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Yesterday’s post introduced the significance of Scotland to Queen Elizabeth II.

In it, I mentioned that, after the 1707 Acts of Union, the history of Scotland began to be romanticised through the efforts of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert as well as Walter Scott’s novels.

Romantic history

A royal historian told GB News that Prince Albert was quite taken by the countryside in Aberdeenshire, which reminded him of his native Rhineland.

He and Victoria had an amazing love life, according to a television documentary I saw many years ago. In the early days, at least, he used to dress and undress her. Her silk stockings were a favourite part of the ritual.

After Albert died in 1861, Victoria moved up to Balmoral for a time and became close friends with one of his servants, John Brown, a Scot. A film about their relationship, Mrs Brown, made its debut in 1997.

In 1863, courtiers and the Royal Family thought that Brown could rehabilitate the mourning Queen. Instead, he began controlling her daily life at her holiday idyll.

In time, rumours about the extent of their relationship began circulating not only among her inner circle but also in London, where a republican sentiment began growing in her absence. Courtiers and the Royal Family changed tack, this time urging Brown to get the widowed Queen back to the capital to make public appearances.

Brown followed orders, although his and Victoria’s relationship was never the same afterwards.

On the other hand, her resumption of public appearances quelled restive republicans.

Brown remained a loyal servant, foiling an assassination attempt on the Royal Family. In 1883, he contracted pneumonia. Victoria visited him in his room and apologised for not having been a better friend. Brown died a short time later and left behind a diary, which, allegedly, has disappeared.

Victoria’s two main courtiers, Sir Henry Ponsonby and Sir William Jenner, found it and read it. Only they knew what happened to it afterwards. One of them said later on that the then-Prince of Wales — Edward VII — was so resentful of Brown that he threw a bust of the man over the palace wall in London after his death.

At Balmoral, John Brown is immortalised in two paintings which hang in the drawing room where Queen Elizabeth II received Boris Johnson and Liz Truss on Tuesday, September 6, 2022.

On September 7, The Times helpfully told us more about the room’s features, including the paintings which flank the fireplace (emphases mine):

Victoria and John Brown, her servant and close friend after the death of Prince Albert, feature twice in the room’s paintings. To the left of the mantelpiece they appear in Sir Edwin Landseer’s chalk and pastel drawing Sunshine: Balmoral in 1860 or Death of the Royal Stag. Albert stands proudly in the foreground with a gun over his shoulder, dogs at his heel and a stag at his feet. In the background Victoria sits side-saddle on a horse led by Brown, her ghillie.

To the right is Gilbert Sprague’s copy of another Landseer painting of Victoria, in mourning as she sits on her pony Flora outside Osborne House, her retreat on the Isle of Wight. Victoria commissioned the original in 1861 after Albert’s death, telling Landseer that she wished to be depicted “as I am now, sad and lonely, seated on my pony, led by Brown, with a representation of Osborne”.

Queen Elizabeth also experienced the magic of Scotland that her forebears helped to create.

As a child, she remembered happy days at Glamis Castle then Balmoral. As an adult, she associated possibly her happiest memories with Balmoral. There, the love of her life, Prince Philip, proposed to her. The happy couple also spent their honeymoon there.

On September 8, The Times published an insightful article: ‘Balmoral gave Elizabeth the chance to feel “free”‘, excerpted below:

Scotland played a large and emotional part in Elizabeth’s life. Her happiest memories were of the childhood days she spent with “Granny Strathmore”— Cecilia Bowes-Lyon, Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne, who was also her godmother — at Glamis Castle.

At the family home in Angus she enjoyed parties, children’s theatre after tea, and visits to nearby Cortachy Castle, owned by Lord Airlie, where she once “borrowed” the young David Ogilvie’s little blue pedal car, much to his fury. At Balmoral, she felt she could be “normal” — almost a housewife, like ordinary people; it took her into another world. “Here I can be free,” she told a friend once.

Not that it was exactly ordinary; there were certain traditions. A piper played every morning before breakfast, and, when guests were staying, there would be pipers at dinner. The ladies would depart after the meal, leaving the men to talk over the brandy.

There were shooting parties, with the Queen and her dogs driving out to join the guns at lunch, then “picking up”: her dogs retrieving the birds they had shot. “She was an ace picker-up,” recalled one friend. Back at the house the first duty would be to feed the dogs.

She insisted on doing the washing-up after picnics, when Philip managed the barbecue and she did the rest. Those picnics — some of them in the evening, in one or other of the huts in the grounds of the estate, always kept open, and often used by members of the public — were famous occasions, remembered by guests long after for their combination of relaxed informality and perfectly organised routine.

Then it would be back to the castle. What one friend noticed, however, was that, as soon as Elizabeth walked through the door of Balmoral Castle, she became Queen again. This was the royal residence, and there was no mistaking who was in charge.

The Queen also enjoyed an annual week-long stay in Edinburgh at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The city’s Lord Provost would deliver the keys to the palace to her in the Ceremony of the Keys and a closing ceremony of her returning them to him took place upon her departure.

She would visit St Giles’ Cathedral, probably the only Presbyterian cathedral in existence, and, beginning in the late 1990s, Holyrood, the Scottish parliament.

The independence movement strengthened by an SNP government has grown leaps and bounds since I last visited Scotland 30 years ago.

It is difficult to pin down what exactly the SNP expect as an independent nation, including where they stand on the monarchy. Although First Minister Nicola Sturgeon praised the Queen in death, she was less forthcoming in June during the Platinum Jubilee weekend:

After the scandal surrounding Prince Andrew, she said that there should be a “debate” about the future of the monarchy; she notably failed to deliver a message of loyalty at the time of the Platinum Jubilee; and she did nothing to contradict a statement from the Green Party, her allies in government, which accused the monarchy of “holding back” progress.

However:

None of that has diluted the Queen’s affection for Scotland, and her pride in her Scottish connections. As Sir Charles Fraser, who was purse bearer at the Palace of Holyroodhouse for nearly 20 years, commented: “Over many conversations with the Queen, she always spoke of her love for Scotland and her commitment to her Scottish ancestry. Throughout her reign she gave us leadership and hope, where others have failed.”

Incidentally, former Royal servants say that all of them enjoyed being at Balmoral and could hardly wait for their annual stay there. It seems that it was as delightful for them as it was for the Queen. 

Monday, September 12

In my preceding post, I wrote about a young woman getting arrested on Sunday, September 11, near St Giles’ Cathedral for an anti-monarchy poster with an obscenity written on it. This happened during the proclamation of Charles III as the new King.

People in England were upset about it, but Scotland has its own speech laws which are much stricter than ours:

Guido Fawkes thought that the arrest was overkill. I tend to agree but, then again, I don’t know anything about Scottish policing (emphases his):

The 22-year-old woman who was arrested after holding up this anti-monarchy placard at St Giles’ Cathedral has been charged “in connection with a breach of the peace” and is reportedly due to appear at Edinburgh Sheriff Court today. Amid the emotional royalist fervour, the country is feeling it is even more important to stand up for universal and enduring values. The Free Speech Union has expressed concern that the protester been arrested for voicing anti-monarchist views during the Proclamation of King Charles III yesterday.  Defenders of free speech know that if they don’t stand up for views with which they disagree or even find offensive, they’re not defending free speech. Whatever your views on the monarchy, this protester has a right to hers.

The Free Speech Union has already reached out to the protester to offer their assistance.

That day, Guido reported that the SNP’s deputy leader John Swinney expressed surprising pro-monarchy views. He sounded like a Conservative:

Guido said that, on Sunday, Swinney said he watched the broadcast of Charles III’s Accession Ceremony in London:

I thought that when I watched the accession council in London yesterday because right at the heart of it was the significance of Scotland’s place within the Union and the extraordinary significance that was attached to that and the declarations and commitments that the King made and the fact the Secretary of State for Scotland, the First Minister of Scotland, the Lord Advocate of Scotland, the Lord President of the Court of Session in Scotland, were signatories to the documents which essentially facilitate the accession.

On Monday, Swinney went further:

This morning, Swinney went even further in irritating the most ardent of Scottish nationalists, stating the SNP would continue to have the UK monarch be Head of State in the event of independence, as they promised during the 2014 referendum:

The monarch should be the head of state of an independent Scotland. It’s what we argued in the referendum in 2014 and it’s what we will continue to argue.

Will the death of the Queen accidentally cause a cooling of temperatures in the Scottish independence debate?

That is part of what Operation Unicorn — the days of mourning in Scotland — was designed to do.

For much of Monday, the Queen continued lay in rest at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. This allowed staff to pay their respects in quiet privacy from Sunday afternoon onwards.

Senior members of the Royal Family, such as Princess Anne, were there awaiting the arrival of King Charles. Upon his and the Queen Consort’s arrival, the Lord Provost would go to conduct the Ceremony of the Keys.

Meanwhile, in the morning, King Charles was in London, addressing both Houses of Parliament in the ancient Westminster Hall, adjacent to the Houses of Parliament.

Westminster Hall was built by William the Conqueror’s son, William Rufus (William II) in 1097. It is the largest hall of its kind in Europe. The beamed ceilings were added in 1399 when Richard II had the pillars removed so that everyone inside could see what was going on. On the two occasions when the Palace of Westminster caught on fire or when it was bombed during the Second World War, the first priority of firefighters is to save Westminster Hall over the parliamentary palace.

The building has been used throughout the ages as Parliament, as court for the trials of Charles I and the real Guido Fawkes (a traitor) but has also been the venue for coronation banquets. It is still used by both houses of Parliament and is open to the public on important occasions when it is used for the lying in state of distinguised politicians such as Winston Churchill (1965) and members of the Royal Family. The Queen Mother was the last person to lie in state there. I went to pay my respects to her in 2002. The Queen is lying in state there as I write.

The Queen also spoke there on her Silver Jubilee (1977), her Golden Jubilee (2002) and her Diamond Jubilee (2012). A beautiful stained glass window commemorating her Diamond Jubilee is installed on one side of the hall.

Charles’s visit was of historical significance and not only because he is the United Kingdom’s first King in 70 years.

Both Speakers — of the Lords and of the Commons — wore their dress robes, which are gilded. Their respective serjants of arms brought each House’s mace up to the appropriate Speaker and laid them down on a raised platform.

The Speakers stood across from each other below the raised platform on which Charles was due to speak. The maces were covered with a black cloth, indicating not only mourning but also that they were subservient to the Sovereign.

Peers and MPs, as well as staff members, were in attendance.

The Speaker of the Lords, Lord McFall spoke first to extend his and the Lords’ sympathy to the King.

The life peer, a Scot, is a testament to the progress people can make in modern Britain:

Sir Lindsay Hoyle spoke next for the Commons, reminding the new monarch of the increased powers of Parliament since the Glorious Revolution of 1688. The King smiled wryly:

Then it was time for the King to address the room:

The Telegraph‘s summary has the key points of his speech:

We gather today in remembrance of the remarkable span of the Queen’s dedicated service to her nations and peoples.

While very young her late Majesty pledged herself to serve her country and her people and to maintain the precious principles of constitutional government which lie at the heart of our nation.

This vow she kept with unsurpassed devotion. She set an example of selfless duty which, with God’s help and your counsels, I am resolved faithfully to follow.

The King had already met with senior Government ministers, including Liz Truss, over the weekend at Buckingham Palace. Shadow (Opposition) ministers also met with him:

After the event at Westminster Hall ended, a reception was held, but the King and Queen Consort did not attend as they were due to fly to Edinburgh.

While the Royal couple were on their way, people lined up along Edinburgh’s Royal Mile:

Once Charles and Camilla arrived at Holyroodhouse, they and other members of the Royal Family assembled to be led by members of Scottish regiments for the procession to St Giles’ Cathedral, for a service of remembrance.

I know from first hand experience that it is a long walk and did not envy the Royals who did walk behind the hearse, especially on the cobbled road.

The Royals who walked were the Queen’s children: the King, the Princess Royal, Prince Andrew and the Prince Edward. Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, Princess Anne’s husband, also walked with them.

Prince Andrew was not allowed to wear his military uniform. He appeared in morning dress with his military medals.

A young heckler shouted at Prince Andrew in reference to sexual allegations with an underage girl, was quickly tackled by a member of the public, then police dragged him to his feet and arrested him:

He was arrested for breach of the peace:

The SNP had toughened up that law in 2010:

The procession up the ancient road was deeply moving, like something out of a film.

Prince Charles wore the green sash and star of the Order of the Thistle.

The Queen’s coffin was draped in the Royal Standard of Scotland.

The Guardian‘s diary for the day added:

The Queen’s coffin is … dressed with a wreath of flowers consisting of white spray roses, white freesias, white button chrysanthemums, dried white heather from Balmoral, spray eryngium, foliage, rosemary, hebe, and pittosporum.

The hearse is flanked by a bearer party found by the Royal Regiment of Scotland and the King’s Body Guard for Scotland.

The cortege arrived at St Giles’ shortly after 3 p.m. Watching the procession, I do not think they allowed enough time.

Heralds and Pursuivants of Scotland stood outside the cathedral door to receive the Queen for one last time. The Guardian has a magnificent photo of their uniforms.

The Crown of Scotland (see photo) was placed on the Queen’s casket before the service.

Here is a photo of the military bearer party dressed in kilts placing the casket on the catafalque in the cathedral.

The Guardian reported (emphases theirs):

At the beginning of the service of thanksgiving for the Queen, Reverend Calum MacLeod welcomed the royal family, “representatives of our nation’s life” and “people whose lives were touched by the Queen in so many unforgettable ways”.

Among those attending the service are the prime minister, Liz Truss, as well as Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon.

Unfortunately, there is no video of the service, which was very well done and oecumenical.

The Order of Service is here.

Nicola Sturgeon read Ecclesiastes 3:1-15. We know the first several verses well but here are the next:

What gain have the workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover, he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil. I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this, so that all should stand in awe before him. That which is, already has been; that which to be, already is; and God seeks out what has gone by.

