or not. You’re just too wrapped up in seeming “reasonable” and with “seeing both sides of things”. Yes, your monthly mortgage repayments have gone up so much that you’ve had to sell one of your children … Come on. Time to get off the fence.

Braverman quickly posted her letter of resignation online:

Patrick Christys analysed it on GB News, pointing out the fourth paragraph, particularly the second sentence:

It is obvious to everyone that we are going through a tumultuous time. I have concerns about the direction of this government. Not only have we broken key pledges that were promised to our voters, but I have had serious concerns about this Government’s commitment to honouring manifesto commitments, such as reducing overall migration numbers and stopping illegal migration, particularly the small boat crossings.

While Braverman went on to speak at a Diwali reception sponsored by the India Global Forum that evening, the political animals among us were dissecting what really happened:

Boris Johnson’s former adviser Dominic Cummings said that what Braverman did was not a sacking offence. ‘OFF-SEN’ is shorthand for Official-Sensitive and ‘CABOFF’ is Cabinet Office:

Former Conservative MP Anne Widdecombe told Dan Wootton the same thing that evening:

The Guardian dissected Braverman’s letter paragraph by paragraph; excerpts follow, bold emphases theirs:

What she said

Earlier today, I sent an official document from my personal email to a trusted parliamentary colleague as part of policy engagement, and with the aim of garnering support for government policy on migration. This constitutes a technical infringement of the rules … nevertheless it is right for me to go.

What she meant

Braverman devoted the top two paragraphs of her letter – less than half – to addressing the issue she said she was resigning over, making clear she realised she had broken the ministerial code by storing government documents on a personal device and sending those to a “trusted parliamentary colleague”. She left herself little wriggle-room and wholly accepted the mistake. It means in the future she will be able to say she stepped down swiftly and try to brush away suggestions about her being unfit to rejoin the government.

What she said

Pretending we haven’t made mistakes, carrying on as if everyone can’t see that we have made them, and hoping that things will magically come right is not serious politics. I have made a mistake; I accept responsibility; I resign.

What she meant

Not hard to work out what she is referring to here. The parallel between Braverman taking responsibility for her mistake and Truss being accused of refusing to acknowledge the pain caused by her mini-budget is plain to see. Truss has recently said she takes responsibility for the chaos caused. If she were to follow the logic set out by the former home secretary in this paragraph, she would need to resign.

The analysis also addressed Truss’s brief letter of acknowledgement:

Liz Truss’s reply

I accept your resignation and respect the decision you have made. It is important that the ministerial code is upheld, and that Cabinet confidentiality is respected.

What she meant

Significantly shorter in length and far from gushing about Braverman’s performance as home secretary, Truss ensures that it is known the home secretary is stepping down squarely because of her breach of the ministerial code. Given she still has no ethics adviser, this is a quick decision the prime minister must have come to but she is keen to make sure there is no ambiguity.

Readers will be left with the impression there is no love lost between the two women.

The Telegraph reported that there was more to the story than a breach of the ministerial code. The two women had a row over immigration on Tuesday night, with Jeremy Hunt on hand.

Note that the Office for Budget Responsibility wants more migration, which isn’t surprising, as they are left-leaning:

The fuse for Suella Braverman’s resignation was lit on Tuesday night when she had a heated face-to-face row with Liz Truss and Jeremy Hunt, her new Chancellor, over their demands to soften her stance on bringing down immigration.

Friends said the Home Secretary was appalled that they wanted her to announce a liberalisation of immigration to make it easier for the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) to say the Government would hit its growth targets – a key plank in Mr Hunt’s strategy to restore market confidence.

Suella said, this is insane, why are we trying to appease the OBR? Is everything getting thrown out the window?” said one of her allies …

Within 24 hours of her “fiery” 90-minute meeting with the Prime Minister and Mr Hunt, Ms Braverman had been forced to resign after being accused of breaching the ministerial code on two counts for sending official documents to another MP from her personal email …

It now poses a threat to the future of the Prime Minister after Ms Braverman used her resignation letter to say she had “concerns” about the direction of the Government and the breaches of its manifesto commitments on immigration.

However, the most incendiary was a coded attack on Ms Truss’s integrity in which the Prime Minister’s former leadership rival said “the business of government relies upon people accepting responsibility for their mistakes”

It had been intended at the start of the week that Ms Braverman would set out the new immigration policy on Thursday with a meeting of the Cabinet’s home affairs committee, with Mr Hunt, Therese Coffey, the Deputy Prime Minister, and other senior ministers due to finalise the plans on Wednesday lunchtime.

However, Mrs Braverman never attended the meeting after sending an email on Wednesday morning intended for Sir John Hayes, the chairman of the Common Sense group of Tory MPs, containing Government documents about immigration.

The Home Secretary accidentally clicked on the wrong drop-down tab on her email and sent the document from her personal email address to a staffer who works for Tory MP Andrew Percy.

Mr Percy then complained to Wendy Morton, the Government’s Chief Whip, who reported the leak to the Cabinet Office, before Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary, investigated and rapidly concluded Ms Braverman had broken the ministerial code on two counts.

One was on part 2.14 of the code, the “security of government business”. That section says “ministers have an important role to play in maintaining the security of Government business”.

The other was 2.3, “collective responsibility”. That states “the internal process through which a decision has been made, or the level of Committee by which it was taken should not be disclosed”.

Ms Truss then confronted Ms Braverman with the findings. She made clear what should follow from ministerial rule breaches, according to allies, leaving Ms Braverman to resign.

There is a dispute over the nature of the documents that she emailed. Ms Braverman maintains it was a draft written ministerial statement (WMS), due for publication imminently and much of which had already been briefed to MPs.

Downing Street sources were, however, incensed by the claim that it was only a WMS which was made public. Instead, the sources said it was the contents of a sensitive internal policy document that Ms Braverman had passed on.

Allies of Ms Braverman said she was told by Ms Truss that if the Government defended her, it would be at risk of “salami slicing” by critics trying to pick off ministers.

“Liz says: ‘If you stay, we’ll have to defend you and it will salami slice our credibility. For your own sake you should go’,” said one ally.

“Suella thought ‘are you serious, you’re not even going to defend anyone over anything?’ She said: ‘Fine, if you won’t stand up for me, I’ll go’.”

The row meant that Ms Truss had to pull out of a visit to a venue near London. Ministers briefed privately that she was detained on a “national security issue”.

Within two hours Ms Braverman had quit

Allies of Ms Braverman said she was in a minority in Cabinet in her attempts to resist liberalising migration to boost growth and the arrival of Mr Hunt as Chancellor appeared to reinforce that majority. In his leadership bid in 2019, he vowed to abandon Mrs May’s immigration target of tens of thousands

Ms Braverman’s refusal to accept an “open borders migration policy” with India proved one flashpoint – and was blamed by critics for delaying efforts to secure a trade deal with the second most populous nation in the world …

Migration has already hit a new high as more than one million foreign nationals were allowed to live, work or study in the UK in a year for the first time.

Wendy Morton

As if Braverman’s departure wasn’t enough during the day, there was more to come with Labour’s motion in the Commons that evening, Ban on Fracking for Shale Gas Bill.

Although the debate was about banning fracking, the results of the vote were one of confidence in Liz Truss’s premiership. As such, Conservative MPs were told there was a three-line whip. There are Conservative MPs who would love a fracking ban.

The Commons was noisy on both sides of the chamber during the debate. I watched the last hour or so.

At the end, Graham Stuart, the Minister for Climate, responded on behalf of the Government. He sowed doubt as to whether this was a whipping matter for Conservatives:

It is a great pleasure to wind up this debate, to which there have been so many excellent contributions from across the House. Perhaps not for the first time, the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband)—he is an extremely clever man, for whom I have a great deal of respect—has been a little bit too clever by half. Perhaps if more drafting had gone into this, instead of seizing the Order Paper we could have had a different style—[Interruption.] It was an attempt to seize the Order Paper. Quite clearly, this is not a confidence vote[Interruption.] Obviously, this is not a confidence vote; it is an attempt—[Interruption.]

Conservative MP Andrew Percy intervened:

The Minister is absolutely right about the green revolution, in which our region in the Humber is playing such a big part. I ask him to reflect on the speeches that have been made today. If this was a clear vote on whether or not we should have fracking, I would be in the Lobby with the Opposition

Labour’s Ed Miliband, who was leading his party’s motion, then asked for clarification:

For the guidance of the House, the Minister said something very important from the Dispatch Box: he said that this is not a confidence motion. I think Conservative Members want to know, because if he confirms that statement, they can vote for our motion in the safe knowledge that they can be confident in the current Prime Minister. Will he confirm that?

Stuart said he had already given the answer more than once. Another Labour MP intervened to ask for clarification.

Then another Conservative MP, Ruth Edwards, intervened:

I really need to press the Minister on this question of a confidence vote. Many of us have been told today by our Whips that if we vote for, or abstain from voting against, this motion, we will lose the Whip. Will he please confirm whether that is the case?

Stuart replied:

That is a matter for party managers, and I am not a party manager.

The Telegraph explained:

… the deregulatory side of the growth package is under threat, with Tory MPs wary of relaxing planning laws and seeking solid guarantees that fracking has local support before going ahead. Ms Truss’s difficulty is that on all these issues she could face rebellions and her beleaguered position makes it harder to persuade her party to support government policy.

Tonight’s Labour procedural vote on fracking, which was originally said to be a confidence matter, was a case in point. Although the Government won, the chaos surrounding the vote only reinforced the sense of a parliamentary party now edging towards open mutiny.

The division — the vote — went on for longer than usual. Madam Deputy Speaker, Dame Eleanor Laing, asked the Serjeant at Arms to investigate the No lobby.

After the results were read, showing that the Government’s stance on fracking only with local approval prevailed, the Shadow Leader of the House, Thangham Debbonaire, raised a point of order:

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. There are very strong rumours that the Government Chief Whip has apparently resigned. I wonder if it is possible to get some clarity[Interruption.] More than rumours[Interruption.] Well, if Government Front Benchers want to say no. I seek your guidance, Madam Deputy Speaker, on whether or not that can be confirmed, given that this is a matter of parliamentary discipline?

Laing said she had not been informed of any Government resignations.

Then Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron asked whether this was actually a vote of confidence:

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether you could clarify that the Minister closing the debate we have just had from the Dispatch Box informed his colleagues that it was not a vote of confidence, when we saw earlier, in writing from the Government Deputy Chief Whip, that it was. Could it be possible that Government Members voted in the Division just now without any clarity on what it was actually they were voting for?

Laing replied:

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point, which of course is not a point of order for the Chair. My concern is that what is said on the Order Paper is correct and accurate, and it is. I thank the hon. Gentleman for the point he raises, but it is not one on which I can judge. Ministers are responsible for their own words.

Then Labour’s Chris Bryant raised a point of order:

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I urge you to launch an investigation into the scenes outside the entrance to the No Lobby earlier. As you know, Members are expected to be able to vote without fear or favour and the behaviour code, which is agreed by the whole House, says that there shall never be bullying or harassment of Members. I saw Members being physically manhandled into another Lobby and being bullied. If we want to stand up against bullying in this House of our staff, we have to stop bullying in this Chamber as well, don’t we? [Interruption.]

Laing replied:

Order. We are talking about behaviour. We will have a little bit of good behaviour for a moment on both sides of the House.

The hon. Gentleman raises an important matter about behaviour. He knows better than anyone else that we have an extremely good system for investigating allegations of bullying, intimidation or bad behaviour. If the hon. Gentleman cares to bring evidence and facts to me, I will make sure that the matter is properly investigated. Of course, we must have decorous behaviour at all times, so we will now proceed quietly and politely.

Later that evening, The Guardian reported:

Amid chaotic scenes in the Commons, it was reported that Wendy Morton, the chief whip, and her deputy, Craig Whittaker, had left the government. However, after hours of confusion Downing Street released a statement saying the two “remain in post”

The change of personnel in the second of the four great offices of state came on a frantic day which also saw a series of Tory MPs, including Truss’s net zero tsar, rebel in a fracking vote, another U-turn over the pensions triple lock, and a mauling from Keir Starmer at prime minister’s questions.

After the government won a vote to defeat a Labour motion to ban fracking, the Labour MP Chris Bryant told the Commons in a point of order that he had seen some Tory members “physically manhandled” by ministers into voting for the government.

Just after midnight on Thursday morning, The Telegraph reported on the chaos around the No lobby.

Things did not look good for the Prime Minister:

The Chief Whip was forced out of Government and then reinstated on Wednesday night, capping off a day of chaos for Liz Truss after a confidence vote descended into allegations of backbenchers being manhandled through the lobby. 

It had been reported earlier in the evening that Wendy Morton, one of Liz Truss’s closest allies, had been ousted and that her deputy, Craig Whittaker, quit in protest at her treatment.

But hours later the position was reversed, with a No 10 spokesman issuing a statement to say that the “chief and deputy chief whip remain in post”.

Downing Street sources insisted Ms Morton resigned, but some MPs claimed that she marched out of the Chamber during the vote on fracking before being sacked by Ms Truss.

Meanwhile, Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Business Secertary, insisted that “this is a Government that is functioning well.”

It came at the end of a day of high drama in Westminster, which saw confusion reign over whether or not Conservative MPs would lose the whip for rebelling over a Labour opposition day debate on fracking.

The motion, which was defeated, would have guaranteed Commons time to debate a new law to ban fracking once and for all.

The vote meant that Ms Truss faced a showdown with rebellious MPs, many of whom have openly expressed their opposition to her plans to lift the moratorium on fracking.

But the Prime Minister ordered backbenchers to support the contentious policy – a high risk strategy given the already mutinous mood within the party.

On Wednesday morning, Tory MPs were told by the whips’ office that the vote was a “100 per cent hard three line whip”.

The message from Mr Whittaker went on to say: “This is not a motion on fracking. This is a confidence motion in the Government.

“I know this is difficult for some colleagues, but we simply cannot allow this. We are voting no and I reiterate, this is a hard three line whip with all slips withdrawn.”

If a vote is being treated as a matter of confidence in the Government, it usually means that MPs who vote against it would be expelled from the Conservative Party and have to sit as independent candidates.

