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John F MacArthurIn the UK, polls have showed that Britons, particularly younger ones, have no intention of working.

The latest Government findings came out on January 22, 2023. The BBC reported (emphases mine):

Most of the 2.7 million “inactive” people under 25 are students, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The majority of them don’t want a job.

This was also true in 2021, as CityAM informed us:

Data from the Office for National Statistics shows of the 13m Brits who are not looking for work, over half said they were doing so because they did not want to work.

In 2015, a student posted the following message on The Student Room forum. Granted, she sees the possibility of owning her own small business but only just:

I’m 22 now and it’s slowly dawned on me that I have no intention of working/having a career. I find most work boring and I am simply not inspired by the rat race. I think I want to be a small business owner and a stay at home mother.

It seems with feminism most women just aren’t looking to go down the ‘small job, husband and babies’ route anymore. Am I the only one who doesn’t want to work…at all ?

Maybe a small online store or something and a husband and kids. Nothing more (?)

Anyone else ?

The benefits balloon stretches back at least to 2013, possibly earlier. On April 24 that year, the Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith, the then-Secretary of State for Welfare and Pensions said:

Around 1 million people have been stuck on a working-age benefit for at least three out of the past four years, despite being judged capable of preparing or looking for work.

Ten years on, The Spectator reports that real figures show that five million Britons are receiving out-of-work benefits. Their figures have been disputed, but in November 2022, the magazine’s editor Fraser Nelson explained how the data were put together. For now, this is the message:

How can 20 per cent of people in our great cities be on benefits at a time of mass migration and record vacancies? It’s perhaps the most important question in politics right now, but it’s not being given any scrutiny because the real figures lie behind a fog of data

Every month, an official unemployment figure is put out on a press release – and news organisations are primed to cover it. It’s normally about 1.2 million looking for work: the problem, of course, is so few Brits are actually doing so

The true benefits figure is not to be found on a press release, but buried in a password-protected DWP [Department for Work and Pensions] database with a six-month time lag …

The five million figure ‘seems to be incorrect,’ Full Fact said in their email to us. ‘According to the most recent statistics, there are around 1.5 million people claiming out-of-work benefits.’ But the real figure is more than three times higher – but rather than reply to them, I thought I’d write this blog for anyone interested …

DWP data is now on Stat-Xplore, a versatile open data tool. The password bit is deceptive: you can bypass by clicking ‘Guest log in’ to find an Aladdin’s Cave of data. Look at the dataset ‘Benefit Combinations – Data from February 2019‘. Click Table 5, then click ‘Open table’ to get the numbers …

Nelson has posted graphs and a map to illustrate his figure of five million.

He concludes:

To fail to match up 1.2 million vacancies with at least some of those on out-of-work benefits is not just an economic failure but a moral one. But to solve a problem, you need to recognise a problem. Officially counting all five million people on out-of-work benefits would be a good way to start.

Living a life of idleness, however, is nothing new.

St Paul grappled with the same problem two millennia ago when he planted a church in Thessalonika (present day Saloniki).

The following passage, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12, is one example of his command to work:

Warning Against Idleness

6 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labour we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.[d]

John MacArthur explains why we must work in ‘Work: A Noble Christian Duty, Part 3’, from July 19, 1992.

There were reasons why some in the congregation were not prepared to work:

As we have said in the past … they perhaps have been influenced by some of the Jewish background of the scribes who thought that anything other than studying the law was an unworthy way to spend your life They surely were affected by the general Greek attitude that work was demeaning and sordid and base and low and belonged only to slaves and not to freemen

And they probably had had those predispositions somewhat exaggerated by virtue of the fact that someone had come along and told them that they were already in the day of the Lord and the return of Christ was imminent and there probably wasn’t much use in doing anything other than evangelizing and studying the Word of God.  And so they had given themselves to that happily because of their disdain for work anyway.  Problem was, at least long term, if you can call several months long term for the Thessalonians in that Paul had dealt with it when he was there.  Several months later, when he wrote them the first letter, he dealt with it, and here he is writing a second letter and dealing with it a third time.  They didn’t want to work.  It was beneath them. 

Homer, the famous Greek writer, had said that the gods hated man.  And the way they demonstrated their hatred was to invent work and punish men by making them work This kind of philosophy being existent in that time, it found its way into the lives of those people and thus, when they became converted, it found its way into the church.  Becoming a Christian doesn’t change everything immediately.  We will always have residuals of our past, and we will always to one degree or another be affected by our culture.  And so here in this church in which so many good things had happened, a genuine conversion, a genuine godliness, they were not slack in spiritual service, they had a work of faith and a labor of love, and they did it with patience and endurance because they hoped in the return of Christ.  They worked hard at ministry, but they didn’t want to do the jobs that they had to do in the world, at least some of them

And so Paul was dealing with a church that had its spiritual life on target and was doing well, excelling spiritually, but they had this one problem that dominates the church in terms of its conduct, and that was that there were people there who didn’t work.  They then became a burden on everybody else, and it wasn’t that they couldn’t work, it wasn’t that they had a physical disability, it wasn’t that there wasn’t a job available, they refused to work, seeing it as beneath them or not a priority for those engaged in kingdom enterprises. 

MacArthur cites American statistics on work from 1980 to 1991:

I suppose 25 years ago, a situation like this would have struggled to be relevant in our time then because America was a hard-working country 25 years ago In fact, the American work ethic has always been hailed as sort of the supreme work ethic of the industrialized world.  We have always sort of set the pace for productivity and enterprise – up until more recent years, that is.  Last year, Charles Colson and Jack Eckerd, who heads the Eckerd Company, which operates drug stores in other parts of America, they wrote a book and the title of their book is Why America Doesn’t Work.  Now, that’s really a new thought, a new concept for our culture, for our society.  The subtitle is, “How the decline of the work ethic is hurting your family and future.”  The future of America is changing dramatically.  There are other nations that are putting us to shame in terms of work habits and a work ethic. 

In their book, they point out that we have in America declining rates of productivity, the loss of competitive position in some world markets, and workers who aren’t working And they concluded it is a bleak picture.  And I suppose they ask the right question, the question we would all ask at that point:  What has happened to the industry and productivity that made this country the marvel of the world at one time? …

We have an ethical malaise all the way from the jet set corporate leaders down to the person working at the bench.  The whole concept of work has so dramatically changed, it no longer has a transcendent motive.  There’s no longer something beyond me to make me perform at a certain level.  Thus, the meaning of work has been sapped from everybody from the top to the bottom, to some degreeObviously, some people still work harder than others. 

A 1980 Gallup Poll conducted for the Chamber of Commerce found that people still believed in work-ethic values, 1980, they still believed.  That’s over ten years ago.  Eighty-eight percent said working hard and doing their best on the job was personally important.  But were they doing it?  They said they believed it, it was still sort of in the air in 1980, but were people working hard?  1982 survey came along.  In that survey, it was reported that only 16 percent said they were doing the best job they could at work.  Eighty-four percent admitted they weren’t working hard – 84 percent.  So you can see they were still holding on to a residual ethic that didn’t translate into how they functioned, which meant that it was somebody else’s transcendent value, somebody else’s ethical value imposed on them externally but not truly believed. 

Working hard, they said, was important but they weren’t doing it, so how important was it?  Eighty-four percent also said they would work harder if they could gain something from it.  And now you can see that the ethic is not transcendent, the ethic is utilitarian.  It’s all tied in to what I get out of it, what’s in it for me.  And that’s part of the cynicism of our society.  That’s part of the direct consequence of the 60s’ moral revolution, which is a rejection of transcendent values. 

God is not an issue in anything.  He is not an issue in the way I conduct my sexual life, He is not an issue in my marriage, He is not an issue at my job, He is not an issue in education, He is not an issue anywhere.  God is not an issue; therefore, there is no value beyond myself.  So whatever is enough to get me what I want is enough.  It is a kind of societal economic atheism In fact, psychologist Robert Bellah calls it radical individualism Surveying 200 middle-class Americans, this UCLA professor discovered that people seek personal advancement from work, personal development from marriage, and personal fulfillment from church.  Everything, he says, their perspective on family, church, community, and work is utilitarian.  It is measured by what they can get out of it, and concern for others is only secondary. 

Down to specifics, James Sheehy, an executive with a computer firm in the upper echelons of the work strata, saw first-hand how this kind of utilitarian value was affecting work He wanted a better understanding of the expectations and psyche of younger employees.  Looking at what the future held, what kind of people were going to come up in this generation to work in his company?  What would they be like?  So he decided the best way to find out was to spend his vacation taking a job in a fast-food restaurant He wrote most of his coworkers were from upper income families, they didn’t need to work but they wanted extra spending money.  He watched and listened as his coworkers displayed poor work habits and contempt for customers.  His conclusion was, “We have a new generation of workers whose habits and experiences will plague future employers for years.” 

He writes, “Along with their get-away-with-what-you-can attitude and indifference to the quality of performance, their basic work ethic was dominated by a type of gamesmanship that revolved around taking out of the system or milking the place dry.  Theft, skimming, and baiting management were rampant and skill levels surprisingly low.  The workers saw long hours and hard work as counter-productive.  ‘You only put in time for the big score,’ one said.”  After recounting his experience, Sheehy concluded, “Get ready, America.  There’s more of this to come from the workforce of tomorrow.” 

Doesn’t sound too good if you happen to be an employer, does it?  A recent Harris Poll showed 63 percent of workers believe people don’t work as hard as they used to.  Seventy-eight percent say workers take less pride in their work.  Sixty-nine percent think the workmanship they produce is inferior, and 73 percent believe workers are less motivated and that the whole trend is worsening and the numbers are going up

Imagine. If people felt that way in the 1980s, and it is probable that Britons also did at the time, we are now into a second generation of people who don’t care about work, with a third generation on the way.

MacArthur says:

The more and more people demand recreation and idle time, the more corrupt they will become.  The two go hand-in-hand.  An escalating pornographic, sinful, wicked culture is sped on, the slide is greased, by a shrinking commitment to work.  And we fill up all that time with things that feed the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. 

He lays out why work is a God-given command:

Now, our society may not have a choice but they have to accept this, but as Christians, we can’t accept this.  The Christian faith does not accept a utilitarian work ethic.  The Christian view of work is transcendent.  That is, it escapes me and my world and directs its attention toward God

First, work is a command from God.  Six days shall you labor.  God commands us to work.  Secondly, work is a model established by God for it was God who worked for six days and then rested on the seventh, and God, of course, is the worker who continually sustains the universe Man, being created in the image of God, then, is created as a worker.  Thirdly, work is a part of the creation mandate.  In other words, what I mean by that is it is the role of man.  Stars shine, suns shine, moons shine, on the earth plants grow, animals do what they’re supposed to do, rocks do what they’re to do, mountains do what they’re to do, water does what it’s to do, clouds do what they’re to do, and we do what we’re to do.  As Psalm 104 says, all of creation moves in a normal course and part of it is man rises, goes to work until the setting of the sun.  It is creation mandate.  It is how we contribute to the processes of life in God’s wondrous creation. 

Work is a command.  Work is established as a model by God.  Work is part of the natural creation.  Fourthly, work is a gift from God.  It is a gift from God.  It is a gift through which we glorify Him and the wonder of His creation as we produce things, putting on display the genius of God who created us, in all of our abilities.  It is a means by which we can glorify our Creator.  Just as the beast of the field gives me honor, as Isaiah said, and just as the heavens declare the glory of God by what they do, and we sit in awe of them, so man declares the glory of God, the wonder of His creative genius by doing what he has been given the ability to do.  Work is a gift from God, not only to glorify Him but to give meaning to life.  Work is a gift from God to give us something to do, which avoids the idleness that leads to sin

Work is a gift from God also to provide for needs.  Work is a gift from God so that we can serve each other.  And lastly, in the Christian work ethic, work is to be done as if the boss was the Lord Himself.  It says in Colossians chapter 3 and Ephesians 6 that we’re to work as unto the Lord and not men. 

So the Christian faith does not sanctify the kind of attitude we’re seeing in our own country toward work.  In fact, as I said, 25 years ago, this message may have seemed a bit obscure when America was working productively.  Now it seems to be rather on target for we are suffering today with some of the things that Paul faced in the Thessalonian church But as Christians, we have to establish the standard

I often watch BBC Parliament, not because I love MPs or the Lords, but in order to gain a better insight in to what they are doing to us, the British people.

The number of Opposition — Labour, Liberal Democrat, SNP — MPs who complain that the Conservative government isn’t giving enough handouts, when clearly it is, as we can see from the aforementioned statistics, is mind-numbing.

Moving to MacArthur’s and his congregation’s personal experience, and still tied in to that, this is what happens when work is suggested:

It is an aberrant unbeliever that doesn’t work.  The tragedy of those people, the real tragedy, is that they are so deep in sin and so deep particularly in the sin of drunkenness and irresponsibility and immorality that they have put themselves in the position they’re in And I again say I’m not talking about people who are genuinely in despair, and I’ve seen those people all around the world.  But there is a mass of people who shouldn’t eat because they will not work. 

We see them here at the church They come by and they want money and they want food and we suggest work and they leave.  I was told today by one of the gentlemen in our church, serves with the police department, that they will hold a sign – they’ve tracked them – they will hold a sign, “I need work, homeless, need work,” and recently in one of the shopping centers just a couple of days ago they were tracking to find out what was going on None of them got jobs but they were averaging $15.00 an hour in donations One policeman told me he went by and offered a lady a sandwich purchased at a fast food place and she said, “What’s this?” and he said, “Well, it says ‘homeless and hungry,’ so I’m just giving you this to eat.”  She put it in a bag and he said to her, “Well, aren’t you hungry?”  She said, “I’ll eat it when I get home.” 

So you need to be careful about that.  Sometimes the car is parked around the block and the stash is growing in the back of the car.  Just have to be careful because there are people who don’t work because they won’t work, not because they can’t work.  And if you don’t work and won’t work, then you don’t eat, that’s what the Bible says.  There needs to be an opportunity for you to earn your own food and you need to take that opportunity, and again I want to say this:  It may be that in some cultures there is not enough work to go around and that a person couldn’t do enough work to really make the whole living, then in generosity and charity and love, we make up the lack, but we don’t feed the indolence

Even our blessed Jesus encountered a crowd of this type. After He had fed the Five Thousand, they returned the next day for another miraculous meal. They became angry when He refused them and said that He was the bread of life, which is infintely more important, then and now. John 6 has the story.

MacArthur interprets the episode:

Jesus, you remember, in John chapter 6, fed the multitude and it was a large crowd.  We talk about feeding the 5,000 but it says 5,000 men, so wherever there are 5,000 men, there have to be 5,000 women, at least, and throw in a few thousand mother-in-laws and grandmas, sisters and aunts, and throw in 15,000 kids, at least, and you’ve got a crowd somewhere between 20 and 50 thousand It could have been a massive crowd and Jesus fed them all.  You remember He had those five little cakes, five loaves, they’re actually little barley cakes, and two pickled fish and He just created food.  And I’ll promise you, it was the best lunch they’d ever had because it bypassed the world …

Now, do you realize when He said no to breakfast, I really believe that their anger was turned on Him because in an agrarian society like that, they had to work with the sweat of their brow to produce their own food They didn’t go down to some market and flip out food stamps or a check or a credit card or whatever it is, they didn’t go to a fast food restaurant.  If they didn’t work that day, they didn’t have the food to eat.  And not only a matter of preparation, but a matter of provision.  And so when Jesus – when they saw Jesus make food, they thought they had just found the Messiah who would bring the ultimate and eternal welfare state.  “We don’t even need food stamps, just show up and He passes it out.  And you don’t even have to get in line to collect it, they serve it.”  And when time for breakfast came, they were there and he left, and I think their anger and hostility turned on Him because they knew then what He could do but He refused to do it He could have done it for us as well, but He knows the value and the benefit and the purpose of work.

Concluding on Paul’s message to the Thessalonians, MacArthur says:

So here were these Thessalonians and they wouldn’t work.  And so he says if they don’t work, don’t let them eat.  That will help them get the message.  That’s survival. 

In our world, able-bodied people, believers or not, should be made to feel guilty for depending on the taxpayer for their daily bread. As The Spectator‘s Fraser Nelson said above, it is a moral issue.

Whether we like it or not, work is the order of the day. We must provide for ourselves to the fullest extent possible.

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

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

World Youth Day 2005

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

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

Address to young Poles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No more limbo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fear from modernisers about Vatican II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2007 Advent address

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

Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reconciliation for Vatican II opponents

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

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

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

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

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

Advice about the 2008 economic crisis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

where the pernicious effects of sin are evident

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

The Church was always African

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

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

Dear Cardinals,
Dear Brother Bishops,

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

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

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

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

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

American convert receives sacraments at Vatican

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

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

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

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

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

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

2009 Easter Vigil sermon

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catholicism ‘a positive option’

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

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

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

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

2009 survey from the US

Benedict visited the United States in 2008.

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

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

Margaret Thatcher’s 2009 visit

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

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

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

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

Baroness Thatcher also met Paul VI back in June 1977.

Call to laity

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

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

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

John Cardinal Newman beatified

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Taliban warn Benedict

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

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

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

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

‘One of the brightest Popes in history’

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Anglican take on Benedict

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

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

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

French support for Benedict’s investigation into paedophilia scandals

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

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

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

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

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

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

May I wish all my readers a very happy Christmas!

Christmas adoration of the shepherds anton raphael mengs14 18th c grdurandcom

This is ‘The Adoration of the Shepherds’ by Anton Raphael Mengs (1728 – 1779).  He was a Protestant from Bohemia who later became a Catholic.  In 1754, he was appointed Director of the Vatican school of painting.  You can read more about his life here.

Christmas readings and exegeses

These posts of mine explore today’s Lectionary readings as well as the Gospel and Epistle:

Readings for Christmas Day — Proper III (John 1:1-14)

Christmas Day — John 1:1-14 (with commentary from Matthew Poole)

Christmas Day: exegesis on the Epistle, Hebrews 1:1-12

Further reflections

The following posts explore our Saviour’s birth further:

The Christmas story in Matthew’s Gospel (hermeneutics)

The Christmas story in Luke’s Gospel (hermeneutics)

Migdal Eder: the shepherds provide a biblical key to unlocking the Christmas story (Luke’s Gospel, Micah, Genesis; Carl H Bloch’s painting The Shepherds and The Angel, oil on copper, 1879)

And light shone into the darkness (Gospels of Matthew and John)

Compliments of the season to all my readers! (features Dr Paul Copan on the manger scene)

A Lutheran defence of Nativity scenes and crucifixes

Martin Luther on the birth of Jesus

The case for Xmas — yes, Xmas

Secular worries

Most of us get anxious at Christmas.

A 2022 survey by the British supermarket chain Tesco revealed the top 50 worries surrounding the season.

On November 22, Metro published the full list and this summary:

From keeping glasses topped up, to making sure everyone has a chair around the dinner table, Christmas Day can be fraught with issues.

And now, the nation has spoken and officially ranked the hardest things to master on the biggest day of the year.

Claiming the top spot was working out what to buy awkward family members, closely followed by wrapping awkward shaped objects, and getting the timings of Christmas dinner spot-on.

Special mention goes to the 11% who said making sprouts taste nice was the biggest festive challenge, and the 12% who struggled the most with faking enthusiasm for gifts. We’ve all been there.

Food woes featured several times on the list, with making sure the turkey isn’t too dry, making good gravy, and producing perfect roasties all getting mentioned.

It seems Brits also struggle with spending time with certain family members, as people said it was hard not to put their foot in it with the in-laws and to not appear bored when talking to relatives.

Just remember: it’s only one day. That will help to keep things in perspective.

Learn from previous Christmases: what can be prepared earlier or differently to cut down on stress? Why not cook the vegetables one day earlier and reheat them on the 25th?

In any event, have a wonderful day, come what may.

Merry Christmas moving GIF

May God bless you all!

Anyone who has missed the previous entries in the series of former Health Secretary Matt Hancock, now a backbench MP with the Conservative whip withdrawn, can catch up on Parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

I left off on Friday, June 25, 2021, with Dominic Cummings’s Substack post on Hancock’s and Boris Johnson’s handling of the pandemic.

However, the big news that day was The Sun‘s front page — a ‘world exclusive’ — which had a large photo of Hancock handling a part of his assistant’s anatomy. A security camera captured the image a few weeks before, when social distancing was still in place:

It was bad enough, as I wrote, that he lost all credibility with the Queen the day before when she aired her views to Boris during their weekly meeting.

But The Sun‘s scoop surely meant that Hancock’s dictatorial time was up. And, lo, so it was:

UK coronavirus news: Matt Hancock’s final 48 hours as Health Secretary (June 25-27)

That post included these tweets, the first about his marital situation …

… and the second and third featuring polls saying that Britons wanted him gone, especially under those circumstances:

It was a wonderful start to the weekend.

Matt Hancock’s side of the story

In the final instalment of Hancock’s Pandemic Diaries that the Mail published, he tells his side of the story. Emphases mine below.

Friday, June 25:

The Sun published the story at 2am as a ‘world exclusive’. The picture was a grainy CCTV image of me and Gina embracing in my departmental office.

It was immediately obvious that the story would be huge.

I knew I had to get out of London, and my wonderful driver Mark came to pick me up very early and take me to stay discreetly in the countryside.

At about 8am, a welcome call from No 10: Dan Rosenfield [chief of staff] to say they’d got my back. He offered any support we might need, including sending a Conservative Party press officer to my house.

By 9am I’d had half a dozen sympathetic messages from ministerial colleagues: a terrible sign. They knew that I was in deep trouble.

Nadhim [Zahawi, Minister for vaccine deployment] sent me a piece of advice ‘from a brother’, which sounded very much like an appeal not to resign.

Meanwhile, I went back over all our movements and tried to think of any other rules we might be accused of breaking. Other than the one-metre-plus rule, I couldn’t think of any. ‘Should I do a fast apology for letting everyone down/breaching guidance?’ I asked.

Gina thought it was a good idea, so Damon [Poole, media adviser] began crafting a short statement. I tried to focus on the words, but my head was spinning. The final version of the statement, which went out at lunchtime, accepted that I breached social-distancing guidance and said I was still focused on working to get the country out of the pandemic. I hoped it would quiet the furore.

Yet the story continued to rage: on all the news websites, on the BBC, on Twitter and on just about every other conceivable news outlet.

By mid-afternoon, there were still suggestions that we’d broken the law. It was categorically untrue, and Damon thought we needed to brief harder or put out another line. ‘What’s wrong with ‘No laws were broken’?’ I suggested.

Round and round in circles we went, trying to find the right words. Damon’s mobile phone was practically melting, and I was more stressed than I have ever been in my entire life.

All afternoon, the ‘what, when, where, who, why, how much?’ questions continued. Journalists began suggesting I might have broken the Ministerial Code. I hadn’t, but I could see the way this was going.

My local constituency association in Suffolk was wonderfully supportive. Allan [Nixon, special adviser] worked the phones, trying to get MPs to say something helpful.

My spirits lifted a little when William Hague [former Tory leader] publicly declared that I shouldn’t resign. Not for long, though: by late afternoon it was clear tomorrow’s papers will be hideous.

Saturday, June 26:

Privately, I was still getting positive messages from colleagues. Publicly, few were willing to defend me. Politically, I was increasingly isolated. I felt desperate for my family, my children and Gina’s family and her children, and powerless to protect them. Worse was the knowledge that Gina and I had brought all this on them.

Gina’s feelings of shame and guilt were nearly overpowering her. The jokes and cartoons on social media were excruciating. We were being publicly humiliated, again and again.

While close friends and family were amazing, I also had messages from friends and colleagues who had had terrible lockdown experiences and were very upset. Their disappointment in me – and their sense of betrayal – was agonising.

It is all my fault, of course. I knew I had to take responsibility. I knew in my heart that I had to resign.

I went to Chequers to see the PM. I explained that I had been thinking about what had happened and how it had made people feel – and that my mind was made up. The damage to my family and to the Government was too great.

I told Boris I had to resign.

He was regretful but didn’t argue. We sat on the patio and talked about what this would mean for the management of the rest of the pandemic.

An exchange of letters was prepared, offering and accepting my resignation, and we each edited our letters. We had to decide how to make the announcement, what to say and how.

I must have shot a thousand videos over the course of the pandemic, levelling with the public and thanking the NHS for their dedication. This would be the last.

In the end, the great machinery of the State was nowhere. It was just me and the PM fumbling around with an iPhone. He stood on the grass, holding the phone while I said my piece. It took a few goes to get it right.

He nodded sympathetic encouragement so much throughout the first take that the camera waved up and down. In the end it wasn’t perfect, but I was beyond caring: I had to get it out.

Now messages of sympathy and support flooded in: from my team, the Prof [Chris Whitty, the Government’s Chief Medical Officer], JVT [Jonathan Van-Tam, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer], Pascal [Soriot, head of AstraZeneca] – and just about everyone else who worked so hard alongside us to save lives.

I’m incredibly grateful to all my team, especially my spads [special advisers] and private office, for going above and beyond in supporting me in what is such a difficult time for them, too.

‘I’m so sorry,’ I told them all. ‘I mean, the honest truth is I made a mistake due to love and it doesn’t matter that it was only guidance. I should not have broken advice that I myself signed off.’

