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Gosh, what a lot of news to cover in one post.

Admittedly, a few of these items are a bit old but fit in thematically.

Theresa May U-turns on support for Scottish gender reform legislation

I wrote yesterday about former Prime Minister Theresa May’s support for Scotland’s Gender Recognition Reform bill on Tuesday, December 27.

Within 24 hours she had made a U-turn, thankfully, although she did it through a spokeswoman.

On Wednesday, December 28, The Times reported (emphases mine):

In the wake of the interview the BBC issued a press release which stated: “On the subject of Scotland’s proposed gender recognition laws, Ms May said she was disappointed the Westminster government wasn’t supporting them.”

Yesterday, however, a spokeswoman for the Maidenhead MP insisted that was not the case.

“As prime minister, Theresa launched a consultation looking at gender recognition laws with the aim of providing a more sensitive approach to transgender people, but she does not agree with Nicola Sturgeon’s legislation and is particularly concerned about the consequences it could have for children in Scotland and across the UK,” she said.

We can but hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland does not send the legislation for Royal Assent:

Immediately after MSPs voted in favour of the legislation Alister Jack, the Scottish secretary, threatened to invoke section 35 of the Scotland Act, which allows him to prevent the legislation from receiving royal assent.

Although gender recognition is devolved to Holyrood, the Equality Act — with which the new law will interact — is reserved to Westminster.

As nearly two-thirds of Scottish voters — even SNP supporters — think this legislation is a terrible idea, Westminster can show the ‘Union dividend’ in being ‘better off together’.

Gas futures coming down

On Thursday, December 29, The Guardian had encouraging news about the price of natural gas futures in Europe:

European gas prices have dropped back to levels seen before the Ukraine war began in February, as fears of a gas crisis this winter ease.

The month-ahead European gas future contract dropped as low as €76.78 per megawatt hour yesterday — its lowest level in 10 months, data from Refinitiv shows.

As this chart shows, gas prices have fallen back from their surge in March, and again in the summer as European countries scrambled to fill their gas storage tanks.

Prices have dropped thanks to warmer-than-normal temperatures this winter, which have limited demand for gas, after the European Union successfully filled reserves to a peak of almost 96% in November.

Consumption reduction targets have also helped to limit demand, with the EU aiming to cut its gas consumption by 15%.

Earlier this week, 83.2% of EU gas storage was filled, data from industry body Gas Infrastructure Europe shows, still above the target of 80% set for the start of November.

Traders are confident that inventories will end winter at a very comfortable level with a very low risk of falling to critically low levels, says John Kemp, energy market analyst at Reuters.

UK gas prices have also dropped back from their highs earlier this year. The day-ahead gas price closed at 155p per therm yesterday, compared with 200p/therm at the start of 2022, and over 500p/therm in August.

The UK versus the EU

All year long in Parliament we’ve heard that the UK is ‘broken’ and that we should have stayed in the EU.

Polls have been published showing that Brexit voters have buyer’s remorse. Well, they shouldn’t have. We are much better off outside an unelected European Commission. Furthermore, EU countries are not doing substantially better than Blighty.

France

This week, I received the latest copy of Marianne, the French newsweekly. Part of its cover story headline, referring to the state of their nation, reads:

EN PANNE

meaning, ‘out of order’, ‘not working’.

On Wednesday this week, The Spectator had an excellent article about our neighbour: ‘All is not well in Macron’s France’:

In 2021, both World Bank and United Nations GDP (nominal) rankings have the UK at 5th and France 7th. International Monetary Fund estimates for 2022 show India overtaking the UK to claim the 5th spot for world GDP, but with France still 7th.

One may question the reliability of GDP as a comparator, but a host of other measures regularly show France worse off than the UK. Debt to GDP ratios show France at some 115 per cent, the UK 99.6 per cent. Meanwhile the Bank for International Settlements gives France’s total public and private debt (non-financial) at 351 per cent; the UK at 271 per cent.

One can rightly point to France’s present day lower inflation at 7.1 per cent (EU harmonised) compared to the UK’s 10.7 per cent. But as French debt statistics above show, president Emmanuel Macron began forcing down domestic inflation by subsidising prices during his 2022 presidential election campaign. French unemployment at 7.4 per cent compares unfavourably with the UK’s 3.4 per cent. Meanwhile France is the highest taxed OECD and EU state, leaving little margin for manoeuvre. Her balance of payments figures are as gloomy as the UK’s, together with her flat economic growth.

While Britain’s position is not rosy, France’s is certainly no better. That is why recent predictions in a certain European press, not least in France, taken up by British elites, that the UK was descending into terminal decline has lost all proportion. If the French press enjoy a touch of schadenfreude at the expense of the old enemy, and French politicians are glad to distract from their own problems, the willingness of much of the British middle class to swallow the same view can only be explained by ingrained cultural habit aggravated by post-Brexit resentment. Today, with Macron utterly wedded to the EU project, France for British elites is ipso facto superior to Britain. Yet France’s moral state is parlous.

Since the 2022 presidential and legislative elections Macron’s centrist party has no overall majority. France is stalemated and drifting towards ever more radical politics. Macron’s prime minister Élisabeth Borne, unable to command a majority in the National Assembly, struggles to get her business other than by the constitutional sleight of hand of article 49,3, which guillotines parliamentary debate. With the chamber split four ways the question remains as to whether Macron will eventually dissolve parliament. Opinion polls suggest this would be a gift to Marine Le Pen’s party, already the single largest opposition party with 89 seats. France might then come to replicate the present radical right Italian government.

Socially and culturally French society is far from healthy. Other than worsening violence and lawlessness in the banlieues – conveniently out of sight of English elites’ visits to France – the French model of assimilation and laïcité is being tested to destruction. Official Justice Ministry statistics for July 2021 show 24.6 per cent of the prison population as foreign (double the proportion in Britain).  The French Interior Minister publicly stated this summer that, although foreigners make up 7.4 per cent of the French population, they account for 19 per cent of all delinquency nationally, and that 48 per cent of arrested delinquents in Paris are foreigners, 55 per cent in Marseille, 39 per cent in Lyon.

… The general picture is of a France far from at ease with itself. The prospect of a member of France’s ethnic minorities leading the country with no fuss in the near future, as has just happened in Britain, seems impossible.

And remember the cries of ‘Brexit is bad’ when the Paris stock exchange overtook London’s in November?

I don’t recall any mea culpas from the metropolitan elite once we resumed normal service ten days later:

Guido Fawkes posted (emphases his):

The London stock market has re-overtaken Paris’s after falling behind for 10 days, with a lead of $63 billion. A 2.5% rally in the value of the pound led to the improvement, and morale booster, compared to a modest 0.7% improvement for the Euro …

Hat-tip: Bloomberg

Germany

While Remainers in Britain’s metropolitan elite moan about food inflation, our friends in Germany have experienced similar price hikes.

On October 14, September figures for the UK showed that our grocery price inflation hit an all-time high of 13.9%.

Yet, JustFood reported that Germany’s grocery price inflation also reached historic highs:

Inflation levels in Germany reached their highest levels in three decades in September with food prices rising 18.7% year on year, figures show.

In a continued squeeze on consumer pockets, inflation reached 10% – its highest level since the country’s reunification in 1990, the federal statistical office said.

Consumers faced the sharpest rises in edible fats and oils, which were up by 49%. Dairy products and eggs increased by 29.1%, meat and meat products 19.5% and bread and cereals 18.5%.

Month-on-month comparisons show consumers paid 1.8% more for food in September than in August, with vegetables 3.9% more expensive and dairy products up by 2.2%.

The consumer price index for food in Germany, measured against a 2015 baseline of 100, stood at 135.4 year-on-year in September, compared to 121.1 overall.

The federal statistical office said the cost of energy was leading inflation but food also played a major role, with both contributing to an overall 10% rise in prices.

Without food and energy rises in the equation, the country’s inflation rate is reduced by over half to 4.6%. The prices of all goods increased by 17.2% in September 2022 compared to 2021, but the prices of non-durable consumer goods, which include food and energy, increased by 23.3%.

We cannot blame German inflation on Brexit. As Conservative ministers rightly say at the despatch box, inflation is up all over Europe and the West.

UK to relax egg rules to line up with EU

Another thing we hear from Remainers, especially in the Houses of Parliament, is that British food regulations are weaker than the EU’s!

Nothing could be further from the truth! Our food standards have been higher than the EU’s for decades.

Anyone wanting up-to-date proof can read an article in Wednesday’s Guardian‘UK free-range egg rules could be relaxed in line with EU for avian flu outbreaks’:

Free-range egg rules in the UK could be relaxed in response to the European Union preparing to overhaul regulations after the biggest avian flu outbreak on record.

Ministers are understood to be considering a change to the rules that would mean eggs laid by hens kept in barns for months on end could be classed as free range.

Currently, eggs cannot be classed as free range if birds are indoors for more than 16 weeks. Farmers have that grace period in both the EU and UK, which means eggs can still be labelled as free-range if a government-issued housing order for birds is in place up to 16 weeks.

Subsequently, labels need to be added to packaging making it clear that those are now classified as barn eggs.

Whitehall sources told the Daily Telegraph that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is considering changing the regulations in order to keep farmers competitive with Europe

The European Commission put forward a proposal in September, which stated “where temporary restrictions have been imposed on the basis of EU legislation, eggs may be marketed as ‘free-range’ notwithstanding that restriction”.

The proposal, which is awaiting approval by the European parliament, means eggs could be classed as free range even if hens are forced to spend months indoors due to government rulings.

In September, egg producers in the UK said it was essential that the government now followed suit to avoid British suppliers being undercut by EU imports.

Climate change

Climate change sceptics will be on the right side of history in time.

Guido Fawkes’s readers posted about deforestation in this post.

One chap posted an article about the increasing need for balsa wood from Latin and South America for blades on wind farms. Apparently, indigenous communities have not been consulted:

https://image.vuukle.com/8d46442a-2514-45e7-9794-98dfc370ce1b-b8e2e051-87c6-4568-8f9c-68858e5d19e3

The article continues, stating that some companies are switching from balsa to oil byproducts, such as PET and PVC, or to cellulose:

https://image.vuukle.com/8d46442a-2514-45e7-9794-98dfc370ce1b-7fe88518-bdeb-4ace-95aa-2e84a2741e14

The man who posted the article pointed out:

BALSA is being replaced with PET and PVC (yep- crude oil) but are also experimenting with cellulose– which needs highly toxic chemicals to make.

Someone responded with this:

Synthetic PET usually uses food starch as a replacement for oil based derivatives. These divert food crops away from human and livestock consumption. They also encourage the use of GM crops and pesticides.

PVC production creates sodium chloride, which is a cause of acid rain.

The eco loons really didn’t think this through.

Ultimately:

The eco l00ns NEVER think anything through.

And they hope we won’t notice.

It’s part of the reason why ‘climate science is settled’ and they refuse to debate.

You know how it goes.

Fracking badmining cobalt (even using young children) good.

You flying -bad- them flying- good.

On a similar note, an UnHerd article laments the loss of the hearth in ‘Firewood will save the West’. The author, Paul Kingsnorth, lives in Ireland and has his firewood delivered to his home:

The Irish government is currently campaigning against households which burn turf or wood, the former on the grounds of CO2 emissions, and the latter on the grounds of air quality. As ever, the campaign is driven from Dublin, and mostly takes Dublin sensibilities into account. Rural households in Ireland have been burning turf and wood forever, with little significant impact on “air quality” — or at least, no impact comparable to that which Ireland’s “Celtic Tiger” modernisation has had. Suddenly, though, the media is full of scientists armed with studies demonstrating how getting a fire going in your cottage in winter will lead to cancer and lung disease on a widespread scale.

That is nonsense. Until recently, Man had been surrounded by smoke for millennia.

Essentially, the Irish government, in line with other Western governments, wants to do away with fireplaces:

This new tilt against household fireplaces is not just an Irish phenomenon: it is suddenly popping up everywhere. Woodstoves are, curiously, becoming the number one air pollution villain. Never mind mass car use, accelerating air travel or industrial pollution. Never mind the emissions caused by the massive increase in Internet server farms, which within just a few years could be using up an astonishing 70% of this country’s electricity. These days, if you want to demonstrate your social responsibility, you should be all aboard with the abolition of the traditional fireplace and its replacement with “green” alternatives.

He explains that the home hearth has been not only traditional but also atavistic throughout mankind’s history. He cites the philosophical polymath John Michell (1933-2009):

The fireplace, whether our dessicated urban authorities know it or not, has a primal meaning, even in a world as divorced as ours from its roots and from the land.

In his short essay “Fireside Wisdom”, the uncategorisable John Michell suggested that the “displacement of the hearth or fireplace” from the home was one of the many reasons for the craziness of the modern world which his life had been spent playfully exploring. The fireplace at the centre of the home, he wrote, was both an ancient practicality and a device of “cosmological significance” across cultures and time: “Conversation is directed into the fire while dreams and images are drawn out of it.”

In the past, the act of sitting staring into the smoky fire with family or neighbours was the genesis of the folk tale and folk song which tied the culture together. Now we stare at digital fires hemmed into boxes manufactured by distant corporations who also tell us our stories. No song we can dream up around a real fireplace can compete with what these boxed fires can sell us. “Thus,” wrote Michell, “the traditional cosmology is no longer represented by its domestic symbols, and a new, secular, restless, uncentred world-view has taken its place.”

Focus, Michell explained, is “the Latin name for the central fireplace. The fire not only warms but, as a symbol, illuminates the corresponding images of a centre to each of our own beings and of a world-centre which is divine, eternal and unchanging.” Lose your fires, and you literally lose your focus as a culture. In this context, a government spokesman telling his population, as one minister here recently did, that they should “get over” their “nostalgic” attachment to the hearth fire and install ground source heat pumps instead is more than just a nod to efficiency. It is an assault on what remains of the home and its meaning. It is an attack on the cultural — even the divine — centre.

Paul Kingsnorth posits that each move away from self-sufficiency, e.g. using one’s own fireplace, puts us more under the control of government:

When you can no longer grow your own wood or cut your own turf to heat your own parlour, you are made that little bit more dependent on the matrix of government, technology and commerce that has sought to transmute self-sufficiency into bondage since the time of the Luddites. The justification for this attack on family and community sufficiency changes with the times — in 17th-century England, the enclosures were justified by the need for agricultural efficiency; today they are justified by the need for energy efficiency — but the attack is always of the same nature. Each blow struck against local self-sufficiency, pride and love of place weaves another thread into the pattern which has been developing for centuries, and which is almost complete now in most affluent countries

In my lifetime, in my part of the world, the notion and meaning of “home” has steadily crumbled under external pressure until it is little more than a word. The ideal (post)modern home is a dormitory, probably owned by a landlord or a bank, in which two or more people of varying ages and degrees of biological relationship sleep when they’re not out being employed by a corporation, or educated by the state in preparation for being employed by a corporation. The home’s needs are met through pushing buttons, swiping screens or buying-in everything from food to furniture; for who has time for anything else, or has been taught the skills to do otherwise?

He refers to a 1980 manuscript, ‘Family Work’, by the American essayist Wendell Berry:

Like so much of Berry’s work, it locates the centrepoint of human society in the home, and explains many of the failures of contemporary Western — specifically American — society as a neglect of that truth. The home, to Wendell Berry, is the place where the real stuff of life happens, or should: the coming-together of man and woman in partnership; the passing-down of skills and stories from elders; the raising and educating of children; the growing, cooking, storing and eating of food; the learning of practical skills, from construction to repair, tool-making to sewing; the conjuration of story and song around the fire

Even back in 1980, Berry recognised that the home had become an “ideal” rather than a practical reality — precisely because the reality had been placed out of reach for many. What killed the home? Three things, said Berry: cars, mass media and public education. The first meant that both work and leisure could, for the first time in history, happen a long way from home. The second — “TV and other media” — have played a role, since the mid-20th century, in luring us all into a fantasy world of freedom from obligation, and a limitless, fun consumer lifestyle. “If you have a TV,” writes Berry, “your children will be subjected almost from the cradle to an overwhelming insinuation that all worth experiencing is somewhere else and that all worth having must be bought.” Finally, the school system is designed “to keep children away from the home as much as possible. Parents want their children kept out of their hair.” Schools exist to train children to fit into individualistic, consumer societies; to internalise and normalise their ethics and goals, and to prepare for a life serving their needs.

I have to disagree with his disparagement of television, as my better half and I watch a lot of French programmes, food shows in particular. For us, it is a window into a culture we love very much. Were it not for television, we would have to visit France in person much more often. As it is, we can experience France from our sitting room and perfect our language skills while learning more about the world’s finest cuisine.

Berry’s solution is to make the home a welcoming, peaceful place for everyone living there:

… he suggested that we should “try to make our homes centres of attention and interest”; to make them as productive and nurturing as we can … you will see new possibilities begin to open up. You will see, in Berry’s words, that “no life and no place is destitute; all have possibilities of productivity and pleasure, rest and work, solitude and conviviality that belong particularly to themselves”, whether in the country, the city or the suburb. “All that is necessary,” he suggests, is “the time and the inner quietness to look for them.”

Television is a good thing

On the subject of television, a 104-year-old Australian woman told her grandson that it was probably the greatest development in her lifetime.

Lewis Isaacs wrote her story for The Guardian: ‘My 104-year-old Nan’s secret to a long life’:

A life as long as hers can be hard to comprehend. Asked what the biggest change to the world she’d seen across her life was, Nan replied that it was television. Life when she grew up rarely extended past her suburb. Television connected the living room to the world.

How true! Well said, Nan!

The article has family photographs, too.

So what is Coral Isaacs’s secret to longevity?

She says it comes down to genetics and finding the right partner. She was widowed more than 30 years ago and says the life she built with my Pop has supported her since. It helps to remember your pills, she adds, and to get up, shower and make your bed every day.

I suspect the truth about her endurance is something different though. Nan is determined to keep her eyes focused on the future. Even when the days are hard, she still looks forward.

I was hoping she would mention smoking a crafty cigarette or enjoying a daily digestif, but, sadly, no.

Churchill’s cigar goes on sale

For a smoking story, we had to go to an auction house.

On Thursday, December 29, The Times reported that one of Winston Churchill’s cigars is expected to fetch £3,000 at auction:

The former prime minister gave the Cuban cigar to an RAF doctor who helped him when he broke his leg in 1962.

The doctor’s grandson has put the rare cigar up for sale with Hansons Auctioneers, which said it would be an “impressive item” for any Churchill collector. Charles Hanson, the owner, said: “We occasionally see Churchill cigar stubs that people have picked up after he dropped them. But to gain a whole cigar in such pristine condition, given as a gift in unusual circumstances, is special.”

