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This is my final instalment on the rise and fall of Matt Hancock, the former Health and Social Care Secretary.

Those who missed them — and the drama of the pandemic — can catch up on parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

July 2021

Britons, including some Conservative MPs, were angry that Hancock was not-so-secretly embracing his female adviser while imposing draconian coronavirus restrictions on the rest of us. Thankfully, The Sun revealed the truth in a ‘world exclusive’.

On July 3, 2021, journalist Isabel Oakeshott, who recently co-authored Hancock’s Pandemic Diaries — now on sale — explained in The Spectator how she missed the scoop, even when presented with the evidence (emphases mine, unless otherwise indicated):

I was sent a compromising picture of the then health secretary and his mistress almost a week before the Sun newspaper sensationally revealed their relationship — and I did not believe it was him

Here’s what happened. On the morning of 20 June I was leafing through the Sunday newspapers when I received a message from an important contact. ‘Good morning. This might brighten your day, I have a guy who says he has incriminating footage of Matt Hancock,’ he wrote breezily. Accompanying the text was a grainy image, no bigger than a postage stamp, of a man in a suit, leaning forward to embrace a raven-haired woman in a figure-hugging dress. ‘What to do next?’ the message asked …

I only had the one poor-quality screen grab (not the video that would later be released) and no information about the original source. The picture had been sent to my contact via an untraceable ProtonMail account. Moreover, the pandemic has sent all manner of conspiracy theorists and pranksters into overdrive, creating perilous working conditions for journalists …

My contact agreed that his source was ‘probably a chancer’, but said he would see what else he could get. ‘No rush,’ the original source said when they discussed arrangements for viewing the full video — and then he or she hotfooted it to the Sun.

A former counter-terror detective studied past photos of Hancock’s office and deduced that Hancock might have had his office extended by appropriating some of the corridor space. The corridor would probably have had a security camera:

On July 1, in Parliament, Labour Shadow Leader of the House Thangham Debbonaire took the then-Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg to task for having previously defended the Health Secretary throughout the pandemic:

That same day, Hancock was in his West Suffolk constituency to apologise to the locals.

The London Evening Standard reported that Conservatives there:

vowed to stick by him after he gave a “heartfelt apology”, despite calls for his deselection.

The former health secretary was on Wednesday told to “do the honourable thing” and stand down by a local Tory councillor …

Tory councillor Ian Houlder told the Standard he was “disgusted” by Mr Hancock’s behaviour and had written to his local association calling for him to be deselected before the next election.

However, after days of silence, the MP’s local association has spoken out in support of Mr Hancock saying he has “faced up to the mistakes” he made.

In a statement, the West Suffolk Conservative Association said: “Following Matt Hancock’s resignation as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, West Suffolk Conservative Association has taken soundings.

“We wish to express our support for Matt, who has served our Constituency tirelessly over the past 11 years.

“Matt has given us a heartfelt apology for recent events, has faced up to the mistakes he has made on both a human and a professional level and expressed sincere contrition.

“We want to thank Matt for the extraordinary job he has done as Health Secretary leading the country through the pandemic and overseeing the roll out of the world’s best vaccination programme, and look forward to working with him as he continues to represent his constituents in Parliament.”

Councillor Houlder said the MP’s actions were “beyond the pale” and added: “It’s nothing to do with his sordid affair because otherwise you’d have an empty parliament wouldn’t you?

“It’s the very fact he stood up there for a year spouting, pontificating, ordering, browbeating, slagging off people who broke his rules.”

Mr Hancock’s constituency association was said to be divided in the wake of his decision to leave his wife of 15 years, Martha, who is a popular figure. He is said to have delegated much of the work of networking with local worthies to his wife.

One anonymous councillor told the Telegraph there was not “outrage” but a “sense of sadness” for the family. They added: “There is support for Matt as a constituency MP and that seems to be holding up.”

On July 3, The Sun accused Labour’s Shadow Deputy Leader Angela Rayner, a grandmother, of hypocrisy in slamming Hancock’s affair when she was allegedly having one herself, with a fellow Labour MP:

ANGELA Rayner has been accused of hypocrisy after calling out Matt Hancock over his affair — while keeping quiet on the nature of her relationship with a married MP.

The Labour deputy leader, 41, grew close to Shadow Minister Sam Tarry after being wed for a decade and it is understood his marriage is now in crisis.

Her bond with the father of two was revealed in The Sun on Sunday last October.

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen declared: “The public deserves the same transparency from Angela Rayner as she has demanded of Matt Hancock.

“She’s taken the moral high ground on this matter on every occasion. You can always bank on the Left for their constant hypocrisy.”

Mrs Rayner, who has two children with estranged husband Mark, wrote to Boris Johnson demanding he sack Mr Hancock following the revelations.

The following day, the paper’s veteran columnist Trevor Kavanagh said that publishing Matt Hancock’s security camera photo and video was the right thing to do:

FREE at last! The Sun did Britain a huge favour last week with our “Hancock – The Movie” scoop.

Nothing else would have dislodged this limpet’s grip on our daily lives.

Since then, it’s been like waking from an anaesthetic to find test-and-trace manacles and Covid leg irons being unlocked and removed.

New Health Secretary Sajid Javid’s comforting bedside ­manner and vow of freedom from July 19 are a relief from the teasing menace of his predecessor.

On July 5, former Conservative MP Norman Tebbit wrote in The Telegraph that this never would have happened in Margaret Thatcher’s day, although he did admit the Cecil Parkinson affair:

I see that Mrs Coladangelo is described as being an “non-executive director” at the Department of Health, but what are the duties of such a post? By whom was she appointed and to whom did she report? That I do not know.

In my time as a Secretary of State in the government of Margaret Thatcher, things were arranged rather differently. I had a Permanent Secretary who was a career civil servant responsible for all the officials throughout the Department and was in turn responsible to me. That was a clear and sensible arrangement which was wrecked by Prime Minister Tony Blair’s half-witted scheme to bring in outsiders from the private sector to take senior posts in the civil service.

Before then, had a minister begun to form an emotional or sexual relationship with one of his staff, she (or he) would have been promptly moved to another post before things became dangerous. It was not that politicians in those days had higher moral standards, but there was an effective way of stopping them from making fools of themselves and it generally worked well. However, even in those days there was nothing which could have saved my old friend Cecil Parkinson from his foolish affair with his constituency secretary, who was not a civil servant. The affair was exposed when she bore him a daughter.

On July 10, the Mail on Sunday reported that Hancock would need more money to fund his new life. Hmm. This seems to presage what happened late in 2022, with his appearance on I’m A Celebrity … Allegedly, the show paid him £400,000 to appear in the Australian jungle. Interesting:

Matt Hancock is already plotting how to salvage his political career – despite being urged by some former Cabinet colleagues to quit the Commons entirely.

The ex-Health Secretary has appealed to current and former Ministers for advice on how to fight back after his resignation, The Mail on Sunday can reveal …

They also warned that even if he stayed on, he could struggle to supplement his backbench MP’s salary of nearly £82,000 with outside jobs, which they say he would now need to.

One former Minister he has consulted said that Mr Hancock, who has left his wife for Ms Coladangelo, would need more money to ‘fund his new life’.

The Sun also reported the story.

On July 15, the Information Commissioner’s Office seized computers and other electronic equipment connected with the leak of the CCTV leak leading to Hancock’s resignation:

Guido Fawkes reported (red emphases his):

The statement just released goes on to say “Personal computer equipment and electronic devices were seized as part of the operation”. The ICO’s Director of Investigations says it’s vital everyone, including government employees, have trust and confidence in the protection of their personal data. Victoria Newton recently said she’s “done everything I can to protect” The Sun’s source…

On July 31, the Mail reported, complete with photos, that Hancock and his girlfriend were still living apart:

Matt Hancock and his lover Gina Coladangelo are ‘together, apart’ as they try to build a relationship out of the public gaze, say friends.

The former Health Secretary is understood to be in regular contact with Ms Coladangelo – but they are not yet living together.

On Thursday, Mr Hancock was pictured collecting his belongings from his former marital home in London.

The father-of-three was handed a bin bag containing his clothes, along with ten boxes, two suitcases, a child seat and a coffee machine – and was watched at the garden gate by a confused-looking family dog.

August 2021

On August 1, The Telegraph‘s Gordon Rayner wrote:

It is a measure of the brutal nature of politics that scarcely a month has passed since Matt Hancock’s resignation, yet he already has the air of a figure from history.

The former Health Secretary risked everything to pursue an affair with his aide Gina Coladangelo, and four weeks after it was so humiliatingly exposed, the future of his relationship with her, as well as the future of his career, appears to be up in the air.

Mr Hancock has not given up hope of rescuing his ministerial career, and in recent days has begun to re-engage with fellow MPs via a backbenchers’ WhatsApp group in what colleagues interpreted as an attempt to test the water …

There was no sign of contrition, however, from Mr Hancock, who was blamed for the Tories’ narrow defeat in the Batley and Spen by-election, which came days after the scandal over his affair …

That night former Conservative/UKIP MP Douglas Carswell told GB News:

We must never be in a position where someone like Matt Hancock can tell us if we can hug our grandma.

On Tuesday, August 17, GB News reported that Hancock’s lack of action as Health Secretary might have worsened the pandemic. There was a point where the Test and Trace app was pinging people’s phones constantly, advising them to stay at home. It was called the pingdemic:

The article says:

Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock was reportedly asked whether the NHS Covid-19 app should be amended to alert contacts of positive cases from two days back rather than five days, but no change was made.

The app was tweaked earlier this month amid the so-called “pingdemic”, which had seen hundreds of thousands of alerts sent out telling people to isolate because they had come into contact with someone who had the virus.

The high number of alerts caused disruption to several sectors as workers had to stay at home after being pinged.

It was announced on August 2 that fewer contacts would be notified in future after the app’s “logic” was updated to alert only those contacts two days prior to a positive test, rather than five days.

But the Guardian has reported an unnamed Whitehall source as saying Mr Hancock, who resigned on June 26 amid public outrage after leaked CCTV footage showed him kissing an aide in breach of coronavirus social distancing rules, had previously been told that the app was working to five days, rather than two.

The person told the newspaper: “The standard definition of a contact in all the scientific and public stuff from Public Health England and NHS Test and Trace is someone who has been in contact from two days before they have symptoms and if they don’t have symptoms but test positive, you go back two days from the test.

“But the app had five days in it. A submission was made to Hancock from Test and Trace people around the time of his resignation saying ‘it’s five days but it should be two days: should we change it now?’ And it didn’t happen.”

On August 17, The Spectator and Guido Fawkes got footage of Hancock travelling on the Tube’s District Line.

The Spectator reported:

the 42-year-old has become an unlikely star on TikTok after recently encountering a group of youthful commuters on the District Line. 

The group were apparently unaware of Hancock’s identity but delighted in teasing the poor ex-minister about his choice of hat wear and stealing the baseball cap to wear themselves. Videos recorded of the encounter detail how ‘The whole tube was singing… We love you Matt, we do!’ — something which ‘made our night’ according to the adolescent uploader.

Guido said:

He’s lost his wife, his job, his home and now his hat: footage has emerged of Matt Hancock being ribbed by members of the public on a tube. The video shows a lady stealing Matt’s headwear, before running off with it at Embankment station. He then appears to take his mask off as he shouts after her. Would SAGE approve, Matt?

On August 20, Guido Fawkes posted that the then-Secretary for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden pinched the fetching pop art portrait of the Queen for his own office. It’s not a Warhol, by the way. It’s by a British artist who paints in the same style:

Guido explained:

Oliver Dowden has posted a photo to social media with a notably redecorated Whitehall office, resplendent with some well-known pop-art of the Queen. Politicos will immediately recognise the artwork given it spent the entirety of the pandemic positioned behind Matt Hancock during interviews in his ex-DHSC office. One of Sajid’s first decisions in office was to replace the piece with an 1890s oil painting…

While Hancock wasn’t able to take home the prized painting, which belongs to the Government Art Collection, he thankfully didn’t leave his personalised ‘movie director‘ chair around for Dowden to pinch. With rumours of a reshuffle circulating, perhaps the painting isn’t the only thing from the DHSC office Dowden has his eye on…

Hat Tip: Hugo Gye

September 2021

On September 3, The Telegraph reported that a source told them Hancock was no gentleman:

Matt Hancock is “no gentleman” and has failed to apologise to his wife for cheating on her, according to a source close to the family.

The source said Mr Hancock’s wife, Martha, had been “crushed” and “shattered” by his infidelity and that he had shown a “lack of concern” for her and their three children. It has been reported that she is suffering from long Covid, having contracted the virus from her husband …

The ongoing upset and distress have prompted a source close to the family to speak out for the first time, saying they have been “appalled” by his behaviour … 

The source said: “Martha has been crushed by this, and Matt is only interested in his career and his mistress. He is a despicable individual.

“He has shown no concern for Martha or the children. He has been uncaring to Martha even though she backed him throughout his career and introduced him to the people that made his career. She has always defended him throughout.”

Hancock’s attempts at getting back in the public’s good books were failing dismally.

On September 4, the Mail reported:

Matt Hancock’s bid to rebuild his reputation by running the London Marathon has hit the buffers after pranksters flooded his charity page with mocking taunts.