The Church of Scotland has a transcript of the sermon that the Right Revd Dr Iain Greenshields preached:

Excerpts follow:

Death has been overcome, these are the words of hope expressed and centered around Jesus who died and rose again.

And this is clearly something that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth acknowledged and personally embraced.

These last few days, as tributes to her Majesty have poured in and we have watched images of her on screen from her earliest years, capturing that remarkable life, yet now beginning to sink in that she is gone from us – “gone home” to express her own words.

Today, we gather in this place of worship and throughout the nation, to express our thanks to God, for her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s extraordinary life.

We are united in sorrow at the death of our Monarch, but we are also so aware that His Majesty King Charles and all his family are not just grieving the loss of their Queen, but their mother, grandmother and great-grandmother too.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth began her reign, like King Solomon by asking for wisdom, something that she demonstrated in large measure and to which was added duty, honour, commitment, and faith.

These are the words that we reach for today to describe the life and reign of Queen Elizabeth, whose passing is mourned not only in her native land but across the Commonwealth and the world, as has been so evident to us in recent days.

Most of us cannot recall a time when she was not our monarch.

Committed to the role she assumed in 1952 upon the death of her beloved father, she has been a constant in all of our lives for over 70 years.

She was determined to see her work as a form of service to others and she maintained that steady course until the end of her life.

People who were in her company always felt that they were being listened to carefully and attentively and with compassion.

She possessed a sharp, intelligent mind, with amazing recall, a kindly heart and a gentle sense of humour.

She understood the breadth of world affairs and also cared about what happened to all of her people.

And although sometimes buffeted by events around her, she continued resolutely and cheerfully fulfilled her responsibilities

Much has been said about the Queen’s contribution to the life of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth which meant so much to her.

But here in Scotland we acknowledge with gratitude her deep links with our land and its people.

Her love of the Balmoral estate is well known and being there latterly brought her great comfort.

There she was valued as a neighbour and a friend and there she drew strength and refreshment during the summer months.

She was active in the life of civic Scotland, travelling across the country to support numerous causes, entertaining guests at Holyrood Palace and presiding at ceremonial events, many of which took place in this Church.

Here she received the Scottish crown in 1953, an event vividly memorialised in the painting by the Orcadian artist Stanley Cursiter.

Her links with the Scottish churches were also deep and lasting.

She was the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, but she worshipped in the Church of Scotland here north of the border, at Canongate Kirk and especially at Crathie Kirk where she took her pew each Sunday morning, prevented from doing so latterly only by infirmity.

She perceived little difficulty in belonging to two Churches and appreciating the strength of each.

It is clearly evident and without doubt that the Queen’s Christian faith was genuine, and often gave clear and sincere expression in those remarkable Christmas broadcasts.

She spoke unashamedly of her trust in God and of the example and teaching of Jesus Christ whom she sought to follow as best she could – indeed, of that faith she said she had no regret

Today we mourn her passing but we also celebrate the long and happy reign that we experienced with her.

And we pray God’s blessing upon King Charles who will surely draw strength from his mother’s example and the many affectionate tributes of these days and from our assurance to him as a Church of our steadfast prayers at all times and of our unstinting support to him as was offered to his mother, the Queen.

The Cathedral’s website has more about the Queen’s visits.

The service lasted an hour and ended at 4:15.

The Royal party then returned to Holyroodhouse.

However, their day was far from over.

The King met with Nicola Sturgeon. He and the Queen Consort then went to Holyrood to visit the Scottish parliament where MSPs delivered a motion of condolence.

At 7:20 that evening, the senior Royals returned to St Giles’ for the Vigil of the Princes. It would be the first time that a female — Princess Anne — would take part.

More on that tomorrow.

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It is probably no coincidence that the Queen spent her final months at Balmoral in the north east of Scotland, near Aberdeen.

Scotland, especially the eastern half of the country, is romantic in all senses of the word.

The Queen had many fond memories of her summers there.

Therefore, she and the Princess Royal — Princess Anne — devised Operation Unicorn, to be activated in case she should die in Scotland. It was a great success not only for her Scottish subjects but for all of us watching in the United Kingdom and around the world.

A brief history

The last monarch to die in Scotland was James V in 1542.

He and his family were Catholic. His infant daughter Mary Queen of Scots succeeded him. Regents governed Scotland while she was young. She was forced to abdicate in 1567 and was beheaded in England in 1587.

Mary’s son, James VI of Scotland, succeeded her in 1567. He, too, had regents until he reached majority age. Elizabeth I of England died in 1603 and, unmarried, had no successors. As James was the great-great-grandson of Henry VII, he had a rightful claim not only to the Scottish throne but also those in England and Ireland.

In the Union of England and Scotland Act 1603, the three kingdoms came under James’s rule. In England and Ireland, he was known as James I. His 22-year reign is known as the Jacobean era.

Interestingly, he returned to Scotland only once during that time, in 1617. He styled himself King of Great Britain and Ireland, only modified in the past century to replace Ireland with Northern Ireland.

Having the same monarch but the ability to maintain respective laws and customs allowed Scotland and England the flexibility to trade with each other without a complete union. Successive monarchs discussed union, but the two governments and the clergy vehemently disagreed on how to implement one.

By the 1690s, the whole of Europe was in a severe economic slump. In 1698, the Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies received permission to raise capital through public subscription. The Company decided to invest in the Darién Scheme. This far-sighted investment involved establishing a trading post at Darién Bay on the Isthmus of Panama — where the Panama Canal is today — to engage in commerce with the Far East. The colony was to be called New Caledonia, or New Scotland.

Unfortunately, the Darién Scheme proved to be a disaster. The wealthy Scots who invested in it lost their money and Scotland’s economy collapsed.

The Act of Settlement 1701 decreed that the monarch of England and Ireland would be a Protestant member of the House of Hanover. This meant that no more descendants of Charles I could accede to the throne. Anne acceded to the throne in 1702, reigning over not only those two countries but also Scotland. In a speech to the English parliament, she said that a union was absolutely necessary.

England and Scotland continued to be divided on political union, which affected trade and the status of Scots living in England once the English parliament passed the Alien Act 1705, which made them ‘foreign nationals’.

That year, with Queen Anne pressing for a resolution, negotiations between the two countries’ respective parliaments and commissioners began anew. The Act of Union passed the Scottish parliament first on January 16, 1707. The Scottish peer Lord Queensberry was instrumental in its passage by 110 votes to 69. The English parliament passed the Acts shortly thereafter. This resulted in the Acts of Union 1707. Most of these 25 acts are economic in nature. One provided for the establishment of the Church of Scotland, which is Presbyterian. It is called the kirk. Another act guaranteed the continued practice of Scottish law north of the border.

While the English were happy about the new legislation, Scottish residents were somewhat angry with Lord Queensberry. This dissatisfaction carries on today with the independence movement, led by the Scottish National Party (SNP), the third largest party in the UK parliament in Westminster. Tony Blair wanted Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to be devolved in order for his Labour Party to dominate politics in the first two of those nations. Little did he realise that the SNP would eclipse Labour in Scotland under the leadership of Alex Salmond and, afterwards, Nicola Sturgeon, the current First Minister.

Returning to 1707, however, Scotland began to flourish. Visitors to Edinburgh can clearly see that in New Town, where Princes Street is. Behind Princes Street are streets full of stately Georgian houses. Scotland began to contribute greatly to the good of the United Kingdom in medicine, architecture, philosophy and the arts.

During the Victorian era, between the Queen and Prince Albert and the romantic novels of Walter Scott, a mythological aura began to rest over the country, creating the romantic atmosphere we know today, whether in the capital city of Edinburgh or in the countryside.

This was the Scotland that Elizabeth II became acquainted with, thanks to her mother Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, whose father, Lord Glamis (pron. ‘Glahms’) and the 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, was Scottish.

Therefore, it is no wonder that she would want to spend her last months and hours at her beloved Balmoral knowing that Operation Unicorn would proceed in all its glory.

And what a beautifully poignant few days they were this week.

September 9

On Friday, September 9, the day after the Queen’s death was announced, Scotland closed its courts and lowered its flags for their esteemed monarch.

The Times reported that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon praised the Queen, saying:

“Millions around the world will share their grief but only they will feel the loss of a mother and grandmother,” she said.

“The Queen was unflinching in her dedication to duty, unwavering in her commitment to public service and unmatched in her devotion to the people of this country and the wider Commonwealth.

“We are all saddened by today’s news and will come together in the days ahead to mourn.

“But it is right and proper that we celebrate the unparalleled contribution she made in her 70 years as sovereign.”

The first minister added that Scotland “was special to her and she was special to Scotland” as she spoke of the Queen’s love of Balmoral, where she spent her final days.

The article goes on to say:

The Queen maintained a deep affection for Scotland throughout her life, having spent much time as a young princess with her parents at Balmoral or her maternal grandparents at Glamis Castle, Angus.

She gave her first public speech in Aberdeen in 1944, when she opened a home for the British Sailors’ Society while still a teenager.

After acceding to the throne in 1952, she maintained the royal family’s tradition of holidaying at Balmoral every summer.

Although most Scots support the monarchy, those who oppose it are hardly thin on the ground. As last weekend unfolded, I hoped that Operation Unicorn would help them understand more about the significance of the monarchy and Queen Elizabeth II in particular.

September 10

On Saturday, the Royals at Balmoral were dressed semi-formally in black. The Mail reported that they viewed the tributes at the estate and at nearby Crathie Kirk. Their photo captions read:

Lady Louise Windsor, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Anne, Princess Royal wave to the public outside Balmoral Castle on Saturday

The teary-eyed Countess of Wessex, Sophie studies the floral tributes and loving messages left to her mother-in-law, the Queen, at Crathie Kirk church near Balmoral on Saturday

However, one Scottish businesswoman in the Highlands was happy when the Queen died. The Mail reported that the locals dealt with her before police arrived:

A fish and chip shop owner who celebrated the Queen‘s death with a bottle of champagne, shouting ‘Lizard Liz is dead’ has had her restaurant windows smashed in.

A photo of the vandalism was shared to Twitter on Saturday night showing the front of the shop with a shattered window and a hole in the middle. 

Angry locals also vandalised the property on Thursday evening when they pelted the store front with eggs and ketchup.

Jaki Pickett, who runs Jaki’s Fish and Chip Shop in Muir of Ord, Highlands in Scotland held up a chalkboard that read ‘London Bridge has fallen’ with a smiley face.

She posted the now-deleted clip of her happily celebrating the Queen’s death on Facebook, but it caused huge outrage with locals who blasted Ms Pickett for disrespecting the late monarch …

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: ‘Officers received a report of damage to a property in the Seaforth Road area of Muir of Ord, which is thought to have happened between 7.30pm on Friday, 9 September, and 10.30am on Saturday, 10 September, 2022.

‘Enquiries are ongoing to establish the circumstances.’

Police Scotland were also called to the shop on Thursday evening after it was targeted by angry residents in Muir of Ord who egged the windows.

Pictures showed broken eggshells on the ground and egg mess over the shop windows, while ketchup was splattered on a bench.

Videos circulating on social media show residents surrounding the restaurant on Thursday evening, where owner Ms Pickett was seen driving away from the area with a police escort while locals booed her for her shameless Facebook post.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: ‘Shortly after 8.30pm on Thursday, 8 September officers attended at a business in the Seaforth Road area of Muir of Ord following a report of a large crowd gathered in the area.

‘Officers remained at the scene to ensure the safety of all present and the group subsequently dispersed peacefully.

‘No further police action has been required.’

Earlier, in London, at the special session of the House of Commons, an SNP MP, Joanna Cherry KC, spoke of the Queen’s Scottish lineage (emphases mine):

It is very humbling to follow so many great speeches. On my own behalf and on behalf of my Edinburgh South West constituents, I too rise to honour the memory of our late Queen. Much has been said of her dedication and her service, but I want to concentrate on her love of Scotland and the love of many Scots for her.

As the Queen died at Balmoral, and is to be taken first to the palace of Holyroodhouse and then to St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland will be the centre of the world’s attention over the next few days. That is breaking with tradition, but those were the Queen’s wishes, and Scotland is honoured by them. The last monarch to die in Scotland was James V, who died at Falkland in 1542. He was, of course, the father of Mary, Queen of Scots, and it was her son James VI who presided over the union of the Crowns. Mary, Queen of Scots is the ancestor of all the Stuarts and, indeed, all the Hanoverians who followed. Elizabeth Stuart, the daughter of James VI, married one of the German electors, and with the demise of the last Stuart monarch in 1714, Elizabeth’s grandson succeeded to the British throne. That is the Hanoverian line, and it can be traced directly back to Scotland’s Stuarts. Our late Queen was keenly aware of that—perhaps that is why she chose Stuart names for her first two children, Charles and Anne. And, of course, her mother was a Scot.

In 1953, after her coronation, the first place our late Queen visited was Edinburgh, and throughout her reign, she returned to Scotland for important events and, indeed, chose my country to be centre stage during state visits. In 1962, she chose Scotland for the state visit of the King of Norway; in 2010—very memorably for many people of my faith—she chose Holyrood for the state visit of Pope Benedict XVI; and, of course, she officially opened Scotland’s Parliament when it was reconvened in 1999.

Our late Queen embodied the union of the English and Scottish Crowns, which of course is quite different from the Union of the Parliaments and predates it by over 100 years. At a time of change, there are many in my country—particularly younger people—who might prefer a republic to a constitutional monarchy, but that did not in any way prevent the affection our late Queen held for Scotland from being returned in equal measure. Sadly, I never had the privilege of meeting Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen of Scots, but earlier this year I did have the privilege of meeting our new King. We spoke of Scotland, and I was left in no doubt that he shared his mother’s abiding love of my country.