Churchill, who died in 1965 aged 90, was a lifelong smoker. While he was at boarding school, his mother learnt he had taken up smoking cigarettes and tried to bribe him to stop by promising him a pistol and a pony.

He switched to cigars after spending time in Cuba after his graduation from Sandhurst military academy, and friends, dealers and associates sent him regular deliveries of cigars from then on.

The circumstances are most Churchillian:

The auction house said the cigar under auction was given to an RAF squadron leader, Bertram AJ Barrow. Churchill fractured his femur while getting out of his bed at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo, and was flown back to London on an RAF plane while in a waist-to-ankle plaster cast.

Barrow, the leader of the medical team, plucked up the courage to ask Churchill for one of his famous cigars.

For decades the treasured cigar was kept in a bedside drawer, but will now go under the hammer at on January 9 with an estimate of £2,000 to £3,000.

Barrow’s grandson, Thomas Barrow, 33, an employment law adviser from London, said: “Bertram asked for a cigar as a keepsake, and Churchill advised that he could have ‘one that he had been saving’ — which was Cuban and still in its glass case.”

What a story!

Conclusion

As my later grandmother-in-law, a lifelong Londoner, was fond of saying:

The old ways are the best.

I couldn’t agree more.

Let’s try to recapture them in 2023.

Advertisement

The story goes that when the Swiss Reformer Zwingli said that Holy Communion was a mere symbol, an appalled Martin Luther observed that ‘another spirit’ was working through him, meaning the devil.

Sadly, we have had a lot of ‘another spirit’ news in 2022.

Let’s get through that first in order to move on to other items.

‘Another spirit’ news

From the family structure to euthanasia, the devil never stops.

Canada’s ‘killing fields’

On December 16, the Mail had an excellent article about the many Canadians being urged to undergo euthanasia.

Canada’s national euthanasia programme is called MAiD (Medical Assistance in Dying), but this is no comely lass, rather a killing machine of sorts, so much so that even the UN wants to call time on it (emphases mine):

… the progressive administration of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau now finds itself in the deeply embarrassing position of being attacked by human rights campaigners and the United Nations over MAiD. 

Three UN experts last year concluded the law appeared to violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Euthanasia — from the Greek for ‘good death’ — is a means of release to people in unimaginable and incurable pain, especially if expected to die soon. 

This is how Canada’s ‘killing fields’, as the Mail rightly says, entered the statute books:

Canada’s Supreme Court dismissed as scaremongering fears of a ‘descent down a slippery slope into homicide’ when it overturned a ban on euthanasia in 2015, ruling that it was unconstitutional as it deprived people of dignity and autonomy. 

The following year, Canada’s Parliament passed legislation allowing euthanasia, but only for people suffering from a terminal illness whose death was ‘reasonably foreseeable’. 

Within five years, it became clear that Canada was, indeed, sliding down the slope when — again under pressure from the courts — MPs passed Bill C-7, which scrapped those criteria

From 2021, anyone suffering from an illness or disability that ‘cannot be relieved under conditions’ that he or she ‘considers acceptable’ can, with the approval of two doctors or nurse practitioners, get MAiD free

The patient must be found to be competent to make the decision and wait a minimum 90-day assessment period before death is provided. 

If a doctor refuses to sign off the request, patients can shop around for one who is more amenable. And unlike other countries, including Belgium and the Netherlands, where euthanasia is legal, Canadian patients are not required to have exhausted all treatment alternatives first. 

Last year, 96 per cent of MAiD applications were approved

Seeking to understand why so many in government and healthcare appear to be pushing MAiD enthusiastically, critics point to a 2017 study by the University of Calgary that estimated medically-assisted dying could reduce national healthcare spending by $139million a year (£83 million)

The report noted that in some Canadian provinces, caring for patients in the last six months of life accounted for more than a fifth of healthcare costs.

This page from a MAiD pamphlet didn’t come from the Mail, but its egregious typeface and presentation make such a death look harmless and normal:

https://image.vuukle.com/1f7b329f-4555-4992-b4f6-0bfcde2d7687-fe407ee9-5bed-440f-94eb-f55e544abef1

All manner of Canadians — totalling 10,000 in 2021 — have gone to their rest via MAiD. These are photo captions from the Mail where their stories are explored in greater detail. Note the financial reasons:

Michael Fraser, 55, was euthanised by his GP after he pleaded poverty

Wheelchair-bound Les Landry, 65, an ex-lorry driver from Medicine Hat, Alberta, is one of those seeking assisted suicide primarily for financial reasons 

Christine Gauthier, a paraplegic army veteran who competed in the 2016 Paralympics, told MPs how, after five years of trying to obtain a stairlift for her home, a Veterans Affairs official told her that if she was ‘desperate’, they could offer her MAiD

Here in the UK, both Houses of Parliament have been debating legislating for end of life choices. Some peers (Lords) and MPs (Commons) are all for the Canadian model, about which, it seems, they know very little:

In both Canada and the UK, euthanasia is defined as the act of deliberately ending a person’s life to relieve suffering. 

It is often referred to as ‘physician-assisted dying’ or ‘assisted dying’ and is distinct from ‘assisted suicide’ which is helping someone to kill themselves by, say, obtaining lethal drugs for them. 

Just months after the House of Lords halted an attempt to legalise euthanasia in the UK, the Commons last week launched a new inquiry into assisted dying with ‘a focus on the healthcare aspects’, including the role of doctors, access to palliative care, criteria for eligibility and ‘what protections would be needed to safeguard against coercion’. 

Successive UK governments have refused to legalise euthanasia but inquiry chairman [Conservative] Steve Brine MP said there was now ‘real-world evidence’ to look at from those countries where it is legal

What has also changed is that the British Medical Association, Britain’s biggest doctors’ union, took a landmark vote last year that ended its long- standing opposition to euthanasia

It is possible that even children will be able to request MAiD in 2023:

Many are deeply concerned by next spring’s extension of MAiD to people with mental illnesses and — pending a parliamentary review — to ‘mature minors’ above the age of 12. 

MAiD has its critics among clinicians, but does it have enough of them?

This was the most apt description of the process:

Professor Tim Stainton, director of the Canadian Institute for Inclusion and Citizenship at the University of British Columbia, described Canada’s law as ‘probably the biggest existential threat to disabled people since the Nazis’ programme in Germany in the 1930s’

It’s hard to disagree.

Woe betide Canada. It used to be such a lovely country.

More dismantling of marriage

Two weeks ago, I featured news stories from November advocating that couples abandon the marital bed.

On December 15, The Guardian‘s Emma Brockes promoted living apart: ‘Why are so many women living in separate homes from their partners and kids? Because it’s a win-win situation’.

This is obviously for upper middle class types who can afford two homes:

The overheads on two households are eye-bleeding.

Even so, it’s another slippery slope article.

As usual, this trend emanates from North America and was first trumpeted in the New York Times, where the devil seems to have a comfy home:

In the New York Times this week – sound the klaxon – a new trends piece drops on the growing numbers of women in the US who, post-pandemic, are opting to sustain the separate household model of marriage, established during lockdown by some families to reduce Covid transmissions, and proving so preferable to the norm, apparently, that they’re in no hurry to reunite with their husbands.

It’s well known that among straight couples, women initiate most divorces – by some reckonings 70% – and pushing for separate households is, I would imagine, a staging post towards this end for many of the numbers in this new trend. But for others, perhaps it really is a viable solution to the problem of loving your spouse but not wanting them underfoot all the sodding time.

How frightfully sad.

This began years before the pandemic:

What’s new is the surge in those who still identify as married but live apart from their spouse; in the US, married couples maintaining separate households rose by a quarter between 2000 and 2019, and in 2021, that number sharply climbed again, according to the New York Times. It is estimated by the Census Bureau that 3.89 million Americans, or 2.95% of married couples, live apart. They even have a little acronym: Lat, or “living apart together”.

The trend appears a likely result both of everyone being home for the past two-plus years and driving each other insane, and the fact that after lockdown ended, studies showed that men swiftly dropped the childcare and domestic work some had adopted during that period. Judging by case studies in the article, for some women, quarantining in a quiet, separate residence while their husbands shouldered the caretaking at home, struck them at the level of a revelation. For others, the fact that even a global pandemic did little to undermine – or in some cases, actively deepened – the division of labour at home along traditional gender lines had a straw-that-broke-it effect.

How utterly, utterly selfish.

New York Times crossword puzzle

As we’re on the subject of the New York Times, here is their December 18 crossword puzzle. December 18 was the first night of Hanukkah, yet the paper produced a gamma-shaped puzzle. Hmm. Why?

https://image.vuukle.com/8d46442a-2514-45e7-9794-98dfc370ce1b-6ac29cac-991d-4b49-b8bc-cd356c30e02f

Despite complaints from prominent Jews around the world, the paper defended the puzzle’s shape, saying:

‘This is a common crossword design: Many open grids in crosswords have a similar spiral pattern because of the rules around rotational symmetry and black squares,’ a Times spokesperson told DailyMail.com on Monday. 

Although Carlos Slim is the current owner, the famous Ochs-Sulzberger family are still in charge of content:

The paper is run by AG Sulzberger – the sixth member of the Ochs-Sulzberger family to serve The Times as publisher since the newspaper was purchased by Adolph Ochs in 1896. The family is of both German and Jewish ancestry. 

This is not the first time such a design has appeared:

A similar incident occurred in 2017, and at that time the newspaper responded in a tweet: ‘Yes, hi. It’s NOT a swastika. Honest to God. No one sits down to make a crossword puzzle and says, “Hey! You know what would look cool?”‘ 

One wonders.

Christian doctor told to attend ‘boundaries’ course

I was amazed to see a praying Christian physician, Dr Richard Scott, appear in The Telegraph on September 27.

His is such an old — and sad — story. It goes back to 2019 and has only now been resolved.

The 62-year-old was nearly struck off the medical register for praying by request with his patients in Kent. Someone complained, and you can guess the rest.

The article says:

A tribunal that could have taken away his right to practice was called off after a last-minute settlement with the NHS, but Dr Scott will have to attend a £500 one-day training course on “professional boundaries”.

The tribunal was due to consider complaints relating to a telephone interview Dr Scott took part in on BBC Radio 4 in 2019 discussing his use of prayer in his practice.

On the radio programme he also said: “As a Christian doctor you have to ask yourself, who’s your ultimate boss? And it’s not the GMC [General Medical Council]. It’s Jesus Christ.”

He said he offered spiritual care to around one in 40 patients, and around 80 per cent of people offered prayer or religious support accepted the offer.

The tribunal was set to begin in Ashford on Monday to determine whether he could still be allowed to work as an NHS doctor.

He had previously been ordered to attend a three-day course costing £1,800 aimed at people who had been accused of sexual impropriety.

Dr Scott was not accused of sexual misconduct and refused to attend the course or undertake a psychiatric assessment. The GMC had twice ruled that the Christian doctor had not breached any of its guidelines.

Following the settlement with the NHS, Dr Scott will now take part in a one-day training course costing £500 relating to “professional boundaries”. He said that he did try to “follow the General Medical Council guidelines and if you read them correctly, they allow you and encourage you to speak to patients about religion where it’s relevant to their care”.

“Some people are desperate for help and I can give any number of examples of people I’ve helped through spiritual care – which is done on my own time and fully consented.” he added.

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which supported Dr Scott, said: “Dr Scott is a highly experienced doctor whose life and career has been committed to serving his patients and community.

“He is loved and respected by his community which he has served for decades. His love for Jesus and dedication to his faith is also well known where he works and within the community.

“There is no evidence that Dr Scott’s practice of praying with his patients has in any way interfered with his delivery of excellent medicine – in fact, quite the opposite.”

NHS England has been contacted for comment.

That poor man. It’s hard to imagine the stress he has been under for the past three years. I hope that he and his family have a blessed, relaxing Christmas this year.

House of Lords climate change paper

This month, the House of Lords published a paper on climate change — ‘In our hands: behaviour change for climate and environmental goals’.

It’s 140 pages long and a product typical of today’s left-leaning peers, including a number of the Conservatives lurking there, too.

I’ve been reading the chapter called ‘Behaviour change for climate and environmental goals’, because this is what the average Briton will experience in the years to come via media bombardment.

Of course, the Lords worry about ‘misinformation’ and ‘disinformation’, meaning any evidence contrary to their Net Zero narrative.

This is from page 84 of the paper (page 86 in the PDF linked to above):

309. Several witnesses expressed concern about the spread of misinformation—incorrect or misleading information—and disinformation—deliberately deceptive information—related to climate change and the environment on social media. Carnegie UK described research carried out by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), which compared the levels of engagement on social media platforms generated by reliable scientific organisations and climate sceptic actors respectively and found that the posts from the latter frequently received more traction and reach than the former. Carnegie UK explained:

“In the fortnight over which COP26 took place, sceptic content garnered 12 times the level of engagement of authoritative sources on the platform; and 60 per cent of the “sceptic” posts they analysed could be classified as actively and explicitly attacking efforts to curb climate change.”530

310. Witnesses had several suggestions as to how misinformation and disinformation about climate change and the environment on social media could be tackled. Mr Smith suggested traditional broadcasters—like the BBC—must play an important role as “trusted sources” in a landscape of disinformation online. 531 Carnegie UK expressed concern that the Government’s Online Safety Bill “does little to tackle climate change information”, and proposed amendments to bring climate change disinformation into the scope of the draft Bill in a “proportionate manner”.532

Pages 95 and 96 highlight the Conservative government’s deficiences in bold text, paragraph after paragraph. Contrary to what the Lords say, this is a good thing.

Here are two sections, emphases theirs, from page 96 (page 98 of the PDF):

362. The public expect the Government to take a leadership role to enable behaviour change, but the Government’s reticence to address key areas—such as what people eat, how we heat our homes, what we buy and how we travel—which is largely a result of a reluctance to be perceived as reducing freedom of choice, undermines individuals’ willingness and ability to take action.

364. The Government should apply behavioural science to all its policies and initiatives. It should urgently review the Net Zero Strategy and policies and initiatives in place to deliver it and rectify where its six principles underpinning green choices are not being delivered.

Satan has obviously found a home on the cushy red benches of the Lords.

Good on the Conservative government in taking little to no action on this guff. Long may it remain so.

Starving mother struggles to feed children

This is another story that causes one to shake one’s head in disbelief or despair.

It appeared on ITV News on Monday, December 19:

A mother-of-four from Bath says she is having to live off her children’s leftovers because she no longer has enough money to pay for her own meals.

Victoria Walker will not be able to afford Christmas for her family as food prices continue to rise.

She rarely turns the heating on and tries not to eat so that her children can have food.

“Unless I really have to, I won’t eat,” she said. “I fill myself up with tea and coffee. I like the children to eat so I tend to have the leftovers.”

Recently her 11-year-old daughter even started offering her pocket money to help buy food essentials like bread and milk.

She added: “It just makes me sad. It breaks my heart. Christmas is looking sad for me. I can’t afford Christmas.”

Victoria is receiving help from Action for Children, a charity created to help vulnerable children, young people and their families in the UK.

Unfortunately, the accompanying video, which can be seen at the link, undermines the mother-of-four’s case for hunger.

ITV also showed her in their social media post about the story:

https://image.vuukle.com/f6a3e1ae-5984-48dd-8fe4-cb0a5368b71b-fddd91d5-132f-4b0b-8fe2-c9c5a52aafee

No further comment.

Political theatre: they’re all friends, really

We mere mortals think that politicians from opposite sides of the spectrum oppose each other in real life.

However, the Queen’s mourning period proved that what we see on television and read in the papers is nothing more than political theatre. I refer specifically to the gathering of hundreds of MPs, Prime Ministers and peers from past and present gathering to see King Charles take the Oath of Affirmation shortly after his mother died.

These men and women, whether Labour or Conservative, have a real rapport with each other.

On September 13, six days before Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, The Telegraph‘s Tom Harris, a former MP himself, discussed the meeting of the Privy Council that day and featured a photo of former Prime Ministers Gordon Brown (Labour) and Boris Johnson (Conservative) sharing a laugh together.

Harris explained why this was not unusual:

Consider this: what if the Queen’s death and preparations for her funeral were not forcing natural enemies to behave in public, but were allowing our political leaders the rare opportunity genuinely to enjoy each other’s company?

Cross-party friendships are always surprising to outside observers, though within Westminster’s walls they are so common that they are rarely commented upon. True, the tea room, where most of the House of Commons gossip is shared, is strictly split up into party areas. But those demarcations are informal and there is much interchange and banter, including the sharing of tables by MPs of different parties.

The fact is that many MPs will feel more comfortable sitting in the smoking room after a late night vote, having a drink and sharing a joke with colleagues from the opposite party, than they will having a beer after a meeting of their local party. After all, outside those fraught occasions when constituency mergers and boundary changes are in prospect, an MP will see no rival when he gazes around the chamber of the Commons. Everyone there, by definition, already has a seat and is too concerned with holding onto theirs to cast envious eyes on their own.

It’s a shame that friendships between MPs of opposition parties is the love that dare not speak its name. Only when tragedy rears its head do we catch a glimpse of those relationships. In a touching tribute to John Smith just a day after the Labour leader’s unexpected death in 1994, John Major told of late night drinks in his study with his political rival, meetings which started off with drink singular and then progressed to the plural pretty quickly.

As an MP I would frequently join colleagues from different parties to sample Soho’s various karaoke bars … These events were not unusual in themselves; what was unusual was how quickly, the day after, everyone once again sworn political enemies.

Ironic, then, that it is the speeches and barbs of the Commons and TV studio debates, not the joyful, slightly inebriated singing, that are the more performative. Constituents expect it. The first rule of Karaoke Club is that no one talks about Karaoke Club, not just because MPs can’t be seen to be enjoying themselves during the week instead of keeping their heads down in the Commons library, but also because it just wouldn’t do to be seen to be friends with the other side.

And, finally — Bruce Springsteen

On Monday, November 14, Bruce Springsteen cleared up a long-running argument — apparently — about the lyrics to his 1975 hit ‘Thunder Road’.

The next day, The Telegraph reported:

The 73-year-old’s fans have long disputed whether the opening line to 1975 hit Thunder Road begins with the slam of a screen door followed by “Mary’s dress” either swaying or waving.

Knowing he would be asked about the crucial word during an appearance on US talk show The Tonight Show by host Jimmy Fallon on Monday, Springsteen arrived prepared with an original vinyl LP detailing the song’s lyrics.

The Boss declared the LP had the lyrics incorrectly printed as “waves”, adding that he had sung “sways” for nearly half a century

The debate over the wording re-emerged on social media last year after two copies of the handwritten lyrics went to auction, one saying “sways” and the other “waves”.

Springsteen’s own publications also bear the hallmarks of confusion, with his 2016 autobiography Born to Run using “sways” and his website referring to “waves”.

