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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.

So much happened in the UK this week that it is hard to find the time and the space to write about it all.

Conservative leadership contest

Liz Truss’s campaign continues to motor ahead, gaining powerful MPs’ backing.

On Wednesday, August 3, a new Conservative Home poll appeared, its results matching those of polling companies, e.g. YouGov. Liz is 32 points ahead:

Conservative Home‘s Paul Goodman analysed his site’s results and YouGov’s (emphases mine):

Granted, neither can be proved right or wrong: as our proprietor has it, a poll is a snapshot, not a prediction. If our survey is correct, all that follows is that Truss would win the contest, were it held now, by 32 points among those who have declared their hand.

However, if we and YouGov are right it is very hard to see how Sunak recovers in the month or so between the opening and closing of the poll. For even if during that time he won over that 16 per of undecideds and others, Truss would still beat him by 58 per cent to 42 per cent.

In short, if our survey is correct he would have to add to that 16 per cent of don’t knows and others some nine per cent of Truss’s supporters – i.e: persuade them to switch.

This seems most unlikely if YouGov’s question about certainty of intention is taken into account. For it finds that 83 per cent of Truss voters and 70 per cent of Sunak voters have made their minds up.

What odds would you give on Sunak winning over all those don’t knows and others (from our survey), and then adding to that pile over half of Truss’s soft support (using YouGov’s figure)? I would say that they are very long indeed

Those interested in events slightly further back will recall that Boris Johnson beat Jeremy Hunt by 66 per cent to 34 per cent during the leadership election of 2019.  That’s exactly the same margin as the Truss-Sunak forced choice I spell out above from our new survey.

One way of looking at Conservative leadership election as matters stand might be to forget the thrills and spills, hype and blunders – such as Truss’s yesterday over regional public sector pay.

And stick instead to the simple thought that the Tory membership divides right-of-party-centre to left-of-party-centre by about two to one and so, all other things being equal, the leadership candidate perceived to be right-wing than the other will win by a margin about two to one.

Finally, Opinium promises a Conservative members poll next week, and it has tended recently to find better results for Sunak than ours or YouGovs.

The YouGov poll from August 3 showed that Britons believe Truss is better than Sunak on the main issues:

Liz gained another supporter in former Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who was also Boris Johnson’s first Chancellor from the summer of 2019 through to February 2020, at which point Rishi Sunak took over.

Sunak worked for Javid when the latter was Chancellor. Javid mentored his younger MP friend:

However, the dynamic changed when Chancellor Sunak locked horns with Health Secretary Javid during the pandemic in 2021.

The Times explains:

… those who know both men say there are more prescient personal and political reasons behind Javid’s decision [to back Truss].

They say that tensions emerged after Javid was brought back into the government as health secretary. Sunak regarded the NHS as a bottomless drain on resources and was exasperated by what he saw as Javid’s failure to spearhead fundamental reform of the health service.

Javid for his part was frustrated with the highhanded manner in which the Treasury dealt with the Department of Health and its refusal to countenance the type of spending he believed was necessary to tackle treatment backlogs coming out of the pandemic. He felt that Sunak had not shown the loyalty that he had when the power dynamics were reversed.

There are now significant policy differences as well. When Javid threw his hat in for the leadership he set out a tax-cutting agenda broadly similar to that proposed by Truss. He proposed cutting national insurance and reversing the planned corporation tax rise while Sunak stuck to his policies as chancellor.

One ally said Javid sincerely believes that only by kick-starting growth through tax cuts can public services be properly funded. They said it would have been “odd” if Javid had backed Sunak, given their different and genuinely held views on how to deal with Britain’s economic uncertainties.

This is what Javid had to say about Truss in his article for The Times:

“I fought for strong fiscal rules in our last manifesto,” he wrote. “But the circumstances we are in require a new approach. Over the long term, we are more likely to be fiscally sustainable by improving trend growth.

“Only by getting growth back to pre-financial crisis levels can we hope to support the high-quality public services people rightly expect.”

In a direct attack on Sunak, he said: “Some claim that tax cuts can only come once we have growth. I believe the exact opposite — tax cuts are a prerequisite for growth. Tax cuts now are essential. There are no risk-free options in government. However, in my view, not cutting taxes carries an even greater risk.”

He added: “With only two years before the next election, there has been a temptation to just ‘get the barnacles off the boat’ and avoid any short-term political pain for long-term national gain.

“We must reject that. As a nation we are sleepwalking into a big-state, high-tax, low-growth, social democratic style model which risks us becoming a middle-income economy by the 2030s with the loss of global influence and power” …

A senior Truss campaign source described Javid’s endorsement as the “big one for us”.

They added: “The bigger beasts of the party are uniting behind Liz because they believe in her vision for the economy. We can’t have the Treasury orthodoxy and tired status quo. They believe she will turn things around in time for the next election by getting on and delivering quickly in No10.”

On Wednesday, August 3, Truss and Sunak canvassed separately in Wales before meeting up for a televised hustings in Cardiff later in the day.

A Conservative Welsh Senedd (Senate) member, James Evans, changed his mind about Sunak and decided to support Truss instead. He got a lot of flak in response to his tweet:

Truss’s former party, the Liberal Democrats, criticised her for taking a helicopter around Wales to get to the various Conservative associations there. Pictured is the Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey:

Guido Fawkes points out that the Lib Dems are suffering an attack of sour grapes — and hypocrisy (red emphases his):

Rishi’s been known to use them, so why should Liz be confined to the rail network…

i News were the ones to reveal Liz’s chartering this afternoon, juxtaposing the decision against her backing of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The LibDems were only too happy to butt in, providing a quote for the copy that it “makes a complete mockery of her promises on Net Zero. It’s clear that she is not serious on climate change.” This quote came from Vera Hobhouse rather than Sir Ed Davey himself, who surely wouldn’t mind the coverage…

Guido’s sure Sir Ed’s decision not to provide the comment has little to do with the fact that, in 2013 as Energy Secretary, he hitched a ride in the helicopter of EDF boss Henri Proglio, after handing him a nuclear deal at double the going rate for electricity. The decision raised objections from Friends of the Earth at the time, who said it “confirms how close the Big Six energy firms are to our decision-makers.”  A source close to Liz Truss calls the political attack “the usual sanctimonious hypocrisy from the LibDems”. Sir Ed may need to refuel his own spin machine…

While in Wales, Truss took the opportunity to have a go at First Minister Mark Drakeford (Labour), calling him:

the low energy version of Jeremy Corbyn.

Bullseye!

John McTernan, who advised Tony Blair between 2005 and 2007, wrote in UnHerd why Labour should be afraid of Truss.

I’ve seen John McTernan on GB News and he knows whereof he speaks.

He explains Truss’s strengths:

One of her overlooked strengths is that she has been on a political journey. Changing your mind is often thought of as a weakness in politicians, whereas in reality an unchanging commitment to ideology is one of their most eccentric habits. In normal life, we change our minds frequently and without fuss. As economist Paul Samuelson said, in a line so good it is often attributed to Keynes: “Well when events change, I change my mind. What do you do?” In itself, changing their mind humanises a politician — a particular asset in a time of popular revolt against out-of-touch elites.

But, more than that, making a political journey shows character. Three of the most significant politicians of the Blair era — John Reid, Alan Milburn, and David Blunkett — were great New Labour reformers who had started on the hard Left. Their politics had been tempered and strengthened by their journey. Liz Truss was brought up on the Left and attended anti-nuclear peace camps with her mother. She then became a Liberal Democrat activist, famously demanding an end to the monarchy to Paddy Ashdown’s discomfort. And when a Tory Cabinet minister she backed Remain not Leave, though she is now a passionate Brexiteer. Those surprised that Tory party members overwhelmingly see a former Remainer as the best defender of Brexit need to remember their New Testament: “There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” The redemption narrative is one of our most powerful stories: she who once was blind, but now can see.