As such, before I resume my seat, in honour of his late mother, I want to recite just a few words of Burns’ poetry that I believe may be a favourite of the King:

“Farewell to the mountains, high-cover’d with snow,

Farewell to the straths and green vallies below;

Farewell to the forests and wild-hanging woods,

Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods.

My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here,

My heart’s in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer;

Chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,

My heart’s in the Highlands, wherever I go.”

May she rest in peace.

Sunday, September 11

Princess Anne had the solemn duty of escorting her mother’s casket from Balmoral, near Ballater, Aberdeenshire, to Edinburgh’s Palace of Holyroodhouse, the official Royal residence in Scotland.

The cortege passed slowly through Ballater, Aberdeen, Dundee and Perth. Many Scots lined the roads in silence to bow in respect.

The Queen’s casket was covered in her standard with a wreath of white flowers, her favourites. Among them were delicate sweet peas. It was a beautiful last memory for her subjects.

Watching her on television, I do not know how the Princess Royal managed to stay so stoic. The journey began mid-morning and lasted well into the afternoon.

Meanwhile, in Edinburgh’s Old Town, where the magnificent castle is, the proclamation of Charles III was declared.

Metro reported that a young green-haired woman held up an anti-monarchy sign with an obscenity on it and was arrested:

A woman was arrested holding an anti-monarchy sign in Edinburgh today, before the Queen’s cortege arrived in the city.

She was detained outside St Giles’ Cathedral, where the monarch’s coffin is due to be held from tomorrow after spending the night at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Moments before the proclamation of Charles III as new king this afternoon, a demonstrator appeared in the crowd opposite the Mercat Cross …

Officers appeared behind her and took her away, prompting the crowd to applaud.

One man shouted: ‘Let her go, it’s free speech,’ while others yelled: ‘Have some respect.’

A police spokesman said a 22-year-old woman was arrested ‘in connection with a breach of the peace’.

This started an online debate about whether protest of the monarchy is freedom of speech. Surely, it is, although others say it depends on how far it goes:

That narrow thoroughfare going down the Royal Mile from the castle was teeming with people and continued to be until the late afternoon of Monday, September 12.

Metro‘s article on the protest continues but with a focus on the proclamation and all who wanted to pay their respects:

It came on the day thousands lined the streets to watch the Queen’s coffin arrive in Edinburgh, where she will stay before continuing the journey to her final resting place.

Countless tearful well-wishers turned out to pay their respects to the late monarch as her hearse made the 175-mile journey from Balmoral.

But some hecklers were heard booing among the crowds gathered in Scotland’s capital to hear the proclamation of Charles.

The Lord Lyon King of Arms gave a speech before declaring ‘God save the King’, which the crowd repeated.

A Sunday Times article discusses the complex feelings Scots have about the monarchy: ‘She adored Scotland but the Union will wobble without her’.

Reading it made me appreciate why the Queen wanted Operation Unicorn to proceed.

Excerpts follow:

“She came here to die in the Highlands,” said Elizabeth Strachan, 69, who grew up near the Balmoral Estate. “This is her homeland. It is the place she knows.”

Over the long years of the Queen’s reign, the United Kingdom’s collective identity has changed markedly. Scottish independence went from a fringe cause to the centre of the political debate.

Some believed she gave people a feeling of Britishness, which hampered the vote for separation, that her soft power pushed together a fragmenting nation. Others believed she was viewed as being above the debate and the nationalist cause moved forward regardless.

A poll this May by British Future, a think tank, found that more than 36 per cent of Scots thought the end of the Queen’s reign would be the right time to abolish the monarchy.

How will the accession of King Charles III change things? Is the political union separate, in voters’ minds, to the monarchical one? And if it is, can it remain that way?

Alex Salmond, the former first minister and leader of the SNP during the 2014 referendum, thinks the impact of her death on politics will be “on the margins”. He said: “Her presence did not stop the rise of Scottish nationalism over the last 70 years of her great reign so her passing will not change its direction either.” Salmond, who is a privy counsellor and attended yesterday’s accession council, shared the Queen’s love of horseracing and has spoken warmly of her.

Still, the smallest remarks she made about the Union generated big headlines. In 1977, before a vote on the establishment of an assembly in Edinburgh, she made a speech emphasising how she was crowned Queen of all four nations. Ahead of the 2014 referendum vote, she said to a wellwisher: “I hope people will think very carefully about the future.”

[Then-Prime Minister] David Cameron later told Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor, that the Queen “purred down the line” when she found out about the “no” result. Salmond was invited for breakfast at Balmoral the next morning.

“The Queen was absolutely furious, the angriest I’d ever seen her,” said Salmond. “I don’t think she was trying to stop the rise of Scottish nationalism. She wasn’t dyed in the wool for the political union but I think she was dyed in the wool for the union of the Crown. She understood well the difference.”

Cameron has admitted his comments were “a terrible mistake” …

Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, has been firm in her support of the Queen and the monarchy. In May of this year she reiterated that the royal family would continue to rule regardless of a “yes” or a “no” vote.

Scottish nationalists do not all agree. Chris McEleny, general secretary of the Alba Party, which Salmond now leads, said in a statement: “If the people of the rest of the UK wish to have King Charles as their head of state then good luck to them, but there should be zero countenance of that absurdity in an independent Scotland” …

Sandra Fagan, 66, drove to Balmoral from Perth with her mother, daughter, and grandson — four generations spanning four monarchs.

Sandra’s father was a “red-hot” SNP supporter, shouting at the television that it was “all about England”. “But when it came to royalty and the Queen it was different. He wanted different laws for Scotland but never a different head of state. Believing in the monarchy is spiritual, it has nothing to do with separatism, which you argue about over the dinner table”

Graham and Susan Cameron, their son, Callum, 27, and dog, “Her Royal Highness” Tia Cameron, drove 85 miles from Buckie to lay flowers at the Balmoral gates on Friday morning.

“I’m not a monarchist,” said Susan, 58, “but she was like a mother to all of us. She’s been a constant through a relentless period of change, tying us all together. It is a relief to have Charles — it means the monarchy goes on”

It was in Scotland that Prince Philip mooted the idea of their marriage, where the couple spent their honeymoon and later, where the family found out about the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

The royal property portfolio is sprawling, worth £261.5 million and including Charles’s Birkhall, the Queen’s beloved Craigowan Lodge, both on Balmoral, the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Dumfries House in Cumnock and the Castle of Mey in Caithness.

Balmoral was said to be the Queen’s favourite. She was a “neighbour”, said David Cobban, 56, the owner of a gift shop in the nearby town of Ballater, who grew up on the Balmoral Estate. The Queen spoke with residents in Doric, the northeast Scots dialect, and wore country clothes much like their own.

“Up here the relationship with the royal family is more intimate,” said Cobban. “They come here so they can be as normal as they can be.”

I will continue with another post about Scotland tomorrow. The television coverage was compelling.

For me, the Conservative Party leadership contest is over.

I could be wrong, but it looks as if Liz Truss will be measuring curtains for No. 10 in a few weeks’ time.

Barring anything unforeseen, this will be my last report on the contest until early September.

Telegraph hustings at Cheltenham

On Thursday, August 11, The Telegraph presented a Conservative Party hustings at the Cheltenham racecourse in Gloucestershire.

The paper’s Camilla Tominey moderated the event.

She asked Liz Truss about her barbed exchange with TalkTV’s Tom Newton Dunn earlier last week:

Camilla: Are you happy with the press this week? Because you’ve had a bit of a go at us.

Liz: Well, I had a go at Tom Newton Dunn, but you’re asking much sounder questions Camilla.

Camilla: Thank you!

Guido has the video, in which Liz tells Camilla that she would like more questions about trade deals:

Here is the video of the hustings in full:

Viewers were given the opportunity to vote for their preferred candidate online in a poll for the paper. It appeared that people could vote more than once:

Even before the hustings began, Rishi was in the lead. Hmm:

The Telegraph featured an article highlighting readers’ opinions.

It is a shame that so many Britons have forgotten the comparative ‘more’. There were only two candidates, therefore, saying ‘most’ — implying three or more — was clearly wrong.

One of Rishi’s supporters thought he could beat Labour:

Having just watched both candidates, it’s not too difficult to accept that Rishi Sunak was the most inspiring. Indeed, in contrast to his wooden adversary, he gave a rousing speech. I wonder how many members watched and are open-minded enough to ditch Liz Truss? She would lose to Labour in two years’ time. Sunak at least gives us a chance.

Another said Liz was ‘weak’:

Liz Truss’s yes and no round showed her to be very weak: no dramatic reform of the BBC, no cap on immigration, keeping net zero, no dramatic reduction to the size of government. She is no Tory candidate.

Another branded her ‘useless’:

Liz Truss cannot answer a question properly. She is useless. At least Rishi Sunak is willing to tell some home truths even if people don’t want to hear it.

However, Liz’s supporters thought that she offered a fresh approach.

One said (emphases mine):

I’m beginning to like Liz Truss more and more. She’s a radical democrat determined to confront the anti-democratic ‘establishment’. If she wins, hers will be a revolution supported by the democratic majority in the UK.

Another said she has foresight:

Whoever wins the leadership contest, one thing is for certain – Rishi Sunak will lose the next general election. Liz Truss at least has a better chance of seeing off Labour and the Lib Dems. She has more foresight than Rishi Sunak, where he is telling the Tory members more of the same is right, where at least Liz Truss is offering a choice of something different. Time will tell if she’s right.

Another said that Rishi looked too managerial:

Watching this debate reminded me of a typical departmental meeting. Rishi Sunak is the over-keen middle manager trying to impress the boss and climb the greasy pole. Liz Truss is the experienced old hand who just gets on with the job.

Yes, interesting comment, that. Who is Rishi’s boss? His Infosys father-in-law?

Telegraph columnists weighed in with their verdicts.

Seasoned veteran Janet Daley noted that, while the candidates differed on strategy, they are both committed to Conservative values:

The substantive disagreement came through as clearly as I have ever heard it. Rishi believes that inflation is the greatest danger and that our primary obligation is to pay down the national debt to create a sound economy. 

Liz insists that the more serious threat is impending recession which would be made more likely by increasing taxes which would depress investment and entrepreneurialism. That’s it. This was an argument about strategy rather than outcome.

Apart from that, their philosophies and values were remarkably similar. They are both sincere in their commitment to post-Thatcher Conservative values which they defined in almost identical ways: pride in the country and its values, the importance of education in providing opportunity and equality and, above all, creating the possibility for aspiration and social mobility. For all the supposed acrimony in this contest, they could certainly serve in each other’s Cabinets.

She said that the candidates’ ease of presentation depended on the format:

The opening statement went to Rishi who was rather manically charismatic but charming, where Liz looked uncomfortable and stiff.

But in the conversational mode with Camilla Tominey, Liz came through as relatable and convincingly thoughtful. She looked much happier talking to a person than to a large audience. Rishi seemed perfectly at home with a crowd, turning round repeatedly to make sure to address the whole room. It made him appear confident – perhaps too much so.

There was something of the conceited sixth former about him – as there has been all along.

Tim Stanley thought that Camilla Tominey came out on top.

He picked up on Liz’s line about wheat fields being turned into solar farms:

Fields that should be stuffed with wheat, she said, are now planted with solar panels – and “it’s one of the most depressing sights in Britain”.

Oh, I can think of far worse. Such as an email from British Gas.

He prefers Rishi’s stage presence but says that Liz’s policies are more interesting:

The curious thing is that Rishi still looks like the frontrunner. He’s got the best ad, energy and endorsers: Hague, Lilley, Lawson and the ghost of Lord Salisbury. But it’s Liz who with every appearance gets more interesting. No election before 2024, she said; no windfall taxes because profit is a good thing.

In the end:

For my money, the winner of this one was The Telegraph, because it had the best presenter thus far. Camilla for PM.

Ross Clark thought that Rishi was losing ground:

He couldn’t understand, he told us, why he was perceived not to be ‘Brexity’ enough. Both claims fell flat. No-one clapped or cheered when he tried to establish his Brexit credentials.

Moreover, Sunak’s strongest suit – his warmth as a public speaker – no longer seemed quite the asset it was in earlier debates. He tried to up the tempo – with the result that he began to lose gravitas

Clark said that Liz is developing policies as she gradually moves through the hustings:

For her part, Truss concentrated on trying to resolve the policy weaknesses which led, for example, to last week’s embarrassment over regional pay boards. It was a strategy that seemed to pay off in Cheltenham. She came across as someone who is thinking carefully on policy – even though she is still lacking many answers.

Her biggest weakness was failing to answer what immediate steps she would take to help people with energy bills over the next few months; she sketched over the issue and rushed ahead onto longer-term policies such as fracking – which might be right but are not going to help people over the next few months.

In the one-to-one section of the hustings it became clear that Rishi’s team is better at filling to front rows of these events with his own cheering supporters. But you sense that the rest of the audience are more interested in what Truss has to say, because she remains by far the most likely victor.

Patrick O’Flynn said that Liz’s ideas for defeating the Liberal Democrats, who have been winning Conservative by-elections, topped Rishi’s style over substance:

Her pledge about bringing back a special unit in CCHQ to mastermind a fightback against the Yellow Peril – the Lib Dems, with whom she enjoyed a youthful infatuation – may not have raised the roof but certainly had the wise owls in the crowd nodding sagely. Her claim that she could best beat the Liberals because she knew all about their old tricks was stretching things a bit, but then so was Sunak’s attempt to be passionate about having funded “the dualling of the A417”.

If this were a knife-edge contest then Sunak’s slick display and his whooping fans could have conjured the illusion of him being the candidate with most momentum. And fair play to him for insisting again that he will not quit the contest prematurely. But he is so far behind on points that he would have needed a knockout blow to revive his chances and he came nowhere near that.

The paper also reported that, although things looked normal on stage, once the cameras were off:

things were frostier, with the candidates clearly avoiding crossing one another’s path as they walked off stage towards their dressing rooms.