Throughout the afternoon, a string of senior Tory MPs broke ranks to declare that they would be prepared to “face the consequences” of voting against the Government.

Truss’s Net Zero tsar, Chris Skidmore, said he would rebel:

Several other Conservative MPs echoed his sentiment.

When it came time to vote on the motion:

Tory backbenchers remained completely in the dark as to whether they would lose the whip for voting against the Government or not.

The scenes must have been unbelievable:

It was at this point that the mayhem appeared to reach boiling point, with Labour’s Chris Bryant claiming that Tories were “physically manhandled” into the “no” lobby.

Ms Truss was reportedly yelled at by rebel MPs as she went through the lobby. Meanwhile, Mr Whittaker was reportedly overheard saying: “I am f***ing furious and I don’t give a f*** any more.”

According to some reports, Ms Morton resigned and left the Chamber as the voting was taking place, with Ms Truss grabbing her arm in an attempt to persuade her to reconsider. The Prime Minister then left the lobby trailing behind Ms Morton, and in the chaos, did not manage to vote herself.

While the Government won the vote, there were no fewer than 40 Tory abstentions – including Kwasi Kwarteng, who was sacked as chancellor on Friday, Theresa May, former prime minister, and Ms Truss herself.

I saw a later report that said that Truss voted but her pass card did not work, which was why her vote did not immediately show.

Chris Bryant alleged that Cabinet members were involved in the chaos:

It was unclear how many of the 40 abstentions were because MPs were unavoidably away from Parliament – Boris Johnson, for example, is currently on holiday – or because they were abstaining as a point of principle.

Mr Bryant told Sky News that Cabinet ministers Therese Coffey and Mr Rees-Mogg were among a group of senior Tories who were putting pressure on Conservative MPs to vote against the Labour motion on fracking.

“There was a bunch of Conservative Members obviously completely uncertain whether they were allowed to vote with the Labour or against it,” he said.

“There was a group including several Cabinet ministers who were basically shouting at them. At least one member was physically pulled through the door into the voting lobby. That is completely out of order.

“I know that Therese Coffey was in the group. I know that Jacob Rees-Mogg was in the group and there were others as well. The group all moved forward with one member.”

Other MPs were also upset at the lack of clarity:

One furious MP said they felt the Government had deliberately tried to trick backbenchers into supporting it with the mix-up over whether the vote was a confidence matter. They said this amounted to a “breach of trust” between No 10 and MPs that would be almost impossible to repair.

Another senior Tory MP put the confusion down to a “cock up” between No 10 and the whips office and said the confidence vote was in fact meant to be attached to the Government’s motion, and not the one tabled by Labour

One senior Tory MP appeared to sum up the mood in the party and said the past 24 hours had been “beyond comedy”, adding: “You couldn’t make it up if you spent 20 years trying to write this. The greatest author in the world couldn’t make it up.”

Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg attempted to shed light on the situation:

Speaking to Sky News after the vote had ended, Mr Rees Mogg said he did not know whether Ms Morton was still in post or not, saying: “I am not entirely clear on what the situation is with the Chief Whip.”

He explained that the confusion arose over whether the Commons vote on fracking was a confidence vote because of a message sent by a “junior official in 10 Downing Street”, suggesting they did not have the authority to do so.

Asked whether the Government “blinked” and U-turned on the confidence vote over fears of losing it, he told Sky News: “I don’t think that’s a fair way of looking at it. I think what happened was that, late in the day, a junior official at 10 Downing Street sent a message through to the front bench that it was not a vote of confidence and nobody else was aware of that.

“The whips were not aware of that, I was not aware of that and most members thought that it was a vote of confidence. It was simply one of those unfortunate miscommunications that occasionally happens.”

He added: “It’s one of the issues you always face in government that people say they speak for Downing Street without having actually ever bothered to get the authority of the Prime Minister and unfortunately on this occasion it fed through immediately to the floor of the house.”

The conversation about the vote continued on Thursday, culminating in Liz Truss’s resignation.

More about this debacle will follow in my post on Monday.

Yesterday’s post introduced the sad saga of Prime Minister Liz Truss and her first Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng over their fateful fiscal event of Friday, September 23, 2022.

My post ended with the market turmoil and negativity up to Friday, September 30.

Many of us hoped that his plan would work. After all, the market turmoil is global, for different reasons in different Western countries.

What motivates Kwarteng

On Wednesday, September 28, Rachel Sylvester wrote an interesting profile of Kwarteng for The Times, complete with photos of him and Truss from their earlier days as MPs. One from 2013 shows them together at a book awards event and another from 2018 has them enjoying a picnic at that year’s Hay literary festival.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Kwarteng was pleased with his fiscal event and believed the market’s jitters were temporary:

So sure was he of his plan that he smiled as he announced that he was abolishing the cap on bankers’ bonuses introduced by David Cameron in 2014.

Within hours the pound had tanked, but Kwarteng doubled down, promising that he had “more to come”. As the markets reacted to the UK’s biggest tax cuts in 50 years, the pound fell to a record low against the dollar. One senior figure in the City described the fiscal statement to me as “economically reckless”. Yet the chancellor did not blink, with an ally suggesting that this was just “the City boys playing fast and loose with the economy” and insisting, “It will settle.”

Although it is unclear what Kwarteng thinks today, he and Truss were allies dating back at least a decade:

At 47, Kwarteng is the same age as Liz Truss and is one of her closest political allies. Earlier this year, he moved into a house just down the road from her in Greenwich and now they are neighbours in Downing Street. His appointment as chancellor was one of the first decisions she made when it became clear that she was likely to win the Tory leadership contest. Truss and Kwarteng have been working for weeks on their “shock and awe” shake-up of taxes, including changes to stamp duty and the abolition of the top 45p rate of income tax. The blueprint has been in their dreams for years

His allies say his politics have also evolved. In 2012 the chancellor was one of a group of free marketeers – including Truss – who published a pamphlet called Britannia Unchained, which described British workers as “among the worst idlers in the world” and railed against a “bloated state, high taxes and excessive regulation”. He has since distanced himself from the controversial text.

His parents arrived in England from Ghana. Both received a first-class education and had top-flight careers:

An only child, Akwasi Addo Alfred Kwarteng was born in Waltham Forest, northeast London, in 1975. His parents had come to Britain as students in the Sixties. His father, Alfred, an economist for the Commonwealth Secretariat, was educated in Ghana at an Anglican school with a Winchester-educated English headmaster. His mother, Charlotte, a successful barrister, was an admirer of Margaret Thatcher. “It was a self-reliance thing,” Kwarteng once explained. She instilled in her son a ferocious work ethic and education was of fundamental importance to the family.

When his father was posted to Switzerland, Kwasi was sent at the age of eight to board at the fee-paying Colet Court – now St Paul’s Juniors – in southwest London. He admits it was probably too young to be separated from his parents but he not only survived, he thrived. He won a scholarship to Eton where friends recall a “lanky malcoordinated” but hard-working teenager who was determined to make the most of the opportunity he had been given.

Like Boris Johnson, Kwarteng played the wall game – a brutal mixture of football and rugby. “He’s so tall that he was a great addition to any team,” one fellow pupil recalls.

Kwarteng is not attracted to identity politics:

Kwarteng never expressed his desire to be “world king” in the way that Johnson did. “I was slightly surprised when he went into politics,” says a contemporary from Eton and Cambridge. “He wasn’t in a political activist circle at university. People sometimes think one Etonian is just like another, but Boris and Kwasi are very different. Boris wants to rule the world; Kwasi wants to solve problems, rather than just being in power for the sake of it. He’s not going to go out there to break rules. Kwasi does listen to people and wants to discuss ideas” …

Kwarteng’s 2011 book Ghosts of Empire is a far more nuanced analysis than the rose-tinted version of British history favoured by Tory traditionalists. He rejects the “sterile debate” over whether “empire was a good or bad thing” and concludes, “Much of the instability in the world is a product of its legacy of individualism and haphazard policymaking.” According to those who know him well, the chancellor is uncomfortable with “culture war” politics and describes his own philosophy as “relentless pragmatism”. One aide insists, “He is sometimes lazily pigeonholed as a ruthless, black and white free market ideologue. It is true that he is a low-tax Conservative. He’s a free marketeer, but there are occasions when the state does need to intervene.” In 2019, the chancellor told a Tory party conference event: “There’s nothing [better] to convert someone from being a radical free marketeer to seeing the virtues of government action than making them an energy minister.”

He focused on his studies at Trinity College, Cambridge:

“As a student he was charismatic and a bit chaotic,” says a friend from that time. “He was scholarly. The everyday run of things didn’t worry him. He would be immersed in his books.”

He began meeting the great and the good in the Conservative Party:

… the future chancellor was spotted by Dr John Casey, an English fellow and legendary figure among Conservative thinkers, who invited him to his dining club, the Michael Oakeshott Society. There Kwarteng met Tory politicians and journalists such as Norman Lamont, Geoffrey Howe, Norman Tebbit and Charles Moore. Casey insists it was never a political society: “It is devoted to intelligent conversation and strong views don’t go with that.

“He has a first-rate mind and a first-rate personality,” Casey continues. “He is intellectually and personally equipped to be chancellor. He’s a cultured man, an intellectual – there are very few in politics. He’s not like anybody else; he’s himself.”

After Cambridge, Kwarteng won a Kennedy scholarship to Harvard. When he finished his time there, he returned to Cambridge to earn a doctorate in economic history, after which the City of London beckoned:

He then worked as a fund manager at the bank JP Morgan and at Odey Asset Management, run by the Brexit-backing investor Crispin Odey, as well as chairing the Bow Group, a conservative think tank.

His political career began afterwards:

In 2005 he stood as the Conservative candidate for Brent East, coming third, before being elected as MP for the safe Tory seat of Spelthorne in Surrey in 2010, the same year as Truss entered politics. He spent several years on the back benches after criticising coalition policies including the help-to-buy scheme. “He’s genuinely clever, with a very strong academic, scholarly mind,” one old friend says. “But that academic, scholarly mind meant he was happy to speak out against David Cameron and George Osborne and didn’t really worry about the consequences.”

Kwarteng understands the importance of a Prime Minister and Chancellor working closely together:

For now, Kwarteng and Truss are united on economic policy. The chancellor tells colleagues that his role is to support the PM, explaining: “I will facilitate; I won’t emasculate.” One ally says, “Kwasi was completely disillusioned with the battles between No 10 and No 11 under Rishi and Boris. When No 10 and No 11 are at war, nothing works. Kwasi will deliver what the prime minister wants. She is the first lord of the treasury, Kwasi is the second lord of the treasury. That will change the entire mood and approach of government. The institutions will try to break No 10 and No 11 apart, but they underestimate the strength of the relationship between Kwasi and Liz.”

Hmm. Interesting.

British public gaslit

The last week of September was one of news about unfunded tax cuts, the Bank of England stepping in to calm the UK markets, how Kwarteng and Truss didn’t bother to communicate their economic plan and how awful everything was.

On Friday, September 30, Tom Harwood, GB News’s political correspondent and Guido Fawkes alum, put things into perspective, rightly saying that the media were gaslighting Britons:

That day, The Telegraph‘s Matthew Lynn wrote, ‘There’s no such thing as unfunded tax cuts — it’s our money’:

It is hard to imagine that three simple words could be quite so lethal. But over the last few days “unfunded tax cuts” have been held responsible for the potential destruction of the British economy, and, come to think of it, the global financial system as well.

We are told that the Government’s £45bn package of cuts announced last week have crashed the currency markets, sent mortgage rates soaring, and left the stock market to keel over and die. Any government crazy enough to even attempt unfunded tax cuts can expect to be evicted from office within days if not hours. 

Tosh. Although the phrase has become ubiquitous, we should be a lot more cautious about how we use it. In reality, tax cuts don’t need to be funded, for the same reason that staying home instead of going out to dinner doesn’t need to be ‘funded’, and nor does opting to spend Christmas with your parents rather than flying off to Mauritius need to be ‘funded’ either.

It isn’t spending. It is simply taking less of your citizen’s money. It is state spending that needs to be ‘funded’, and not its opposite – and until we get that straight, and change the language we use, we will never be able to have a grown-up debate about how to manage our economy.

If Kwasi Kwarteng had a grand for every time our broadcasters, newspapers, a think tank, or indeed a growing legion of City analysts, used the term “unfunded tax cuts”, or UTCs as we should probably call them, he’d have enough money to wade into the markets and send sterling back over the two dollar mark. The phrase probably has its own emoji by now, just to make it easier to discuss on WhatsApp (some sort of variant of the scowling face, I’d imagine).

Ever since the pound started falling modestly against the dollar on Monday – because after all “crashing” seems a slightly extreme term for a downwards correction of less than 10pcthe phrase has dominated the headlines.

According to just about every think tank, constant broadcasts from the BBC, dozens of newspaper analysts, the IMF, and just about every major City bank, not to mention a small army of retired central bankers, it was the Chancellor’s decision to cut a few taxes without announcing accompanying decisions on reducing spending that led immediately to a dramatic sell-off in sterling and a rise in bond yields that could only be controlled by emergency intervention by the Bank of England. 

A quick Google search yields 28,000 mentions of the phrase, and that is without even counting social media. According to the credit ratings agency Moody’s “large unfunded tax cuts are credit negative” while according to the former Bank Governor Mark Carney “the message of financial markets is that there is a limit to unfunded spending and unfunded tax cuts in this environment.”

And yet, in reality, we should be a lot more careful about the language we use. We can leave aside the point that the “unfunded” parts of last Friday’s fiscal package amount to no more than a few billion pounds, a trivial sum give the size of state spending, and that by far the largest part of it was made up of the energy support package that all sides of the political spectrum had been calling for. The more important point is this: we shouldn’t ever describe tax cuts as “unfunded”.

By definition a tax cut is not spending any money. It is simply a decision to take less from a particular group of people in one particular way

Next, the term ignores the possibility that tax cuts might pay for themselves

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it concedes the argument before it has even begun. “Unfunded” is a boo word, and even more so when you put the inevitable “reckless” in front of it. The language deliberately skews opinion against a reform of the tax system. Even worse, it is used by banks and broadcasters who pretend they are staying neutral – when in reality they are anything but. 

fundamentally it is only state spending that needs to be funded – not leaving more money in the pockets of long-suffering taxpayers. If we could be a little clearer about that we might be able to have a slightly more sane debate about how much tax the government should be raising and how – instead of hysterical catastrophizing about UTCs.