The fact Liz Truss has been on a political journey also makes her a powerful communicator. Some of the most persuasive arguments in politics are based on empathy rather than angry disagreement. Liz Truss knows why voters find progressive policies attractive, which can strengthen the persuasive power of her arguments for people to change their views. And her speaking style is clear and simple. The listener readily understands what she thinks and believes. Her opponents who too readily dismiss her as simplistic are missing the point. Politics is not a mathematical equation — a ten-point plan won’t beat a five-point plan 10-5. The messages and policies that win are those that connect with the heart as much as the head.

The Truss agenda is straightforward. The educational system is failing kids. Grammar schools would identify and help some bright working-class and minority children. The cost-of-living crisis is hitting wallets and purses. A tax cut would give money back to the public. Energy prices are spiking. Pausing the green levy would reduce prices. Now, there are good arguments against each of these policies, but they are superficially strong one-liners. It takes time to explain how grammar schools distort the education of the vast majority of pupils who don’t get into them, or to make the case that there is a danger that tax cuts lead to more inflation. The arguments against Liz Truss’s policies are strong but they need to be explained. And, as the old political saying goes, “when you’re explaining, you’re losing”.

… One of the best jokes in the US TV show Veep comes when Selina Myers uses the slogan “continuity with change” for her Presidential campaign. It works because it is bizarrely true — and it is true because that is what most voters want. They’re not revolutionaries, they’re realists.

The Truss offer is continuity with the spirit of Johnson and Brexit while meeting the demands of the voters who were, and are, angry with the status quo. That anger has been the fuel of politics since the Global Financial Crisis — it was there in Brexit, in the Scottish independence referendum, in the rise of Corbyn, and in Boris Johnson’s 2019 landslide. The fact that such competing and conflicting political forces can harness that same anger signals that there is an underlying volatility in British politics that can be channelled in different directions by strong and intelligent leadership.

It is in leadership that Labour must contest most convincingly. Liz Truss will likely be undone by events. The cost-of-living crisis is of such a scale that it is hard to see any of her policies — or any of Rishi Sunak’s — that will be more than a drop in the ocean. To win, Keir Starmer must learn from New Labour [Tony Blair’s government]. Attack the new Prime Minister and her government, but don’t nit-pick. The critique must be based on a vision of hope and a positive project that positions Labour once more as the “political wing of the British people”. Otherwise, Keir Starmer risks being just one more man, in a long line of men, who have underestimated Liz Truss at their peril. After all, there are no accidental Prime Ministers, and like the rest, Truss has guile, will and talent.

Guido Fawkes adds another point:

… Truss will be the Tories’ third female PM to Labour’s big fat nought …

Exactly. And Conservatives didn’t need to have all-women shortlists, either, unlike Labour.

For Conservative Party member Toby Young, General Secretary of the Free Speech Union, Truss’s strength lies in opposing another lockdown, which she said ‘No’ to on Monday night in Exeter:

Also in Exeter, on Monday, Truss said that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (SNP) was an ‘attention seeker’ who should be ignored. Again, I’m pretty sure Truss meant that with regard to appeals for a second independence referendum.

The Telegraph‘s Alan Cochrane, who lives in Scotland, said that some would sincerely welcome those words: ‘Amen to that! Liz Truss finally puts the boot into Nicola Sturgeon’:

It is easy to sympathise with Liz Truss’s presumably exasperated and outspoken statement that the best way to deal with Nicola Sturgeon was to ignore her

After watching, listening and responding to this ambitious politician for more than 20 years, ignoring her is something I’d rather have been doing than countering every one of her largely lame-brained arguments for breaking up Britain.

Furthermore, the First Minister is every bit the “attention seeker” that the Foreign Secretary portrays her as – most especially when she dons her “Mother of Scotland” role and seeks to insist that she, and only she, speaks for the whole of Scotland. 

The truth, of course, is that she speaks only for her party and government, neither of which commands an overwhelming majority of Scottish opinion

while Ms Truss is being assailed for her choice of words by the Nationalists and those faint hearts who seek a peaceful political life, there will be more than a few who will shout “Amen to that!” when she talks of Ms Sturgeon’s perpetual attention seeking.

Furthermore, a great deal more candour from Westminster in its dealings with the SNP is long overdue. Far too long. Successive UK administrations have bent over backwards not to be seen as provoking the cause of independence when the truth is that it is already on a life support system, with a fast declining appeal to the Scottish people.

The fact is that Ms Truss knows that she cannot just ignore the devolved Scottish Government and its leader. But she is to be commended for putting the boot in. It’s about time someone did.

While Truss and Sunak were in Wales, Iain Duncan Smith MP was north of the border in Scotland.

He was at an event for Scottish Conservatives in Stirling, in Scotland’s central belt.

The Times has the story:

The former work and pensions secretary backtracked on comments made by Truss that Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, should be “ignored” as he criticised the UK government’s approach towards the Union.

“I don’t want to ignore her,” he said. “What I want to do is to let the world know just exactly why Scotland is suffering so much under this incompetent regime at Holyrood. The truth is, it is a disaster: everything from health, the police, the railways — they can’t even build ships sometimes on time and on budget.”

He’s not exaggerating. It’s the raw truth.

The MP wants the next PM to have greater powers of scrutiny over the way Scotland’s SNP government is run. They get billions from taxpayers in the Barnett Formula and waste it. No one, not even Scots, has any idea where the money goes.

He said:

I am desperate for greater powers for scrutiny. It is only scrutiny that unearths all this nonsense and … that the weaker scrutiny up here has allowed the Nationalists to get away with it. So I am going to take that straight back and talk to her about it and see what we could do.

Not surprisingly, the SNP were furious and, as usual, blamed Westminster:

Kirsten Oswald, the SNP deputy leader at Westminster, said: “This is an utterly ridiculous suggestion, showing that even the Tories are out of ideas for how to fix the broken Westminster system. It is not the SNP’s job to explain why Westminster control is increasingly making life more difficult for the people of Scotland — even if the Tories are out of excuses.

“The job of SNP MPs in Westminster is to stand up for Scotland against a UK government choosing to ignore our interests at every turn. That is what they will continue to do.”

Duncan Smith justified his desire for scrutiny saying that SNP MPs are part of the Scottish government, too:

Duncan Smith said: “We need to turn the tables on them and start saying, ‘Well, can we have a period of question time for you lot to talk about what you are doing in Scotland as the devolved administration?’

“And start examining some of this stuff because they’re not just SNP protesters down in parliament, they are actually part of the government up here.”

Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak told the audience in Cardiff that Truss was wrong about her public sector pay reform and tried to scare Welsh Conservatives into thinking that Truss was going to cut the pay of every single public sector worker in Wales:

However, Sunak got himself into a bit of hot water when he ‘misspoke’ on wind turbines at the event:

On Thursday, August 4, Guido reported:

Rishi’s team has said he “misspoke” during the hustings last night when it appeared he’d u-turned on his opposition to new onshore wind. At the Wales’ husting, Sunak was asked “will you be bold enough to scrap the embargo on onshore wind in England?”, replying “So, yes, in a nutshell.” This appeared totally contradictory to one of his previous policy announcements:

Wind energy will be an important part of our strategy, but I want to reassure communities that as prime minister I would scrap plans to relax the ban on onshore wind in England, instead focusing on building more turbines offshore,

Team Liz immediately leapt on his words as sign of yet another u-turn from Rishi, alleging it was his eleventh campaign u-turn.