This evening Jamie N-G [Njoku-Goodwin, former spad] whose endless advice – offered long after he stopped working for me – has been so valuable throughout the pandemic, messaged to say I’d done the right thing.

‘There is so much you have done that you should be incredibly proud of. There are people alive today who wouldn’t be if you hadn’t made the decisions you did,’ he said.

‘I love her. That’s what screwed my judgment,’ I replied wretchedly. ‘Love does that to us all. I hope you can both be happy,’ he said.

‘Of that I have no doubt,’ I replied.

As for Boris – well, if anyone knows how to survive a catastrophic political and personal mistake, it’s him.

‘Time to dive beneath the ice cap,’ was his advice.

Here’s the awkward video from Sky News:

That concludes the Mail‘s excerpts from Pandemic Diaries. The paper posted the following (emphasis in the original):

Matt Hancock’s book sale royalties will be donated to NHS Charities and good causes relating to dyslexia. 

Hancock is a dyslexic and had special tutoring to enable him to pursue his studies at Oxford University.

The book is available now. Someone on social media repositioned it at a bookshop in the Crime section:

https://image.vuukle.com/98cdcb40-7d3c-4d74-8d23-f9daebdfd1a1-14316ab8-684d-4c3e-90ff-4edc55822e5e

However, as my post on his last 48 hours as Health Secretary pointed out, Hancock told us in April 2020 that social distancing was more than guidance, it was an ‘instruction’. I’d included this tweet as proof:

In the days that followed, Sajid Javid — Boris’s first Chancellor — became our new Health Secretary. Questions whirled about the camera, security breaches and ministerial code breaches. Oliver Tress is the name Hancock’s girlfriend’s husband. He owns the Oliver Bonas chain of shops:

UK news: Sajid Javid’s return to Cabinet as Health Secretary (June 27-28)

UK coronavirus news: will Matt Hancock be investigated? (June 28; Oliver Tress, restriction-free Wimbledon video)

MPs worried about Matt Hancock’s security camera (June 28)

By now, most Britons know that Hancock met his girlfriend when they were undergraduates at Oxford. They both worked at the student radio station. Recollections from their contemporaries differ as to whether Hancock was part of the in crowd or whether he was a geek on its periphery.

Sky News’s Beth Rigby put that period of history in perspective for us:

On June 26, 2021, The Telegraph explained how the woman got involved in Hancock’s parliamentary career:

Gina Coladangelo started work for Matt Hancock during his short-lived Conservative Party leadership campaign in 2019, it has emerged.

Sources said Ms Coladangelo provided unpaid advice on the Health Secretary’s bid to replace Theresa May.

The work coincided with Mr Hancock sponsoring a parliamentary pass at the same time for his longtime friend, who has worked as communications director of Oliver Bonas, the homeware store, since 2014.

Mr Hancock declared his candidacy during a broadcast interview on May 25 2019, saying “we need a leader for the future, not just now”.

He quit the race on June 14 2019 – a day after coming sixth in the first ballot of Conservative MPs.

Ms Coladangelo was registered as holding a pass sponsored by Mr Hancock under her married name, Gina Tress, from June 2019.

Sources suggested she then started providing unpaid advice to Mr Hancock during the Covid-19 pandemic, before she was hired as a non-executive director at the Department of Health in September.

Her non-executive directorship also raised eyebrows. Who appointed her and how?

Tatler‘s profile of Hancock, published on June 28, told us:

Both Hancock and Coladangelo, who were contemporaries at Oxford, have three children

But, what of this relatively youthful minister? In 2014, he was touted as a junior minister with the skills ‘to reach the top’. Certainly, academically, his results are a tour de force of excellence, a first at Exeter College, Oxford, in what many consider a politician’s ‘rite of passage’, Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE). He worked briefly for a Tory backbench MP before breaking loose as an economist at the Bank of England specialising in the sterling money markets and on housing, before being sent to do a masters at Cambridge. On return, he was plucked out by George Osborne (in 2005) to join the Conservative economics team, later becoming the future chancellor’s chief of staff, and a bonafide ‘high-flyer’.

It was in 2010 that he became an MP for West Suffolk, and today – or at least before the lockdown – he balanced his time between his weekday home in London and his abode in Little Thurlow, in his Newmarket constituency, at the weekends. He has admitted that the work-life balance can sometimes be a challenge, explaining in an interview with the Financial Times in 2014, ‘I pay a lot of attention to timetabling. Both my professional and social and family time gets booked up a long way in advance and then you have to be strict about it.’

Hancock married an osteopath, Martha Hoyer Millar, in 2006, and together they have three small children, a daughter and two sons as well as a dachshund called Hercules (which Hancock will occasionally document via his Instagram). With noble connections, Martha, a red head, is the granddaughter of Frederick Millar, 1st Baron Inchyra, a British diplomat who served as Ambassador to West Germany from 1955 to 1956. Baron Inchyra had four children, two sons and two daughters, their youngest, Dame Annabel Whitehead, was a Lady-in-Waiting to Princess Margaret and later to the Queen

By his own admission, Hancock is fiercely competitive. He once, in 2012, trained as a jockey and won a race at the beating heart of British racing, Newmarket, in his constituency. Going the whole hog, he trained rigorously, shedding two stones and even seeking advice from champion jockey Frankie Dettori. He keeps it up; in December, 2019 he posted a video of himself galloping atop a racehorse on the Newmarket heath, summarising afterwards, ‘absolutely exhilarating, every single time’.

It’s been far from plain sailing for Hancock, he’s overcome his own difficulties. One being dyslexia. His political career apparently practically ended before it even started, when a simple spelling mistake relayed the dead opposite of what he was trying to communicate. As a young Tory campaigner in Guildford he wrote an election leaflet. Instead of saying that candidate Nick St Aubyn wanted to ‘unite’ the community during the 2001 election, a then 22-year-old Hancock wrote: ‘I want to untie the community’. The mistake was spotted after the leaflet had been printed and landed in 50,000 letterboxes. St Aubyn went on to lose the seat by 538 votes.

Hancock reportedly winces at the memory, but told the tale since he does not want other dyslexics growing up thinking they are ‘useless’ like he did. His wife, too, is dyslexic. He says he got on by focusing on numbers-based subjects, taking A Levels in maths, physics, computing and economics, but told the Telegraph, ‘I wish I had been diagnosed earlier’.

Sheer hypocrisy

On June 25, before he resigned, the media rightly began enumerating Hancock’s diktats and his own actions, proving the man’s hypocrisy.

The Telegraph reported:

… How has the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care managed to cling on this long in the first place? …

As the man in charge of England’s health system when the pandemic struck, he is accused of overseeing the disastrous discharge of Covid-positive hospital patients into care homes, mismanaging the supply of personal protective equipment, and the multi-billion pound failure that is NHS Test and Trace.

According to Mr Cummings, Mr Hancock “lied” to Mr Johnson and the public about much of this …

Mr Hancock strenuously denies much of this.

Nevertheless, it comes on top of allegations that he awarded a lucrative contract to supply the Government with tens of millions of Covid test vials to a former neighbour, who lacked experience producing medical supplies after he received a WhatsApp from him.

He also committed a “technical” breach of the ministerial code by failing to declare that a firm run by his sister, in which he has a 20 per cent stake, had been awarded an NHS contract

The danger lies in the familiar territories of hypocrisy and the alleged “chumocracy” of the Johnson administration.

If Mr Hancock’s embrace of Ms Coladangelo contravened government guidelines, as he has now admitted it did, many will remember his reaction to last year’s Neil Ferguson scandal, where he suggested it could be a matter for the police, not to mention countless hugs with loved-ones missed over recent months.

Meanwhile, if evidence emerges suggesting that Ms Coladangelo was brought into the Government because of her personal relationship with Mr Hancock, rather than her expertise, the rap sheet all too quickly becomes too heavy to survive.

The Spectator‘s Steerpike, their gossip columnist, posted ‘Nine times Matt Hancock told us to obey the rules’, most of which follows (bold dates in the original):

From threatening to ban outdoor exercise and close the beaches to advising against sex outside ‘established’ relationships, Mr S presents his round-up of Hancock’s best/worst moments:

9 February 2021:  Ten years in jail for Covid returnees

Hancock announced that people returning from holidays who conceal that they’ve been in a red list country would face a prison sentence of up to ten years …

1 February 2021 ‘Don’t even think about stretching Covid rules’

At another No. 10 press conference, Hancock gave an update on the South African variant in which he said that those living in postcodes affected by the mutation should ‘not even think about stretching the Covid rules.’

10 January 2021: Hancock claimed that flexing of rules ‘could be fatal’

The Health Secretary appeared on the Andrew Marr Show where he was asked about the police fining two women who went for a walk five miles from their homes. Hancock told Marr: ‘Every time you try to flex the rules that could be fatal’ and that staying at home is the ‘most important thing we can do collectively as a society.’

24 September 2020:  Hancock warned people to ‘be sensible’ when having sex during lockdown

Asked about the government’s guidance that only ‘established’ couples should be having sex, Hancock told Sky News: ‘There have to be boundaries, to coin a phrase.’ He warned against casual sex, advising the public to stick to ‘well-established relationships’ and joking, ‘I know I am in an established relationship,’ with his wife

5 July 2020: Hancock threatened to shut down non-compliant businesses

In an interview with Sky Hancock said: ‘We also have the authority to shut down a business if it doesn’t follow that [Covid] guidance.’ When asked by Sophy Ridge if he is ‘looking at shutting down businesses’ Hancock replied: ‘Yes and that’s happened, absolutely’. He added: ‘We’re not just asking nicely, we’re very clear to businesses that these are their responsibilities.’

25 June 2020: Hancock theatened to close the beaches

After sun lovers flocked to the seaside on Britain’s hottest day of the year, Hancock warned that he could close beaches

5 April 2020: Hancock threatened to ban outdoor exercise

At the beginning of the first lockdown, Hancock criticised sunbathers and warned the government would ban outdoor exercise if people continue to ignore government advice. He said on Sky that those who flout the guidance were ‘putting others’ lives at risk and you are putting yourself in harm’s way’. He told Andrew Marr that same day: ‘I don’t want to have to take away exercise as a reason to leave home… if too many people are not following the rules.’ He added:If you don’t want us to take the next step and ban exercise… then the message is very clear… you have to follow the rules.’

Sickening.

The Mail has a report with reactions from several journalists also calling out Hancock’s disgusting hypocrisy, well worth reading.

Questions, questions

Also on June 25, The Spectator‘s Isabel Hardman asked:

Why was it appropriate for Gina Coladangelo to have a parliamentary pass, to become an unpaid adviser at the department and then to receive the paid non-executive director post?

… the important matter here isn’t the affair: these things happen and they’re not normally anyone else’s business. But where it becomes other people’s business is when the affair is interlinked with government business and taxpayer’s money

Then there’s the hypocrisy charge, not just from someone in a government that has restricted personal freedoms so much this past year, but from the very minister responsible for the lockdown legislation and guidance

Questions about the camera and security were many.

At lunchtime that day, The Telegraph reported:

The Government Security Group, which is in charge of security at 800 buildings across Whitehall, has been asked to investigate, with Alex Chisholm, the Cabinet Office Permanent Secretary, expected to be in charge of an inquiry.

There have also been calls for MI5 to get involved in order to rule out any involvement from hostile foreign states.

Government insiders said it is “unheard of” for security cameras to be placed in the offices of Secretaries of State, raising questions about whether the footage of Mr Hancock was filmed on a pre-existing camera or could even have been filmed by a camera deliberately placed there to catch him out.

Day-to-day security at government buildings is typically contracted out to private firms, though the Department of Health and Social Care has yet to confirm if this was the case at their offices in London’s Victoria Street …

One source said: “There are an awful lot of questions that need answering. Lots of government buildings have cameras outside offices that film people going in and out, but I have never seen one inside a Secretary of State’s office. It’s unheard of.

“What was that camera doing there, was it even a CCTV camera, and did Matt Hancock know it was there?

“More importantly, who is it that has access to what is going on inside that office? We are talking about people being able to spy on a Secretary of State, so this is a serious breach of security, regardless of what you think of Matt Hancock’s behaviour” …

Among the questions the Government Security Group will have to answer is whether proper vetting was carried out of staff who have access to CCTV footage, and whether they have been required to sign the Official Secrets Act.

Breaches of the Official Secrets Act can carry a maximum punishment of 14 years imprisonment.

The paper had a follow-up article that evening:

The Telegraph understands Mr Hancock had no idea the camera existed when it captured him kissing adviser Gina Coladangelo

It raises the possibility that the camera was deliberately placed by someone with access to his office with the intention of catching the pair cheating on their spouses and breaking Covid rulesIt is the first time a Cabinet minister has been filmed in their own office without their knowledge.

In a further twist, the Department of Health and Social Care’s offices use CCTV cameras made by the Chinese company Hikvision, which is banned in the US because of national security concerns

One theory being investigated is that the footage was filmed by someone on a mobile phone as it was being played on a CCTV screen, which could make it more difficult to prove who was responsible.

While the revelation could spell the end of Mr Hancock’s Cabinet career, the leak has also triggered a red alert in the Government over who could be spying on the country’s most senior ministers

A source told The Sun that the pair had regularly been caught embracing and that their affair was an open secret among staff. The newspaper claimed the footage was released by a whistleblower disgusted that Mr Hancock was breaking Covid rules while telling people to obey them.

At the time, the country was in stage two of the lifting of lockdown, meaning hugging anyone from outside your own household was banned. On Friday, Mr Hancock admitted breaching social distancing guidance and said he was sorry for having “let people down” …

The £144 million building is owned by Singapore-based property firm Ho Bee Land, which bought it five years ago and has not so far responded to requests for comment.

Cameras on the outside were made by Hikvision, which is owned by the Chinese state and banned in the US because of national security concerns and alleged human rights violations. The firm is alleged to have provided cameras that monitor Uighur Muslims in concentration camps in Xinjiang …

One covert security expert said: “In all my years of working in this field I have never known a camera to be positioned inside an office like this. An office is a private space and that raises all sorts of issues.

“The camera is facing the door so it will give you a record of who is coming and going. But if you wanted to do that you would place the camera outside of the office in the corridor. Also, the angle of the camera is all wrong because if someone walks into the office with their head down this will not be able to see their features. To me it smacks more of a small covert camera that has been placed in a light fixture”

The fact that the camera was part of the overall CCTV network ruled out any suggestion that Ms Coladangelo could have been behind the leak, and friends of Dominic Cummings, the former Downing Street special adviser who has waged a campaign against Mr Hancock since leaving his job last year, insisted he had nothing to do with the leak.

One government source suggested it was possible the camera had been placed in the office to increase security as a result of the Covid pandemic, while another person familiar with the layout of the office speculated that extra cameras could have been put there because it has a balcony, making it more vulnerable to break-ins

Indignity for his wife

On Saturday, June 26, the papers had stories about what was happening in the Hancock’s marital home.

The Mail‘s first report was ‘Callous Matt Hancock dumped wife on Thursday after learning his affair would be finally exposed’:

Matt Hancock dumped his university sweetheart on Thursday night after learning video footage of him kissing an aide in his ministerial office would be exposed.

The ex-Health Secretary, who announced his resignation this evening, raced home to tell his wife of 15 years that he would be leaving her after he was contacted by The Sun newspaper over his affair with Gina Coladangelo …

Martha Hancock, a 44-year-old osteopath, had no clue about the affair until her husband told her their marriage was over, reports The Sunday Times

The reports of the affair came just weeks after Hancock was seen enjoying lunch out with Martha – the granddaughter of Frederick Millar, 1st Baron Inchyra – in London.

The pair were seen waiting for a taxi after eating at Exmouth market in the capital.

They were last seen together in public at the England vs Scotland Euro 2020 match at Wembley a week ago

Mrs Hancock is said to have met her future husband while they were students at Oxford University. Both are dyslexic and he once revealed that the condition helped them bond. 

Descended from a baron and a viscount, Mrs Hancock had a privileged upbringing. Her father, Old Etonian Alastair Hoyer Millar, 84, was secretary of The Pilgrim Trust between 1980 and 1996. The organisation supplies grants to preserve historically significant buildings or artefacts. 

Her mother, Virginia Hoyer Millar, 70, an antiques dealer, was yesterday pictured comforting her daughter in the street by putting her arms around her shoulders. They also linked arms as they strolled around North-West London.  

The couple [the Hancocks] divide their time between London and their West Suffolk constituency home, where there was no sign of Mr Hancock following his resignation.

The ex-Health Secretary wrote in his letter: ‘The last thing I would want is for my private life to distract attention from the single-minded focus that is leading us out of this crisis.

‘I want to reiterate my apology for breaking the guidance, and apologise to my family and loved ones for putting them through this. I also need (to) be with my children at this time.’

Another report from the Mail followed that day, discussing Conservative MPs’ disgust with their colleagues and more information about the respective marriages involved, complete with photographs:

Mrs Hancock looked sad and upset as she left the couple’s home but didn’t speak to reporters about her husband’s alleged infidelity.  Her husband was nowhere to be seen, however, she was still wearing her wedding ring   

The shutters were closed at the £4.5million South London home Mrs Coladangelo shares with Oliver Tress and their three children yesterday. They are also believed to have a country home near the West Sussex coast. She has been working as an advisor for Mr Hancock since last year, with one source saying: ‘Before Matt does anything big, he’ll speak to Gina’

Mr Hancock was meant to be at Newmarket Racecourse to visit the vaccination centre but a spokesman revealed he cancelled at the last minute ‘early this morning’

A Department of Health probe into how the footage from outside Mr Hancock’s office was leaked is expected, with the whistleblower described as a former civil servant who was angry about his ‘brazen’ affair, adding: ‘They have tried to keep it a secret but everyone knows what goes on inside a building like that’ …  

Mrs Coladangelo was appointed as a non-executive director at the department in September, meaning she is a member of the board.

She can claim up to £15,000 in taxpayers’ money in the role, though there is no public record of her appointment

The woman Matt Hancock has been allegedly having an affair with is married to the millionaire founder of fashion firm Oliver Bonas and has worked as its communications director for the past seven years

Gina Coladangelo, 43, knows the Health Secretary from Oxford University, where they both worked on the student radio station and studied politics, philosophy and economics (PPE) – and where he also met his wife Martha, 44. 

Mrs Coladangelo remains Facebook friends with Mr Hancock’s osteopath wife – with whom the Conservative politician has two sons and a daughter – after they both graduated from the university at around the same time. 

And they all reside in London, with Mrs Coladangelo living with her multi-millionaire fashion tycoon husband Oliver Tress and their three children in Wandsworth, while the Hancocks live in Queen’s Park with their children … 

Mr Hancock met Mrs Coladangelo when they worked on Oxford student radio together in the 1990s. Mr Hancock was a minority sports reporter on Oxygen FM and they would have socialised together at Exeter College, Oxford.

Mrs Coladangelo went on to marry Mr Tress, 53, who is founder of fashion chain Oliver Bonas, named after his ex-girlfriend Anna who is cousin of Prince Harry’s former partner Cressida Bonas.

It is not known exactly when Mrs Coladangelo and Mr Tress wed, although they were listed on the electoral roll together with her maiden name as recently as 2008, and then her married name of Gina Tress by 2011.

Mr Tress founded Oliver Bonas in London in 1993 with handbags and jewellery he had brought from Hong Kong where his parents lived, and his wife began working there in June 2014 after 11 years at Luther Pendragon. 

They live together in a five-bedroom detached property believed to be worth around £4million in Wandsworth, South West London, on a quiet tree-lined street with residents-only parking bays that is popular with families.

Many of the cars parked in the street – which is a 20-minute drive away from Central London – are top-of-the range BMW 4x4s and Volvos. Neighbours of Mrs Coladangelo remained tight lipped and refused to comment.

But one visiting workman who left a neighbouring home was unimpressed by Mr Hancock. He said: ‘The guy had been caught bang to rights on film. He will have to do some smart talking to get out of that one with the wife.’

The Spectator‘s editor, Fraser Nelson, called readers’ attention to a Sunday Times report saying that Hancock took his girlfriend to a G7 summit:

The Sunday Times has something more significant: that Hancock took Mrs Coladangelo to the G7 health ministers’ summit, raising questions about whether they stayed together (the event took place a month after their being filmed canoodling in his office). The brilliantly-informed Tim Shipman has a devastating quote from a Cabinet source.

She went with him to the G7 health ministers summit. Did he disclose this to the PM? If it was shown he was shagging on the taxpayer he had to go. He’s been puritan-in-chief in the government and now it turns out he’s a massive, lying hypocrite.

… In this week’s magazine, Kate Andrews has dossier of how ministers have been living la vida loca, travelling globally at a time when they made it illegal for others to do so. All within the loophole-addled rules, yes, but generally conducting themselves in a way that others have been unable to do.

The girlfriend’s brother

More news emerged on June 26, this time concerning Hancock’s girlfriend’s brother.

Sky News reported:

A relative of the Whitehall director alleged to have had an extramarital affair with Matt Hancock, the health secretary, is an executive at a private healthcare company which has won a string of NHS contracts.

Sky News can reveal that Roberto Coladangelo – who is Gina Coladangelo’s brother – works at Partnering Health Limited (PHL Group), a specialist in the provision of urgent and primary care services to NHS patients

People who know Mr Coladangelo said that he and Mr Hancock’s aide were siblings, and social media profiles and electoral roll data appear to confirm a relationship between them.

None of those contacted by Sky News on Friday afternoon would confirm or deny the relationship between the Coladangelos.

Weekend papers

The weekend papers were magic for those of us rejoicing over Hancock’s resignation:

Also see The Observer and The Sunday Telegraph.

Of the resignation news, the redoubtable Peter Hitchens tweeted that it was sad that the government didn’t believe in their guidelines but the public did — ‘our tragedy’:

He added that, given all the damage Hancock caused Britain, it was ironic an illicit grope brought him down:

Maybe that’s why Hancock wants to return to private life after the next general election. Will the formal coronavirus inquiry advance that far in two years’ time? If not, he could be safe in the knowledge he won’t be asked to testify.

No. 10: photos ‘in the public interest’

On July 16, The Telegraph had a follow-up on The Sun‘s photos: ‘Leaked Matt Hancock CCTV footage was “in public interest”, says Boris Johnson’s office’:

The leaked CCTV footage which exposed Matt Hancock’s affair was in the public interest, the Prime Minister’s spokesman has said, as an investigation into an alleged data breach continues.

Two people suspected of recording the film without consent had their homes raided on Thursday by officials from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Police and Crime Commissioners have also called for the police to launch an urgent investigation amid concern over the security of government buildings.

But the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Boris Johnson believed in the importance of a free press being able to investigate matters that were in the public interest

Excellent!!!

There ends the resignation saga.

A final instalment on Hancock’s time as a backbencher will come next week.

Thus far, most of my series on Matt Hancock has focused on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Those who missed them can catch up on parts 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Even though the vaccine was about to be distributed throughout the UK, people in England were frustrated by the restrictions which the Government had imposed indefinitely. Effectively, we had had a Christmas lockdown, with more restrictions that came in on Boxing Day. As I covered in my last post, even at the end of the year, Hancock could not say when they would be lifted.

This post covers the first half of 2021 with excerpts from Hancock’s Pandemic Diaries as serialised in the Mail along with news I had collected during that time. Pandemic Diaries entries come from this excerpt, unless otherwise specified.

Vaccines and side-effects

Former Times journalist Isabel Oakeshott co-authored Pandemic Diaries. On December 7, The Spectator posted her impressions of Hancock and the pandemic.

This is what she had to say about the vaccine policy (emphases mine):

The crusade to vaccinate the entire population against a disease with a low mortality rate among all but the very elderly is one of the most extraordinary cases of mission creep in political history. On 3 January 2021, Hancock told The Spectator that once priority groups had been jabbed (13 million doses) then ‘Cry freedom’. Instead, the government proceeded to attempt to vaccinate every-one, including children, and there was no freedom for another seven months. Sadly, we now know some young people died as a result of adverse reactions to a jab they never needed. Meanwhile experts have linked this month’s deadly outbreak of Strep A in young children to the weakening of their immune systems because they were prevented from socialising. Who knows what other long-term health consequences of the policy may emerge?

Why did the goalposts move so far off the pitch? I believe multiple driving forces combined almost accidentally to create a policy which was never subjected to rigorous cost-benefit analysis. Operating in classic Whitehall-style silos, key individuals and agencies – the JCVI, Sage, the MHRA – did their particular jobs, advising on narrow and very specific safety and regulatory issues. At no point did they all come together, along with ministers and, crucially, medical and scientific experts with differing views on the merits of whole-population vaccination, for a serious debate about whether such an approach was desirable or wise.

The apparent absence of any such discussion at the top of government is quite remarkable. The Treasury raised the occasional eyebrow at costs, but if a single cabinet minister challenged the policy on any other grounds, I’ve seen no evidence of it.