The former Health Secretary is running in next month’s event to raise funds for St Nicholas Hospice Care in his West Suffolk constituency – a decision that critics say is a crude bid at rehabilitating his reputation.

But the move already appears to have backfired, with his JustGiving page flooded by people donating the minimum sum and using the opportunity to write an accompanying message condemning his philandering and record in office.

By last night, 459 ‘supporters’ had pledged £3,653, but the majority of messages were critical.

Matt Reilly wrote: ‘If you break an ankle, I’ll donate another £100’

Dauda Bappa wrote: ‘Happy to donate to this hospice, but you are a truly terrible human being, Matt. I guess hate can be used for good. Break a leg xx.’

Another said: ‘You, sir, are the worst kind of over-privileged slug pretending to be a human.’

On September 6, Guido had an update:

Hancock’s attempted return back to the Tory fold isn’t going as smoothly as he may have liked. Back in recess he made his first appearance on the Commons’ backbenches, though didn’t make a speech as he instead attempted to schmooze colleagues in the tea room. At least one of his colleagues told Guido they found it pretty uncomfortable…

Last week, he made headlines after announcing his participation in a sponsored run for a local hospice, only to see plenty of online trolls pay money just to throw abuse at him in the donation comments section.

Matt clearly didn’t see the funny side to this; while he can’t stop the trolling entirely, he’s forced all donations to now come from ‘anonymous’. Meaning jokers can no longer pose as his mum or Gina Coladangelo.

His luck isn’t set to improve this week either. On Thursday he’s to be a Tory association’s guest of honour for the first time since The Sun turned him into a persona non grata. Tory members in Chipping Barnet will be the first to enjoy his company at venue. Guido hears the room can cater for up to 350 bodies. The number of ticket sales so far? Around 70…

October 2021

Matt Hancock ran the London Marathon as planned in order to raise money for the hospice in his constituency. The Mail included a video of him in their report of October 3.

On October 12, the Mail reported that there was good news for Hancock, at last:

Matt Hancock made a surprise comeback last night as he was given a United Nations role just four months after resigning as health secretary.

The former Cabinet minister will advise African nations on how their economies can bounce back from the pandemic.

The Daily Mail understands he won the unpaid job thanks to Nimco Ali, a campaigner against female genital mutilation who is a close friend of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s wife Carrie.

Guido has a copy of his acceptance letter.

Alas, Hancock’s good news was short-lived.

On October 16, The Telegraph reported that the UN rescinded his appointment:

Matt Hancock has lost his new job at the United Nations just four days after being appointed, following outrage from figures who condemned the “jaw dropping” decision to appoint him as a special envoy for Covid recovery in Africa.

The UN’s Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) said his appointment was “not being taken forward,” following days of criticism.

Mr Hancock, who resigned his job as Health Secretary in June after he was pictured on CCTV kissing an aide, had said he was “honoured” to take up the role of Special Representative for Financial Innovation and Climate Change.

The Telegraph understands Mr Hancock was told by the United Nations that it cannot appoint sitting MPs to be special representatives, and that it was forced to rescind the appointment.

Mid-month, Hancock began getting his own back on the public.

His first article appeared in the Mail on Sunday, September 18, in which he called anti-vaxxers ‘blinkered and dangerous’. However, it was only in October when we found out how much he got paid for penning it. Guido’s Christian Calgie revealed that Hancock received £2,000:

His second that I know of, co-authored with Labour MP Rupa Huq — not a natural political pairing by any means — appeared in The Times on Wednesday, October 20. If the anti-vaxxer article infuriated me, this one took the biscuit. 

The two of them attempted to portray the two tragic assassinations of MPs David Amess, who had just been stabbed at his local surgery (to meet members of the public), and Jo Cox, slain a week before the Brexit referendum in June 2016, as results of online harassment. Neither was anything of the sort!

‘MPs need more protection online’ reads, in part:

The assassination of our kind friend and colleague Sir David Amess — he genuinely was a friend to so many — has shocked parliament to its core, but the aftermath, too, has not been a pretty sight. We were both disgusted to see Michael Gove harassed walking along the pavement. Coming so painfully soon after the murder it shows the urgent need for action. Tightening security at MPs’ surgeries addresses the symptoms not the cause.

There have been hecklers as long as there have been public meetings. But using online social media, keyboard warriors post accusatory, aggressive messages often based on conspiracy theories and lies. Our timelines and inboxes are awash with threats. Women, particularly from ethnic minority backgrounds, get it worst. But white men are not immune either. One user said, “just execute matt hancock live on bbc one i say”

The online harms bill is a good start, but it does not yet tackle anonymous abuse. It is a particular problem that libel laws don’t work in the internet age. It is hard to prove that a single post by a social media user with a few hundred followers causes significant damage, but when that post is shared and added to by hundreds or thousands of others, it has the same effect as a defamatory newspaper piece in days gone by.

A few days later, social media had captured Hancock and his friend on holiday in Split, Croatia:

On October 25, Guido wrote:

Matt Hancock treated his lover Gina Coladangelo to another romantic getaway over the weekend, this time in the port city of Split, Croatia. The pair were spotted sipping wine outside the Lvxor Café on Saturday night. Split? Cynics didn’t expect them to still be together…

Later that day, Guido posted that Hancock wrote to IPSO — the Independent Press Standards Organisation — demanding that images of him be removed from the public domain:

Guido’s post has the text of Hancock’s long letter and this comment:

That horse has bolted through the office doorway. As for the video of Matt and Gina in Split which was circulating widely on social media after a holidaying Briton spotted them and whipped their smartphone out, asking IPSO to intervene would not make any difference. More importantly, as Matt told parliament after the Leveson Inquiry, when he was the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport:

Over many centuries in Britain, our press has held the powerful to account and been free to report and investigate without fear or favour. These principles underpin our democracy and are integral to our freedom as a nation.

The harm done to his children was, as he must know in his heart, a consequence of his own actions. The pictorial reminder disappearing from the papers won’t change that…

How true!

November 2021

Still smarting from public backlash, Hancock put out an advert for a Communications Officer. Oddly, the application dates ran from November 13 to November 14.

On November 15, Guido posted a screenshot of the ad and this commentary:

Over the weekend Guido noticed the former Health Minister looking for a new Communications Officer to undertake his media and press activities. The advert said he wants someone to be “pro-active and re-active communications with all media”, and to create content for social media and assist with wider communication activities. Possibly spurred on by yet more embarrassing headlines over the weekend that he is to write a £100,000 autobiography called entitled “How I Won the Covid War”?

Matt also wants the prospective hire to “Establish, monitor and update” social media, which is surely a mammoth and hardly heartening task.

Unusually, Hancock gave prospective applicants just 24 hours to apply after publishing the ad on Saturday, and closing it on Sunday. Was Matt actually offering fair competition for the job or did he already have a mate in mind? He’d surely avoid giving preferential contract treatment to mates…

The month’s Hancock news ended with The Spectator awards. Hancock’s successor Sajid Javid won the Comeback of the Year Award and thanked ‘the CCTV guy’ who leaked the incriminating visuals:

December 2021

December’s news was mercifully brief.

On December 11, Hancock attempted to get down with the kids at the Jingle Bell Ball held at London’s O2 Centre. Had he seen a fashion stylist? One wondered:

On December 8, The Sun‘s political editor Harry Cole won the Scoop of the Year prize at the British Journalism Awards and took a swipe at attempts to censor the images that brought about Hancock’s downfall.

On December 13, the Press Gazette reported:

Sun political editor Harry Cole has pledged “we will keep fighting on” amid a “continuing erosion of journalistic rights”.

Cole made the comments after The Sun picked up the Scoop of the Year prize at the British Journalism Awards on Wednesday night for revealing then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s office affair with aide Gina Coladangelo while Covid-19 restrictions were in place.

Cole collected the award alongside Sun head of news Alex Goss and executive news editor Ben O’Driscoll …

But he warned the aftermath of the Hancock scoop had demonstrated an ongoing “systematic decay of freedom of the press”.

The Information Commissioner’s Office raided the homes of two suspected whistleblowers in the case who may have leaked the CCTV footage of Hancock and Coladangelo’s incriminating office snog.

Cole said The Sun also witnessed threats from government officials and even heard accusations of involvement by Chinese and Russian agents and spies.

“Everyone in this room, whether they read The Sun or not, should know that this has a chilling effect on the freedom of the press and we are really glad that public interest journalism is recognised in this way,” he said.

Cole said the Hancock story was a “really important scoop for us”, adding: “We pride ourselves on our reputation as protectors of free speech and democracy.

“There are sometimes stories you write that you have to make a public interest argument for. It was so clearly and obviously in the public interest we just knew it was a story that was going to leave everyone in our trail. As a journalist there’s no better feeling than knowing you’ve got one of those in the bag.”

As well as the ICO investigation, Cole pointed to the threat posed by proposed reform to the Official Secrets Act which could see journalists treated like spies for reporting on matters of public interest.

January 2021

On January 21, 2022, the Mail reported on the actual costs of MPs, which are much higher than one thinks: an average of £240,000 per MP per annum.

Hancock came in for special mention:

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was the most expensive MP in the Cabinet, with total costs of £225,305. This compared with £174,454 for Boris Johnson and £164,545 for Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

On January 18, the Evening Standard reported that Hancock took an icy dip in the Serpentine in Hyde Park:

The 43-year-old Tory MP had been jogging in a foggy Hyde Park with members of the Parliamentary Running Club, including former Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland and former junior health minister Lord Bethell.

On reaching the Serpentine, where other swimmers had broken a thin layer of ice on the surface, the trio stripped off and took to the murky waters.

Mr Hancock, who has only just emerged from isolation after testing positive for Covid for the second time last week, swam for about 20 metres in water chilled by a frosty winter’s night before deciding that was enough.

However, the Serpentine (Serps) Swimming Club was not impressed. Hancock was an interloper:

The Serps Swimming Club had tweeted a photo of him with a notice saying that only members were allowed — no guests:

February 2022

On February 21, Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle called on Hancock to contribute to a debate. Hoyle quipped:

The man for the rules, Matt Hancock!

Guido commented:

He just can’t catch a break…

That month, Hancock decided to reveal more about his new relationship in a podcast.

On February 27, the Mail on Sunday‘s Emily Prescott reported:

Now the dust is settling, he is opening up about the romance. 

My pictures show Matt and Gina at the recording of a yet-to-be released podcast, The Diary of a CEO with Dragons’ Den star Steven Bartlett, which was recorded a couple of weeks ago.

My mole tells me Matt, 43, became very emotional talking about falling in love and said it was ‘totally out of his control’

Matt said it happened quite suddenly, despite knowing Gina since university at Oxford.

He conceded it had been the ‘most difficult year of his life’. 

But Gina was sitting behind the cameras offering loving and supportive glances throughout.

The Mail had more the next day, when the podcast aired. What he said was all very confusing:

Former health secretary Matt Hancock has denied he broke the law by having an affair with a close aide during lockdown that destroyed his political career …

Speaking to The Diary of a CEO podcast, released this morning, Mr Hancock said he ‘fell in love’ with Coladangelo after bringing her in to work with him. 

He told the podcast host, entrepreneur and Dragons’ Den investor Steven Bartlett: ‘It actually happened after the rules were lifted, but the guidance was still in place. I resigned because I broke the social distancing guidelines by then.

‘They weren’t actually rules. They weren’t the law. But that’s not the point.

‘The point is they were the guidelines that I’d been proposing. And that happened because I fell in love with somebody.’ 

People had to stay two metres apart from anyone outside their household or bubble, under the guidance at the time. 

Mr Hancock stressed that his relationship with Miss Coladangelo was serious, saying he hated that some had ‘got the impression somehow that this was [casual sex]’.

Mid-month Steven Bartlett tweeted that he had interviewed Hancock:

He said: ‘Matt Hancock x The Diary Of A CEO! Matt Hancock stopped by with his new partner Gina to speak to me.

‘It’s time to find out what really happened, it’s time to ask the questions we’ve not had answers to; Party gate? Where did the CCTV footage come from? What mistakes did he make?’

He added: ‘This is the first time in the history of The Diary Of A CEO that things got a little heated between me and a guest at one point.

‘However, Matt did answer all of the tough questions I asked him and nothing will be edited out. You will see it all.’

Mr Bartlett also tweeted pictures of Mr Hancock and Ms Coladangelo at the interview, with the former health secretary wearing blue jeans and a navy roll-neck jumper.

Guido had more, along with a video clip. Hancock didn’t think Bartlett was being respectful enough:

Here’s the video clip:

Guido wrote:

Inevitably Hancock was uncomfortable with the topic, clearly unhappy at Bartlett referring to the affair as “casual sex”. He repeatedly asks Bartlett to restart the segment by asking the questions “in a little bit more respectful way”, and seems to think the moment would be edited out of the final interview. It wasn’t.