This morning Team Rishi, asked to justify his words, bluntly replied “he misspoke”. Much like Britain under Rishi’s actual wind energy policy, he’s losing fans rapidly…

Sunak is also being economical with the truth when he says that he personally came up with the idea of British freeports, which were first mooted in an early Margaret Thatcher manifesto for the Conservatives:

However, Rishi managed to get two notable endorsements, one from former Conservative Party leader Michael Howard and Nigel Lawson, who was Chancellor under Margaret Thatcher. He is also Nigella Lawson’s father.

Guido has more:

    • Finally got an endorsement from Nigel Lawson himself, who writes in The Telegraph that Rishi is “the only candidate who understands Thatcherite economics” …
    • Michael Howard opened for Rishi at Wales’ Tory husting last night, saying he can provide the leadership needed “not only in this country, but across the wider western world”

Lawson must have felt obliged to endorse Sunak, given that the latter has a photo of him in his office.

Sunak was over the moon about Lawson’s Telegraph article:

Boris looms large

Prime Minister Boris Johnson still looms large in the psyche of British voters.

Normally, we are all too happy when a Prime Minister stands down. When Margaret Thatcher’s MPs booted her out, we breathed a sigh of relief. We’d had enough of Tony Blair when he left No. 10 to Gordon Brown. We didn’t care too much about David Cameron’s resignation, although we did think he was petty-minded for resigning the morning after the Brexit referendum result. And we were only too happy for Theresa May to go, although we did feel sorry for her as she cried at the Downing Street podium.

However, Boris is a different kettle of fish.

The August 3 YouGov poll showed that a) most Conservative Party members thought their MPs made a mistake in getting him to resign as Party leader and b) he would make a better PM than either Truss or Sunak:

In response to the aforementioned Welsh Senedd member’s tweet, someone responded with this:

Incredibly, as ballots are currently being posted to Conservative Party members, Alex Story, the leader of the Bring Back Boris campaign, still thinks there is time to add Boris’s name to the list of candidates.

He spoke to Nigel Farage on Wednesday, August 3:

He said that 14,000 members of the public wrote to Conservative Party headquarters after Boris stood down as leader.

He added that most Boris supporters knew he was economical with the truth, but they felt that his ouster was forced.

Nigel Farage countered by saying that 40% of Conservative voters wanted Boris to leave. Furthermore, he could no longer command the support of his MPs.

Story responded by saying that Boris will be like ‘Lazarus [rising] from the dead … something romantic and quirky’.

That’s one way of putting it, I suppose.

It is highly unlikely that Boris’s name will be on the ballot, butone cannot fault Story and Lord Cruddas for trying on the public’s behalf.

More news next week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GB News has the quote (emphases mine):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rishi left the stage with a clean slate.

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

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

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

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

Journalist Stephen Bush begins by disingenuously putting on the frighteners …

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

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

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

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

This is why public sector pay is difficult to reform:

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll come back to that in a moment.

Polling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guido has more on the Techne results.

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

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

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

Polling took place between July 29 and August 2:

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

Guido then posted the YouGov poll:

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

Guido explained the stark differences between the two polls:

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

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

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

Amazing!

Guido wrote (red emphases his):

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

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

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

The Evening Standard reported:

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

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

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

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

The perils of policy on the hoof

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

Not surprisingly, Team Rishi jumped on it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE: Team Truss say

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

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

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

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

Yes, one can imagine.

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

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

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

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

Guido has the full story, which begins with this:

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

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

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

An excerpt follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now is the time to be bold … 

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

Ballots delayed to next week

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

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

Nigel Farage tweeted:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neil’s interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hmm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Only the Mail had any commentary on it.

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

An excerpt follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Henry Deedes examined the optics of the interview: ‘The ex-chancellor sat awkwardly, like a man about to undergo an enema’.

Excerpts follow:

We immediately saw Sunak sat behind a desk, his hands placed slightly awkwardly on top of each other. Across his mouth was smeared a distinctly uncomfortable grin. He looked like a man nervously waiting to undergo an enema …

Tax was the main topic, namely why Rishi as chancellor made us pay so much of it. Sunak said he wanted to pay down the cost of the pandemic rather than saddle our grandchildren with all that debt. ‘I’d like to give people all these nice things – don’t you think that’d make my life easier?’ he pleaded.

Rishi kept calling Neil by his first name. Most of his replies began with a chummy ‘look, Andrew’. Doubtless his spin doctors thought familiarity might soften the old brute. It didn’t.

Neil kept coming at him over tax rises. A Bren gun with ceaseless ammunition. Pop, pop, pop. 

Why had he frozen the income tax threshold? Why had he left comfortable pensioners alone? Why were so many people paying the top rate? Unfortunately for Sunak, Neil is that rare thing in journalism – someone who actually understands economics …

Talk turned toward the NHS. Neil pointed out that waiting lists were up, despite the gazillions of pounds which get thrown at the Health Service every year. ‘These are complex issues, Andrew,’ Rishi mansplained.

Yes, yes, said Neil. But it had gotten worse on the Government’s watch. ‘Andrew, I left the Government,’ pleaded Rishi. 

‘Yes, but only a few days ago,’ barked Neil. Sunak’s answer to the NHS backlog was to set up a task force. Yes, that should do it!

There was mention of a recent video which surfaced of Sunak in which he told an interviewer he didn’t know any working class people. 

Bit odd for someone who claims to come from such a modest background. ‘I grew up working in my mother’s pharmacy,’ Sunak reasoned. ‘We know all that,’ sighed Neil witheringly.

He seemed to think Sunak’s ’umble roots were a tad overplayed. Especially since he was schooled at Winchester. Neil’s intellect of course was forged and honed at Paisley Grammar.

A brief tit-for-tat developed over Lady Sunak’s non-dom tax status. ‘I’m the one running for office, not my wife,’ said Rishi. His voice lowered a bit at this point. He shot Neil a steely look as if to say ‘Let’s leave her out of this, shall we?’ Respect.

We were now out of time. To be fair to Sunak he was still standing. But only just.

Incidentally, his opponent Liz Truss had given Neil’s offer of an interview a wide swerve. ‘Her choice, of course,’ said Neil, voice laced with irritation. Chicken? Jolly wise, I’d say…

More scrutiny

Last week, Rishi’s policies and personal life came under more scrutiny.

A Mail headline from April 24 resurfaced about his lavish Yorkshire home, which has a heated pool and will soon have a new gym and tennis courts. Incidentally, he has other homes, including a pricey mews house in London:

https://image.vuukle.com/afdabdfb-de55-452b-b000-43e4d45f1094-746e76e9-fa64-4195-a1fb-3184d7957389

Just a little over a year ago, on July 2, 2021, Asia Financial reported that Rishi wanted more trade between the UK and China:

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak called for a “mature and balanced relationship” with China that helps British firms to exploit “the potential of a fast-growing financial services market with total assets worth £40 trillion” ($55 trillion) in a speech on Thursday July 1 …

Sunak set out alternative plans for an independent financial services policy for the UK and spent more time discussing opportunities in China than the US, which is the UK’s most important bilateral partner.

He attempted to frame the opportunity to sell financial services to China within a context of maintaining principles such as openness and commitment to a rules-based order.

“Too often, the debate on China lacks nuance,” Sunak said. “Some people on both sides argue either that we should sever all ties or focus solely on commercial opportunities at the expense of our values. Neither position adequately reflects the reality of our relationship with a vast, complex country, with a long history.”

Sunak highlighted the appeal of China’s financial services market for UK firms, as well as the need to cooperate on global issues like health, ageing, climate and biodiversity.