On Saturday, October 1, The Sun rightly defended the Truss-Kwarteng plan, citing other Western economies’ woes:

https://image.vuukle.com/c4318e5c-ff26-463e-83e3-1b1398dfdcc3-adfb9f20-c294-49de-8b3e-378a6145c251

On Sunday, October 2, GB News’s and The Telegraph‘s Liam Halligan, formerly of Channel 4 News, was on the money when he said that the market meltdown was the fault of quantitative easing (QE):

… This week of financial turmoil has left millions frightened and angry.

While Kwarteng’s statement sparked last week’s alarming debt repricing, it was by no means the underlying cause. There are far bigger forces at play

what we saw last week was just the beginning of a long-term shift away from over a decade of ultra-low interest rates and quantitative easing. We’ve indulged in ultra-loose monetary policy since the 2008/09 financial crisis – a necessary emergency measure, which ossified into a lifestyle choice.

And now, the obvious excesses, dangers – and crass stupidity – of this policy, are coming home to roost.

Since that financial crisis, the Bank of England has created hundreds of billions of pounds of QE money, as have similarly aligned central banks, which have blown huge asset price bubbles in stocks, bonds and property.

QE has helped governments borrow cheaply, while making the rich even richer – which is why, having begun as a £50 billion temporary measure to inject liquidity into bombed-out banks, it has morphed, thirteen years on, into an £895 billion monster.

The early tranches of QE stayed largely within the financial system – so didn’t cause serious inflation. But the Covid-era variant, funding furlough and an avalanche of business support loans, has fed directly into the real economy – helping to explain today’s inflation predicament.

This is an inconvenient truth that no-one wants to admit – certainly not the likes of the International Monetary Fund and central bankers who oversaw QE. Better to blame an incoming Tory government ­– one led by a politically vulnerable Prime Minister, with only lukewarm support from her own MPs.

the idea that this “unfunded cut crashed the pound” is preposterous. Yet that is now the accepted political narrative – that a greed-driven Tory policy collapsed sterling and sent 10-year gilt yield surging as fears swirled of government insolvency, sending higher borrowing costs rippling across the economy, damaging hard-working families and firms.

What I suspect happened is that global currency traders, understanding the top tax cut was politically tin-eared, could see ministers were in for a kicking. With the Government introducing a potentially expensive energy price cap, the moment seemed right to start shorting – that is, betting against – the pound, knowing the media would pile in.

When that happened on Asian markets on Monday, and we woke to a plunging currency, I was astonished that ministers fell silent – given the strength of the arguments on their side

For now, the Bank of England’s intervention on Wednesday – buying gilts to rein in borrowing costsseems to have worked. By Friday, the pound was back where it was pre-statement, the 10-year yield having retreated from over 4.5pc to around 4.0pc.

But the City and Wall Street moneymen, having loaded pension schemes with billions of pounds of debt, yet again have the upper hand – effectively forcing the UK authorities to restart the QE asset-boosting machine. This cannot end well.

“Tory tax cuts”. It’s such an easy and convenient scapegoat. The truth is we’re in for a sustained period of painful adjustment – one which our political and media class must urgently start to explain.

The Times‘s Robert Colvile pointed out the global aspects of market turmoil, driven in part by the United States:

The markets were already primed to punish the UK, he [Albert Edwards of Société Générale] argues, because of the Bank of England’s decision the previous day to raise rates at a slower rate than the US and to keep trying to dispose of the assets accumulated under quantitative easing. So Kwasi Kwarteng’s decision to throw in a few more tax cuts just gave an extra push to a boulder that was already rolling

Admittedly, the attempts of some in government to blame last week’s rout in the markets entirely on global factors strained credulity. But they did have the core of a point. A year ago the Bank of England believed interest rates would stay below 1 per cent. A month ago they were set to top out at 3 per cent. By the time Kwarteng got to his feet, the expected peak had risen to 5 per cent — soaring over 6 per cent at the height of last week’s panic.

Now, some of that rise in September was probably due to anxieties about the new government. But it was also driven, yes, by global factors — in particular decisions made in Washington. Even if Kwarteng had replaced his planned statement with a lusty rendition of the Marseillaise, mortgage-holders would still be facing eye-popping jumps in interest rates. For example, at that 6 per cent rate a typical UK mortgage would, according to the Resolution Foundation, cost an excruciating £4,800 a year extra — but £3,800 of that was already on the way before Friday’s speech. The age of cheap money is over not just for Britain but for everyone.

Over the past three years, a number of conservatives must have wondered why Boris Johnson never delved deeper into economic policy. A letter to The Telegraph gives a possible explanation — global forces at work:

SIR – It takes great strength of character and conviction to stand up and face a baying mob, especially a political one. Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng have my admiration.

I always wondered why Boris Johnson did not attempt to enact some of his early policies after Brexit, for which he had great public support. Perhaps he understood how the pro-EU and socialist contingents in Parliament and the wider political world would react, and was fully aware of the force that would be against him.

I wish Ms Truss and Mr Kwarteng good luck. They have shown enough courage in their beliefs to see this challenge through.

Conservative Party Conference

The Conservative Party Conference opened on Sunday, October 3, in Birmingham.

That day, The Times reported that Kwarteng had requested Cabinet ministers to cut expenditure in their respective departments:

Kwasi Kwarteng has told ministers to make cuts in their departments and warned them “we have a duty to live within our means”.

The chancellor has asked cabinet ministers to send him their “proposals to support growth” by the end of the month.

He is also launching a reprioritisation, efficiency and productivity review across the public sector, which will re-examine “existing spending commitments” and repurpose budgets to deliver the government’s “core priorities”, including growth.

I wrote about the conference, including Truss’s and Kwarteng’s U-turn on abolishing the 45% tax rate, the prominent Conservative MPs in disarray, the rebels and Truss’s closing speech.

On Monday, October 3, the duo pulled out of a fringe event, which cost £3,000 a ticket:

Nigel Farage, looking on from the outside, predicted a Labour rout in the next general election:

Meanwhile, Guido Fawkes kept us apprised of market movements, which weren’t nearly as alarming as expected that week:

He rightly criticised Labour’s shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves for stirring the pot unnecessarily:

On Wednesday, October 5, as the conference closed, Guido wrote (emphases his):

The Bank of England has been easing off its interventions in the gilt market, leaving Rachel Reeves’s hyperbolic attack lines exposed for their inaccuracies. Julian Jessop points out the fact the Bank did not have to buy any gilts again today, leaving total purchases stable at £3.66 billion. A tad short of the £65 billion she repeatedly claims. This is a further sign market jitters have been effectively mitigated, far from Labour’s claims of an “economic crash”. As a trained economist and former Bank of England employee, Rachel really must know better. Her sums were out by a factor of 17…

At the weekend, while anti-Conservative pundits were still banging on about the 45% tax rate, which Truss and Kwarteng did a U-turn on …

The Telegraph‘s Ambrose Evans-Pritchard pointed out that gas prices were already falling, indicating that ‘Liz Truss may be winning her gamble on the energy price cap after all’:

Plummeting global gas prices have slashed the cost of the UK’s energy price cap and may ultimately reduce the monthly subsidy to zero, greatly alleviating the strain on Government borrowing.

NatWest Markets estimates that the price guarantee would cost approximately £30bn over the first six months based on current futures contracts, half the £60bn figure assumed by the Treasury and the rating agencies …

While NatWest remains wary of gilts after the mini-budget and the bond shock last month, it said pessimism over the UK’s public finances may have gone too far. Gilts may no longer be a one-way bet for traders

Goldman Sachs thinks European wholesale prices may fall a further 40pc by late winter. Average energy bills in the UK would in that case fall to £2,000 or less.

The Government could put its cheque book back in the drawer.

Douglas McWilliams, from the Centre of Economics and Business Research, says that the public finances are in better shape than widely-supposed.

An odd week that began well

By Monday, October 10, things appeared to be looking up for Truss and Kwarteng.

Mel Stride MP, chairman of the Treasury Select Committee and not one of their best friends, was satisfied that the then-Chancellor agreed to review his economic plan on Halloween rather than in November:

Tuesday, October 11, was a red-letter day.

The head of JP Morgan said that Truss deserved a chance:

Guido wrote:

… Speaking last night from London with US broadcaster CNBC, Dimon backed Liz’s tax plans and hammered home the need for laser-like focus on growth – adding he’d “love to hear that out of their mouth every time a president or prime minister speaks”…

It’ll take time to execute the policies and kind of drive growth and what’s important … [but] there’s a lot of things the UK has going for it and proper strategies to get it growing faster … then it can accomplish some of the other objectives it wants to accomplish too […] I would like to see the new Prime Minister, the new Chancellor, be successful […] I think every government should be focusing on growth. I would love to hear that out of their mouth every time a president or prime minister speaks.

Another proud member of the Pro-Growth Coalition. Although he did warn the US will likely tip into recession in about 6 months…

The IMF did an about-face, as The Telegraph reported:

Kwasi Kwarteng’s tax cutting mini-Budget will help Britain to be the fastest growing major economy this year at the cost of higher long-term inflation, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said.

Strong momentum at the end of 2021 means UK economic growth will outpace the rest of the G7 this year. Tax cuts announced in the mini-Budget are expected to lift it even higher than the IMF’s current forecast of 3.6pc, which was published on Tuesday but finalised before the Chancellor announced his plans …

The paper‘s Ambrose Evans-Pritchard wrote, ‘Rejoice: we may be very close to Fed capitulation’:

Not only is the Fed rushing through jumbo rises of 75 points each meeting, it is also draining global dollar liquidity with $95bn a month of quantitative tightening (QT). It has never done the two together before. And it does not understand how QE/QT actually works, as admitted cheerfully by one Ben Bernanke, Nobel Prize laureate as of yesterday …

Ben Bernanke flagged the dangers of a strong dollar and the capital exodus from emerging markets yesterday. Without naming the British gilt market, he said financial stress in the international system was building up and posed a threat. “We really have to pay close attention,” he said. 

On Wednesday, October 12, it was noted that a Federal Reserve hike in interest rates took place before Kwarteng’s economic statement:

Furthermore, the US was also experiencing an unusual increase in mortgage rates, meaning that the UK was not the only country with that problem:

On Thursday, October 13, Truss had her weekly meeting with King Charles, who greeted her with ‘Dear, oh dear’ while the press were there:

What did he know?

He would have heard Foreign Secretary James Cleverly defend Truss and Kwarteng on that day’s news round. The poor man.

The Telegraph has a running diary of what went on that morning. This is the summary:

James Cleverly has warned it would be a “disastrously bad idea” to replace Liz Truss as Prime Minister.

Ms Truss is under intense pressure from some of her own MPs to abandon her economic plan following a market backlash to the measures set out in the mini-Budget.

The Prime Minister’s leadership is being questioned after little more than a month in the job, with some Tory MPs already considering who could replace her.

ConservativeHome‘s editor Paul Goodman was also on the airwaves. He told BBC Radio 4 that some Conservative MPs had suggestions for Truss’s and Kwarteng’s replacement:

The former Tory MP told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: “All sorts of different people are talking about all sorts of different things because the Conservative backbenchers are casting around for a possible replacement for Kwasi Kwarteng, even for a possible replacement for Liz Truss.

“All sorts of names are being thrown about, Rishi Sunak, even Boris Johnson, Kit Malthouse, Sajid Javid.

“But one idea doing the rounds is that Penny Mordaunt and Rishi Sunak, who, after all, between them got pretty much two-thirds of the votes of MPs, come to some kind of arrangement and essentially take over.”

The King probably also knew that Truss and Kwarteng were going to do a U-turn on corporation tax, which they planned to lower to 19%, as it is in Ireland:

On Wednesday, at PMQs, Truss stood by the cut:

What we are doing is simply NOT putting up corporation tax. It’s not a tax cut, we’re just not raising corporation tax. And I feel that it would be wrong, in a time when we are trying to attract investment into our country, at a time of global economic slowdown, to be raising taxes. Because it will bring less revenue in.  And the way that we are going to get the money to fund our National Health Service… is by having a strong economy with companies investing and creating jobs.

On Thursday, October 13, Guido wrote:

What a difference 24 hours makes: this lunchtime The Sun broke the news that Truss “is considering raising Corporation Tax next year in spectacular mini-Budget U-turn”. A source tells Harry Cole that while the U-turn is being seriously considered, it wouldn’t be back up to the 25% proposed by Rishi before leaving the Treasury.

An unpleasant surprise for Kwarteng

Meanwhile, Kwarteng was in Washington at the annual IMF meeting.

Guido’s post had an update:

Channel 4 doorstepped him on his way in, where he said “I’ll be coming out with a statement on 31st October and I’m not going to pre-empt that. As The Speccie’s James Forsyth points out, if the markets are now pricing in a U-turn, and the government decides against one, they’ll likely be in a worse position than they were 24 hours ago…

On Friday, October 14, we woke up to the news that Kwarteng was summoned back to London, under the guise that emergency budget negotiations had to take place. The IMF meeting was to last into the weekend:

This could mean only one thing — that his time as Chancellor was over.

Guido reported that Mel Stride was happy that Kwarteng’s economic package was about to be shot to bits:

… one source quoted in the Financial Times claims “Almost everything in the Budget is now up for grabs” …

For those who enjoyed the excitement of tracking Priti Patel’s flight back to the UK ahead of her sacking by Theresa May, you can follow Kwasi’s flight in real time here

Mel Stride, Chair of the Treasury Select Committee, spoke on the Today Programme and welcomed a U-Turn. He called it a “powerful” signal to markets and added the government’s “fiscal credibility is now firmly back on the table”. He added the Conservative party should give the government “more time” and space to “rest”. How generous…

Sterling and bond markets had rallied following the first reports of a U-turn, which only adds on the pressure for more reversals. Elsewhere in the markets, today is the final day of the Bank of England’s gilt operations. Although gilt markets appeared steady this morning, the real test will come on Monday…

A Downing Street source tried to downplay Kwarteng’s return:

Kwarteng had scrambled to take the last commercial flight from Dulles Airport to Heathrow:

The next bit of news was that Truss was going to hold a press conference that afternoon.