In Hancock’s defence, he would have been crucified for failing to order enough vaccines for everybody, just in case. He deserves credit for harnessing the full power of the state to accelerate the development of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab. He simply would not take no or ‘too difficult’ for an answer, forcing bureaucratic regulators and plodding public health bodies to bend to his will. He is adamant that he never cut corners on safety, though the tone of his internal communications suggest that in his hurtling rush to win the global race for a vaccine, he personally would have been willing to take bigger risks. I believe he would have justified any casualties as sacrifices necessary for the greater good. Fortunately (in my view) his enthusiasm was constrained by medical and scientific advisers, and by the Covid vaccine tsar Kate Bingham, who was so alarmed by his haste that at one point she warned him that he might ‘kill people’. She never thought it was necessary to jab everyone and repeatedly sought to prevent Hancock from over-ordering. Once he had far more than was needed for the initial target group of elderly and clinically vulnerable patients, he seems to have felt compelled to use it. Setting ever more ambitious vaccination rollout targets was a useful political device, creating an easily understood schedule for easing lockdown and allowing the government to play for time amid the threat of new variants. The strategy gave the Conservatives a big bounce in the polls, which only encouraged the party leadership to go further.

Now on to side-effects:

Given the unprecedented speed at which the vaccine was developed, the government might have been expected to be extra careful about recording and analysing any reported side-effects. While there was much anxiety about potential adverse reactions during clinical trials, once it passed regulatory hurdles, ministers seemed to stop worrying. In early January 2021, Hancock casually asked Chris Whitty ‘where we are up to on the system for monitoring events after rollout’

Not exactly reassuringly, Whitty replied that the system was ‘reasonable’ but needed to get better. This exchange, which Hancock didn’t consider to be of any significance, is likely to be seized on by those with concerns about vaccine safety.

January 2021

On January 2, Hancock hoped to ease red tape allowing NHS physicians to come out of retirement to be part of the vaccination drive:

On January 3, The Conservative Woman‘s co-editor and qualified barrister Laura Perrins blasted the Government for keeping Britons under ‘humiliating and undignified treatment‘:

Schools reopened in England on Monday, January 4. They closed again by the end of the day.

Monday, January 4:

Millions of children returned to school today, only to be told schools are closing again tomorrow. After sleeping on it, Boris agreed we have no choice but to go for another national lockdown.

On Thursday, January 7, Hancock appeared before the Health and Social Care Select Committee to answer questions about lockdown. He came across as arrogant, in my opinion:

Monday, January 11:

A message from a friend tipping me off that straight-talking cricket legend Sir Geoffrey Boycott is very unhappy about the delay in the second dose. He’s a childhood hero of mine, so I volunteered to call him personally to explain. I rang him and made the case as well as I could, but it was clear he was far from persuaded.

That morning, Guido Fawkes’s cartoonist posted his ghoulish perspective on Hancock: ‘A nightmare before vaccination’. It was hard to disagree:

Tuesday, January 12:

A bunch of GPs are refusing to go into care homes where there are Covid cases. Apparently there are cases in about a third of care homes, meaning many residents aren’t getting vaccinated. Evidently I was naive to think £25 a jab would be enough of an incentive. We may have to use the Army to fill the gap.

Also that day:

Not only is [Sir Geoffrey] Boycott in the Press having a go at me; now [former Speaker of the House of Commons] Betty Boothroyd is kicking off as well. Given that I personally ensured she got her first jab fast, it feels a bit rich. It’s particularly miserable being criticised by people I’ve grown up admiring and went out of my way to help, but welcome to the life of a politician.

On Wednesday, January 13, Hancock still had no answer as to when restrictions would be lifted. Many of us thought he was enjoying his power too much:

Friday, January 15:

An extraordinary row with Pfizer bosses, who are trying to divert some of our vaccine supply to the EU!

When I got to the Cabinet Room, the PM practically had smoke coming out of his ears. He was in full bull-in-a-china-shop mode, pacing round the room growling.

What really riled him was the fact that only last night he was speaking to Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, and Bourla made no mention of it! I was wary: when the PM is in this mood, he can really lash out. I knew I’d need to be as diplomatic as possible if I wanted to avoid getting caught in the crossfire.

Monday, January 18:

Pfizer has relented. Following a robust exchange between Bourla and the PM, lo and behold, they’ve located an ’emergency supply’, which is now heading our way.

On Tuesday, January 19, Hancock got coronavirus and had to self-isolate. This was his second bout. The first one was earlier in 2020:

Julia Hartley-Brewer of talkRADIO posed an interesting question about re-infection and T-cells. Hmm:

Thursday, January 21:

[Social Care minister] Helen Whately wants to find a way of allowing indoor visits again. I’m hardline on this: we cannot have Covid taking off in care homes again.

Monday, January 25:

The EU health commissioner has tweeted that ‘in the future’ any company that produces vaccines in the EU will have to provide ‘early notification’ if they want to sell it to a third-party country. In other words, they’ll need permission. Totally desperate stuff! They’re doing it purely because they screwed up procurement.

Tuesday, January 26:

Today we reached a really grim milestone in the pandemic: more than 100,000 deaths in this country. So many people grieving; so much loss.

Wednesday, January 27:

A humiliating climbdown from the EU, who clearly realised their ‘export ban’ wouldn’t end well. It followed frantic diplomacy on our side, plus our lawyers confirming that they wouldn’t be able to block our supply anyway. What a ridiculous waste of time and energy.

Tonight I’m doing a night shift at Basildon Hospital [in Essex]. Front-line staff are still under horrendous pressure, and the best way for me to understand is to see it for myself.

Thursday, January 28:

The night shift has left me completely drained. I don’t know how they do it day in and day out: heroic. I donned full PPE, and got stuck in, helping to turn patients and fetch and carry. In intensive care, I watched a man consent to being intubated because his blood oxygen levels weren’t sustainable.

He spoke to the doctor, who said: ‘We want to put a tube in, because we don’t think you’ll make it unless we do that.’

His chances of waking up were 50:50. He knew that. It was an unbelievably awful moment. He reluctantly agreed, and within a minute he was flat out on the ventilator. The doctor next to me said: ‘I don’t think we’ll see him again.’

When my shift was over, I went down to the rest area. One of the registrars told me he’d just had to phone the wife of the patient to say he’d been intubated.

‘We’re doing this, we all know it’s our duty, we’re coping with a second wave — but we can’t have a third,’ he said. Then he burst into tears.

That day, an article appeared in Spiked about the Government’s censorship of lockdown sceptics. ‘Shouldn’t we “expose” the government rather than its critics?’ says:

It’s true ‘lockdown sceptics’ have made mistakes. But the government’s survival depends on none of us ever understanding that lockdown sceptics are not in charge – it is.

they’re gunning for people like Sunetra Gupta, the professor of theoretical epidemiology at Oxford University … 

Pre-Covid, I would estimate 97 per cent of the population couldn’t have picked Matt Hancock out of a police line-up if he had just mugged them. So when he stood up in the House of Commons, last January, to state that ‘the Chinese city of Wuhan has been the site of an outbreak of 2019-nCoV’, there was no reason to doubt him when he said ‘the public can be assured that the whole of the UK is always well-prepared for these types of outbreaks’. In February, he explained ‘our belts and braces approach to protecting the public’ and insisted that ‘the clinical advice about the risk to the public has not changed and remains moderate’.

On 23 March, he made a complete volte-farce. (That was not a typo.) The ‘risk to the public’ wasn’t ‘moderate’ at all. ‘It is incredibly important that people stay more than two metres away from others wherever they are or stay at home wherever possible’, he told the Today programme, adding those who weren’t doing so were ‘very selfish’. Four days later, Hancock tested positive for coronavirus. Seven days after that (3 April), he opened the Nightingale hospital (‘a spectacular and almost unbelievable feat’), while ‘blowing his nose’ and not appearing ‘to be at 100 per cent’. Two days after that, he threatened to change the rules again so that people who weren’t ill couldn’t go outside at all: ‘If you don’t want us to have to take the step to ban exercise of all forms outside of your own home, then you’ve got to follow the rules’ …

We’ll skip over Hancock’s botching of track and trace, the dodgy private contracts he’s had a hand in rewarding, how he breaks the rules he makes for us while cracking jokes about it, or his intervention into the debate about whether scotch eggs constitute a ‘substantial meal’.

In the autumn of 2020, pubs could only open if they served a plate of food. Why, I do not know.

The article mentions Hancock’s tears on Good Morning Britain as he watched the first two people get the first doses of the vaccine. Then:

Days later, all this ‘emotion’ had gone down well, so Hancock did more of it – in parliament – announcing that his step-grandfather had died of Covid-19. (‘He was in a home and he had Alzheimer’s – the usual story’, Hancock’s father told the Daily Mail. ‘It was just a few weeks ago.’)

‘Beware of men who cry’, Nora Ephron once wrote. ‘It’s true that men who cry are sensitive to and in touch with feelings, but the only feelings they tend to be sensitive to and in touch with are their own.’ Was Hancock crying because he was devastated that his step-grandfather was not kept alive long enough to receive the vaccine (suffering from Alzheimer’s – so it would not be a leap to fear – bewildered, confused, and very likely denied the comfort of the touch of anyone he loved for most of the year)? Or was it because the political survival of the Conservative government depends on being proved right about lockdown – and that depends on one thing: the vaccine …

Hancock told the Spectator that Covid-19 will never be eradicated. But he sees no reason for his extraordinary powers as health secretary to cease even if – by some miracle – it does. In late November, Hancock told a Commons health and science committee that he wants to end the British culture of ‘soldiering on’. Having built a ‘massive diagnostics capacity’, he said, ‘we must hold on to it. And afterwards we must use it not just for coronavirus, but everything. In fact, I want to have a change in the British way of doing things, where if in doubt, get a test. It doesn’t just refer to coronavirus, but to any illness that you might have.’

The idea that we would continue to test, track and trace healthy people who have cold symptoms is so psychotic it’s a struggle to understand whether the man is even aware of how many people weren’t tested for cancer last year. The only hero in this context is Professor Sunetra Gupta. All she’s done is express her fears that lockdown – long-term – will do more harm than good – which is what she believes. In China, Zhang Zhan was also worried that people were dying and the government didn’t want anyone to know about it, so she tried her best to warn everyone in society that more people were going to die if nothing was done. If China had been honest about the outbreak from the start, maybe, just maybe, 100,000 lives would have been saved from Covid-19 here …

Maybe anyone who shares Gupta’s fears are ‘fringe cranks’, but ‘fringe cranks’ have as much right to say what they think as anyone else. And especially when the government has stripped us of all our rights to do pretty much anything else, while refusing to reveal when – if ever – our rights will be returned. This isn’t China. It’s Britain. And we do things differently here. Or at least we used to – in those halcyon days when none of us had a clue who Matt Hancock was

Friday, January 29:

Scandalous behaviour by certain care home operators, who are unscrupulously using staff with Covid. Inspectors have identified no fewer than 40 places where this is happening.

Wow. I am shocked. It underlines why we need to make jabs mandatory for people working in social care. The PM supports me on this.

February 2021

Monday, February 1:

A YouGov poll suggests 70 per cent of Britons think the Government is handling the vaccine rollout well, while 23 per cent think we’re doing badly. I forwarded it to [NHS England chief executive] Simon Stevens.

‘Who the heck are the 23 per cent, for goodness’ sake!!’ he replied.

I don’t know. Maybe the same 20 per cent of people who believe UFOs have landed on Earth? Or the five million Brits who think the Apollo moon landings were faked?

Thursday, February 4:

Tobias Ellwood [Tory MP] thinks GPs are deliberately discouraging patients from using vaccination centres so they get their jabs in GP surgeries instead. I’m sure he’s right. That way, the GPs make more money.

On Saturday, February 6, The Telegraph reported that Hancock wanted to ‘take control of the NHS’. Most Britons would agree that something needs to be done — just not by him:

 

On Sunday, February 7, The Express‘s Health and Social Affairs editor said a specialist thought that the Government was using virus variants to control the public. Many would have agreed with that assessment:

Monday, February 8:

We’ve now vaccinated almost a quarter of all adults in the UK!

Also that day:

I’ve finally, finally got my way on making vaccines mandatory for people who work in care homes.

Because of that, a lot of employees resigned from their care home posts and have gone into other work, especially hospitality.

A poll that day showed that the public was happy with the Government’s handling of the pandemic. John Rentoul must have looked at the wrong line in the graph. Rishi Sunak, then Chancellor, came out the best for shaking the magic money tree:

On Tuesday, February 9, Hancock proposed 10-year jail sentences for people breaking travel restrictions. This referred to people travelling from ‘red list’ countries, but, nonetheless, pointed to a slippery slope:

The Conservative Woman‘s co-editor and qualified barrister Laura Perrins pointed out a logic gap in sentencing:

Spiked agreed with Perrins’s assessment in ‘Matt Hancock is behaving like a tyrant’:

Health secretary Matt Hancock announced new, staggeringly authoritarian enforcement measures in the House of Commons today.

Passengers returning from one of the 33 designated ‘red list’ countries will have to quarantine in government-approved hotels from next week. Anyone who lies on their passenger-locator form about whether they have visited one of these countries faces imprisonment for up to 10 years. As the Telegraph’s assistant head of travel, Oliver Smith, has pointed out, this is longer than some sentences for rape (the average sentence is estimated to be eight years).

In addition, passengers who fail to quarantine in hotels when required to do so will face staggering fines of up to £10,000.

This is horrifying. Of course, we need to take steps to manage the arrival of travellers from countries with high levels of infection, particularly since different variants of Covid have emerged. But to threaten people with a decade behind bars or a life-ruining fine for breaching travel rules is a grotesque abuse of state power.

During the pandemic, we have faced unprecedented attacks on our civil liberties. We have been ordered to stay at home and have been banned from socialising under the threat of fines. But this latest move is the most draconian yet …

we have now reached the stage where a 10-year sentence is considered an appropriate punishment for lying on a travel form.

Matt Hancock is behaving like a tyrant.

Meanwhile, Hancock’s fellow Conservative MPs wanted answers as to when lockdown would end. The Mail reported:

Furious Tories savaged Matt Hancock over a ‘forever lockdown‘ today after the Health Secretary warned border restrictions may need to stay until autumn — despite figures showing the UK’s epidemic is firmly in retreat.

Lockdown-sceptic backbenchers took aim at Mr Hancock when he unveiled the latest brutal squeeze aimed at preventing mutant coronavirus strains getting into the country …

… hopes the world-beating vaccine roll-out will mean lockdown curbs can be significantly eased any time soon were shot down today by Mr Hancock, who unveiled the latest suite of border curbs and warned they could last until the Autumn when booster vaccines will be available.  

As of Monday travellers from high-risk ‘red list’ countries will be forced to spend 10 days in ‘quarantine hotels’, and all arrivals must test negative three times through gold-standard PCR coronavirus tests before being allowed to freely move around the UK. Anyone who lies about whether they have been to places on the banned list recently will face up to 10 years in prison. 

The fallout continued the next day. See below.

Wednesday, February 10:

Meg Hillier [Labour MP], who chairs the Public Accounts Committee, has started an infuriating campaign accusing ‘Tory ministers’ of running a ‘chumocracy’ over PPE contracts. How pitifully low. I’m incandescent.

What Meg fails to acknowledge is that when the pandemic kicked off, of course we had to use the emergency procedure for buying, which allows officials to move fast and not tender everything for months.

And when people got in contact [about] PPE, of course we forwarded on the proposals for civil servants to look at.

Even the Labour Party were getting involved — it was a national crisis and these leads have proved invaluable.

[Shadow Chancellor] Rachel Reeves wrote to Michael Gove at the time, complaining that a series of offers weren’t being taken up. Officials looked into her proposals, too.

I’m even more offended because I used to respect Meg. It’s so offensive for a supposedly grown-up politician to bend the truth in this way.

Labour’s Deputy Leader Angela Rayner was angry at the Conservatives. What else is new?

This story has not gone away. There was a debate about it in the Commons this month.

Fallout continued from February 9 over Hancock’s never-ending lockdown.

His fellow Conservative, Sir Charles Walker MP, gave an interview saying that Hancock was ‘robbing people of hope’. He was also appalled by the prospect of a 10-year prison term for travelling from a red list country:

With regard to lockdowns, recall that at the end of 2020, Hancock said that only the vulnerable needed vaccinating, then we could all, in his words, ‘Cry freedom’. In the space of a few weeks, he had a change of tune:

Thursday, February 11:

So here we are, in the depths of the bleakest lockdown, with the virus still picking off hundreds of victims every week, and Test and Trace officials have been having secret talks about scaling back. Unbelievable!

I told them there was no way they should stand down any lab capacity, but I’m told they’re getting a very different signal from the Treasury.

Friday, February 12:

The Left never ceases to amaze. The bleeding hearts who run North West London CCG (one of many health quangos nobody will miss when they’re abolished) have taken it upon themselves to prioritise vaccinating asylum seekers. They have fast-tracked no fewer than 317 such individuals — ‘predominantly males in their 20s and 30s’.

So, while older British citizens quietly wait their turn, we are fast-tracking people who aren’t in high-risk categories and may not even have any right to be here?

Meanwhile, some of our vaccine supply has met an untimely end. I’d just reached the end of a tricky meeting when a sheepish-looking official knocked on my office door. He’d been dispatched to inform me that half a million doses of the active ingredient that makes up the vaccine have gone down the drain.

Some poor lab technician literally dropped a bag of the vaccine on the floor. Half a million doses in one dropped bag! I decided not to calculate how much Butter Fingers has cost us. Mistakes happen.

On February 22, CapX asked, ‘Why isn’t Matt Hancock in jail?’

It was about Labour’s accusations about procurement contracts for the pandemic. The article comes out in Hancock’s favour:

On Thursday, Mr Justice Chamberlain sitting in the High Court ruled that Matt Hancock had acted unlawfully by failing to to publish certain procurement contracts

It is worth noting that there was no suggestion in Mr Justice Chamberlain’s judgment that Matt Hancock had any personal involvement in the delayed publication. The judgment was made against the Health Secretary, but in his capacity as a Government Minister and legal figurehead for his Department, rather than as a private citizen. In fact, the failure to publish was actually on the part of civil servants in the Department who, in the face of the pandemic, saw a more than tenfold increase in procurement by value and struggled to keep up.

Indeed, on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Mr Hancock did not apologise for the unlawful delays, saying it was “the right thing to do” to prioritise getting the PPE to the frontline rather than ensuring timely transparency returns. I wonder how many of those calling for Mr Hancock’s imprisonment would rather he had published the contracts in the required timeframe even if it meant there was less PPE available for NHS workers.

As a general rule, we should be able to see how the Government spends our money, what it is spent on and to whom it is given. Transparency improves governance. It is right that the Secretary of State is under a legal duty to publish contracts such as those at the heart of this case. However, this case – and the way it has been reported – is likely to have a much more invidious impact than simply improving transparency in public procurement policy.

Opposition politicians and activists have attacked the Government with claims that it has been using procurement during the pandemic as a way to funnel money to its political supporters and donors. It is certainly true that the sums spent by the Government have been large, and have been spent quickly.

What is certainly not true is that Mr Justice Chamberlain in his judgment gave any credence to this line of attack. He accepted evidence from an official at the Department of Health and Social Care that the delay was due to increased volume in contracts and lack of staff. However, that has not stopped figures linking the judgment to the attack line, such as Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth who tweeted that the delay was ‘Cronyism’. In fact, there was no evidence to suggest that was so.

Vanishingly few people will read Mr Justice Chamberlain’s judgment in full, or even in part. Most people will only see the headlines in the press. Coupled with tweets such as those by Mr Ashworth, the public at large is likely to come to the conclusion that a court has found against the Government for cronyism, when that is not the case. And this will likely fuel further resentment that the Cabinet are not serving decades behind bars.

Justice must be done and it must be seen to be done. Justice has been done in this case – the Secretary of State has been found to have acted unlawfully – but too many lack the ability and willingness to see.

Sunday, February 28:

A potentially dangerous new variant — which we think originated in Brazil — has been identified in the UK, but we can’t find Patient Zero. Whoever it is failed to provide the correct contact details when they took their Covid test, so we don’t know who or where they are. Cue a frantic search.

March 2021

Monday, March 1:

When a lab technician first spotted the new variant, we didn’t even know which part of the country the positive test had come from. Since then, thanks to some fancy sequencing and a high-quality data system, we’ve been able to identify the batch of home-test kits involved, and narrowed it down to just 379 possible households. We’re now contacting every single one.

Tuesday, March 2:

The net’s closing. We now know that the PCR test was processed at 00.18hrs on Valentine’s Day and went to the lab via a mailing centre in Croydon [south London].

Thursday, March 4:

Test and Trace have found Patient Zero! He was on the shortlist of 379 households and eventually returned calls from officials at 4 pm yesterday.

Apparently, he tried to register his test but got the details wrong. We now know his name and age (38) and that he has been very ill. He claims not to have left his house for 18 days.

This is extremely good news: assuming he’s telling the truth, he has not been out and about super-spreading. What amazing detective work.

Friday, March 5:

Covid deaths have nearly halved within a week. The vaccine is clearly saving lives.

On Saturday, March 6, The Conservative Woman‘s Laura Perrins, a qualified barrister, pointed out that mandatory vaccinations — she was probably thinking of health workers — is ‘criminal battery’:

Wednesday, March 10:

Can you imagine if we hadn’t bothered to set up a contact tracing system? And if we’d decided it was all too difficult and expensive to do mass testing? Would we ever have been forgiven if we’d failed to identify clusters of cases or new variants?

No — and rightly so. Yet a cross-party committee of MPs has come to the conclusion that Test and Trace was basically a gigantic waste of time and money. I felt the red mist descend.

Yesterday, we did 1.5 million tests — in a single day! No other European country has built such a capability.

Thursday, March 11 (see photo):

The Test and Trace row is rumbling on, as is a ridiculous story about me supposedly helping a guy who used to be the landlord of my local pub in Suffolk land a multi-million-pound Covid contract. As I’ve said ad nauseam, I’ve had nothing to do with awarding Covid contracts. I find these attacks on my integrity incredibly hurtful.

The story rumbles on in Parliament, including in a debate this month.

Friday, March 12:

Oh well, at least [retired cricketer, see January’s entries] Geoffrey Boycott is happy. He texted me to say he’d got his second dose. He seems genuinely grateful. I resisted the temptation to tell him that good things come to those who wait.

Tuesday, March 16:

To my astonishment, hotel quarantine is working. There’s a weird new variant from the Philippines, but the two cases we’ve identified have gone no further than their Heathrow airport hotel rooms.

Wednesday, March 17:

Today was my son’s birthday. We had breakfast together, but there was no way I could join the birthday tea with family. I hope to make it up to him — to all of them — when all this is over.

On Tuesday, March 23, the first anniversary of lockdown, Boris did the coronavirus briefing. Below is a list of all the Cabinet members who had headed the briefings in the previous 12 months. I saw them all:

On Wednesday, March 24, Hancock announced the creation of the sinister sounding UK Health Security Agency. SAGE member Dr Jenny Harries is at its helm:

Tuesday, March 30:

How did Covid start? A year on, we still don’t really know, and there’s still an awful lot of pussyfooting around not wanting to upset the Chinese.

No surprise to learn that the Foreign Office has ‘strong views on diplomacy’ — in other words, they won’t rock the boat with Beijing and just want it all to go away.

Sometime in March, because magazine editions are always a month ahead, the publisher of Tatler, Kate Slesinger, enclosed a note with the April edition, which had Boris’s then-partner/now-wife Carrie Symonds on the cover. It began:

As I write this letter, the Prime Minister has just announced an extension to the nationwide lockdown, to be reviewed at around the time this Tatler April issue goes on sale — an opportune moment for us to be taking an in-depth look into the world of Carrie Symonds, possibly the most powerful woman in Britain right now.

April

On April 5, a furious Laura Perrins from The Conservative Woman tweeted that Hancock’s policies were ‘absolute fascism’, especially as we had passed the one year anniversary of lockdown and restrictions on March 23:

Note that lateral flow tests, as Hancock tweeted above, were free on the NHS. The programme continued for a year.

Tuesday, April 13:

The civil service seems determined to kill off the Covid dogs idea, which is so much more versatile than normal testing and really worthwhile. The animals are amazing – they get it right over 90 per cent of the time – but officials are being very tricky.

We should have started training dogs months ago and then sending them to railway stations and other busy places, where they could identify people who probably have Covid so they can then get a conventional test.

Unfortunately, even though I’ve signed off on it, the system just doesn’t buy it.

So far we’ve done a successful Phase 1 trial, but Phase 2, which costs £2.5 million, has hit the buffers. The civil service have come up with no fewer than 11 reasons to junk the idea.

That’s one idea I actually like. It sounds great.

On Friday, April 16, someone posted a video of Hancock breezing into No. 10. He had his mask on outside for the cameras, then whisked it off once he entered. Hmm. The person posting it wrote, ‘The hypocrisy and lies need to stop!

That day, the BBC posted that Hancock had financial interests in a company awarded an NHS contract — in 2019:

Health Secretary Matt Hancock owns shares in a company which was approved as a potential supplier for NHS trusts in England, it has emerged.

In March, he declared he had acquired more than 15% of Topwood Ltd, which was granted the approved status in 2019.

The firm, which specialises in the secure storage, shredding and scanning of documents, also won £300,000 of business from NHS Wales this year.

A government spokesman said there had been no conflict of interest.

He also said the health secretary had acted “entirely properly”.

But Labour said there was “cronyism at the heart of this government” and the party’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth has asked the head of the civil service to investigate whether Mr Hancock breached the ministerial code.

In March this year, Mr Hancock declared in the MPs’ register of interests that he had acquired more than 15% of the shares in Topwood, under a “delegated management arrangement”.

Public contract records show that the company was awarded a place in the Shared Business Services framework as a potential supplier for NHS local trusts in 2019, the year after Mr Hancock became health secretary.