He seemed to effectively offer China the opportunity to agree different financial services terms with the UK than the EU, now that Brexit has arrived without a deal on mutual recognition of standards across Europe – which was the former target of “equivalence” of regulation.

Hmm. Interesting. His father-in-law’s Infosys has an office in China.

A year later, on July 25, after China’s Global Times endorsed him as the next Conservative Party leader, he walked back his support and claimed Liz Truss was the greater supporter of the Communist nation.

Guido Fawkes reported (red emphases his):

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

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

In response, a Truss ally bluntly tells Guido that Sunak’s team are “moronic”, given not only was Truss responsible for childcare policy as an education minister, universities policy was run out of the business department at the time. David Willets was the BIS minister responsible, who – whilst yet to declare in this leadership election – has backed Sunak’s tax rises. 

Guido also exposed the fact that the Artichoke Trust received £1,234,682 through Cultural Recovery Grants during the pandemic, when Rishi was Chancellor.

The Artichoke Trust puts out ‘art’ like this:

Clearly, not much scrutiny took place during the pandemic. No doubt, the Treasury were all in a rush to send out grants — taxpayers’ money — to all and sundry.

On Tuesday, July 26, Rishi did a huge tax U-turn, imitating his rival Liz Truss.

Only days before, Rishi told Liz that it would be ‘immoral’ to lower taxes, yet, here he was at the beginning of last week reversing that to sound more like his rival:

Guido rightly asked why Rishi did not cut VAT on energy bills when he was Chancellor. Oddly, he now advocates the policy:

This is what the former Chancellor said in February 2022:

Guido has more on his February comments here.

On July 27, the Mail on Sunday had an article about his U-turn, saying he was ‘under pressure’ since the BBC debate of July 25 (emphases in purple mine):

This morning, Truss ally Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business secretary, welcomed Mr Sunak’s ‘late to the party’ change on taxes.

He told Times Radio: ‘I think he’s under a lot of pressure. That’s why we see all these statements: he was the person who said the VAT cut would disproportionately benefit rich families and now he’s saying that a VAT cut on energy bills is the right thing.

He was saying that tax cuts were a fairytale, now he is proposing an unfunded tax cut.

‘There comes a time in campaigns when people are under a lot of pressure, he clearly felt under a lot of pressure in the debate and he wanted to get out on the front foot and interrupt Liz.’

But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, an ally of Rishi Sunak, defended the former chancellor’s plan. He rejected the suggestion that Mr Sunak is ‘flip-flopping’ and said the £4.3 billion policy is sensible as it would not add to inflation.

Put to him that it is a ‘flip-flop’, Mr Shapps said: ‘If he hadn’t produced £37 billion of support, about £1,200 to the hardest-up households already – if he hadn’t done any of that and then suddenly did it then you would have a point.

‘But he has, he has been providing all this support, now he is saying ”Here’s something that won’t add to inflation that would save every person watching your programme £160 off their energy bills” – I think that’s worthwhile.’

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

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

Meanwhile new polling shows that the rising cost of living and handling of the NHS could cost the Tories the most votes at the next election.

The Mail on Sunday‘s Anna Mikhailova pointed out that Rishi hardly had a long-term career in business, despite his own claims.

Nigel Farage picked up on her tweet and called Rishi ‘a fraud’:

Farage had elaborated on his GB News show the day before, Monday, July 25. He pointed out that Rishi included a clip of him in his campaign video on immigration. He doubted Sunak’s sincerity on China and ended by saying, ‘Well, I guess that leaves us with Liz Truss’:

By July 27, the bookies gave Liz Truss an 83% chance of winning the leadership contest.

That night, Dan Wootton said that ‘Fishy’ Rishi’s tax U-turn was ‘too little, too late’:

John Sergeant, who reported for the BBC for decades, said that the former Chancellor appeared ‘rattled’:

Political commentator Patrick O’Flynn said that many intelligent politicians weren’t very good at politics, Rishi being a case in point:

On Thursday, July 28, Lord Ranger, a Rishi supporter, said that if the Conservative Party members do not choose the former Chancellor as leader, they are racists.

Dan Wootton responded by pointing out that this Conservative leadership contest has been the most diverse in history:

That includes Labour, too, by the way.

Wootton said, in part:

It was still only a matter of time before Team Rishi Sunak blamed his imploding campaign on racism.

Forget the fact that Kemi Badenoch was a surprise favourite among the party membership before being booted out by MPs for being too daring and different.

Forget the fact that Liz Truss is a woman who went to a Leeds comprehensive.

Nope, Sunak’s failure is nothing to do with his big state/high tax agenda, which saw him increase our tax burden to the highest it’s been in 70 years.

Nothing to do with his globalist posturing and desire to cosy up to China by making the Communist country our market of choice, as revealed in bombshell leaked Treasury documents reported in The Times today.

Nothing to do with the fact he backstabbed Boris Johnson – the man to whom he owes his career – plotting his leadership campaign, all the while pretending to be his loyal Chancellor.

No, no, no, no it’s down to racism.

Conservative donor and Fishy Rishi supporter Lord Ranger told Indian news network Bharat Tak: “If people reject him, it will be a bad name for the party and the country because this will be perceived as racist.

“And so there is pressure on them to prove that here race does not matter.

“Calibre matters, and Rishi’s calibre is above everyone. I am optimistic that people here will be fair and will not reject anyone on the basis of race.”

Lord Ranger, I can assure you the Conservative members are not rejecting Rishi based on race.

They’re rejecting him based on policies and a lack of loyalty too.

As my colleague and friend Calvin Robinson tweeted in response: “‘Vote for me because I am brown,’ is bad enough ‘if you don’t you’re a racist’ is even worse.

This divisive, toxic rhetoric is straight from the Leftist guidebook on Critical Race Theory and should have no place in the Conservative Party or the government of this great nation.”

Former Cabinet member Michael Gove’s ex-wife Sarah Vine, who writes for the Daily Mail, said that Rishi stabbed Boris in the front:

On Friday, July 28, a Techne poll showed that Liz was gaining ground over Rishi:

That morning, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace put the boot into Rishi’s decision to resign as Chancellor:

Wallace told Sky News:

Wallace: Let’s look at that Friday afternoon – I think it was a Friday – what if the markets had crashed? What if the Home Secretary had done that and there was a terrorist attack? What would the public think, they would never forgive us for that… I don’t think people needed to walk out, the public would see that as a government not thinking about the job in hand.

The multi-year settlement [for the Department of Defence] that we got was not what the Treasury had wanted, they wanted a one-year settlement – this was back in 2019 I think – and it was vital that we got a multi-year settlement, and the PM effectively asserted his authority and made all that to happen…

Interviewer: But Mr Sunak was not in support?

Wallace: Not that I remember.

Cut the right taxes like not proceed with corporation tax rises helps growth. When Rishi was Chancellor he cut entrepreneurial relief – he cut the relief we give to entrepreneurs who’ve invested in this country, invested in businesses – that’s not a way to help create either wealth or indeed growth.

Wallace had more to say. He said that, as Secretary of State for Defence, he did not have the ‘luxury’ of resigning, a pointed barb at Rishi, who, he intimated, should have stayed on as Chancellor:

Wallace pledged his support for Liz Truss.

Meanwhile, Rishi’s team claimed someone was leaking official documents:

Rishi allegedly asked Simon Case, the head of the civil service, to get involved.