Jon Landau, Springsteen’s manager and co-producer on Born to Run, said last year that the lyric was “sways” and that “any typos in official Bruce material will be corrected”.

“That’s the way he wrote it in his original notebooks,” Landau said.

Good to know in case anyone starts a dispute about it after too much Christmas cheer.

More news to follow in the coming days.

Yesterday’s post looked at the new biography of Liz Truss, Out of the Blue.

Her life has been a fascinating one in many ways.

On Saturday, September 3, 2022, shortly before Conservative Party members elected Liz Truss as their leader, The Times published an excellent article complete with photos, ‘Just where is Liz Truss from? Her incredible journey spans three countries and two continents’.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Early years

Mary Elizabeth Truss was born in Oxford in 1975 to a couple who lived in Cowley, known for the Anglican religious order, the Cowley Fathers, and car making:

The Truss odyssey begins amid the rackety student townhouses of James Street in Cowley, Oxford. She was born on July 26, 1975 at the nearby John Radcliffe Hospital, the second of five children, to Priscilla, a nurse and teacher and John, a mathematics professor. Their first child, Matthew, died when he was a baby. James Street today is inhabited by a mixture of posh students and local families, with a dash of Cowley seediness thrown in.

Like many of the places where Truss grew up, the area is middle class, left-leaning and studenty, home to a variety of public sector workers and professionals on a budget.

A series of moves followed, all connected with John Truss’s work:

When her father’s junior research fellowship at Oxford University ended, he spent a couple of years as a teacher at King Charles I High School in Kidderminster [Worcestershire], where Truss’s younger brother Chris was born in 1978. After that, he found employment at Paisley College of Technology in Renfrewshire, and in 1979 took the family on the long journey up the M6 to Glasgow. Truss was four at the time.

Handsome civic buildings aside, Paisley is a fairly down-at-heel town, its high street a parade of betting shops, tattoo parlours and discount stores. But leafy Low Road, where the Truss family lived, is a bourgeois haven of Range Rovers and birdsong nestled among council estates and main roads. The Trusses lived in two different houses on the street, one a capacious detached villa, the other a sturdy semi-detached. Her other two brothers, Patrick and Francis, were born in this period.

Liz attended West Primary School and once drew the short straw in having to play Margaret Thatcher in a mock election. Most Scots detest Conservatives, especially in the western half of the country:

“I ended up with zero votes,” she recalled. “I didn’t even vote for myself. Even at that age, we knew it was simply unpopular to be a Tory in the west of Scotland.”

In her spare time, young Liz embraced her parents’ left-wing politics and attended protests:

It was in Paisley that Truss’s mother first introduced her to political activism, taking her on Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament marches with the local CND chapter, including the famous Greenham Common protests, which she attended as a seven-year-old. A picture from the Paisley Daily Express on October 23, 1985 shows a 10-year-old Liz with her mother and brother Chris proudly holding aloft a new Paisley CND banner, ahead of a planned protest trip to London. The article recounts how the family spent two weeks painstakingly making the flag.

Truss has recalled the DIY nature of her family’s 1980s radicalism. “We did a number of things like marches, protests,” she told an interviewer in 2014. “On one occasion when we went down to London in a bus we had made some nuclear bombs made out of carpet rolls — ours didn’t quite work because it had floral wallpaper on it.”

In 1987, John Truss got a new job as a visiting professor at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. The year the family spent in Canada transformed Liz’s life:

In July she posted a picture on Instagram of her class at Parkcrest Elementary School in Burnaby, a suburb of Vancouver, which also boasts the actor Michael J Fox as an alumnus. The caption read: “30 years ago I spent a year in Canada that changed my outlook on life #pioneerspirit #optimism.”

Moving 6,000 miles across the world would be a challenge to any 12-year-old, but the wide-open spaces and artless optimism of western Canada appear to have invigorated Truss.

The Times was able to find a Canadian classmate of hers, Brenda Montagano, who now teaches at the school both women attended:

“I remember her accent and I remember her being very smart,” Montagano recalled. “Now that I’m a teacher, I recognise that it’s no small feat to change schools, never mind countries, at that age. She came in and was confident, chatty, tried to get to know everyone. She made her mark.”

Upon returning to England, the Trusses settled in Roundhay, a suburb of Leeds:

the closest thing Truss and her brothers had to a permanent family home. It was a household of music lessons and political debate, books and board games, the latter of which Truss “had to win”, her brother Francis once told Radio 4.

Roundhay was an affluent area in the 1980s and remains so now, with the villas that overlook the park selling for more than £1 million. As a teenager, Truss would play tennis here with her brothers and drink cider with schoolfriends. Although the constituency of Leeds East was still Conservative when the Trusses first moved there, Roundhay today is solidly middle-class Labour, with the tapas bars and bookshops to prove it.

Liz was highly critical of Roundhay on the campaign trail during the summer, denouncing its Labour element. The Roundhay ward is part of Leeds City Council, so perhaps that was what she referred to. She was also critical of Roundhay School, which she attended:

“All of my parents’ friends worked in public sector jobs,” Truss has recalled. “The teachers at my school were quite often card-carrying members of the Labour Party and it just was not part of the culture to approve of what the government was doing.”

Truss is profoundly unpopular in Roundhay today. Beyond her politics, locals were outraged when she made disparaging remarks about Roundhay School, which is now a successful comprehensive (motto: “Courtesy, co-operation and commitment”), situated in a handsome redbrick building by the park.

“The reason I am a Conservative is that I saw kids at my school being let down in Leeds,” Truss said during a debate with Rishi Sunak in July.

It’s true that Roundhay was not a particularly good school in the late 1980s. “The fabric of the school was crap, really awful,” said one Roundhay teacher who overlapped with Truss. “There were ceilings collapsing, water leaks, gas leaks. The GCSE pass rate would have been 40 per cent A-C.”

It is possible that Truss thinks that more effort should have been made across the board. She was clearly a gifted student:

… the school improved markedly for sixth form and Truss reportedly received extra tuition along with other Oxbridge applicants, which helped her gain acceptance to Merton College, Oxford, to study philosophy, politics and economics (PPE).

Her years in Roundhay might not have been her best with regard to friendships:

On Ingledew Crescent, neighbours of John Truss, whose politics diverge considerably from his daughter’s, have been asked to keep their views to themselves. Some are too furious to hold back though. “She’s a lying b***h,” said Louise, a long-time neighbour. “She told lies about our local school. She told lies about the assistance she was given. I despise the woman and I feel sorry for her father. It’s not his fault”

One pupil at Roundhay remembered Truss as “aloof” and a “loner”.

The Oxford years

Going up to Oxford probably came as a relief for Liz Truss:

Like many bumptious high-achievers, it seems she found a more comfortable groove when she went to university in 1993. Even among Oxford colleges, the secluded, introspective Merton has a reputation for academic excellence. “For those of us from regional comprehensives, we’d often had to hide how clever we were,” said one contemporary from her year at Merton. “But at Merton you could meet all these amazing people with similar interests. It was very liberating.”

Oxford was a bastion of Conservatism in those days:

“I met Tories and [found] these people don’t have two heads and they don’t eat babies,” she said of this experience.

That said, she joined the Liberal Democrats:

Unlike most of her Merton contemporaries, though, Truss threw herself into life outside the college, joining the university Liberal Democrat society and becoming its president in the spring term of 1995. Student politics seems to have provided the stage she had been looking for.

Truss’s politics in the Oxford years were a typical Lib Dem mishmash. On social issues she still espoused the left-wing radicalism of her parents. During her speech to the Lib Dem party conference in 1994, made while she was still an Oxford student, she made an impassioned plea to abolish the monarchy.

Roger Crouch, who became president of the Lib Dem society the year after Truss, met her at a freshers’ fair in which she was determined to carpet the party’s entire stall with entreaties to legalise cannabis.

“Even at the time she was determined and willing to pick a fight and stand her ground,” Crouch recalled. “She knew what she thought and was willing to defend it. She was determined, slightly eccentric and challenging. She had an acerbic sense of humour, which I think is why we got on.”

The termcard for Truss’s presidency of the society included events on the legalisation of drugs and prostitution. “She liked to challenge the orthodoxy, often a male orthodoxy,” said Crouch, who is now a teacher.

Even so, she was too libertarian to remain a Liberal Democrat for long:

“Liz was always quite a libertarian Liberal Democrat,” he says. Truss was also involved with the free-market Hayek Society at the university and Crouch recalls one particular discussion in which she advocated for the privatisation of lampposts. “I didn’t see her as someone with a longer-term future in the Lib Dems,” he said. “I think she would have found us quite annoying.”

Liz and her boyfriends made the fringe student newspaper columns, one of which said:

Liz had mad ideas.

Her acceptance of a job with Shell also garnered criticism in the student gossip columns.

Life in London

Liz completed her studies in 1996 when John Major was Prime Minister, one year before Tony Blair’s Labour landslide:

Truss migrated to London after college and the not-quite-northerner became an entrenched southerner. She worked as an economist for Shell and then Cable and Wireless, but she was quickly captivated by the siren call of Tory politics, baffling some of her university peers.

“We came out of Oxford and it was the summer of Euro 96 and Britpop,” said her Merton contemporary. “Then Tony Blair got in. It was a breath of fresh air. The country was full of optimism. To then go and join the Conservative Party, I was like: ‘How does that happen?’ It was really perplexing.”

It was at this time that politics took hold of Liz, even if she was not an immediate success. However, her tenacity saw her through:

In 1998, aged 23, Truss ran for a seat on Greenwich council, a Labour-leaning borough. She lost, and it would be a 12-year political slog before she eventually became MP for South West Norfolk.

Running alongside her in 1998 was Douglas Ellison, who later won a seat on the council. “She was definitely resilient,” he recalled. “I don’t know how many selection processes she went through. There was this enormous self-belief to keep on getting up in front of these audiences and voters to eventually try and get that break. She was a sucker for punishment.”

Ellison wouldn’t necessarily have expected her to become prime minister, but noticed her obvious political skill. “Her manner could be a bit matronly, but she was very good at working people,” he said. “She’s been very lucky in a sense. Sometimes it can be better to be lucky than talented.”

Even though she never got a seat on Greenwich council, she settled in the borough, marrying her accountant husband Hugh O’Leary in 2000, at St Alfege church in Greenwich, just half a mile walk from their current home.

Her Oxford classmate Roger Crouch attended the reception:

It must have been a good one, because I can’t really remember it.

The couple have two daughters:

Frances, 16, and Liberty, 13, who she says is looking forward to hosting sleepovers in Downing Street.

I hope Liberty acted quickly.

Hugh O’Leary

On Tuesday, September 6, after Liz became Prime Minister that day, the Daily Mail told us more about Hugh O’Leary, complete with lots of photos:

Liz Truss‘true blue’ husband watched proudly as the Tory leader was crowned Britain’s third female Prime Minister.

Hugh O’Leary listened on as Ms Truss delivered her first Downing Street address on Tuesday, vowing to to create an ‘aspiration nation’ during her reign as the nation’s 56th Prime Minister …

Mr O’Leary was also by her side when she won Tory leadership on Monday, marking the first high-profile joint appearance by a hitherto private couple.

Ms Truss, 47, described her ‘dry-witted’ accountant spouse as the ‘love of my life’ on Valentine’s Day three years ago. She met Mr O’Leary at the Tory Party Conference in 1997 and said of their first date: ‘I invited him ice skating and he sprained his ankle.’ 

Mr O’Leary was born in 1974 and grew up in Allerton, Liverpool, before his family moved to Heswall, Wirral.

A former neighbour said ‘Hugh was much more serious’ than his two younger siblings and that ‘he was very earnest and very quiet but a lovely boy,’ the Times reported last week.

O’Leary, 48, became a chartered accountant after studying econometrics and mathematical economics at the London School of Economics (LSE). 

The couple started dating and married three years later, settling in Greenwich, South-East London. They have two daughters, Frances and Liberty. O’Leary has worked from home as a house-husband.

A close family friend, cookery writer Mallika Basu, said: ‘They are a great team. Both are keen cooks and very good cooks. She does lovely roasts, he does a good curry.’

There was only one dark period, when Liz had an affair with a fellow Conservative MP. Fortunately, her marriage withstood the strain:

Only once has their relationship been rocked. In 2006, it was revealed Truss had been having an affair with married Tory MP Mark Field. Her marriage survived; his ended.

The only damaging moment came when Tory members in her Norfolk constituency complained they had been kept in the dark about the affair and tried to oust her

But they were defeated and Truss triumphed.

‘I remember when the tabloid furore was roaring … both times, her friends locally rallied around,’ a source told The Times

‘There were a number of occasions when the two of them came to various parties and it was quite good to see that people were sympathising and rallying round, particularly when it was over her selection in 2009. It was extremely unfair the way that came up.

‘I don’t really know much about what went on but from my impression, they [O’Leary and Truss] have always been a really strong couple and I have never seen any real sign that it’s had much of an impact.’

What her family think

The article said that Liz’s father John was sad and furious about his daughter’s Conservatism — and probably her ascent to No. 10:

Truss’ left-wing academic father was apparently ‘so saddened’ at her metamorphosis from an anti-monarchist Lib Dem to a Tory that he finds it difficult to talk about it, according to reports. 

A former neighbour of maths professor John Truss claims he was ‘sometimes furious’ and could ‘barely bring himself to speak about’ her being a Conservative candidate when she first stood in 2005. 

His college, the University of Leeds, has also reportedly banned his colleagues from speaking about Truss as well, The Times reports …

In July, the Daily Express also alleged that the Foreign Secretary’s relationship with her father has been impacted by her ‘conversion to extreme right-wing politics’ and he is really ‘appalled’ by it, a colleague said.

Another university source said: ‘John is distraught at the policies his daughter is advocating in her bid to become PM.’

Also:

Another report claimed Professor Truss was ‘so appalled’ by his child’s ‘conversion to extreme Right-wing politics’ that it had impacted their relationship.

We understand that this is considerably wide of the mark. It may be coincidence but we understand Prof Truss has spent part of the time that his daughter has been campaigning abroad in Finland.

‘I think it’s fair to say there is a diplomatic element to this,’ says a source. Family figures have indicated to us that the move was almost certainly to avoid being a distraction to his daughter.

But if he has been dismayed by her transformation from the spirited girl in whom he proudly instilled a strong social conscience into the standard bearer for the Tory Right, he is not saying.

All the same it is worth noting Prof Truss, whose colleagues at Leeds have been ordered not to give interviews about him, declined to campaign for his daughter when she first stood for election in 2001. (Again it may be a coincidence but she was standing in a strongly Labour-supporting constituency.) An indication of how this must have been testing family bonds comes from Prof Truss’s older brother Richard, a retired Church of England vicar who officiated when his niece married accountant, Hugh O’Leary, 22 years ago.

The Truss family, he said, had liberalism ‘in its blood’ adding: ‘It must still be in her blood as well.’

He last saw his niece in March at a party to mark his 80th birthday.

He was, he says, ‘touched’ that the Foreign Secretary had flown in from overseas in order to be there. Of the family politics, he explained: ‘My grandfather lived and died quite young but he used to turn up and campaign for the Liberals before the First World War, so it’s kind of in our genes.’

His understanding of liberal, he says, is of being ‘open and concerned for those who are in need’.

It is also why he hopes the girl he remembers as ‘fun, very bright… questioning and determined’ will do something to heal ‘the division between people in poverty’ as well as changing the Government’s approach to immigration and refugees. ‘I hope she might do something on both fronts,’ he says.

Fortunately, Priscilla Truss supports her daughter:

The former neighbour also said that Truss’ mother, nurse and teacher, Priscilla – who he spoke to before she was selected as a Tory candidate in 2005 – is backing her daughter.

‘She said she was quite torn. She’d agonised over whether to support her because she was her daughter, or not to support her because she was a Tory,’ he told The Times. ‘In the end, she decided that family ties should win out.’

Liz’s three brothers also support her:

Paradoxically for all this apparent family dissent, there is also considerable support for a politician whose list of jobs in government reads like a cut-out-and-keep guide to becoming PM: Under-secretary of state for childcare and education; Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary; Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor; Chief Secretary to the Treasury, International Trade Secretary; and finally heading the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Her three brothers, Chris, Patrick and Francis, turned out to support her at the final hustings at Wembley on Wednesday evening. As for her mother Priscilla, she has been a near constant presence as her daughter has criss-crossed the country seeking support.

‘For the children, Priscilla has always been there for them,’ says a family friend. ‘They always knew that if they needed her she would be there.

‘The fact is Liz is proud of her politics but she is also proud of her mother’s political views, too.’

The article says that her mother’s family’s politics have been pivotal in shaping Liz’s worldview:

If anything, it is from her mother’s side of the family that we find the crucible of Liz Truss’s convictions.

The roots of the Grasby family, Priscilla’s maiden name, are deep in the rural landscape around Driffield, East Yorkshire. Priscilla’s grandfather George fought in the Great War with the East Yorkshire regiment and lost a leg at the Battle of Passchendaele.

After the war, he married Mary and became a cobbler on Adelphi Street. Mike Kennie, who lived next door, said the old soldier’s disability was no handicap and that he would ‘often be climbing ladders outside the building.’

His father William was a shepherd and inn keeper. Today the pub he ran, The Ship Inn at Langtoft, is still in business. But the link came as a shock to the current publican Martin Weaver.

‘Can you repeat that? Liz Truss, our probable next Prime Minister, is connected to this pub. I’m astonished.

‘In fact I’m shocked. This has been a pub since the days of Queen Victoria but I never knew that Truss’s great-grandfather was brought up here as a boy. I can’t wait to tell the locals.’

The local Tory MP, Sir Greg Knight, looks forward to having a drink with Miss Truss in her great-grandfather’s former home as a matter of urgency.

I hope he hurried.

Anyway:

‘Why not? It’s a great part of the countryside and I am pleased to learn of the family connection.’ It was George who laid the foundation for the socially-upward Truss family. His son, also George, won a place to read classics at Queen’s College, Oxford.

During World War II he served with the Army in India in an intelligence role. After the war he became a teacher, later a head of classics at Bolton School for 25 years. His daughter, Liz’s mother, was one of his pupils.

According to one former pupil, the pipe-smoking Mr Grasby was very much a ‘post-Second World War socialist’. It was into this Left-leaning family tradition that Miss Truss was born in 1975. An older brother Matthew died in infancy the previous year. Three brothers followed her.

Here’s something we didn’t know:

When Liz was two, they moved to Poland and then, when she was three to Paisley, where her father had been appointed a maths lecturer at Paisley College of Technology. She started at the West Primary School, where she recalls, discipline was still imposed with the leather strap for miscreants.

Liz’s brothers talked about what it was like growing up with her. Let’s begin with a neighbour’s reminiscence:

she revelled in her position as the only girl in a family of boys. ‘Her brothers were very sporty and her parents active so there was always something going on,’ says a Roundhay neighbour.