He advised:

Watch at your own discretion…

March 2022

On March 2, The Telegraph‘s Alison Pearson commented on the podcast, saying that Hancock was ‘dressed as the Milk Tray man’:

Talking to Steve Bartlett on the Diary of a CEO podcast, Hancock, dressed like the Milk Tray man, said he “fell in love” and “it all happened quite quickly. It actually happened… after the rules were lifted, but the guidance was still in place… I resigned because I broke the social distancing guidelines. By then, they weren’t actually rules. They weren’t the law. But that’s not the point. The point is they were the guidelines that I’d been proposing. And that happened because I fell in love with somebody.

Let us pause for a moment to unpick that knotty thicket of delusion and self-justification. Hancock clearly knew full well that what he was telling the British people they must do after a certain date was just guidance not regulation. As Lord Sumption has observed: “I think the Government knew people did not understand the difference and exploited their confusion.”

Now, Hancock has the brass neck to exploit that confusion to his own advantage. Hey, it was fine to be canoodling in his office because no law said that he couldn’t, even though lesser mortals stayed well away from their best beloved for a year in case they got caught. 

Unfortunately, such a realisation would require a degree of self-knowledge to which Hancock is a stranger. He is certainly in love – with himself mostly – and that fierce self-love leads him to think that, if he keeps bouncing up … then the public will forgive and forget.

We won’t, believe me. 

I’m not at the forgiveness point, either.

I have many more Matt Hancock pandemic bookmarks but will wait for the official inquiry before going into them.

The podcast was still a hot topic on March 6, as the Mail on Sunday had more about Hancock’s accusation that Bartlett wasn’t respectful enough:

During the two-hour interview for a podcast last week, Mr Hancock protested when Mr Bartlett mentioned ‘casual sex’ while questioning him about his extra-marital affair with aide Gina Coladangelo – in breach of his own Covid restrictions.

Mr Hancock raised his hand and asked Mr Bartlett to ‘ask the question in a little bit more respectful way’. He added: ‘I have not had casual sex with anybody, I fell in love.’

Mr Hancock asked the host if could ‘start this section again’, and this newspaper understands that the MP also told Mr Bartlett ‘this is off’ – meaning off the record – as they discussed rephrasing the question to remove the reference to casual sex.

Mr Bartlett said: ‘OK, let me ask the question and we can crack the question, all right?’ He then continued the interview.

Mr Hancock and his aides thought the brief exchange would be cut and were horrified to discover it had been left in when the podcast was posted online last week. But Mr Hancock’s words ‘this is off’ were not included.

The Mail on Sunday understands that Mr Hancock feels ‘stitched up’ and that he had agreed to do the interview with Mr Bartlett on the basis that nothing would be left in that he considered to be ‘hurtful’ to his estranged wife, Martha, or their three children.

On March 25, Will Lloyd wrote a brilliant article for UnHerd listing all of Hancock’s best quotes before and during the pandemic in ‘The tragedy of Matt Hancock’, which is well worth reading.

Lloyd concluded with the fallout of the present day:

The number of children referred for specialist mental health help rises above one million for the first time in 2021. Cases involving those 18 and under increase by 26% during the pandemic. The Royal College of Psychiatrists warns it is “becoming an impossible situation to manage”.

People, including Hancock, like to talk about learning the lessons of the pandemic. So we can prepare better for the next one. They don’t realise that between the million mentally hamstrung teenagers, the NHS waiting list hitting 9.2 million within two years, an endless backlog of cases in criminal courts, and inflation, that the pandemic hasn’t ended yet. It’s barely started.

April 2022

On April 13, the investigation into the leaked CCTV images ended with no charges brought:

Guido reported the text from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and his own summary:

The Information Commissioner’s Office closed their investigation into the Department for Health CCTV leak that saw Hancock’s snog with then-aide Gina Coladangelo splashed on the front page of The Sun. The ICO announced this afternoon that their investigation had found “insufficient evidence to prosecute two people suspected of unlawfully obtaining and disclosing CCTV footage from the Department for Health and Social Care”. They shouldn’t have been investigating anyway…

On April 24, GB News’s Dan Wootton interviewed Hancock for 30 minutes about the pandemic policies:

Hancock justified himself throughout. I felt sorry for Wootton, who was — and still is — trying to get the truth:

May 2022

On May 5, Hancock opened his home to Ukrainian refugees.

The Telegraph reported:

Matt Hancock has welcomed seven Ukrainian refugees and their four dogs into his family home in Suffolk.

Mr Hancock, the former health secretary, first revealed that he would take part in the Homes for Ukraine scheme last month after being contacted by a constituent.

The MP for Suffolk West has now housed the constituent’s mother, two sisters, niece, nephew, and the nephew’s partner and grandmother.

“I’ve enjoyed getting to know Ukrainian food and picking up the basics of the language,” he said. “It’s humbling living with three generations from one family who have escaped war with little more than the clothes on their backs. It brings perspective.”

Writing in The Spectator, he added that the teenagers staying with him had continued their studies through remote learning …

July 2022

On July 19, Hancock presented a guest phone-in on LBC.

A guest got the better of him and Hancock muted him:

Guido has the story and video, including an update from a friend of Hancock’s saying he was right to mute the man:

Matt Hancock is spending the day behind the LBC mic, presenting what should be a radio phone in, though it’s coming across as a prolonged party political broadcast on behalf of Rishi Sunak™. Matt was left hot under the collar at one point following some searing criticisms from a member of the public. John from Edinburgh called out Hancock’s legacy in dealing with the management of rare conditions, calling him a “totally useless health secretary”. Before too long Matt could clearly no longer take the barrage, angrily signalling for a producer to mute the call before launching into an uninterrupted rant. For the second time in recent history, Matt was unfortunately undermined by a camera he presumably forgot was running…

Here’s the video:

October 2022

On October 24, as Rishi Sunak received his coronation as Conservative Party leader, Matt Hancock was one of the Party’s MPs meeting at CCHQ to congratulate him.

Sunak brushed past him as if he weren’t there:

The Telegraph reported:

He was once the health secretary, at the helm of one of the most important government departments during the Covid-19 pandemic.

But Matt Hancock appeared to have slipped down the hierarchy on Monday, after being ignored by Rishi Sunak on his way into Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) as party leader for the first time.

The former health secretary, who nominated Mr Sunak for the Conservative Party leadership this week and sat next to him in Cabinet when the pair served under Boris Johnson, looked on as his old colleague greeted others.

On October 31, Guido told us that Hancock dropped his bid to run as the new chair of the Treasury Select Committee:

Matt Hancock’s campaign for the chairmanship of the Treasury select committee has come to a premature end. Passed over by Rishi, the former Health Secretary was keen to stress he was still in play, and that “a number of people suggested I should go for Chair”. The number just wasn’t large enough…

November 2022

Undoubtedly, November was Britain’s longest month of enduring Hancock since the pandemic.

If Parliament wouldn’t acquiesce to bringing him back into the fold, perhaps a television audience would do so.

On November 1, we discovered that the disgraced former Health Secretary was planning to go Down Under in I’m a Celebrity … Get Me out of Here:

Guido told us more:

Intent on proving his midlife crisis hasn’t yet peaked, Matt Hancock is jetting off to Australia to enter the jungle as the 12th campmate on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here, the Sun has revealed. The new series kicks off on November 6th, with Hancock arriving as a late contestant soon after. Cabinet hopes dashed, he’s now off to become the King of the Jungle…

A political ally of Hancock’s sent Guido a lengthy justification for the decision, which includes promoting Hancock’s notional dyslexia campaign, of which we had never heard before this. Excerpts follow:

I’m A Celeb is the most watched show on TV. Matt doesn’t expect to serve in Government again, so it’s an incredible opportunity for him to engage with the 12million Brits who tune in every single night

There are many ways to do the job of being an MP. Whether he’s in camp for one-day or three weeks, there are very few places people will be able to see a politician as they really are.

Where better to show the human side of those who make these decisions than with the most watched programme on TV? …

Matt’s talked to the whips, in the same way any MP would when going on a foreign visit, which happens all the time. As I say, Matt doesn’t expect to serve in Government again, but he can support Rishi and the Government in different ways.

This is an amazing opportunity to engage with the public and talk about issues he really cares about – including his dyslexia campaign.

Hancock’s friend said he’d had discussions with the Whips Office and that everything was fine.

Well, it wasn’t fine at all. Hancock had the Conservative whip withdrawn and, to this day, still sits as an Independent:

Guido wrote, ending with the show’s familiar catchphrase:

… A statement from the Chief Whip Simon Hart:

Following a conversation with Matt Hancock, I have considered the situation and believe this is a matter serious enough to warrant suspension of the whip with immediate effect.

He was a Tory MP… now he’s out of there.

The Sun also had the story:

The news of Hancock’s imminent television appearance for days on end did not please everyone in his West Suffolk constituency.

Guido posted:

Matt Hancock’s local constituency deputy chairman tells PA [the Press Association]:

I’m looking forward to him eating a kangaroo’s penis. Quote me. You can quote me that.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper disagreed with that assessment but did think it was right that Hancock had the whip removed:

Guido had more:

In headlines Guido never thought he’d be writing, the new Transport Secretary Mark Harper told Sky News he is not looking forward to watching his now-ex colleague Matt Hancock eat a kangaroo’s penis on I’m A Celebrity. As a former Chief Whip himself, Harper agrees with Simon Hart’s decision to sack Hancock and said it was correct given mincing off to the Jungle is not compatible with being an MP. Maybe eating kangaroo penis should be added to the list of potential Chief Whip punishments…

While Hancock denied that he’d lost his marbles for deciding to go on the reality television programme, his fellow Conservatives made a laughing stock out of him at PMQs on November 2, including Anthony Mangnall and Anne-Marie Trevelyan:

On November 8, some of his West Suffolk constituents were deeply unhappy, as The Telegraph‘s Gordon Rayner revealed:

After accusing him of abandoning his constituents, the council in the biggest town in Mr Hancock’s constituency has held a show of hands on his future – and decided that he should “do the honourable thing and resign”

Mr Hancock, 44, has been the MP for West Suffolk since 2010. However, there is speculation that he might stand down at the next general election after being overlooked for a Cabinet job by Rishi Sunak, the new Prime Minister, and then leaving his post to appear alongside celebrities including [Princess Anne’s son-in-law] Mike Tindall, Boy George and [DJ] Chris Moyles … 

He has also filmed a series of another show, Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins, which will be shown next year.

In Haverhill, where around 27,000 of his constituents live, the town council has told him to “clear the pitch” after its members held a vote and decided by a majority that it should tell him to quit.

In a letter sent to his office, the 13-member authority, which has several Tory councillors, accused the MP of losing interest in his day job.

Written by Colin Poole, the council clerk, it said: “By a majority vote members of the council have directed me to express their displeasure at your decision to absent yourself from your duty to your constituents to join the cast of ITV’s I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! …

Currently there is no one to speak for West Suffolk in the House of Commons and your actions are unlikely to gain any sympathy for the area when all the other parliamentarians are in the chamber fighting their own corners.

“By your actions you have made it clear to everyone that you see your future outside of politics.”

On November 12, The Telegraph gave the previous day’s I’m a Celebrity … instalment three out of five stars. The other contestants grilled Hancock on his pandemic policies. Hancock pleaded for forgiveness:

On I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! (ITV), the skiving MP was voted by viewers to face his third Bushtucker Trial in as many days. This looks set to become a nightly occurrence.

Hancock’s latest challenge was this year’s first eating trial: “La Cucaracha Cafe”, a Mexican-themed dinner-à-deux with campmate Boy George.

For pudding, Hancock got a long overdue grilling about his pandemic blunders and wound up weeping for forgiveness. This was the much-maligned minister’s day of reckoning and the reason ITV gambled on signing him up. They will surely be rewarded with big ratings and copious column inches …

When he trotted out the same “falling in love” excuse, newsreader Charlene White rightly gave him short shrift: “My aunt died from Covid in the first wave. We couldn’t visit her in hospital. I had to sit by myself at her funeral. We couldn’t hug each other because we were following guidance. I get that you fell in love but for a lot of families like mine, sorry doesn’t really cut it.”

When White tackled him on PPE procurement and the care homes fiasco, you could almost hear viewers nationwide cheering her on. Referring to the impending public inquiry, England Lioness Jill Scott wondered whether “Bushtucker Trials are practice for your big trial”. DJ Chris Moyles was more succinct, calling Hancock a “b***end”.

Hancock eventually admitted: “What I’m really looking for is a bit of forgiveness.” When he became tearful – marginally more believably than when he pretended to blub on breakfast TV – White surprised herself by hugging him. Moyles was less convinced: “He’s pulled the mask slightly off his chin but I still think he’s not telling us the full truth.” The majority at home were equally unmoved by Hancock’s brazen bid for sympathy …

Just 18 months since he resigned in disgrace, Hancock trousering £400,000 for larking around on a light entertainment show left a sour taste in many mouths. At least Friday night’s bestial buffet was equally tough to stomach. That campfire interrogation also made for vital viewing. Nearly three years since the start of the pandemic, it’s high time that politicians were answerable to the people who lived through their failures. Strange how it happened 9,000 miles away on reality TV but these are the times we live in.

On November 13, The Sunday Times told us more about the decisions behind Hancock’s appearance in Australia:

When Matt Hancock eventually leaves the I’m A Celebrity … jungle, his girlfriend, Gina Coladangelo, will be waiting for him on the TV show’s wooden bridge.