The MPs’ register did not mention that his sister Emily Gilruth – involved in the firm since its foundation in 2002 – owns a larger portion of the shares and is a director, or that Topwood has links to the NHS – as first reported by the Guido Fawkes blog and Health Service Journal.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “Matt Hancock has to answer the questions… He can’t pretend that the responsibility lies elsewhere.”

But he said he was “not suggesting” the health secretary had broken any rules.

Here’s photographic proof of share ownership:

Saturday, April 17:

Prince Philip’s funeral. The Queen sat alone in a pew, in widow’s weeds and a black face mask. Looking at her in her grief, I felt an intense internal conflict, almost an anguish, between the overwhelming sense of duty I have had to save lives on the one hand and the painful consequences of my own decisions on the other. Out of duty, out of an abundance of caution, and to show leadership, the Queen took the most proper approach. It was humbling, and I felt wretched.

Monday, April 19:

The police rang to warn me that anti-vaxxers are planning a march on my London home. They suggested I liaise with [my wife] Martha so she can tell me if it’s happening.

Great that they spotted it, but asking my wife to keep an eye out of the window while a baying horde descends on the family home is not exactly British policing at its finest. I asked for more support. Then I went home to make sure I was there if it kicked off, but there was no sign of anyone.

A policeman explained that the anti-vaxxers had posted the wrong details on social media so were busy protesting a few streets away. What complete idiots.

Thursday, April 22:

Boris has completely lost his rag over Scotland.

He’s got it into his head that Nicola Sturgeon is going to use vaccine passports to drive a wedge between Scotland and the rest of the UK and is harrumphing around his bunker, firing off WhatsApps like a nervous second lieutenant in a skirmish.

He’s completely right: Sturgeon has tried to use the pandemic to further her separatist agenda at every turn.

Now the Scottish government is working on its own system of vaccine certification, which might or might not link up with what’s being developed for the rest of the UK.

On April 26, the vaccine was rolled out to the general population. Hancock is pictured here at Piccadilly Circus:

I cannot tell you how many phone calls and letters we got in the ensuing weeks. Not being early adopters of anything, we finally succumbed in early July, again a few months later and at the end of the year for the booster.

On April 29, Hancock and Deputy Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam had a matey vaccination session together, with ‘JVT’, as Hancock called him, doing the honours:

May

Saturday, May 1:

Another outright death threat today in my inbox that said simply: ‘I am going to kill you.’ Lovely. The threats from online anti-vaxxers are getting far more frequent and violent.

As a result, I’m now being assessed for the maximum level of government security.

Tuesday, May 4:

Today, I was out campaigning for the local elections in Derbyshire. Gina [Coladangelo, adviser] drove me up. My relationship with Gina is changing.

Having spent so much time talking about how to communicate in an emotionally engaged way, we are getting much closer.

On Wednesday, May 12, the London Evening Standard interviewed Hancock. ‘Matt Hancock: Let’s put our year of hell behind us’ is more interesting now than it was then:

Matt Hancock today struck his most upbeat note yet on easing many of the remaining lockdown restrictions next month, with Britain set to be “back to life as normal” within a year.

The Health Secretary, who has been one of the most powerful voices arguing for lockdown to save thousands of lives, stressed that the Government would lay out the low risks of further Covid-19 infections if, as expected, it presses ahead with the final relaxation stage in June.

“Our aim on the 21st is to lift as many of the measures/restrictions as possible,” he told the Standard’s editor Emily Sheffield in a studio interview aired today for its online London Rising series to spur the city’s recovery from the pandemic. “We’ve been putting in place all these rules that you’d never have imagined — you’re not allowed to go and hug who you want,” while adding he hadn’t seen his own mother since July and he was looking forward to hugging her.

“I am very gregarious,” he added, “and I really want to also get back to the verve of life. For the last year, we have had people literally asking ministers, ‘Who can I hug?’”

Mr Hancock also criticised as “absolutely absurd” protests outside AstraZeneca’s offices in Cambridge, where demonstrators have been calling for the pharmaceutical giant to openly licence its vaccine. He stressed that the Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs were already being offered to many countries “around the world” at cost price.

During the interview, for the business and tech section of London Rising, he admitted being too busy to keep a diary of the year’s extraordinary events.

He also said he hadn’t had time to help with the housework as he was “working full-time” on the pandemic and that he had spent more hours than he cared to remember in his home “red room” office, which went viral.

In a boost for going back to offices, he admitted that he was now back at Whitehall, adding: “I get most of my work done there.”

He also said he had not heard Mr Johnson say he was prepared to see “bodies pile high” rather than order another lockdown, a phrase the Prime Minister has denied using, saying: “No I never heard him talk in those terms.” But he admitted there were very lengthy, serious debates and “my job is to articulate the health imperative”.

He added: “By this time next year, large swathes of people will have had a booster jab. That means we’ll be able to deal with variants, not just the existing strains, and I think we’ll be back to life as normal.”

In the interview, Mr Hancock also:

    • Warned that another pandemic hitting the UK was “inevitable” and “we’ve got to be ready and more ready than last time. Hence, we are making sure we have got vaccines that could be developed in 100 days and the onshore manufacturing” and that health chiefs would be better equipped to defeat it …
    • Told how he hoped that England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, his deputy Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance are “properly thanked” for their work in steering the country through the crisis. Pressed on whether they should be elevated to the Lords, he said: “That’s a matter for Her Majesty the Queen”
    • Backed Boris Johnson, enjoying a “vaccines bounce” which is believed to have contributed to Tory success in the recent elections, to be Tory leader for a decade.

Indeed, the Queen did reward Whitty, Van-Tam and Vallance with knighthoods.

Boris seemed invincible at that point, until Partygate emerged in November that year. Someone was out to get him. They succeeded.

Four days later, on May 16, Wales Online reported ‘Matt Hancock sets date for next lockdown announcement; he also says local lockdowns are not ruled out’. This is interesting, as he seemed to walk back what he told the Evening Standard:

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed the date for the next lockdown lifting announcement by the Government, but has said local lockdowns ‘have not been ruled out’.

Speaking on Sky News this morning Mr Hancock said their strategy was to continue with the lockdown lifting roadmap as planned, but said they would be monitoring the data very closely.

He said there had been just over 1,300 cases of the Indian variant detected in the country so far, with fears it could be 50% more infectious than Kent Covid.

Mr Hancock said: “It is becoming the dominant strain in some parts of the country, for instance in Bolton and in Blackburn.” But he said it has also been detected ‘in much lower numbers’ in other parts of the country

He added: “We need to be cautious, we need to be careful, we need to be vigilant.”

Asked if lockdown lifting could be reversed he said: “I very much hope not.” but on local lockdowns he said: “We haven’t ruled that out.”

Mr Hancock said: “We will do what it takes to keep the public safe as we learn more about this particular variant and the virus overall.”

The Health Secretary said an announcement on the next stage of lockdown lifting would be made on June 14

It was thought at the time that lockdown would be lifted on June 21.

Wednesday, May 26:

Dominic Cummings has told a select committee I should have been fired ‘for at least 15-20 things, including lying to everybody on multiple occasions’.

Apparently I lied about PPE, lied about patients getting the treatment they needed, lied about this and lied about that.

Later, the PM called. ‘Don’t you worry, Matt. No one believes a word he says. I’m sorry I ever hired him. You’re doing a great job — and history will prove you right. Bash on!’

I went to bed thinking, ‘Thank goodness I kept vaccines out of Dom’s destructive hands or that would have been a disaster like everything else he touched.’

I watched that session. Everyone was at fault except for Dominic Cummings. Anyone who presents himself in such a way is probably not all he seems.

Thursday, May 27:

When I got into work, I heard that the Prof [Whitty] had called my private office volunteering to support me in public if need be.

This spectacular vote of confidence meant the most.

Shortly before I headed home, [Defence Secretary] Ben Wallace sent a nice message asking if I was OK. ‘The Cummings evidence can be summed up as the ‘ramblings of a tw*t’,’ he said.

Also:

Of all the many accusations Dom Cummings has hurled at me, the media seem most interested in his claims that I lied about the arrangements surrounding hospital discharges into care homes at the beginning of the pandemic.

Annoyingly, it was only after this evening’s [Downing Street] press conference that I received some very pertinent PHE [Public Health England] data. They analysed all the Covid cases in care homes from January to October last year and found that just 1.2 per cent could be traced back to hospitals.

The vast majority of infections were brought in from the wider community, mainly by staff.

Overall, England did no worse at protecting care home residents than many countries, and better than someincluding Scotland, where [Nicola] Sturgeon’s team has been responsible for decision-making. Regardless, the awfulness of what the virus did to people in care homes around the world will stay with me for the rest of my life.

That day, YouGov published the results of a poll asking if Hancock should resign. Overall, 36% thought he should and 31% thought he should remain in post:

Saturday, May 29:

Boris and Carrie got married at Westminster Cathedral. I’m not entirely sure how much the PM’s mind was on his future with his beloved, though, because this afternoon he was busy texting me about the latest Covid data.

‘Lower cases and deaths today. So definitely ne panique pas,’ I told him.

Then again, perhaps he’s just very good at multi-tasking and can examine infection graphs, pick bits of confetti off his jacket and give his new bride doe-eyed looks all at the same time.

Sunday, May 30:

‘Keep going, we have seen off Cummings’s bungled assassination,’ Boris messaged cheerfully.

It was lunchtime and the PM didn’t appear to be having any kind of honeymoon, or even half a day off.

Nevertheless, that day, the Mail on Sunday reported that the Conservatives were beginning to slip in the polls and had more on Cummings’s testimony to the select committee:

The extraordinary salvo launched by Mr Cummings during a hearing with MPs last week appears to be taking its toll on the government, with a new poll suggesting the Tory lead has been slashed by more than half. 

Keir Starmer tried to turn the screw today, accusing Mr Johnson and his ministers of being busy ‘covering their own backs’ to combat the Indian coronavirus variant.

The Labour leader said ‘mistakes are being repeated’ as the Government considers whether to go ahead with easing restrictions on June 21.

‘Weak, slow decisions on border policy let the Indian variant take hold,’ he said.

‘Lack of self-isolation support and confused local guidance failed to contain it.

‘We all want to unlock on June 21 but the single biggest threat to that is the Government’s incompetence’ …

Mr Cummings, the Prime Minister’s former adviser, told MPs on Wednesday that ‘tens of thousands’ had died unnecessarily because of the Government’s handling of the pandemic and accused Mr Hancock of ‘lying’ about testing for care home residents discharged from hospital – a claim he denies. 

Separately, the Sunday Times highlighted an email dated March 26 from social care leaders warning Mr Hancock that homes were being ‘pressured’ to take patients who had not been tested and had symptoms.

Lisa Lenton, chair of the Care Provider Alliance at the time, told Mr Hancock managers were ‘terrified’ about ‘outbreaks’.

‘The following action MUST be taken: All people discharged from hospital to social care settings (eg care homes, home care, supported living) MUST be tested before discharge,’ she wrote.

However, the government’s guidance on testing was not updated until April 15.

Instructions issued by the Department of Health and the NHS on March 19 2020 said ‘discharge home today should be the default pathway’, according to the Sunday Telegraph – with no mention of testing …  

An insider told the Sun on Sunday on the spat between Mr Johnson and Mr Hancock: ‘Boris returned from convalescence at Chequers when he heard the news. He was incensed. 

‘Matt had told him point blank tests would be carried out. He couldn’t understand why they hadn’t been. For a moment he lost it with Matt, shouting ”What a f***ing mess”.

‘At least three ministers told Boris Matt should be sacked.’

However, Mr Johnson refused to axe Mr Hancock reportedly saying that losing the health secretary during a pandemic would be ‘intolerable’.  

Sir Keir said the situation in care homes had been a ‘betrayal’, adding: ‘We may never know whether Boris Johnson said Covid ”was only killing 80-year olds” when he delayed a second lockdown.

‘What we do know is that the man charged with keeping them safe showed callous disregard for our elderly, as he overlooked the incompetence of his Health Secretary.’

June

Tuesday, June 1:

For the first time since last summer, there were no Covid deaths reported yesterday. We really are coming out of this.

Things might have looked good for Hancock at the beginning of the month, but the mood would sour rapidly.

England’s 2021 reopening on June 21 looked as if it would not happen. Not surprisingly, members of the public were not happy.

On June 6, Essex publican Adam Brooks tweeted Hancock’s words about personal responsibility back at him, calling him a ‘liar’:

Brooks, who owned two pubs at the time, followed up later, threatening that the hospitality industry would issue another legal challenge to coronavirus restrictions:

The next day, June 7, The Sun sounded the death knell for a reopening on June 21:

BRITS’ holiday hopes have been dashed AGAIN as Matt Hancock warns that the new variants are the “biggest challenging” to our domestic freedom.

The Health Secretary told MPs that restoring international travel is an “important goal” – but is one that will be “challenging and hard.”

Health Secretary Mr Hancock said the return to domestic freedom must be “protected at all costs”.

It comes after he confirmed that over-25s in England will be invited to receive their Covid jabs from Tuesday as the Delta variant “made the race between the virus and this vaccination effort tighter”.

Matt Hancock told the Commons this afternoon: “Restoring travel in the medium term is an incredibly important goal.

“It is going to be challenging, it’s going to be hard because of the risk of new variants and new variants popping up in places like Portugal which have an otherwise relatively low case rate.

“But the biggest challenge, and the reason this is so difficult, is that a variant that undermines the vaccine effort obviously would undermine the return to domestic freedom.

“And that has to be protected at all costs.”

The Health Secretary added: “No-one wants our freedoms to be restricted a single day longer than is necessary.

“I know the impact that these restrictions have on the things we love, on our businesses, on our mental health.

“I know that these restrictions have not been easy and with our vaccine programme moving at such pace I’m confident that one day soon freedom will return.”

This comes as desperate Brits have flooded airports as they race against the clock to get back to the UK before Portugal is slapped onto the amber travel list.

The next day, nutritionist Gillian McKeith tweeted her disgust with Hancock:

On Wednesday, June 9, the Health and Social Care Select Committee, which former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt headed, posed questions to Hancock in a coronavirus inquiry session:

On Thursday, June 10, The Guardian reported that Dominic Cummings would tell all about coronavirus as well as Brexit on his new Substack:

Dominic Cummings is planning to publish a paid-for newsletter in which subscribers can learn about his time inside Downing Street.

Boris Johnson’s former top aide has launched a profile on Substack, a platform that allows people to sign up to newsletter mailing lists.

In a post on the site, Cummings said he would be giving out information on the coronavirus pandemic for free, as well as some details of his time at Downing Street.

However, revelations about “more recondite stuff on the media, Westminster, ‘inside No 10’, how did we get Brexit done in 2019, the 2019 election etc” will be available only to those who pay £10 a month for a subscription …

It follows Cummings taking aim at Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock, and the government in general as part of evidence given last month to the health and social care select committee and the science and technology committee.

Cummings, who left Downing Street after a behind-the-scenes power struggle in November last year, accused the health secretary of lying, failing on care homes and “criminal, disgraceful behaviour” on testing.

However, the parliamentary committees said Cummings’s claims would remain unproven because he had failed to provide supporting evidence.

On Friday, June 11, Labour MP Graham Stringer — one of the few Opposition MPs I admire — told talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer that ‘things went badly wrong’ on Hancock’s watch and that the Health Secretary should not have ‘blamed scientific advice’:

On Monday, June 14, talkRADIO’s Mike Graham told listeners forced to cancel a holiday to sue Hancock, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, SAGE and ‘every single one of them, personally’, otherwise ‘they will think they’ve won’:

Friday, June 18:

[Lingerie tycoon] Baroness (Michelle) Mone has sent me an extraordinarily aggressive email complaining that a company she’s helping isn’t getting the multi-million-pound contracts it deserves.

She claims the firm, which makes lateral flow test kits, ‘has had a dreadful time’ trying to cut through red tape and demanded my ‘urgent help’ before it all comes out in the media.

‘I am going to blow this all wide open,’ she threatened.

In essence, she’s not at all happy that a U.S. company called Innova has secured so many contracts while others ‘can’t get in the game’. She claims test kits made by the company she’s representing, and by several others, have all passed rigorous quality control checks but only Innova is getting the business.

‘This makes it a monopoly position for Innova, who to date have received £2.85 billion in orders,’ she complained.

By the end of the email, she seemed to have worked herself into a complete frenzy and was throwing around wild accusations. ‘I smell a rat here. It is more than the usual red tape, incompetence and bureaucracy. That’s expected! I believe there is corruption here at the highest levels and a cover-up is taking place . . . Don’t say I didn’t [warn] you when Panorama or Horizon run an exposé documentary on all this.’

She concluded by urging me to intervene ‘to prevent the next bombshell being dropped on the govt’. I read the email again, stunned. Was she threatening me? It certainly looked that way.

Her tests, I am told, have not passed validation — which would explain why the company hasn’t won any contracts. I will simply not reply. I won’t be pushed around by aggressive peers representing commercial clients.

In December 2022, Baroness Mone announced that she would be taking a leave of absence from the House of Lords. Her Wikipedia entry states:

Mone became a Conservative life peer in 2015. From 2020 to 2022, in a series of investigative pieces, The Guardian reported that Mone and her children had secretly received £29 million of profits to an offshore trust from government PPE contracts, which she had lobbied for during the COVID-19 pandemic. The House of Lords Commissioner for Standards and National Crime Agency launched investigations into Mone’s links to these contracts in January 2022. Mone announced in December 2022 that she was taking a leave of absence from the House of Lords “to clear her name” amid the allegations.

Also that day came news that, after Parliament voted on coronavirus restrictions that week — June 21 having been postponed to July 19 — the NHS waiting list was much larger than expected. It was thought to be 5 million but was actually 12 million:

LBC reported:

The Health Secretary told the NHS Confederation conference that up to 12.2 million people are in need of elective procedures delayed due to the pandemic.

This includes 5.1m people already on waiting lists.

Health bosses believe there could be as many as 7.1m additional patients who stayed away from hospitals because of the risk of Covid-19.

Mr Hancock told the NHS conference that there is “another backlog out there” and that he expected the numbers to rise even further.

NHS leaders have warned the backlog could take five years to clear

Prof Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, said the current wave of cases would “definitely translate into further hospitalisations”.

On Saturday, June 19, a YouTube video appeared, which has since been deleted. These are my notes on it:

June 19, coronavirus: 24 mins in — Matt Hancock says unvaccinated will not receive health treatment if NHS is overwhelmed, also mentioned are Birmingham deaths, FOIA Pfizer vaccine information forwarded to Special Branch re Warwickshire and four Birmingham hospitals; Mark Sexton, ex police constable – YouTube.

I have no idea what ensued.

On Friday, June 25, Dominic Cummings posted this article on his Substack: ‘More evidence on  how the PM’s & Hancock’s negligence killed people’.

It’s quite lengthy, but begins as follows:

Below is some further evidence including a note I sent on 26 April regarding how we could shift to Plan B with a serious testing system.

It helps people understand what an incredible mess testing was and why care homes were neglected. Hancock had failed terribly. The Cabinet Office did not have the people it needed to solve the problem. Many were screaming at me that Hancock was failing to act on care homes and spinning nonsense to the Cabinet table while thousands were dying in care homes.

There are clearly errors in my note but the fact that *I* had to write it tells you a lot about how the system had collapsed. As you can see it is a draft for a document that needed to exist but didn’t because Hancock had not done his job properly and was absorbed in planning for his press conference at the end of April, not care homes and a serious plan for test-trace.

The Sunday Times‘s Tim Shipman summed up the article with Boris Johnson’s impressions of test and trace:

Returning to Hancock, it was clear that he would have to go, but no one expected his departure would be so dramatic.

To be continued tomorrow.

 

My most recent post discussed Liz Truss’s commitment to libertarianism and the part she played in her own downfall.

At the end, I mused whether she would still be in office were she a man. Having thought about it some more, I do believe that would have been the case. Truss has better morals than Boris Johnson and more integrity than Rishi Sunak. Furthermore, she is far more trustworthy than our de facto Prime Minister, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt. She has flaws. They have flaws.

It is curious that all of them, men, are given a pass. Truss, an honest woman, was not afforded that opportunity.

Let us look at who was out to finish Liz Truss’s premiership.

The media

During the summer Conservative Party leadership campaign, most papers — right and left — came out in favour of Rishi Sunak.

Only the Daily Mail and The Telegraph consistently supported Truss. Truss also saw The Sun as a friendly paper, particularly its political editor Harry Cole.

Broadcast media also largely favoured Sunak. Only GB News supported Truss for the most part.

Why that was is unclear.

One could point to Truss’s U-turns, evident as soon as the leadership campaign for Party members’ votes started, but most of the media — print and broadcast — were already in the tank for Sunak when Conservative MPs were still voting in July.

On November 16, veteran columnist Andrew Gimson wrote about the media outlets covering Parliament, known as the ‘lobby’: ‘Lobby journalism holds power to account. But it’s often cruel, trivial — and unfair’.

Guido Fawkes liked what he had to say:

Gimson’s article for ConservativeHome discussed the attacks on other Conservative ministers in Rishi Sunak’s Cabinet. Suella Braverman, Home Secretary once again, is one of them and Justice Secretary/Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab is another.

Gimson says that journalists find their witch hunts as exhiliarating as blood sports (emphases mine):

Hunting is reckoned to improve the health of the fox population.

That is not, however, why people want to hunt them. They yearn to do so because it is a wonderful, exhilarating sport.

Forget for a moment any impulse to moralise. High-minded theories are all very well. Politics as actually practised is a blood sport.

Dominic Raab, Gavin Williamson and Suella Braverman are or were the most recent quarry, closely preceded by Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng, before which a blond beast rampaged across the political landscape for three years with excited members of the Westminster lobby in close pursuit.

Four of the six were hunted down, while Raab and Braverman have so far (with intermissions) survived, but might at any moment find themselves once more in mortal danger.

The lobby is trained and ready at a moment’s notice to follow any scent, no matter how faint, rival correspondents for different newspapers acting as a pack of hounds, each leaping at whichever politician is the hunted animal, drawing blood and emboldening the others to fresh frenzies of aggression …

It is impossible, if one is a lobby correspondent at Westminster, to stand aside from the full-blown crisis which rages, and any case, few experiences are more exhilarating than to be in at the death of a Prime Minister.

Every journalist, indeed everyone in the slightest bit interested in politics, will remember the first time he or she witnessed such a drama: in my case I was lucky enough in November 1990 to be in the Press Gallery to watch the fatal resignation speech delivered by Sir Geoffrey Howe, and 19 days later was in the crammed Committee Corridor on the evening it was announced amid almost unbearable excitement that Margaret Thatcher had fallen four votes – four votes! – short of beating Michael Heseltine by the necessary margin in the first round.

Such crises becomes all-consuming. You surrender yourself to the experience, and nothing else seems to matter. If you are a reporter, your news editor and editor demand constant reports from the front, and you want to distinguish yourself by revealing dramatic new charges, whether solid or flimsy, against the embattled minister, rather than just repeating what your rivals have said.

Such work requires the ruthless expertise to spot in an instant the two or three words in some dreary speech or answer which can be held to constitute a new development. The lobby are brilliant at this: they see the new angle, the incriminating admission, where a normal person would notice nothing.

News becomes an artificial commodity, an esoteric language only comprehensible to highly intelligent and practised correspondents, who translate it into the latest thrilling episode of a story which is intelligible to the dimmest of us, for it is as old as history: will the ruler live or die?

This question of life and death simplifies everything, and lends it a personal flavour. Does one like the look of whichever minister is just then being hunted, and hope he or she will get away? Or would one much rather see him or her bumped off?

The tyranny of the story extends to the comment pages. Leading articles and columns are written for or against the hunted person, most likely against, for it is much easier to write a vivid piece denouncing a politician for being disreputable than to compose a vivid defence.

In order to purify public life, the offending minister must be drummed out of it. Nothing which might serve this noble end is too cruel to be said; too piffling to be taken down and repeated.

Let the victim and his or her family cope as best they can. It would be wrong to spare them the full blast of public disgust. We find ourselves in a primitive world where human sacrifice is demanded; not in a rational one where events can be weighed and assigned their due importance, or unimportance

There is a deep satisfaction to be derived from getting rid of a Prime Minister, so deep that we have in recent years got rid of three. For a short time, very short in the case of Liz Truss, we allow them to triumph, before restoring equality, for which all democracies have a deep yearning, by dragging them down with brutal abruptness to our own level …

What the lobby does, or helps Conservative politicians to do, is the modern version of an ancient and savage tradition. All else is forgotten while the tribe slays its chief.

And no tribe is better at slaying its chiefs than the Conservative Party.

Afterwards, some enemies of the prey express their empathy for the slain, such as Jenny Murray did for Truss on October 27 in The Mail. Murray’s headline read ‘I never expected to feel sorry for Liz Truss’ and, upon closer inspection, she doesn’t really feel sorry at all. She uses the piece to lick her own wounds after retiring from the BBC at the age of 70:

I was not sorry to see her go. Her short time in power was a disaster.

I’d known her professionally for a good few years and had often found her a bit weird with her oddly truncated speech patterns, bizarre facial expressions and apparent lack of emotional intelligence. She was no public speaker and I certainly never saw her as Prime Ministerial material.