Youngest brother Francis said it was a very musical home: ‘We’d do music practice every night because my dad’s a very keen musician, and that was sort of enforced.’ Recalling playing board games such as Cluedo and Monopoly, Francis said of his sister: ‘My dad would say she cheated to win. She was someone who had to win. She created a special system to work out how she could win, and then if she was losing she might sort of disappear rather than lose.’

What her friends say

The paper reported that Liz’s friends were on board with her candidacy as Party leader and had every confidence in her:

We have spoken to family, friends, foes and even former romantic partners. They all agree on one thing: the Liz Truss they know is brighter and far more intelligent than some of her leaden appearances on hustings and in interviews might have suggested.

There is, too, something of a chameleon character to her that manages to identify her with practically everyone. That, of course, may be her skill as a politician — she is after all the longest-serving Cabinet minister in recent times.

But as a one-time ally says: ‘The key to understanding her is that she actually says what she believes.’ What perhaps is even more bizarre is the contempt she has these days for liberal group-think.

The paper caught up with friends of hers from Roundhay:

While still at school she joined the youth branch of the Lib Dems. A fellow student was Kiron Reid and the two were photographed holding a party flag at a mass trespass at Twyford Down, Hampshire, in protest at then Home Secretary Michael Howard’s Criminal Justice Bill clamping down on illegal raves.

Reid was also a friend of her then boyfriend, Wyn Evans, another Lib Dem supporter who was at Leeds Polytechnic.

Reid, who is still a party activist, told us: ‘Liz always had a liberal social and economic view of the world. Am I surprised she’s now a Tory?

‘Well, even back then she was a huge fan of Mrs Thatcher which was not a commonly held position in the North of England. She regarded her as a strong woman leader.

‘It was a long time ago and I was often drunk or hung over at Lib Dem conferences but she always argued her position strongly.

‘Wyn and Liz went out with each other for at least a year, maybe 18 months or more.’

Mr Evans is clearly no longer a fan of his former girlfriend, tweeting in April: ‘Biggest war in Europe for 75 years and our Foreign Secretary, in a major speech, can barely utter the word Europe. This is a speech of an isolated, detached nation still carrying notions of being a global power. Depressingly sad and woefully dangerous.’

A professor speaks

The Mail‘s article ends with the words of one of Liz’s lecturers at Oxford:

Perhaps Marc Stears, one of her Oxford lecturers, offers the most intriguing insight on our next PM.

‘That Truss appears to be on the cusp of becoming Prime Minister, rather than those candidates from central casting of PPE at Oxford, shows not only that I grossly underestimated her 25 years ago but also that the qualities our politics rewards have changed beyond recognition,’ he says.

‘Truss lacks the media elan of Tony Blair and David Cameron. She lacks the dogged determination of Gordon Brown or the patient, long-term vision of Margaret Thatcher.

Then again, he will not be the first person to have underestimated Mary Elizabeth Truss.

Maybe the prof nailed it in saying she lacked a patient, long-term vision. Then again, with the Conservatives having lost two years’ worth of policy making to the pandemic, time was against her.

Tomorrow’s post looks at the New Statesman‘s fascinating profile of Liz Truss’s brand of politics and The Guardian‘s analysis of her time in Parliament as well as Downing Street.

John F MacArthurYesterday’s post was an exegesis on the Epistle reading from Ephesians 1 for All Saints Day.

In it, I cited John MacArthur’s sermons on Ephesians 1 from August 2021.

Two of those sermons have something more in them: a focus on Christ for the Church and MacArthur’s premise that God has passed divine judgement on us, as Paul discussed in Romans 1.

MacArthur is not normally given to pronouncements of divine judgement in our current era. Nor does he take up socio-political causes, which makes ‘Our Great Savior, Part 1’ and ‘Our Great Savior, Part 2’ all the more interesting.

Let’s look at the second half of Romans 1 (UKESV), emphases mine:

God’s Wrath on Unrighteousness

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s decree that those who practise such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practise them.

I’m old enough to remember that the United States — the world as I knew it, and I was only a child at the time — began changing in the mid-1960s. Every year got stranger and stranger. By the end of the decade, protests took place at universities all over the nation and a particularly violent one occurred at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in the summer of 1968.

The role of the Church

Interestingly, one of MacArthur’s favourite books, an anthology on the Reformation, The Reformation of the Church, was published in 1964.

MacArthur points out that, as long ago as then, the Church was failing in its duty:

… in that anthology of those writers from the seventeenth century, Iain Murray wrote a forward, my dear friend Iain Murray. He wrote this in that same year, 1964—and listen to what he said; and I’m quoting, “At a time when the Christian faith is commanding so little influence on the nation, the church herself should be engaged with questions which affect her own life rather than the life of the masses of the people.”

Wow.

Church has continued to become more worldly in a variety of ways, none of which need mentioning because we all know what they are:

When the church begins to focus on the masses of the people and what the people want, it loses its influence. It almost sounds counterintuitive. Church “experts” would tell you that if the church wants to reach the world, we have to find out what the world wants—when just the opposite is true. The Christian faith will always, always lose its influence when it tries to accommodate the world. You get the opposite results than what you hoped for.

The Church is not called to be worldly but to reveal Christ to the world:

In another statement, “It has become customary for us to act as though the gospel could progress on earth independently of the condition of the church.” Great statement. We think that the character of the church plays apparently a minor role in reaching the world with the gospel. In fact there are so many, these days, so busy trying to find out what the world wants that it’s a very popular notion that the worst thing a church can do, that wants to reach the world, is act like a church. That is the devil’s lie. For the church to reach the world it must refuse to be like the world. It must refuse to define itself by what the world wants, what unbelievers want, what the unconverted desire. The church has one obligation, and that is to be what the Lord of the church commands—not focused on the culture but focused on Christ, not focused on passing social issues, the desires of the devil’s children, but solely on the will of the Lord. Only when churches are what Christ wants them to be are they useful in the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

There is nothing in the Bible, in particular, the New Testament, that says the Church should conform itself to the world. Conforming to the world is one of the devil’s best tricks. As I write from England now, I can see that the Anglican Church is on its knees. It is not alone:

Clearly, churches have little influence in the world because they are trying to give the world what it wants, rather than obey the Lord who is the head of the church. There is no text in the entire New Testament that commands the church to give lost sinners what they want; on the other hand the church is to obey the Lord Jesus Christ, to confront the culture as the church. There is nothing in the New Testament that calls the church to change social structures, to be engaged in political efforts, economic efforts. The church that effectively reaches the lost is the church that is relentlessly devoted to being what the Lord of the church commands His church to be. If a church has little influence in the world, don’t ask what the world wants, ask what the Lord requires. Be the church. It has always been our passion here to obey and honor and exalt the Lord Jesus Christ. We have no interest in what the children of the devil want a church to be; that is irrelevant. And furthermore, beyond being irrelevant, it invites the devil in.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is a blueprint for the Church and Christian behaviour. The first three chapters focus on the holy mystery of Christ’s bride and the last three chapters tell us how we must act as His followers.

The Reformers, being well read in Scripture, devised the ‘formal principle’, which defines a true church:

The formal principle was simply what the Reformers identified as the truth: that the Word of God is the sole authority in the kingdom of God, and therefore in the church. So the church is to be whatever the Word of God tells it to be. That is the formal principle. We have only one divine revelation for the life of the church, and that is Holy Scripture. And when you get into the New Testament epistles like Ephesians and the rest of them, you find that they are designed to make sure that every subsequent generation of Christians and churches understands the will of the Lord for their life and conduct.

And that is true of the epistles in general, but particularly true of Ephesians. Early on in the ministry here, I wanted to dig into Ephesians because it’s so absolutely definitive as to the life of the church. Here is heaven’s instruction book for the church to be the church. There’s not a word in it about what the world wants. Nothing about how to engage politically, socially, culturally. It’s all about how to follow the Lord who is the head of the church, how to be consumed with Christ. That’s why the epistle begins essentially in verse 3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”

Everything is in Christ, everything. It’s all about our relationship to Christ. It’s all about knowing Him, loving Him, adoring Him, declaring Him, and becoming like Him. That’s what the church needs to be. The more it’s like the world, the more it forfeits its influence. The more it tampers with the world, the more divisive it becomes, the more cantankerous it becomes, the more fractured it becomes, the more exposed its weakness becomes. It is a deadly danger for the church, any church anywhere, to be anything other than what the Lord of the church has designed the church to be. And we have all the information in the revelation of the New Testament.

So as we look at the book of Ephesians, we’re going to notice that in the first three chapters the emphasis is on doctrine—that is what we believe. And the last three chapters is the practical section—how we behave. And how we behave is predicated by what we believe.

The memorable line in the film Field of Dreams was ‘Build it and they will come’.

John MacArthur’s Grace Church in southern California has been predicated on Scripture since its founding in the late 1960s. He never used gimmicks or church growth strategies. He didn’t have to. Because he, his other pastors and elders focus on the Bible and on doctrine, the pews are filled for every service. They also have a thriving Spanish-speaking ministry. Thousands of people attend Grace Church every week.

Beyond that, MacArthur also has the Master’s Seminary. Its graduates go on to plant churches around the world.

He says:

Paul’s prayer is that the church would focus on fully understanding what is theirs in Christ. Every faithful pastor should be leading His church into the deep knowledge of Christ. Every faithful pastor must live in the constant expression of a desire to see the church filled with the wisdom and knowledge that comes with a deep revelation of Christ. This is the church being the church, being Christ-centered. Certainly this is my prayer for Grace Church.

God is answering that prayer, most assuredly.

Divine judgement?

Now we come to Romans 1. I placed it at the top, however, so that we could read it whilst contemplating what has happened to the Church and our world over the past six decades.

MacArthur believes that we are living out Romans 1 and that God has left the Western world to its own devices:

If there would ever be a nation of people who held the truth it would be certainly our nation, as well as most of the Western world. We have had the Bible. We’ve had the revelation of God. We all are very much aware that that has been rejected in our nation wholesale; and as a result of that, the wrath of God has been revealed. It is revealed against any society, any culture, any people, who hold the truth in unrighteousness, who turn from God; and that’s exactly what our society has done. And Romans chapter 1 defines the wrath of God. It says this is what it is. God, when He judges a society for rejecting Him, turns them over to a sexual revolution. It’s explicit. We have had that, 30 years ago I suppose, the sexual revolution; that was the first sign of divine judgment. He lets men go into sexual unrighteousness, pornography—really the death of any sense of biblical morality.

The final step is God’s giving people a ‘reprobate mind’:

Reprobate mind is a nonfunctioning mind; and what that means is the final step in divine judgment is a kind of insanity, where nothing makes sense. And out of that, Paul in Romans chapter 1 lists a long list of every imaginable kind of wickedness and sin, that will literally flood and drown a society. In the middle of that list, of course, is deceit and the hatred of God.

So there’s a reason why this country is in the insanity that it is in, and it is the judgment of God. God has allowed this nation that has rejected Him to go down the path of Romans 1 … to the point where there is an insanity that really makes no sense to any thinking person. It’s a reprobate mind, it’s a mind that does not function. And out of that mind that doesn’t function comes every imaginable kind of evil.

It was John Calvin who made the interesting statement that when God judges a people He gives them wicked rulers. When God judges a people He gives them wicked rulers. So this judgment of God, that has sent us down this careening path of transgression, iniquity, and sin, is also aided and abetted by wicked rulers because they tend to be the architects of all of this—if not overtly, certainly covertly.

Mankind cannot ‘fix’ what God has divinely ordained:

So I just want to say that you have to look at this in the light of divine judgment. What is happening in our country—the chaos, the insanity, the nonsense, the things that you can’t figure out, the confusion, the disorder, the disruption—is all part of divine judgment. And if you understand it that way you’re going to realize that you can’t fix it, you can’t fix it. The next election will not fix it. No election will fix it. A new governor in California will not fix it. It cannot be fixed; it is divine judgment, and it is obviously unleashed on us, and we’re in the final stage, the stage of insanity.

The folly of all follies in a situation like this is to think there’s anything you can do in the human realm to stop the divine judgment of God. That’s not possible. This is God judging, and He laid it out in detail. We are under judgment at a severe level, the most severe level revealed in Scripture, short of final, global judgment yet to come in the end of the age, and eternal judgment in hell. What is wrong in this country is not fixable; this is God bringing judgment.

However, MacArthur says that God will protect His faithful people:

The good news is that He protects His people in the judgment, that His cover is over us. We are in the shelter of His protection. We are saved from the wrath to come, and we are protected in the current judgment.

MacArthur says that we must have convictions — hills to die on — as we live through this era:

I was at camp this week with a thousand teenagers over in New Mexico, and the seniors from Grace Church got together and wanted to have a question and answer session. It was wonderful; I love doing it. And perhaps the most telling question came from—these are high school seniors—they said, “What do we need to know, facing university, facing college, going forward? What protections should we have?” And I said, “You need two things, two things, without which you will be a victim of the world. Number one: You need conviction. You need conviction. You have to have some non-negotiables, you have to have some hills you die on. And you have to know why, and you have to be able to substantiate those in the Word of God and in your own conscience. Without convictions you are a cork in the surf; you’ll end up wherever they take you. You need convictions.” And what a blessing to have been, for most of them, brought up in the influences of Grace Community Church where they have those convictions from those who surround them here; and for many of them, their own families. You have to have convictions.

Your convictions are the immovable pillars of your character. They’re the structure. Because what they’re going to want to do in the university is crush those convictions because they’re biblical convictions, and they’re true. And the world is ungodly, and the world is run by Satan, who’s a liar. They’re going to attack you with lies, and they’re going to attack your convictions about God, about man, about sin, about righteousness, about conduct, about morality, about everything. You have to have convictions.

The second thing you have to have is critical thinking, critical thinking. And I think for this particular period of history, this is what is most under attack. And let me tell you how to look at that.

Universities these days—certainly in the humanities side of things, universities these days are concerned about ideologies. You hear a lot about that, an ideology. What do they mean by an ideology? It’s just another word for a philosophy. But ideologies in the current climate are seductive and attractive to people because they are mindless, they are mindless.

Here’s how an ideology works: “What’s wrong in America? White privilege. What’s wrong in America? Systemic racism. What’s wrong in America? Abuse of women.” They want you to buy into the fact that everything that’s wrong in America can be explained by an ideology. They don’t want you to think critically about it.

“What’s wrong in America? Some people have money, and others don’t. What’s wrong in America? Corporations are getting rich, and people are being abused. What’s wrong in America?” They can be reduced to an ideology, a simple, single idea. This is stupidity. And universities are really bent on teaching people to be stupid. This is infantile. You can’t say, “What’s wrong in America? Systemic racism,” no matter what it is; if the bus doesn’t show up on your corner on time, “Well it’s systemic racism.” If you have mold on your bread, “Well it’s systemic racism.” That’s the stupidity of that oversimplification of everything—that is easy for people to suck up and be seduced by it because it’s a one-size-fits-all answer to everything, and you can put your brain in a bag and bury it. You have to think critically. You have to understand.

Then MacArthur describes the pandemic and post-pandemic period. What an amazing analysis:

For example, I’ll give you an illustration. In the United States 99.9 percent of the population survives COVID; that’s a fact. You can’t mesh that up with the behavior they’re requiring. How about this one: “Get vaccinated.” And you’re saying to yourself, “Well let’s see, they lied about Russia. The FBI lies. CIA lies. The National Health Organization lies. The World Health Organization lies. The CDC lies. The director of all of this lies, because he says something different every time he opens his mouth. The politicians lie. They lied about an incident in Chicago. They’re just lies and lies and lies and lies and lies.” And then they say to you, “Be vaccinated; it’s good for you.” I know why people aren’t getting vaccinated—because people don’t believe they’re being told the truth. It’s simple. It’s just the old Aesop’s fable about the boy who cried, “Wolf, wolf, wolf, wolf,” there never was a wolf. And when there was a wolf, nobody showed up.

You can’t keep lying and then expect people to believe you. You have to think critically and thoughtfully and carefully. You have to realize, CDC reports death rate from the normal flu last year was 99 percent lower. Oh, really. What happened to the flu? Where did it go? It went into the COVID statistic.

The chaos of deception and lies forces you, if you want to navigate the world in which you live, to think critically. Are there things wrong with capitalism? Capitalism can be abused, just like socialism is abused. Anything can be abused because sinners are engaged in it. Any kind of relationship, any kind of anything in human relationships is going to have good, bad, and indifferent. But what they want you to do is accept the—buy the package, and shut down alternative discussions. That’s why they cancel culture, because they want you to buy the ideology, they don’t want you to think critically. But we think critically because we think biblically, and we have the mind of Christ. First Corinthians 2:16, “You have the mind of Christ.”

I don’t want to get caught up in philosophy, which is another term for human wisdom. I don’t want to get caught up in empty deception. I don’t want to get caught up in something just passed down from person to person in tradition. And I certainly want to get above the stupid level of the ABCs. You can’t reduce me to some simplistic moron. Human wisdom is infantile compared to divine wisdom.

So look at verse 9, Colossians 2. Look, we don’t pay any attention to that, but we pay attention to Christ, “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made” —what? —“complete.” Everything we need is in Christ. First Corinthians 2:16, “We have the mind of Christ.” We have the mind of Christ.

That’s what I told those high school students: convictions, critical thinking. Think like a Christian. Think like Christ. Think biblically. Don’t be kidnapped by lies.

MacArthur says that the Church has a vital role to play during divine judgement:

I just want you to understand that the church has one great responsibility in the midst of this judgment. It’s not to try to fix what’s wrong in society. That same chapter, Romans 1, gives us our mandate. Paul says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel [of Christ], for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew and the Gentile.” Our responsibility is to preach the gospel—not to be ashamed of the gospel but to preach the gospel, which is the only answer. The only hope is Christ, and the only appropriate response to Christ is to embrace Him as Lord and Savior, and to embrace His glorious gospel.

I guess what I’m saying to you is don’t expect it to get better. But it raises the stakes for what we as believers in the world are called to do. And while so many churches, so many churches, ranging from the liberal churches to the even evangelical churches, are caught up in trying to fix what’s wrong in the world—everything is a result of judgment, even the racial hostility, the insanity of teaching people to hate and living on vengeance and revenge. All of these kinds of things are part and parcel of what happens to a culture when God lets them go. They go to an insanity where nothing makes sense. That’s where we are.