The former health secretary has said that seeing her will be the “best thing about being kicked out”, but friends say he also sought her public relations wisdom before agreeing to appear on the ITV show. “He consulted her at length,” said a friend of the couple. “They are very much a team.”

Before he entered the jungle, Hancock, MP for West Suffolk, sought the advice of his family, friends, his Westminster staff and colleagues, although sources say he kept the circle tight to prevent the news leaking.

“I told him there were pros and cons to it, and it basically depended on what he wanted to do career-wise over the next decade,” said a friend he consulted in the summer. “If he wanted to climb the greasy pole, play the Westminster game, sit around waiting for a call to be a cabinet minister again, and otherwise just be a Tory backbencher for the next 20 years, that he shouldn’t do it.

“But if he wanted a platform to engage with millions of viewers, push a lot of the campaigns he cares about, show what he’s actually like as a person, and didn’t mind probably not serving in government again, then it could be a good opportunity … It was obviously very high risk.”

Friends say Hancock, 44, was torn. When he was forced to resign as health secretary in June 2021, he told acquaintances that he was expecting to be back in the cabinet “by Christmas”. While that did not happen, friends say he still believed he could be back on the front bench one day. He turned down the show twice before agreeing to take part

sources close to Hancock say his children were keen for him to go on the show, and he was there to raise awareness of dyslexia

On that night’s episode, viewers voted Hancock in as camp leader. The Guardian reported:

Matt Hancock has said being voted leader of the I’m a Celebrity campsite “more than makes up for” losing the 2019 Tory party leadership election.

Talk about selling one’s soul for a mess of pottage!

There was more:

Sunday’s episode of I’m A Celebrity saw Hancock receive enough votes from the public to enter a head-to-head with former England rugby star Mike Tindall for control of the campsite …

After their win, Hancock said: “Obviously, it’s a great honour and privilege to be camp leader. I want to thank everybody who voted for me.”

[Fellow contestant Christine] White said: “Does this win feel sweet, especially after you lost to Boris? Do you feel like you have been vindicated?” Prompting him to reply: “This more than makes up for it.”

On November 15, Guido kept his readers up to date. The previous day — Day 6 — Hancock was in a snake-filled coffin and had to:

hunt for keys in the dark to unlock stars … He managed a middling 7 of 11, though did stay surprisingly calm considering snakes had been one of his major fears. To be fair, as an MP he should be used to snake-infested spaces.

Meanwhile, back home, The Telegraph reported on the complaints flooding in to Kathryn Stone, the Parliamentary standards commissioner:

Rules for MPs would need to be changed to investigate Matt Hancock’s I’m A Celebrity appearance, the standards commissioner said on Tuesday, despite suggesting he had brought the Commons “into disrepute”.

Kathryn Stone, who will step aside from her post in January, revealed her office received dozens of complaints about Mr Hancock, the former health secretary who lost the Tory whip after flying to Australia to take part in the ITV reality show.

But Ms Stone admitted it was not something she had the power to investigate, adding his appearance had raised “really important questions” about the activities of parliamentarians.

“There is no job description for MPs but we have to think very carefully about the conflict between public and private interests, about bringing the House into disrepute, and so on,” she told the standards committee …

She recalled one member of the public who contrasted “the dignity of veterans on Remembrance Sunday with a former secretary of state”, and said Mr Hancock’s “buffet of animal genitalia” during an eating challenge prompted them to question the dignity of public office.

It came as Rishi Sunak condemned Mr Hancock for his I’m A Celebrity stint, telling reporters at the G20: “I think politics at its best can and should be actually quite noble.

“Everyone is going to do it in a slightly different way but I think it’s important that we have our constituents and our country and the forefront of what we do when we go around our day-to-day lives.”

On November 16, Guido told us that on Day 7, Hancock discussed politics but not dyslexia, as promised:

In a first for Matt’s time in the jungle, he hasn’t had to do the daily trial, and he’s certainly been making the most of his free time. Not only did he wake up well rested, he found the time to have his say on Westminster politics. Matt revealed he had called Boris as he was mulling another stab at the leadership, urging him to hold off and “back Rishi”. He also said Liz’s [Truss’s] political career was “totally finished… no ambiguity at all”. That makes two of them.

… At least one public servant is enjoying himself while the country suffers double-digit inflation. With all this free time on his hands, you’d think he might have mentioned his dyslexia campaign. Alas, no.

On Friday, November 18, The Times said that Hancock shared a beach barbecue reward with another contestant. He was also getting on Boy George’s nerves:

While on the other side of the world Jeremy Hunt delivered his autumn statement, attempting to sort out the nation’s dire economic situation, Matt Hancock was sipping drinks on a beach, one of three lucky contestants in I’m a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here! to be flown by helicopter to enjoy a barbecue.

The former health secretary was gloriously oblivious of his colleague’s plans to confront the nation’s woes

Ofcom said on Wednesday it had received 1,968 complaints about the ITV show, with about 1,100 people protesting about Hancock being in the jungle. Other viewers expressed concerns about his treatment by other contestants …

On Wednesday viewers saw Boy George, 61, the pop singer, become increasingly frustrated with his camp mates. He appeared to be irritated by a growing friendship between Hancock and Scarlette Douglas, the property expert.

Guido also recapped the episode — Day 9 — noting the absence of the dyslexia campaign:

… Hancock received the privilege of a surf and turf barbecue, which he described as “one of the best meals of your life”. The experience was won in a lucky dip at the expense of his campmates, who plotted in his absence. Finally, Hancock sung his heart out to some pop classics with his campmates around the fire. Matt’s now showcased his singing ability three times on the show. His dyslexia campaign… not once.

Guido also featured Hancock’s tweet urging viewers to vote for him:

On Saturday, November 19, one of Hancock’s former special advisers (Spads), Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, wrote a puff piece for The Times on how great it was working for him. I’ll let readers delve into it for themselves. Was this product placement? One wonders.

On November 20 — Day 11 — Hancock was still surviving the jungle. He mentioned dyslexia for the first time. He also received a letter from his girlfriend.

On November 22 — Day 13 — Hancock outlasted Boy George, but the two sang a duet together beforehand:

On Day 15, November 24, Hancock saw off DJ Chris Moyles. Guido commented:

His constituents must surely agree that would make up for his dereliction of duty as their Member of Parliament…

Hancock ended up being one of the finalists on the last episode, broadcast on Sunday, November 27:

Guido said:

Fair play Matt, it was a surprisingly decent run. Now get back to Blighty and do your job…

Incredibly, Hancock outlasted rugby player Mike Tindall, Princess Anne’s son-in-law. Hollyoaks actor Owen Warner came second and England Lioness Jill Scott won the contest: Queen of the Jungle. It is fitting that she did win, given that the Lionesses won the UEFA — European — Women’s Championship on July 31, the first time England won a major football championship since the 1966 World Cup.

Gina was there to meet her beau.

The Telegraph told us how Hancock’s 21 days in the jungle boosted ratings and changed his perception among the public:

ITV pulled off a coup by signing up the controversial minister. The broadcaster has been amply rewarded for its gamble. Hancock made this series far more talked about than usual. Ratings rose from 8m to 11m. It’s been a resounding return to form for the khaki-clad franchise.

In the process, Hancock went from whipping boy to team player. His success can be seen as two fingers up to the bullies and backbiters, humanising him more than anyone thought possible.

Another Telegraph article reported that Transport Secretary Mark Harper still thought Hancock’s participation was wrong:

Mr Hancock recognised entering the I’m A Celebrity jungle was “controversial” as a former health secretary and MP while Parliament is sitting after leaving the jungle.

He told I’m A Celebrity presenters Ant and Dec: “I know that it was controversial me coming here, I know some people said people in your position shouldn’t put themselves in embarrassing situations.

“But we’re all human and we all put ourselves in it.”

He stressed: “We are normal people.”

It comes after cabinet minister Mark Harper said Mr Hancock should not have gone into the jungle – regardless of how well he did.

The former chief whip told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “If you are a member of Parliament and Parliament is sitting, I think your job is to be representing your constituents, either in your constituency or in Parliament. I don’t think serving members of Parliament should be taking part in reality television programmes.

“However well they do on them, I still think they should be doing the job for which they are paid a good salary – which is representing their constituents.”

Good man.

Unfortunately, that same day, Conservative MP Theresa Villiers told Sophy Ridge of her votes for Hancock (video here).

On Monday, November 28, The Times featured another puff piece about Hancock’s humanity and brilliance. Again, I leave that for readers to decide and wonder if it was a second PR-instigated article.

That day, his Pandemic Diaries, co-authored with the aforementioned Isabel Oakeshott, was on Amazon’s best seller list. Guido revealed that the Mail would be serialising it.

However, that day, storm clouds were brewing.

Guido revealed that Hancock’s people denied that he would be leaving Parliament to pursue life as a celebrity:

This morning, his team is having to firefight allegations from The Sun that he’s planning on leaving politics to pursue celebritydom. The paper’s morning splash reports that Gina contacted “PR pal Mayah Riaz” last week to discuss “a change of career for him… They’re aware they need to act fast and capitalise on the huge interest in him post-jungle.” In response his team shot out a denial:

… They added: “Gina hasn’t even heard of Mayah Riaz”. 

For good measure, Guido asked his office if they could provide a precise date when he’d be back. Apparently, it’s up in the air at the moment. Though his dyslexia bill – of which he made no mention during his stint in the jungle – is up for its second reading on Friday…

Deeper trouble came from Newmarket, the famous racing town in his West Suffolk constituency. The Times reported:

Newmarket town council voted last night officially to call for Hancock to resign. Twelve councillors backed the motion for him to resign, one abstained, and none voted against.

A spokesman for the West Suffolk Conservative Association said: “We are still waiting to hear from Matthew Hancock. There is increasing disappointment about the situation”

A West Suffolk source told The Times: “There would appear to be effectively no support for him to remain as a MP. I think if I put it this way, if you look up the definition of narcissist . . . it’s been endless publicity of the things he has done. It’s about living up to responsibilities, doing the right thing.”

Hancock still had (and has) the Conservative whip suspended. Even his fellow Conservative MP, Business Secretary Grant Shapps, put the boot in:

Grant Shapps, the business secretary, said yesterday it would be “for the whips to decide what to do”. He told Times Radio: “Why would you go off and spend all that time in the jungle if you were going to carry on in parliament? I’m only speculating.”

He added: “I think he may therefore have come to the conclusion that his parliamentary career is pretty much done.”

December 2022

On Thursday, December 1, things were becoming painfully clear about Matt Hancock’s future.

Early that morning, the Mail reported:

Matt Hancock ‘underestimated’ the scale of the backlash at his decision to star on I’m A Celebrity, his girlfriend Gina Coladangelo will say today … 

During the post-series Coming Out Show today, he will be seen exiting the campsite to be reunited with his partner and attending a wrap party. 

The episode also sees Ms Coladangelo saying: ‘I think it’s fair to say that Matt underestimated the scale of the reaction to him coming into the jungle

Sir Desmond Swayne, an MP I’d previously highly respected, lauded his colleague in Parliament that day for his ‘sheer spunk’ in the jungle and appealed for the Conservative whip to be restored (video here).

Hancock graced the House of Commons on Friday, December 2, to put forward his Private Members Bill on dyslexia (video here). It was the third bill of the day, prompting Deputy Speaker of the House Nigel Evans to quip:

The third Bill of the day and I know that Mr. Hancock, you appear to be making a habit of coming third these days.

There seemed to be good news on Wednesday, December 7, when Guido received the text of Hancock’s letter saying he would stand down at the next general election:

As one would expect, it’s a lengthy letter. Here are the opening and closing paragraphs (emphases Guido’s):

I am writing to tell you that I do not intend to stand for the Conservatives at the next General Election. I am very grateful for my conversation with the Chief Whip last week, in which he made clear he would restore the whip in due course, but that is now not necessary.

It has been an honour to serve in Parliament and represent the people of West Suffolk. I will play my part in the debate about the future of our country and engage with the public in new ways.

Shortly afterwards, Conservative MPs snubbed him as he sat down for PMQs. Guido’s Simon Carr has the report:

He turned into the fourth bench up, and began the long trek across to an open seat at the end. Sidling, he touched knees and patted the backs of the locals, the indigenous representatives. Some looked up and others didn’t. One or two spoke to him. What were they saying? They’re politicians so it will have been different from what they were thinking. That can only have been: “What on earth are you doing here, you nob? This bench is for Conservative MPs. You lost the whip. You’re not one of us. You don’t exist.”

When Matt got to the furthest space above the gangway he stopped and squeezed himself in beside actual Conservative MPs. One of them, James Gray, didn’t look up from his phone. As far as it’s possible to do while sitting down, Gray turned his back on the interloper, the migrant, the illegal alien.

Hancock smiled, he beamed, he laughed it all off. In his mind, he was blending back in. Acting as if nothing was out of the ordinary, that he had never been away. That being thought of as a nob was actually a compliment.

The great thing about celebrity is that being thought of as a nob counts as recognition, and recognition is the only currency of that happy land. Alas, it is not negotiable coin in the tropical Commons. He was, as far as decently possible, ignored.