Guido wrote:

Liz is set to U-turn on the corporation tax freeze at 2pm this afternoon. It’s rumoured she’ll whack it all the way up to 25% in the spring. Kwasi won’t be appearing alongside her…

Speculation began on who the new Chancellor would be. The Sun‘s political editor Harry Cole tweeted the following in the hours before the press conference, indicating Jeremy Hunt:

Cabinet members were correct about Jeremy Hunt:

King Charles approved the following appointments from Truss:

Nigel Farage was rightly furious about a Remainer assuming the post of Chancellor:

Harry Cole got a copy of Truss’s letter to Kwarteng, thanking him for his hard work:

The nation now had a new dream team. This seconds-long video is a must-see. The UK is doomed:

I’ll go into Truss’s press conference tomorrow.

In short, it was absolutely dire and lasted only eight minutes, which included four questions, one of which was from Harry Cole. His face is a picture:

I’ll have more tomorrow on how shocked Kwarteng must have been as well as what this means for Truss’s premiership.

A new biography of Elizabeth the Queen Mother is out just in time for Christmas.

It is Gareth Russell’s Do Let’s Have Another Drink.

Subtitles differ. One says:

The Singular Wit and Double Measures of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother

Another reads:

The Dry Wit and Fizzy Life of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

Most British adults connect the Queen’s mother with her favourite tipple: gin and Dubonnet.

The Times reviewed the new book on October 11, 2022. Excerpts from the article follow, emphases mine.

N.B.: This is not the usual fairy tale Royal story, so expect real life to creep in now and then.

Belief in ghosts

It appears that the Queen Mother’s belief in ghosts gave her resilience. Hmm:

If the Queen Mother did have an inner core of steel, it isn’t hard to see where it came from. Her childhood in Glamis Castle, one of Scotland’s most rambling and supposedly haunted piles, didn’t just give her a lifelong belief in ghosts (she attended her last exorcism at the age of 99, when she persuaded a local priest to shoo away the unquiet spirit of George VI, or maybe Diana, from a bedroom in Sandringham), but also a group of male friends who were mostly killed in the First World War before she was 18. “I think of my 20 best friends in 1914,” she reminisced, decades later. “Only five came back.”

Among those who died was one of her brothers. Three other brothers suffered for years with what was then called shell-shock — post-traumatic stress disorder. Russell’s account of those years occupies very little of his book, but it’s by far the most compelling part. And it explains a lot about this most misunderstood of national matriarchs. She may have been an old soak, but she put the backbone into a royal family that was floundering when she joined it.

Suitors and courtship

When Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon was born in England in 1900, royal families were meant to intermarry.

Although she came from nobility — being the daughter of Claude Bowes-Lyon, Lord Glamis (pron. ‘Glahms’) and, later, the 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne in the Peerage of Scotland — she was not considered suitable to marry a future king.

At least one European royal made her bias known towards the noble’s daughter in the early 20th century:

When her brother-in-law, the Duke of Kent, married Princess Marina of Greece, for instance, Marina (descended from the Russian and Greek royal families) made little attempt to hide her disdain for Elizabeth, a mere Scottish earl’s daughter whom she took to describing as a “common little Scotch tart”.

Elizabeth was an adorable girl who grew up to be a fetching young woman.

She had a few serious suitors when she grew up and she rejected Prince Albert, Duke of York, who wanted to make her his wife:

She certainly turned down two proposals of marriage from Bertie. That, however, was more because she was dallying between another prince (the King of Serbia’s nephew, Prince Paul of Yugoslavia) and such eligible British bachelors as Henry “Chips” Channon

UGH! A book of Channon’s letters was released earlier this year. Talk about sex addicts:

(who, oddly enough, had slept with Prince Paul when both were at Oxford) and the dashing Captain James Stuart, who had won the Military Cross in the First World War.

The story of how Bertie — the future George VI — and Elizabeth became engaged is a bit more nuanced than we would have thought.

The book says that Bertie’s mother, Queen Mary of Teck, rearranged Elizabeth’s love life accordingly:

George V’s wife, the indomitable Queen Mary, had decided that the gregarious, charming Elizabeth would be perfect for introverted, stammering Bertie, and simply wouldn’t take no for an answer, even if her son did. Somehow, she fixed it so that the dashing Captain Stuart received an offer of an extraordinarily well-paid job with an oil company in Oklahoma, requiring him to sail for America immediately.

Amazing.

Stuart apparently knew it, too:

According to Russell, he later told friends: “That bitch Queen Mary ruined my life.”

Wikipedia says that Queen Mary visited Glamis Castle to meet the girl who stole his son’s heart:

Prince Albert, Duke of York—”Bertie” to the family—was the second son of King George V. He initially proposed to Elizabeth in 1921, but she turned him down, being “afraid never, never again to be free to think, speak and act as I feel I really ought to”.[18] When he declared he would marry no other, his mother, Queen Mary, visited Glamis to see for herself the girl who had stolen her son’s heart. She became convinced that Elizabeth was “the one girl who could make Bertie happy”, but nevertheless refused to interfere.[19] At the same time, Elizabeth was courted by James Stuart, Albert’s equerry, until he left the Prince’s service for a better-paid job in the American oil business.[20]

It seems that Queen Mary had no objection to Bertie marrying what would have been known as ‘a commoner’, although Elizabeth appeared to have reservations about entering Royal life:

Eventually, in January 1923, Elizabeth agreed to marry Albert, despite her misgivings about royal life.[23] Albert’s freedom in choosing Elizabeth, not a member of a royal family, though the daughter of a peer, was considered a gesture in favour of political modernisation; previously, princes were expected to marry princesses from other royal families.[24] They selected a platinum engagement ring featuring a Kashmir sapphire with two diamonds adorning its sides.[25]

The couple were married at Westminster Abbey and Elizabeth, who became the Duchess of York, became ill during the Scottish leg of their honeymoon:

They married on 26 April 1923, at Westminster Abbey. Unexpectedly,[26] Elizabeth laid her bouquet at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior on her way into the abbey,[27] in memory of her brother Fergus.[28] Elizabeth became styled Her Royal Highness The Duchess of York.[29] Following a wedding breakfast at Buckingham Palace prepared by chef Gabriel Tschumi, the new Duchess and her husband honeymooned at Polesden Lacey, a manor house in Surrey owned by the wealthy socialite and friend Margaret Greville. They then went to Scotland, where she caught “unromantic” whooping cough.[30]

Tenacity

Elizabeth was certainly tenacious.

Russell’s book purports that Edward VIII — David — said that Elizabeth really wanted to marry him, not Bertie, and, as a result, held a grudge against Wallis Simpson:

the great feud of Elizabeth’s life – with Wallis Simpson and her husband David, who was briefly King Edward VIII before abdicating, having given his brother Bertie, Elizabeth’s husband (and henceforth King George VI), just 72 hours’ notice of his intentions. Those who take Elizabeth’s side say that her anger was due to the unbearable pressure this placed on the already insecure Bertie. However, according to David (later the Duke of Windsor, spewing bile from his lavish exile in France), Elizabeth’s anger was entirely down to her having wanted to marry him, not Bertie.

He would have said that, wouldn’t he?

In 1936, with Edward VIII’s abdication, Elizabeth became Queen Consort, a title she held until George VI died. She also became the first and last Empress Consort of India, a title she held until 1947, when Partition took place.

Russell’s book says that the Queen Consort — and later, the Queen Mother — the public saw was not the same person behind closed doors:

Russell’s book — a “life told through 101 anecdotes”, as he calls it (one for each year of his subject’s life) — paints an entertaining and, one feels, mostly honest picture of a woman who divided opinion more than is often realised by those who knew her only as “the nation’s granny”. She was definitely a granny (and before that a wife and mother) with claws. The socialite Stephen Tennant, who knew her when she was plain Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, wrote that “she looked everything she was not . . . Behind the veil, she schemed and vacillated, hard as nails.” Even Russell, who bends over backwards to be fair, admits that she possessed “an Olympian ability to hold a grudge”.

Russell writes that the Queen Mother used Queen Mary’s tactics to despatch Princess Margaret‘s divorced lover, Peter Townsend, in the 1950s:

she colluded in sending Group Captain Townsend to a pointless job in Brussels to get him out of Princess Margaret’s life.

There might have been more tenacity on display, as the Queen Mother once said she managed to get rid of written evidence of John Brown’s relationship with Queen Victoria:

the Queen Mother once told friends that she had burnt documentary evidence of Queen Victoria not only having an affair with her Scottish servant John Brown, but also secretly marrying him

… since Russell’s book derives its title and subtitle (“The Singular Wit and Double Measures of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother”), plus a considerable amount of its content, from the Queen Mother’s legendary ability to consume industrial quantities of alcohol, you do wonder whether she really did apply the paraffin and Swan Vestas to Victoria’s private papers one dark night in Balmoral. Or was it just the gin and Dubonnet talking?

We’ll never know, just as we’ll never know what happened to Brown’s diary, which was never located after Victoria’s death.

There is obviously something to this John Brown story. After Queen Elizabeth II died, I pointed out the two portraits of him at Balmoral, only one of which features one of Victoria’s husband Prince Albert. Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, which was another of Victoria’s residences and the one Prince Albert designed, also has a prominent portrait of Brown and Victoria, which you can see in this Telegraph article.

What other sources say

Other illuminating pieces of the puzzle of the Queen Mother’s personality have come to light over the years.

Influencing King Charles III

It’s hard to imagine that King Charles III’s views on certain things might have come from his grandmother, but a recent documentary says she had a big part to play in his early life.

In 2021, The Express featured an article on the influence the Queen Mother exercised over King Charles III’s life as discussed in a documentary, The Queen Mother, which aired that year:

The Queen Mother’s influence in Prince Charles‘ early life “created an antipathy” with his parents, according to royal commentators. Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip‘s plans for their son were reportedly repeatedly “undermined” by the older royal. Channel 5 documentary, ‘The Queen Mother’, discussed how her close relationship with her grandson drove a wedge between the prince and his mother and father.

Lady Colin Campbell told viewers: “The word in the family is that she undermined the relationship between Charles and his parents in a rather destructive way.

“She would always encourage him in his hypersensitivities.

While the Queen and Prince Philip were trying to toughen him up for what the future held.

“This created an antipathy.”

Historical biographer Sarah Gristwood explained: “Maybe there was a sense that the Queen Mother wanted to pass on to the future king the vision of monarchy that she felt she and her husband had developed.

“So I guess she would have had a particular eye on the forming of the future king.”

Royal experts think this would have started in his early childhood when Princess Elizabeth lived with Prince Philip in Malta, where he was stationed with the Royal Navy:

Royal commentator Wesley Kerr added: “She would spend a lot of time in his nursery when Princess Elizabeth was away, not least in Malta with her husband.

“I think that’s a really powerful relationship for him through his whole life and a very powerful influence.”

The Queen Mother also tried to influence where young Charles would attend school:

Prince Philip had chosen Gordonstoun, an austere boarding school in Scotland, for his son.

According to biographer Angela Levin, the Queen Mother tried to persuade her daughter and son-in-law to send Charles to Eton, but they refused.

I should have watched that documentary.

Criticism after Diana’s death ‘upset’ the Queen Mother

In 2009, 12 years after Princess Diana’s death and seven years after the Queen Mother’s death, friends of the latter said that criticism of her daughter ‘hugely upset’ her.

Keep in mind that the Queen and Prince Philip were minding Princes William and Harry at Balmoral while their mother was on holiday in August 1997. When news broke of Diana’s tragic death, the Royal couple initially decided to protect the boys by keeping them in Scotland, safe and out of the public eye.

They were right to have that instinct. Central London, where I worked, was one great cesspool of emotion, the first the nation had ever seen. It was alarming, because some of these mourners were full of rage and did not hide their feelings about the accident being ‘the Royals’ fault’. I kept my head down on the Tube going in and, at night, returning home to outer London. It was awful.

The Sunday Telegraph featured an article on the subject, published on September 26, 2009:

Friends of Queen Elizabeth have … revealed her shock at the public outpouring of grief over the Princess’ death.

Sir Michael Oswald and his wife Lady Angela Oswald said Queen Elizabeth felt angry and defensive that her elder daughter was so widely criticised for her actions in the aftermath of the Princess’s fatal car crash in Paris in the summer of 1997 …

Lady Angela said: “The Queen was criticised for two things. One was taking the boys [Princes William and Harry] to church [on the day the Princess died]. But they wanted to go to church. If you are a Christian and your mother has been killed, it is a comfort going to church.

“The other thing was that people expected the Queen to abandon her two grandsons – whose mother had just been killed – and go to London to mourn with people who had never even met the Princess.

“If you stand back and think about it, it is an extraordinarily selfish attitude. Queen Elizabeth was hugely upset by the criticism of her daughter because she has always admired her so much. It was such a cruel criticism and it was unfair.”

Sir Michael, now 75, an Old Etonian and former manager of the Royal Studs, was Queen Elizabeth’s racing manager from 1970 to her death in 2002 aged 101. His wife, the daughter of the 5th Marquess of Exeter, was one of her ladies in waiting for 21 years from 1981.

following the publication of William Shawcross’s official biography of Queen Elizabeth, Sir Michael and Lady Angela spoke exclusively to The Sunday Telegraph – with the knowledge of Buckingham Palace – about their decades of royal service. Even though they both unfailing called her “ma’am” out of respect, they clearly considered Queen Elizabeth a close and loyal friend.

Sadness over Charles’s divorce

The couple said that the Queen Mother was devastated to learn of Charles’s and Diana’s divorce.

Lady Angela said:

“The one time I remember her losing her smile for any length of time was for a fortnight in 1991, or 1992, at Birkhall [her Scottish home] after she had been informed that the marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales was effectively over.

“Normally with the bad things in life, she managed to pass by on the other side and not notice. But she had been made aware what unhappiness there was in the marriage. She was so sad, so tense and so obviously unhappy in herself.