The Guardian‘s political editor, Toby Helm, was also in Cheltenham to assess the mood before and after the hustings:

As Conservative party members filed into the latest leadership hustings at a baking hot Cheltenham racecourse, very few among this important electorate seemed enthused by the two-way race.

Neither of the runners – foreign secretary Liz Truss nor ex-chancellor Rishi Sunak – excited much Tory passion, nor seemed the subject of heavy betting. Some of those who attended, and who will decide the identity of the new prime minister, suggested they had come along out of duty, to choose the least worst option on offer

Lucy Coxall, a project manager for a London design company, who had travelled from Wiltshire, said she was genuinely undecided and irritated at media reports that Truss had it in the bag already. “It is ridiculous to suggest it is already over. I really want to hear what the candidates have to say,” she said.

Caroline Baldwin, who runs a property business with her husband, said she was leaning to Truss but not firmly, while Jude Walker, who used to vote Labour, but had switched to the Tories a few years ago because she liked Boris Johnson, seemed to wish the dethroned PM could carry on, as she arrived to assess the qualities of his potential successors.

Ned Bowron, who runs an outside events business and is deputy chair of membership and fundraising for Stroud Conservatives, said he too was leaning in the Truss direction but was open to persuasion by Sunak, while Bob Griffin, who runs an export business, preferred Truss on the evidence thus far.

Two hours of speeches and interrogation later, many views had changed. Some undecideds had made up their minds, some decideds had switched allegiances, while others had just hardened their opinions in the direction they were already leaning. Strikingly, the movement was by no means all – or even predominantly – towards the hot favourite Truss.

The previously agnostic Coxall had decided to plump decisively for Sunak on the basis of what she had seen and heard. “I was much more convinced by Rishi and thought he had an answer for everything on the economy,” she said afterwards. “He presented himself with energy. He sounded so much more progressive and had so much more of a vision for the future. Everything from Liz was short-term thinking.” If Truss were to become prime minister, Coxall believes the Tories will have less chance of victory at the next general election.

Griffin, on the other hand, had become more convinced that Truss was the right choice after the meeting: “What she was trying to sell me was a genuine ‘to do list’ while what he was selling was ‘Rishi Sunak for prime minister’.”

Both Bowron and Baldwin, however, had gone from preferring Truss to thinking better of Sunak than they had before. “Liz’s financial plans seemed, well, rather unbudgeted and rather worrying,” said Bowron. “I am pretty sure I will vote for Rishi now. I think he is a safer pair of hands. Liz doesn’t seem to understand that those who most need help don’t pay tax and yet she is going on about tax cuts.” Baldwin was also concerned that Truss’s tax plans would not help the most needy. “I was leaning to her but now I am not sure,” she said.

Boris

Boris returned from his holiday early last week and is now house-hunting.

On Monday, August 15, the Mail reported that he is looking for an abode in Dulwich Village, south London:

Boris Johnson appears to be taking notes from a former Prime Minister, as he looks to buy a house in the same south London suburb Margaret Thatcher moved to after she left No 10 Downing Street.

The outgoing Prime Minister, 58, will be leaving his role next month and has started house-hunting for a new marital home in Dulwich Village with wife Carrie, 34, and the couple’s two children.

Before moving into Number 10 in 2019, Mr and Mrs Johnson bought a property overlooking Brunswick Park in Camberwell, south London.

That townhouse is now listed for sale for £1.6million, £400,000 more than they paid for it.

Not short of cash, the couple’s reported budget of £3million should be more than sufficient, as properties in the leafy village have sold £1,820,887 on average in the past year, according to Zoopla.

Margaret Thatcher, however, did not stay in Dulwich Village for long:

Margaret Thatcher moved to Dulwich Village after being ousted in 1990, buying a house with her husband Dennis for £400,000.

However the Iron Lady lasted just a year in the village before moving back to a more central location in London.

Discussions on GB News at the weekend showed that Boris was still popular with the public, especially among newly-minted Red Wall Conservatives.

They liked the spark and verve he brought to the 2019 general election. They appreciated the attention he gave them.

They said that neither Truss nor Sunak seemed to be in touch with ordinary people.

The irony is that Boris isn’t anymore in touch with them than either of the two leadership candidates. He just knows how to speak to people — and fire up their imaginations. He’s the best campaigner the Conservative Party will have for decades.

There hasn’t been any more mention of whether a special ballot will go out to Conservative members with his name on it. The petition, with nearly 20,000 signatories, was a great idea but it didn’t go anywhere at CCHQ, which would have had to change the rules.

On Tuesday, August 9, one of the petition’s campaigners, David Bannerman, a former Conservative MEP, told Nigel Farage that he was supporting Liz Truss:

Farage, as one would expect, presented the Conservatives as losers, saying that the public would never forgive them for the cost of living crisis.

Boris, in his detractors’ minds, is somehow supposed to take care of the crisis when everyone who is anyone is on holiday at the moment.

On Monday, August 8, Scotland’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford (SNP), demanded that Boris ‘come out of hiding’ and recall Parliament:

Interestingly, Ian Blackford was on holiday in the western United States at the time, enjoying sights such as the Grand Canyon. Guido Fawkes has his full itinerary. Blackford did not fly home until August 6, at the earliest.

Also interesting is that, by the time Blackford issued his demand, Boris had already returned to London:

Here’s Tony Blair’s spinmeister Alastair Campbell also baying for Boris and saying that former Labour PM Gordon Brown should be in charge:

Voters will not care what Campbell or Blackford think. Gordon Brown piped up, too, but a lot of conservatives and Conservatives still back the former Party leader.

On Sunday, August 14, The Guardian reported:

This weekend, with less than three weeks to go before voting ends, Truss is way ahead of Sunak, according to opinion polls of the Tory membership.

Today’s survey of 570 Conservative members, by Opinium, for the Observer, gives Truss a 22-point lead. She is on 61% to Sunak’s 39% ….

Where this latest poll is perhaps most intriguing is in the lack of enthusiasm it shows for either Truss or Sunak among those who must choose the next leader of the party and country after September 5. This is evident when those with a vote in the contest are offered the choice of either Truss or Sunak, against the theoretical option of Johnson remaining leader and prime minister. Asked who they would prefer in No 10 – Johnson or Truss – 63% of Conservative members said they would prefer to keep Johnson while only 22% would rather have Truss. When the offer is Johnson staying on, versus Sunak taking over, 68% say Johnson and just 19% Sunak. Chris Curtis of Opinium says sellers’ remorse is setting in as far as Johnson is concerned. “It could be down to people forgetting how bad things got, or a lack of appetite for the replacements,” he said.

But it is hardly encouraging for the eventual winner to know that three times as many of their party’s own voters would now prefer to have the previous leader than either of them to fight for a fifth consecutive Tory win at the next general election. Inside the hustings at Cheltenham, there were cheers for Truss and Sunak in equal measure. But there was deep uncertainty – and plenty who were unimpressed.

On Saturday, August 13, Jacob Rees-Mogg, former Leader of the house and current minister for Brexit opportunities and government efficiency, told MPs Esther McVey and Philip Davies, her husband, that Boris would not be returning to Downing Street.

The Telegraph reported that Rees-Mogg, a Boris loyalist, said:

life just isn’t like that.

Despite Boris’s hints at a return during his final PMOs …

… Rees-Mogg told the two MPs:

that it was not “realistic” to think that Mr Johnson could make a return to Downing Street

“Nobody’s come back having lost the leadership of the party since Gladstone,” Mr Rees-Mogg replied. “And I just don’t think in modern politics, the chance of coming back is realistic.

“Lots of people think they’re going to be called back by a grateful nation which is why Harold MacMillan waited 20 years before accepting his peerage… Life just isn’t like that.”

It’s time to let Boris get on with the rest of his life after September 5.

We won’t have seen the last of him, but it will be in a different guise.

This week, I hope to write about the events that led to Boris’s downfall.

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.

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.

Our Creator broke the mould when he made Lee Anderson.

Of all the Red Wall MPs, he is the most candid and colourful.

Lee Anderson represents his home constituency of Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, which, since its inception in 1955, has always had a Labour MP, except for a brief period between 1977 and 1979, when it had a Conservative MP because of a by-election.

Lee Anderson was Labour born and bred. He was a card-carrying Party member. He served as a local councillor for Ashfield’s Huthwaite and Brierley ward from 2015 until 2018. He also actively campaigned for his parliamentary predecessor, Gloria De Piero, in 2015 and 2017.

De Piero decided not to run for re-election in 2019, having been Ashfield’s MP for nine years at that point. Prior to entering politics, she was a presenter on ITV’s breakfast show GMTV (as was) and is now a presenter on GB News at lunchtime.

Another famous Labour MP representing Ashfield was Geoff Hoon, who served between 1992 and 2010. He is a former Defence Secretary, Transport Secretary, Leader of the House of Commons and Government Chief Whip.

Returning to Lee Anderson, he was a strong supporter of Brexit and backed the Vote Leave campaign preceding the June 2016 referendum.

In 2018, he left Labour for the Conservative Party. In May 2019, he was elected as Conservative councillor for the Oakham ward in nearby Mansfield. It was a position he held until early 2021, when he resigned.

In December 2019’s general election, he won Ashfield with a majority of 5,733 votes. An Independent candidate placed second, with Labour a distant third.

Maiden speech

Anderson gave his maiden speech on Monday, January 27, 2020 during an NHS funding debate.

Emphases in purple mine below.

As is customary, he paid tribute to his predecessor and pointed out that Nottinghamshire had voted Conservative:

I am bursting with pride as I stand here as the newly elected Member of Parliament for Ashfield, but I want to pay tribute to my predecessor, Gloria De Piero, who was the MP for Ashfield for nine years. I am sure everybody in the Chamber will agree that she was well respected on both sides of the House. I also want to pay respect to my seven colleagues in Nottinghamshire, who were all elected on the same day as me last month. They did a fantastic job …

Also customary is to praise one’s constituency and throw in a few quips. Note that Anderson worked as a miner for some time, partly because of Labour’s abysmal education policies:

Ashfield was once voted the best place in the world to live—by me and my mates one Sunday afternoon in the local Wetherspoons. It really is the best place. Ashfield is a typical mining constituency. To the south of the constituency we have Eastwood, birthplace of D.H. Lawrence, to the north we have Nuncargate, birthplace of our most famous cricketer, Harold Larwood, and further north we have Teversal, which is where D.H. Lawrence wrote probably his most famous novel, “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”—a book I have read several times. We have many other great towns and villages in Ashfield, such as Sutton, Kirkby, Annesley, Selston, Jacksdale, Westwood, Bagthorpe and Stanton Hill, but the place that is closest to my heart in Ashfield is the place where I grew up, a mining village called Huthwaite.

Like with many villages, when I was growing up in the 1970s most of the men in Huthwaite worked down the pits. I went to a school called John Davies Primary School, and I was always told at school in the ’70s, as many of us were, “Work hard, lad, do well, take the 11-plus, go to grammar school and you’ll not have to go down the pit like your dad and your granddad and your uncles.” Unfortunately, a couple of years before we were due to take our 11-plus, the Labour Government at the time withdrew it from our curriculum, so I was unable to go to grammar school, and none of our school went as a consequence of that. Just a few years later I was down the pit with my dad—working at the pit where my granddad and my uncles had worked. I did that for many years and I am sure my dad, who is watching this right now—a decent, hard-working, working-class bloke—did not want me down the pit. He wanted better for me, but that was taken away. I cannot help but think that, had children in my day had the chance to go to grammar school, they would have had more opportunities and probably a better life. Because I am telling you now, when I worked down those pits in Nottinghamshire, I worked with doctors, with brain surgeons, with airline pilots, with astronauts—with all these brilliant people who never a chance. The Prime Minister is quite right when he says that talent is spread evenly across this country but opportunity is not, and my constituency is living proof of that.

People of Ashfield are a straight-talking bunch—a bit dry, a wicked sense of humour, a bit sarcastic sometimes—but that is borne out of our tough industrial past. You have to remember that we were the people who dug the coal to fuel the nation. We were the people who sent our young people—our young men and women—to war to die for this country. We were the people who made the clothes that clothed the nation. And we were the people who brewed the beer that got us all persistently drunk every single weekend.

In 1993, under a Conservative Government, we reopened the Robin Hood line in Ashfield, and all through the county of Nottinghamshire, which created endless opportunities for passengers to travel for work, for play and for jobs. Standing here as a Conservative MP in 2020, I am proud to say that this Government are once again looking at extending our Robin Hood line to cover the rest of the county. They are also looking at reopening the Maid Marian line, which will again carry passengers to the most isolated and rural areas of our country. It is all well and good having good education and good training, but transport means just as much to the people in my community.

My friends, family and constituents have asked me every single day what it is like to be down here in Westminster. I say, “It’s brilliant—amazing. We’ve got great staff—the doorkeepers.” Every single person who works here has been absolutely brilliant to me. It is an amazing place. I have met all these famous people—I have met MPs, Lords and Ministers—but the best moment for me was last Wednesday night, when I got invited to Downing Street, to No. 10, for the first time ever in my life. I walked through that door and there he was, the man himself—Larry the Cat. [Laughter.] Told you we were funny.

I was born at the brilliant King’s Mill Hospital in Ashfield. King’s Mill was built by the American army during world war two to look after its injured service personnel. After the war, the American Government gave King’s Mill Hospital—the buildings and equipment—to the people of Ashfield as a thank-you gift. What a wonderful gift that is from our American cousins—absolutely stunning. I cannot praise the current staff and management at King’s Mill highly enough. They have really turned things around. Just 20-odd years after the American Government gave King’s Mill Hospital to the people of Ashford, I was born there, and later my children were born there.