In that I was right, but despite her self-serving, unapologetic final speech and her typically arrogant and selfish, ‘Well at least I’ve been Prime Minister!’ goodbye, I can’t help sympathising with what she has to face next.

As an ordinary constituency MP, she’ll join what I have dubbed, from bitter personal experience, the ‘Once I Was Hot, But Now I’m Not,’ club. I know she’ll be asking herself, ‘Who am I now?’

It’s two years since I left the job that defined me for 33 years. I was Jenni Murray, presenter of Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.

It had been my greatest ambition since childhood. I’d presented Newsnight and Today, but the moment I heard the announcer first say on Monday, September 14, 1987, ‘And now Woman’s Hour, with Jenni Murray’ remains the most thrilling of my life.

I loved every minute of those 33 years and, unlike Liz Truss, I was not forced out of my position (though even when you leave a top job of your own volition, it doesn’t stop others speculating). I made the choice to leave as my 70th birthday came and went.

So, nothing like Liz Truss after all. The rest of Murray’s lengthy column is all about herself. Sickening.

On a positive note, I was surprised to read that Andrew Neil, normally a supporter of the status quo, supported Truss and Kwarteng’s mini-budget just after it was announced in Parliament:

After 12 years of Tory government we finally get a Tory budget. Yesterday’s not-so-mini-budget was a watershed event, taking the country in a new economic direction and creating clear blue water between government and opposition.

The Tory faithful couldn’t quite believe it. Labour struggled to grapple with its implications. The political dividing lines will now be starker and fiercer than they’ve been for a generation.

No more tax rises by stealth (or, more recently, in plain sight). Or endless, futile tinkering with the minutiae of spending and taxation to give voters a false impression of constructive activity. Or the relentless doling out of taxpayers’ dosh to whatever fashionable vested interests managed to catch ministers’ attention.

Instead, Prime Minister Liz Truss and her Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, junked all of that in favour of one overriding economic priority: higher economic growth. Many of the verities of Britain’s economic establishment have been slaughtered in the process

Scrapping next April’s planned rise in corporation tax (on businesses’ profits) won’t win any popularity contests outside company boardrooms. But an essential part of Britain’s post-Brexit future is surely to be a magnet for foreign investment. Whacking up the country’s key business tax was a strange way of going about it

New ways require new justifications. The Treasury estimates that abolishing the 45 per cent top rate of income tax will cost £2 billion a year.

This is a typically static official calculation. If it results in more top earners declaring their income in Britain, then it could soon more than pay for itself.

Ditto bankers’ bonuses. The cap is a relic of EU regulation. Banks simply increased pay to compensate for reduced bonuses, thereby making their compensation costs more fixed and less flexible.

Frankfurt, Paris and Amsterdam have tried hard to lure our financial services away from the City since Brexit, with only limited success. Bonuses in those centres are still capped. London now has the advantage.

And, remember, with the new top rate of tax at an internationally competitive 40 per cent, every £1 million banker’s bonus is £400,000 more for schools and hospitals

for more than a decade now I’ve watched chancellors take tough, painful decisions on tax and spending based on OBR borrowing forecasts that turned out to be huge over-estimates, so much so that in retrospect neither the tax rises nor spending cuts were necessary.

Indeed, as Truss attempts to take the country in a new, less orthodox direction, I’d argue that it’s a blessing that she’s been able to do so unencumbered by the OBR’s dubious forecasting.

We’ll get the OBR’s latest workings in two months anyway, when it might have a better idea of what 2023 will look like. Nor are we entirely in the dark. The Treasury says the tax cuts and energy price cap measures will increase borrowing this year from £162 billion to £234 billion — an extra £72 billion.

The IFS thinks we’ll still be borrowing £100 billion a year through the middle years of the decade.

These figures have spooked the markets. The pound continued its decline against the dollar after Kwarteng’s statement and the yield (or interest rate) on short-term government debt rose to close to 4 per cent, making it a lot more expensive to borrow than only two years ago, when it was 0.4 per cent.

These are real constraints on the Government’s ability to borrow even more. A falling pound merely fuels inflation, especially when it comes to imported energy, which is priced in dollars.

Interest rates are already rising. If excessive government borrowing forces them even higher, that will merely choke off the economic growth the Government so desperately seeks.

There’s another factor at work here. The global currency and debt markets have had a ‘down’ on Britain for some time. It’s not clear why. Britain’s debt-to-GDP ratio is among the lowest in the G7 club of big economies. Our budget deficit is on a par with many other major economies. Economic growth is anaemic — as it is everywhere, from the Eurozone to America to China.

I suspect it’s a Brexit hangover. The publications global market players read most closely include the New York Times, the Economist, the Financial Times and leading European papers such as Le Monde and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. All — and others like them — have been relentlessly negative about Britain since the 2016 referendum

It is said she’s taking a great gamble. That’s true. But sticking with the failed policies of the recent past was probably an even a bigger gamble. The stakes are certainly high.

If by this time next year the economy is still in the doldrums, then it’s not just Truss who will be finished. So will any prospect of the Tories winning the next election.

Read it and weep. We are back to square one.

There is much that the media didn’t tell us about the global picture of economic pandemonium.

Early in the week following Kwarteng’s mini-budget, US mortgage rates went up to 7%:

The EU’s average deficit is worse than the UK’s:

https://image.vuukle.com/9b30bb2c-838f-44c2-bf35-a8380d75711b-80a8ed1b-f697-4bc1-bc25-d18521aa563f

At the end of October, by which time Truss had gone, inflation in the Euro zone increased to 10.7% as growth slowed:

At the beginning of November, a Fed hike caused sterling to trade below £1.13 against the dollar:

And, finally, within three weeks of becoming Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak made new spending commitments, pledging billions to the world. This graphic appeared on November 7:

https://image.vuukle.com/afdabdfb-de55-452b-b000-43e4d45f1094-6f3d3b31-5e82-478e-b97c-3802370621e8

Objection from the media came none.

Conservative MPs

On October 20, in the immediate aftermath of Truss’s stoic resignation, The Sun gave us the reaction from three Conservative MPs:

Responding to today’s bombshell announcement, former minister and Red Wall poster boy Neil O’Brien tweeted: “The next PM must return to the national conservatism represented by our election winning 2019 manifesto and put us back on the side of normal working people.”

If anyone was going to have done that, it would have been Truss, for whom Party members voted in the majority. Sunak and Hunt certainly aren’t on the side of ‘normal working people’: tax ’em until the pips squeak.

Next up was Steve Baker, now an apologetic Northern Ireland Minister:

Brexit hardman Steve Baker urged colleagues that whatever the result, “we must accept and back the new Prime Minister”.

Millions of us wish he had shown the same allegiance towards Truss.

The only one to say anything complimentary was Greg Hands, who served as an International Trade Minister:

He said:

A dignified exit as Prime Minister from Liz Truss. A difficult day for the country, the Party and for Liz personally.

She wasn’t long as PM, but served at the Cabinet table longer than any of her three predecessors. She has long served the country – and I wish her very well.

At least Truss wasn’t removed from the top table Chinese-style:

On October 27, one week after Truss’s resignation, The Telegraph‘s Matthew Lynn said that backbench Conservatives just could not bring themselves to support Truss’s economic plan, which Kwasi Kwarteng fronted.

In other words, Conservative MPs shy away from libertarianism, even though I think it would do the UK a lot of good:

The timing, to put it mildly, was unfortunate. It was a difficult transformation to pull off at the best of times, but against the backdrop of rising inflation and an out-of-control dollar, it was doubly difficult. 

Truss’s programme did not have the necessary support within the Parliamentary Conservative Party either. Massive opposition from Labour, the Scottish Nationalists, and the Twitter mob was to be expected. 

But very few MPs were willing to support the plan, and without that backing it was always going to be hard to push through. Even before it got on to the genuinely difficult stuff – investment zones, planning reform, the green belt – the opposition was overwhelming. 

The Bank of England

Matthew Lynn points the finger of blame at the Bank of England (BoE):

the real failure of Trussonmics may well have been the fault of the Bank of England. As Narayana Kocherlakota, a former President of the Minneapolis Fed, and now Professor of Economics at New York’s Rochester University, argued in an opinion piece for Bloomberg this week, it was the Bank’s failure to support the gilt market that killed the plan

“The way the Truss government collapsed should concern all who support democracy,” he warned. 

In his Bloomberg article of October 26, Narayana Kocherlakota defended Truss and criticised the BoE:

Markets didn’t oust Truss, the Bank of England did — through poor financial regulation and highly subjective crisis management.

Truss won the leadership of the Conservative Party, which the UK electorate had voted into power, by promising a range of deep tax cuts and government spending increases. Whatever one might think of her policies, they were her mandate. I agree with the many observers who expected them to lead to higher inflation, higher interest rates and quite possibly higher unemployment. But such adverse outcomes take months and years to play out. Her government fell in a matter of weeks. How could this happen?

The common wisdom is that financial markets “punished” Truss’s government for its fiscal profligacy. But the chastisement was far from universal. Over the three days starting Sept. 23, when the Truss government announced its mini-budget, the pound fell by 2.2% relative to the euro, and the FTSE 100 stock index declined by 2.2% — notable movements, but hardly enough to bring a government to its knees.

The big change came in the price of 30-year UK government bonds, also known as gilts, which experienced a shocking 23% drop. Most of this decline had nothing to do with rational investors revising their beliefs about the UK’s long-run prospects. Rather, it stemmed from financial regulators’ failure to limit leverage in UK pension funds. These funds had bought long-term gilts with borrowed money and entered derivative contracts to the same effect — positions that generated huge collateral demands when prices fell and yields rose. To raise the necessary cash, they had to sell more gilts, creating a doom loop in which declining prices and forced selling compounded one another.

The Bank of England, as the entity responsible for overseeing the financial system, bears at least part of the blame for this catastrophe. As a result of its regulatory failure, it was forced into an emergency intervention, buying gilts to put a floor on prices. But it refused to extend its support beyond Oct. 14 — even though its purchases of long-term government bonds were fully indemnified by the Treasury. It’s hard to see how that decision aligned with the central bank’s financial-stability mandate, and easy to see how it contributed to the government’s demise.

The way the Truss government collapsed should concern all who support democracy. The prime minister was seeking to fulfill her campaign promises. She was thwarted not by markets, but by a hole in financial regulation — a hole that the Bank of England proved strangely unwilling to plug.

Two days before Truss resigned, Daniel Lacalle wrote an article for Mises Wire: ‘The Bank of England Made Liz Truss a Scapegoat’.

Lacalle points out that economic turmoil was worldwide, something not reported widely in the British media. No surprise there:

I find it astonishing that not one of the so-called experts that have immediately placed the cause of the British market volatility on Liz Truss’s budget have said anything about the collapse of the yen and the need for Bank of Japan intervention, which has been ongoing for two weeks.

Why did so many people assume the Truss minibudget was the cause of volatility when the euro, the yen, the Norwegian krone, and most emerging market currencies have suffered a similar or worse depreciation versus the US dollar this year? What about the bond market? This is the worst year since 1931 for bonds all over the world, and the collapse in prices of sovereign and private bonds in developed and emerging market economies is strikingly similar as those of the UK fixed income peers.

He blames British pension funds’ liability-driven investing (LDI) strategies on the abuse of quantitative easing (QE) over the years. Who was in charge of that? The BoE.

Lacalle wrote while Truss was still Prime Minister:

British pension funds are not selling sovereign bonds because of lack of trust in this or another government’s budget. They are selling negative-yielding sovereign bonds because they jumped wholeheartedly into the debt bubble created by artificially cheap money believing that central banks would keep fixed income prices elevated with constant repurchases.

British pension funds’ unfunded liabilities are not a problem caused by the mini budget nor solely a UK problem. It was an enormous problem in 2019–20 disguised by insane currency printing. Unfunded global liabilities for state pension funds in the US were already $783 billion in 2021 and rose to $1.3 trillion in 2022 according to Reason Foundation. The funded ratio of state pensions was just 85 percent in 2021 and has fallen below 75 percent in 2022.

What happened in the years of negative rates and massive currency printing? Pension funds used liability-driven investing (LDI) strategies. Most LDI mandates used derivatives to hedge inflation and interest rate risk. And what happens when inflation kicks in and rates rise? “As interest rates have risen, the notional value of some of the derivatives held in LDI portfolios has fallen. The result: increased collateral calls. The speed at which rates have risen means some pension plans have had to liquidate portfolios to meet collateral calls” according to the Investment Association’s latest report in September and Brian Croce at Pensions and Investment.

The total assets in LDI strategies almost quadrupled to £1.6 trillion ($1.8 trillion) in the ten years through 2021. Nearly two-thirds of Britain’s defined benefit pension schemes use LDI funds, according to TPR and Reuters. Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng are not to blame for this insanity. The policy of negative real rates and massive liquidity injection of the Bank of England is. Kwarteng and Truss are only to blame for believing that the party of policies of spending and printing defended by almost all mainstream Keynesian economists should work even when the music stopped

Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng are not to blame for the insanity of the past years or Rishi Sunak’s ultra-Keynesian budgets. They are only to blame for believing that another dose of Keynesian deficit insanity would not harm.

Mr. Kwarteng’s demise is just a casualty delivered by the modern monetary theory crowd and the monetary laughing gas city to justify that the problem was a ludicrous tax cut not years of currency printing and deficit increases.

What has happened in the UK or Japan is likely to happen soon in the eurozone, which accumulated more than twelve billion euro of negative-yielding bonds in the years of cheap money and reckless stimulus plans.

Liz Truss is not to blame for twenty years of monetary insanity and fiscal irresponsibility. She is to blame for a budget that increases spending without cutting unnecessary expenses.

The irony of it all is that the defenders of monster deficits and borrowing if it comes from bloating the size of government feel vindicated. It was the evil tax cuts!

The political analysis of the mini budget is astonishing. No one in the UK parliament sees any need to cut spending it seems, yet those expenses are consolidated and annualized, which means that any change in the economic cycle leads to larger fiscal imbalances as receipts are cyclical and, with it, more currency printing. The assumption that raising taxes will generate perennial annual increases in receipts no matter what happens to the economic cycle can only be defended by a bureaucrat.

Well, Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt are those bureaucrats.

There are global players in pension fund management, BlackRock being one of them, as The Conservative Woman revealed on October 27:

BlackRock is heavily involved in the charity sector, managing over £4.5billion for more than 3,000 UK charities alone. ‘Sustainability’, food security and renewable energy rank very highly in their priorities in that sector.

The role of BlackRock in the recent selling off of derivatives by UK pension funds, said to be behind the triggering of a fall in sterling following the ill-fated Kwasi Kwarteng mini-Budget, is an intriguing one. BlackRock executives would defend their actions by stating they were merely protecting clients who were financially overcommitted in that sector and that pension fund managers ought to have known the risks involved in leveraged investment strategies in the first place, and that there is far more to that type of riskier investment than just following trends. Either way the political fallout was profound, triggering a chain of events which led to the fall of Prime Minister Liz Truss. BlackRock executive defends pensions strategy that fuelled UK crisis

Interestingly, Jeremy Hunt has appointed a BlackRock executive who is pro-Net Zero and anti-Brexit as one of his chief advisers:

A business with the financial resources of BlackRock will naturally attract well-connected people to its payroll. People such as Rupert Harrison, chief of staff to Chancellor George Osborne from 2006 to 2015. An opponent of Brexit, he tweeted in July 2017 that ‘the rest of Europe is booming and we’re not’.

Intriguingly, Harrison is now one of new Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s most senior advisers. On the surface, Hunt seemed to have been parachuted in from nowhere, having failed in two leadership elections and spending more than two years on the back benches, yet from the moment he was appointed he already had a highly expert team, including Harrison, ready to start at once and acting promptly with great self-assurance as though he knew he already had the backing of those who really matter.

However, Conservative Party members are unhappy with Hunt and Sunak’s economic policy based on higher taxes, which are, in reality, much higher than they read on paper. This poll is from November 29:

Guido Fawkes wrote (emphases his):

The Tory membership doesn’t support their own government’s economic policy, according to the latest Conservative Home panel poll. Opposition stands at 48.78% and support at 41.87%. 9.35% don’t know. 

It can’t come as much surprise. As Rishi’s supporters point out, he was warning of the consequences of Liz Truss’s policies during the summer contest, and the membership still voted for Liz’s low tax package. Support at 41.87 is actually 0.8% lower than Rishi received from the members during the summer…

Let us return to the BoE.

In the December 2022/January 2023 issue of The Critic, Jon Moynihan published ‘How the Bank broke the Government’, which refers to Narayana Kocherlakota’s aforementioned article for Bloomberg and expands on the use of LDIs in pension fund management:

Kocherlakota’s view was that the Bank of England was responsible for the crisis, through “poor financial regulation and highly subjective crisis management”. Outside the UK chatterati, this view is widely supported.

The beef against the mini-budget was that it spooked the market. But virtually all of the policy announcements made by Kwasi Kwarteng on the day were not new; they had been pledged during the Truss campaign or — in the case of the energy price guarantee — confirmed shortly after her arrival in Downing Street

Sure, the mini-budget stated that clarifying how all the spending/lowered tax revenue would be paid for was to be put off until the later financial statement, due some weeks later. But the only new thing was the change to the top rate of income tax from 45 per cent to 40 per cent

Given the well-known dynamic impact of lowered tax rates, this change would arguably have been revenue neutral or even beneficial; even without any dynamic benefit, it could have cost at most £2 billion in tax revenue. That is a rounding error compared to the amounts already absorbed by the market and a fraction of the costs Rishi Sunak has accepted at COP 27 — to which the markets have reacted entirely complacently. It is just not credible to blame the mini-budget for the market turmoil.

Moynihan explains more about how LDIs work:

The prime obligation of a pension fund is to match its assets (the money it uses to make payments) to its liabilities (the payments it expects make to its pensioners over the years). For a fund to be as sure as it can that it will be able to pay its future pension liabilities, it buys assets whose coupons and maturity match its (actuarially expected) future pension payments.

So far, all well and good. The problem is with LDI funds. These, like so many pension funds these days, use gilts to accomplish that matching (in a popular meme of the past couple of decades, “gentlemen prefer bonds”). However, in addition the idea has been sold that they can goose up their returns a bit, to compensate for the low yields they are getting on their gilts

This little bit of extra profit is accomplished by borrowing some further money, short-term, and with it buying long, higher-yielding assets — either real assets, or derivatives. It’s a well-known and always risky bet on interest rate movements; in some markets it’s known as the “Carry Trade”; in the Japanese markets it’s known as the “Widow Maker”. It’s entirely inappropriate for “safe” pension funds. 

If rates move against the bet, the bet sours. To cover the risk they are taking, the funds are required to give over their other assets (the gilts) as collateral to the bank that lent them the money. 

When the bet sours, the bank that lent them the money “calls the collateral”, selling off the gilts in order to repay the borrowing a wave of such sales can destabilise the gilts market and create a disorderly environment, as happened in late September 2022.

Some would say that the Bank of England should have known all of this and not allowed such risk to be taken by this huge market in LDI funds. Some would raise an eyebrow at the news that until the middle of 2022, the Bank of England itself held 100 per cent of its £5 billion pension fund in just one single LDI Fund, and therefore blithely seemed to believe it was OK for such risks to be taken (their 100 per cent recently was reduced to a scarcely less concerning 82 per cent).

For whatever reason, the Bank and other regulators did allow LDI funds to become more and more the fashionThe total value of liabilities hedged with LDI strategies was $1.8 trillion in 2021, around half of the total of LDI funds in the world, a sure sign that the Bank Of England had been far too lenient in allowing LDIs to flourish in the UK. That is Strike One.

Why then did the LDI funds start collapsing specifically in late September? It starts with the rapid appearance this year of inflation, caused in no small part — as the Bank has finally admitted — by the bank’s excessive growth of the money supply in recent years. As inflation consequently shot up, so, all year, did gilt yields rise, putting increasing pressure on those rickety LDI funds. That is Strike Two against the BoE for its role in worsening inflation in the UK, leading to this instability.

Two days before Kwarteng delivered his mini-budget, Saxo Bank and Deutsche Bank correctly predicted a fall in sterling.

Saxo predicted:

“If the BoE fails to hike 75 basis points, let’s shield our eyes for what is going to happen to the pound here.” (They were predicting a fall in sterling, which duly happened. Low sterling leads to higher inflation leads to higher gilt yields.) 

Deutsche Bank said that the BoE needed a ‘hawkish response’. It never materialised.

In the end:

Both Deutsche and Saxo were right. Only days after the Bank failed to step up to the 75 basis points mark, sterling momentarily dropped to $1.04, just as Deutsche had predictedyet for reasons that remain to be explained, the drop was blamed on the mini-budget, not on the Bank’s failure to sufficiently raise rates. The failure to raise rates enough, two days before the mini-budget, is Strike Three.

In addition, the BoE announced a fortnight-long programme of selling £40 billion of gilts, which ended in mid-October.

In other words, it moved from QE to QT, quantitative tightening.

Reuters noted the BoE was the first central bank to do that, at least in recent years. Bloomberg called the move ‘historic’ for the same reason:

In 2013, all it had taken was the Fed to announce it was doing less QE — not stopping, just doing less — for the markets to go into a “Taper Tantrum”.

Ever since, most central banks have been cautious not to move too fast in shutting down their QE. But not the BoE. Why did it see itself as in a position to be the first in the world to take this very risky step, aware as they were that the mini-budget was about to be announced?

Not surprisingly, the markets responded:

market participants move fast to get ahead: they quickly sell their own bonds before their value is hammered by the BoE sales. Yields immediately go up and the price of bonds immediately falls. Which is why it was — Strike Fourstupid for the central bank to announce its moves ahead of time: it’s like the time that Gordon Brown announced he was selling all our gold, and the price collapsed so he made much less from the sale. But now the LDI pension funds started to get really hammered: as the market moved to dump gilts, the price of gilts fell and fell — this is still before the mini-budget — and collateral calls began to come thick and fast on the LDI funds.

The doom loop began:

And even more collateral calls then came in, and we were in an accelerating doom loop. All this was happening as the mini-budget was announced, and the lazy financial press, not seeing what had happened earlier, blamed the rout in the gilts market on the mini-budget. But it was started by the Bank of England’s earlier decision to go full tonto QT. Strike Five.

Cue the headlines that Liz Truss ‘crashed the economy’, to borrow Labour’s words, which they are still using in Parliament:

The Prime Minister is accused the following day of destroying the economy.

The BoE backtracked immediately, announcing it would move from QT back to QE:

The Bank of England, of course, immediately announces that it is not after all going to sell £40 billion of gilts — it is going to buy £60 billion of them — back from QT to QE in a blink of the eye. 

Of course, by then, it was too late for Truss and Kwarteng. Their collective goose was well and truly cooked:

… by now the gods of havoc have been unleashed. Truss’s enemies in the Conservative party get to work, using the mini-budget narrative to undo the mini-budget, to oust the Chancellor, and finally to oust the Prime Minister herself. Job Done

The BoE defended its actions:

The post-mortem speech by the Bank’s director for financial stability, entitled “Risks from leverage: how did a small corner of the financial industry threaten financial stability?” makes for interesting reading; in this telling, the Bank staved off a crisis from what, for anyone, would have been an unexpected direction, dealing more than adequately with the non-bank sector. If anything, the director claims, the UK was ahead of the curve!

As for the current Sunak-Hunt government, Jon Moynihan has also noted the presence of David Cameron’s Chancellor and the former BlackRock executive:

George Osborne and Rupert Harrison, late of BlackRock, the UK’s second largest provider of LDI funds, are now advising the new government.

Moynihan ends his article by pointing out that the BoE’s governor, Andrew Bailey, has the nickname of ‘Lullaby’ because he tended to doze off during meetings in a prior position:

As head of the Financial Conduct Authority from 2016 to 2020, he saw first-hand the sort of shenanigans firms and funds will get up to if, pressed by smooth talking salesmen, they are given the freedom to act as they will.

It has been alleged that while in that role, Bailey “dozed off” during meetings over a pensions scandal. Now, the organisation he runs is accused of being asleep at the wheel on LDI pension funds, not to mention on inflation, the currency, the stability of markets.

It looks like the BoE’s laxity led to the fall of a government:

All that led to the end of a government, in a way that will continue to reverberate, to the detriment of many people’s view of democracy in this country, for decades to come.

What the British think

Only last week, on November 23, IPSOS published a poll saying that politicians are the least trustworthy of working Britons. Pictured alongside Rishi is a very young Piers Morgan when he edited The Mirror. Journalists have a trustworthiness rating of 29%, compared to politicians in general at 12%:

Guido has the full chart of occupations participants were asked to rank in order of trustworthiness:

Hardly unsurprisingly, public trust in politicians to tell the truth has fallen to its lowest level ever, according to the latest Ipsos poll. Just 12% of the public now trusts politicians to tell the truth, lower than advertising executives (14%) and government ministers (16%).

Unfortunately for journalists they don’t fare much better, at just 29% – one percent above estate agents…

Nurses and doctors ranked the highest at 89% and 85%, respectively.

Television news readers ranked at 58%, above clergy/priests and the man in the street, both of which tied on 55%.

Conclusion

On November 22, roughly one month after Truss resigned, Dan Wootton did a follow up on GB News.

Nigel Farage told him:

Hunt was the coup. Sunak is little more than a puppet.