“There was a very close bond between Queen Elizabeth and the Prince of Wales. She was of a generation that felt that anything that went on in a marriage was private between the couple. So it is certainly fair to say that she would have been deeply shocked when private feelings and thoughts were broadcast worldwide” [a reference to Diana, Princess of Wales’s Panorama interview in 1995, in which she claimed the marriage was “crowded” because of her husband’s affair with the then Camilla Parker Bowles].

Drinking habits exaggerated

The Queen Mother’s drinking habits were often featured in the press or joked about.

Here is a 1987 photo of her at a pub in London’s East End:

One case in point was in 2019, when Nigel Farage visited Australia. The Guardian reported him as joking about it then, 17 years after her death:

The Brexit party leader was laudatory about the Queen – “an amazing, awe-inspiring woman, we’re bloody lucky to have her” – but abused her son, grandson and mother.

“When it comes to her son, when it comes to Charlie Boy and climate change, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Her mother, Her Royal Highness the Queen’s mother was a slightly overweight, chain-smoking gin drinker who lived to 101 years old. All I can say is Charlie Boy is now in his 70s … may the Queen live a very, very long time.”

I don’t recall that the Queen Mother smoked. Maybe she did, but, if so, she likely gave it up. After all, her husband, George VI, died of lung cancer.

The aformentioned Oswalds told The Sunday Telegraph that the Queen Mother had a daily routine but never overindulged:

Queen Elizabeth, they insist, was never a heavy drinker, usually enjoying a single gin and Dubonnet before lunch, a single Martini before dinner and wine with her meal. Far from drinking too much, they said she was constantly alert and that her memory for people and stories was incredible.

She lived to 101. That’s a good enough secret of longevity for me.

As for the horses:

Although Queen Elizabeth loved horse racing, she never had a bet.

Lady Angela said that the Queen Mother the public saw was the lady she knew:

Her life was full of laughter and sparkle.

I feel so privileged to have spent so much time with her. When I was with her at a reception, I sometimes ‘lost’ her because of her lack of height. But I could always tell quickly where she was because of the joyful expressions of the people who were talking to her. They looked different because they were so thrilled to be speaking to her. The wave of affection was tangible – and it went both ways. People loved Queen Elizabeth and she really did love them.

Conclusion

As with anyone else, the Queen Mother was complex. She was far from a caricature, and it is rather sad that many people still think of her as such.

We would do well to remember that she and George VI never left London during the Second World War. Their daughters went only as far as Windsor Castle during those years. They remained on our shores.

The family stayed together with the British people through thick and thin.

That is how and why Queen Elizabeth II had such an abiding sense of service and duty to the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.

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.

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.

On Monday, August 1, 2022, a hustings took place in Exeter.

The event was two hours long. Sky News filmed it, and the moderator was Sebastian Payne, the Financial Times‘s Whitehall editor:

The sound quality is not the best. There are lots of echoes.

The venue was full. Some supporters made their allegiances known Trump rally style, either by waving ‘Ready for Rishi’ placards or by wearing ‘Liz for Leader’ tee shirts.

The event began with a couple of videos from Conservative MPs.

Then Penny Mordaunt appeared on stage to pledge her support for Liz Truss (video clip here):

Liz took the stage afterwards (17:38 in the video) and introduced her platform.

Afterwards, Liam Fox went on stage (33:34), announcing that he would be backing Rishi Sunak.

Liz’s Q&A came after that (45:00), taking questions from the audience and Sebastian Payne.

She was much more relaxed than she had been at previous events over the past two weeks. She has a sense of humour. She gesticulated in a natural way. She was conversational.

When an audience member asked if she would favour another lockdown, she gave a simple answer — ‘No’. She explained that, during the pandemic, her Cabinet responsibilities lay in areas other than health and that when presented with past measures, she said others told her they were already ‘a fait accompli‘. Liz said she always favours the least amount of intervention:

Liz also lobbed a zinger at Scotland’s First Minister Nicola (Neverendum) Sturgeon (SNP) by saying that she should was an ‘attention seeker’ who should be ignored. She got a huge round of applause.

This raised a stink the next day, including on GB News, but I understood it in the context of having another independence referendum eight years after the first ‘once in a generation’ one:

GB News has the quote (emphases mine):

Liz Truss has claimed it is best to ignore “attention seeker” Nicola Sturgeon.

The Conservative Party leadership candidate criticised Scotland’s First Minister before ruling out a second independence referendum.

Ms Truss, speaking at a hustings event in Exeter, referenced growing up in Paisley before saying: “I feel like I’m a child of the union, I really believe we’re a family and we’re better together and I think the best thing to do with Nicola Sturgeon is ignore her.”

Tory members cheered and applauded the comment, with the Foreign Secretary adding: “She’s an attention seeker, that’s what she is.

“What we need to do is show the people of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales what we’re delivering for them and making sure that all of our Government policies apply right across the United Kingdom.”

She replied “no, no, no” when asked about another independence referendum in Scotland if she becomes prime minister.

SNP MP Chris Law, posting on Twitter with a link to Ms Truss’s remarks, said: “The only reason why Scotland needs independence. Utter contempt from the future PM.”

Rishi Sunak has also ruled out having a second referendum on Scottish independence should be become Prime Minister.

He said: “I am clear that another referendum is the wrong priority at the worst possible moment.

“The SNP are wrong to try and tear the country apart when we should be pulling together. Why aren’t they talking about the drugs crisis in Scotland or how we can get more money into Scottish workers’ pockets?

“Just as I want to be more accountable to people in every corner of the United Kingdom, so too does the SNP need to be more accountable for their responsibilities.”

That night, comedians on GB News’s Headliners joked about the SNP’s utter irresponsibility north of the border. Leo Kearse is Scottish and gives the full story of the disappearing billions. He says that Westminster should audit the Scottish Government:

Earlier, on Dan Wootton’s show, 90% of viewers agreed with Liz on Nicola Sturgeon with regard to a second referendum:

In short, Liz came across as the continuity candidate. People who liked Boris will find an appropriate comfort level with her.

Then it was Rishi’s turn to take questions (1:17:00).

Both candidates received warm applause for their policies, but some applauded only for their preferred candidate.

Rishi left the stage with a clean slate.

However, Liz got into trouble over the next 24 hours for saying that she would reform public sector pay. I took her to mean civil servants, but people got anxious and critical over teachers and NHS staff.

Liz said she would cut public sector pay outside of London, but wouldn’t keeping their pay the same or upping it a pledge to ‘levelling up’?

Years ago, Labour’s Harriet Harman tried the same thing:

The Financial Times article that Guido Fawkes cites explains why what Liz’s proposal is problematic.

Journalist Stephen Bush begins by disingenuously putting on the frighteners …

Liz Truss has promised to save £11bn a year by cutting pay for public sector workersincluding civil servants, teachers and nurses — outside London and the South-East.

… before clarifying that it would take several years for the proposed plan to be rolled out to all public sector workers:

The foreign secretary said she would introduce regional pay boards that would set wages for civil servants working outside London in line with local labour market conditions and living costs. Her campaign said the regional pay would initially be introduced for new civil service recruits, but if successful would be rolled out over a number of years to all public sector workers.

From that, it is obvious that the FT want Rishi Sunak to win.

This is why public sector pay is difficult to reform:

Now, it’s true to say that, in real terms, a secondary school teacher in Torridge in north Devon or Cannock Chase in Staffordshire is paid more in real terms than they are in St Albans or Hackney. And this is true across the public sector. In real terms, a public sector worker would be economically better off working in Don Valley in South Yorkshire than if they were working in the centre of Manchester.

But of course, it is also true to say that we find it easier to recruit secondary schoolteachers, GPs, firefighters and police officers in St Albans, Hackney or Manchester than we do in Don Valley, Cannock Chase or Torridge

The policy suggestion does the rounds every so often and it founders on the same basic problem: you can’t cut salaries in the places you struggle to recruit. Given that the UK state (rather like the UK as a whole) faces considerable difficulties in recruiting enough workers it is highly unlikely that the policy will succeed now.

 … What might matter is if enough Conservative members see this policy as an electorally disastrous idea they need to avoid.

One thing that would be welcome is reforming or getting rid of unnecessary posts in the public sector. Liz favours this, too:

I’ll come back to that in a moment.

Polling

Stephen Bush’s article gave more evidence that he and the FT are Ready for Rishi, so to speak.

Based on polling, Bush is worried that Liz might be winning:

Every scrap of data suggests Liz Truss is ahead of Rishi Sunak, and that Sunak failed to really change the dynamic of the race in any of the televised debates.

Although both Ben Wallace and Tom Tugendhat have ideological and policy reasons to endorse Truss over Sunak, it helps, of course, when everything suggests that to help Truss is to help yourself. Unless her campaign finds a way to implode or the polls are wildly out of kilter.

Now, of course, the big known unknown in this leadership election is just how big Liz Truss’s lead actually is. YouGov’s polls have shown the foreign secretary enjoying a 24 point lead over Rishi Sunak (opens a new window) among Tory members. The gap suggested by Opinium has been a narrower one. Its latest snap poll showed (opens a new window) Tory voters thought Truss did better in the television debate last week by 47-38.

Now another pollster, Techne, has tried its hand at a poll of the Conservative supporters (opens a new window), who comprise Tory voters that are also activists. The result is, again, a Truss lead, but not a very large one.

I wouldn’t sweat this too much, frankly. What unites the various polls (Liz Truss is winning all of them) is more important than what divides them (the exact size of Liz Truss’s opinion poll lead). It’s possible that some error or event on the part of Truss’s campaign may hand Sunak a victory, and it’s possible that all the polls are wrong. Given all that, the implied 10 per cent probability of a Sunak victory suggested by the prediction website Metaculus (opens a new window) seems about right to me. But of course, if Truss’s lead is only five points, this “cut public sector pay in places with greater shortages” wheeze may well prove catastrophic for her chances.

Guido has more on the Techne results.

Another interesting poll appeared on August 1. Redfield & Wilton Strategies results show that Liz Truss could just beat Labour’s Keir Starmer in being perceived to be a better potential Prime Minister. Rishi, on the other hand, would lose to Starmer — 40% to 33%:

Why are all the metropolitan elite coming out for Rishi? They know he would lose and put the Conservatives out of office for years!

On Tuesday, August 2, YouGov came out with a poll also showing stonking results for Liz:

Polling took place between July 29 and August 2:

Guido also posted about the polls and another pro-Rishi publication, The Times:

Guido then posted the YouGov poll:

I couldn’t agree more about voting anxiety. This reminds me of the 2019 contest between the totalitarian Jeremy Hunt and Boris ‘Sunlit Uplands’ Johnson.

Guido explained the stark differences between the two polls:

The Times claimed — wrongly — that Liz Truss’s team commissioned the more favourable YouGov poll. Guido notes that the newspaper has since changed its copy. Good:

And someone confirmed the hypothesis that media supporting Rishi want the Conservatives to lose:

On Wednesday, August 3, YouGov published an all-party poll. After months of the Conservatives trailing Labour by a large margin, there is now only one percentage point between the two!

Amazing!

Guido wrote (red emphases his):

The YouGov poll of Tory members showing Liz looking to take two-thirds of the vote for leader was not the only surprising poll result. YouGov’s regular voting intention survey has the Tories on 34% (+2 from 21-22 July), just a point behind Labour on 35% (-4). Is this an outlier?

YouGov themselves say “This shrinking of Labour’s lead from 7 points to 1 point is a sharp move, but changes are either within the margin of error or close to it. It will be worth waiting to see whether further polls replicate the extent of this narrowing of the gap before we can be certain of a Tory recovery.”

Yet, an IPSOS-Mori poll from Monday shows Rishi in the lead.

The Evening Standard reported:

As the 160,000 members of the Tory party prepare to start voting in the Tory leadership contest from Monday, the exclusive survey by Ipsos shows that 49 per cent of Conservative backers said the former Chancellor would make a good premier compared to 40 per cent for rival Liz Truss.

Among Conservative voters in the 2019 general election, Mr Sunak enjoys an even bigger lead over the Foreign Secretary with 49 per cent saying Mr Sunak has what it takes for the top job compared to 35 per cent for Ms Truss.

Among the general public, just over a third of people said Mr Sunak would make a good Prime Minister compared to just 24 per cent for Ms Truss.

Conservative Home‘s poll of its readers did not show Rishi on their chart. This is because he resigned as Chancellor and is no longer in the Cabinet:

The perils of policy on the hoof

Now that we have covered the good news, let us return to Liz’s public sector statement, which is the first real blunder she has made in her campaign.

Not surprisingly, Team Rishi jumped on it.

On Tuesday, August 2, Guido reported that a Red Wall mayor is also unhappy:

Team Rishi has slammed Liz Truss over her policy announcement last night that she can save up to £8.8 billion by replacing National Pay Boards with Regional Pay Boards. This sum immediately raised eyebrows given the total Civil Service salary budget is around £16.5 billion. The footnotes of the press release specified this figure is “the potential savings if the system were to be adopted for all public sector workers in the long term,” allowing her opponents to spin the policy as one of cutting nurses’ and teachers’ pay in the Red Wall while improving the pay packets of those in London and the South East. Tees Valley Metro Mayor Ben Houchen is not happy:

There is simply no way you can do this without a massive pay cut for 5.5m people including nurses, police officers and our armed forces outside London.

Liz Truss’s campaign is explicit that their savings target is only possible ‘if the system were to be adopted for all public sector workers’.

This is a ticking time bomb set by team Truss that will explode ahead of the next general election.

Just one mistake like this can help Rishi win over Conservative Party members:

Rishi doubles down by calling the policy a gift to the Labour Party and Keir Starmer. Her plan would punish hard working nurses, police officers and soldiers across the country, including in the Red Wall just before a General Election”. Rishi was already reportedly performing better among Southern members – can this latest attack help him claw back up North?

Liz and her team quickly backtracked but said it was a ‘wilful misrepresentation’ of the policy:

UPDATE: Team Truss say

Over the last few hours there has been a wilful misrepresentation of our campaign. Current levels of public sector pay will absolutely be maintained. Anything to suggest otherwise is simply wrong. Our hard-working frontline staff are the bedrock of society and there will be no proposal taken forward on regional pay boards for civil servants or public sector workers.

Under fire from Rishi she drops the policy. So we now have the status quo of a national pay rate for civil servants.