For us, we know the truth because we have the mind of Christ in the Word of God. And our responsibility is not somehow to figure out how to fix the world, but how to proclaim the gospel that can deliver people from the world, from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. The church needs to focus on the person of Christ; and sadly it’s all over the place on social issues, which cannot be fixed, first of all, because people are sinful. And what’s wrong in the world, in society, is a reflection of sin. And secondly, because that sin is compounded when God removes normal, divine restraint, and it becomes a judgment. So the judgment is that sinners get what they want, and it gets worse and worse and worse

You have to see those things for what they are. They’re not fixable; they’re a reflection of fallen sinfulness, a reflection of a nation that has abandoned God, and a reflection of divine judgment itself.

Ultimately, the Church must be a haven in times of judgement:

The church needs to become Christ-centered. For the church to reach the world, it has to stop trying to be like the world, because why would you want to identify with a society under judgment? Understand that what’s going wrong in our society is divine judgment. We have to be the church. We have to be the haven; we have to be the eye of the hurricane; we have to be the safe place. We have to be the place where Christ is exalted and the Word of God is proclaimed, truth is known and believed and lived and taught. We have the mind of Christ, and it’s in the pages of Scripture.

I will return to British politics in my next post. See if we are not under divine judgement, too, as our once great United Kingdom is in a state of collapse in so many ways. No matter what our politicians advocate and try, everything gets worse. It’s unfixable for the time being.

As I promised earlier week, there is a way that Prime Minister Liz Truss and Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng can deal with the 45% tax rate.

Before I go into that, however, the hysteria from the past few weeks, beginning with Kwarteng’s September 23 fiscal event, has gone into overdrive.

Truss’s dresses

During the Conservative leadership contest in July and August, Liz Truss has worn a particular style of dress.

During last week’s Party conference, The Guardian went a bit mad and accused the Prime Minister of dressing like a dictator. One can only hope that whoever tweeted this looked at the reply with Liz Hurley wearing the same style of dress …

… which is very popular at the moment.

On October 5, The Telegraph wrote about the new ‘power dress’, a Karen Millen creation called Forever.

If Truss is dressing like a dictator, then so is Catherine, Princess of Wales (emphases in purple mine):

You may not be familiar with the term “inverted notch lapel”, or what it might look like. Until now, that is, after two of the country’s most high profile women stepped out wearing it.

The first was the new Princess of Wales, who wore the Karen Millen Forever dress in sunshine yellow for a visit to a maternity ward. Kate rarely puts a fashion foot wrong so, as PR opportunities come, this is the holy grail. The Kate Effect is as powerful as it was 11 years ago when she married Prince William and, at the time of writing, the dress is already sold out in every size.

The other person modelling this style, Prime Minister Liz Truss, wore a red Karen Millen dress for her leader’s speech at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham. This in itself is not new; she has several dresses like this in different colours. For her, the inverted notch lapel is almost a style signature.

Truss’s look has gone viral on social media though, because it appears to be uncannily similar to the dress worn by Emma Thompson in the dystopian Russell T Davies drama Years and Years. It could even be the same one. Named the “Forever” dress, Karen Millen has been selling it in various iterations since 2015 and it’s a consistent bestseller. At £225, it’s not cheap, but also not prohibitively expensive. It’s inclusive too, available in sizes 6-26

Note how selective the perception is. Russell T Davies notices when Truss wears the dress, but not the Princess of Wales:

The fact that Thompson plays an ultra-far-right politician in a terrifying imagined future in Years and Years is less than ideal for Truss. As Davies himself pointed out on Instagram: “This is getting weird.”

The dress’s appeal is all about its neckline:

“The V-neck does all the right things,” says personal stylist Annabel Hodin, who regularly works with women in the public eye. “It elongates the neck in an unprovocative but very feminine way and allows for delicate but pretty jewellery. This highlights the collarbone and draws the eye upwards. The neckline also creates a narrow shoulder effect. This all exudes confidence very subtly.”

We know that both the Princess of Wales and Truss are fond of delicate jewellery; the inverted notch allows the PM to put her “Circle of Truss” necklace front and centre.

Here’s the ‘power dress’ angle:

But it’s not just famous women – it’s regular women who desperately need smart clothes for work and don’t have the time to trawl the high street for other options. They need clothes that aren’t cut too low at the chest, don’t expose their upper arms, conceal their knees, and allow them to get on with their work without being distracted by their clothes. They are the lawyers, finance executives and general managers at fine dining restaurants. Ask those women where they found their well-fitting skirt or sharply cut dress and they’ll whisper, “Karen Millen”.

That’s enough about dresses.

Liz-slamming continues

Labour, along with the media, are doing their best at slamming Liz — Truss, that is, not Hurley.

After Truss criticised the ‘anti-growth coalition’ in her conference speech on Wednesday, Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer wasted no time in attacking her:

On Thursday, October 6, Guido Fawkes reported (red and bold emphases his):

On cue, Sir Keir has hit the airwaves this morning to go on the counterattack after Liz’s conference speech. As expected, Liz’s “anti-growth coalition” line is doing all the heavy lifting, with Starmer erupting into a kind of “I know you are, but what am I?” defence on BBC Radio Sheffield:

Oh for heaven’s sake… the enemies of growth? She has just passed a kamikaze mini-Budget which has lost control of the economy, is putting hundreds of pounds on people’s mortgage bills […] that is the absolute opposite of growth. She’s…she- she’s absolutely not just anti-growth, she’s the destroyer of growth!

Like Liz last week, Starmer made a whistle-stop tour of local media this morning, so inevitably he was asked about this repeatedly. He reacted more of less the same way in each interview, as though it’s the first time he’d heard the accusation.

Labour are also ‘cultivating business’, which is interesting as they normally cultivate unions. Sir Keir is pictured with his Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves:

On October 6, Guido posted an excerpt from a new Labour document laying out the Party’s strategy:

Labour has in the past made much of cash for access attacks on Ministers – most recently on Kwasi after the mini-budget. Now the party has its eyes on government it too plans to get closer to corporate interests. In an internal document obtained by Guido, the party intends to raise an initial immediate target of £250,000 by deploying shadow ministers to “business engagement” events. They also plan to “cultivate and maintain” corporate contacts. A Labour press release from just days ago criticised the Tories for “prioritising the rich and big business”. Perhaps they might want to rethink that attack line…

… they are clearly aware that they are going to be pushing the legal boundaries, to generate hundreds of thousands coordinating with the leader’s office and glad handing at business engagement events without being caught offering policy changes. They may claim euphemistically to be “engaging with business”, the document makes clear that the real purpose is to “ensure income maximisation from events” and “to work closely with the fundraising team to ensure business contacts who may also be interested in a donor relationship are identified and effectively managed”. In other words, businessmen are to be flattered and fêted in return for their cash.

Keir is already facing internal criticism for moving away from the unions, who in turn are threatening to withdraw funding. He might now have the “who funds you” cash for access brigade on his case too…

Meanwhile, Rachel Reeves continued pumping out more inaccuracies about Kwarteng’s fiscal event economic policies:

Guido reminded us that Reeves used to work for the Bank of England (BoE) and should be able to handle dead hard sums. Furthermore, she was a few days behind the curve, as the BoE had stopped its intervention during this week’s Conservative Party conference:

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…

On October 4, Reuters stated that the BoE had already slowed down its purchases of long-dated government bonds:

The Bank of England rejected all 2.23 billion pounds ($2.53 billion) of long-dated government bonds which it was offered on Tuesday at its daily auction aimed at stabilising markets and stopping a fire-sale of assets by pension funds.

The BoE said last week that it was open to buying up to 5 billion pounds of long-dated gilts a day at reverse auctions which it is holding until Oct. 14, subject to a reserve price which would vary depending on market conditions.

The BoE announced the operations on Sept. 28, when 30-year gilt yields hit a 20-year high above 5% in market turmoil after Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget. Thirty-year yields dropped 100 basis points (bps) shortly after the BoE announcement.

The actual volume of gilts purchased by the BoE so far has been low and looks unlikely to come close to the 65 billion pounds which initially looked possible.

On Monday the BoE bought just 22.1 million pounds of gilts with a maturity of 20 years or over, and in last week’s three auctions it only bought 3.64 billion pounds in total

Late on Monday the BoE issued a statement reaffirming its willingness to buy up to 5 billion pounds of gilts, but reiterating that it would not buy gilts at any price.

The lies and the truth

On October 6, The Guardian wrote that the BoE warns that pension funds are in meltdown because of Kwarteng’s fiscal event, or mini-budget.

However, as usual, all the Conservatives’ critics, including their own rebel MPs, miss the point that currencies are fluctuating all over the world.

One of Guido’s readers responded to the article as follows:

1) It’s the G[uardian]

2) It’s an opinion piece

3) Explain why the € is STILL below parity.

4) Explain why every currency crashed (except the Ruble).

Was that all to do with Liz?

Grow up and grow a pair.

Another of Guido’s readers explained that many years of quantitative easing (QE) need to be corrected:

I’m afraid all the “listening” … in the world to the current myopic economic orthodoxy and vested interest groups, will not lead to a result contrary to that which it has already caused i.e. stagflation, merely more of the same.

Further, the real reason Sterling fell in value (which the deluded mainstream media dare not countenance) is because the Bank of England are running nominal interest 1% below that of the Federal Reserve (over 3% in real terms), and that they also announced the reversal of the Quantitative Easing programme (currently standing at over £1 trillion in asset purchases sitting on the Bank of England’s balance sheet).

Unfortunately the bond markets (along with every other asset market, including junk bonds) have been bid up into the stratosphere because of fifteen years of QE and ZIRP, without which, the huge manipulation of asset markets, including Gilts, is going to unwind, resulting in huge price falls, and a large rise in Gilt yields.

It has gone on so long, nobody can remember long term averages of bond yields or interest rates, and trillions of debt has been secured on this basis, which has skewed the economy toward speculation, idle whimsy and a reliance on huge government subsidy, none of which is productive.

In essence we have been producing too little and consuming too much, for far too long, expecting to borrow ever further into the future to fund it, or papering over the cracks with ever greater tranches of money printing.

Quite reasonably lenders are questioning our ability to pay, and the underlying value of our currency.

That is to say, the bill is coming due, and I’m afraid blindly following the prevailing economic orthodoxy, with more debt, money printing, state entitlement, etc., is only going to deepen the economic stagnation and inflation, quite probably to the point of hyperinflation if we continue to “listen” to vested interests unwilling to countenance their folly.

The long-serving Conservative MP John Redwood watches the economy closely and posted these observations on October 5:

The United States has experienced similar turbulence:

Overall, this is a global situation:

Let us now look at the global situation and how the United Kingdom compares.

We are better off than some countries and worse than others.

The point is: we are not an international outlier.

On Wednesday, October 5, The Times‘s David Smith looked at debt-to-GDP ratio across Western countries:

according to International Monetary Fund figures compiled by the UK’s Office for National Statistics, only Germany in the G7 has a lower debt-to-GDP ratio. The UK’s debt to GDP is 102.8 per cent, slightly higher than the ONS’s own estimate. This is above Germany, 70.2 per cent and the EU, 90.3 per cent, but lower on this measure than Canada, 112.1 per cent, France, 112.3 per cent and America, 132.6 per cent. Then you get to the very high levels of debt of Italy, 150.9 per cent and Japan, 263 per cent.

Some countries have surprisingly low government debt, such as Sweden, 35 per cent and Denmark, 33 per cent. Switzerland, perhaps more predictably, is on 25 per cent. New Zealand is a low-debt country, 33 per cent, with Australia on 48 per cent.

It is worth noting that:

Singapore’s debt-to-GDP ratio, interestingly, is 176 per cent.

The panic narrative in the UK seems to centre around the debt trajectory:

More important is the trajectory of debt; the rate at which it is rising. Fifteen years ago, on the eve of the global financial crisis, under one of the rules followed by the Labour government then, UK debt was just under 40 per cent of GDP. Now it is close to 100 per cent, with a further rise to come, whose size will be determined by the forthcoming assessment by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).

I’ll get into the OBR shortly.

David Smith has more:

Other countries have not seen anything like this rise. Germany’s debt-to-GDP ratio, having risen during the financial crisis, is back close to pre-crisis levels, despite the pandemic, thanks to tough fiscal rules. America has seen close to a doubling of its debt, but a smaller rise than the UK. Italy had high debt at the launch of the euro in 1999, roughly 120 per cent of GDP, from which the rise to just over 150 per cent now does not look spectacular.

Japan’s very high government debt has never been a particular problem because it is funded by Japanese savers and financial institutions. A significant proportion of UK debt is held by foreigners and is thus more vulnerable to shifts in sentiment.

Whenever I write about UK government debt, a small contingent raises the issue of unfunded public sector pensions. A much bigger liability, on top of this, is unfunded state pensions. But all countries have unfunded liabilities and the way the OBR deals with this issue is to look at the future cost to government of funding those public sector pensions, which is expected to fall marginally relative to GDP in future because of the reform of those pensions.

He says that everything will hinge on the OBR, rather than the Chancellor, hence more doom and gloom:

The OBR, in its July fiscal risks report, had a baseline projection of UK government debt rising to 267 per cent of GDP over the next 50 years because of the upward pressure on spending on health, the state pension, social care and the loss of motoring taxes from the switch to electric. Returning debt to the 75 per cent of GDP considered sustainable before the pandemic would require significant future tax increases and spending cuts, it said.

Since then, the government has abandoned the health and social care levy (originating with the rise in national insurance) and the receipts in prospect from higher corporation tax. The question now is whether the OBR, later this month, can offer some reassurance on the short-term trajectory of UK debt. With markets still jumpy, that reassurance is still required.

All hail the OBR, in other words.

However, can the OBR be trusted?

Some of the OBR people come from a left-leaning organisation called the Resolution Foundation.

Those who watch parliamentary debates know that one name that comes up a lot is the Resolution Foundation, founded by Torsten Henricson-Bell, who now goes by the name Torsten Bell. Labour quote him and his Resolution Foundation frequently. Bell is also a frequent guest at various select committee inquiries.

This is because Torsten Bell was Ed Miliband’s policy advisor several years ago. It was Bell who carved Miliband’s 2015 Labour manifesto pledges into stone, which, after David Cameron won the general election that year, mysteriously disappeared. Even today, no one knows what happened to the Ed Stone, as it is called.

Bell was always opposed to Brexit.

Once, in 2018, BBC Radio 4 called the Resolution Foundation ‘left-leaning’.

Guido says that the Resolution Foundation, a registered charity, plays a bit fast and loose with the Charity Foundation’s rules on politicising matters. In their case, that involved promoting Labour at one point in February 2019.

This brings us to the present day and the intertwining of the Resolution Foundation with the OBR and the Treasury.

Conservative Chancellor George Osborne created the OBR — Office for Budget Responsibility — in 2010 when the Conservatives were in coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Whether Osborne realised it or not at the time, the OBR took stances that opposed later Government policy.

On Monday, October 3, Guido posted ‘Office for Budget Responsibility’ Not-So-Independent Leadership’:

There’s been plenty of media squawking in the last couple of weeks over the lack of an Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecast in the mini-Budget. Never mind the fact the OBR didn’t even exist until 2010, without its explicit blessing, how can any fiscal policy ever be trusted?

Even a cursory look at the OBR’s personnel gives you an idea of which school of thought its leaders belong: both the chair of its Budget Responsibility Committee and its Deputy Chief of Staff are former colleagues or protégés of Torsten Bell, chief executive of the left-of-centre* Resolution Foundation (RF). Torsten Bell will be a familiar face to co-conspirators. Before he spent his days pushing for ever-higher welfare payments at the RF, Bell was Labour’s Director of Policy under Ed Miliband. For years it seemed carving Labour’s manifesto into stone would be his crowning achievement. It turns out seeing his friends land top jobs overseeing government fiscal policy has won out…

Richard Hughes, now the chair of the OBR’s Budget Responsibility Committee, spent a year alongside Bell at the Resolution Foundation as its research associate, where he:

    • Co-authored new fiscal rule proposals which were “urgent” because the Government was promising “a flurry of spending commitments and promises to cut taxes” in 2019.
    • Warned of the “economic disruption associated with a no deal Brexit“, and claimed it would lead to “a smaller and slower-growing economy in the long run.”
    • Claimed the impact of Brexit on the economy would be “worse than Covid” which was responsible for over 100,000 deaths.

Laura Gardiner, OBR Deputy Chief of Staff responsible for policy costings, expenditure, receipts and “fiscal risks“, worked for Bell for six years. In that time she:

    • Claimed it “makes sense” to bribe 25-year olds with £10,000 handouts an £8 billion-a-year policy which was soon swept under the rug, presumably once everyone realised how bonkers it was.
    • Attacked the government for “the era of austerity“, and proposed reforming Universal Credit. Learned plenty from her days alongside Bell, obviously.
    • Served as a “Lambeth Equality Commissioner“.

Lambeth is a long-time Labour borough in south London.

Guido is perplexed:

It baffles Guido that Richard Hughes was recruited to head the OBR from an organisation, the Resolution Foundation, which has been unremittingly critical of every Tory chancellor since George Osborne. Is it any wonder that Kwasi didn’t fancy having his plans benchmarked by known ideological opponents who favoured staying in the EU and egalitarian redistribution on a gargantuan scale. It doesn’t take a great insight to guess what the OBR will say when a budget that doesn’t align with their values and objectives lands on their desks…

*David Willets, the foundation’s president, is used as a token Tory shield against accusations it is a left-wing campaigning organisation. Guido would not go as far as to say Two Brains is a useful idiot, he is however an ideological fig-leaf…

No wonder that Kwarteng felt free to joke about the OBR at a drinks reception sponsored by the think tank Policy Exchange that night at the Party conference:

On Thursday, October 6, Guido made another OBR revelation. Another Resolution Foundation alum favours huge tax rises :

He wrote:

It turns out there’s a third we missed…

Cara Pacitti, the OBR’s Senior Fiscal Analyst, also spent two years as an economist at the Resolution Foundation, where she worked alongside her future OBR boss Richard Hughes on one paper assessing the “damage” of a no-deal Brexit, and another which claimed “tax rises tend to harm the economy less than spending cuts“. The latter paper, “How to support the economy today and repair the public finances tomorrow”, may as well have been drafted by Gordon Brown. 

Here’s a flavour of what it proposed:

    • Public support is necessary and so taxes on corporate crisis windfall profits should be considered – which is Labour Party policy.
    • Freezing tax thresholds and raising the Corporation Tax rate should be seen as low-hanging fruit for raising revenue – a massive stealth tax on individuals and a jobs destroying burden on businesses.
    • Reforming wealth taxes can improve the functioning of the tax system and raise significant revenue – the Corbyn agenda.

So that’s three senior members of the OBR who are about to assess a budget which obviously runs contrary to their declared ideological objectives. The Resolution Foundation has never seen a tax it doesn’t like, is run by the Labour Party’s former policy chief and advances an agenda that is socialistic. How is it that out of the thousands of economists turned out by British universities every year, the OBR over and over again keeps hiring senior economists from the one think-tank run by Labour’s former policy chief? What are the odds?