Wootton also interviewed Ranil Jayawardena, who served as Secretary of State for DEFRA, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. He was very gracious and didn’t want to get into any controversies. Wootton, who was a big Truss supporter, wanted to know how both of them were faring. He said that they were fine.

I’m including the nine-minute interview here just so you can hear Ranil Jayawardena’s voice. He should record audio books in his retirement. Someone in the comments to the video said that he sounds like Boris. He sounds a thousand times better than Boris. This is received pronunciation, rarely heard today in such mellifluous tones:

The Liz Truss saga ends here.

I fear the worst, for the Conservative Party and for the British.

End of series

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

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

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

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

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

King Charles and COP27

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

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

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

The article said (emphases mine):

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

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

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

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

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

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

No doubt he was expecting it:

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

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

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

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

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

Public v parliamentary opinion

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

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

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

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

On September 26, the Northern Echo reported:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Times had the story:

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

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

Anything but, however:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hmm … Hmm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liz’s U-turn on windfall tax

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

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

Guido Fawkes reported (emphases his):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However, she went.

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

GB News reported:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liz’s final week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The UnHerd reader says:

Right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What did he know and when?

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

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

Hours later, The Telegraph reported:

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

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

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

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

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

Quelle surprise!

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

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

To be continued on Friday.

Thursday, November 17 is a historic day, because the UK will be seeing a return to high taxes, this under a ‘Conservative’ government.

I’m writing this before Chancellor Jeremy Hunt gives his budget, or ‘statement’, but Guido Fawkes has a preview, which includes this:

Cutting capital gains tax allowance from £12,300 to £6,000;

Raising dividend tax rate across all three bands and cutting tax-free allowance to £1,000.

Shocking.

On the other hand, we have this:

Raising benefits in line with inflation;

Protecting the triple lock on pensions.

Liz: ‘No new taxes’

Let us cast our minds back to Liz Truss, who did not want to penalise ordinary Britons:

Clearly, she was the wrong person for Prime Minister.

Since Rishi became PM, I have read very little criticism of him in the media, recalling that, for whatever reason, they all wanted him in No. 10.

And, now that he is in No. 10, everything has been rolled back to a very Establishment Government, including the Treasury. There is no criticism of Jeremy Hunt, either, even though his budget will have a deleterious impact on Britain’s middle class.

Rishi’s Cabinet is more of the same old, same old, as I wrote yesterday. The media don’t criticise him for it, either.

Liz’s refreshing Cabinet

Liz made some splendid Cabinet appointments, some of which I covered yesterday.

Two others included Jacob Rees-Mogg as Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary and Simon Clarke as Levelling Up Secretary.

Out were Boris’s chaps, including Steve Barclay …

… Grant Shapps …

… and Dominic Raab, whose departure was also warmly welcomed. Note the warning in the reply tweet:

Interestingly, she kept Kit Malthouse, transferring him from Policing to Education. I, too, would have preferred Kemi Badenoch in that post:

Liz gave Tom Tugendhat, one of the summer’s Conservative Party leadership candidates, his first Cabinet role, one which he holds on to today under Rishi Sunak — that of Security Minister.

The Times noted that there was no longer a Minister for Women in Cabinet, which is a good thing. This is a hangover from Tony Blair’s time:

Liz Truss will not have a cabinet-level minister for women, having handed the equalities brief to a man.

Truss was minister for women and equalities in conjunction with her role as foreign secretary before she became prime minister on Tuesday.

The ministerial post, which Truss had held since February 2020, means taking charge of the government equalities office (GEO), which was created in 2007. This oversees government policy on women, sexual orientation, transgender rights and related issues.

Truss has appointed Nadhim Zahawi, the new chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, to succeed her in the position. Because he is a man, it was decided his title would be minister for equalities. But No 10 confirmed yesterday that his job was the same as when Truss held it …

The title of minister for women was created by Tony Blair in 1997, before the GEO was set up …

With regard to education and diversity, Liz’s Cabinet was a testament to opportunity in the United Kingdom.

On Thursday, September 8, The Times told us that she had the most privately-educated Cabinet since John Major’s time (1990-1997):

The new prime minister’s cabinet are more than nine times more likely to have gone to an independent school than the general population, according to analysis by the Sutton Trust, a social mobility charity.

It found that 68 per cent of the cabinet were educated at fee-charging schools, while 19 per cent went to a comprehensive and 10 per cent attended a grammar school. This compares with around 7 per cent of the wider population.

Under Boris Johnson’s first cabinet, 64 per cent of members were alumni of private schools and the proportion is more than twice that of Theresa May’s 2016 cabinet, of which 30 per cent were privately educated.

David Cameron — who like Johnson attended Eton — appointed 50 per cent alumni of private schools in his first cabinet and for the 2010 coalition cabinet the proportion was 62 per cent

The article noted that Liz herself attended a private secondary school:

Roundhay School in Leeds. She was criticised during her leadership campaign for suggesting the outstanding school, in an affluent suburb, had low expectations and a lack of opportunity.

Margaret Thatcher and John Major had higher percentages of privately educated Cabinet members:

John Major (71 per cent in 1992) and Margaret Thatcher (91 per cent in 1979).

The Sutton Trust disapproved of Liz having such a high proportion of privately educated Cabinet members, but, considering how diverse everyone was, it was a positive optic.

Thankfully, on Sunday, September 11, The Sunday Times pointed out ‘Cabinet heavyweights crown the success of post-colonial African migrants’. Why hadn’t the Sutton Trust done a press release on that?

The article said:

The sound of glass ceilings cracking could be heard all over Whitehall last week, as Liz Truss announced her first cabinet. With the elevation of Kwasi Kwarteng to chancellor of the exchequer, Suella Braverman to home secretary, James Cleverly to foreign secretary and Kemi Badenoch to trade secretary, Truss’s cabinet represents the most diverse ruling cadre ever appointed in Britain. At least when it comes to ethnicity.

The arrival of these individuals into the great offices of the British state also represents the culmination of an extraordinary and underplayed success story: post-colonial African migration into the UK. All four are children of parents who arrived in the waves of late 20th century migration that followed the retreat of the British empire.

Kwarteng’s parents came from Ghana in the 1960s. Although Braverman’s parents are of Indian ethnicity, they lived in Kenya and Mauritius before emigrating to the United Kingdom in the 1960s. Cleverly’s mother emigrated from Sierra Leone in that decade. Badenoch’s parents both come from Lagos, Nigeria. Although Badenoch is British, she spent much of her childhood there.

Furthermore, previous Cabinet members at the time also had parents who emigrated from Africa:

Two recently departed cabinet heavyweights, Priti Patel and Rishi Sunak, also have parents who migrated to Britain from east Africa: Uganda in Patel’s case, Kenya and Tanzania in Sunak’s. Each individual story is different of course, and all faced a variety of economic and social hurdles to success in Britain. But taken together, they reflect a journey from post-imperial Africa to the very heart of the British establishment, over the course of just two generations.

And, they are all Conservatives!

Jimi Famurewa, food critic for the Evening Standard and author of a new book, Settlers, about African migration to Britain, told The Sunday Times that private education for African immigrants was very important:

My family and a lot of families from west African countries that came here in the 1980s were very aspirational middle class. There’s a huge culture around the importance of education, across the African diaspora. It’s drummed into you that that’s your route to success.

It was really important to my parents that if they were in any way able to send us to private schools, that’s something they would do.

Education was seen as the silver bullet to advance socially and professionally. You can see reverberations of that in people like Kemi and Kwasi.

He was not surprised they are Conservative rather than Labour MPs:

Given their generally middle-class background and private education, it is perhaps no coincidence that many of the first black or Asian figures to hold the great offices of state are Conservative MPs. “It doesn’t hugely surprise me that they are all Conservatives,” said Famurewa. “By and large west African families are quite socially conservative in their beliefs.”

On a lighter note, the previous Leader of the House, Mark Spencer, received a food brief as Minister of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Someone on Twitter did a play on words with Marks & Spencer’s advert, including their brand Simply Food:

Thérèse Coffey’s plan for the NHS

Yesterday, I mentioned Liz’s Secretary for Health and Social Care, Thérèse Coffey. I neglected to mention that Coffey was also her Deputy Prime Minister.

Coffey is shown here at a 2015 Spectator summer party. Yes, she enjoys cigars:

The photo shocked those on social media:

On Wednesday, September 7, the Mail‘s Andrew Pierce told us that Coffey, whom Liz refers to as Tiz, is her long-time confidante:

Truss knows she owes a large part of her victory to her ever-faithful parliamentary companion. She has rewarded her lavishly – appointing her as Deputy Prime Minister and Health Secretary.

In a cut-throat political world, Coffey has shown absolute loyalty to her new boss over many years. She not only ran Truss’s successful campaign against Rishi Sunak for the leadership, but wisely persuaded her not to stand against Boris Johnson in the 2019 leadership contest – paving the way for her to become his successor instead.

The two have been friends since their student politics days more than 25 years ago and are known by some colleagues as ‘Yin and Yang’. Truss refers to Coffey affectionately as ‘Tiz’.

Interestingly, they started out as rivals, running against one another to be the Tory parliamentary candidate in South West Norfolk in 2007. It was Truss who triumphed.

She then took Coffey under her wing, coaching her on how to raise her game in selection meetings. Coffey was duly chosen for the neighbouring Suffolk Coastal constituency in 2010.

The two share a love of karaoke – which has got them into trouble in the past. Their regular karaoke evenings on the ministerial corridor in the Commons have on occasion become so boisterous that they were ticked off by Parliamentary authorities.

Coffey herself has had her own problems with karaoke – and they were nothing to do with how tuneful she is. During the 2021 Tory conference in Manchester, the then Work and Pensions Secretary was filmed at 1am belting out the classic song from the film Dirty Dancing, (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life.

Alas, only one hour earlier, her department had withdrawn the £20 weekly increase in universal credit for benefit claimants introduced during the pandemic. Coffey was upbraided over her lack of tact and her insensitive choice of song. She now prefers singing Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now.

However, Coffey has never lived down a picture taken at a Spectator magazine party in 2015 at which she was snapped puffing away on a large cigar and clutching a glass of champagne.

‘I do enjoy a cigar. I hadn’t realised I had spilt something on my top. I looked very odd. You’ll never see me smoke a cigar in front of anyone again,’ she said later. ‘It’s not a photograph I’m proud of.’

But despite all her faux pas, she is generally regarded as a safe pair of hands who avoids controversy

Both campaigned for Remain in the 2016 referendum and both backed Boris Johnson in the 2019 leadership contest. Truss was made Foreign Secretary, while Coffey entered the Cabinet as Work and Pensions Secretary.

A proud Scouser, Therese Anne Coffey was brought up in Liverpool. The daughter of two teachers, George and Alice, who worked in state schools, she was privately educated at St Mary’s College boarding school in North Wales and remains a practising Catholic to this day.

After sixth form at St Edward’s College in Liverpool (a grammar school that has since turned independent) Coffey read chemistry at Somerville College, Oxford – the same degree course at the same college as her political heroine Margaret Thatcher.

It was Thatcher’s battle with Militant Tendency, a Marxist group that had infiltrated Liverpool’s council and driven the city to the edge of bankruptcy in 1985, that converted Coffey to Conservative politics. She was only 14 when she joined the Young Conservatives.

By the time Mrs Thatcher visited Somerville College in 1994, the Tories were languishing in the polls behind Labour’s telegenic leader Tony Blair and many students had to be dragooned into a line-up to greet her. But one student – Coffey – broke ranks and ran noisily across the concourse to shake Mrs Thatcher’s hand.

After university she qualified as a chartered accountant, serving as finance director for Mars and as a finance manager at the BBC – one parallel with Truss, a chartered accountant who became economic director at Cable & Wireless.

Coffey’s Roman Catholicism defines her worldview, says Andrew Pierce. She has never married — and she is Liz’s next door neighbour in Greenwich. Kwasi Kwarteng lives nearby.

In 2018, Coffey became gravely ill because of an ear infection, which spread to her brain. She was diagnosed with meningitis and required hospitalisation as well as an operation. She was in hospital for one month:

At times, she had difficulty forming sentences and suffered memory loss. When her sister Clare, who runs her parliamentary office, came to visit, she said: ‘I have forgotten what these things on my feet are called.’ She was pointing at her slippers.

She later said she felt she’d had a ‘near miss’ and her recovery had made her enjoy life, adding: ‘You realise that you can be gone tomorrow. Cherish what you have.’

Liz was a regular visitor while her friend was in hospital – and again when she was recuperating at home.

On Thursday, September 8, The Times told us about Coffey’s plan for greater efficiency in the NHS:

Thérèse Coffey has demanded to know why all GPs and hospitals cannot match the best performers as she attempts to fulfil Liz Truss’s promise of enabling people to see a doctor easily.

The new health secretary said she wanted to set out “clear expectations” for the NHS after Truss said that dealing with the dire state of the health service would be a priority for her government. Coffey acknowledged yesterday she was not a “role model” after being criticised on social media about her weight and smoking …

Coffey has said her “A-B-C-D” priorities will involve focusing on ambulances, backlogs of routine treatment, care, doctors and dentistry.

She is due to set out her plan for the NHS next week but is understood not to have yet finalised specific actions. However, Coffey has asked for detail on “unwarranted variation” in the NHS, including ideas on how this could be used for performance management of hospitals and GPs …

The MP for Suffolk Coastal added: “My focus is on how we deliver for patients and I appreciate I may not be the role model but I am sure the chief medical officer and others will continue to be role models in that regard and I will do my best as well.”

Coffey had to take an early morning newsround, the first of the new premiership. LBC listeners discovered that the 50-year-old enjoys rap music, too:

“I’ve just realised my alarm is going off on my phone, I apologise,” Coffey said. “You’re getting a bit of Dr Dre. It’s just an eight o’clock alarm.”

The song was Still D.R.E., a 1999 track by Dr Dre, the American rapper, featuring Snoop Dogg. Dre, 57, whose real name is Andre Young, was a member of the rap group N.W.A. before becoming a solo artist and producer. Coffey is known as Dr Coffey thanks to her doctorate in chemistry from UCL.

No. 10 advisers

Liz also cleared out Boris’s advisers from No. 10.

On Tuesday, September 6, The Telegraph reported (emphases mine):

Liz Truss has appointed a new chief economic adviser who previously warned against heavy-handed green energy measures and wrote a book on how to shrink the state.

Matthew Sinclair – described by former colleagues as a “safe pair of hands” – has been appointed as the country faces an unprecedented rise in energy costs amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.

He will enter Downing Street as part of an inexperienced top team under the new Prime Minister, after she ordered a mass clear out of officials who had served under Boris Johnson.

Ms Truss wielded the axe shortly after taking power on Tuesday, with even … Mr Johnson’s deputy chief of staff David Canzini, who had been tipped to stay on at No 10 – failing to survive the cull.

Mr Sinclair has held a number of roles in the private sector, most recently at the accounting firm Deloitte, where he led its work on the digital economy. He has also worked on projects for the UK and European Parliaments.

The 38-year-old previously rose through the ranks of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, joining as a policy analyst but rising to chief executive in 2012. During this time, he made the case for small government, low taxes and ensuring British families get value for money.

Matthew Elliott, founder of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, who hired Mr Sinclair, said: “He is very much an ideas person, but he’s able to deliver the detail in spades. That’s going to prove very useful in government” …

He has also spoken out in favour of clear tax and spending rules, with fiscal targets and a system that prizes simplicity, as well as abolishing unnecessary quangos, maintaining a lean civil service, and decentralising power.

Mr Sinclair has also criticised MPs for using “climate change as an excuse to take your money”.

Clearly, supporting the public would turn out to be too good to be true. This could not last.

Matthew Sinclair’s former boss, Andrew Lilico, wrote a glowing recommendation for The Telegraph:

Liz Truss’s new chief economic adviser is Matthew Sinclair. In the Westminster world, Matthew is probably best-known for his stint as Chief Executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, arguing vigorously for all kinds of cuts to public expenditure, against tax rises and for greater transparency in taxes (including the campaign to get beer duty reported on till receipts and the end of the “fuel duty escalator”). He went on from there to work for me at Europe Economics as an economics consultant, doing hard-core economics projects for bodies such as the European Parliament on the sharing economy, the Department for Business on theories of competition in online platforms, and the Woodland Trust on the economic value of trees. He moved on from us to Deloitte, where until now he has been a Director in the Economic Advisory team, leading its work on the digital economy

He was a keen Brexiteer when the moment came, but having worked on projects for the EU agencies, he understands why they function as they do and their strengths as well as their weaknesses. His Italian wife also offers him an additional European perspective. No caricatured anti-European he. As well as wanting to diverge from the EU he will be keen that policy should learn from them where what they do is good.

Unafraid to look at the world squarely and challenge his own points of view, he likes to consider what would make his beliefs and recommendations prove to be wrong, after the event, as well as what might prove them to be right. Politically pragmatic and savvy, we can expect him to be closely interested in whether enough MPs might support this or that measure to get it through, as well as whether it would be right in an ideal world.

On Wednesday, September 7, the Mail told us more about Liz’s other advisers:

Mark Fullbrook, a former business partner of the Tory strategist Sir Lynton Crosby is set to become Miss Truss’s chief of staff, despite initially running the campaign for her rival Nadhim Zahawi.

Jason Stein, who worked with the new Prime Minister when she was chief secretary to the Treasury and helped her leadership campaign, will come on as a senior adviser with Ruth Porter, who worked with Miss Truss when she was justice secretary.

Adam Jones, who ran Miss Truss’s communications operation during her leadership campaign will be political director of communications. John Bew, Boris Johnson’s foreign policy adviser, is the only one to stay on with Miss Truss, having worked with her when she was foreign secretary.

Some of the 40 roles that Mr Johnson had in his team will not be filled as Miss Truss attempts to shrink the size of the Downing Street operation in a bid to set an example to the rest of Whitehall.

Miss Truss had said she will wage war on Whitehall waste and make billions of pounds of cuts. It is believed Mr Sinclair will be a key ally in helping her achieve her aims.

In 2012, Mr Sinclair set out a six-point plan to cut Whitehall spending.

His first idea was to abolish the Equality and Human Rights Commission to save £48.9million in funding. Even a decade ago, he complained that the EHRC had taken on ‘a campaigning role that is inappropriate for a public sector body’.

This drive for efficiency could not last, could it?

No, it could not. Nor would it.

Shaky perception

The prospect of Liz Truss as Prime Minister had not moved the polls at the end of August, as YouGov demonstrated:

Guido Fawkes wrote (emphases his):

Labour leads the Tories by 15 points, 43% to 28%. It is a big mountain to climb before the next election. Good luck…

On September 6, The Telegraph‘s Allison Pearson analysed Truss’s victory and the criticism she received:

Few believe that Truss is the cat’s whiskers. Not even on her own side. Of the 172,437 Tory party members who were eligible to vote, 30,712 didn’t bother at all and 60,399 voted for Rishi Sunak. It’s the narrowest margin of victory since members were allowed to decide. A YouGov poll suggested that only 21 per cent of the public like Truss and, of those who voted Conservative at the last general election, 50 per cent don’t trust her.

Even before she was declared the winner, the brickbats were coming thick and fast. I don’t use the word misogyny lightly, but I have been shocked by the hateful abuse hurled at Liz Truss by lofty male commentators. “The worst PM ever,” suggested one …

Although Truss ended up reading PPE, I’m told by one of her contemporaries that she got into Merton College to read maths. A girl from a Northern comprehensive does not win a mathematics place at Oxford without being seriously clever.

If anything, I reckon it is a slight spoddy tendency, inherited from her maths-lecturer father, which inhibits Truss’s ability to communicate with feeling. A deficiency in expressiveness and verbal felicity doesn’t mean a lack of thinking power. Quite the contrary. Wiffly, wordy arts graduates have had their turn running the country; time to let the numbers girl have a go.

Pearson was referring to Boris in that sentence.

Also:

Shame on those backbench Tory MPs who are rumoured to be murmuring about confidence votes and slyly manoeuvring against their new leader before she’s even got her feet under the desk. Have we really reached a point of such decadence, after 12 years in power, that Conservatives prefer to devote their energies to undermining a loyal friend than smiting the enemy? If so, electoral wipeout in 2024 will be richly deserved – even welcome.

This was a typical anti-Liz comment:

The outspoken Labour MP Chris Bryant who, somehow, had won the Civility in Politics award, said this:

It feels like pretty much anyone with a brain, a conscience and a work ethic has been purged from government either by Johnson or Truss. It’s an empty vessel of a government – loud, noisy but dangerously vacuous.

By contrast, when he accepted the award, he said:

Politics doesn’t have to be brutal. Our opponents are human and nobody has a monopoly on truth, so I try to be polite, civil and empathetic in every engagement… Manners maketh humanity.

Queen postpones Privy Council meeting

Bad news arrived on Wednesday, September 7, when the Queen postponed a virtual meeting of the Privy Council.

The Times reported:

The Queen has postponed a meeting of the Privy Council on the advice of her doctors, Buckingham Palace said today …

“After a full day yesterday, Her Majesty has this afternoon accepted doctors’ advice to rest,” a spokesman said. “This means that the Privy Council meeting that had been due to take place this evening will be rearranged.”

A royal source said that there would be “no running commentary” on the Queen’s health.

The meeting was necessary in order for Elizabeth Truss to become First Lord of the Treasury, a title that goes to the Prime Minister. The Mail said:

During the proceedings, Ms Truss would have taken her oath as First Lord of the Treasury and new cabinet ministers would have been sworn into their roles, and also made privy counsellors if not already appointed as one in past.

The Privy Council is a formal body of advisers to the Sovereign of the United Kingdom. As of last month, there were 719 members on the council, with membership lasting for life.

It is composed of politicians, civil servants, judges, members of the clergy as well as Prince Charles and the Duke of Cambridge

There is no constitutional issue with the delay to the proceedings, the palace said.

King Charles held the meeting the weekend after his mother died.

On Thursday, September 8, the world was shocked to learn of Her Majesty’s death. Earlier that afternoon, the extraordinary news that she was unwell filtered to the House of Commons, where Liz was outlining her energy support plan.

On Saturday, September 10, The Times reported that Liz had a lot on her plate, beginning with her energy statement, knowing that the Queen was dying:

Truss had got to her feet knowing the Queen’s death was “imminent”. She was with her team in her House of Commons office preparing for the energy statement when she heard …

If Truss is prime minister for a decade she may never have a bigger day than Thursday: a head of government less than two days into the job making an even bigger economic intervention than the pandemic furlough scheme, battling to finalise her ministerial team and facing the death of a beloved head of state whose final public act was to make her prime minister.

However, Liz and her team were beginning what they hoped would be a new era of reform:

The Queen’s death robbed the government of media coverage to publicise details of its help for families at a time when the public wants to know how they will deal with soaring inflation. As these problems piled up, the new team began, under the radar, one of the most radical shake-ups of how government is run that anyone can remember. It has left Conservative MPs wondering if Truss has bitten off more than she can chew.

One of the big ructions earlier that week involved Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng sacking Gordon Brown’s Chief of Staff, Sir Tom Scholar, who, inexpicably, had been made Permanent Secretary to the Treasury and served under no fewer than five Conservative Chancellors between 2016 and 2022. Before that, he was the Prime Minister’s Adviser for Europe and Global Issues to David Cameron.

Many conservatives were delighted, but, in the Blob (our equivalent of the Swamp), the news did not go down well:

At the start of the week, it looked like officials were being sidelined. Dozens of civil servants in Downing Street received a peremptory email on Tuesday telling them to leave No 10. Sir Tom Scholar, the permanent secretary at the Treasury, was told he was no longer required in his first meeting with Kwasi Kwarteng, the new chancellor. The mood in the civil service was “sulphurous”. One official phoned a friend in the Labour Party and said: “They’re making a real rod for their own backs.”

Liz’s ambition for a leaner structure in Downing Street also upset the Blob:

when photos of Truss’s first cabinet emerged on Wednesday morning MPs were surprised to see that not one of her spin doctors or political aides, from chief of staff Mark Fullbrook down, was present. Only Truss’s closest civil service aide, Nick Catsaras, her new principal private secretary, was there. One politico from a previous Downing Street regime remarked drily: “The irony was that those people had to be in cabinet when she was a secretary of state as you had to deal with all her leaks.”

“Liz doesn’t want a presidential style No 10,” an aide said. “She wants it to be lean, professional and relentlessly focused on delivery — policymaking and legislating. You’ll see fewer prime ministerial visits, fewer events in No 10, and in its place more meetings on the economy, on energy and the things people really care about.”

Ironically, although the Blob were complaining, she was actually giving some among them more power than ever before:

… in this she has handed huge power to the civil servants. One close ally explained: “The good ones will be deeply empowered by her. The civil service are always in the ascendancy with Liz as long as they actually do their job.”

When she announced the outline of her energy support plan, she had no details:

Key details of how the plan will work were left unexplained in her statement to parliament on Thursday, not least the estimated cost. Aides argued that this depends on the price of gas. “If I knew what that was going to be in a year’s time I would be working for a hedge fund, not the government,” one said.