Unfortunately, for those of us who want to see the back of Matt Hancock sooner rather than later, that afternoon his team denied that his letter announcing he would stand down had any merit.

Guido explained:

… A close ally of Hancock tells Guido:

This letter is irrelevant. It hasn’t been sent on behalf of the Association, and the chief whip told Matt he was going to get the whip back. Matt had already decided not to stand again when it came to light.

In theory, a no-confidence vote would need to come after an executive council meeting, rather than an Officers’ Group. Guido understands that Hancock’s decision to step down in 2024 doesn’t change the government’s existing line that any decision to return the whip is still entirely within the gift of Simon Hart, something a source refused to deny could still happen. Bizarrely, he could still return to the parliamentary party within the next two years… even with senior members of his own association declaring him unfit for the job.

It would be salutary for everyone in the UK if Hancock’s local Conservative Association keeps piling on the pressure for him to resign. We can cope with another by-election, even if the Conservative candidate loses to a Lib Dem, a possible outcome.

Matt Hancock is not fit for public office. As for what he did to us during the pandemic, well, I don’t have the words for what I’d like to see happen to him in terms of justice.

End of series

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My most recent post on Liz Truss explored the background to her final week in office as Conservative Party leader for 44 days.

She remained Prime Minister until Rishi Sunak took over and was in post for 50 days.

The book

On Thursday, November 24, 2022, Out of the Blue, the biography of Liz Truss by The Sun‘s Harry Cole (right) and The Spectator‘s James Heale (left), went on sale:

They had to frantically rewrite parts of it and add the sad denouement:

The Guardian‘s Gaby Hinsliff gave it a good review, considering that The Sun and The Spectator are not aligned with the paper’s politics:

More excerpts from Hinsliff’s review follow (emphases mine):

Liz Truss was also the first [Prime Minister] to unravel almost faster than a biographer can type. She quit eight days before the Sun’s political editor Harry Cole and Spectator diarist James Heale were due to deliver a portrait already being written at breakneck speed, and for a book to emerge at all in the circumstances arguably represents something of a heroic technical achievement. True, the writing is clunky in places. But nobody is going to be buying this book for its literary elegance; the point is to rubberneck at what remains of the crash site, and if that isn’t what Cole, Heale or most of their interviewees originally intended to deliver – well, life comes at you fast in British politics nowadays.

Then comes the bit in the tweet about the book being of two parts.

The review introduces tantalizing details into Liz’s life, past and present, that are in the book:

Most of the clues as to what went wrong however lie in the first part, a very readable gallop through Truss’s childhood as the daughter of Guardian-reading, mildly eccentric leftwing parents, via her political awakening at university – first as a free market Lib Dem, then as libertarian Conservativeright the way through to her stint as foreign secretary, careering round the world in pursuit of the perfect Instagram shot. (It was during this stage that her ministerial “rider” was said to include multiple espressos in a flat white-sized cup and a bottle of sauvignon blanc chilling at every overnight stay.)

I was intrigued by Truss’s mother, Priscilla, who briefly moved to eastern Europe in the 1970s to “try out life under the communists”, took her children on Greenham Common protests and made herself a bright yellow banana costume in which to promote fair trade back home in Leeds. When Truss recalls schoolmates shouting “saw your mum in Tesco’s dressed as a banana again”, other 70s children of free-thinking parents may understand her seeming obliviousness to criticism a little better. You don’t grow up with a banana-clad mother, I suspect, without developing a certain sturdiness.

The book shows Truss’s self-belief from the time she entered Parliament in 2010, when David Cameron became Prime Minister:

Obliviousness isn’t always a blessing in politics however, as becomes clear in her first job as early years minister under David Cameron. Truss had hatched a plan to cut childcare costs by slashing the number of adults required to supervise children, which unsurprisingly proved controversial. Instead of patiently trying to build public and political support for it, she simply put her head down and charged – much as she would a decade later with her mini-budget, and about as successfully. All young politicians make mistakes. What’s unusual about Truss is that the lesson she seemingly took from hers was to believe in herself even more, and listen to others even less

But it’s perhaps significant too that she had got away with so much in the past, leading to an overconfidence about her ability to wing it – as she did even in the early days of her leadership campaign.

Interestingly, a Conservative plan to expand the number of adults who can care for children was debated earlier this month. It would allow people to mind children in their own homes rather than at a day care centre.

As with anyone else, there are darker sides to Truss, most of which will never be fully known. Cole and Heale were unable to interview her a third time for the book:

The authors recount sympathetically the well-trodden story of how an earlier extramarital affair with the married former Tory MP Mark Field nearly wrecked Truss’s search for a parliamentary seat, rightly noting the double standard that it never seemed to damage Field. But they also touch on some of the more explosive smears circulated about her during the leadership contest – including claims of an affair with an aide, allegations of predatory behaviour towards staff, and even one wild suggestion that there might be a sex tape of her in circulation. The authors interviewed her twice but their planned third session was canned when she resigned, so perhaps they simply never got to put these to her.

As to how things went wrong, perhaps she should have listened a bit more to others:

Despite his professional closeness to Truss, Cole and his co-author strive to put some distance between them in their final reflections on where it all went wrong. Putting aside her own fear, reportedly expressed to a visitor to the Foreign Office, that “I am weird and I don’t have any friends”, plausible theories for her implosion include that vaulting self-belief (even in her post-resignation speech to staff, she was still insisting she’d been on the right track) and determination to put the wrong people in cabinet.

How to read the books on Boris and Liz

In addition to a book on Truss, there is also one about Boris Johnson, by the Financial Times‘s Sebastian Payne.

How can one read both in chronological order?

Harry Cole says to read the first ten chapters of Out of the Blue, then Payne’s biography of Boris, then end with the final four chapters of Liz’s biography:

An MP writes

Recently, Simon Clarke, the Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland who served as Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities in Liz Truss’s Government, and before that as Chief Secretary to the Treasury under Boris Johnson, wrote an article for the December 2022/January 2023 edition of The Critic on Truss’s premiership: ‘How did it all go so wrong for Liz Truss?’

Simon Clarke is one of the better Conservatives, in my estimation. He is diligent, good at the despatch box and is self-effacing. He is also very tall and, as such, when pictured with Rishi Sunak, walked some distance behind him so as not to accentuate the difference in height between the two of them.

Clarke begins his article with a weekend at Chevening, the Foreign Secretary’s country residence, and concludes with Truss’s last one at Chequers, as she closed out her premiership:

From Chevening to Chequers. For me, two weekends, eight weeks apart, will forever bookend my friend Liz Truss’s time as prime minister. The first, a wash of August Bank Holiday sunshine over the Kent countryside. Walking the grounds of the Foreign Secretary’s home with her on one of the last days of a leadership contest she had already won, listening as she outlined her vision for government, stalking ahead impatiently through the yellowing grass.

The second, an October Sunday in Buckinghamshire, an afternoon of bruised clouds and close heat foreshadowing the storm which broke as we dispersed. A small circle of family, ministers and aides, gathered in the Great Hall to say goodbye. A day defined by the quiet dignity and absence of self-pity of its principal protagonist, entirely typical of our host.

These memories are appropriate, because so much of what happened in between was decided at Chevening in the dog days of August.

Clarke has read Out of the Blue, which he liked, calling it:

a brisk and insightful canter through Liz’s career and the forces that shaped her …

In four breathless chapters at the close of their book, Heale and Cole do a good job of unpicking what went wrong, and why.

However, Clarke is disappointed they did not reach the conclusion he did — that Truss was right all along:

they largely decline to address an inconvenient truth — a truth perceived by those much-maligned Tory members all summer. Namely that in her diagnosis of the situation at home and abroad and what should be done about it, Liz Truss was fundamentally and importantly right

He goes through the failed mini-budget from September but points out that some of the fallout would have happened anyway:

In the eyes of millions of British voters, the fallout from the mini-budget meant the Government alone took responsibility for sharp spikes in both interest and mortgage rates, even though the majority of those increases were already in motion independently

He admits his error in the mini-budget but adds that Truss had a different economic plan during the summer:

The whole package was an exercise in Reaganomics without, fatally, the support of a reserve currency. Indeed, it was launched at the very moment when the strength of the dollar left sterling desperately exposed. As one of her Cabinet ministers, I take my share of the responsibility. But it is important to note that for much of the summer, there was a different plan. 

In July, in the days following Boris Johnson’s resignation, I spoke with Liz about how best to implement her vision for a higher growth, lower tax economy. The role of Chief Secretary to the Treasury is to be a voice of caution, and speaking as the incumbent to a predecessor, I highlighted the need for credible savings options to accompany her tax cuts, warning that without these we would be monstered. She agreed.

We settled on a new spending review, the exercise by which departmental budgets and priorities are determined in conjunction with Number 10 and the Treasury. Events in Ukraine meant the review conducted in September 2021 now strays close to being a fiction: the world has changed. It was time for a reassessment.

We discussed the relative merits of requiring five and ten per cent reductions in expenditure, achievable given how far spending has soared in recent years, and capable of being cushioned by the size of so many Whitehall departments’ Covid-driven underspends. 

Her only caveat, quite reasonably, was that it would be better to identify specific saving plans in the run-up to a budget once safely in office, as opposed to in the heat of a brutal campaign. But the overall approach of securing those savings was not, I believed, in any doubt. 

There was, therefore, a conscious and spectacular change in her policy from mid-July to the end of August. The latter two weeks of August seem to have been pivotal. With an unassailable polling lead and most votes already safely cast by party members, Liz settled in at Chevening for a blizzard of meetings. Here her distaste for “abacus economics”, always present, won out over caution. 

She was well within her rights to point out that the guardians of Treasury orthodoxy are bad at conducting dynamic modelling of the positive impact of both lower taxes and supply side reforms. But this was not the time to try to test that weakness.

Clarke thinks that Truss should have brought on board some of Sunak’s people. Personally, I do not think they would have helped. Perhaps they would have if she were a man:

As the storm broke from the mini- budget, so a second fundamental error of the Chevening days was laid bare: Liz’s choice of personnel. It was a mistake to have excluded from government so many of those who had backed Rishi Sunak. Her administration had too few allies when its momentum faltered, while a pared-back Downing Street operation found itself fighting on too many fronts.

The opposition was real and it was destructive:

What Heale and Cole could acknowledge more clearly is that there was a sizeable group of MPs who were unpersuadable from the beginning. From those who shivered at the thought of making the case for lowering the top rate of income tax back to the level at which it had stood at for all but the last six weeks of New Labour’s 13 years in office, even if it would raise more revenue, to those who did little to hide their desire for revenge for the summer’s reversal, the kindling was dry

Clarke says it is now important for Conservatives to look ahead to the next general election or face a Labour government:

And so we return to the fundamental point: that for all the brickbats, the platform on which Liz was elected PM remains important and urgent, and still needs to be delivered

Who can dispute the need for a plan for growth, at a time of flagging living standards when the Bank of England is forecasting a two-year recession? Taxes are at a 70-year high, and she was right to ease the burden by cutting National Insurance.

The opportunity for further tax cuts may have passed with the mini-budget, but supply-side reform is now more important, not less. Growth since the 2008 crash has been sluggish, and some of the principal reasons for this are the result of policy challenges that a Conservative government with a majority of 70 ought to confront.

I disagree with his plan to build more houses on the green belt but agree that the Conservatives need to maximise Brexit opportunities:

Productivity matters. We need to curb the culture of judicial review that ensures major infrastructure projects take years longer to deliver than they should. We also need to grasp the opportunities of Brexit, rather than just talk about them. Reform of EU rules such as Solvency II, proceeding with painful slowness, desperately needs to be accelerated if the City is to succeed

Liz saw this with total clarity and planned a series of interventions this autumn. If we are to get our economy moving, it is essential that we should act. None of these problems will resolve themselves of their own accord.

If her instinct for action on the home front was sound, it was doubly so abroad. The Northern Ireland Protocol legislation, so vital to ensuring that all parts of our country get to leave the EU, is very much Liz’s legacy from her time as Foreign Secretary. She understood better than almost anyone in the senior ranks of Government that Brexit cannot be a partial or half-hearted endeavour. Delivering this will be a central test for the new Government. 

And then there’s China:

With regard to China, Liz again rose to the level of events. Too many in British and European politics still cling to the German dream of Wandel durch Handel, or inspiring change through trade. Liz did indeed aim to deliver change through trade, but of a different kind. In one of the boldest policies of recent years, she had set out plans to build a democratic alternative to the Chinese “Belt and Road” initiative, not least by championing UK membership of the CPTPP trading bloc.

When she fell, she was poised to designate China officially as a threat to the UK. From the suppression of democracy in Hong Kong to the genocide being perpetrated against the Uighurs, we should be in no doubt as to the true nature of Xi’s regime. The West will only be able to resist this challenge if we readopt the Cold War trinity of moral confidence, economic dynamism and military strength, and Liz instinctively recognised this.

He concludes:

It was precisely because Liz’s sense of the kind of country we ought to be was so compelling that the Conservative party gave her their decisive backing this summer. It is her tragedy that the mistakes made at Chevening risk diminishing the vision she set out of a more successful Britain, walking tall abroad and better able to offer opportunity and dignity to her citizens at home …

In words which could be the epitaph for her short, extraordinary time as our prime minister, she reflected: “I think I could have gone out and done a better defence, and got on the front foot. On the other hand there is no point in doing these jobs unless you stand up for what you believe in.” 