It is not just our hospital in Ashfield that means a lot to me; it is the fact that it has saved my wife’s life for many, many years now. My wife was born with a condition called cystic fibrosis. She was not diagnosed until she was 18, and for anybody, to be told that they have cystic fibrosis is like getting an early death sentence. But undeterred, my wife—my beautiful wife—went to work for a year. She then went to university, she studied, she became a teacher and she taught for 10 years, until she got to her early 30s, when she could not really carry on any more and gave up work. All that time, our brilliant NHS staff looked after her and kept her alive—I cannot thank them enough—but things got really bad in her mid-30s and she had to go on the list for a double lung transplant. She was on that list for two years, and we had five false alarms before we finally got the call on 19 December 2016. The operation was 14 hours and she spent three days in critical care. I thank my lucky stars for our brilliant NHS. They looked after her, they have kept her alive, and last year she was elected as a Conservative councillor in our home town.

I am incredibly proud, and when people say that this party is a party of privilege, I say to them, “I’m privileged to be in this party.”

Cost of living crisis

Two years later, Anderson was still firmly in the Conservative camp. In the January 11, 2022 debate on Household Energy Bills, he skewered Labour:

Now then, if Labour Members really wanted to help the poorest people in society, they would not come to this House with a motion to cut somebody’s bill by £61 a year. There were Labour MPs drinking in the Terrace bar last night who spent more than that on a round of drinks.

Do I want VAT removed from our energy bills? Of course I do. Everybody does. That is why last week I signed a letter to the Chancellor, asking him to cut the VAT on bills. I also want the removal of levies on domestic energy, which are nearly a quarter of an electricity bill. That sort of saving is a real saving, which would make a real difference to the people in Ashfield and Eastwood, but of course there is not much of an appetite for that in this place as we strive to be net zero in record time.

No one disagrees with what we are trying to do to save the planet, but a lot of us are sat here on over 80 grand a year—and some people have second jobs—and we are telling poor people that they must pay more to heat their homes. Frankly, when it comes to heating homes, people do not care where their gas or electricity comes from, in the same way as they do not care where their petrol or diesel comes from when they go to fill up their cars. All people want is to be able to afford their bills—that is all.

Labour Members are trying to play politics with people’s lives so that they can get a cheap social media clip saying, “The nasty Tories are voting against a cut in VAT.” They rely on the great British public not knowing how the process works in this place. It is a pitiful way of conducting themselves.

Let us be honest, this is not a vote to help poorer people pay their bills. It is a vote to take over the Order Paper so the Opposition can return us to the disastrous days of a few years ago that almost cancelled Brexit. There is no doubt that people are struggling and the cost of living is increasing with the increase in fuel prices, but who is to blame for that increase? We cannot just blame the pandemic, as we are all to blame. Successive Governments have never taken this seriously. We closed all our pits and we do not produce gas like we used to. Both Conservative and Labour Governments, let us be honest, have ignored this for years.

I see Labour Members shaking their heads, but they are not really interested in helping people in places like Ashfield, which has been ignored for decades. Ashfield has had no investment at all, but so far under this Government we have had £70 million, two new schools coming and hopefully a new railway line. We have millions of pounds coming to Ashfield, and what is Labour’s answer to levelling up Ashfield? A saving of £1 a week on energy bills. That is absolutely disgraceful, and Labour Members should hang their head in shame.

Labour and the SNP

Few MPs are as outspoken about Labour and Scotland’s SNP as Lee Anderson.

On Tuesday, November 30, 2021 — St Andrew’s Day — the Opposition Day debate was all about Boris. The Downing Street parties had just come to light: ‘Conduct of the Right Hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip’.

As expected, Labour and the other opposition parties painted themselves whiter than white, including Annelise Dodds MP, who led the debate. She said, in part:

the current Prime Minister is, unfortunately, falling short, the Conservative Government are failing to get a grip, and working people are paying the price.

Anderson intervened:

The hon. Lady talks about honesty and integrity. Could she please confirm how many Labour MPs have ended up in the nick over the past 10 years?

Dodds brushed over the intervention, but Anderson was undaunted. He signalled the answer:

Here’s Guido’s video:

He also launched broadsides at the SNP, the Commons’ third largest party. For months — and well over a year now — the SNP have refused to say what has happened to £600,000 from their donors. At first it was ‘ring fenced’ (their words), then it seemed to have gone into other funds. However, what actually was done with the money remains a mystery.

Anderson said:

On this happy St Andrew’s Day I have had haggis, Irn-Bru and an SNP debate; I can recommend two out of the three any time of day.

Since arriving here in Parliament in 2019 it has always struck me that the SNP is just a one-trick pony, ignoring its own failings on health, education and the economy to put its own selfish case forward for independence. But it is losing the argument—we know that by the poll results—so SNP Members have adopted a new tactic: to besmirch the good name of our great Prime Minister. Maybe they should tell us where the missing £600,000 is and explain why senior members of their party stood down from its national executive committee earlier this year. Their own MPs are asking difficult questions yet the leadership remains silent. Maybe they should apologise to the people of Scotland for the state of their education system, which is failing thousands of Scottish children while they bang on about leaving the Union and rejoining the European Union. Maybe they should explain to the people of Scotland why, despite being in power for 13 years, they have the worst health statistics in the world. Frankly, they should be ashamed of themselves, instead of wasting parliamentary time on a pointless debate that will achieve nothing, and they should explain why after 13 years in power Scotland is going backwards.

A back-and-forth with SNP MP Marion Fellows followed. Fellows objected to Anderson’s allegation about Scotland’s health statistics.

He came back with this:

I might make a slight correction here: perhaps I should have referred to the drug deaths, which are the worst in the western world.

What we need to chat about is the Westminster leader of the SNP, the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford), who has been very quiet about the £270,000 he has rinsed from outside earnings since he was elected to Westminster in 2015. It would take the average worker in Scotland 11 years to earn that much money yet he stands over there every single Wednesday talking about poverty when his greedy snout is firmly in the trough; and remember this is on top—

He ended up having to apologise for mentioning another MP — Ian Blackford — in debate without his permission.

However, Anderson returned to Labour who previously mentioned they wanted the British military to turn into a gentle peace-keeping force:

I am going to stop picking on the SNP, because I want to talk about the massed ranks of the Labour party. I am struggling to see them at the moment. Despite pretending to be bothered, they could not be bothered to turn up today. They seem to think that there is a war raging in France at the moment and that it is acceptable for thousands of illegal migrants to cross our channel every single day. They really need to get a grip.

Another sign that the Labour party has lost the plot is that it wants to replace our armed forces with “human security services”—a shift from the classic armed forces to a gender balanced, ethnically diverse human security services tasked with dampening down violence. Imagine that, Madam Deputy Speaker: a peace-loving British tank

Madam Deputy Speaker put a stop to Anderson’s interventions and called on another MP.

One week later, on Wednesday, December 8, Anderson openly criticised Labour’s Ian Lavery, MP for Wansbeck, former chairman of the Labour Party and, before he entered politics, former president of the National Union of Mineworkers. This was during a debate on Rail Investment and Integrated Rail Plan:

Guido Fawkes had the highlights and the video (red emphases in the original):

Lee Anderson returns to once again slap down misbehaving Labour MPs in the chamber … Lavery kept his jeering off-mic, interrupting Anderson’s speech by calling him “a scab“. Anderson returned the favour by reminding Lavery he could help miners get a “fair deal” by “handing back the £165,000 he stole from them”…

This relates to a news story from 2017. On October 20 that year, the BBC reported (bold emphasis in the original):

MP Ian Lavery received £165,000 from the 10-member trade union he ran.

We have learned this from the trade union regulator which has now released a report into Mr Lavery’s actions as general secretary of the NUM Northumberland Area.

He will now face questions on his record over a number of disputed payments by the union he ran.

Mr Lavery, who is the chairman of the Labour Party, denies any wrongdoing.

Ian Lavery is a coming power in the land, Jeremy Corbyn’s general election joint co-ordinator and chairman of the Labour Party. If the Conservatives fall, he’s most likely destined for high office. But, perhaps, for one thing: his refusal to answer a simple question asked by BBC Newsnight last year: “Did you pay off the mortgage?” BBC Newsnight asked him nine times without getting a reply.

The answer, it turns out, is no. He didn’t pay off his mortgage. The union of which he was general secretary for 18 years, the NUM Northumberland Area, paid it off and paid him much more besides.

Last year, both Jeremy Corbyn and the parliamentary watchdog cleared Mr Lavery. He denies any wrongdoing.

The reason we know more about Mr Lavery’s peculiar mortgage arrangements is because the trade union regulator, the Certification Officer, Gerard Walker, examined the books after investigations by BBC Newsnight and the Sunday Times. Mr Lavery ran the NUM Northumberland Area for 18 years until he stepped down in 2010 to become the MP for Wansbeck.

The regulator’s findings are available online

I’ll leave it to readers to get the rest of the story, which involved a lot of money over various periods in time.

Ian Lavery is still a big deal in Parliament.

This is what Lee Anderson said in the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) debate:

Let us remember that until a few years ago, the red wall seats like Ashfield had several things in common. They had above-average deprivation, failing town centres, lower life expectancy, poor transport links and lower aspirations; but the main thing that places like Ashfield, Mansfield and Bolsover had in common was Labour MPs and Labour-run councils. What a shocking track record that is. [Interruption.] Rather than chuntering, Opposition Members should be ashamed of the legacy that they have left us new Conservative Members in places like Ashfield. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery) might want to concentrate on giving back the £165,000 that he stole from the miners on his own patch. He is an absolute disgrace.

What does this world-class plan mean for the people of Nottinghamshire? It means a high-speed line from the west midlands to the east midlands, providing direct high-speed rail services to Nottingham, Derby, Chesterfield, and Sheffield. Journey times from London to Nottingham will be cut by a third to just 57 minutes. Journey times from Sheffield to London will be cut by a quarter, to just 1 hour 27 minutes. Journey times from Nottingham to Birmingham will be cut by two thirds, to just 26 minutes. Even Labour in the north is backing the plan. According to the leader of Rotherham council, “It is a victory for common sense”.

It is a pity that that lot have no common sense.

This is all good news. The Mayor of Doncaster welcomes the plan, and even the next Labour leader, the Mayor of Manchester, welcomes it. It would appear that the members of the parliamentary Labour party are out of touch with their friends in the midlands and the north, who back the IRP. It is a good job that Conservative MPs are sitting here today speaking out for the Labour voters of yesterday.

As the furore about the Downing Street parties raged, and despite Boris’s apology to MPs in the chamber in mid-January, then-Conservative MP Christian Wakeford, who represents Bury, crossed the aisle just before Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, January 19, 2022 to sit with Labour MPs.

Anderson was disgusted. His former boss, Gloria De Piero, interviewed him for GB News:

I have much more to write about Lee Anderson, one of the most refreshing Conservative MPs we’ve had in ages.

To be continued …

It came as no surprise that the Conservatives fared poorly in the 2022 local elections on Thursday, May 5.

England

In England, the major headline was that the Liberal Democrats lived up to their slogan of ‘Winning here’ for the first time in quite a while.

They were the big beneficiaries of English votes where local councillors stood this year (many councils held elections in 2021):

Labour’s big wins were in London, where they won three longstanding Conservative councils for the first time: Westminster, Wandsworth and Barnet.

It will be interesting to see how these London boroughs fare under Labour. In Lambeth, council tax for a Band D property is £1,502 per annum. Under the Conservatives, Wandsworth’s was £800 per annum. Guido has a photo of a street in each of those council areas, where one can see a discernable difference in low-spend, high service council delivery.

Here’s a Twitter exchange on the subject, focusing on Wandsworth:

The Croydon Council mention is interesting. It went from Labour to Conservative on Thursday, something I thought I’d never see.

Outside of London, Labour had little traction, especially in Red Wall areas, with the exception of the newly created Cumberland council.

Guido Fawkes has a good analysis, excerpted below (emphases in the original):

Whilst it was obviously terrible for the Tories that they lost nearly 500 seats, now all the votes are in and the dust has settled, did Labour advance as the Tories retreated? They actually did relatively poorly.

Labour’s electoral performance outside their M25 enclave saw them gain just 22 councillors across England. That’s it. While the Tories’ results were obviously weak – although not at their worst expectations – any attempts to spin the numbers will have to contend with the fact that the LibDems, the Greens, and even independent candidates gained more net seats than Labour. Labour’s wins in London will be small beer when it comes to a general election …

Winning a net gain of just 22 councillors, and gaining control of the same number of councils as the LibDems, is not a strong showing. William Hague managed to do better in 2001, when the Tories won 120 seats and 5 councils – a consolation prize for getting pummelled in the general election the same day. 

Even within the capital, however, there are warning signs for Labour. While they pop champagne over wins in Westminster, Barnet, and Wandsworth, their losses in Croydon and Harrow to the Tories, and Tower Hamlets to Lutfur Rahman [Independent] should raise a few eyebrows. Losing Tower Hamlets to a man who was temporarily banned from office over corruption isn’t exactly promising…

For the Conservatives, the most damaging losses were in previously loyal areas now called the Blue Wall, e.g. the Home Counties just outside of London, the south coast and parts of the West Country.

Late on Friday, The Guardian reported (purple emphases mine):

Boris Johnson’s leadership is facing fresh peril after senior Conservatives blamed him for losing swaths of the party’s southern heartlands to the Liberal Democrats and flagship London boroughs to Labour.

In a punishing set of local elections for the Tories, the party lost about 400 council seats, ceding control of Westminster and Wandsworth in London to Labour for the first time since the 1970s, and plunging to its worst position in Scotland for a decade.

Conservative MPs and council leaders questioned Johnson’s leadership, demanding action to tackle the cost of living crisis and rebuild trust in the wake of the Partygate scandal after a damaging series of losses across the “blue wall” in Somerset, Kent, Oxfordshire and Surrey.