Guido reported:

What leaks might Rishi be upset about? The Treasury documents which completely undermined his pledge to “scrap or reform EU laws in 100 days” is a strong bet. Earlier this month, just after promising to review all of the remaining 2,400 EU laws on the statute book, Bloomberg revealed the Treasury had – under Rishi’s leadership – written to Liz Truss to claim that reforming EU taxes was desirable but probably not deliverable until 2026. Last time Guido checked, that wasn’t quite within 100 days. Brexit Opportunities Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg even responded by claiming it was “a surprising promise as the Treasury under his leadership was insisting that taxation was exempt from the removal of EU law.” What was it Rishi said about “fairytale promises”?

UPDATE: Now a spokesperson for Liz Truss says:

We condemn the leaking of Government documents and papers. Neither campaign condones leaks of material and will not use documents it receives. Furthermore, both campaigns will report any such leaks to the Cabinet Secretary who may take action directly, or via the Police, against the individuals involved in perpetrating such leaks or receiving and not reporting material. We understand leak investigations will be carried out without fear or favour.

Word around Whitehall is that Simon Case is livid, demanded both camps issue a statement and has called in police to investigate the China leaks.

On Saturday, July 30, things got worse for Team Rishi. He had to give away tickets to what had been a £20 per person hustings event:

Then, Tom Tugendhat, he of the military service, endorsed Liz Truss:

Oh, dear.

While all that was going on, staff at the Mail on Sunday (MoS) were preparing its copy.

Late on Saturday in one of the MoS pieces, Boris loyalist Nadine Dorries MP further reinforced the notion that Rishi is not a man of the people. She wrote about a tweet she’d sent out a few days before commenting on his expensive attire:

I wanted to highlight Rishi’s misguided sartorial style in order to alert Tory members not to be taken in by appearances in the way that happened to many of us who served with the Chancellor in Cabinet. The assassin’s gleaming smile, his gentle voice and even his diminutive stature had many of us well and truly fooled.

I wish to stress it’s not the case that I believe a rich man or woman – even if their father-in-law is one of the richest men on an entire continent – cannot be Prime Minister of this great country. But they do have to possess good judgment, understand the lives of others, have empathy, compassion and know how to fill a car with petrol and pay for it at a till.

Rishi’s father was a GP, his mother a pharmacist. He attended a public school where the annual fees are about £36,000. They were in the top two per cent income bracket of all earners in the UK. To describe his background as humble is yet another indication of poor judgment.

Rishi will never know what it is like to feel scared, broke and hopeless, without a safety net provided by wealthy parents. He has never had to lie awake at night, worrying about how to pay the bills. A bailiff will never knock on his door

Too right.

Dorries said that Boris was not best pleased when he found out that Rishi is now pledging to cut VAT on energy bills, something she said Boris begged him to do as Chancellor:

Rishi says he wants to cut VAT on energy bills. However, Boris had been pleading with him to introduce this measure for two years as the PM had been convinced that such a cut could provide immediate relief to families.

In a speech on Thursday, Boris commented with a hint of uncustomary sarcasm: ‘Turns out it was easier than we thought!’

Rishi was the classic dog in the manger as Chancellor. Whenever Boris sought him out to discuss serious issues, Rishi was always polite but unforthcoming. Never a team player.

Another MoS article revealed photos of a young Rishi Sunak at an exclusive nightclub in London’s fashionable Mayfair.

Reporter Michelle Bromley included photos, writing about the young man and his then-fiancée, now wife, the Infosys heiress Akshata Murty, who lived in California in 2008:

Despite living 5,400 miles apart, the couple regularly flew back and forth across the Atlantic.

These photographs show how they spent an evening with friends at the Whisky Mist nightclub in London.

Ms Murty is seen with a cocktail while Mr Sunak (who says he’s teetotal and ‘a total Coca-Cola addict’) generously bought all the drinks that night for the couple’s friends.

At the time, the club off Park Lane was popular with the young Prince Harry and celebrities such as Beyoncé and Leonardo DiCaprio. Many years later, Tesla tycoon Elon Musk met his second wife, actress Talulah Riley, there.

Whisky Mist was apparently named after an incident during which a tipsy Queen Victoria thought she’d spotted a stag in the fog from the window of Balmoral Castle.

Friends with Mr Sunak and his girlfriend that night recall how many of the guests were focused on Ms Murty because of her family’s fabulous wealth.

Her father founded global IT giant Infosys.

Mr Sunak was described by a female reveller as ‘the most attentive boyfriend you have ever seen’ and as ‘someone who would ask a lot of questions but not give too much away about himself’.

Not long before, he had been to Africa where he met some of Barack Obama’s relatives. He was photographed with them while holding a copy of the future US president’s book, Dreams From My Father: A Story Of Race And Inheritance.

The picture was posted on Mr Sunak’s Facebook page. Mr Obama used his book as a primer to introduce himself to the American people as he campaigned in 2008 to become the first black US president.

Fourteen years on, the young Briton captivated by that book is campaigning to become Britain’s first Prime Minister of Asian heritage – and of America’s greatest ally.

Nadine Dorries is right. Rishi Sunak will never have to worry about anything significant in his life.

The Sunday Telegraph said that Conservative MPs criticised Dorries for retweeting a photoshopped image showing Rishi as Brutus wielding a knife at Johnson’s Julius Caesar’s back. The original tweet is at the link.

The MoS also reported that some of the MPs supporting Rishi have serious doubts about his campaign:

Conservative MPs backing Rishi Sunak have privately admitted ‘It’s over’ as panic sets into his leadership campaign.

Insiders told The Mail on Sunday that some supporters were refusing to do campaigning events for the former Chancellor.

MPs are said to be getting cold feet after Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and former leadership rival Tom Tugendhat threw their support behind Liz Truss in quick succession.

However, other MPs backing Mr Sunak insisted he was doing well with Tory members, and said private polling showed Ms Truss’s supporters had been easily convinced to switch their support to him.

As this week opened, Dan Wootton’s Monday poll showed that GB News viewers thought that his tax U-turn was still too little, too late:

That polling ran while Rishi and Liz were at a hustings in Exeter, more about which tomorrow.

I hope the former Chancellor, whose mother owned a pharmacy, does not get anywhere near Downing Street, except as a visitor:

https://image.vuukle.com/155c492f-2972-4bb5-a16a-d30e45907be5-922be845-ee85-4390-a5f8-a2f2f9e7532f

Why anyone wants Rishi to be the next occupant of No. 10 escapes me. Convince me — someone, anyone — why he should be our next Prime Minister.

John Redwood certainly has a bee in his bonnet over former Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Unusually, Redwood has been tweeting several times daily in Trumpian style over which candidate — Sunak or Liz Truss — is better as the future leader of the Conservative Party and our new Prime Minister.

He has also continued to keep his readers updated in his eponymous diary.

On July 20, 2022, the final day of Conservative MPs voting for leadership candidates, he tweeted:

Later that day, he wrote a brief diary entry, ‘Then there were two’:

I am delighted Liz Truss will be in the final with Rishi Sunak. I want a change of economic policy as readers of this site will know. Liz Truss will give us that change. Rishi has accepted Treasury and Bank advice which has given us a high inflation and if unaltered will give us a recession next year. We can do better.

Redwood has been an MP since Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister. Not only does he understand her monetary policy but also the way Treasury and Bank of England forecasts have gone wrong over the past 40 years. He advised Thatcher in the middle years of her long premiership.

Boris Johnson also understands that the Treasury gets things wrong. In his final PMQs on Wednesday, July 20, he gave advice to his successor, saying (emphases mine):

I love the Treasury, but remember that if we had always listened to the Treasury, we would not have built the M25 or the Channel Tunnel.

That day, the OBR (Office for Budget Responsibility) came out with a revised forecast.