Rishi laughs, but should he?

At last week’s Spectator Awards, everyone was there except Liz Truss.

The notional great and the good, politicians and journalists, gathered together. Pictured on the left is Grant Shapps MP and ex-BBC presenter Emily Maitlis:

Those who received awards and/or gave speeches, included witticisms:

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace won Minister of the Year:

As we had four Chancellors this year, it must have been hard for the magazine to choose, so they opted for Labour’s Rachel Reeves for Chancellor of the Year:

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer won Politician of the Year:

Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy won Parliamentarian of the Year. It looks like Transport Secretary Mark Harper gave the speech on his behalf:

During this annual starry schmoozefest, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak felt free to get a dig or two in about Liz Truss and the book:

Sunak quipped that the BBC turned down a request to make a television series about Cole and Heale’s book, because ‘it is hard to work with just one episode’. How they laughed:

Except things aren’t so funny for Rishi.

He had no honeymoon as Prime Minister and, within a month, Conservative backbenchers began rebelling.

On Wednesday, November 23, the aforementioned MP, Simon Clarke, tabled an amendment to relax the ban on onshore wind farms in England:

Late on Thursday, November 24, The Telegraph reported that Clarke’s proposed amendment was gaining traction. Furthermore, it had support from none other than Boris Johnson and Liz Truss:

Boris Johnson and Liz Truss have launched a challenge to Rishi Sunak’s authority by joining a Tory rebellion backing wind farms to tackle the energy crisis.

In their first major interventions since leaving Downing Street, the two former prime ministers have demanded an end to the ban on new onshore wind farms.

They both signed an amendment to the Government’s Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, just days after Mr Sunak’s government was derailed by a separate Tory revolt on the same legislation.

The bill is designed to speed up housebuilding, which is crucial to Mr Sunak’s growth agenda.

The two former prime ministers have had tense relationships with Mr Sunak.

Mr Johnson’s supporters view Mr Sunak as having dealt the fatal blow to his premiership by resigning as chancellor.

Ms Truss and Mr Sunak clashed repeatedly during the leadership race.

It is unusual for former leaders to oppose their successors, with Theresa May choosing the issue of partygate to make a rare criticism of Mr Johnson

Mr Johnson signed the pro-onshore wind amendment, tabled by Simon Clarke, who was levelling up secretary under Ms Truss – even though he supported the ban, which has been in place since 2015, during his three years in office.

Ms Truss said she wanted to end the ban when she was in Number 10, because she believes the energy crisis means Britain needs more energy independence

The onshore wind revolt is the second blow to Mr Sunak’s bill. 

On Tuesday night, more than 50 Conservative MPs rebelled against his plans to impose centrally-dictated housebuilding targets – forcing the Prime Minister to delay the votes until December.

That revolt risked the prospect of Mr Sunak only being able to get the measure through with Labour support.

The latest rebellion looks set to be even more serious – not only because it has attracted the support of two former prime ministers, but because it is considered more likely that Labour would back measures to promote onshore wind.

By Thursday night, a total of 18 Conservative MPs had signed the amendment.

It demands that Michael Gove, the present Levelling Up Secretary, revises the National Planning Policy Framework to allow councils to grant new onshore wind applications.

The amendment would also force the Town and Country Planning Act to be amended to allow the installation of “new onshore wind sites not previously used for generating wind energy or for repowering existing onshore wind applications”.

On Monday, November 28, The Guardian reported that Sunak was likely to give in to Clarke, Boris, Liz and the other Conservative rebels:

Good morning. Rishi Sunak has only been prime minister for about a month, but already he is learning that a large part of his job consists of playing Whac-a-Mole with Tory party rebellions.

All party leaders face backbench rebellions from time to time but, with its poll ratings still in landslide defeat territory and MPs rushing for the post-parliament lifeboats, the Conservative party is more ungovernable than usual.

Sunak has had to postpone votes on the levelling up and regeneration bill (originally scheduled for today) because of two rebellions on it. One group of Tory MPs (the anti-growth coalition, as Liz Truss would call them), want to amend the bill to ban mandatory housebuilding targets, while another group of Tories (from the pro-growth coalition) are backing an amendment tabled by Simon Clarke, the former levelling up secretary, that would lift the ban on onshore windfarms. Although only 25 Tories have signed the Clarke amendment (less than half the number backing the one on housebuilding targets), Clarke’s is more dangerous because it has Labour backing.

This morning Grant Shapps, the business secretary, was doing the morning interview round and he signalled that the Whac-a-Mole mallet is coming down on the Clarke rebellion. As my colleague Peter Walker reports, Shapps hinted that the government will avert the onshore windfarm rebellion by giving in.

In immigration news that morning, Conservative backbencher David Davis told Sky News that the easiest way to stop the influx of Albanians via the English Channel is to send them back home. Albania is classified as a safe country, therefore, claiming asylum should be discounted. Davis has the backing of 50 other Conservative MPs. He said:

[Legislation] would go through and basically we would say to the Albanian population, anybody else who comes across the Channel will be sent back. When that starts to happen, there is no bigger deterrent … than if somebody in your village pays thousands of pounds to a human trafficker and then ends up back in the village three weeks later.

We shall see what happens on both wind farms and immigration.

For now, the Conservatives will have to make the best of Sunak’s premiership, as they cannot reasonably have any more Prime Ministers before the general election, which, all being well, is some time away, either near the end of 2024 or early in 2025.

Returning to Liz Truss, there was no question that she had insurmountable enemies, a subject I will explore later this week. In some respects, if she were a man, she would have been allowed to remain in office. Perhaps men deal with contrarian men better than contrarian women.

Tomorrow’s post looks at Liz Truss’s life.

Pity our Prime Minister Liz Truss.

The choice of Conservative Party members, the lady who wanted a Thatcherite premiership of low taxation and high growth, is now silent.

On Thursday, October 13, in her private weekly meeting with King Charles, he greeted her with ‘Dear, oh dear’:

He could have at least waited until the press were out of the way.

On Friday, October 14, she was forced to sack her Chancellor and good friend Kwasi Kwarteng.

The two of them were not playing the globalist game for high taxation and low growth.

Kwarteng’s brilliant mind

Kwarteng was elected as MP for Spelthorne in 2010, part of Prime Minister David Cameron’s fresh, youthful Conservative intake that year.

He worked on Brexit in 2019 as part of Theresa May’s government. Later that year, he was keen for Nigel Farage to stand down candidates in order for Conservatives to win convincingly in the general election — and get Brexit done:

Under Boris Johnson, in 2021, as Business Secretary, he became the first black — and first Conservative — Secretary of State. In that role, he refused to lift the moratorium on fracking. On the other hand, on July 6, 2022, he ensured that two coal plants are staying open to help ensure that the UK has adequate energy supplies this winter.

He was not a man in favour of high taxes, even in the wake of the pandemic, telling LBC radio on March 2, 2021:

Obviously we have to balance the books over time, but I’m a low tax conservative. The real key is to grow the economy. The best remedy for the deficit, the best remedy for the economy is to open up the economy, allow people to get on with their lives, allow businesses to start trading again.

In July 2021, he politely opposed the National Insurance tax hike.

In June that year, he supported the Government’s caution on lifting final coronavirus restrictions in England and sagely predicted that there would be no more lockdowns in England.

Once Liz Truss was made Prime Minister, we found out more about his friendship with her, which began when she, too, was first elected to Parliament in 2010.

On September 6, 2022, the Mail posted an old photo from earlier parliamentary days of the new Chancellor and the new Prime Minister with this caption:

The new Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng is a close friend of Liz Truss, so close that he lives 350 yards away in Greenwich.

The article also told us more about his towering height and intellect (emphases mine):

Although he is not widely known to the public, the 47-year-old MP for Spelthorne, Surrey, comes equipped with a solid academic background.

At 6ft 5in, Mr Kwarteng is a powerhouse physically and intellectually …

He speaks German, Greek and French, and writes poetry in Latin.

One friend recalled how, when the school introduced Italian to the curriculum, ‘the teachers were trying to teach rudimentary Italian but Kwasi learnt the whole language – the teachers were struggling to keep up with him’.

Like Boris Johnson, who attended Eton a decade earlier, Mr Kwarteng shone at the Wall Game, a hybrid of football and rugby, where he played First Wall, described by an Etonian as ‘an almost suicidal position that involved spending much of the match having his head scraped against brickwork’ …

He was a prefect at the school and is still, it is said, held up as an example of how to succeed in Oxbridge interviews.

He went up to Trinity College, Cambridge:

He excelled at Cambridge where friends described him as ‘supremely confident, but not arrogant’.

One said he ‘had quite a few girlfriends – he had catching up to do after his boys’ private school upbringing’.

Professor Tim Whitmarsh, who taught him Latin and Greek, was quoted as describing him as ‘a bit of a young fogey’, saying: ‘I once saw a 19-year-old Kwasi in full brown tweed bumbling around with a pipe in his mouth on a baking hot day.’ 

More recently:

Last year, Mr Kwarteng bought a Victorian villa just 350 yards from Miss Truss’s £1.5million four-storey townhouse in Greenwich, south London.

Now they are neighbours in Downing Street too.

At one point Mr Kwarteng was dating Amber Rudd, the former Conservative home secretary, but the pair split up.

He then met Harriet Edwards, 36, a former pupil of Cheltenham Ladies’ College and now a high-flying corporate lawyer specialising in advising private clients on ‘succession’ planning.

The pair married in 2019 and have a baby daughter, Ida, born last year

Said to be a ‘pragmatist rather than an ideologue’, the free-marketeer’s ministerial office allegedly boasts a large whiteboard on which are scrawled the letters ‘MSH’, standing for ‘making s*** happen’.

With the multiple challenges facing the new chancellor, it is a mantra that may serve him well.

On September 7, The Telegraph had a profile of Kwarteng, which gave Truss supporters further hope.

We discovered that he wrote for the newspaper and had decidedly conservative opinions even in his 20s. The article featured a screenshot of his column of August 1, 1997 about higher education — ‘Don’t go to university, make money instead’:

The man appointed the 109th Chancellor of the Exchequer had been considered a rising star well before he entered Parliament and first made his name at the age of 22 with a column in The Telegraph.

From higher education to the rise of “lad mags”, Mr Kwarteng left a trail of published evidence showing his youthful thinking on the state of Britain. 

According to Mr Kwarteng, universities were not just a waste of time for those hoping to make lots of money but “a trick of the mind”. They offered value of a sort as “a place for reflective thought, like the monasteries of the Middle Ages,” but were only really popular as a way of proving one’s smarts …

While universities might be conducive to research, on the whole, Mr Kwarteng thought, “the university added little to the talent which was already in them”. 

For that reason, the MP for Spelthorne thought it “ridiculous” that everyone should go to university.

Also in August 1997, he also wrote about his scepticism of those who know best in ‘”Experts”: it’s the same old story’, wherein he expressed his doubts about climate change:

“We live in the age of the expert,” he declared, “of course, all these experts are invariably self-appointed, and they all contradict each other.”

Mr Kwarteng lamented the loss of Western “reason and objective investigation” and said that the witchdoctors of “simple peoples” had been “reincarnated in a modern, Western, suit-wearing capacity.

“They are the consultants, health gurus, constitutional experts, psychologists and sociologists who seem to spring from the ground at every opportunity.”

In his column, he highlighted global warming as an example of “conjecture” dressed up as “granite fact”.

It’s a pity he later changed his mind. Perhaps he did it for political expediency. Who knows?

On at least one issue, however, Mr Kwarteng has clearly come to accept the views of the experts …

As Business Secretary, he has declared it essential for governments to intervene to tackle climate change. 

The Telegraph article has several more of his columns to explore.

Kwarteng as Chancellor

A fortnight before he delivered his fiscal event to Parliament, he pledged that his focus on growth would be ‘relentless’. The Times reported:

The new chancellor has promised a shift in economic policy towards an “unashamedly pro-growth agenda” rather than worrying about redistribution.

Kwasi Kwarteng promised “to do things differently” as he acknowledged the need for higher borrowing over the winter to help households with their energy bills. However, he promised “fiscal discipline over the medium term” by ensuring the economy would grow faster than government debt, saying this would require deregulation and tax cuts.

After meeting key City figures, including the chief executives of Barclays, NatWest, Lloyds Banking Group and HSBC, Kwarteng said that he wanted to deal with economic problems through growth, with a goal of getting the underlying rate up to 2.5 per cent.

“The prime minister and I are committed to taking decisive action to help the British people now,” he said. “That means relentlessly focusing on how we unlock business investment and grow the size of the British economy, rather than how we redistribute what’s left.”

He and Truss needed to work quickly to come up with the fiscal event. The nation had been in mourning for the Queen from September 8 through September 19. Meanwhile, the Conservatives’ opponents were braying for a statement.