No wonder Kwarteng didn’t bother consulting the OBR before issuing his mini-budget.

Another hard-hitting truth is that average families are paying more tax than the Left and their water-carrying media chums would have us believe:

A full report is available:

How to abolish the 45% tax rate

Now to the nub of the matter.

All the above provides a backdrop as to how difficult it will be to get rid of Gordon Brown’s — Labour’s — 45% tax rate.

I wrote about Kwarteng’s U-turn on Monday. It was spurred on by Sir Graham Brady of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers who can make or break a Prime Minister.

If Parliament had a vote on its abolition, the Government would have lost, leaving Liz Truss in a precarious position. On Monday, The Telegraph reported:

Rebels told journalists they were confident that at least 36 of them would vote with the Opposition on the 45p cut – the number needed to overturn Ms Truss’s working majority – and it became increasingly clear that the policy was unsustainable.

On Tuesday, the veteran editor and author Charles Moore wrote a Telegraph article implying that dropping the abolition of the top tax rate was the right thing to do under the circumstances, although he did say:

Yesterday, unfortunately, the wrong side won. Kwasi Kwarteng may be right that the top-rate cut had become “a terrible distraction” from the rest of the growth plan, but its removal is a setback for that plan. It weakens the Truss/Kwarteng attempt to change our economic culture and return to enterprise.

However, all is not lost.

The Spectator‘s Matthew Lynn has a cracking plan on how to get rid of the 45% tax rateby stealth:

The tax only raised a trivial £2 billion a year or so and prevented the UK from being the lowest-taxed major economy in Europe.

Getting rid of it might even raise more money. Clearly abolishing it in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis is too difficult politically. It is, however, still the right thing to do. So here’s what Truss – who has spent all her political capital on a botched attempt to scrap the tax – should do instead.

The PM should start by steadily raising the threshold so that it impacts far fewer people. If she’s feeling brave, she should take it all the way up to £500,000. In the United States, for example, the top rate of 37 per cent kicks in at $539,000 (£480,000) – and hardly anyone apart from a few fanatics on Twitter have much to say about that.

Next, Truss should add in various exemptions and allowances that could only be set against the top rate. Mortgage relief, for example, or travel expenses for work.

Finally, she should dramatically increase the thresholds for the 40 per cent rate as well. Given that £50,000 a year is a ridiculous level for people to start paying almost half their income in tax, Truss could push that all the way up to £150,000 a year, and then eventually to £200,000. And then once that had been achieved, the PM could merge the two top rates, and sell the whole package as an increase for the rich. Add up all those changes, and it would no longer exist.

Some of the biggest changes in political direction are best done under cover. Margaret Thatcher and Gordon Brown achieved some of their most significant policy changes by stealth: Thatcher did so with her slow and gradual reduction of trade union power; Brown with a steady expansion of the tax and welfare system that turned the UK into a country addicted to state support.

The Truss government – if it is not already too late for it to make any meaningful reforms – should learn to follow them. The 45 per cent rate should go: but it can only be done if nobody notices.

No doubt, either Truss or Kwarteng reads The Spectator. Let’s hope they did not miss this brilliant way forward on getting rid of the 45% tax rate. And never mind the OBR.

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

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

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

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

Back to the hustings.

London

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

she cut her political teeth in London.

Greenwich, to be precise.

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

the greatest city on earth.

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

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

Boris, thank you for your service.

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

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

He said:

We value who you are not what you are.

He paid Liz credit for being:

a proud and passionate Conservative.

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

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

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

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

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

The Telegraph has a good recap. Emphases mine below.

Liz has had a good campaign:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He closed with a poem:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sound familiar?

Nationally:

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

These are her pledges:

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

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

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

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

He pledged an ethical approach, if elected:

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

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

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

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

She also ruled out energy rationing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He, too, criticised Sadiq Khan:

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

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

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

He brought up ethics again:

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

The Telegraph‘s article ends with:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other hustings

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

A summary of the others follows.

Perth

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

The Mail had a summary of what the candidates said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Belfast

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

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

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

For that reason, this hustings is well worth watching.

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

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

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

Madeline Grant summarised the disconnect in The Telegraph:

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

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

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

Verdict: Must do better.

Manchester

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

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

He won high praise from Liz:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another GB News article about the hustings has more:

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

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

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

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

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

Liz also had something to say about illegal immigration:

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

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

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

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

The candidates are not miles apart.

Liz also discussed her vision for the North:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Birmingham

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

Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi went on stage to endorse Liz.

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

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

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

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

That was punchy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

is a romantic ideal.

Then he complained:

There’s not been a single question about tax!

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

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

The man is a technocrat.

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

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

Also:

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

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

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

As for Rishi:

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

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

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

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

Daniel Finkelstein said:

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

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

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

Winner: Rishi Sunak

Katy Balls said:

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

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

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

Winner: Liz Truss

Patrick Maguire said that both won but in different ways:

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

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

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

Norwich

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

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

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

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

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

His mother was a chemist you know…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, Liz visited a food manufacturing plant:

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

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

I think they make Colman’s Mustard there.

Now on to the hustings.

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

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

Health Secretary Steve Barclay came out in support of Rishi.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rishi had to answer a question about lockdown:

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

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

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

These were Rishi’s answers:

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

Macron, friend or foe? Friend

Mask mandates or no mask mandates? No mask mandates

Is a trans woman a woman? No

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

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

Hartley-Brewer had to get tough with a heckler:

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

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

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

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

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

Then it was Liz’s turn.

Hartley-Brewer asked her about lockdown:

I did question lockdown, Liz Truss says. 

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

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

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

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

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

Mask mandates or no mask mandates? No mask mandates

Is a trans woman a woman? No

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good answer.

Liz reiterated her support for Net Zero.

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

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

Their divergent answers on Emmanuel Macron also made the news.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guido reported Macron’s reaction:

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

So, here we are, at long last.

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

Liz Truss is our third Party leader in six years.

Conservative MPs must stop the regicide and support her premiership.

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

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

Also of interest are:

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

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

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

British voters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brummer explored the possibilities of what could happen either way:

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

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

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

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

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

Brummer disagreed with Rishi’s tax hikes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And let no one blame Brexit:

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

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

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

Ultimately, taxes do need to be cut:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mail reported on Boris’s schedule:

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

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

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

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

The Times reported:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpts from his transcript follow:

They won, folks.

They got him in the end.

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

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

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

These are deeply depressing times for British democracy.

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

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

And why were they so determined to destroy Boris?

Think about it.

He was a transformational Prime Minister.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was a sad evening, indeed.

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

Boris won that night’s Greatest Briton accolade:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The atmosphere sounded surreal:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Not after the last 24 hours. Appalling.”

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

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

I think this gave Boris’s supporters false hopes:

People in Conservative constituencies began emailing their MPs:

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

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

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

In 2021:

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

By July 2022, everything had changed:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conservative MPs panicked:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ukrainians

The Ukrainians will miss their biggest supporter.

They were saddened by his resignation:

Boris offered them his reassurance:

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

Guido Fawkes wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guido wrote:

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

Slava Ukraini…

Guido also posted this video:

GB News had more on the story:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At least Boris got his Churchillian international claim to fame.

What next?

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

Guido has the video and explains the greeting:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End of series

Those who missed the first two instalments of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s downfall can read them here and here.

Today’s post will focus on Michael Gove.

Yesterday, I left off with Boris firing Gove in a telephone call.

Gove must have been stunned.

Yet, even he cannot deny that he and Boris got on well. Apparently, they knew each other at Oxford and were hardly best friends then.

2016 betrayal

As for more recent events, author and journalist Douglas Murray gives us a précis of Gove’s parliamentary career in an article for UnHerd: ‘Michael Gove’s faultless prophecy’.

Unlike me, Murray is a Gove fan, but there are a few excerpts from his article worth exploring.

Gove has been in various Cabinet and ministerial positions since 2010, when we had a coalition government under David Cameron (Conservative) and Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrat).

Under Cameron in those years, Gove was in the Department for Education.

After Cameron’s re-election in 2015 which gave the Conservatives a clear majority without the need for another coalition, Gove continued receiving appointments to various departments:

After the 2015 election, he became known in Whitehall for his mastery of his brief. Most ministers who go from portfolio-to-portfolio struggle to understand the complexities of just one of their jobs, let alone each of them in turn. Yet this is exactly what Gove did at Justice — even though he was there for less than a year — and in each of the cabinet positions he subsequently held.

He knew what way the wind was blowing with the 2016 Brexit referendum:

Before Gove chose to vote for “Leave”, there were concerns that the Brexit campaign would suffer from being led by too few senior politicians: an operation with Chris Grayling and Bernard Jenkin as its figureheads was unlikely to inspire a democratic revolt. Gove recognised this — and while campaigning to leave the EU was entirely in keeping with the principles that defined his political career and the years in journalism that preceded it, it still took bravery for him to step up. It alienated Gove from much of his friendship group (not least the Camerons), and could have cost him dearly politically.

Cameron resigned as Party leader the morning after the referendum result, as if suffering from sour grapes because things didn’t go his way. It was around 9:30 a.m., if I remember rightly.

A Conservative leadership contest resulted, which Theresa May won.

However, Boris and Gove were in the mix, too.

Murray describes the atmosphere not only in Parliament but in the country as well from June 24, the day of Cameron’s resignation, throughout much of the summer. This period also turned Conservative voters against Gove (emphases mine):

The thing, though, that Gove was most right about, and for which he has been praised for the least, is the act which made him most infamous. It gave him a reputation for snakery. This was, of course, his decision in the immediate aftermath of the referendum to turn on Boris Johnson.

It is not easy to forget the febrile atmosphere of June 2016; every hour turned up enough news to last a month in normal times. But it was also a perilous time: people were genuinely afraid. Basic questions remained unanswered. Would EU citizens be allowed to remain in the UK? Who is running the country? Once David Cameron left office and his Chancellor, George Osborne, decided to punish the country further by disappearing completely, only the Governor of the Bank of England emerged to say anything on behalf of the nation. “We are all prepared for this,” Mark Carney reassured the country. Yet it was a moment of maximal instability.

The Leave campaign “victory” press conference the morning after the referendum was like a funeralPerhaps the news of David Cameron’s political demise, and the looming Tory chaos that would follow, cast a pall over proceedings. Or perhaps it was the realisation of the task that lay ahead. In those uncertain hours, the one thing that seemed clear was that to the victor most go the spoils. Boris Johnson had led the Leave campaign and it seemed inevitable that he should become the leader of the Conservative Party and the Prime Minister

But Michael Gove put a stop to all that. Over the weekend after Brexit, something changed. Some people claim that Gove suddenly had visions of his own ascent to a higher officeOr was it that, in the aftermath of the referendum, Gove watched Boris Johnson and saw a man who was fundamentally unfit for the role of Prime Minister?

Murray would disagree with my assessment, but Michael Gove really did stab Boris in the back that summer:

When Gove held a press conference in which he announced that he would not be leading Johnson’s campaign for the leadership, he immediately assumed a new role in the public imagination. Suddenly, he was Gove the turncoat, Gove the assassin, Gove the backstabber. The Gríma Wormtongue of British politics. The party swiftly showed its disapproval.

Murray has left out a few details here. Gove ran for Party leader that year along with Andrea Leadsom and Theresa May.

Gove despatched Boris quickly. The referendum was held on June 23, and one week later, on July 1, this was the state of play, as Isabel Hardman reported in The Spectator:

As Michael Gove finished speaking, the bookmakers have reported that Andrea Leadsom has overtaken the Justice Secretary when it comes to betting on who will be the next Tory leader. Theresa May remains the favourite at 1/3, with Leadsom at 7/2 and Gove at 12/1.

Now of course the bookies are not clairvoyants and can get elections—and referendums—very wrong indeed. But these odds reflect the mood in the Tory party, which is currently registering a sense of disbelief that Michael Gove could do something like this. Many senior figures believe that the way he has turned on Boris Johnson is beyond the pale, and are preparing to back Andrea Leadsom, while I understand that a group of former Boris backers are considering declaring their support as a block for Leadsom on Monday too.

Leadsom had a good referendum campaign, performing well for the Leave side. Her key disadvantage is that she has never held a Cabinet role – though this is not down to lack of ability so much as it is down to George Osborne’s personal dislike of her following criticisms she made of the Chancellor in 2012. He bears grudges, and exacts revenge by slowing down the careers of people who have angered him. Leadsom took much longer to make it into government than she should have done. But this disadvantage may be a little easier to shrug off now Gove has such a trust problem with his own party.

Boris’s sister Rachel had much more to say in the Daily Mail on July 2: ‘Michael Gove’s wife Sarah Vine “detonated the Boris Johnson bomb” claims RACHEL JOHNSON’. Sarah Vine was, and still is, a Mail columnist.

Rachel tells us how Gove’s candidacy unfolded with his wife’s help:

It was funny ha-ha at first when she wrote in her column that she and her hubby Michael Gove would be running the country on a joint mandate.

‘Given Michael’s high-profile in the Leave campaign,’ she wrote, ‘that means he – we – are now charged with implementing the instructions of 17 million people. And that is an awesome responsibility.’

That royal ‘we’ between dashes was borderline bonkers enough, but it was followed by a leaked private email that ended up on the front pages because in it, Vine urged Gove to be his ‘stubborn best’, as he deployed his ‘leverage’ with his Brexit buddy Boris

Nobody knew whether it had been leaked, or had misfired, but it was a bit whiffy and rum.

Even at that stage only the most crackpot conspiracy theorists could have guessed what was to come next in this multi-act, rolling, live-blogged Shakespearean tragedy.

Michael Gove knifed Boris Johnson in the back and in the front, pushed him under a bus, ran over him several times (thank you Piers Morgan for this image) and then declared he was running for the leadership himself.

This, coupled with the new arithmetic in terms of supportive MPs, meant that Gove’s co-skipper was holed below the waterline and forced to abandon ship at his own launch.

Now we are where we are, as everyone keeps saying, and we know a bit more about where that is. 

Rachel gave us more insights into the real Michael Gove:

Brexit means Brexit. At some point Article 50 will be invoked. And never again listen to what a politician says. Watch what he or she does.

Gove was well known to be an ideological ninja, with his posters of Che Guevara and Chairman Mao on his wall, but when it came to the top job he was an avowed cleanskin. 

He had no leadership ambitions. After all, he’d said so many times: ‘If anyone wants me to sign a piece of parchment in my own blood saying I don’t want to be PM I’m happy to do that.’

‘I’m not equipped to be PM. I don’t want to be PM.’

‘I am an inconceivable choice. I don’t want to do it. I wouldn’t do it. It wouldn’t matter how many people asked me to do it,’ etc, etc…

And then, on Thursday, he executed the most egregious reverse ferret and act of treachery in modern political history since… well, let’s just say since Michael Gove backed Brexit against the wishes of his good friend David Cameron.

He did a lap of honour of the studios, saying to interviewers that friends had been begging him to do it and telling him: ‘Michael, you’d be marvellous.’

‘I’ll explain to anyone who asks why I think I am the right person to be PM,’ he said.

Then on Friday he delivered a substantial 5,000-word manifesto that he’d obviously prepared earlier, to be acclaimed on his new home, Twitter (he has come aboard with the handle @gove2016, so far following no one).

She went on to tell us that Gove had as his adviser Dominic Cummings, who was also part of the Leave campaign, masterminding proceedings in the background. However, the Goves and the Osbornes were closer:

OK, I accept that it was more likely detonated by the combined agency of his wife; his former adviser, Dominic Cummings; and also of course George Osborne, with whom the Goves maintain close contact

They are, indeed, due to go on family holiday ensemble this summer.

So of course it was inevitable, given this domestic scenario, for the Goves to dump a chap who is very much not numero uno assoluto with the Osbornes either. 

Think of the pressure from the wives to stick the knife in, get the job done, before the two families had to break bread over the prosecco and antipasti in Italy.

Rachel cited two longstanding Conservative MPs’ reservations about Gove:

As it happens, Westminster suicide bomber is not a good look for anybody, which explains why many former Govistas – even one of the newspaper barons who supported him as recently as last week – are leaping on to the TM4PM (Theresa May for PM) bandwagon so fast.

As Michael Heseltine warned: ‘I personally would keep an eye open for Gove. First he abandoned his friend David Cameron now Johnson has felt the blade.’

Ken Clarke has told Gove to fall on his sword and fast. The classical quotation that comes to mind in all this is not so much ‘Et tu, Brute’ but ‘Those whom the Gods want to destroy, first they make mad.’

However much Gove tries to remind us what a nice, caring guy he is in his long leadership pitch, the ‘signalling’ around this personable and civilised candidate is, I’m afraid, that he’s acted like a political psychopath run by his wife (Vine), an acknowledged sociopath (Cummings) and a lame duck Chancellor. 

And this Machiavelli still wants us to want him to be Prime Minister

At his leadership launch, Michael denied his wife had urged him to run, denied he was giving Dom Cummings a job, but I don’t necessarily take everything the most polite man in Parliament says on trust any more.

Rachel was and is a Remainer. And political people, whatever their stripe, often mix in the same circles, as she acknowledges of the Goves:

I like them. They are both lively company and huge fun. 

Indeed, we sometimes say that we must have supper soon, and perhaps we will, when the bleeding bodies of the fallen are removed from the smoking battlefield of this campaign.

Murray makes no mention of this intrigue but says that Gove might have been dismayed with Boris’s seeming lack of gravitas:

… perhaps there really were things in the immediate aftermath of the referendum that persuaded him that Johnson was fundamentally unfit to lead the country; the weekend after the vote, as the country desperately looked around for a leader, Johnson decided it was the perfect time to host a “boozy barbecue” and a cricket match.

And why not celebrate? No one but no one in the media or politics on the Remainer side thought that 52% of the nation would vote Leave in the largest plebescite in British history.

In the end, Gove lost Conservative MPs’ votes to Andrea Leadsom and Theresa May.

Afterwards, Leadsom said she could not understand why May did not want children. Leadsom got a lot of Party backlash for that. She stood down, leaving May as the last candidate standing.

As such, Conservative Party members did not have a vote that year.

Murray admits that no one ever forgot his hero’s betrayal but says that Gove appeared to be a loyalist — on the surface, anyway, as far as I am concerned:

This cloud, by and large, has not left him. Only yesterday, one embittered newspaper columnist saw fit to describe Gove as “a conniving, reptilian politician”. Is this really true? He did, after all, survive through Theresa May’s premiership, and stuck loyally beside her when other people would not. He even entered Johnson’s own cabinet, and excelled in the roles he held in that short-lived administration. And not only is he the only politician who has remained at cabinet level through this tumultuous decade and a half, but he is also one of the few people from Cameron’s cabinet who is still in the House of Commons. Some lost out on the top prize and huffed off. Others whose abilities could have been of use to the country decided that the country did not deserve them — though various investment funds, as chance would have it, did.