As for a leaner No. 10, some were sceptical it could work. Others remained positive:

Scepticism remains about whether a slimmed-down No 10 can really deal with the challenges it faces. A former No 10 aide said: “PMs always go in with some great new structure that will streamline things and then discover they’ve just handed away power before spending 12 months scrabbling to get it back” …

… from their point of view, the new team has been tested early, something that will stand them in good stead through the turbulence ahead. “Officials have described it as the busiest week in No 10 in living memory,” an aide said. “We had no idea when we wrote the line ‘Together we can get through the storm’ into Liz’s Downing Street speech how apposite it would come to feel.”

In policy areas, Liz was keen on fracking and, towards that end, sacked the eco-friendly Lord Goldsmith in his DEFRA ministerial post in the House of Lords.

On Friday, September 16, Guido reported:

Despite the reshuffle being formally paused until after the Queen’s funeral, Liz Truss has ploughed on with sacking Tory tree-hugger-in-chief Zac Goldsmith from his DEFRA ministerial post. While the government is still paying lip service to the Net Zero target, they’ve signalled climate and animal welfare issues could be de-prioritised over the coming months. The Guardian speculates that the Animal Welfare Bill could be first up for slaughter. The PM’s next royal audience should be interesting… 

The news comes as The Guardian reports Liz is planning to follow through on her leadership election pledge and lift the ban on fracking as soon as possible, with first licences set to be issued as early as next week. This will no doubt come as welcome relief as energy bills continue to rise during winter. The decision comes despite the paper’s ominous quote from a forthcoming report that forecasting fracking-induced earthquakes “remains a significant challenge”. In August 2019 Caudrilla halted work after recording the UK’s “biggest fracking tremor”. The tremor in question was 1.55ML on the Richter scale, “which it likened to ‘a large bag of shopping dropping to the floor’”…

Former Labour adviser John McTernan wrote an article for UnHerd, saying that Liz’s policy strategy could unhinge Labour:

The abandonment of the sugar tax, and possibly the entire government anti-obesity strategy has been floated. As has ending the cap on bonuses in the City. These give the flavour of what the 100 Days Plan must have looked like. Sir Lynton Crosby famously talks of “getting rid of the barnacles”: that before a government can campaign effectively, it needs to rid itself of unnecessary distractions. These could be unpopular policies, ungrasped nettles, or unresolved disputes, but the Queen’s death has prevented this, disrupting the Government’s momentum.

The Prime Minister wants to govern as she campaigned for the leadership. Directly, clearly and simply. She has said she wants a smaller state, and Labour have taken the bait. Without waiting to see any government policy, some Labour frontbenchers have immediately attacked Truss as a Thatcherite intent on cutting public spending. That’s hard to argue in the face of the energy price cap — one of the biggest unfunded public spending commitments ever made by a UK government.

Worse, it showed that some in Labour haven’t been listening to Truss, or taking her seriously. There’s more than one way to shrink the state — and getting out of people’s lives is an effective and popular one. One of the greatest weaknesses of progressive politics is the belief that what the country is crying out for is “more government”. A large part of the fuel that drives the campaign against political correctness is the sense that government is over-reaching, interfering in bits of life where it has no place. Liz Truss wants to tap into that. She instinctively knows that most people want to look after themselves, their families and their communities without government interference.

The other headline announcement — uncapping City bonuses — has trapped Labour too. Missing the wood for the trees, opposition frontbenchers have spluttered in outrage at policies that would benefit fat-cat bankers rather than the general public. The point, of course, is what David Cameron’s team used to call the politics of “aroma”. It is not the specific policy detail that matters; it is the sense of the overall direction.Hugging a husky” showed a greener, more compassionate, modern Conservative party. Uncapping City bonuses shows a government committed to Go For Growth — no old-fashioned prejudices or well-meaning sacred cows will be allowed to stand in the way. The point is to grow the pie, not, as Labour want, to talk about tax and redistribution of the proceeds of growth.

Note what he says about Rishi Sunak:

Is this a risky approach? Yes. Is it a clear one? Absolutely. The trap for Labour is that they adopt the Sunak Strategy. Liz Truss’s ideas are simplified not simplistic; and as Rishi Sunak’s defeat showed, treating the new PM as a simpleton won’t win votes. Truss may not have the right answers, but she has asked the right question. Growth is the only game in town. If Truss manages to keep it on The Grid when parliament returns next month, her lost 100 days might not be fatal.

Unfortunately, for the British people, it was the beginning of the end, with all roads leading to Rishi.

To be continued tomorrow.

As I need something positive to think about while awaiting Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s awful budget on Thursday, November 17, here is a retrospective on Liz Truss’s rise to power, however short-lived.

The Conservative Party leadership campaign dominated the latter half of July and all of August.

By Tuesday, August 16, like the Telegraph‘s Tim Stanley, I, too, had watched every hustings up to that point.

Who could have guessed that, in an extraordinary turn of events, both she and Rishi Sunak would be in No. 10 within weeks of each other?

Reporting on what happened north of the border in Perth, Stanley wrote:

The hustings had become so repetitive, I know the speeches by rote. Rishi grew up in a pharmacy, Liz sat on a planning committee. My only pleasure has been waiting for the day they cross their wires and Rishi announces he grew up on a planning committee and Liz that she sat on a pharmacy.

But on Tuesday we were in Scotland, so the script was rewritten. Lots of references to whisky, gas and Nicola Sturgeon, who Liz once said we should ignore, so Rishi said: “I don’t just want to ignore [her], I want to take her on and beat her!” Big clap for that …

“I grew up in a small business,” he said. And the cream for your burn, sir, can be found on the fourth aisle.

Liz did a much better job of showing that she knew she was in Scotland, referencing Adam Smith, JK Rowling and salmon fishing – and reminding us that she understood what poverty was because she grew up in a recession in Paisley in the 1980s (when the Tories were in power) and later in Leeds in the 1990s (ditto). 

In fairness to Liz, she meant local councils, not the Government.

The Mail highlighted the disagreement Liz and Rishi had on taxes:

Miss Truss has pledged to reverse the national insurance hike to help struggling families, but has not ruled out offering further support. But Mr Sunak said the right way to help people with higher energy bills is through direct support.

He told the hustings: ‘The tax cuts that Liz is proposing are worth about £1,700 to someone on her income. For someone working very hard on the national living wage, it’s worth about a quid a week …’

On Wednesday, August 17, the duo were in Northern Ireland, where, yes, there is a Conservative Party. It has around 600 members. I had no idea.

The Guardian had unearthed an old video of her saying that the British weren’t very good workers. The Mail said that she defended her remarks to the press in Northern Ireland:

Pressed by reporters in Northern Ireland today whether she believes British workers are not working hard enough, Ms Truss replied: ‘What I believe is that we need more skills in our country, we need more capital investment in our country, we need more opportunity in our country. That is what I would deliver as prime minister …

She added : ‘I’m fundamentally on the side of people who work hard, who do the right thing. Those are the people I want back.’

Conservatives did not object to Liz’s views (emphases mine):

Despite the furore, Ms Truss was delivered a major boost today with the latest ConservativeHome poll showing she is firmly on track for victory on September 5. She was 60 per cent to 28 per cent ahead of Rishi Sunak in a survey of activists.

The Belfast hustings was the only uncomfortable one of the campaign. It was clear neither candidate had any grasp of Northern Ireland or people’s concerns:

The furthest Liz could connect with the small group of Conservative members was to say that she knew that a ‘woman is a woman’, for which she received applause (somewhere around the 12-minute mark). Near the end of her Q&A, a man expressed concern about abortion, which was foisted on them by Westminster. He asked about the fairness of that, since Northern Ireland has its own Assembly. She bristled at the question and brusquely replied that all the devolved nations had to have the same health policies (somewhere between 32 and 35 minutes in).

Rishi’s intro and Q&A followed Liz’s.

The London Evening Standard had an excellent report from Rebecca Black following the hustings at the Culloden Hotel on the outskirts of Belfast:

The Brexit protocol, the Stormont Assembly, the health service, abortion, foreign policy and support for the party in Northern Ireland were among the issues raised …

Martin Craigs said he remained undecided after hearing their pitches.

He said he felt their content in terms of Northern Ireland had been “very weak”.

“They’re sitting on the fence, this isn’t the audience they’re playing to, the audience they’re playing to are the 160,000 Conservative members, and there are very few of them in Northern Ireland, but they obviously have to go to all corners of the UK to be seen to be democratic,” he told the PA news agency.

“I might actually not vote at all because I think the performance has been so poor.”

Matthew Robinson, chairman of the Northern Ireland Conservatives, welcomed the candidates’ visit and paid tribute to the commitment they were showing to the region.

He said he had been holding back on deciding who to vote for, but based on what he heard at the hustings he would back Ms Truss.

“I think she outlined an unwavering commitment to what we do locally here as a political force,” he said.

“I’m not just encouraged but excited about what we can achieve together during her hopeful premiership.”

David Trimble’s widow said that, just before he died, he wanted to make sure he voted for Liz. Lord Trimble had originally been a member of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) but became a Conservative in 2007. The following year, a voting alliance was created between the UUP and Conservatives in Northern Ireland.

The Standard reported on Lady Trimble’s article in the Telegraph in which she supported Liz. The Stormont Assembly has not been meeting for several months now:

The powersharing structures Lord Trimble helped create in the landmark 1998 agreement are currently in limbo, with the DUP blocking the creation of a governing executive in protest at Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol.

Lady Trimble wrote: “I believe that in this contest, Liz Truss has the best record and a viable plan to protect our Union and Northern Ireland’s integral place within it.

“I know David thought the same.

“One of the last things he did before we lost him was to ask his son to collect his voting papers so he could vote for Liz.

“He was adamant that she was what the country needed and I agree.

“She has already proven her resolve and bravery in the face of opposition to our most valuable asset, and I am confident that my husband’s legacy, peace in Northern Ireland, will be safe with her.”

Lady Trimble, born Daphne Orr, is an academic who served as a member of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.

Another article in the Standard showed that Liz understood the difficulty with the post-Brexit Protocol:

The Foreign Secretary also said she would not accept any compromises on a renegotiated Northern Ireland Protocol as prime minister if it meant key UK demands were not met.

She made the comments during a visit to Belfast, where she and Rishi Sunak were quizzed by Tory members during a hustings event.

She told party members that until the Northern Ireland Protocol is sorted, Stormont will not be back up and running.

The Standard‘s Rebecca Black wrote a separate article on the abortion question:

Abortion laws in the region were liberalised in 2019 in laws passed by Westminster at a time when the power-sharing government at Stormont had collapsed.

During a Conservative Party leadership hustings event at the Culloden Hotel on the outskirts of Belfast, Ms Truss was asked if she would abolish abortion in Northern Ireland, “ending infanticide”, or let the people of the region have their say on the issue.

She responded to applause [for the man, not her]: “I’m afraid I don’t agree with you.

“We are a United Kingdom and we need all of our laws to apply right across the United Kingdom – that is what being a union is.”

Rishi’s highlight of the hustings was about Liz’s £50 billion black hole:

Rishi Sunak has warned that Tory leadership rival Liz Truss’s tax plans would add £50 billion to borrowing while failing to give direct support to the most vulnerable in society, as the cost-of-living crisis deepened.

The former chancellor said the Foreign Secretary would be guilty of “moral failure” if she does not focus on the nation’s poorest, and warned her policies could further stoke inflation.

Ms Truss instead insisted “taxes are too high and they are potentially choking off growth”, as she promised an emergency budget to tackle the situation.

On Thursday, August 18, the eminently sensible Lord Moylan told GB News that he was voting for Liz because Rishi’s economic plans did not make sense:

On Saturday, August 20, Sir John Redwood MP criticised the pro-Rishi media:

Redwood laid out his Thatcherite economic plan for Liz in that day’s Telegraph:

Britain’s fiscal rules should be ripped up by Liz Truss if she wins the Conservative leadership race, one of her key allies has said.

Sir John Redwood, who served as the head of Margaret Thatcher’s Downing Street policy unit and is tipped to return to government if Ms Truss wins, said she should abandon the practice of targeting a set percentage of GDP for national debt and the deficit.

He also called for a review of both the Bank of England and Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), and suggested the Foreign Secretary should be inspired by Mrs Thatcher in removing utilities and transport from state control.

Since 1997, fiscal rules have been announced by chancellors during Budget statements in an attempt to control government spending.

They usually set a restriction on the proportion of national debt or deficit as a percentage of economic output.

But in an interview with The Telegraph, Sir John said the practice is a hangover from EU fiscal regulation agreed between member states at the Maastricht conference in 1992, and does not encourage economic growth or limit inflation.

“I think having a fiscal rule, which is a variant of state debt as a percentage of GDP, and the public deficit as a percentage of GDP in any given year, is not really the right couple of rules for the two targets you’re trying to meet,” he said.

The Tory backbencher said ministers should maintain “sensible controls over growth in public spending and in public debt” by instead monitoring the amount of money paid by the Treasury to lenders in interest payments.

In a coded rebuke to Rishi Sunak, who was the chancellor until last month, he added: “You have to elect governments that take controlling public finances seriously, and they then have to take them seriously.

“If you have a government that doesn’t take controlling public finances seriously, it won’t matter what your fiscal rules say, as we know from recent past experience,” he said.

Sir John is expected to be appointed as a Treasury minister in Ms Truss’s government and is understood to have helped shape her thinking on economic issues during the campaign

Sir John said he had not had “any discussions” with Ms Truss about taking a role if she wins the contest, but told The Telegraph he would accept a job if he was offered one.

The Times also thought that Liz would give Redwood a role. One campaign source said:

“There are a lot of crumpled up bits of paper. I’ve been in three meetings about the cabinet and it keeps changing.”

Among the names on the pieces of paper: Iain Duncan Smith, who is heading back to cabinet, and John Redwood, who was last a minister 27 years ago and is earmarked for a junior Treasury post.

This weekend Truss will take a team of her senior aides to Chevening, the grace and favour home in Kent which she enjoys as foreign secretary, with the aim of getting people and policies more firmly nailed down.

In the past few days she has repeatedly told her team “no complacency”. As an ally puts it more prosaically: “No f***-ups, basically.”

Sadly, Liz never offered Redwood a role. If she had, she might still be Prime Minister today.

The Times was also wrong about Iain Duncan Smith, who was not part of Liz’s Cabinet, either.

Also on August 20, the Mail‘s Dan Hodges wrote that Rishi’s campaign was effectively over because of his mansplaining:

It was the moment Rishi Sunak‘s leadership campaign started to unravel. Actually, it was one of 20 moments. ‘Please let me respond,’ Liz Truss chided, as her opponent butted in during their first head- to-head TV debate. ‘Absolutely, let Liz Truss respond,’ the BBC‘s moderator Sophie Raworth was forced to interject.

Sunak didn’t. Time and again he talked over his rival, interrupting and silencing her. It was a strategy his team seemed to think would put Truss on the defensive.

They were wrong

the damage was done. Sunak was branded a ‘Mansplainer’.

To some, this episode provided further evidence of Sunak’s poor political tradecraft. But he’d actually fallen into a well-prepared trap.

‘We were ready for him!’ one Truss campaign ally told me. ‘For years, Liz has been patronised by men who are a bit full of themselves. She’s not going to just stand there and take it.’

In 15 days’ time, Britain will have our third woman Prime Minister. And unlike her predecessors, Liz Truss isn’t going to be shy of reminding people of it.

Let us recall that only the Conservatives have had female Party leaders, all of whom were Prime Minister.

By contrast, Labour have yet to elect a woman leader.

On August 21, The Sunday Times told us what Labour-to-Conservative voters in Oldham thought of the two candidates:

If Rishi Sunak (the ferret) and Liz Truss (the budgie) had put a glass to the wall of the room in Oldham where ten swing voters gathered by Public First, all of whom voted Conservative in the last general election, were sharing their impressions of the Tory leadership hopefuls, they would have blushed. But mostly not with pride.

They had been asked to say which animal, item of clothing or single word would best describe each of the candidates (Truss was also a “bunny rabbit”, for the record). As someone who has posed for photos atop a tank and astride a motorbike during her cabinet career, she might have been surprised to hear herself described as “mumsy”, “dull as dishwater”, a “cardigan”, “Jemima Puddle-Duck” and, possibly worst of all, an “unknown”.

Sunak would have heard that he was a “suit” a “backstabber” and a “traitor” (to Boris Johnson, that is) and he would have certainly regretted wearing a pair of £490 suede Prada shoes to visit a Teesside building site as he did last month. This did not go down well at all with many of these C2DE (aka working class) voters. It suggested, said Rachel, 33, a bar worker, that he was so rich he had “no respect for money”; after all a building site, she said, is going to be messy. She said “quite a lot of people were upset” by it, especially those struggling to make ends meet. “I certainly couldn’t afford to buy a £500 pair of shoes,” she said.

Matthew, 40, who works in the oil trade, asked how Sunak could possibly relate to low-wage people. The group wondered what his PR advisers were thinking, allowing it to happen. It was quite simple, said Mandy, an educator in a prison: “If you are going to an area where . . . people are on the minimum wage, don’t wear £500 shoes.”

But there was happier news for Sunak when it came to which of the two leadership candidates they preferred. Five chose Sunak, compared with three for Truss while two didn’t know, though by the end of the discussion a couple had changed to “don’t know”.

Sunak, according to those who picked him, had a higher profile due to the furlough scheme during lockdown. Jodie, 33, a school administrator, said she associated him with helping people during that period. “I had never heard of Liz Truss before this race, but Rishi Sunak . . . we’ve seen him in action. He’s helped out, like, working class people.”

Mandy, however, who chose Truss, said the foreign secretary had been growing as a force in the “background” for some time now. She mentioned the “scandals” involving Sunak. This was a reference to a recent video in which he boasted to Conservative party members in Kent of taking money from deprived urban areas in order to give it to other parts of the country

That day, Guido Fawkes revealed that Rishi’s team broke down Liz’s £50 billion black hole, which is actually tax savings.

Even now, with Thursday’s Rishi-Hunt budget in view, Guido still appears to be correct in his assessment:

Guido also thought that the Conservatives would win the next general election:

Guido’s post has Rishi’s breakdown of Liz’s black hole. This is Guido’s analysis of Liz’s savings for the taxpayer (emphases his):

According to figures just released by the Rishi campaign, taxpayers will get a net saving of £48.3 billion in reduced taxes under Liz as Prime Minister compared to Rishi. This is a similar figure to calculations made by the Guardian newspaper. This is intended to be an attack line, the argument Rishi is making is that Liz will have to choose between tax cuts or handouts. When you consider that this is equivalent to some £2,000 per taxpayer you will understand what Liz means when she says she wants to “help people in a Conservative way”

In the Rishi campaign’s press release the tax savings are described as “costs”. This approach hasn’t been seen since 2010, when Gordon Brown would point to any tax saving proposed by the opposition and demand to know from Cameron and Osborne what spending would be cut. It is a mindset that considers the public’s money to belong to the government and any income not taxed to be a “cost”. Guido’s not sure why Liam Booth-Smith, Rishi’s policy guru, ever thought this orthodox Brownian line of attack would appeal to Tory members…

By Monday, August 22, with a week and a half left to go in the seemingly endless campaign, Rishi’s poll ratings were tanking.

The Guardian warned that Labour found that Liz could boost the Conservatives in the polls, which Labour had been leading for several months by that point. They still are in the lead.

However, the paper said that any poll boost would be short lived:

Tory leadership frontrunner Liz Truss could give the government a double-figure bounce in the polls once she is installed in No 10, according to internal Labour analysis.

A memo drawn up by Keir Starmer’s director of strategy, Deborah Mattinson, claimed the foreign secretary could dramatically improve Conservative fortunes.

The document, dated 18 August and leaked to the Guardian, comes amid speculation that Truss could be tempted to capitalise on the upswing and call a snap general election.

However, the research also suggests that any improvement in the government’s position could be very short-lived, with voters already concerned about aspects of Truss’s character.

“Our focus groups suggest that as voters get to know Truss better they like her less,” it says. “Serious negatives – untrustworthiness, inauthenticity, U-turns, lack of grip – are starting to cut through suggesting that any bounce may be very short-lived.”

Meanwhile, Rishi allegedly scoffed at the idea he would take a post in Liz’s Cabinet. That day, The Times reported on his interview with BBC Radio 2:

Truss has said that she would offer Sunak a cabinet job if she were to win. The Times reported at the weekend that she is considering asking him to become health secretary.

Sunak appeared to scoff at the prospect today, however, suggesting he did not want to serve in a cabinet in which he and the prime minister would disagree on “the big things”.

Liz’s poll results were buoyant. An Italian firm, Techne, cut their teeth in the UK on this campaign:

In the end, the result was much closer, although Liz still had a clear majority.

However, on the same day, a GB News Peoples Poll (Peoples Poll being the name of the polling organisation) showed that Britons overwhelmingly prefer Labour’s Keir Starmer as the next Prime Minister, viewing Liz Truss as ‘untrustworthy’:

A poll exclusively commissioned by GB News has found that British people would prefer Keir Starmer to be Prime Minister over both Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss.

41 percent of the 1,235 Brits polled said they would be more likely to vote for a Labour Party led by Keir Starmer than the Conservatives led by Liz Truss, who received 22 percent of the vote.

And Rishi Sunak, also standing to become the next Tory leader and Prime Minister, only fared one percent better than Ms Truss when compared with Sir Keir, who received a share of 40 percent of the poll.

In both cases, 28 percent of people said they didn’t know who they would prefer, with nine percent preferring not to say.

The results raise questions about the popularity of both candidates, with the Conservatives faring better in a straight contest with Labour.

When asked which party they would vote for if there was a General Election tomorrow, Labour came out on top with 31 percent.

But the margin between the two parties was a lot smaller than between the leaders, with 20 percent voting Conservative

When asked to give one word they associated with Liz Truss, Brits’ top answer was “untrustworthy”.

Unfortunately for Ms Truss, second most popular answer was “useless”, with the even less flattering “idiot” in third.

On Monday, August 29, the anti-Liz media went into a tizz when she declined an interview with the BBC’s Nick Robinson.

The Telegraph reported:

Liz Truss has pulled out of a BBC interview with Nick Robinson because she can “no longer spare the time”.

Ms Truss, the Tory leadership front-runner, committed to the primetime sit-down interview with Mr Robinson, who presents the Today programme, on Aug 18.

But the Foreign Secretary now appears to have changed her mind as the race to succeed Boris Johnson enters its final week. Rishi Sunak, her leadership rival, was interviewed by Mr Robinson on Aug 10 …

Mr Sunak has taken part in nine one-on-one broadcast interviews throughout the leadership campaign, including three appearances on the Today programme.

Ms Truss has done two such interviews, including the Today programme, when she was interviewed at the start of the head-to-head stage of the contest, and the People’s Forum show on GB News.

A bigger controversy that day was that Liz was preparing to cut VAT. She never did, but someone should, because VAT is an EU law. Here is smoked salmon king Lance Forman’s wise opinion, saying that the people who object to a VAT cut are on the Left:

On the penultimate day of Conservative Party member voting, Liz pledged to revive Conservative grassroots activism, but readers of ConservativeHome were unimpressed.

One of the comments read:

This and other similar pieces of rhetoric just prove to me that it’s all about strategies to win elections rather than a coherent, well thought-out set of policies that will benefit the country in both the short- and long-term, much the same as some of the statements made by both candidates in this “leadership” election.

Surely we are capable of better?

Yes, we are capable of better.

On the last day of members voting, Wednesday, August 31, The Telegraph asked readers who should be in and out of Liz’s Cabinet.

Interestingly, everyone the readers wanted out are in Rishi Sunak’s Cabinet. Priti Patel is the only exception. And, Alok Sharma is still COP26 president, although he is not in Cabinet.

In conclusion, within weeks, we went back to the same old, same old thing.

I still have a few more items about Liz Truss to cover. Stay tuned.

This post concludes the story of how Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister.

Those who missed them might find parts 1 and 2 of interest.

Before concluding, an important anniversary took place this week.

On October 26, 2012, UKIP MP Douglas Carswell introduced a private member’s bill, ‘The People’s EU Withdrawal Bill’.

The groundswell of support from Guido Fawkes’s readers helped bring it to the Commons:

Guido has the video and a brief comment (emphases his):

Today history was made as the first-ever crowd-sourced Bill was debated in Parliament. The majority of 5,000 readers of this website voted for Douglas Carswell to propose Britain to withdraw from the European Union, and today Carswell stood up in the House to argue the case for the People’s Bill. The debate can be watched at length here. 

Video via @liarpoliticians

Here is a short video of proceedings:

A few years later, then-Prime Minister David Cameron, frightened by the overwhelming support for UKIP in the European election, decided to give the British people a referendum. It ended up being the largest plebiscite in the history of the United Kingdom. On Thursday, June 23, 2016, in pouring rain, voters said they wanted the UK to leave the EU: 52% to 48%.

In current news, during Rishi Sunak’s first week as PM, as I wrote yesterday, questions were being asked in the Commons and the Lords about Suella Braverman’s reappointment as Home Secretary.