On Thursday, September 22, Kwarteng tweeted:

That day, The Spectator‘s Katy Balls explained that Truss wanted to move quickly:

Liz Truss is in a race against time. It’s not just the prospect of an election in two years. It’s the political problems – from party management to events outside of one’s control – that quickly clog up a prime minister’s in-tray. It’s why for all the efforts to play down Friday’s fiscal event as a mini-Budget, it is likely to be anything but small. Truss and her Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng plan to push through as much as possible while their stock is highest

Truss and Kwarteng have said their priority is to boost growth. In order to do that, they are undoing plenty of policies by their predecessors. The plan for investment zones – areas that could benefit from a lighter planning regime and various tax breaks – has already been briefed as a change of priorities compared to the former Levelling Up secretary Michael Gove. A government insider told the Financial Times this week: ‘The plans make Gove look like a socialist.’ There will also be further measures to undo more of the policies brought in by Rishi Sunak as Chancellor. 

Coffee House understands one plan under consideration is the return of tax-free shopping for tourists. As Chancellor, Sunak axed the 20 per cent discount for foreign visitors – leading to an outcry from MPs who said it would make Britain less attractive to businesses. At the time, the Treasury defended his decision on the grounds that ‘this is getting rid of a tax cut that mainly benefits foreign billionaires.’ However, the sector has voiced frustrations that this has led UK business to drop off while European capitals have seen business go up.

How will all this go down? As the Bank of England raise interest rates by 0.5 percentage points to 2.25 per cent in an attempt to combat inflation, already there are warnings about the effect of the government’s planned borrowing. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that the planned tax cuts are likely to push UK borrowing and debt to unsustainable levels. The hope in government is that rather than spark alarm, the markets will have already priced in the new direction they are taking, and what happened in August suggests they may well have done so.  

‘The strategy is do everything now,’ says one person close to Liz Truss. ‘This government has balls of steel’. In adopting this approach, Truss and Kwarteng are taking a gamble – and it won’t be too long before it becomes clear whether or not it is paying off.

True conservatives cheered the package Kwarteng delivered to Parliament on Friday, September 23:

We felt as if Brexit would finally become the reality that would thwart Labour:

Our debt would remain the second lowest in the G7:

Guido Fawkes posted Kwarteng’s economic plan in full as well as a summary, excerpted below:

Price of Energy

    • Government freezes household energy bills at £2,500
    • Government will subsidise wholesale energy prices for businesses
    • Total cost of energy package for 6 months from October will be approximately £60 billion

Inflation

    • Government plan will reduce peak inflation by 5%
    • Chancellor: Bank of England independence is “sacrosanct”

Growth

    • Government will focus on growth target of 2.5%

Barriers to Enterprise

    • Government will bring forward bill to unpick regulation and launch a review into decision making
    • Increase disposal of government land to build more homes
    • Government will remove cap on bankers’ bonuses

Tax

    • Planned rise in corporation tax is cancelled, it will remain at 19%
    • Annual investment allowance will not fall to £200,000 as planned, will remain at £1 million
    • Office of tax simplification abolished, tax simplification mandated in all government departments
    • IR35 rules changed: 2017 and 2021 reforms scrapped
    • Planned increases in duty for beer, wine and spirits cancelled
    • VAT free shopping for overseas visitors
    • Increases to National Insurance contributions cancelled
    • Stamp duty threshold raised from £125,000 to £250,000; for first time buyers it will rise from £300,000 to 425,000
    • Kwasi will abolish the highest 45% rate of income income tax. Top rate now 40%.
    • Basic rate of income tax cut to 19% from April

Ahead of Kwasi’s statement:
FTSE 100 is at 7,120
£/$ 1.1163
£/€ 1.1435
10 year gilt yield 3.49%

That afternoon, The Telegraph‘s Allister Heath was over the moon:

This was the best Budget I have ever heard a British Chancellor deliver, by a massive margin. The tax cuts were so huge and bold, the language so extraordinary, that at times, listening to Kwasi Kwarteng, I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, that I hadn’t been transported to a distant land that actually believed in the economics of Milton Friedman and FA Hayek.

But Liz Truss and Kwarteng are very much for real, and in revolutionary mood. The neo-Brownite consensus of the past 20 years, the egalitarian, redistributionist obsession, the technocratic centrism, the genuflections at the altar of a bogus class war, the spreadsheet-wielding socialists: all were blown to smithereens by Kwarteng’s stunning neo-Reaganite peroration.

Hardcore, unapologetic liberal Toryism is back. This fiscal statement is in some ways an even bigger deal than that previously greatest of Budgets, Lord Lawson’s extravaganza of 1988, so long ago that my generation cannot remember it. All the taboos have been defiled: the fracking ban, the performative 45pc tax rate, the malfunctioning bonus cap, the previous gang’s nihilistic corporation tax and national insurance raids. The basic rate of income tax is being cut, as is stamp duty, that dumbest of levies. There will be more reforms, more deregulation from a Chancellor explicitly committed to a flatter and simpler tax system.

It wasn’t merely the policies that were astonishingly good: just as remarkable was Kwarteng’s language, the arguments he deployed to explain his decisions, the lucid free-market philosophy from which they emanated. He spoke of the need to bolster incentives, to encourage business investment, to increase work, to reward savings. He explained that this meant that the returns on capital and labour had to be improved. He wants to usher in a new Big Bang in the City and launch dozens of new Canary Wharfs on steroids.

At a stroke of a pen, Britain’s competitiveness, its attractiveness to investors and top talent, has been transformed. Money and jobs will flow in, especially from the Eurozone. Britain’s central pathology is low growth, held back by faulty economic, fiscal, monetary and regulatory policies: higher spending begets higher taxes, which lead to a vicious cycle of even lower growth, and hence yet more taxes, and so on.

I watched Kwarteng’s speech to Parliament and the debate that followed. Allister Heath was right in everything he wrote.

On Sunday, September 25, The Sun wrote that its polls indicated the British public supported nearly all of Truss’s proposals that Kwarteng delivered:

DELIGHTED Brits overwhelmingly back Kwasi Kwarteng’s key income tax and stamp duty cuts, a poll found …

And PM Liz Truss says their radical plan will usher in a “decade of dynamism”

A Deltapoll survey for The Sun on Sunday found many of his central policies have gone down a storm.

His pledge to slash the basic rate of income tax from 20p in the £1 to 19p from next April, benefitting 31million workers, got the backing of 63 per cent of respondents.

A majority of Labour and Tory supporters like the plan.

Meanwhile, the decision to ditch stamp duty for first-time buyers on homes worth up to £425,000 was approved by 61 per cent of respondents.

The move to reverse the 1.25 percentage point hike in National Insurance Contributions was liked by 59 per cent of the 1,553 people surveyed.

Some parts of the mini Budget, however, were far less popular. Just 30 per cent of voters backed the decision to scrap the bankers’ bonus cap.

And even fewer — 28 per cent — approved of the move to do away with the 45p top rate of income tax, which will put more cash in the pockets of society’s top earners …

Some delighted Tory MPs punched the air in delight after Mr Kwarteng detailed his mini Budget to the Commons.

One senior Tory said: “I am delighted. Finally, we have a proper Thatcherite budget.”

But others warned it was a punt that may cost the Tories the next election.

One minister crossed his fingers as he said: “It is a huge gamble. If we see growth then it will have worked. It’s a roll of the dice.”

The annual Labour Party conference convened that Sunday.

The Spectator‘s editor Fraser Nelson pointed out that their leader Sir Keir Starmer opposed only the abolition of the 45% tax rate:

The Sun‘s editorial that day reminded Britons that it was Gordon Brown who put the 45% rate in place — and that was late in his premiership, around 12 years ago. His predecessor Tony Blair had not. As such, Labour had no room to complain:

For too long — if partly by necessity of the pandemic in recent years — the Conservatives have been parked on the centre ground, often operating from a Blairite or Brownite playbook.

The spleen-venting over Mr Kwarteng’s most controversial call — ditching the 45 per cent top tax rate for those on over £150,000 — ignores the fact that, throughout the Blair years, it was the exact same as the new 40 per cent levy.

Nonetheless it’s true that the move does give Labour an easy line of attack, as does the Government’s reluctance to trumpet the fact that it IS already subjecting energy giants to a windfall tax — one which is raising around £30billion.

Yesterday Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer confirmed he would retain the vast majority of the Chancellor’s tax cuts if he gained power.

Already, however, the doomsayers, including Torsten Bell, were already weighing in, as Guido Fawkes wrote that day (emphases his):

Labour have accepted two thirds of the personal income tax cuts. They are only rejecting one cut, the top rate cut…

So the the dividing line between the parties is: Will “new era” economics work and crank growth up to 2.5% before the next election?

Not a chance say Rachel Reeves and the assembled hardline-centrists of the broadsheet punditry, plus all the orthodox economists from the IFS, Institute for Big Government and gloomy Torsten Bell with his distribution charts. Kwasi and Liz say it will work. It won’t surprise co-conspirators that Guido thinks it is less of a gamble than the BBC’s Faisal Islam reckons. Barring oil going to $300 or some other catastrophe, it is far more likely to work than the doomsters would have you believe. If Kwasi and Liz fail to hit the 2.5% target they have set for themselves, they will deservedly lose the next election. The choice now is pull out all the stops and go for growth, or go into opposition…

At conference, two Labour MPs of colour criticised the Conservatives’ choice of Chancellor in Rishi Sunak, his successors and Kwasi Kwarteng. Guido reported on Rupa Huq’s words about Kwarteng, which earned her a suspension from the Party, despite her apology. Shadow Rail Minister Tan Dhesi said he wanted to see white males in the Conservative Cabinet rather that persons of colour:

Guido doesn’t consider Tan’s comments to be half as bad as Rupa Huq’s. His quote about Boris having an Asian do his dirty work for him, alongside Huq’s referral to Rishi as “a little brown guy”, is indicative that Labour somehow questions the legitimacy of non-white Tory Cabinet ministers. Does anyone get the sense Labour are slightly panicked about the Tories having a more diverse front bench than they do?

Fatal criticism despite global problems

But that was nothing compared to the big anti-Truss, anti-Kwarteng fallout that took place elsewhere that week.

On Monday, September 26, the IMF criticised the fiscal event.

Lord Frost defended Truss and Kwarteng in an article for The Telegraph:

https://image.vuukle.com/f9d07d03-d334-4051-8724-6f4fa2ddda17-07f0784a-4c8c-4152-9e08-1cc67b4c2d36

The IEA’s head of public policy said that one of Margaret Thatcher’s budgets — that of then-Chancellor Geoffrey Howe — was similarly criticised and ended up being wildly successful:

https://image.vuukle.com/afdabdfb-de55-452b-b000-43e4d45f1094-ccb91e7a-e201-4fa3-89a5-c933fe45cf50

On Thursday, September 29, Labour MPs were back at home but outside criticism of the Truss-Kwarteng plan continued from globalist sources.

The US Treasury had weighed in against the plan after the IMF had.

The markets wobbled that week.

It should be noted that the UK was not the only country suffering from jitters — it was every other main economy, too.

With regard to us, however, the Bank of England had to step in with a fortnight of measures, too complicated to explain here, that put an end to risky measures that British pension funds had been using for several years.

Nevertheless, Truss and Kwarteng got it in the neck.

The Telegraph had a running diary of events that Thursday morning. Excerpts follow, covering the period from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m.:

The Prime Minister is due to undertake a tour of regional BBC radio stations this morning when she will be grilled on her tax cuts and spending plans after they sparked economic turmoil.

Lord Clarke, the Tory former chancellor, has argued this morning that no other Conservative government would have made a “mistake” like Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-Budget. 

The Tory former chancellor told Times Radio: “If the pound sinks any further, then they will have to perhaps retract some of the measures because the more the pound goes down, the more inflation goes up.”

The Treasury has said Kwasi Kwarteng will deliver a follow up statement to the mini-Budget in November in which he will set out the Government’s medium-term economic plans. 

But the Chancellor is under mounting pressure to deliver a statement to reassure the markets and the nation much sooner than that.

Chris Philp, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has defended the Government’s decision to scrap the 45p top rate of income tax.

Asked why it was necessary to make the move now, he told Sky News: “The top rate of now 40 per cent, reducing from 45, makes us internationally competitive, it puts us on a par with a number of other economies.”

After the Bank of England was forced to step in to calm the markets, Mr Philp told Sky News: “No one’s perfect but I’m not going to apologise for having a plan to grow the economy …”

Chris Philp, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has dismissed suggestions that Kwasi Kwarteng should resign as Chancellor over his handling of the mini-Budget. 

Liz Truss has defended her mini-Budget plans as she said as Prime Minister she is prepared to take “controversial and difficult decisions”. 

Liz Truss has said the world is facing “very, very difficult economic times” as she also insisted Kwasi Kwarteng is working “very, very closely” with the Bank of England.

Liz Truss said that “we have seen difficult markets around the world because of the very difficult international situation we face”

Liz Truss has defended the decision to scrap the 45p top rate of income tax as she argued that lower taxes “help everybody”.

BBC Radio Bristol presenter James Hanson challenged Liz Truss over her repeated claim that financial markets around the world have been facing turmoil. 

Daisy Cooper, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, has claimed Liz Truss is in “complete denial” following the Prime Minister’s morning media round. 