A few days ago, Gove announced that he did not expect another role in the high echelons of government.

But did he really mean that?

It seems unlikely that Gove will actually remove himself from frontline politics. I read his announcement at the weekend as an act of cynical self-deprecation. Or perhaps a hint that he needs to simply “step back” for a bit.

Murray’s conclusion is interesting:

In 2016, Gove didn’t simply backstab Johnson; he issued a warning. It took the rest of the Parliamentary party and much of Britain another six years to decipher his warning: that when Johnson finally lumbers out of No 10, he will leave defeated and humiliated. Don’t say we weren’t warned.

The Goves’ break-up

In June 2021, The Sun published photos of Matt Hancock and his female adviser in a tight clinch in his office at a time when social distancing was still in force. Hancock abruptly left his wife when the photos were published.

On July 2, the Goves announced they, too, would be divorcing, although for different reasons:

Guido Fawkes’s post referenced Sarah Vine’s Mail on Sunday column a week earlier on June 26:

This official announcement to the Press Association will surprise no one in SW1 where rumours have been rife for months. At one point Lobby hacks were asking the PM’s spokesman under what roof was Michael Gove sleeping. Sarah Vine’s article this week in the Mail on Sunday was not subtle.

While she did not mention her husband at all, she did write that politics can alter home life irrevocably, as in the case of the Hancocks:

The problem with the wife who has known you since way before you were king of the world is that she sees through your facade.

She knows your fears and your insecurities. She knows that, deep down inside, you are not the Master of the Universe you purport to be. And some people don’t like to be reminded of that …

In the end, there are two types of politicians. Those who can walk away from power – and those who can’t. And who will compromise everything for the sake of it.

How the Gove family found out about his sacking

On July 7, 2022, Sarah Vine wrote an article for The Mail about how she and the children found out that Boris sacked Michael.

Note that she is still friends with Rachel Johnson.

The news came via text messages as Sarah and the children were watching Love Island:

The teenagers and I were watching Love Island when the news broke — a text, to my son, from a mate: ‘Is it true that Boris has fired ur dad?!’

A split second later, my phone also pinged. It was my friend Rachel (Johnson, Boris’s sister): ‘My bro has just fired your ex!!’ Blimey, I thought. Even I wasn’t expecting that.

They turned off the television to find out more:

‘Get him on speakerphone, get him on speakerphone!’ squealed my daughter. So we got him on speakerphone (Michael, not Boris). What on earth happened?

‘Well,’ he explained, ‘The Prime Minister rang me a few minutes ago and told me it was time for me to step back. I said, respectfully, ‘Prime Minister, if anyone should be stepping back, it is you.’

‘Go on!’ said my son, leaping off the sofa and punching the air.

‘What are you going to do now?’ I asked. ‘Have a glass of wine and a slice of salami and see what tomorrow brings,’ he replied.

What tomorrow brought, of course, was the Prime Minister’s resignation, following the resignations of pretty much anyone of any consequence.

Vine was generous in her assessment of Boris’s premiership but she, too, agreed with her husband that he just wasn’t serious enough:

I still don’t quite see what is to be gained, politically, from getting rid of him. There isn’t a brilliant replacement waiting in the wings, and the country could really do without the disruption of a whole summer of rudderless government, or worse, a snap general election.

Especially since, as prime ministers go, he was not by a long shot the worst this country has seen.

He delivered Brexit, albeit imperfectly — but then after the horlicks Theresa May made of it, it was a miracle he managed it at all.

Like every other leader on the planet, he was blindsided by Covid — but handled the pandemic with bravery and vision, rolling out the vaccination programme at record speed, pulling the country out of lockdown as quickly as possible.

He was spot-on with the war in Ukraine, moving quickly to offer Britain’s support against Russia.

On the big stuff, as the cliche goes, he was good. Better than good, actually. But in politics, that’s not enough any more

It’s not enough to be a serious politician; you also have to be a serious human being. And the problem with Johnson is that he just isn’t. That, ultimately, has been his downfall.

Everything that has gone wrong for him — the lockdown parties, the questionable donations, the dinners with oligarchs, the misguided loyalties, the tenuous grasp of the factsit all stems from that.

Vine then tells us how angry Gove got with Boris when he was running for Mayor of London, a post he held for two terms, from May 2008 to May 2016:

At the time Boris was running for mayor of London, doing a round of fundraisers. My (now) ex-husband and I had been to one the night before, a dinner somewhere or other, where Boris was speaking.

It was a disaster. I remember he arrived late, delivered a thoroughly lackadaisical performance and left early, underwhelming the assembled, many of whom were astonished that such a man could even contemplate a life in politics. He seemed incapable of buttering a bread roll, let alone a room of donors.

The next day, Michael rang Boris and gave him both barrels. How dare he waste everyone’s time and effort like that; didn’t Boris realise how many people had put themselves out to organise that evening, for his benefit? It was embarrassing, it was rude — and, worst of all, it was irresponsible.

Boris was suitably contrite. ‘Sorry, Gover, I hear you Gover,’ was his response, deploying his customary bashful charm. It didn’t wash. Michael hung up.

Despite being almost two decades ago, the incident sticks in my mind because a) I had never seen Michael so angry and b) it is emblematic of Johnson’s biggest problem, one that lies at the root of all his troubles: he just can’t take anything seriously.

She brought up Boris’s childhood ambition of being ‘king of the world’, which I covered in Part 1.

Then she told us about his 2016 candidacy for leader of the Conservative Party:

Everyone was exhausted, but they threw themselves into it. Meetings, phone calls, speeches, media rounds — it was relentless. Boris was running to replace Cameron, Michael having decided — largely at my behest — not to.

There was support to be garnered, deals to be brokered — all the usual stuff that goes on in a leadership contest.

Everyone was going all out to get Boris elected. Except, it seemed, for one person: Boris. While the rest of the team were busting several guts, he appeared to have taken a leaf out of Cameron’s book — and seemed to be mostly chillaxing.

He was supposed to meet so-and-so; he didn’t. He was supposed to draft a letter; he didn’t. Make a phone call; didn’t happen. Oh, I’ll do it in the morning, oh I left it at home. Not quite the dog ate my homework, but not far off. Sometimes he would just go AWOL, leaving the team scrabbling for excuses.

Everyone was taking things deadly seriously; Boris, meanwhile, seemed to think it was all just one big joke. 

Things finally came to a head when the team found him holed up at home in the countryside, flipping burgers, drinking rosé and playing cricket with his mates while the fate of Brexit — this thing that he had supposedly been so passionate about, that had brought down a government, that had overturned everyone’s world order — hung in the balance.

That night, Michael walked through the front door ashen-faced. ‘I’ve made a terrible mistake,’ he said. ‘Boris is a disaster.’ And the rest, as they say, is history.

Michael paid a very heavy price — both politically and personally — for that judgment call. As we saw from this week’s events, Boris never quite forgave him — and who can blame him

She left out the part where Gove then decided to throw his hat into the ring!

She still stands by her man in this respect:

It’s hard to hear the truth about yourself at the best of times, even harder when it’s from an old friend. As it was again this week when Michael told him the game was up.

In closing, Tim Loughton MP described Boris’s sacking of Gove the best, even if he makes it sound as if it were done in person:

I think it was Michael Gove who went to Number 10 with the metaphorical bottle of whisky and the revolver – well, clearly Boris has downed the whisky and turned the revolver on Michael Gove.

Finally.

I do hope that Liz — or Rishi (we still have nine days to go) — forgets about Gove and moves ahead with fresher, newer talent in Cabinet: people who are actually in tune with what Britons are thinking.

Tomorrow’s post will highlight other resignations from early July. I’ll never forget keeping track of Guido’s Twitter feed during that time.

Those who missed the first instalment of Boris Johnson’s downfall can read it here.

The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend at the beginning of June cannot have been an easy one for the Prime Minister, who turned up with his wife Carrie at the public events.

Pressure was mounting for a vote of confidence by Conservative backbenchers.

On the morning of Sunday, June 5, the last day of the Jubilee weekend, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the BBC that there would be no such vote, but even if one took place, Boris would win it (video):

By the time the Queen had celebrated her historic jubilee that weekend, Sir Graham Brady, chair of the Conservative 1922 Committee, had received the requisite number of letters from the Party’s backbench MPs to trigger such a vote.

The vote took place on Monday, June 6. Shapps was correct in saying that Boris would win it. Shapps went on to run for the Party leadership himself in July.

Unfortunately, after the confidence vote, more events occurred making Boris’s position as Party leader untenable.

Earlier, in May, the Conservatives had taken a drubbing in the local elections.

Then came the two by-elections on Thursday, June 23.

One was for Neil Parish’s seat of Tiverton and Honiton in Devon. The farmer had stood down on April 30 after two fellow Conservative MPs saw him viewing tractor porn on his phone in the Palace of Westminster. Liberal Democrat Richard Foord won handily.

The second was further north, in Wakefield, where another disgraced Conservative-then-Independent MP, Imran Ahmad Khan, had to stand down for being convicted on April 11 of assault on a 15-year-old boy in 2008. On May 23, Khan was sentenced to 18 months in prison. The West Yorkshire seat reverted to Labour, with the election of Simon Lightwood.

Then came the Chris Pincher groping scandal. Pincher was Deputy Chief Whip but resigned on Thursday, June 30, after a lubricious episode at the Carlton Club in St James. The Carlton is a private club for Conservatives. Pincher had allegedly groped two men at an event there.

Boris had to sign off on Pincher’s appointment as Deputy Chief Whip. However, even if Boris had objected, the Chief Whip could have appointed Pincher, anyway. As I explained on July 6, whoever the Chief Whip wants for a deputy, the Chief Whip gets.

However, the Party whip had not been withdrawn from Pincher, and MPs were incandescent.

On Friday, July 1, an article appeared in The Telegraph: ‘The “disturbing” call about Chris Pincher’s lurid behaviour that forced Boris Johnson to act’.

GB News interviewed Neil Parish, who was furious.

The Telegraph article says:

The low point of yet another chaotic 24 hours for Boris Johnson came when disgraced “tractor porn MP” Neil Parish popped up on the airwaves to give him a lecture on moral standards in government.  

As the Prime Minister and his aides were holed up in Number 10 deciding how to respond to the growing Chris Pincher scandal, the “very cross” former backbencher was giving them both barrels on television. 

“I can’t believe they haven’t done it,” he said incredulously, when asked why the whip had not been removed. Referring to his own punishment for watching pornography in the House of Commons, he added: “It’s double standards. Come on, let’s be fair.”

His righteous outrage encapsulated how untenable Downing Street’s insistence that Mr Pincher would be able to remain a Conservative MP, despite accusations he drunkenly groped two men, had become.

Someone must have been watching GB News that afternoon or the fury from MPs must have increased to the extent that the Chief Whip, Chris Heaton-Harris, withdrew the Party whip:

Just over two hours later, Chris Heaton-Harris, the Chief Whip, put out a statement reversing that decision, following a day of growing anger amongst backbench Tories at the Prime Minister’s failure to act. 

However, there was a problem in that, the day before, Boris did not think things needed to go that far. He thought that Pincher’s resignation from the Deputy Chief Whip role sufficed (emphases mine):

Downing Street was bullish as the news broke at 8pm, with a Tory source insisting: “The PM thinks he’s done the decent thing by resigning. There is no need for an investigation and no need to suspend the whip.”

Even into Friday afternoon, Boris’s stance had not changed:

… at noon, No 10 still remained defiant – with the Prime Minister’s spokesman telling reporters he considered the matter closed, since Mr Pincher had resigned and that there was no investigation into his conduct.

Heaton-Harris and Boris received pushback for their inaction.

Finally, later on Friday Pincher became an Independent MP:

Early in the evening Downing Street was eventually forced to act and announced it had stripped Mr Pincher of the whip, given that a formal complaint had been made to Parliament’s harassment watchdog.

The question was how much did Boris know about Pincher — past and present — and when did he know it?

Regarding the Carlton Club:

The Prime Minister had also been “troubled” by a “disturbing” call from one of the MPs who witnessed the incident and relayed to him a detailed account of what had happened, according to a source close to him.

The article has the details of what happened with Pincher at the club.

One MP was so unnerved that he rang Heaton-Harris at 3 a.m.:

One Tory MP who was present at the scene told The Telegraph how they “threw out” a “very drunk” Mr Pincher after being told about one of the two sexual assaults and then called the chief whip at 3am to inform him.

Another waited until daylight to inform him:

A second MP who witnessed at least one of the groping incidents also informed Mr Heaton-Harris the following morning. “This is not something that should be brushed over,” the MP told The Telegraph.

That MP says Pincher’s reputation was known, and it is true that he did have to stand down from another post when Theresa May was Prime Minister:

“Given the nature of the behaviour and the seniority of the role he held, it was highly inappropriate behaviour. This is not the first time there have been conversations about this person either. Many of us were surprised when that appointment was made.”

It is the second time that Mr Pincher has been forced to resign from the whips’ office over allegations of sexual impropriety. In 2017, he quit a more junior position after being accused by a former Tory candidate of trying to chat him up.

Returning to Boris:

“Boris has set the level and now everyone else is trying to imitate him, it is a constant drip drip. It all adds up, doesn’t look good,” one former minister told The Telegraph.

“The worrying thing is this is beginning to shape up so much like sleaze in the 90s under Major, where it was a whole series of inappropriate and pretty seedy actions by ministers and Tory MPs that completely undermined him.”

Lord Hague, the former Conservative leader, said the Prime Minister had been too slow to act, with a “whole day of everybody speculating and talking”. He added: “These things need dealing with decisively.”

That day, The Telegraph had a related article, ‘Boris Johnson v John Major: How Tory sleaze scandals under the two leaders stack up’. The scores are pretty even. I remember reading it and thinking that things did not look good for Boris.

There were two other things that did not bode well for him that week: a proposed treehouse for his son and an upcoming investigation by the Privileges Committee over Partygate.

Let’s look at the treehouse first. Labour MPs were apoplectic that Boris wanted to have one built at Chequers for young Wilf.

Guido Fawkes has the story (emphases his):

Eyebrows were raised in Downing Street over the weekend after the publication of a story in The Sunday Times that Boris had looked into having a £150,000 treehouse built for son Wilf at Chequers. The story – undisputed since publication – goes he had once again entered into discussions about Lord Brownlow forking out for the cost, however plans were eventually scuppered by police security concerns given the house would be visible from the road. Despite the design including bulletproof glass, which raised the cost significantly…

Guido was amused to learn that Downing Street’s eyebrows weren’t raised by the Sunday Times’s story, instead by Labour MPs’ attacking the plans on the grounds of Boris being out of touch. Vauxhall’s Florence Eshalomi, Rhondda’s Chris Bryant, Wallasey’s Angela Eagle, and Hull’s Karl Turner were all among those laying into the PM.

Guido points out Labour’s hypocrisy, because it was Tony Blair who had a tennis court complex installed at the Prime Minister’s weekend retreat (purple emphases mine):

No. 10 sources wryly note, however, that it wasn’t that long ago when it was a Labour PM splashing huge wads of cash to renovate Chequers – without a whimper of controversy. In 1999, one Tony Blair added a luxury tennis court complex to the PM’s Buckinghamshire residence, something since enjoyed by successive MPs including David Cameron and Boris Johnson. Sources in the know tell Guido that the courts weren’t built using public cash, nor did they come out of the Chequers Trust, implying the extortionate costs either came out of Blair’s personal pocket, or a private donor. Given Guido unfortunately can’t make it to Blair’s big centrist jamboree today, perhaps an on-hand hack might like to raise the question of who paid for the courts…

Labour: it’s okay when they do it.

The Privileges Committee are investigating Boris for Partygate, specifically on whether he deliberately lied to the House of Commons in saying he was unaware any coronavirus rules were breached. That was before he received his fine.

Labour’s Harriet Harman is leading the investigation. Labour’s Chris Bryant recused himself from that responsibility because he has made no secret of his dislike for Boris.

However, as Guido pointed out on June 17, Harman is hardly impartial:

It’s now emerged his replacement, Harman, has not been neutral on the question up until this point either. She has tweeted her views relating to allegations around the PM’s truthfulness, with one saying “If PM and CX admit guilt, accepting that police right that they breached regs, then they are also admitting that they misled the House of Commons”. You wouldn’t favour your chances going to trial if the judge was on the record with such levels of preconceived bias…

Conservative MPs are also aware of her bias:

Yesterday in the Commons, Andrew Murrison asked Michael Ellis whether he agreed “that those placed in a position of judgment over others must not have a previously stated position on the matter in question”. The Cabinet Office minister replied:

It is, of course, an age-old principle of natural justice that no person should be a judge in their own court.

Where an individual has given a view on the guilt or innocence of any person, they ought not to then sit in judgment on that person. I know that point he is referring to, and I have no doubt that the right honourable lady will consider that.

It seems to be yet another own goal by Labour, mind-made-up Harman’s appointment totally undermines the impartiality of the privileges committee investigation…

The investigation formally began on June 29:

The problem with this investigation is that it has to prove intent on Boris’s part to mislead the House. How will Harman prove it?

If Boris is found guilty of deliberately misleading the House, it will have severe ramifications for parliamentary proceedings. Ministers might fear expanding on certain subjects in case they get a figure or another type of detail wrong.

We should find out the result in September.

What Labour are trying to do with this process is ensure that Boris loses his parliamentary seat for good, which is what will happen if he’s guilty. That way, he can never be an MP again.

Meanwhile, some Conservative MPs were disgruntled that Boris had won the confidence vote in June. Under the current 1922 Committee rules another one cannot be held until 12 months have elapsed. They wanted Sir Graham Brady to change the rules to allow another vote before then.

On Monday, July 4, Mail+ said that Boris was ‘still the best man to lead Britain’:

THE Prime Minister returns to his desk today after an impressive display of statesmanship on the world stage.

Following a Commonwealth conference in Rwanda aimed at building a common future, he returned to Europe to galvanise Nato and a wavering G7 into hardening their support for Ukraine.

Sadly, though, his achievements were overshadowed by yet another Tory sleaze row, leading to inevitable further attacks on his leadership. There are even reports that rebel backbenchers are plotting another attempt at regicide – just a month after the last one failed.

When will this self-mutilation end? Yes, the Chris Pincher affair is ghastly and should have been handled better. But there are far bigger issues at stake.

There’s a painful cost of living crunch, war in Europe and a migration crisis. Meanwhile, Tony Blair and his embittered Remainer chums are on a renewed mission to strangle Brexit.

Instead of dissipating energy on brainless infighting, the parliamentary Conservative Party needs to focus on the problems its constituents actually care about. They can only do that by getting behind their leader.