Another member of Liz’s team told Guido that the policy will not be taken forward. Nonetheless:

Team Rishi are absolutely loving this, joking “The lady is for turning”…

Yes, one can imagine.

On GB News Tuesday afternoon, a number of presenters and pundits, some of whom think Liz either should or could win (there is a difference), thought that she made a terrible mistake with this.

One said that making policy up on the hoof was a ‘dangerous’ thing to do and could turn the contest against her.

However, Team Liz were ready to fire back at Rishi, accusing him of more U-turns during this campaign than at a driving test centre.

Note that only one of Liz’s U-turns happened during the campaign. The other three happened when she was a young adult. The same cannot be said of Rishi:

Guido has the full story, which begins with this:

Hours after a brief campaign blip from Team Liz, which involved a somewhat humiliating climbdown from their regional pay boards policy, they’ve finally pulled their finger out for some return fire on the topic of u-turns. Team Rishi has spent the morning on cloud nine, joking that it turns out “The lady is for turning”, and accusing Liz of having a Mayite ‘Dementia Tax’ moment. In return Liz Truss’s team have compiled a list, which they allege shows Rishi has performed “more u-turns than a DVLA test centre”. A spokesperson for Liz says:

This is all a bit rich coming from Sunak’s backers when they stayed schtum on the steady stream of u-turns from Rishi over the recent weeks. He’s flip-flopped on tax cuts, VAT, grammar schools, China , EU regulations, Northern Ireland protocol and planning to name a few.

Before Monday’s debate, Liz issued a letter to Conservative Party members, which can be read in full here. It has way too many ‘I’s, which someone should have reworded.

An excerpt follows:

If you work hard, do the right thing, save your money, or start your own business, then I am on your side.

And you can trust me to deliver. I have delivered trade deals, faced down Putin’s Russia, and got on with sorting the Northern Ireland Protocol. I am honest and straight talking. I do what I say I will and I know what it takes to get things done. 

We cannot continue to have business-as-usual and I have a bold plan to get our economy back on track.

We must reject orthodoxy, the voices of decline and unleash Britain’s potential in line with Conservative values. 

I will lower taxes to spark economic growth and reward people for working hard. I will seize the full opportunities of Brexit, and level up in a Conservative way. I will defend freedom at home and abroad, and keep Britain safe. 

I will ensure the police do more to crack down on real crimes, and raise defence spending. I will stand up for free speech, and protect single sex spaces for our young women. And I will abolish Soviet top-down housing targets. I know from being a councillor that local people are best-placed to deliver the housing we need. 

To win in 2024, we must work relentlessly to deliver on our promises. 

Now is the time to be bold … 

That is how Liz came across in the debate, so I was happy to see The Telegraph endorse her candidacy that night:

Ballots delayed to next week

The Party members’ ballots were to have arrived this week.

However, a security issue has caused a delay, therefore, they will not be sent until next week.

Nigel Farage tweeted:

The Telegraph‘s Ben Riley-Smith got the scoop on the ballots. Furthermore, members can now vote only once, not twice as planned — excellent:

This might turn out to be a blessing in disguise for Liz.

A week is a long time in politics, so by the time the ballots arrive, Liz’s public sector policy blunder is likely to be old news.

Even better, however, is the platform that GB News will give her on Wednesday, August 10, just as the ballots arrive:

I do not have details as to how the event was arranged nor do I know whether Rishi was invited to appear on a separate programme.

The next debate was on Sky News on Thursday, August 4. More about that in a separate post.

It’s difficult winning against Andrew Neil, the longtime BBC political presenter who was the leading face of GB News for a month in 2021 and who currently has his own Friday evening show on Channel 4.

When it comes to grilling politicians, no one does it better than he.

Rishi Sunak agreed to subject himself to Neil’s unfailing command of the facts. So far, Liz Truss — as did Boris Johnson — has not committed to the same.

Neil’s interview

Sunak appeared with Neil on Friday, July 29, 2022, to put forth his case for becoming the next leader of the Conservative Party and, by extension, the United Kingdom’s next Prime Minister.

Having watched the Q&A session, I thought that Rishi did a good job.

However, there was a real dissonance between what he said his policies involved and what Neil said they did.

As such, it made for awkward viewing. Who was telling the truth? I was left none the wiser.

At times, I was focusing on Neil’s hair, which he has dyed a dark brown. His natural colour is ginger.

Rishi presented himself as the sensible, cautious candidate with regard to tax and the deficit:

Rishi defended raising taxes to fund the NHS. He did well in preventing his irritability from showing, but a vulnerability did slip out here:

Neil accused him of being ‘consistently inconsistent’ with regard to tax reform, but Rishi said that’s how it works:

Hmm.

Neil asked Rishi about his wife’s non-dom status. The former Chancellor gave a short reply, saying that she addressed it. This did not satisfy me, but then I don’t have a vote in this contest:

Yes, there are family obligations here, it would seem. Those appear to involve his in-laws.

Neil was surprised at Rishi’s answer about curbing the number of refugees. What Neil doesn’t realise is that legal immigrants and their children take a much different view on migration than the British metropolitan elite.

Neil also managed to squeeze in Rishi’s televised statement from his teenage years in 2001 in which he said he had no working class friends:

Neil concluded by reiterating that Liz Truss was still welcome to appear on his show.

I did not really know what to make of this half-hour broadcast.

Only the Mail had any commentary on it.

One article with more dialogue from the programme is ‘Sunak is forced to deny he has shown a “lack of consistency” on VAT to Andrew Neil’.

An excerpt follows:

Veteran broadcaster Andrew Neil said Mr Sunak’s approach of tightening fiscal policy risks recession in an interview on Channel 4.

The Tory leadership hopeful replied: ‘No, if you look at what’s happening around the world, it’s inflation that is slowing economies down. It’s rising interest rates that are already putting a brake on economic activity.

‘And my concern is that I want to get to grips with inflation as quickly as possible because inflation makes everybody poorer. It erodes people’s living standards.’

He also insisted his policy to hike national insurance thresholds was ‘undoubtedly, objectively progressive’ when Neil suggested it penalised workers.

‘It’s an entirely progressive measure,’ Mr Sunak said. ‘Raising thresholds means that those with the broadest shoulders contribute the most.’

The heated exchange resulted in Neil saying that the OECD has said that Mr Sunak’s plans will result in a recession for the UK economy – which the former Chancellor disputed. 

It came as Mr Sunak sat down with the fearless interviewer Mr Neil on Channel Four – after frontrunner Liz Truss refused to do the same.

Mr Neil once again extended the hand to come on his show to the Foreign Secretary – saying the ‘invitation is still open’.

The Southampton-born millionaire repeated his claims that tax rises were necessary for paying for Covid measures and said that he did not want to pass debt onto future generations.

He said that it would be the ‘easiest thing in the world’ to cut taxes to aide his leadership campaign but that he thought it was not the responsible thing to do.

Mr Neil hit out at Mr Sunak’s wife’s non-dom status which hit the papers earlier this year but the former Chancellor attempted to draw a line under the line of questioning, saying that he was the one running for office – not his partner.

The line of questioning made Mr Sunak visibly uncomfortable as he tried to move on from the scandal.

The tax cuts intended to fund the NHS were another line with Mr Neil used to attack Mr Sunak – as the interviewer quoted suggestions that the waiting lists on the NHS will reach 10 million in the next two years.

Mr Sunak attempted to distance himself from the Conservative’s record on health after the fierce Scot tried to pin the NHS’s problems on him – saying that he has left Government to change course on the NHS.

He added that he wanted to set up over 100 ‘elective surgery hubs’ to bring down the backlog. 

Henry Deedes examined the optics of the interview: ‘The ex-chancellor sat awkwardly, like a man about to undergo an enema’.

Excerpts follow:

We immediately saw Sunak sat behind a desk, his hands placed slightly awkwardly on top of each other. Across his mouth was smeared a distinctly uncomfortable grin. He looked like a man nervously waiting to undergo an enema …

Tax was the main topic, namely why Rishi as chancellor made us pay so much of it. Sunak said he wanted to pay down the cost of the pandemic rather than saddle our grandchildren with all that debt. ‘I’d like to give people all these nice things – don’t you think that’d make my life easier?’ he pleaded.

Rishi kept calling Neil by his first name. Most of his replies began with a chummy ‘look, Andrew’. Doubtless his spin doctors thought familiarity might soften the old brute. It didn’t.

Neil kept coming at him over tax rises. A Bren gun with ceaseless ammunition. Pop, pop, pop. 

Why had he frozen the income tax threshold? Why had he left comfortable pensioners alone? Why were so many people paying the top rate? Unfortunately for Sunak, Neil is that rare thing in journalism – someone who actually understands economics …

Talk turned toward the NHS. Neil pointed out that waiting lists were up, despite the gazillions of pounds which get thrown at the Health Service every year. ‘These are complex issues, Andrew,’ Rishi mansplained.

Yes, yes, said Neil. But it had gotten worse on the Government’s watch. ‘Andrew, I left the Government,’ pleaded Rishi. 

‘Yes, but only a few days ago,’ barked Neil. Sunak’s answer to the NHS backlog was to set up a task force. Yes, that should do it!

There was mention of a recent video which surfaced of Sunak in which he told an interviewer he didn’t know any working class people. 

Bit odd for someone who claims to come from such a modest background. ‘I grew up working in my mother’s pharmacy,’ Sunak reasoned. ‘We know all that,’ sighed Neil witheringly.

He seemed to think Sunak’s ’umble roots were a tad overplayed. Especially since he was schooled at Winchester. Neil’s intellect of course was forged and honed at Paisley Grammar.

A brief tit-for-tat developed over Lady Sunak’s non-dom tax status. ‘I’m the one running for office, not my wife,’ said Rishi. His voice lowered a bit at this point. He shot Neil a steely look as if to say ‘Let’s leave her out of this, shall we?’ Respect.

We were now out of time. To be fair to Sunak he was still standing. But only just.

Incidentally, his opponent Liz Truss had given Neil’s offer of an interview a wide swerve. ‘Her choice, of course,’ said Neil, voice laced with irritation. Chicken? Jolly wise, I’d say…

More scrutiny

Last week, Rishi’s policies and personal life came under more scrutiny.

A Mail headline from April 24 resurfaced about his lavish Yorkshire home, which has a heated pool and will soon have a new gym and tennis courts. Incidentally, he has other homes, including a pricey mews house in London:

https://image.vuukle.com/afdabdfb-de55-452b-b000-43e4d45f1094-746e76e9-fa64-4195-a1fb-3184d7957389

Just a little over a year ago, on July 2, 2021, Asia Financial reported that Rishi wanted more trade between the UK and China:

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak called for a “mature and balanced relationship” with China that helps British firms to exploit “the potential of a fast-growing financial services market with total assets worth £40 trillion” ($55 trillion) in a speech on Thursday July 1 …

Sunak set out alternative plans for an independent financial services policy for the UK and spent more time discussing opportunities in China than the US, which is the UK’s most important bilateral partner.

He attempted to frame the opportunity to sell financial services to China within a context of maintaining principles such as openness and commitment to a rules-based order.

“Too often, the debate on China lacks nuance,” Sunak said. “Some people on both sides argue either that we should sever all ties or focus solely on commercial opportunities at the expense of our values. Neither position adequately reflects the reality of our relationship with a vast, complex country, with a long history.”

Sunak highlighted the appeal of China’s financial services market for UK firms, as well as the need to cooperate on global issues like health, ageing, climate and biodiversity.

He seemed to effectively offer China the opportunity to agree different financial services terms with the UK than the EU, now that Brexit has arrived without a deal on mutual recognition of standards across Europe – which was the former target of “equivalence” of regulation.

Hmm. Interesting. His father-in-law’s Infosys has an office in China.

A year later, on July 25, after China’s Global Times endorsed him as the next Conservative Party leader, he walked back his support and claimed Liz Truss was the greater supporter of the Communist nation.

Guido Fawkes reported (red emphases his):

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

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

In response, a Truss ally bluntly tells Guido that Sunak’s team are “moronic”, given not only was Truss responsible for childcare policy as an education minister, universities policy was run out of the business department at the time. David Willets was the BIS minister responsible, who – whilst yet to declare in this leadership election – has backed Sunak’s tax rises. 

Guido also exposed the fact that the Artichoke Trust received £1,234,682 through Cultural Recovery Grants during the pandemic, when Rishi was Chancellor.

The Artichoke Trust puts out ‘art’ like this:

Clearly, not much scrutiny took place during the pandemic. No doubt, the Treasury were all in a rush to send out grants — taxpayers’ money — to all and sundry.

On Tuesday, July 26, Rishi did a huge tax U-turn, imitating his rival Liz Truss.

Only days before, Rishi told Liz that it would be ‘immoral’ to lower taxes, yet, here he was at the beginning of last week reversing that to sound more like his rival:

Guido rightly asked why Rishi did not cut VAT on energy bills when he was Chancellor. Oddly, he now advocates the policy:

This is what the former Chancellor said in February 2022:

Guido has more on his February comments here.

On July 27, the Mail on Sunday had an article about his U-turn, saying he was ‘under pressure’ since the BBC debate of July 25 (emphases in purple mine):

This morning, Truss ally Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business secretary, welcomed Mr Sunak’s ‘late to the party’ change on taxes.

He told Times Radio: ‘I think he’s under a lot of pressure. That’s why we see all these statements: he was the person who said the VAT cut would disproportionately benefit rich families and now he’s saying that a VAT cut on energy bills is the right thing.

He was saying that tax cuts were a fairytale, now he is proposing an unfunded tax cut.

‘There comes a time in campaigns when people are under a lot of pressure, he clearly felt under a lot of pressure in the debate and he wanted to get out on the front foot and interrupt Liz.’

But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, an ally of Rishi Sunak, defended the former chancellor’s plan. He rejected the suggestion that Mr Sunak is ‘flip-flopping’ and said the £4.3 billion policy is sensible as it would not add to inflation.

Put to him that it is a ‘flip-flop’, Mr Shapps said: ‘If he hadn’t produced £37 billion of support, about £1,200 to the hardest-up households already – if he hadn’t done any of that and then suddenly did it then you would have a point.

‘But he has, he has been providing all this support, now he is saying ”Here’s something that won’t add to inflation that would save every person watching your programme £160 off their energy bills” – I think that’s worthwhile.’