On July 21, Redwood wrote ‘Some funny numbers from the Treasury and OBR’:

The OBR has had to explain why it was so far out in its forecasts of the deficit and borrowings last year. They have written:

“Our latest forecast for (Central government borrowing) 2021-2 is £48.3bn below the October forecast and £131.2bn below our March 2021 forecast (the Budget)”. They accept they underestimate tax revenues by a massive £77bn and overstated state spending by £48.7bn. It should be easier to forecast what you spend when you are running the spending controls.

We can all make mistakes. Forecasting is difficult. What is more difficult to forgive is that this was not the first time they have underestimated the revenues and overstated the deficit. Worse still is they used their precise forecasts of revenue and deficit to tell the Chancellor he needed to raise more taxes to reduce the gap between spending and taxing. It turns out they need not have asked him to do that as the numbers were so much better than the numbers they tried to create with tax rises.  So when I am asked how do we pay for the tax cuts, the first answer is we are so far ahead of plan there is no problem. The second answer is if you cut the right tax rates to a sensible amount you can end up with more growth and more revenue, not less.

The Treasury also needs to come clean about the debt interest. They have been using their current high figure of £83bn which includes index costs on the repayment of inflation linked debt which does not entail making any cash payments before redemption. They use this figure to scare politicians into accepting more austerity to control the debt interest. What they omit to point out is on their definition of debt interest they forecast a collapse in the cost of it to £46.7bn by 2024-5. That is a fall of £36.3bn or 44% in debt interest.

The Treasury has a tradition of overstating deficits when there is good growth and understating them in recession. There is also a danger their policy advice based on very wrong forecasts could drive us unnecessarily into recession.

Redwood tweeted that our current inflation is likely to be temporary:

As soon as Truss and Sunak were the final two contenders in the Conservative Party leadership contest, The Times endorsed Sunak.

Much of the media have also swung behind Sunak, except for the more conservative news outlets which feature more articles on Liz Truss’s candidacy and Kemi Badenoch as the future of the Conservative Party, even though she was eliminated from the leadership contest.

Redwood tweeted:

True.

The Remainer media have attacked Truss’s proposed policies. Sunak’s softness on the EU are why the media back him. They want a return to the EU:

Sunak has been pushing the line that Margaret Thatcher had an initial high tax policy that worked well. Therefore, Sunak is high tax, in a Thatcherite mode. In reality, once Thatcher got new advisers, she began cutting taxes, which brought economic growth.

Redwood tweeted:

Redwood believes that Liz Truss has the Thatcherite economic policy in this contest:

Redwood had more to say about Sunak’s performance while he was Chancellor:

I particularly enjoyed this next tweet, in which Redwood compares Sunak to Labour Chancellor Gordon Brown, who later became Prime Minister, succeeding Tony Blair:

Redwood said that he tried to advise Sunak on the economy, but to no avail:

On Friday, July 22, Redwood correctly predicted that Rishi would send a message of panic:

Sure enough, the next day, Rishi said he wanted to declare a state of national emergency:

We can only hope that Redwood is right in saying that panic puts off voters:

Sunak made the statement in Grantham, Margaret Thatcher’s home-town. Redwood finds it curious that Sunak never mentioned an interest in Thatcher until this leadership contest:

As I write on Monday afternoon, I will look at that day’s BBC debate between the two candidates in a separate post.

Before the debate, Redwood shared his thoughts:

In closing, Redwood reiterates why Liz Truss is the better candidate:

Even though I have no vote in this contest, Liz Truss has accomplished far more in trade deals and foreign policy than Rishi Sunak as Chancellor. His time in No. 11 was disappointing for the most part.

Conservative Party members will receive their ballots early in August, enabling them to vote by post or online. The deadline for them is August 2. A new Prime Minister should be in place by September 5.

Picking up from where I left off yesterday with Dan Wootton’s GB News poll on the next Conservative Party leader, 60,000 people responded and 49 per cent said that Boris Johnson should be the next one.

On Thursday, Wootton remarked:

The Prime Minister’s swashbuckling and energetic PMQs farewell today just emphasised that point further.

Boris participated in his final Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, July 20, 2022, just under three years since he first stood behind the despatch box as Prime Minister.

It was one of Boris’s best performances and can be viewed here. Hansard’s transcript is here.

Highlights follow, emphases mine.

Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer had a go at the leadership contest, particularly last week’s debates and the refusal of a third debate on Sky News. The debates were a bit spiky at times, but pretty tame overall.

Boris replied:

I am not following this thing particularly closely, but my impression is that there has been quite a lot of debate already, and I think the public have ample opportunity to view the talent, any one of which—as I have said before—would, like some household detergent, wipe the floor with the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Today happens to be just about the anniversary of the exit from lockdown last year, and do you remember what he said? He said—[Interruption.] No, I am going to remind him. He said it was “reckless”. It was because we were able to take that decision, supported by every single one of those Conservative candidates, opposed by him, that we had the fastest economic growth in the G7 and we are now able to help families up and down the country. If we had listened to him, it would not have been possible, and I do not think they will be listening to him either.

Starmer had a go at Rishi Sunak’s accusation of Liz Truss’s proposed tax cuts as ‘fantasy economics’.

Boris said:

Well, Labour know all about fantasy economics, because they have already committed to £94 billion of extra tax and spending, which every household in this country would have to pay for to the tune of about £2,100. It is thanks to the former Chancellor’s management of the economy—thanks to this Government’s management of the economy—that we had growth in May of 0.5%. We have more people in paid employment than at any time in the history of this country. I am proud to be leaving office right now with unemployment at or near a 50-year low. When they left office, it was at 8%. That is the difference between them and us.

Then Starmer quoted Liz Truss’s criticism of Rishi’s economic policy for its lack of growth.

Boris answered:

I think that everybody would agree that what we saw in the last two and a half years was because of the pandemic, with the biggest fall in output for 300 years, which this Government dealt with and coped with magnificently by distributing vaccines faster than any other European Government—faster than any other major economy—which would not have been possible if we had listened to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. That is why we have the fiscal firepower that is necessary to help families up and down the country, making tax cuts for virtually everybody paying national insurance contributions. There is a crucial philosophical difference between Labour and the Conservatives: under Labour, families on low incomes get most of their income from benefits; under us, they get most of it from earnings, because we believe in jobs, jobs, jobs. That is the difference.

Starmer went on to quote Penny Mordaunt on Britain’s sluggish public services.

Boris said:

This is the Government who are investing £650 billion in infrastructure, skills and technology. He talks about public services; what really matters to people in this country right now is getting their appointments and their operations, fixing the covid backlogs—that is what we are doing—and fixing the ambulances. That is what he should be talking about. That is why we voted through and passed the £39 billion health and care levy, which Labour opposed. Every time something needs to be done, Labour Members try to oppose it. He is a great pointless human bollard. That is what he is.

Starmer referred to Kemi Badenoch’s criticism of Rishi’s handling of covid loans.

Boris replied:

This is one of the last blasts from Captain Hindsight, at least to me. They were the party, I remember, that was so desperate for us to be hiring their friends—they wanted a football agent and a theatrical costumier to supply personal protective equipment. Do you remember, Mr Speaker? We had to get that stuff at record speed. We produced £408 billion-worth of support for families and for businesses up and down the country. The only reason we were able to do it at such speed was that we managed the economy in a sensible and moderate way. Every time Labour has left office, unemployment has been higher. The Opposition are economically illiterate, and they would wreck the economy.

You can read more on Guido Fawkes about Labour’s hilarious — well, it would be were it not so tragic — attempts to get the Government to employ their friends for pandemic related equipment.

Starmer went on for another few minutes about the nation being an utter shambles at the moment.