However, the scale of the Tory backlash was tempered by a mixed picture for Labour, which showed progress, but not enough yet to suggest a landslide for Keir Starmer in a general election. A BBC projection for a general election based on Friday’s results put Labour on 291 seats, the Conservatives on 253, the Lib Dems on 31 and others on 75.

Labour had a very strong result in London and took some southern councils such as Worthing, Crawley and Southampton

The Lib Dems also had a clearly successful election night in England, adding at least 189 seats. They took control of the new unitary authority in Somerset, previously a Tory stronghold, edged out the Conservatives in Portsmouth, and pushed them out of control in West Oxfordshire. The Greens also performed well, winning 81 seats – more than doubling their number of councillors – as voters also turned to independents and residents’ associations.

Going back to Tuesday, May 3, Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden MP alleged that Labour and the Lib Dems had a ‘pact’, whereby Labour did not put forward a candidate in every council election, deferring to the Lib Dems in order to win against the Conservatives. This is because England uses FPTP (First Past The Post) voting.

Pictured are the Lib Dems’ Ed Davey on the left and Labour’s Keir Starmer on the right:

Guido has the story along with a video of a Lib Dem woman who confirms such a plan:

There are clearly tactical Lib-Lab stand downs going on around the country. Tory chairman Oliver Dowden claims that in the South West, Labour are standing candidates in 61% of seats compared to 97% in 2018. In the South East, Labour are standing candidates in 88% of seats compared to 99% in 2018.  In the North East, the LibDems are standing in just 56% of seats, down from 78% four years ago. Labour is standing in 99% of seats in the area. “These shifts”, claims Dowden, “are far too substantial to be a mere coincidence”. In response Starmer says “There is no pact, everybody knows there is no pact” …

This LibDem organiser in Cumbria gives the game away about what is happening at local level. Labour-supporting Neal Lawson and Clive Lewis have been arguing for years that an unfair ‘First Past the Post’ system splits the ‘progressive vote’ and prevents the ‘progressive majority’ from winning.

It stands to reason that the total left-of-centre vote will be split, given on average two candidates from Labour, the LibDems or the Greens are running against just one right-of-centre candidate in England.  According to new research from Electoral Reform Society front-group Politics for the Many, in 43.8% of wards there is one Tory standing against candidates from all three of the progressive ‘left’ parties. In 35.5% of wards where there is one Tory candidate, there are two ‘left’ candidates. According to the research, in almost 3,000 council seats up for grabs, there are only 15 wards in the whole of England where there are more right-of-centre parties standing than left parties.

Labour and LibDem strategists know this; they are looking on these locals as a trust-building exercise and a dry run for the general election…

The Telegraph confirmed this pact on Friday, May 6:

If Sir Keir is to get the keys to Number 10, it may be thanks to a deal struck after election day with another party – which is why the Liberal Democrat performance on Thursday is so interesting.

Seven years ago, the party was all but wiped out as voters punished Nick Clegg for his coalition with David Cameron. The political toxicity has clung on in the years since then.

But there were signs of real green shoots for the Lib Dems on Thursday. Their victory in Hull, taking the council from Labour, was the stand-out early result

The relentless targeting of Blue Wall Tory seatsoften in rural southern constituencies they believe have been “taken for granted” by the Conservatives – also achieved notable wins.

By now, Labour realisea that it is relatively easy for a Conservative area to go for the Lib Dems at some point, much more than it would be to vote in Labour candidates.

A good illustration of this is in St Albans, Hertfordshire, which, over the past several years, has gone from True Blue to Yellow-Orange, including their MP:

A lot of Lib Dem councils stay that way. This is largely because a) the Lib Dems know how to get out the vote and b) residents get to know the Lib Dem candidates better for that reason:

Conservatives would do well to study St Albans and find out where they’ve gone wrong.

On that note, one Conservative MP who does realise the value of getting out the vote is Bob Blackman, who has represented Harrow East since 2010.

On Sunday, May 8, he told GB News’s The Political Correction that Harrow became a Conservative council on Thursday because he and other Conservatives went out once a week to canvass residents on council services. Their dogged determination worked.

Blackman says that, as far as he is concerned, the next election campaign has already begun, hence more canvassing. Other Conservative MPs should follow his example.

Devolved nations

Each of the devolved nations has a form of proportional representation rather than FPTP. This is why they are very much left-of-centre.

This is how the Single Transferable Vote works:

Wales

Welsh Labour were highly successful. In Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford runs his nation’s Labour Party, so there is no Keir Starmer influence.

As such, Welsh Labour wiped out the last council under Conservative control: Monmouthshire.

Scotland

Scottish Labour also performed well, placing the Conservatives in third place for the first time in ten years.

Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party (SNP) remains the top party, however.

Late on Friday, the Daily Mail reported:

Nicola Sturgeon has said she is ‘thrilled’ with the results coming out of the local elections in Scotland after her party increased its share of councillors.

The leader of the SNP told Sky News that the results sent a ‘clear message’ to Boris Johnson and the Tories.

She said: ‘We are the largest party in more councils today than we were yesterday – we’ve won the election and we’ve won the election by a country mile.

‘I think it’s the eighth consecutive election win under my leadership of the SNP or after 15 years in government so it is a stupendous result for the SNP and sends the clearest possible message to Boris Johnson and the Tories.’

She said the SNP was still the largest party in Glasgow, despite some Labour gains.

However Sir Keir’s party came very close to taking the city council, adding five councillors for a total of 36.

The SNP, meanwhile, shed two seats for a total of 37.

Sturgeon said Labour benefited a lot from Tory’s Partygate scandal, adding: ‘Labour threw the kitchen sink at Glasgow… and yet they still can’t defeat the SNP, so I think there’s still some reflection perhaps needed on Labour’s behalf.’

All councils up for election in Scotland have now declared their votes.

The SNP gained the most new councillors with 23, followed by the Lib Dems with 20 and Labour 19.

The Green Party gained 15 while the Conservatives lost a total of 61.

Northern Ireland

For the first time in its 101-year history, the Northern Ireland Assembly now has a Sinn Féin majority, even though 58% of the votes in that nation went to Unionist parties. Here’s the UK’s Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab (video here):

As with Wales and Scotland, Northern Ireland’s Assembly is free to make its own laws in a number of areas. Oddly enough, that did not extend to abortion laws, which Westminster (the UK Government) imposed on the province by fiat in 2021:

But I digress.

Under the aforementioned Single Transferable Vote system, Sinn Féin won more first preference votes than did the Unionist parties.

This result propels Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill to First Minister. She has been Vice President of Sinn Féin for a few years now.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which had control previously, now refuses to form a coalition government — power-sharing executive — unless and until Boris Johnson’s government rectifies the damaging anomalies in the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol.

Until a power-sharing executive is formed, Michelle O’Neill cannot take up her duties as First Minister.

Most Britons associate Sinn Féin not only with past terrorism but also with Irish re-unification, which will surely be on the cards within the next five years.

On Thursday, the party played a blinder, as the Daily Mail reported last Friday:

Neither Sir Jeffrey Donaldson’s party or the Ulster Unionists have yet agreed to join a power-sharing executive in which Sinn Fein would be able to nominate the First Minister. 

They have argued that a win for Sinn Fein would lead to a referendum on Irish reunification. But Sinn Fein has run its campaign on the cost-of-living crisis.

Conclusion

The Conservatives are only now reacting after the horse bolted months ago.

They should have been out campaigning over the past few weeks, MPs included.

Only now are they coming up with possible solutions which should have been discussed on the hustings.

On Friday, May 6, the Daily Mail reported that Boris Johnson is considering a summer reshuffle to tackle the cost of living crisis. Hmm.

Over the weekend, a number of Conservative MPs began asking the Government for tax cuts.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak promises to look ‘at all the options’.

Good luck with that. There isn’t much time before the 2024 elections.

By chance, last week I read an article from May 20, 2015 in The Guardian about the general election result earlier that month: ‘The metropolitan elite: Britain’s new pariah class’.

Labour lost, leaving the metropolitan elite scratching their heads and wondering why.

Zoe Williams’s article has three pages of comments, which are illuminating. The general public revealed why Conservatives won not only in 2015 but even more convincingly with an 80-seat majority in 2019.

Of course, in between those two elections was the one held in 2017, whereby Prime Minister (PM) Theresa May barely scraped by with a slim majority which caused her major problems in getting Brexit legislation passed in the first half of 2019. She resigned during the summer, and Boris Johnson became party leader, thereby succeeding her as PM. He held an election on December 12 that year, primarily to break the Brexit deadlock. It was one of the best things he ever did.

What is the metropolitan elite?

Zoe Williams, who has been writing for The Guardian for decades, defines the metropolitan elite through interviews with other people which makes up the article.

The characteristics that tie the metropolitan elite together are working in London, living in an upper-middle class bubble, going to a public (private boarding) school; having an Oxford degree (especially in Philosophy, Politics and Economics); making a close network of friends from school and university; finding employment in politics, the civil service, law, the media and academia. They ensure their children follow the same route.

No one’s definition is perfect. Each needs another element added to it.

Williams concludes that an exact definition doesn’t really matter, because it is fluid, but the reality is that this group has caused the ethos of Parliament to change through the years (emphases mine):

The meaning of “metropolitan elite” is not fixed. It will change in the mouth of whoever says it, and it will take on the shape of the person to whom, for whatever combination of reasons, it is thrown at and sticks. But the anger is real: parliament, as the last century understood it, represented the people to the state. Parliament now represents the state to the people. And maybe “metropolitan” is a way to say that, and to give it a face.

Background to the 2015 election

Below is a summary of the highlights of the 2015 election.

Conservatives and Liberal Democrats

David Cameron was PM at the time, part of a coalition government with the Lib Dems. Nick Clegg was deputy PM.

Clegg ran as the Lib Dem candidate as he was party leader at the time.

Cameron was getting a lot of heat about holding a Brexit referendum. Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP at the time, piled on the pressure. Referenda are not a British thing and Cameron could have happily ignored it were it not for the fact that a Conservative victory depended upon granting voters a Brexit referendum.

There was also much talk at the time about English Votes for English Laws, or EVEL: the inappropriateness of allowing Scottish MPs to vote on English laws when English MPs have not been able to vote on Scottish laws since devolution in 1999. MPs from Wales and Northern Ireland can also vote on English laws, but the issue mainly concerns Scotland, since many laws apply equally to England and Wales. EVEL — arising from the West Lothian Question of 1977 — was another issue Cameron had to address in the campaign. As such, it became part of the Conservative manifesto that year.

Labour

Ed Miliband was Labour’s leader at the time.

Emily Thornberry

The snobbish aspect of the metropolitan elite, which Labour embodies so well, came to light during the World Cup in 2014. Emily Thornberry MP experienced a combination of bemusement and outrage upon seeing that someone would have the audacity to display St George’s flags, representing England, outside their home. What’s more, there was a white van parked in the driveway. Oh, the horror!

She tweeted a photo of the house and captioned it: ‘Image from #Rochester’

The offending home was in Rochester, Kent, where a by-election was being held in November that year. The owner of the house said that he put three St George’s flags up during the World Cup and decided to leave them flying from an upstairs window.

On November 14, the BBC reported that Thornberry resigned from the shadow front bench as a result of the tweet (bold in the original here):

Emily Thornberry has resigned from Labour’s front bench after sending a tweet during the Rochester and Strood by-election which was branded “snobby”.

The shadow attorney general apologised for the message, which showed a terraced house with three England flags, and a white van parked outside.

UKIP said she had “sneered, and looked down her nose at a white van in Strood with the cross of St George on it”.

Labour leader Ed Miliband was “angry” at her, a senior figure told the BBC.

The resident of the house, Dan Ware, said Ms Thornberry – the MP for Islington South and Finsbury – was a “snob”.

“I’ve not got a clue who she is – but she’s a snob,” he told the Sun. “We put the flags up for the World Cup (in 2014) and will continue to fly them.”

Even today, everyone who loves England remembers Thornberry’s attitude towards our nation’s flag. Ed Miliband was right to have been angry at the time. It must have lost Labour votes in certain constituencies:

The Independent had more:

Three hours later she apologised, after Ed Miliband intervened and the Labour leader made it “very clear” that he believes people should be able to fly the England flag without feeling ashamed.

Following her resignation, Labour has revealed that Thornberry had spoken to Mr Miliband a second time.

“Ed and Emily had a second conversation. She thought the right thing to do was to resign. Ed agreed,” the source said.

Her tweeted apology received strong reactions, among them the following:

Simon Danczuk, who was the Labour MP for Rochdale at the time, could see the elitist London-centric outlook at work:

Everyone will know exactly what she meant by that comment. I think she was being derogatory and dismissive of the people. We all know what she was trying to imply.

I’ve talked about this previously. It’s like the Labour party has been hijacked by the north London liberal elite and it’s comments like that which reinforce that view.

In the end, Mark Reckless won the by-election which was held because he wanted to change party affiliation from Conservative to UKIP. Nigel Farage had told him to do the right thing by asking his constituents. Reckless became the second UKIP MP to serve in the House of Commons when he joined Douglas Carswell that year. Carswell also had to hold a by-election in his constituency before Farage would allow him into UKIP.

Ed Miliband

Returning to Labour, a month before the by-election, Ed Miliband proposed a mansion tax, aimed primarily at Londoners.

However, a Londoner from Dartmouth Park in Kentish Town, Dan Carrier, wrote an article for The Guardian in October 2014, saying that not everyone living in a house in North London was necessarily wealthy: ‘My house in the middle of Ed Miliband’s street’.

It so happens that Ed Miliband and his family moved into the street where Mr Carrier grew up. In 2014, his parents still lived in the same house and he had the good fortune to be able to buy a home just a few doors down.