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

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

Meanwhile new polling shows that the rising cost of living and handling of the NHS could cost the Tories the most votes at the next election.

The Mail on Sunday‘s Anna Mikhailova pointed out that Rishi hardly had a long-term career in business, despite his own claims.

Nigel Farage picked up on her tweet and called Rishi ‘a fraud’:

Farage had elaborated on his GB News show the day before, Monday, July 25. He pointed out that Rishi included a clip of him in his campaign video on immigration. He doubted Sunak’s sincerity on China and ended by saying, ‘Well, I guess that leaves us with Liz Truss’:

By July 27, the bookies gave Liz Truss an 83% chance of winning the leadership contest.

That night, Dan Wootton said that ‘Fishy’ Rishi’s tax U-turn was ‘too little, too late’:

John Sergeant, who reported for the BBC for decades, said that the former Chancellor appeared ‘rattled’:

Political commentator Patrick O’Flynn said that many intelligent politicians weren’t very good at politics, Rishi being a case in point:

On Thursday, July 28, Lord Ranger, a Rishi supporter, said that if the Conservative Party members do not choose the former Chancellor as leader, they are racists.

Dan Wootton responded by pointing out that this Conservative leadership contest has been the most diverse in history:

That includes Labour, too, by the way.

Wootton said, in part:

It was still only a matter of time before Team Rishi Sunak blamed his imploding campaign on racism.

Forget the fact that Kemi Badenoch was a surprise favourite among the party membership before being booted out by MPs for being too daring and different.

Forget the fact that Liz Truss is a woman who went to a Leeds comprehensive.

Nope, Sunak’s failure is nothing to do with his big state/high tax agenda, which saw him increase our tax burden to the highest it’s been in 70 years.

Nothing to do with his globalist posturing and desire to cosy up to China by making the Communist country our market of choice, as revealed in bombshell leaked Treasury documents reported in The Times today.

Nothing to do with the fact he backstabbed Boris Johnson – the man to whom he owes his career – plotting his leadership campaign, all the while pretending to be his loyal Chancellor.

No, no, no, no it’s down to racism.

Conservative donor and Fishy Rishi supporter Lord Ranger told Indian news network Bharat Tak: “If people reject him, it will be a bad name for the party and the country because this will be perceived as racist.

“And so there is pressure on them to prove that here race does not matter.

“Calibre matters, and Rishi’s calibre is above everyone. I am optimistic that people here will be fair and will not reject anyone on the basis of race.”

Lord Ranger, I can assure you the Conservative members are not rejecting Rishi based on race.

They’re rejecting him based on policies and a lack of loyalty too.

As my colleague and friend Calvin Robinson tweeted in response: “‘Vote for me because I am brown,’ is bad enough ‘if you don’t you’re a racist’ is even worse.

This divisive, toxic rhetoric is straight from the Leftist guidebook on Critical Race Theory and should have no place in the Conservative Party or the government of this great nation.”

Former Cabinet member Michael Gove’s ex-wife Sarah Vine, who writes for the Daily Mail, said that Rishi stabbed Boris in the front:

On Friday, July 28, a Techne poll showed that Liz was gaining ground over Rishi:

That morning, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace put the boot into Rishi’s decision to resign as Chancellor:

Wallace told Sky News:

Wallace: Let’s look at that Friday afternoon – I think it was a Friday – what if the markets had crashed? What if the Home Secretary had done that and there was a terrorist attack? What would the public think, they would never forgive us for that… I don’t think people needed to walk out, the public would see that as a government not thinking about the job in hand.

The multi-year settlement [for the Department of Defence] that we got was not what the Treasury had wanted, they wanted a one-year settlement – this was back in 2019 I think – and it was vital that we got a multi-year settlement, and the PM effectively asserted his authority and made all that to happen…

Interviewer: But Mr Sunak was not in support?

Wallace: Not that I remember.

Cut the right taxes like not proceed with corporation tax rises helps growth. When Rishi was Chancellor he cut entrepreneurial relief – he cut the relief we give to entrepreneurs who’ve invested in this country, invested in businesses – that’s not a way to help create either wealth or indeed growth.

Wallace had more to say. He said that, as Secretary of State for Defence, he did not have the ‘luxury’ of resigning, a pointed barb at Rishi, who, he intimated, should have stayed on as Chancellor:

Wallace pledged his support for Liz Truss.

Meanwhile, Rishi’s team claimed someone was leaking official documents:

Rishi allegedly asked Simon Case, the head of the civil service, to get involved.

Guido reported:

What leaks might Rishi be upset about? The Treasury documents which completely undermined his pledge to “scrap or reform EU laws in 100 days” is a strong bet. Earlier this month, just after promising to review all of the remaining 2,400 EU laws on the statute book, Bloomberg revealed the Treasury had – under Rishi’s leadership – written to Liz Truss to claim that reforming EU taxes was desirable but probably not deliverable until 2026. Last time Guido checked, that wasn’t quite within 100 days. Brexit Opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg even responded by claiming it was “a surprising promise as the Treasury under his leadership was insisting that taxation was exempt from the removal of EU law.” What was it Rishi said about “fairytale promises”?

UPDATE: Now a spokesperson for Liz Truss says:

We condemn the leaking of Government documents and papers. Neither campaign condones leaks of material and will not use documents it receives. Furthermore, both campaigns will report any such leaks to the Cabinet Secretary who may take action directly, or via the Police, against the individuals involved in perpetrating such leaks or receiving and not reporting material. We understand leak investigations will be carried out without fear or favour.

Word around Whitehall is that Simon Case is livid, demanded both camps issue a statement and has called in police to investigate the China leaks.

On Saturday, July 30, things got worse for Team Rishi. He had to give away tickets to what had been a £20 per person hustings event:

Then, Tom Tugendhat, he of the military service, endorsed Liz Truss:

Oh, dear.

While all that was going on, staff at the Mail on Sunday (MoS) were preparing its copy.

Late on Saturday in one of the MoS pieces, Boris loyalist Nadine Dorries MP further reinforced the notion that Rishi is not a man of the people. She wrote about a tweet she’d sent out a few days before commenting on his expensive attire:

I wanted to highlight Rishi’s misguided sartorial style in order to alert Tory members not to be taken in by appearances in the way that happened to many of us who served with the Chancellor in Cabinet. The assassin’s gleaming smile, his gentle voice and even his diminutive stature had many of us well and truly fooled.

I wish to stress it’s not the case that I believe a rich man or woman – even if their father-in-law is one of the richest men on an entire continent – cannot be Prime Minister of this great country. But they do have to possess good judgment, understand the lives of others, have empathy, compassion and know how to fill a car with petrol and pay for it at a till.

Rishi’s father was a GP, his mother a pharmacist. He attended a public school where the annual fees are about £36,000. They were in the top two per cent income bracket of all earners in the UK. To describe his background as humble is yet another indication of poor judgment.

Rishi will never know what it is like to feel scared, broke and hopeless, without a safety net provided by wealthy parents. He has never had to lie awake at night, worrying about how to pay the bills. A bailiff will never knock on his door

Too right.

Dorries said that Boris was not best pleased when he found out that Rishi is now pledging to cut VAT on energy bills, something she said Boris begged him to do as Chancellor:

Rishi says he wants to cut VAT on energy bills. However, Boris had been pleading with him to introduce this measure for two years as the PM had been convinced that such a cut could provide immediate relief to families.

In a speech on Thursday, Boris commented with a hint of uncustomary sarcasm: ‘Turns out it was easier than we thought!’

Rishi was the classic dog in the manger as Chancellor. Whenever Boris sought him out to discuss serious issues, Rishi was always polite but unforthcoming. Never a team player.

Another MoS article revealed photos of a young Rishi Sunak at an exclusive nightclub in London’s fashionable Mayfair.

Reporter Michelle Bromley included photos, writing about the young man and his then-fiancée, now wife, the Infosys heiress Akshata Murty, who lived in California in 2008:

Despite living 5,400 miles apart, the couple regularly flew back and forth across the Atlantic.

These photographs show how they spent an evening with friends at the Whisky Mist nightclub in London.

Ms Murty is seen with a cocktail while Mr Sunak (who says he’s teetotal and ‘a total Coca-Cola addict’) generously bought all the drinks that night for the couple’s friends.

At the time, the club off Park Lane was popular with the young Prince Harry and celebrities such as Beyoncé and Leonardo DiCaprio. Many years later, Tesla tycoon Elon Musk met his second wife, actress Talulah Riley, there.

Whisky Mist was apparently named after an incident during which a tipsy Queen Victoria thought she’d spotted a stag in the fog from the window of Balmoral Castle.

Friends with Mr Sunak and his girlfriend that night recall how many of the guests were focused on Ms Murty because of her family’s fabulous wealth.

Her father founded global IT giant Infosys.

Mr Sunak was described by a female reveller as ‘the most attentive boyfriend you have ever seen’ and as ‘someone who would ask a lot of questions but not give too much away about himself’.

Not long before, he had been to Africa where he met some of Barack Obama’s relatives. He was photographed with them while holding a copy of the future US president’s book, Dreams From My Father: A Story Of Race And Inheritance.

The picture was posted on Mr Sunak’s Facebook page. Mr Obama used his book as a primer to introduce himself to the American people as he campaigned in 2008 to become the first black US president.

Fourteen years on, the young Briton captivated by that book is campaigning to become Britain’s first Prime Minister of Asian heritage – and of America’s greatest ally.

Nadine Dorries is right. Rishi Sunak will never have to worry about anything significant in his life.

The Sunday Telegraph said that Conservative MPs criticised Dorries for retweeting a photoshopped image showing Rishi as Brutus wielding a knife at Johnson’s Julius Caesar’s back. The original tweet is at the link.

The MoS also reported that some of the MPs supporting Rishi have serious doubts about his campaign:

Conservative MPs backing Rishi Sunak have privately admitted ‘It’s over’ as panic sets into his leadership campaign.

Insiders told The Mail on Sunday that some supporters were refusing to do campaigning events for the former Chancellor.

MPs are said to be getting cold feet after Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and former leadership rival Tom Tugendhat threw their support behind Liz Truss in quick succession.

However, other MPs backing Mr Sunak insisted he was doing well with Tory members, and said private polling showed Ms Truss’s supporters had been easily convinced to switch their support to him.

As this week opened, Dan Wootton’s Monday poll showed that GB News viewers thought that his tax U-turn was still too little, too late:

That polling ran while Rishi and Liz were at a hustings in Exeter, more about which tomorrow.

I hope the former Chancellor, whose mother owned a pharmacy, does not get anywhere near Downing Street, except as a visitor:

https://image.vuukle.com/155c492f-2972-4bb5-a16a-d30e45907be5-922be845-ee85-4390-a5f8-a2f2f9e7532f

Why anyone wants Rishi to be the next occupant of No. 10 escapes me. Convince me — someone, anyone — why he should be our next Prime Minister.

Last Friday’s post introduced the Red Wall MP Marco Longhi, who represents Dudley North in the Black Country area of the Midlands.

The Black Country is so-called for its long coal mining history.

On March 31, 2022, Marco Longhi gave an excellent interview to Nigel Farage on GB News, which shows the measure of the man — level headed, polite and pragmatic:

Longhi said that having served in local politics — he was mayor of Walsall for two years beginning in 2017 — was a good way of preparing for becoming an MP.  His maternal grandfather Wilfred Clarke was also mayor of Walsall in 1978.

Before that, Longhi served as a local councillor in 1999.

The conversation between him and Farage turned to the 2019 phenomenon of the Red Wall seats that voted Conservative for the first time.

Longhi, whose mother’s side of the family had a career history of working in the mines, said that miners were overwhelmingly Labour voters. However, by the time the Brexit referendum came about in 2016, they started to question their allegiance for Labour, which seemed to be ignoring them.

Longhi’s Dudley North constituency voted to Leave in the referendum: 72 per cent. In subsequent elections, he and Farage agreed that Labour’s dominance began breaking up, with voters turning to either UKIP or the Brexit Party.

Longhi said that, when the historic December 2019 election came around, Dudley North’s voters rallied around Boris Johnson’s premiership. Of Boris, Longhi said that the PM was:

able to sprinkle that little bit of gold dust.

Farage, not wanting to miss an opportunity to criticise the Conservatives, asked Longhi about their Net Zero policy. Farage mentioned the fracking company Cuadrilla, which was awaiting permission from the Government to begin extracting shale gas in the North of England. To date, they still are.

Longhi said that, while he supported the general push towards decarbonisation, he said it has to be done ‘pragmatically, step by step’.

Farage said he was concerned about the cost of living. Longhi agreed and hoped that the Government could do something about reversing their new taxes, brought in to help pay for the cost of the pandemic measures, e.g. furlough and business grants.

Longhi agreed when Farage expressed concern that the Conservatives could lose the next election. Longhi said that the pandemic had truly paralysed Parliament for two years — acknowledging that the public would not accept that — and that two years to make up lost ground was not long enough. Longhi said that, when he was elected in 2019, he foresaw that it would take two Parliaments — ten years — to get the Conservative policies from the manifesto in place.

Therefore, he said he has been trying to set voters’ expectations for the next election.

Farage said that Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is positioning himself as a safe pair of hands. Longhi agreed, saying:

I have been talking about this danger since the day I was elected.

I am pleased since the recent shake-up at Number 10 [post-Partygate] they are more receptive, there are different people in place, and I really hope, for all of our sakes, that those changes are going to be acted upon.

Longhi said that being an MP is

the best job in the world

and that he enjoys helping out his constituents wherever he can. He says that the occasional thank you note he receives in return adds to that personal satisfaction.

Boris

Unlike other Conservative MPs, Longhi has not made any pronouncements about Boris Johnson.

Instead, he, as the UK’s trade envoy to Brazil, tweeted his delight at meeting one of the country’s former presidents:

He also tweeted his support for shale gas:

We now move on to looking at Marco Longhi’s participation in Parliament.

Mayor of Walsall – mental health

On May 8, 2018, when Longhi, not yet an MP, had become mayor of Walsall again for another one-year term, the Conservative MP for Walsall North commended him in a session on Health and Social Care (emphases mine):

Eddie Hughes: I hope the Minister will join me in congratulating the mayor of Walsall, Marco Longhi, whose mayoralty has raised a significant sum to support WPH Counselling and Education Services, which provides adolescent mental care and counselling in Walsall.