That is true in many instances, but Boris cited the good things that the Conservatives have accomplished over the past three years:

What does it say about the right hon. and learned Gentleman that no one can name a single policy, after three years, of the Opposition apart from putting up taxes? He is one of those pointless plastic bollards you find around a deserted roadworks on a motorway. We got Brexit done; he voted against it 48 times. We got this country fast out of covid, in spite of everything, when he would have kept us in lockdown. We are fixing social care, when the Opposition have no plan and no ideas of their own. We are now bringing forward measures, in the face of strikes, to outlaw wildcat strikes.

I can tell the House why the Leader of the Opposition does that funny wooden flapping gesture—it is because he has the union barons pulling his strings from beneath. That is the truth—£100 million.

We have restored our democracy and our independence. We have got this country through covid. I am proud to say that when it comes to tackling climate change or sticking up for Ukraine, we have led the world on the international stage. I want to thank my friends and colleagues on these Benches for everything they have done.

Guido posted the video of that portion, which is Boris at his best. Viewers will also get the mood of the Chamber, which was very noisy indeed:

After Starmer had finished, it was the turn of Ian Blackford from the Scottish National Party (SNP). As ever, he criticised the Government and put in yet another plug for a second independence referendum:

Boris said:

That is not what I observe. The right hon. Gentleman talks about records; I point to the fastest vaccine roll-out in Europe, the lowest unemployment for at or near 50 years as I have said, the lowest youth unemployment, and the fastest growth in the G7 last year, in spite of everything. As for the Scottish nationalists’ record, look at where they are. I am afraid to say that Scottish school standards are not what they should be, because of the failure of the SNP. It is failing people who are tragically addicted to drugs in Scotland, and the people of Scotland are facing another £900 million in tax because of the mismanagement of the SNP.

True. All of it.

Blackford ranted once more on partygate. Incidentally, he is a multi-millionaire who likes to paint himself as a humble crofter.

Boris replied:

On the personal abuse stuff, I think the right hon. Gentleman is talking a load of tosh, but when he has retired to his croft—which may be all too soon—I hope that he will reflect on his long-running campaign to break up the greatest country in the world. I hope that he will reflect on the pointlessness of what he is trying to do, and think instead about the priorities of the people of Scotland, which are all the issues that he thought were trivial: education, crime, and the burden of taxation that the SNP is unnecessarily placing on the people of Scotland.

After Blackford sat down, Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, had his say. He indirectly accused Boris of being ambitious and ‘tyrannical’. He asked whether Boris would now be devoting time to completing his book on Shakespeare. He also said there should be a general election.

Boris answered:

Polonius—that’s who the right hon. Gentleman is; he needs more matter with less art. The only thing we need to know is that if there were to be a general election, the Liberal Democrats would rightly get thrashed, because that would be the moment when the public looked with horror at what the Liberal Democrats’ policies really are and all those rural voters would discover the massive green taxes that they would like to apply. The only risk is that there could be some kind of crackpot coalition between those guys on the Labour Benches, the Lib Dems and the Scottish nationalists to put that into effect. That is what we must prevent.

Felicity Buchan, a Conservative who represents London’s Kensington constituency, expressed her concerns about rising crime under the current Mayor of London (Sadiq Khan).

Referring to himself, Boris replied:

London once had a Mayor who cut crime by 25%, cut the murder rate by 30% and built twice as many affordable homes as the current incumbent. What London needs is another Conservative Mayor.

Another Liberal Democrat, Scotland’s Jamie Stone (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) wanted a freeport in his Highlands constituency.

Boris said:

I can confirm that we are committed to funding two new green freeports in Scotland to the tune of £52 million. That would not be possible, of course, if the SNP got its way and we returned to the EU.

Boris defined levelling up:

It is not just inequality; it is inequality of opportunity, and that is what levelling up addresses.

A Labour MP moaned about the railways in the north of England.

Boris replied:

Actually, this Government are responsible for three new high-speed lines, including Northern Powerhouse Rail, which no previous Government have done.

Boris gave his advice with regard to hot weather when an MP asked about disposable barbeques and Chinese sky lanterns:

The key thing is for people to behave responsibly with the use of these things. It is clearly insane to take a disposable barbecue on to dry grass.

Another SNP MP, Dr Philippa Whitford, talked about poverty in Scotland, ending with a plug for independence.

Boris said:

Actually, we increased the living wage across the whole of the UK by £1,000, we made sure that people on universal credit got their tax bills cut by £1,000, and over the last couple of weeks we have cut national insurance contributions by an average of £330. It was because of the Union that we were able to support families up and down the country, in Scotland, with the furlough and other payments, to the tune of £408 billion.

One of the nicest contributions came from Conservative MP Andrew Bowie, who represents West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine:

May I thank my right hon. Friend for his commitment to Scotland and the entire United Kingdom over his years in Downing Street? I also thank him and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland for improving and increasing the visibility and involvement of the UK Government in Scotland over the past three years. Does my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister agree that whoever takes his job, and whatever comes next, the United Kingdom will always be stronger together than it ever would be apart?

Boris replied:

That was brilliantly put; I could not have put it better myself.

Then a young Labour MP asked about the slow compensation for Windrush victims.

Boris said:

Actually, I think more people have got compensation. I renew my apologies to the Windrush generation for what they have suffered, but we have greatly increased the compensation available. We have paid out, I think, more than £51 million. We are working with voluntary groups to ensure that people get what they are entitled to. I may say that Labour has never apologised for its own part in the Windrush scandal.

An MP from Northern Ireland accused the Government of ruining relationships between Ulster and the Republic.

Boris replied:

I completely disagree with that. The whole objective of the Northern Ireland (Protocol) Bill that we have passed is to support the balance and symmetry of the Belfast/Good Friday arrangements. I was very pleased that the Bill advanced to the House of Lords with no amendments.

GB News has more on the legislation:

A Conservative MP, Crispin Blunt, is not my favourite. However, here is where I agree with him. He paid a splendid tribute to Boris:

In recalling the situation that the Prime Minister inherited in July 2019, of a Parliament with a majority determined to frustrate the result of the 2016 referendum, led by a Speaker who was just slightly partial—the seemingly impossible situation he found—does my right hon. Friend understand that he has the gratitude of my constituents, who can identify the wood from the trees, and of myself, for his leadership over the last three years?

Boris replied:

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend. There is a fair amount of wood on the Opposition Benches and I think that is why we will prevail at the next general election.

Another SNP MP banged on about a second independence referendum.

Boris said:

This is the country that secured furlough and that delivered the vaccine across the whole of the UK, while the SNP gets on with overtaxing to the tune of £900 million—that is how much they are overtaxing in Scotland. And we had a referendum in 2014.

Another SNP MP complained spitefully about Boris being a nobody and about the honours list he might draw up before he leaves office.

Boris answered:

I am sure that everybody who has served this Government loyally and well deserves recognition of some kind, but as for the honours list, I am afraid the hon. Gentleman will have to contain his excitement.

Conservative MP Sir Edward Leigh was the last to speak. He, too, paid Boris tribute for the past three years:

On behalf of the House, may I thank the Prime Minister—[Interruption.] On behalf of the House, may I thank the Prime Minister for his three-year record of service? On behalf of some of the most vulnerable people in the country, can I thank him for his insistence on rolling out the AstraZeneca jab, which has saved thousands of lives around the world? On behalf of the 17.4 million people who voted Brexit, may I thank him for restoring people’s faith in democracy? On behalf of northern towns, may I thank him for his commitment to levelling up? And most of all, on behalf of the people of Ukraine, may I thank him for holding high the torch of freedom and ensuring that that country is not a vassal state? For true grit and determination, keep going and thank you.

Boris replied, giving his closing remarks and advice for the future PM:

I thank my right hon. Friend, and I want to use the last few seconds to give some words of advice to my successor, whoever he or she may be.