The Carriers and the Milibands are two very different classes of people:

In many ways our road is a typical London street: a mixture of Victorian terraces, some grand double-fronted villas and a postwar apartment block. More recently, however, it has had national media attention, prompted by the arrival a few years ago of Ed Miliband and his family. When they decamped from Primrose Hill, the move produced a swathe of articles describing my neighbourhood as a place of leafy-lefty-intellectual-middle-class types. The road I grew up on, and moved back to, has become shorthand for the gentrification of north London. The gap between the property haves and have-nots has never been starker, and housing is set to be a defining issue of the next general election. Ours is just one street, but it could be anywhere in the capital.

Carrier described many of his neighbours, who were working- or middle-class, hardly of the metropolitan elite. As such, a mansion tax would have been devastating:

Under the proposed system, many of Ed’s neighbours could face large bills.

The newcomers, however, were flush with cash:

One recently arrived couple, both on six-figure salaries, asked not to be named. Being able to buy a property in this neighbourhood these days, it seems, is enough to single you out for unwanted attention.

They say they moved here because of “the large houses, and the fact it’s not chi-chi like Hampstead or Primrose Hill. You see neighbours at the weekends, they’re not all out at their country homes. You don’t see Fortnum’s vans pull up.” Dartmouth Park is not yet Mayfair, in other words – not a comparison my parents’ generation would have felt compelled to make. “It feels like a real street, with real people.”

In the end, there was no mansion tax because Labour lost the election, thankfully.

By the way, Ed’s house has two kitchens in it. One is for the nanny and the children. The other is for Ed and his wife.

Ed Miliband could have taken some advice on the PR front. The lesser of his campaign sins was jamming a bacon sandwich into his mouth, further proof that no one should be photographed eating. The greater sin, however, was imitating Moses by erecting a stone listing five Labour Party goals, dubbed the Ed Stone. Oh, my, how we laughed at such hubris.

The election was held on Thursday, May 7.

Miliband resigned as Labour Party leader on Friday, May 8, a position he had held since September 2010.

By May 10, the Ed Stone was nowhere to be seen.

That day, The Guardian reported:

A case of champagne is among the rewards being offered by tabloids and rightwing pundits in return for the whereabouts of the so-called “Ed Stone”.

The 10 commandments-style tablet, engraved with five promises and unveiled in the final days before the election, was meant to symbolise how Ed Miliband would keep his pledges and restore trust in politics.

But the gimmick was perhaps the greatest gift Miliband gave to his opponents – and the mockery shows no signs of letting up even after his resignation and the quiet disappearance of the stone.

An 8ft 6in-high, two-ton limestone hulk is not the easiest thing to hide. But the stone, which was rumoured to have cost up to £30,000, is proving remarkably elusive and Labour sources are staying tight-lipped.

The Mail has offered a case of champagne to any reader who has information that “leads to the discovery of the Ed Stone”. The Sun has set up a dedicated “Ed Stone hotline” for tips about the stone’s whereabouts.

But without any apparent success in locating the real thing, the Sun also offered its readers a chance to win a full-size replica of “the Labour loser’s laughable slab”.

It was only on January 16, 2016, that we found out what happened to the slab. The Guardian reported:

The Ed Stone was broken up shortly after the general election, it has been revealed, putting an end to eight months of speculation about its whereabouts.

Two party officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Bloomberg News that the stone had been destroyed in the weeks following 7 May 2015.

Shortly before the election, David Cameron tweeted that there would be chaos with Ed Miliband (pictured with Ed Balls on the left):

Miliband is still an MP.

The Ed Stone might not have survived, but one of his lasting legacies as Energy Minister from Labour’s time in power has: the green levy on home heating fuel, which is more than the VAT. The Conservatives should scrap the levy. Perhaps they will when the cost of gas for the home reaches breaking point and people get sufficiently irritated with Net Zero.

I wrote two posts about the 2015 election. In the second, I wrote about the ‘historic upset the pollsters missed’:

Even the most accurate poll — the exit poll — slightly underestimated the final total. The Conservatives won a clear majority of seats, surpassing the magic number of 326 to end up with 331!

David Cameron no longer needed a coalition government.

Today, Nick Clegg works in California for Facebook and has just received a huge promotion as president of global affairs for parent company Meta, taking on some of Mark Zuckerberg’s former responsibilities.

What the public thought

In 2015, the public made it abundantly clear that they preferred a Conservative government.

The readers’ responses to Zoe Williams’s article about the metropolitan elite made some excellent points. I read them all.

One person said that the Conservatives’ policies appeal more to the average Briton:

The election was won by the Tories less because they represent the views of more people than any other party than because their policies offended fewer people than those of any other party. The widespread and insidious disenchantment with politicians stems from this disconnect and it just happens that at the moment the Tory message is marginally less unpopular than a whole range of unpopular messages – probably because the Tory demographic is a currently a bit wider than that of Labour.

Another said that Labour had deserted the working class for the middle class:

A large section of the working class of this country still can’t box their way out of this ingrained deference to the ruling class. The existence of the royal family and the institution of the monarchy is the guarantor of that deference. But they do not feel the same deference to the ‘metropolitan elite’ and this fact has been nicely used by right wing media to undermine urban liberalism and split the working class vote. The Labour party will have difficulty fighting its way out of this conundrum so long as they exclude working class representatives in favour of middle-class ones, black or white.

The working class feel ignored:

Labour are more and more removed from working class people … The divide is growing -hence the growth in UKIP in traditional labour areas. The metropolitan elite – useless Ed is one of them – have failed to understand and address the concerns of their traditional voting base in far too many areas.

Someone said that the Labour Party was synonymous with the metropolitan elite:

If the Labour Party (or the metropolitan elite that provides it`s talking heads) thinks that simply stealing the Conservatives`s clothes or repositioning themselves on Europe is going to work – forget it. At the moment the terms “Labour Party” and “metropolitan elite” are interchangeable and are synonymous with what us plebs would call “being out of touch”. Can the Labour Party learn how to talk to us again?….They`d better, and quickly because at present we`re all listening to the Tories and UKIP

Another reader said the same thing:

I say this as a northern working class boy

Until we have a left wing party led and organised by the working class, I’m a Tory. All you people still voting Labour when these people are in charge of the party are fools – they’ve tricked you into believing they represent you, but actually you’re just useful to them to legitimise their marginal differences compared to their blue friends in the next street.

Two people even had a go at Zoe Williams:

Zoe Williams. Godolphin and Latymer School, Oxbridge, lives in Camberwell, brays, wrote a tedious feminist piece about why she married the father of her kids after a decade as if anyone cared, spouts by-numbers liberal-lefty discourse every week in the Graun.

I don’t loathe the metropolitan elite. It’s just a shame there are so many of them clogging up the national media, the political scene, academia, the arts, public policy, etc. when they represent such an infinitesimal cadre of people. So much for the ‘diversity’ they so often chirrup about.

Also:

YOU, Zoe W, are most certainly a member of that elite. How else do you get on What The Papers Say on Sky television?

This comment seemed to unknowingly say the most about what would happen in December 2019. Britain was — and is — becoming more nationalistic, but not as a Union, only as separate parts:

Events in Scotland and the victory of the SNP and the rise of UKIP, particularly in Northern heartlands, have raised questions about the leadership of a working class party by a group of North London academics and politicians. However the real event is the battle of ideas about what a Labour Party should represent as the North London hegemony over policy has dissolved. The Blairites are in the news on the TV every day attempting to solve the problem of hegemony by a return to the centre. Both the SNP and UKIP have shown that there is no way back as both Scotland and large swathes of England are staunch nationalist. The rest of England, with the collapse of Lib Dems, is dark and lite tint blue Tory, and as such a distinct Englishness has temporarily been established. This Englishness is different from that of the UKIP North and certainly different from that of the Scottish nationalism of the SNP. The hegemonic moment of North London has in the words of Tom Nairn come face to face with the break up of Britain. Dr. Eamon O’Doherty

And, lo, it turned out to be …

More to come tomorrow.

Sometimes things are not as they appear.

Badgering Boris Johnson to resign over the Downing Street parties during lockdown is an attempt to overturn Brexit.

It is also a sign of envy on the part of the journalists, most of whom are Remainers, attacking him verbally. What journalist — and Boris was one of them for many years — doesn’t have an ‘If I ruled the world’ fantasy? Boris has achieved that dream. They have not.

Here is former Conservative MP Michael Heseltine, a prominent Remainer, saying that Boris’s departure could reopen the possibility of re-entering the European Union:

Heseltine said:

It’s misleading the house, it’s misleading the people and it’s misleading the whole country in a general election because if it were to be established that the PM has been lying then that is going to open a can of worms because very large numbers of people – now the majority of people – believe that the Brexit case was actually a pack of lies… now if he proves to be a liar – to the public, to parliament – what does that do for the very large numbers of people who think it is a catastrophic misjudgement to have severed our good relationships with our European neighbours.

Meanwhile, the general public doesn’t care about the parties, especially his birthday party:

https://image.vuukle.com/2f466225-fc3c-4fc0-bb60-c369b7787913-9ec71789-1d4d-4480-91bf-1846d4f638fe

Police investigation

The eminent civil servant Sue Gray had been preparing a report on the Downing Street parties.

Then, the Metropolitan Police stepped in. On Tuesday, January 25, 2022, Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick told the London Assembly, headed by Mayor Sadiq Khan of the news. As such, the Met informed Sue Gray to issue only a summary report so as not to interfere with their own investigation.

GB News has a summary of the social events. Most but not all of them took place at Downing Street, nor did Boris attend all of them (emphases mine):

The Metropolitan Police will investigate a “number of events” alleged to have taken place in Downing Street, Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick has said.

Dame Cressida declined to say which alleged parties are being investigated, nor would she put a timeline on when officers could detail their findings.

The gatherings were already under investigation by senior official Sue Gray, and the Cabinet Office said her work continues.

Here is a list of the alleged gatherings, which in several cases have been admitted to.

– May 15 2020: Downing Street garden party …

– May 20 2020: BYOB garden party …

– June 19 2020: Birthday party for Boris Johnson …

– November 13 2020: Leaving party for senior aide …

– November 13 2020: Johnsons’ flat party …

– November 25 2020: Treasury drinks …

– November 27 2020: Second staff leaving do …

– December 10 2020: Department for Education party …

– December 11 2020: Wine fridge delivered to Downing Street for staff’s ‘wine-time Fridays’ …

Mr Johnson was said to have attended a “handful” of these gatherings.

– December 14 2020: Party featuring Tory London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey and staff …

– December 15 2020: Downing Street quiz …

– December 16 2020: Department for Transport party …

– December 17 2020: Cabinet Office “Christmas party” …

– December 17 2020: Leaving drinks for former Covid Taskforce head …

December 18 2020: Christmas party at Downing Street

Mr Johnson’s spokeswoman, Allegra Stratton, quit after being filmed joking about it with fellow aides at a mock press conference.

– Run-up to Christmas 2020 …

April 16 2021: Drinks and dancing the night before the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral

The Telegraph quoted a No 10 spokesman as saying Mr Johnson was not in Downing Street that day and is said to have been at Chequers.

Strangely, at the time, no one cared:

Now everyone does.

Downing Street has not helped. They are now denying there was a cake:

On January 25, the Paymaster General, Michael Ellis MP, drew the short straw and had to answer an Urgent Question (UQ) from Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner (pictured in the top left photo):

This was the UQ:

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to make a statement on the status of the investigation into Downing Street parties following the statement from the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

I felt very sorry for Ellis, who had to reply for the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, absent from the chamber. The transcript makes for grim reading.

Sir Edward Leigh, one of the first MPs to speak, tried to put things into perspective but to no avail:

When Europe stands on the brink of war and there is a cost of living crisis, can we please have a sense of proportion over the Prime Minister’s being given a piece of cake in his own office by his own staff?

The verbal attacks were many and vicious.

Ellis was able to put one Scottish MP, Pete Wishart (SNP), in his place.

Wishart asked:

Does the Paymaster General not think that it would be a good idea to set up a police special operations unit room in No. 10 Downing Street, because, while the police are looking at this case, they could perhaps look at cash for honours, cash for access, personal protective equipment for pals, paid advocacy, breaking the ministerial code, and all the other general Tory badness?

Ellis responded:

I have to say that a quick Google analysis of the SNP would not be particularly edifying. Despite noises off, this Prime Minister is focused on what matters to the British people and it is right that those matters conclude in an orderly way.

On Friday, January 28, news emerged that the Met told Sue Gray not to publish her report in full:

That day, The Guardian reported that a comedian issued a fake Sue Gray report:

The comedian Joe Lycett, who apparently caused chaos and “mass panic” in government when he tweeted a fake version of Sue Gray’s “partygate” report, has said his social media stunt was motivated by anger after the death of a close friend during the first lockdown.

Lycett tweeted a parody Gray report with a fake Cabinet Office letterhead, titled: “A summary of my main findings”, captioning his tweet: “BREAKING: Leaked Sue Gray report reveals shocking abuse of rules. Hard to see how the PM can cling on after this.”

He later shared a message that he said came “from someone who works for a cabinet minister. Source verified.”

The message, purportedly from someone who works in parliament, read: “Your tweet this morning was read as an actual serious leak from Sue Gray’s report. U had MP staff literally running around panicking from what it said. Panic dialling MPs like we need to discuss this right now.”

On Saturday, January 29, Steven Swinford of The Times reported that Sue Gray was just putting the finishing touches on her report when the Metropolitan Police intervened.

Swinford’s first sentence drew me in. It’s hard not to like an article that begins with this:

Sue Gray had been looking forward to a holiday.

It is unclear why the Met intervened when they did:

The timing of her intervention is said to have surprised Gray and her team of investigators. She had been in discussions with the Met for weeks, sharing information as she went along. Yet the force had declined to get involved until the point when her report was almost completed and ready for publication

“She’s in a horrible position,” a Whitehall source said. “The delay just creates an air of conspiracy. Sue’s integrity is at risk here. If a partial report is produced it will look like she’s been got at. She just wants a holiday, she feels like she’s had enough of it. Very few people could do what she does but she just wants to be on the other side of this one.”