The Telegraph‘s Madeline Grant called Braverman ‘Houdini’ for not showing up for an Urgent Question in the Commons about the horrifying state of the Manston processing centre in Kent, which is turning from a short-stay to a longer-term residence for Channel migrants (emphases in purple mine):

At a second Home Office UQ, this time courtesy of Labour’s Diana Johnson, the Home Secretary was a no-show again …

In truth, there were unhappy campers on both sides of the House; enough to populate Butlins, if not quite Calais …

Deputising for Houdini was Robert Jenrick – a junior Home Office minister and close ally of the PM who, some say, was appointed to keep a watchful eye on Braverman and prevent her from doing anything too mad

Yet Jenrick’s arguments were more true-blue, or at least Red Wall. He had little sympathy with illegal migrants, and the diversion of resources away from their legal counterparts, and seized eagerly on Priti Patel’s pet phrase, “evil people-smuggling gangs”. Reinforcements soon began to arrive from the Tory backbenches. What gave Labour the right to complain, wondered Steve Double, the MP for St Austell, when they’d voted against Patel’s Nationality and Borders Bill. Lee Anderson and Richard Graham warned of Britain’s imminent inundation by Albanian men.

Christopher Chope reminded the Commons that whatever the state of the Manston processing centre, conditions were a darn sight worse in the Calais Jungle. Labour MPs looked scandalised, but Jenrick agreed wholeheartedly.

When asked why he was deputising for Braverman:

Jenrick, in the spirit of Sunak, came back with an answer that was simultaneously boring and unimpeachable. “Because I’m the Minister of State for Immigration”

It is estimated that from 1% to 2% of Albanian men are in the UK. They have places to go to once they arrive. The Albanian drug trade is the latest development in our migration story.

The situation in Dover is intensifying. The Times reported the story of the week: ‘”Desperate” new arrivals drive Dover into taking up arms’. Sledgehammers, more like, as firearms are largely illegal here:

Sue Doyle, 59, was sitting in her living room sipping a cup of coffee on Sunday morning when a 16-year-old Albanian migrant got in through the back door, which she had left open for her dog.

“All of a sudden he was there standing in my front room,” she told The Times. “He didn’t seem very friendly. He kept saying: ‘no police, no police’.”

Doyle, a full-time carer for her mother, said she was made to her lock her dog in a bedroom and that the teenager then asked her to drive him to Manchester. When she refused he demanded her mobile phone and used it to arrange to be picked up by a contact.

Doyle managed to sneak out of the front door and alert a neighbour, who contacted the police and confronted the young migrant.

The neighbour, Louise Monger, 36, said she became more sympathetic when she realised his age and tried to assist him. Police arrived and he was detained before the driver arrived, she said …

The teenager who was arrested was said to be in tears as he was driven away in a police car …

A few doors down from Doyle, Kerry Jones, 45, a mother of a young autistic girl, said she now sleeps with a sledgehammer next to her bed after a migrant tried to enter her home through the back door in August

The residents complained that not enough was being done by the council, police and border force to deal with the problem. Many spoke of seeing migrants running through the streets and residential areas or “hiding in bushes” in local parks

When a Times reporter arrived at Dover Priory station yesterday a Syrian mother and her young child approached and asked for help getting to an “army base” where their money and belongings were.

The mother, Nur Taha, 27, said she and her son, Mohammad Salu, six, arrived in Dover ten days ago in an overcrowded dinghy that was rescued on the water and were separated from her partner Akram Salu, 49, who was detained by military police, and their possessions …

When a reporter called Kent Police to request assistance for the mother and son, he was told that no officers were available as they had more pressing priorities. The advice given was to let them roam in Dover and hope that they were safe.

In a statement on Doyle’s report, the force said it received a call at about 10.45am on Sunday that a man had entered “an insecure door at a property in Dover and was seeking the use of a phone”.

The force added: “He was initially arrested, then de-arrested at the scene once the circumstances had been established by speaking to both parties. The man was then detained on behalf of immigration officers.”

In Nur Taha’s case, it is understood she and Mohammad had been processed by Border Force officers

The council was approached for comment.

Mass migration started during Tony Blair’s government and has only become worse, as the backlog of cases is through the roof.

The Times reported:

Twenty years on, the Home Office again needs more information on those arriving, as well as stronger co-operation with France to stem the flow. Officials often have little information on claimants, whose lack of identification may be a deliberate ploy — case workers have little choice but to believe them: 75 per cent of asylum seekers were given the right to stay in the 12 months to March, the highest rate since 1990.

Meanwhile, claims are taking longer to assess, having climbed to an average of 480 days for an initial decision to be reached.

Some in the Home Office have suggested there is a deliberate policy of slowing down the processing of claims given the high rate of people granted asylum. A six-month target for assessing claims has been ditched and the rate of cases completed in that time has fallen from 80 per cent in 2015 to 17 per cent. But this looks set to change, given the soaring cost of housing those waiting for their claim to be assessed in hotels, which now stands at £6.8 million per day.

This month, the idea of erecting tent cities in London’s parks was mooted, something Paris has tried with shocking effect. Most Parisian women living near one of these tent cities can no longer go out at night. Drugs, violence and noise prevail once it turns dark.

The same Times article reported that London tent cities are unlikely to come to fruition:

The idea was raised by civil servants in meetings with leaders of London councils this month, sources said.

It was considered after efforts to persuade London boroughs and local authorities in other parts of the country to accommodate more asylum seekers failed. The Home Office had issued an emergency appeal to councils for more places earlier this year as officials struggled to cope with the growing numbers of migrants crossing the Channel.

Council leaders in the meeting dismissed the prospect of installing marquees in parks in the capital and instead urged the Home Office to lift the ban on asylum seekers being able to get a job …

The Home Office made clear last night that the plans to erect tents in London parks were no longer under consideration. It said: “It is categorically untrue to suggest that the Home Office is planning to erect tents to house asylum seekers in London parks.”

The idea arose during discussions on how to deal with overcrowding at the temporary asylum processing site at Manston Airport, which is only designed to hold Channel migrants for up to 24 hours.

It is unclear what Rishi Sunak has planned for Suella Braverman.

On the one hand, Sunak’s people say everything is in hand, and MI5 say they have no problem working with the Home Secretary, the Times revealed:

A former Conservative minister in the Home Office told The Times: “You can’t even have the vague notion that you might leak because then all the security services will clam up on you — which is not what you need.”

However, responding to claims that MI5 could withhold information from Braverman, a security source said: “This is completely untrue. The home secretary and MI5 have a strong and trusted working relationship. She will continue to receive regular intelligence briefings, as was the case when the home secretary was in post previously and with other home secretaries.”

Rishi Sunak’s spokesman insisted that Braverman had “strong relationships” with the security services and the prime minister’s full confidence.

Oh, dear: ‘the prime minister’s full confidence’. Those are dangerous words, dating back from the 1990s. That means a resignation or a sacking could be coming soon.

The Star wasted no time in putting ‘Leeky Sue’ on their Friday front page:

On the other hand, the Times said that Sunak’s allies are waiting for Braverman to go, possibly so that Jenrick can step in. He wouldn’t be very good, I don’t think, but that seems to be charactistic of Sunak’s government — business as usual, nothing gets done:

Sunak’s close ally and Braverman’s deputy in the Home Office, Robert Jenrick, responded to an urgent question on crossings yesterday in her place. The sole hope now, Sunak allies have whispered, is that Braverman makes a further error and goes for good, leaving Sunak and Jenrick to press on peacefully in her absence.

That doesn’t surprise me in the slightest.

The Guardian continued to cast shade on Braverman:

London’s Evening Standard, however, went with the story about Cabinet minister Nadhim Zahawi’s defence of the Home Secretary at the bottom of their front page:

One good thing that Rishi has done is to decline going to COP27:

A new poll shows that the Conservatives are doing better than Labour, but still have a huge hill to climb:

I disagree with Guido’s assessment here. The poll decline started with Boris and Partygate nearly a year ago:

That said, Guido rightly sees this as an uphill battle:

Add to that the impending storm of budget cuts, Rishi certainly faces an uphill battle.

The poll also strengthens Reform UK’s claims of a resurgence, with their support at 6% and growing representing a relatively strong showing. The Conservatives face challenges from all sides…

Finally, there’s the idiocy of America’s Trevor Noah calling Britain racist towards Rishi Sunak. I haven’t read one negative comment about his heritage from conservatives, ever. Labour — our equivalent of the Democrats — are the ones making the racist remarks.

The Telegraph reported:

Rishi Sunak does not believe Britain is a racist country, a Downing Street spokesman said, following claims by Trevor Noah that there was a “backlash” after he became the UK’s first British-Asian Prime Minister

“But you heard the words in the House [of Commons] on Wednesday with regard to the [appointment of the] Prime Minister,” the spokesman said. When asked whether Mr Sunak believes Britain is a racist country, the spokesman said: “No he doesn’t.”

His words were echoed by Sajid Javid, the former chancellor and health secretary, who said Noah was “detached from reality” when he claimed Mr Sunak’s appointment provoked a racist “backlash”.

… Tom Holland, a popular historian and podcaster, wrote:

—————————————————————————————————————–

Now back to the leadership contest, where we pick up on the events of Saturday, October 22, 2022.

Boris returns to the UK

The Sun‘s Harry Cole told TalkTV that Boris and Rishi could come up with a plan to save the country:

Sky News’s Mark Stone was tracking Boris’s progress back to the UK:

Sky News interviewed Chris Heaton-Harris MP, who said that Boris definitely had 100 backers (see video):

Guido was eager to confirm, as Boris’s numbers were far behind Rishi’s at that point:

Boris landed at Gatwick mid-morning:

Guido was hopeful for his prospects:

One German newspaper, however, was less than enthusiastic, asking, ‘Seriously?’:

Former Home Secretary and Boris loyalist Priti Patel declared her support:

However, the never-Boris MP, Sir Roger Gale, did not mince words in an interview with LBC:

Scottish Conservatives would agree. The Telegraph‘s Alan Cochrane wrote:

Just when an air of undisguised relief began to filter through the higher reaches of the Scottish Tories at the resignation of Prime Minister Liz Truss, along came Boris Johnson to dampen their ardour.

They may not have been the greatest fans of Ms Truss and were glad to see the back of her. But their view of Boris bordered on the certain belief that he was a major electoral liability north of the border. And as the news emerged that the former PM aims to stand again for the top job, one former senior minister commented: “It will destroy the Conservative Party if he does.”

At lunchtime, Harry Cole produced a poll for the Sun saying that Boris still topped the charts. That must have been in England, then:

However, Lord Frost thought that Rishi was the right man for the job:

One Twitter user reminded us that Boris plucked David GH Frost from obscurity and elevated him to the House of Lords:

However, the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg and ITV News’s Anushka Asthana spotted a trend. Former Boris supporters, such as Lord Frost, who also supported Liz Truss, now preferred Rishi Sunak:

That afternoon, Boris’s father Stanley appeared again on GB News, saying he would vote for his son if the contest went to Party members:

Just before 3 p.m., Boris backers told the BBC’s Chris Mason that the former PM had the numbers:

However, the Evening Standard‘s Nicholas Cecil sounded a note of caution — Boris’s MPs did not want their names made public:

A Mail+ report couldn’t shed much more light on the names, either:

On Saturday morning, former Home Secretary Priti Patel said she was backing Mr Johnson in the leadership race because he had a ‘proven track record’. Ms Truss, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and former Home Secretary Suella Braverman are also in Mr Johnson’s camp, while former No10 chief of staff Steve Barclay and ex Brexit Minister Lord Frost have publicly backed rival Rishi Sunak.

Just before 3 p.m., another Twitter user provided this analysis, saying that Rishi had the momentum and numbers:

Just after 3 p.m., Guido’s spreadsheet showed that Rishi was on 120 MPs with Boris on 71:

Red Wall MP Lee Anderson declared his support for Boris after 3:30:

That was about it for Boris’s afternoon.

Shortly after 6 p.m., Guido described how he and his team were compiling their spreadsheet. The following points stood out:

Here is some insight into what has happened in the last few days: the Rishi campaign has decided in their wisdom to freeze Guido out – no briefing, no contact, effectively pretending we don’t exist as a fact of political life. Petulantly putting us in the penalty box for giving Rishi a hard time in the last leadership campaign. We started reporting and publicly recording the support of MPs for Boris on Thursday, and by yesterday evening the Rishi campaign was instructing their supporting MPs to contact us to confirm their support for him. As our records showed support for Rishi catching up with and then pulling ahead of Boris, his campaign reminded supporters to confirm their pledges to us. All can now see the relative strength of candidates’ support.

… MPs who have not pledged can be seen by all sides. They are either genuinely undecided – waiting to see which way the wind blows – or biding their time for Machiavellian reasons, or simply ransoming their vote for the highest bid or best favour. What MPs can’t do is double pledge any more. If they tell a campaign they are backing their candidate the campaign expects them to go public. If they don’t go public, they are suspect.

Yesterday the site was visited three quarters of a million times, such was the demand for data.* This kind of transparency is now a fact of political life, the game has changed. Changed for the better…

*Team Rishi’s strategy of ignoring the website read by so much of the membership doesn’t bode well for their success if the contest goes to the membership.

Penny who?

Meanwhile, Penny Mordaunt’s leadership bid wasn’t the best.

Although this was strictly for MPs, The Guardian went to her Portsmouth North constituency to find out what the public thought:

Penny Mordaunt may have been the MP for Portsmouth North for 12 years, and could perhaps be the next prime minister, but some of her constituents were perplexed when hearing her name on Friday.

“Who’s she? I don’t know nothing about her,” said James McLeish, who added he would not recognise her if she passed him on the street. “Never seen her, don’t even know what she stands for.”

McLeish’s bemusement came hours before Mordaunt formally announced she was standing to replace Liz Truss – stealing a march on her presumed rivals Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson.

Speaking in Cosham High Street, which runs through the centre of a suburb to the north of the port city, McLeish, 82, had a much clearer view on Truss’s resignation after a disastrous 45 days in office.

The Telegraph‘s Tim Stanley gave us a tongue-in-cheek profile of the Leader of the House:

What about Penny Mordaunt, bringing up the rear? She was the first candidate to declare – and she surprised everyone last time by how far she went. The Tory grassroots appear besotted with this lady, thanks to her naval career and taste for innuendo; she exudes an impression of authority that was bolstered during the accession of Charles III when she managed to read aloud from an official document clearly and without error. That’s all it takes nowadays. If only she were in Parliament, Angela Rippon would be a shoe-in.

Ms Mordaunt has reportedly told Jeremy Hunt that if she wins, he can write economic policy. And Mr Hunt, no doubt, rang the Bank of England and said, “If Penny wins, you can write economic policy.” The Bank rang the IMF… and on it went all the way to Joe Biden, who put a call through to his wife, even though she was lying next to him, and said, “Honey, if Penny Farthing is made Queen of England, you can write economic policy.”

Stanley spoke with Conservative Party members:

What do the members think? I’ve put out feelers. They want Boris.

They know he’s not Jesus. He might have spent 40 days in the desert, but if the Devil tried to tempt him, he’d give in on every occasion. Yet they voted for Truss, the suits kicked her out – so now they want the good times back with BoJo. He likes pina coladas and dancing in the rain. And if they want him, and assuming he can find his passport – last seen in a swimming pool locker – he’ll be right with us.

Harry Cole said that Penny’s backers during the Liz Truss contest during the summer were now plumping for Boris or Rishi this time around:

Deal? No deal

Boris and Rishi met on Saturday evening. The meeting lasted three hours. The Times reported it took place at Boris’s office in Millbank Tower. I’ve been to Millbank Tower. It has lovely offices and a spectacular view of the Thames.

The Sun put the talks on its front page on Sunday, October 23:

The paper’s Harry Cole tweeted when the meeting ended, which was after 11 p.m.:

On Sunday, Cole said that Boris’s backers did not want to make themselves public until they were sure there was no deal:

There was no deal.

The Mail on Sunday reported that Suella Braverman was backing Rishi:

She wrote in the Telegraph: ‘I have backed Boris from the start. From running alongside him in London in 2012, to supporting him to be our leader in 2019 and willing him to succeed throughout the travails of this year. His resignation in July was a loss for our country.

‘But we are in dire straits now. We need unity, stability and efficiency. Rishi is the only candidate that fits the bill and I am proud to support him.’

The article gave us scant information on the meeting between Boris and Rishi:

Last night’s crunch summit between Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak, which is believed to have ended shortly before 11.20pm, comes ahead of tomorrow’s deadline for Tory leadership hopefuls to secure the backing of 100 MPs.

The headline banners read:

  • Ex-Chancellor fomally confirms candidacy for Tory leadership after late-night talks with Boris Johnson
  • It was claimed this morning that no agreement was struck between the pair in their three-hour negotiations
  • Some had been hoping for a power-sharing pact between the pair in order to avoid a divisive battle

Sunday’s hope would not last

The day began well, but with Boris’s numbers stagnant, reality began to set in.

That morning, Redfield & Wilton Strategies released a positive poll for Boris, taken on October 20 and 21:

Guido showed us the Mail on Sunday poll, which also showed that Boris had the best chance of stemming a Labour majority were a general election to take place that day. Guido meant ‘Tory’ not ‘Toy’, by the way:

Liz Truss’s Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg told Laura Kuenssberg that Boris had the numbers (video):

Rees-Mogg also defended Boris’s record (video):

Later that morning, Guido said that some MPs were sounding out their constituents:

Just before 2 p.m., Foreign Secretary James Cleverly tweeted that he was backing Boris:

Meanwhile, Rishi already had 150 MPs signed up to vote for him, including names:

The Mail on Sunday reported that Boris allegedly contacted Penny Mordaunt to ask her to stand aside. The sign of a desperate man:

Penny Mordaunt, who officially declared her leadership bid on Friday, was claimed to have rebuffed Mr Johnson’s attempts to get her to drop out of the Tory leadership race in a phone call this afternoon.

He was reported to have told the ex-PM that, even if she did quit, most of her supporters would switch to Mr Sunak and not Mr Johnson. 

‘I’m in this to win it,’ the Leader of the House of Commons declared, despite signs she is struggling to win backers.

Boris bows out

Around 9 p.m., Boris announced that he was withdrawing from the contest. The time was not right for him to return, he said.

Afterwards, the Telegraph recapped the past 24 hours and said the meeting between him and Rishi on Saturday night lasted only one hour:

It was as he sat with Rishi Sunak, face-to-face for 60 minutes with no one else in the room, that Boris Johnson rolled the dice for the last time …

Barely a word had been passed between Mr Sunak and Mr Johnson since their relationship imploded in July.

Yet on Saturday night, the two biggest names in Tory politics agreed to down tools and meet, with the keys to Number 10 the prize on the table …

But the truth was that he believed a joint ticket between the two men, with him back as prime minister, was his route back to Downing Street.

The meeting was called at the behest of Mr Johnson, not Mr Sunak.

It was also, according to one figure who was in touch with one of the two candidates on Sunday, a surprisingly convivial affair. “It was perfectly pleasant,” said the source.

But Mr Johnson had been forced into a meeting with his old foe in an attempt to regain control of the corridors of power.

Above all, it was no Granita pact [one between Tony Blair as PM and Gordon Brown as Chancellor, done in a London restaurant of the same name] because of one simple reality – there was no deal. Mr Sunak did not agree to stand aside. Nor did Mr Johnson. They parted ways unresolved.

On Sunday morning, Boris rang his supporters:

His gamble to take control of Mr Sunak’s bigger list of backers had failed.

That much became clear at 8am on Sunday, when Mr Johnson gathered his supporters on a video call and informed them no agreement had been reached.

We found out more about his appeal to Penny to stand aside:

Ms Mordaunt gave him short shrift. The Commons Leader, who remembers being ejected from the Cabinet by Mr Johnson on his first day in office in July 2019, told him most of her MP supporters would prefer to back Mr Sunak – and that he should consider dropping out of the race and leave her to face him alone. Her offer was refused.

On Saturday, Boris’s aides even said he would keep Jeremy Hunt as Chancellor:

Searching, perhaps, to persuade MPs he had credibility as a “unity candidate”, Mr Johnson’s aides let it be known he would keep Jeremy Hunt in post as Chancellor if he won the contest.

Little did he know that at that moment, Mr Hunt was preparing to make his first public declaration of the leadership race since ruling himself out – by backing Mr Sunak in an article for The Telegraph.

King Charles would have said, ‘Dear, oh dear’.

On Sunday, around 9 p.m., Boris threw in the towel:

By 9pm, the answer was clear.

Writing to his supporters on a WhatsApp group, Mr Johnson himself conceded defeat – but claimed he had the numbers all along.

Telling friends he had been “overwhelmed” by support from MPs, he maintained that he was “uniquely placed to avert a general election”.

Stressing that he had cleared the “high hurdle” of 102 nominations including a proposer and a seconder, he said he was confident he could be “back in Downing Street on Friday”.

But it appeared the concern among Tory MPs about the return of their former leader had rattled Mr Johnson.

Confirming he had “reached out” to Mr Sunak and Ms Mordaunt in an attempt to strike a deal, his message concluded: “I am afraid that the best thing is that I do not allow my nomination to go forward and commit my support to whoever succeeds.”

… As he told MPs on Sunday night: “I believe I have much to offer but I am afraid this is simply not the right time.”

One of Boris’s main supporters, Sir James Duddridge MP, was nonplussed:

An hour later, he changed his support from Boris to Rishi:

Jonathan Gullis, a Red Wall MP, didn’t wait that long:

Braverman pivotal to Rishi’s support

On Monday, October 24, the Times had two articles about the importance of Suella Braverman backing Rishi.

One said:

The European Research Group of Eurosceptic backbenchers [Brexit supporters], which in previous leadership contests has acted as a bloc, is increasingly fractured.

Suella Braverman, the former home secretary who was once one of Johnson’s most ardent supporters, came out for Sunak. The party, she said, could not afford to indulge in “parochial or nativist fantasies” given the “dire straits” it was in now. The world was “fundamentally different” from when Johnson was elected in 2019.

Braverman’s endorsement of Sunak surprised even some of her allies, with one speculating about whether she had been offered the chance to return as home secretary. “She wouldn’t have settled for much less,” said one.

Braverman’s support was not just a blow to Johnson, it also allowed Sunak to make the case to wavering MPs that he could command support across the party. As well as Braverman, Sunak won the backing of other former ERG stalwarts such as Steve Baker and Theresa Villiers. He has even persuaded MPs who had joined a “Back Boris 22” WhatsApp group to jump ship, including Chris Loder, MP for West Dorset.

It suggests that Sunak has made assurances to the ERG on policy and jobs, given that senior ERG figures were briefing on Friday that they would seek “guarantees” before endorsing candidates, which ranged from no concessions on the Northern Ireland protocol, reaffirming the manifesto commitment to reduce immigration and senior cabinet roles for their members.

Braverman suggested as much, saying in an article for The Telegraph website that the party needed to “move beyond Leaver or Remainer; One Nation or ERG; right of the party or left of the party; wets or Thatcherites,” adding: “One person can build that team: Rishi Sunak.”

The other said that Boris’s team had approached her for support on Saturday but was rebuffed:

Johnson’s team had made a “big pitch” to her yesterday in the hope that winning her over would persuade fellow right-wing MPs to back him. She is a former head of the European Research Group of Brexiteer MPs. It is a further sign that the ERG is split down the middle between Sunak and Johnson …

Her endorsement will deliver a big blow to Johnson’s efforts to attract the remaining MPs on the right of the party, as she is seen as one of their flag-bearers and rising stars.

She is the latest figure on the right to endorse Sunak following Kemi Badenoch, the trade secretary, and Lord Frost.

Braverman also signalled that Sunak had agreed to continue with reforms she had begun working on during her short spell as home secretary, including a new law to prevent the European Convention on Human Rights allowing migrants and criminals to avoid deportation. It also suggests that Sunak has agreed to press ahead with the government’s controversial Rwanda policy.

I hope that all works out for her.

Unfortunately for James Duddridge, the Boris loyalist, even though he voted for Rishi, he was sacked as Trade minister on Wednesday:

Jacob Rees-Mogg also got the sack this week and has returned to the backbenches.

Rishi’s ‘coronation’

On Monday morning, October 24, the outspoken Lee Anderson refused to back Rishi, swapping his vote from Boris to Penny. Interesting, to say the least:

Just before 1 p.m., Rishi had over 200 backers, double of what he needed:

At 2 p.m., the all-powerful 1922 Committee assembled at Conservative Party headquarters (CCHQ) to announce the results.

They had to meet at CCHQ, because while Rishi was the new Party leader, he was not yet Prime Minister and would not be able to enter No. 10 until he met with the King, who would grant him permission to form a government. The monarch returned to London on Tuesday, at which time Rishi’s premiership was formalised.

According to the 1922 Committee, Boris had real numbers behind him — and had passed the threshold:

Guido reported:

For the historical record Nigel Adams says he met this morning with Bob Blackman, Joint Secretary of the 1922 Committee.

He has independently verified the nomination paperwork and confirmed to me that Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP was above the threshold required to stand for the Conservative Party leadership in this leadership election. Therefore Mr Johnson could have proceeded to the ballot had he chosen to do so.

The nominations process is confidential and it is up to individual MPs whether they wish to publicly announce who they back in leadership elections – Bob Blackman is verifying nominations today for the remaining candidates in this leadership election. Those still suffering from Boris Derangement Syndrome may need to seek help…

At the very last minute, Penny Mordaunt withdrew from the contest.

That meant Rishi had his ‘coronation’ as the only candidate left.

As such, the vote did not need to go to the Party members.

Conservative MPs were happy as Larry as they rejoiced that they finally got their man in office at last.

That evening, GB News reported that the Party’s phone lines and website could not handle the amount of calls and clicks from members trying to cancel their membership.

They weren’t angry at Rishi as much as they were the MPs who denied them a say.

End of series

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