Jackie Doyle-Price responded on behalf of the Government:

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this matter, and I very much welcome the contribution made by the charity to support teenagers in his constituency with psychological therapies and to help to address their mental health conditions. I join him in extending my congratulations to the mayor for choosing this very important cause and for endeavouring to raise so much money for it.

Committee appointments

As a new MP, on March 2, 2020, Longhi was appointed to two parliamentary committees: the Environmental Audit Committee and the European Scrutiny Committee. The latter monitors progress on Brexit.

Trade

On May 20, 2020, Longhi participated in a debate on the post-Brexit Trade Bill:

The Trade Bill we are discussing today is a framework that allows us to continue to trade as a nation state with those countries who already have a trade agreement with the EU. It enables UK service providers to seek out business in Government procurement markets worth £1.3 trillion, and reshores from the EU those protections available under WTO rules to support British business against unfair trading activities under the new trade remedies authority.

Why is that important? It means that we will harpoon yet again the ill cited arguments that we will crash out and fall off a cliff edge through Brexit. It means that we can seek out new business, and it means that we can finally take effective action ourselves against rogue nations who do not respect international trading conventions. Let us remind ourselves of the EU’s impotence when China dumped its excess steel on our markets, and the jobs it cost us here in the UK.

It is an undisputed fact that open markets and free trade generate wealth and our new-found and hard-won ability to seek out new markets will grow our economy. Covid-19 has brought about a global tendency towards protectionism, which we know has the opposite effect. We must not be drawn into this trap at any cost, as we shall be poorer for it. However, what covid-19 has shown is that for all their rhetoric, the EU’s institutions fail to respond effectively, if at all, and its constituent members immediately behaved as a collection of nation states. They offered a shallow apology to the Italian people for leaving them to their own devices while protecting their own. I must ask, was that not entirely predictable? That begs the question of how, as a nation at this historic junction, we consider the strategic implications of a future crisis. Should we be more self-reliant in key areas such as energy, food and medicines? Many large corporates are now reshoring as they understand the total cost of outsourced activities, including problems with quality control, the cost of unreliable supply chains and the carbon footprint of products, just to name a few. That is why I was delighted to hear about our investment to produce 70 million masks in the UK and create around 450 jobs at the same time. It is about taking a risk-based approach and understanding the total cost-benefit arguments of decisions that we take in the key areas that affect our national resilience.

Globalisation is here to stay. As we harness the great opportunities presented to us by Brexit and FTAs, our biggest challenge is how we do so. The area that I represent in Dudley and the many areas that my new colleagues represent have not always benefited. Globalisation has seen benefits, but also a race to the bottom with a low-wage economy in traditional manufacturing and the loss of jobs in the sector. Buying a pair of boots for a few pounds less is not a huge benefit if there is not a job to go to.

Analysis shows that there are between 250,000 and 350,000 businesses that currently do not export but could. My plea is that we target those businesses, with a special focus on those in the Midlands, with determination, enthusiasm and strategic focus, and at real pace, so that we can add value and bring new jobs to these areas while we also minimise the devastating impact of covid-19 on local economies and people’s lives.

On June 24, 2021, Longhi participated in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership debate, led by Liz Truss, who was, at the time, the Secretary of State for International Trade:

Longhi: Does the Secretary of State agree that if British business is to invest it needs confidence, and that that confidence will come by restating our commitment to free trade by diversifying our trade offer, generating new jobs and bringing more stability to the jobs we already have?

Truss: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. A key benefit of the CPTPP is increased resilience. It means that our exporters will not have all their eggs in one basket. They will have options about where they send their goods. It will also mean our importers are able to rely on strong relationships in countries which follow the rules and have good standards in areas such as the environment and worker protection.

He then intervened in Liam Fox’s speech on protecting free trade, which, in turn, helps consumers:

Does my right hon. Friend agree that consumers will therefore have cheaper access to white vans and St George’s flags, which particularly our self-employed make use of in the construction industry?

Fox did not want to go there:

I cannot think what my hon. Friend is alluding to, but it is certainly true that consumers will have access to far greater choice …

Labour’s John Spellar — one of their few good guys — attempted to intervene and finally succeeded:

The right hon. Gentleman knows that I am very supportive of trade and trade agreements. Equally, I was rather surprised by his response to the hon. Member for Dudley North (Marco Longhi). Should we not be encouraging people to buy white vans made in Luton, and trying to ensure that St George’s flags are made and sold in the United Kingdom?

Fox batted that intervention away in short order:

The right hon. Gentleman is quite right that we should ensure that as much is made in the United Kingdom as possible …

International aid

The temporary 0.2% reduction in international aid post-pandemic has been a long-running issue amongst Conservative MPs and arises again and again. Half the Conservative MPs, it seems, strongly disagree with the reduction while the other half support it, because it is only temporary.

On June 30, 2021, in the Opposition’s Official Development Assistance and the British Council debate, Longhi said that MPs who made a big deal about the reduction were virtue signalling:

Foreign aid spend has frequently been a way for politicians to compete for moral righteousness in the public eye. My Dudley residents care not for this type of posturing.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell)—he is no longer in the Chamber—who is a near neighbour of mine, referred in his closing remarks to his electorate, implying that they agree with his stance on foreign aid. I would make two points on that. First, my constituency is literally just down the road from his, and I can categorically assert that a significant majority of my residents do not agree with him. Secondly, I gently point out to him that, on average, two thirds of all people polled in this country very recently did not agree with him either. Just the other day, on GB News, he used the majority view argument to support assisted dying, so perhaps he might consider being consistent with his rationale, instead of imposing his moral virtues on the country’s majority view.

Virtue signaller Anthony Mangnall, a Conservative, intervened:

I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend. It is fine if that is his argument, but surely he believes that it is right for this House to have a vote on the issue, because we are all representatives of our constituencies, and of the views of our constituents. Forget the polling and allow this place to have its say. Does he not agree with that sentiment?

Longhi replied:

I might refer my hon. Friend to votes on Brexit in previous years, when a significant number of elected Members did not represent their constituents and voted the opposite way to them.

Labour will always oppose what the Government do, even if they tripled foreign aid. Having only ever averaged a maximum spend under 0.4% of national income when it was in office, compared with the 0.7% that we achieved, Labour’s protestations are somewhat shallow, if not risible. People will see Labour for what it is: out of touch with working-class people and totally clueless about their priorities.

I am concerned about some of my colleagues. They are being so generous with other people’s money—a notable socialist behaviour, I might add. Perhaps they can explain to my Dudley North taxpayers why we should spend £15 billion overseas when my residents cannot find council houses and when we still have homeless people on our streets, some of them brave veterans.

Longhi went on, refusing to take further interventions:

I would like to make progress, please.

Covid has given rise to exceptional circumstances, and the Government were entirely right to reduce aid and focus on rebuilding our country. Charity begins at home. That said, I do not agree with reducing the foreign aid budget from 0.7% to 0.5% of national income; I would scrap the target altogether. Foreign aid should be and needs to be completely reformed. A fluctuating number each year that bears no real link with need, priorities or actual outcomes is no way to plan or act strategically. It is not how a household would budget, it is not how a business would budget, and it should not be how a Government budget. Which other Government Department do we fund as a percentage of national income?

Mangnall succeeded at last:

It is on that point—I can give the answer. We committed in our manifesto in 2019 to funding research and development at 2.7% of our GDP. We commit to NATO spending at 2% through the Ministry of Defence. The list goes on.

At that point, Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing) said that, as many MPs were leaving the chamber, she would be lifting time limits on speeches.

Longhi concluded, refusing to take another intervention from Mangnall:

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I will respond by saying it is not the way we fund policing, education or health here at home. Surely a more sophisticated approach that is outcome-focused and delivers measurable change in very poor countries by employing some of our own local and UK-based companies is a far better approach than the arbitrary and unaccountable system that we continue to virtue-signal about.

I would ask two things of colleagues wanting to reinstate the 0.7%: let us focus efforts on achieving much better outcomes by reforming foreign aid, and, while we are at it, focus on challenging the EU and other wealthy countries that consistently fail to meet their own targets and do not measure up to what the UK is certainly doing

By any measure, the UK already does far more than most, both in cash terms and in areas not captured by our foreign aid spending. Certainly my constituents know that very well.

Yes!

Buying a house

On October 7, 2020, Longhi put forward a Ten Minute Rule Bill, a type of Private Members Bill, about reforming Conveyancing Standards.

I do not know what became of it when it was debated, but he made good points about the pitfalls of house buying:

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to establish minimum standards regarding searches and assessments of risk for solicitors and licensed conveyancers acting on behalf of purchasers of residential properties; and for connected purposes.

The main aim of this Bill is to help protect people who wish to buy a house—sometimes their first home—from being exposed to risks that currently are not sufficiently visible or understood at the point of purchase. The Bill does not propose radical changes to the conveyancing process; nor, indeed, does it propose changes to the development control system, although some may argue that that might be desirable to further de-risk the process for homebuyers.

I will set out two examples to illustrate the types of difficulties faced by homebuyers. Both are real cases of people who have been let down by a system that has not kept pace with an industry that has become increasingly cut-throat. The system does not offer enough consumer protections for people who are about to make possibly the single most important investment of their lives, while the transaction itself is mired in documents and legal complexities that are rarely fully understood.

My first example is of a developer who purchases land and applies for planning permission, which is granted subject to conditions. Those conditions are wide ranging and set out requirements of the developer in order for them to receive final planning certification at the end of the development. One such condition may be that soil sampling is undertaken to establish whether any contamination is present; another may be that properties must not be occupied until planning conditions have been fully satisfied.

That developer set up a limited company for the sole purpose of the development and started marketing the site almost immediately. Some properties were sold off-plan; some were sold when the buildings were largely complete. When the final plot was sold, the developer immediately liquidated the company. That means the legal entity that sold the properties no longer existed.

It became apparent immediately that a significant number of planning conditions had not been met: no soil sampling, no preventing of owners from occupying, and no top coating of road services or pavements to bring them up to council adoptable standards. Drainage was not connected properly, and the new homeowners had a huge list of unfinished works and complaints about poor standards of work.

At that point, the homeowners turned to the council for help, in the expectation that it would have the ability, as a local regulatory body, somehow to fix things. It transpired that any regulatory liabilities relating to the properties transferred to the property owners at point of sale, and that if the council chose to enforce breaches of planning, it would have to pursue the new homeowners.

It is important to note that the current system places no requirements on local planning authorities to pursue developers to evidence compliance with planning conditions. The expectation is that a developer will want final planning certification, but that is all it is: an expectation. What if a developer does not care about obtaining the certification? Their objective is to build, sell and maximise profit. So here we are; we have just purchased a property in good faith following the advice of the conveyancing solicitor—who, by the way, was recommended by the developer—and the property does not have planning permission. Certification costs could be extremely significant, and we have no recourse to the developer because they no longer exist as a legal entity.

My second example is probably more widespread than my first, and I suspect that similar examples may be present in several MPs’ casework folders. Imagine we are very keen to buy a property. At the point of purchase, our solicitor handling the conveyancing might highlight the fact that there is a contract for maintenance of green spaces on the estate—grass cutting, hedge trimming and so on—as well as that those areas do not belong to any of the properties and the cost is about £100 per year. Do we still want to buy the property? Of course we do. That is not a lot of money in the grand scheme of things, and if it means securing the property of our dreams, of course we will pay it.

What is not discussed with sufficient clarity at the point of conveyance, if at all, is that the small print of the maintenance contract will state that contract owners can increase the price as and when they wish, and there is virtually no recourse within the contract for poor workmanship or lack of clarity. The fee of £100 per year may soon become £500 per year, and the grass cutting may be once a year instead of once a month. These areas remain unadopted by local councils—something that I find a little too convenient. How would you feel, Mr Speaker, if you paid an even higher council tax for services you did not receive, compared with a neighbour around the corner who pays less and gets more?

Usually, when a service is not rendered, one may choose not to pay. That cannot happen here, because these contracts state that a charge will be placed against the property, so it cannot be sold without payment. Furthermore, homeowners cannot complain to anybody, because an unresponsive contractor is virtually unaccountable and has plenty of legal cover, while homeowners are usually bounced around from contractor to subcontractor to developer in a never-ending merry-go-round.

Those two scenarios are real. The same thing has happened in Dudley and to other people from the Black Country whom I have met. People find themselves financially exposed. The system is being gamed by unscrupulous developers and contractors, because it is not transparent enough to shine a light on the potential risks to people when they are buying a property. People might feel that the very fact that a solicitor is handling the conveyance means that they are sufficiently protected. They employ a solicitor not just to carry out due diligence for them, but to highlight any potential downsides. That is not happening with enough robustness, and that is why I propose the Bill.

Crime and Labour

In a Business of the House session on June 16, 2021, Longhi lamented that Labour MPs voted against the Government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill:

I am sorry to say that it came as no surprise to me when Labour voted against tougher sentences for rapists and child rapists this week. My constituency of Dudley North has been waiting for a new police station in the centre of Dudley for many years, as was promised by the Labour police and crime commissioner. Will my right hon. Friend agree to explore this issue with me, and perhaps with the Home Secretary, and agree to a debate on the effectiveness of police and crime commissioners more generally?

Jacob Rees-Mogg, then Leader of the House, replied:

My hon. Friend raises an important point. The socialists, as always, are weak on crime and weak on the causes of crime, and they have shown their true colours in the recent refusal to support tougher sentences for violent criminals. Unfortunately, socialist police and crime commissioners have been failing their constituents. I hope that my hon. Friend will continue to hold his local PCC to account and at the highest level, because the Government are continuing to back the police and to support the public in fighting to bring down crime.

… We are taking the landmark Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill through Parliament at the moment, which will tackle serious violence throughout the country. We have hired nearly 9,000 additional police officers and are well on track to meet our target of 20,000 new officers this Parliament. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley North (Marco Longhi) for the important issue that he raises.

Marco Longhi gets it, as it were.

I will conclude with more of his policy perspectives next week.

The voters of Dudley North should be pleased with him. He cares about them.

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