Some think that the Met’s intervention could be good news for Boris:

Johnson’s critics and supporters agreed that the Met’s intervention strengthened his position. One cabinet minister said: “Sue Gray cannot prejudice the Metropolitan Police’s investigation. It would be insane if she went ahead and published the details. The longer this goes on, the more ridiculous it looks. The prime minister is out of the danger zone, the worst is over.”

Or is he?

Sue Gray ‘update’

On Monday, January 31, Sue Gray issued a summary — termed an ‘update’ — of her report.

Guido Fawkes has the update in full.

Gray concluded:

a number of these gatherings should not have been allowed to take place or to develop in the way that they did. There is significant learning to be drawn from these events which must be addressed immediately across Government. This does not need to wait for the police investigations to be concluded.

At 3:30, Boris addressed MPs (see full transcript of the session). He said that he was sorry and that changes would be made in Downing Street.

He concluded with this:

First, it is time to sort out what Sue Gray rightly calls the “fragmented and complicated” leadership structures of Downing Street, which she says

“have not evolved sufficiently to meet the demands”

of the expansion of No. 10. We will do that, including by creating an Office of the Prime Minister, with a permanent secretary to lead No. 10.

Secondly, it is clear from Sue Gray’s report that it is time not just to review the civil service and special adviser codes of conduct, wherever necessary, to ensure that they take account of Sue Gray’s recommendations, but to make sure that those codes are properly enforced. Thirdly, I will be saying more in the coming days about the steps we will take to improve the No. 10 operation and the work of the Cabinet Office, to strengthen Cabinet Government, and to improve the vital connection between No. 10 and Parliament.

Mr Speaker, I get it and I will fix it. I want to say to the people of this country: I know what the issue is. [Hon. Members: “No!”] Yes. [Hon. Members: “You!”] It is whether this Government can be trusted to deliver. And I say yes, we can be trusted—yes, we can be trusted to deliver. We said that we would get Brexit done, and we did. We are setting up freeports around the whole United Kingdom. I have been to one of them today that is creating tens of thousands of new jobs. We said we would get this country through covid, and we did. We delivered the fastest vaccine roll-out in Europe and the fastest booster programme of any major economy, so that we have been able to restore people’s freedoms faster than any comparable economy. At the same time, we have been cutting crime by 14%, building 40 new hospitals and rolling out gigabit broadband, and delivering all the promises of our 2019 agenda, so that we have the fastest economic growth of the G7. We have shown that we have done things that people thought were impossible, and that we can deliver for the British people. [Interruption.] I remind those on the Opposition Benches that the reason we are coming out of covid so fast is partly because we doubled the speed of the booster roll-out.

I can tell the House and this country that we are going to bring the same energy and commitment to getting on with the job, to delivering for the British people, and to our mission to unite and level up across this country. I commend this statement to the House.

It did not go down well with the Opposition benches, nor some of the Conservative MPs.

Theresa May was deeply unhappy:

She said:

The covid regulations imposed significant restrictions on the freedoms of members of the public. They had a right to expect their Prime Minister to have read the rules, to understand the meaning of the rules—and, indeed, those around them him to have done so, too—and to set an example in following those rules. What the Gray report does show is that No. 10 Downing Street was not observing the regulations they had imposed on members of the public, so either my right hon. Friend had not read the rules, or did not understand what they meant—and others around him—or they did not think the rules applied to No. 10. Which was it?

The SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, followed the former Prime Minister. He cited two of Boris’s contradictions and ended with this:

Nobody—nobody—believed him then, and nobody believes you now, Prime Minister. That is the crux. No ifs, no buts; he has wilfully misled Parliament.

Blackford broke two rules there. First, he said ‘you’. Secondly, he said ‘wilfully misled’.

The Speaker of the House, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, interrupted him:

Order. It would be acceptable to say “inadvertently misled the House”, but “misled the House” is not acceptable. The right hon. Member must withdraw that comment.

Blackford doubled down, concluding:

… the public know that this is a man they can no longer trust. He is being investigated by the police. He misled the House. He must now resign.

The exchange between him and the Speaker continued for some time. Blackford refused to withdraw his remark.

At that point, the Speaker was ready to suspend him, but Blackford left voluntarily:

Order. Under the power given to me by Standing Order No. 43, I order the right hon. Member to withdraw immediately from the House

Another MP said:

He has left anyway!

Here’s the video:

Hoyle concluded:

It’s all right; we do not need to bother. Let us move on.

Aaron Bell MP spoke later on. Although he is Conservative, he made a good point, asking if Boris was trying to make a fool of him for obeying the restrictions at a family funeral:

Not surprisingly, the Mirror (Labour) picked up on it:

Boris was at the despatch box for a little over two hours.

That evening, he met with a group of Conservative MPs, wherein he pledged to reform how Downing Street operates. Guido’s colleague Christian Calgie said it went well:

Meanwhile, Labour MPs and the media hit the bar:

Incidentally, while Boris was giving his afternoon statement to Parliament, one of the bars there re-opened for business.

The next day, Mark Harper MP gave a good interview to Julia Hartley-Brewer at talkRADIO:

Labour’s Chinese spy story ignored

In mid-January, news emerged that a Chinese operative had donated £500,000 over a period of several years to a Labour MP. Yet, apart from GB News, no one in the media was — or is — talking about that (Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is pictured, not the MP involved):

Subplots

There are two important subplots running through this sorry saga: Boris’s mention of Labour leader Keir Starmer’s record as Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) with regard to Jimmy Savile (a celebrity paedophile) and the revelation of ghastly text messages by members of London’s Metropolitan Police, casting doubt on the force’s investigation of the Downing Street parties.

Metropolitan Police

The Metropolitan Police are investigating the Downing Street parties, which is interesting, since the organisation said initially that they would not be doing so, as the events happened too long ago.

One wonders, however, how credible any investigation would be since Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick has come under fire for her leadership. Some constables in the Met have been texting violent and vicious messages that are misogynistic and hateful.

Although Dame Cressida cannot be expected to know everything that her constables are doing, these text messages could cast doubt on the credibility of the investigation.

Furthermore, it is interesting that Dame Cressida announced the Met’s investigation of Downing Street at a meeting of the London Assembly, headed by the capital’s mayor Sadiq Khan (Labour).

Sir Jimmy Savile

On Monday, January 31, Boris gave the House of Commons an update on Sue Gray’s inquiry into the Downing Street parties.

The Metropolitan Police allowed the civil servant to write a summary report pending their own inquiry, which is still ongoing.

As such, there is no conclusion as to whether Boris should resign.

However, Labour and the other Opposition parties have been pushing for Boris to stand down for weeks now.

On Monday, in response to Boris’s statement, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said:

Conservative Members can heap their reputation, the reputation of their party, and the reputation of this country on the bonfire that is the Prime Minister’s leadership, or they can spare the country a Prime Minister totally unworthy of his responsibilities. It is their duty to do so. They know better than anyone how unsuitable he is for high office. Many of them knew in their hearts that we would inevitably come to this one day and they know that, as night follows day, continuing his leadership will mean further misconduct, cover-up and deceit. Only they can end this farce. The eyes of the country are upon them. They will be judged by the decisions they take now.

Boris replied:

There is a reason why the right hon. and learned Gentleman said absolutely nothing about the report that was presented by the Government and put in the Library of this House earlier today. That is because the report does absolutely nothing to substantiate the tissue of nonsense that he has just spoken—absolutely nothing. Instead, this Leader of the Opposition, a former Director of Public Prosecutions—although he spent most of his time prosecuting journalists and failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile, as far as I can make out—chose to use this moment continually to prejudge a police inquiry. That is what he chose to do. He has reached his conclusions about it. I am not going to reach any conclusions, and he would be entirely wrong to do so. I direct him again to what Sue Gray says in her report about the conclusions that can be drawn from her inquiry about what the police may or may not do. I have complete confidence in the police, and I hope that they will be allowed simply to get on with their job. I do not propose to offer any more commentary about it, and I do not believe that he should either.

The Speaker objected:

Boris’s mention of Starmer’s failure to get the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to investigate Savile ran all week long. Conservative MPs also objected to it. It is unclear why that is; after all these years, someone needed to speak up:

Boris’s opponents call it a ‘far-right conspiracy theory’, although Starmer was in charge of the CPS at the time Savile’s activities came to light. Starmer even issued an apology for the oversight at the time:

More recently, when Starmer ran for the Labour leadership, he said:

Hear me out: I had 8,000 staff for five years as the director of public prosecutions. And I acted, I hope, in the right way with them, which is when they had victories I celebrated victories on their behalf, I picked up awards on their behalves. When they made mistakes, I carried the can. I never turn on my staff and you should never turn on your staff… I will carry the can for mistakes of any organisation I lead.

Starmer’s biography states he was responsible for all criminal prosecutions in England and Wales:

Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg rightly defended Boris’s remark on Thursday, February 3:

In any event, that day, four Downing Street staffers resigned.

Munira Mirza, who had worked for Boris for 14 years — since he was Mayor of London — was the most prominent. The former policy chief said that she took strong objection to her boss’s mention of Savile:

Guido posted part of Mirza’s resignation letter:

I believe it was wrong for you to imply this week that Keir Starmer was personally responsible for allowing Jimmy Savile to escape justice. There was no fair or reasonable basis for that assertion. This was not the usual cut and thrust of politics; it was an inappropriate and partisan reference to a horrendous case of child sex abuse. You tried to clarify your position today but, despite my urging, you did not apologise for the misleading impression you gave.

In a second post, Guido said that Boris asked Mirza to hold off until he gave a briefing to the media. The briefing only caused her to confirm her resignation:

When the pool clip came without an apology, more of a clarification, she confirmed her resignation via an email which concluded:

Even now, I hope you find it in yourself to apologise for a grave error of judgement made under huge pressure. I appreciate that our political culture is not forgiving when people say sorry, but regardless, it is the right thing to do. It is not too late for you but, I’m sorry to say, it is too late for me.

The public do not understand what the problem is with the mention of Starmer’s indirect failure to investigate Savile:

Furthermore, we all understand that Boris wasn’t implying that Starmer was personally responsible. However, he was the head of the CPS, so he bore responsibility for it, as Boris told the media:

Let’s be absolutely clear, I’m talking not about the Leader of the Opposition’s personal record when he was DPP and I totally understand that he had nothing to do personally with those decisions. I was making a point about his responsibility for the organisation as a whole.

Too right.

One of Guido’s readers summarised what Boris was saying in Parliament and to the press. It concerns double standards, wherein Starmer expects the Prime Minister to take responsibility for Downing Street activities but not for his own sins of omission at the CPS. This is a good get-out rationale from Guido’s reader paraphrasing Boris:

I was not aware of event X being organised or taking place, and so while I apologise it happened under my watch and plan to change systems to avoid such events in future, it is not reasonable for me to resign over it. That is entirely consistent with the Leader of the Opposition’s own behaviour while DPP over the Savile issue.

In any event, three more Downing Street staffers resigned after Mirza did, including Martin Reynolds, who issued the email about one of the parties, requesting that people bring their own alcoholic beverages:

It is unclear why the other three left. Some say that they are afraid of being investigated. Others say it was an excuse for Boris to clean house.

Of the three additional resignations, GB News reported:

Martin Reynolds is one of the most senior officials in No 10 but had largely avoided the limelight until the emergence of his email inviting colleagues to “socially-distanced drinks” during England’s first coronavirus lockdown.

As Boris Johnson’s principal private secretary, he played a key role advising the Prime Minister on a wide range of issues, but resigned from the role on Thursday alongside three other senior Downing Street aides …

Mr Johnson’s former adviser Dominic Cummings previously said the influence wielded by the principal private secretary within Downing Street was not widely appreciated.

“The PPS exercises far more influence and actual power over many issues than Cabinet ministers,” Mr Cummings said.

“He can nudge policy, he can nudge vital appointments (real power). He can and does walk into the PM’s office and exclude all political people ‘on security grounds’.”

A leaked photograph of the Prime Minister and officials drinking in the No 10 garden on May 15 2020 – five days before the “bring your own booze” event that Mr Reynolds invited colleagues to – showed the PPS sitting at the same table as Mr Johnson …

Mr Reynolds offered his resignation on Thursday alongside Downing Street chief of staff Dan Rosenfield, hours after policy aide Munira Mirza and director of communications Jack Doyle both quit.

A No 10 spokeswoman said: “Dan Rosenfield offered his resignation to the Prime Minister earlier today, which has been accepted.

“Martin Reynolds also informed the Prime Minister of his intention to stand down from his role as principal private secretary and the Prime Minister has agreed to this.

“He has thanked them both for their significant contribution to government and No 10, including work on the pandemic response and economic recovery.

“They will continue in their roles while successors are appointed, and recruitment for both posts is under way.”

As I write on Friday morning, an aide to Munira Mirza has also resigned:

Tom Harwood adds that Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been keeping his distance from the Prime Minister and did not defend the remark about Keir Starmer and the Jimmy Savile case.

One of the commenters makes an excellent point about civil servants finding the Savile remark more offensive than what happened to 60+ million people for … a virus:

Those people live in their own bubble.

Interestingly, Boris has appointed an MP rather than a civil servant to succeed Mirza. Andrew Griffith represents the Arundel constituency on the south coast of England. He seems to have a truly Conservative voting record.

Therefore, it seems as if Boris is cleaning house, which can only be a good thing for him. The civil servants do not seem to have been doing him many favours.

In more positive news for the Conservatives, Anna Firth won the by-election in Southend West, served by Sir David Amess until he was stabbed to death last October:

Because of the nature of Sir David’s death, Labour and the Liberal Democrats did not put up candidates to run against Anna Firth, although minor political parties did.

Therefore, although she won 86% of the vote, only 24% of the electorate went to the polls.

The party debacle is far from over. This will run and run and run.

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