For all his recent troubles – some self-inflicted – this paper unequivocally believes Boris Johnson is the right man to lead the party and the country.

None of the potential replacements has his almost unique ability to connect with voters across the social and political spectrum. Crucially, he is the only one capable of winning the next election

That Mail+ editorial has its finger on the pulse of the nation. I will come back to what voters think in a future post.

On Tuesday, July 5, Chris Pincher was in the news again after Baron McDonald of Salford — Simon McDonald — the Permanent Under-Secretary to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office between 2015 and 2020, wrote about the MP’s past and what he thought Boris knew to Kathryn Stone OBE, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards for the House of Commons.

I wrote about this at length on July 6, concluding that there was bad blood between the life peer and Boris. Boris sacked him when the Foreign Office was merged with the Department for International Development. To soften the blow, Boris elevated him to the House of Lords. It should be noted that Baron McDonald is also a Remainer.

Wikipedia has a summary of Pincher’s parliamentary history of appointments under Theresa May and Boris Johnson:

Pincher served as an Assistant Whip and Comptroller of the Household in 2017, before he resigned after being implicated in the 2017 Westminster sexual misconduct allegations, having been accused of sexual misconduct by Tom Blenkinsop and Alex Story. Two months later, in January 2018, he was appointed by Theresa May as Government Deputy Chief Whip and Treasurer of the Household. After Boris Johnson became Prime Minister in July 2019, Pincher was appointed Minister of State for Europe and the Americas. In the February 2020 reshuffle, he was appointed Minister of State for Housing. In February 2022, he returned to his former role of Government Deputy Chief Whip and Treasurer of the Household.

As to what the peer alleges Boris knew about Pincher, here are two possibilities:

The matter was discussed on that morning’s Today show on BBC Radio Four.

Guido has the dialogue, with Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab responding for the Government. Raab said:

Aside from the Westminster rumour mill, any allegation that had resulted in formal disciplinary action… whilst there was inappropriate behaviour [from Pincher], it didn’t trip the wire into disciplinary action… the individual who made the complaint did not want formal disciplinary action taken.

McDonald was on next. He said:

I disagree with that, and I dispute the use of the word ‘resolved’… the complaint was upheld… Number 10 have had five full days to get the story correct, and that still has not happened… it’s sort of telling the truth and crossing your fingers at the same time and hoping people aren’t too forensic in their subsequent questioning.

Guido said:

In a matter of hours, the line has gone from “it’s not true” to “the PM didn’t know of any formal complaints”. Chaos.

The Paymaster General, Michael Ellis, addressed the matter in Parliament, intimating that Boris forgot a prior briefing on Pincher:

From that point, the spiral turned ever downward.

That day, Sajid Javid resigned as Health and Social Care Secretary.

Shortly afterwards, Rishi Sunak resigned as Chancellor.

That evening, an article by Lord Frost appeared in The Telegraph: ‘It is time for Boris Johnson to go’:

No one is more downhearted than me at the events of the last few days. Over the years, I have worked as closely as anyone with Boris Johnson. I know, therefore, that he is a remarkable man and a remarkable politician. Only he could have cut through the mess left by Theresa May and delivered on the verdict of the people in the Brexit referendum. He took the country with him through the pandemic and has shown huge leadership on policy towards Ukraine.

But this country now faces formidable challenges. Facing them requires not just the ability to talk about a vision but the determination and steeliness to establish a credible pathway to it. It requires a leader who knows where he wants to take the country and can set out how he intends to get there, in a way that is consistent with the traditional Conservative vision.

I had hoped Boris Johnson could be that person, but I have realised that despite his undoubted skills he simply can’t be. As I have often said, his Government has drifted far too much to the Left on economic matters, not only on tax and spend but by being too quick to regulate and too willing to get captured by fashionable trivia. It is tax-raising while claiming to be tax-cutting, regulatory while claiming to be deregulatory. It purports to be Conservative while too often going along with the fashionable nostrums of the London Left

I can’t honestly see what this Prime Minister’s economic philosophy is, beyond the content-free concept of “levelling up”, and accordingly I no longer believe we will ever see a consistent drive towards low taxation, low spending, attractiveness to investment, and deregulation on the scale needed. 

But even more than that I have become worried by the style of government. The whole partygate affair could have been dealt with more straightforwardly and honestly by setting out right from the start what had gone wrong in No 10, taking responsibility, and explaining why it would not happen again. By the time those things had been said, they seemed to have been dragged unwillingly from the Prime Minister rather than genuinely meant. Accordingly they lacked credibility …

The Pincher affair then showed in a real-life case study that [reform of Downing Street] was not going to happen. Confronted with a problem which appeared to reflect badly on the Prime Minister’s judgment, we saw once again the instinct was to cover up, to conceal, to avoid confronting the reality of the situation. Once again that instinct, not the issue itself, has become the story and the problem. Worse, this time round, ministers have been sent out repeatedly to defend suspect positions that came apart under closer examination. This is no way to run a government

Boris Johnson’s place in history is secure. He will be one of the past century’s most consequential prime ministers. If he leaves now, before chaos descends, that reputation is what will be remembered. If he hangs on, he risks taking the party and the Government down with him. That’s why it is time for him to go. If he does, he can still hand on to a new team, one that is determined to defend and seek the opportunities of Brexit, one that is able to win the next election convincingly. That is in the Conservative Party’s interest, in Leave voters’ interest, and in the national interest. It needs to happen.

On Wednesday, July 6, all hell broke loose.

The Times reported:

The prime minister’s authority over his party is crumbling as three more ministers plus two parliamentary aides resigned this morning and a string of previously loyal MPs turned on his leadership.

Rebel MPs believe that a routine meeting of the executive of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers this afternoon could be the trigger point for changing the rules that at present mean Johnson cannot be ousted for another 11 months.

Sir Graham Brady, the 1922 Committee chairman, has told the 16 members of the executive to arrive promptly for the meeting, an instruction being taken by some of those on the executive as a sign that he wants to discuss options for ousting Johnson …

At midday he will take prime minister’s questions knowing that about half — perhaps more — of the Conservative MPs on the benches behind him want him gone

Rebel Conservatives have been contacting Brady today to demand a rule change that would allow Johnson to be ousted as soon as possible. “It is being made very clear to Graham that this needs to happen sooner rather than later,” said one …

One former minister said that there was a very strong feeling amongst MPs that the issue needed to be brought to a conclusion. “Boris has made very clear that it will take a forklift truck to get him out of Downing Street. So it’s now up to us to assemble the forklift truck.”

The article goes on to list the resignations which came in by 11:30 a.m. that day. More followed in the afternoon.

To make matters worse, Boris got a grilling during his appearance at the Liaison Committee, comprised of the heads of the Commons select committees.

That evening during a telephone call, Boris sacked Michael Gove, who was the Levelling-up Secretary.

Gove had contacted Boris that morning to tell him he should resign before PMQs at noon.

Somehow, the news reached the media.

The Times has the story:

Gove’s allies claimed it was Downing Street that had briefed the media that Gove had told Johnson to resign. They said it was an attempt to make him look disloyal and distract attention from the wider revolt.

“It did not come from us,” one said. “They want to paint Michael as the villain trying to orchestrate a revolt against the PM. Nothing could be further from the truth.” They added that the sacking had then come out of the blue in a call from Downing Street. “He just told Michael that given their conversation in the morning he had no choice but to sack him,” the ally said.

I wonder. Gove is incredibly untrustworthy and, according to the article, he and Boris have had a difficult relationship since their days at Oxford.

Before Boris sacked Gove, a number of Cabinet ministers had urged him to stand down, including Priti Patel and Kit Malthouse, who had worked with Boris during his time as Mayor of London:

Patel’s intervention was striking because of her longstanding support of Johnson, having been home secretary throughout his time as prime minister.

In a one-to-one meeting in No 10 she is understood to have conveyed to him the overwhelming views of the parliamentary party. She said there was no way he could continue to govern without the support of his party.

A similar message was conveyed by Malthouse, her deputy, who was also one of Johnson’s deputies when he was mayor of London.

[Brandon] Lewis travelled back from Belfast to tell the prime minister that he believed he should resign. On his flight a passenger heckled him, telling him: “You are complicit in the betrayal of this country by Boris Johnson,” the BBC said.

[Grant] Shapps told the prime minister that he stood little chance of commanding a majority in a second confidence vote. [Kwasi] Kwarteng told Chris Heaton-Harris, the chief whip, that Johnson should resign for the good of the country.

I will have more on the resignations tomorrow.

Alas, poor Boris.

His downfall started the Monday after the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend in early June.

The next few weekday posts will look at what happened and how.

Before going into the full story, however, I would like to explain why replacing Boris does not automatically trigger a general election.

Why there is no general election

In the UK, we elect MPs to represent us. They are up for (re-)election during a general election, although there might be by-elections in the meantime for those who die or are caught up in scandal.

In other words, we do not elect a Prime Minister. The party that wins a clear majority in Parliament puts forward their leader for that post.

Admittedly, the position of Prime Minister has become somewhat presidential in recent years. People gravitated towards Boris in 2019 and voted for a Conservative MP so that he would become PM.

Boris, although deposed, has never lost an election. He was elected Mayor of London twice (two four-year terms). He has never lost an election as MP. He won the Conservative Party’s leadership election. He became PM when the Conservatives won the 2019 general election. He also survived a confidence vote in 2022.

One of Guido Fawkes’s readers pointed all this out and provided more food for thought:

Each time he won it was in the face of massive media opposition. So was it logical for his MPs to throw him out because the media told them to? It was the Treasury dominated Chancellor [Rishi Sunak] with his string of wrong economic judgements who needed to go.

Now on to the story of Boris’s downfall.

‘World king’

Boris Johnson, born in New York and raised there as well as in Europe, imagined himself as destined for greatness when he was a child.

On June 10, 2022, UnHerd‘s Will Lloyd posted an interesting article, ‘How Churchill ruined Boris’.

Lloyd tells us that, when Boris was a child, he:

declared he would be “world king” one day. 

At that point, Lloyd says, Boris’s father Stanley was philandering. The Johnson family unit was breaking down and his mother had to leave for a while (emphases mine):

The boy’s response was to make himself “unhurtable, invincible, somehow safe from the pains of life…”, according to his mother when she resurfaced after an eight month disappearance. His desires betrayed his insecurities. If he could not be loved, he would be powerful. 

As a result, the most popular Prime Minister of living memory became his hero:

The armour plate little Boris chose to cover these scars was Winston Churchill. It was always Churchill: Britain’s last world king. Absent a mother, he discovered a hero. Self-pity was sublimated into the desire for glory. 

Churchill, who died in 1965, loomed large in the collective post-war British imagination:

Johnson decided to emulate Churchill — “the greatest statesman Britain had ever produced” — and stitch himself into this gold thread. Churchill was a holy presence in post-war childhoods. Boris memorised the captions of Churchill picture books. Fathers read selections from the Great Man’s speeches to their sons. Boys in the Sixties imagined themselves piloting Spitfires over green Sussex, as the sonorous, rousing, words of Churchill echoed in their heads. 

Allegedly, by the time he got to Eton, he had set his goal in life, masked under a cloak of joviality as self-preservation:

By Eton his wish was Churchillian. Become Prime Minister. Win. The clown fez he wore for the next 40 years distracted his contemporaries from this ruthless fixity of purpose. 

In 2014, as the fiftieth anniversary of Churchill’s death approached, Boris wrote a biography of his hero, The Churchill Factor. The prose is pure Boris:

Churchill is the “beaver who damned the flow of events”; he is “like some burly and hungover butler from the set of Downton Abbey”; he is simultaneously a “crowbar of destiny” and a “hyper-gravitational astral body”.

It is no wonder that Boris continued to be attached to his hero in recent years:

Churchill, wrote Johnson, was the “inevitable” Prime Minister. By 1940 there was only one “man for the moment”. When Brexit was deadlocked in 2019 Johnson’s association with Churchill, the assiduously spade-worked notion that, give or take some hair, they were the same man, cashed out spectacularly. The mantle of inevitability passed to Johnson.  

Like Boris, Churchill also had a troubled childhood:

They are spookily alike, but not due to their maverick political careers, not for the doughy and obvious reasons. You have to go back to the beginning. Churchill suffered through his own version of Johnson’s youth of neglect and distress. “Famous men are usually the product of an unhappy childhood”, writes Churchill in Marlborough.

Churchill’s personal sadness drove his political ambitions, too:

Unhappiness evoked the same ambitions in Churchill as it did in Johnson: the conscious decision to be a classical hero, with all the ruthlessness and coldness such a choice results in. “He is bound to emerge historically as a romantic and glamorous figure”, wrote one sympathetic observer of Churchill in the Thirties, “but he is surrounded by corpses.” Suicides close to Winston Churchill included a brother-in-law, a former stepfather, a daughter’s lover, a former daughter-in-law, a son-in-law and a daughter. Johnson leaves behind two cratered marriages, and anguished relations with his platoon of children. I can picture both men wondering if this is the cost of greatness.

Both men used self-deprecating humour as a shield:

The callousness of Johnson and Churchill was leavened by self-mocking qualities. Their vanity was excused by humorousness.

Older Britons say that Churchill was perfect for winning the war. His role in leading peacetime Britain, however, was quite the opposite. The public deemed him a failure in that regard. So it was with Boris, the man who got us out of the EU then went on a downward leadership spiral:

Now that half his party is trying to slaughter its chief, The Churchill Factor makes for weirdly poignant reading. If Johnson hadn’t chosen all this you could almost feel sorry for him. “I think he doesn’t really know what he wants,” wrote Johnson about Churchill, and himself. They both just wanted more of whatever it was — acclaim usually — whenever they could grasp it. Such behaviour in peacetime, notes Johnson eight years before Partygate, “can be disastrous”. 

You become what you pretend to be. Johnson never really thought beyond Churchill the world king, hero of the finest hour, the growl on the radio. By emulating Churchill’s optimism, patriotism, and hopefulness, Johnson could finish Brexit, and take his historical place next to the most famous Englishman of all. Once he became Prime Minister, his inner world of make believe appeared congruent with reality at last. Johnson fantasised about monuments to himself, says Dominic Cummings. Johnson bumbled around Number 10, musing that the people would remember him after his death, like a Roman Emperor. Or Churchill.

The version of Winston remembered by Britain, and imitated by Johnson, is a false one. The picture is incomplete. In his last years Churchill said over and over again that he wished he had died in 1945. His beloved Empire was being dismantled. Communists dominated most of the Eurasian landmass. Socialism appeared to be the future of British politics.

Heroes are not supposed to go on. Either they die young, like Alexander did at 32, or their ludicrous self-image cannot be maintained in the face of the reality of the world. After a certain age, failure sets in like frost.  

Imagine, then, if Boris hadn’t survived Covid. A Prime Minister sacrificed for his people. All those early pandemic photos of Johnson bouncing unmasked through hospital wards suddenly charged with saintly light. Nothing beatifies, or erases error, quite like death. A romantic-cynical end, but then, as Johnson said: “All romantics need the mortar of cynicism to hold themselves up.” 

Instead there is no romance. Only cynicism. He recovered, and received cake in a Tupperware. There will be no Downing Street booze ban, he says, because Churchill needed his brandies during the war. Johnson ends up resembling the post-war Churchill. Not heroic, but hamstrung. Confused and tortured.

Resignation: who was responsible?

On Thursday, July 7, when Boris resigned as leader of the Conservative Party, he became a caretaker Prime Minister.

The media and anti-Boris Conservative MPs finally forced his hand. They had been banging on since late 2021 about the Downing Street ‘parties’, assailing him, holding him solely responsible.

But what about Simon Case, who was in charge of the Civil Service at that time and continues in that role as I write?

Surely, it was Case’s responsibility to manage the civil servants, not Boris’s?

Nothing happened to Simon Case. Yet, no one ever mentions him, only Boris.

Hmm.

The same principle holds true for the groping scandal surrounding now-Independent Chris Pincher MP, which, after Partygate, was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Pincher had been Deputy Chief Whip, an appointment that Boris signed. However, even if he hadn’t signed that appointment, the Chief Whip could have gone ahead without him. The Chief Whip can have anyone he wants as his deputy. The Prime Minister’s signature is a mere formality.

The push to oust Boris is an intriguing one, indeed. I think that someone will revisit this in the years ahead.

Returning to Boris’s childhood, on the day Boris resigned, top biographer Tom Bower spoke to GB News’s Dan Wootton. Many years ago, I read Bower’s biography of the late Robert Maxwell. It was a page-turner, full of detail about his personal life.

Bower’s latest biography is Revenge, which is about the Sussexes.

But I digress.

Bower told Wootton that Boris is:

looking for love.

He said that Boris’s bout with coronavirus finished him as Prime Minister. He was never the same afterwards.

Bower said that Boris needs a good — i.e. solid — wife and that Carrie is not that person. He does not think their marriage will last.

He also said that Boris surrounded himself with poor advisers.

This is an insightful interview, well worth watching:

Hmm. I hadn’t realised that his ex-wife Marina Wheeler is a friend of Dominic Cummings’s wife, Mary Wakefield of The Spectator. Talk about wheels within wheels:

Hmm. Boris divorced Marina while she was suffering from cancer. Not a good look.

Boris has imitated his father’s poor marital example.

In closing, on the aforementioned Dan Wootton show, a panel discussed who was to blame for Boris’s resignation:

Former Boris adviser and loyalist Lord Moylan, top right, said that the attacks from MPs out to get him were:

vicious and manic.

However, Suzanne Evans said that Boris, as a former journalist, should have been able to fend off the relentless media attacks.

I agree with Liz Truss, who said on July 25, that Boris’s notional failings were insufficient to require resignation:

Liz Truss has suggested that the Conservative Party ousting Boris Johnson was a mistake, as she campaigns to replace him.

Asked why she did not join the ministers quitting over Mr Johnson’d conduct in the BBC TV debate on Monday evening, the Foreign Secretary said: “I supported Boris for the leadership, I was first Cabinet supporter, I campaigned with him, he did a brilliant job of delivering Brexit and delivering an 80-seat majority.

“Yes, he made mistakes, he admitted he made mistakes, but I didn’t think the mistakes he made were sufficient that the Conservative Party should have rejected him. That is my view.

“I’m still working with the Prime Minister, I’m still Foreign Secretary, and I think it’s important that I remain in my post. We have very serious issues to deal with on Russia and Ukraine, and I thought it would have been a dereliction of duty to leave my job at that juncture.”

Looking beyond Partygate and Chris Pincher, there is no doubt that, post-pandemic, Boris neglected much of the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto for Net Zero, probably because of his wife Carrie.

It is also likely that he underestimated the power of the civil service. Trump had the Swamp. We have the Blob.

It will be fascinating to see how his successor performs in similar circumstances.

More on Boris next week.

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