No. 1: stay close to the Americans; stick up for the Ukrainians; stick up for freedom and democracy everywhere. Cut taxes and deregulate wherever you can to make this the greatest place to live and invest, which it is. I love the Treasury, but remember that if we had always listened to the Treasury, we would not have built the M25 or the Channel Tunnel. Focus on the road ahead, but always remember to check the rear-view mirror. And remember, above all, it is not Twitter that counts; it is the people that sent us here.

And yes, the last few years have been the greatest privilege of my life. It is true that I helped to get the biggest Tory majority for 40 years and a huge realignment in UK politics. We have transformed our democracy and restored our national independence, as my right hon. Friend says. We have helped—I have helped—to get this country through a pandemic and helped save another country from barbarism. Frankly, that is enough to be going on with. Mission largely accomplished—for now.

I want to thank you, Mr Speaker. I want to thank all the wonderful staff of the House of Commons. I want to thank all my friends and colleagues. I want to thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford). I want to thank everybody here. And hasta la vista, baby. [Applause.]

Here’s the ‘Hasta la vista, ba-by’ video — a must-see:

The Conservatives gave him a standing ovation, with everyone applauding him, except for Theresa May, who merely stood.

https://image.vuukle.com/afdabdfb-de55-452b-b000-43e4d45f1094-427154d4-eeb2-4a2d-9b84-ae60e65c201a

The Opposition either sat in silence or walked out.

One of Guido’s readers wrote:

Lack of class from opposition MPs who can’t possibly give a polite round of applause for a political opponent.

I agree. On the other hand, they hate Boris because he represents Brexit.

In Guido’s comments on the same post, someone said that Boris was Britain’s ‘worst ever PM’, which garnered this response, rightly pointing out the greater moral failings of Tony Blair, John Major and Theresa May as well as today’s world leaders:

What, even worse than a Prime Minister who took the UK into an illegal war which resulted in the deaths of millions as well as thousands of UK soldiers and for which the UK is still feeling reverberations in the form of terrorist attacks? What a worse PM than a Prime Minister who signed the UK up to the Maastricht Treaty without putting it to the British people in the form of a referendum? What worse than a Prime Minister who put forward the idea of making the elderly sell their homes to pay for Health Care

But instead listened to the people and secured an 80 seat majority to leave the EU (admittedly still leaving a lot to do). Invested in Vaccine development and procurement to ensure the UK had enough supplies for every citizen, and that the UK was at the front of the queue, and didnt go overboard on Covid restrictions, not when you look at what other countries got up to, namely Canada, China and France with Macron’s “I want to punish those that won’t get vaccinated” this after he was responsible for sowing Vaccine doubt simply because the Vaccine was developed in the UK – but then Johnson commited a crime so heinous – he had a piece of Birthday cake brought to him buy his wife – and that’s ‘your’ worst Prime Minister, lol …

Journalist and former Conservative adviser Amanda Platell said she wept after PMQs:

Boris will be missed for his powerful performances at the despatch box …

… and Labour know it. One of their former advisers admits that’s why Boris had to go:

Keir Starmer was often petty and unpleasant towards Boris:

That is because he knows Boris can win elections. In fact, earlier this week, Starmer was so frustrated with the Prime Minister that he insulted him on a podcast.

Starmer’s deputy leader Angela Rayner said on Monday, July 18, that she would be happy with either Truss or Sunak as his successor. At the time she gave this interview, five candidates were still in the race:

I’m quite happy with any one of them. Because the one thing, and I kind of could see it… [Boris] had this, like, teflon coatingIt’s like a little magic. Where he was able to get through to the public and get through to the places that I actually don’t see any of the five candidates that are standing having at the moment… Boris had so much going for him. He got an 80-seat majority and the country was really behind him… the five that we’ve got now I don’t think have got that…

Here’s the video:

Boris’s former adviser Dominic Cummings thinks that Boris, like Arnie, will be back, if the next Conservative leader is too lacklustre:

As I wrote yesterday, thousands of voters do not want until then. Dan Wootton’s viewers think that Boris’s name should be on the ballot going out to Conservative Party members early in August:

Wootton’s poll follows on from the ongoing petition by Party members to have Boris’s name on the ballot:

The petition is being spearheaded by Lord Cruddas of Shoreditch, the Tory donor, and David Campbell Bannerman, a former Conservative Euro MP:

The Mail also has a report on the petition.

GB News interviewed David Campbell Bannerman on Thursday, July 21:

However, Labour are planning a rearguard action to prevent Boris from ever being Party leader again.

They hope to depose him as MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip in west London:

On Thursday, July 21, GB News reported:

Boris Johnson could be forced to face a by-election if he is found to have lied to Parliament and is handed a suspension for 10 or more sitting days.

The Privileges Committee is examining whether the Prime Minister committed a contempt of Parliament by misleading MPs over the Partygate scandal.

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle [Labour] confirmed that the committee’s findings would fall within the remit of the Recall of MPs Act, following advice from a leading lawyer.

That would mean that a suspension of 10 or more sitting days, or 14 calendar days, would trigger a recall petition.

If at least 10 percent of voters in Mr Johnson’s Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat demand a by-election he would lose his place as an MP, but would be eligible to stand again in the contest.

The cross-party committee also published advice from the Clerk of the Journals, Eve Samson, the Commons’ expert on parliamentary privilege, which suggested that whether or not Mr Johnson intended to mislead MPs was not a factor that needed to be considered.

But she said that intent could be seen as an “aggravating factor” when considering penalties

The MPs intend to call Mr Johnson to give oral evidence in public in the autumn, under oath.

The committee has already said that whistleblowers will be able to give evidence about the Prime Minister anonymously.

Mr Johnson has also been ordered to hand over a cache of documents to the MPs investigating whether he lied to Parliament with his partygate denials.

The committee wrote to the Prime Minister and Cabinet Secretary Simon Case demanding details relevant to its inquiry.

On Friday, July 22, Guido posted on the upcoming inquiry, saying (emphases in red his):

While the committee will now disregard the PM’s intent, the Clerk’s report does say that can feed into deciding a sanction. This is all, in the understated words of The Telegraph, “a departure from precedent”…

It seems the Speaker’s also got in on the act of changing rules. The Privileges Committee’s announcement yesterday said Hoyle has ruled that “any suspension of the requisite length (10 sitting days or 14 calendar days) ) following on from a report from that Committee will attract the provisions of the Recall of MPs Act”. Previously only recommendations of suspension from the Standards Committee would apply the recall act. Now the PM faces a by-election being forced by [Labour MP Harriet] Harman. Tory MPs are now having to fight back on his behalf, launching a petition to scrap the investigation altogether in light of his resignation…

For now, let’s remember the happier times of earlier this week.

Boris held his final Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, July 19:

Despite the heat, Guido reports that there were no refreshments or food:

… there were a few presents, and a round of applause for the PM. Nigel Adams also gave a speech commending Boris’s time in office, followed by a school photo.

Boris was gi[ven] a six-set first edition of Churchill’s war books; surprisingly not something the ex-PM’s biographer didn’t already own. Guido also learns Boris was given wines that reflected significant dates in his life and political career: 1964, 2008, 2012 and 2019. He also got wine from other countries that mean a lot to him, including Ukraine and Greece …

Here’s the Cabinet photo:

https://image.vuukle.com/21414c90-8f1a-445b-989f-74a955755b28-8b23ce74-8a07-4e13-b24a-a9d4dc987cb8

I hope all goes well for the Prime Minister in the weeks to come.

No doubt if Labour try to get at him, he’ll find a way out.

All being well, I’ll have a post next week on what really happened leading to his ouster.

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