The Conservative Party is due to meet in Birmingham from Sunday this weekend for its annual conference. 

Sir Ed Davey, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, has called on the Tories to scrap the event.

Sir Ed said repeated his call for Parliament to be recalled.

Chris Philp, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, was told this morning that the mini-Budget needs to be changed. 

Speaking to LBC Radio, he said: “No, well, if you listen to the reaction of British business organisations to Kwasi Kwarteng’s growth plan on Friday, like, for example, the Confederation of British Industry, the CBI, the Federation of Small Businesses, the British Chambers of Commerce, they all strongly welcomed the growth plan, and they are the organisations that represent British business…”

The Bank of England’s £65 billion intervention in the UK economy yesterday is a “very targeted, time-limited intervention”, according to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. (You can read the full story on the bailout here) …

Chris Philp was asked during an interview on LBC Radio this morning if that bailout indicated the economy is experiencing “serious problems”.

He said: “Look, they were making a very targeted, time-limited intervention. There was a particular idiosyncrasy to do with the way that particular pension vehicles used long-dated gilts.

“It was a very targeted, very specific intervention to address that issue, which they’ve successfully done – independently, of course, the Bank of England act independently.

“And they’re not the only central bank to have had to make an intervention. Like I said, the Bank of Japan intervened in the Yen dollar market just a few days ago.”

Chris Philp, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has rejected the suggestion that the UK is now in the middle of a financial “crisis”

Asked if he accepted it is a “crisis”, Mr Philp told LBC Radio: “Look, I don’t accept the word crisis at all. Look, in the last six to nine monthsthe financial markets have been in some volatility around the world.”

Sterling has fallen sharply again as former Bank of England governor Mark Carney accused Liz Truss of “undercutting” the central bank

He said there was an “undercutting” of key City institutions, pointing to the lack of an OBR forecast, a lack of detail about costing and working at “cross-purposes” with the Bank of England.

Ms Truss later told BBC Radio Kent that she is “very clear the Government has done the right thing by taking action urgently to deal with inflation, to deal with the economic slowdown, and to deal with high energy bills”.

Were those accusations from globalists really true?

Was day-to-day business in Britain disrupted so dramatically? And wasn’t the Government helping Britons with their energy bills? As to the latter question, the UK has been providing the most assistance of any European government:

That week, Kwarteng was under much pressure to meet with the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), which, as I posted on October 6, has a lot of Torsten Bell alums from his charity, the Resolution Foundation.

On Friday, September 30, he met with the OBR. Guido reported:

The highly-anticipated meeting between the OBR and government wrapped up after 48 minutes. The OBR says they’ll deliver an initial forecast on the October 7, however the government’s readout of the meeting sticks to the line that it will be published alongside Kwarteng’s medium-term growth plan on November 23 …

Meanwhile, Labour were still banging on about the abolition of the 45% tax rate. The cost of subsidising Britons’ energy bills kept increasing, too. Naysayers were pumping up the total expenditure from £60bn to £100bn:

That morning, The Telegraph posted Kwarteng’s editorial defending his fiscal event, which ended with this:

Even in the face of extreme volatility in global markets, with major currencies wrestling an incredibly strong US dollar, we will show financial markets and investors that our plan is sound, credible and will work to drive growth.

By combining our immediate energy support with bold action to reset the fundamentals of the UK economy, we are helping households and businesses today – and putting the United Kingdom on a more prosperous, competitive path for years to come.

That evening, The Times reported that the Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said that Truss delivered what she had promised in the leadership hustings and reminded us that she and former Chancellor Rishi Sunak disagreed on how the British economy should proceed:

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland on Friday, Jack said: “When you say ‘huge shock’, over the summer [Truss] was very clear that her strategy was to reduce taxes.

“She and Rishi Sunak argued that out over the summer, he said one thing, she said the other, but it shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone when she said she believed the strategy was to be more of an Asian tiger economy, where you keep your higher spending but you grow your economy, and she said to do that she would be cutting taxes.

“To anyone paying any attention to that leadership contest it was plain as day what was going to happen”

In response to the plans announced by Kwarteng last week, the International Monetary Fund said it was monitoring the situation and urged a rethink, while the Bank of England began buying government bonds to avert what it described as a “material risk to UK financial stability”.

More controversy, ending with Truss’s sacking of Kwarteng, followed.

I will dissect the tragic conclusion tomorrow and, on Thursday, what it means for Truss’s premiership.

This has not been the best Conservative Party Conference, and here’s why:

1/ Bombastic Boris is no longer Prime Minister;

2/ Liz Truss is still finding her feet as his successor;

3/ A train strike is taking place on the final day, so a lot of people left before Liz spoke on Wednesday.

On Wednesday morning, October 5, GB News’s Darren McCaffrey, a veteran of many party conferences, said that the mood in Birmingham was very low this year, as if, after 12 years, the Conservatives think that their time in Government could be up.

It doesn’t help that Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves has been spreading lies about Kwasi Kwarteng’s fiscal event, either:

Meanwhile, the people in Boris Johnson’s constituency of Uxbridge in west London miss him dearly:

Anyone who missed the controversies of the Conservative Party Conference can catch up here and here.

On Tuesday night, former Conservative adviser Amanda Platell, who writes for the Daily Mail, said she is praying that Liz Truss can actually govern without opposition from her own MPs. Platell described Michael Gove as ‘a jackal’. Platell added that the Leader of the Commons, Penny Mordaunt, wasn’t a very good employee when she worked for her several years ago:

After Amanda Platell spoke in that clip, it was time for Stanley Johnson, Boris’s father, to give his impressions of this year’s conference.

He said that he must have been to a different one, because everyone he saw was upbeat and the conference hall was full for Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s speech. Stanley Johnson blames the negativity on an ongoing media narrative:

I didn’t see this gloom and doom meeting at all. 

When Dan Wootton asked Stanley about Michael Gove, the former Prime Minister’s father replied:

I’m not going to talk about wildlife of any kind … I’m going to sing Michael Gove’s praises because he has been a really good Secretary of State for the Environment.

Wootton countered:

He stabbed your son in the back.

Stanley said:

I’m not going to talk about it … I’m speaking as an environmentalist.

In another part of the show, Stanley said that he is ‘100% certain’ that Boris will not be back as Conservative Party leader, i.e. Prime Minister.

Robert Buckland’s advice to rebels: ‘Shut up’

On Tuesday afternoon while listening to GB News, one of the presenters said that the Secretary of State for Wales, the mild mannered Robert Buckland, told Michael Gove to ‘shut up’.

Hoping it was true, I searched Wednesday’s headlines but saw only that Buckland had issued his advice indirectly, via Global Radio’s News Agents podcast, featuring ex-BBC broadcasters Emily Maitlis, Jon Sopel and Lewis Goodall.

Buckland was mild mannered throughout:

The i paper confirms that no direct confrontation took place:

Welsh Secretary Robert Buckland appealed to recently sacked ministers to “shut up” but indicated he wants to see benefits rise in line with inflation, telling Times Radio he believes in supporting “those who genuinely cannot share … In growth and prosperity”.

One can only hope that Gove and his Sunak-backing allies got the message.

On Tuesday night, The Telegraph urged MPs to rally behind their new Prime Minister: ‘Tories owe Liz Truss their full support’ (emphases in purple mine):

Ms Truss has an ambitious set of policies that she set out in the leadership campaign, yet there is now a danger that she will be thwarted at every turn by a fresh coalition of opponents in her own party.

MPs should remember that the Prime Minister won fairly and squarely under the rules after they removed a leader who had delivered an 80-seat majority just three years ago. She did not engineer a coup and, indeed, stayed loyal to Boris Johnson until the end.

Senior backbenchers and former ministers such as Michael Gove and Grant Shapps, who have been in the vanguard of recent criticism, should consider the damage they are doing to the party’s re-election prospects. The only beneficiaries are their political opponents.

Conservative values championing a small state, low taxes and deregulation are being replaced by social democratic nostrums that brook no spending cuts and take the same attitude to wealth creators as the Left. The pandemic lockdowns did not help matters by fostering a widespread sense that the state will always step in to help in difficult times, as it has done again with energy bills.

As we have argued consistently, the UK needs a growth strategy, and Ms Truss is at least providing one. The alternative is to manage the nation’s decline into a high-tax, low-productivity economy. She needs the full support of the parliamentary party in her endeavour, starting now.

Left-wing lies persist over economic measures

Last week, the Bank of England had to take action to counter what appeared to be an immediate effect of the Chancellor’s fiscal event of Friday, September 23.

However, Guido Fawkes cited a report from the Financial Times which said that the economic hiccup originated with the pensions industry.

Note the exposed deception in this Twitter thread:

Yes, I can well imagine that it was Mark Carney’s fault. He was Andrew Bailey’s predecessor at the Bank of England. Both are worthless, yet the media deifies Carney as some sort of miracle worker.

The left-wing narrative, spun by Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves and the media, persists that the taxpayer is being hung out to dry.

Guido wants to correct that narrative, noting that the BBC’s Nick Robinson has already apologised for getting it wrong:

Guido’s post from Tuesday, October 4, — which includes audio — says (emphases his):

Since the Bank of England announced market operations to purchase gilts last Wednesday, Westminster politicos have been struggling to get their heads round the intricacies of gilt markets. It therefore comes as no surprise to Guido that Nick Robinson was forced into a correction today, after incorrectly repeating the widely tweeted claim that the Bank of England has spent “£65 billion to prop up the markets”

The claim is somewhat misleading. The Bank of England pledged to buy gilts to the tune of a maximum of £5 billion a day, over two weeks, to assure markets. This means the maximum possible spend was £65 billion, though the actual number will be far smaller. In reality the bank has purchased around £3.66 billion so far, with yesterday’s purchases coming in at just £22 million. The smaller purchase signals the Bank is comfortable with the current state of gilt markets as its credible commitment appears to have paid off. Guido appreciates that the BBC this time took the effort to get the facts right…

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves, who should know better as an ex-Bank of England employee, repeated the same line: “The fact the Bank of England had to step in with a £65 billion bailout with taxpayers money is deeply shameful.” It is not a fact.

Firstly, the market operation will be nowhere near £65 billion. Secondly, it is not money from taxpayers … with the purchases even having the potential to make a profit* on resale. So her “taxpayers’ money” claim is also incorrect. Robbo we can excuse, he only has a PPE degree from Oxford. The Shadow Chancellor, a trained economist, is deliberately and wilfully misrepresenting the facts for political advantage…

*A market source says that marked-to-market the Treasury is currently in profit on the trade.

In the comments, one of Guido’s readers clarified what happens with the Asset Purchase Facility — APF — in this case:

It’s not from Treasury reserves. Treasury has no reserves. It’s not money from taxpayers either. Neither the bank nor Treasury has any taxpayer money.

The Bank has extended a loan to the APF, and credited the APF’s account in the Banking Department with an advance. That is then used to pay whoever is selling the Gilts to the APF, which result in a transfer from the APF’s account in the Banking Department to a commercial bank’s settlement account in the Banking department.

The end result is Gilt assets in the APF balanced by a liability to the Banking department of the Bank of England. The Bank of England has a loan asset to the APF balanced by a liability to the commercial bank.

It’s just good old bank lending. As happens a bazillion times every day across the banking system.

Another reader called out the media for lazy journalism:

All MSM are as bad, Sky and ITV actively promote their left-wing Labour bias too, especially activists like Ed Conway and Peston, respectively, are rarely challenged, and the public generally don`t realise they are being lied to and manipulated. Creating hysteria and headlines are more important now than the truth and lazy groupthink “journalists” just follow the herd. Where is the giant good news headline that the £ is now trading higher than before the mini-budget and the euro is below parity with the dollar, no, they prefer reporting negative UK news to deliberately topple this government.

Kwarteng’s U-Turn U-turn

Thankfully, Kwarteng has recovered from the shock of having to make an economic U-turn on the 45% rate of tax and, although that is still off the table for now, he is reneging on bringing forward a vote on a more detailed plan on November 23.

On Tuesday evening, The Telegraph reported that he has postponed this to next year:

Crunch votes to implement last week’s mini-Budget will not take place until next spring, The Telegraph understands, putting off potential rebellions until 2023.

Many of the tax-cutting measures which Kwasi Kwarteng, the Chancellor, announced last month will not need to be passed in the House of Commons until next March.

That includes bringing forward the 1p cut in the basic rate of income tax and scrapping a planned rise in corporation tax, two of the most costly moves in the package.

It means that Tory rebels hoping to attach amendments to the Finance Bill may have to wait almost six months, potentially buying Liz Truss some political breathing room

There was confusion on Tuesday as Mr Kwarteng appeared to row back on Downing Street indications on Monday night that he would reveal his new fiscal plan earlier than planned.

Mr Kwarteng said that the so-called “medium-term fiscal plan”, which will spell out his approach to bringing down debt and restraining spending, was coming on November 23.

But that appeared to contradict word from his allies 24 hours earlier suggesting the announcement and the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecast would actually come sooner.

The OBR forecast is another part of the ongoing anti-Truss narrative. Since its inception by then-Chancellor George Osborne over a decade ago, its forecasts have rarely been accurate. Guido regularly posts on how the economy does much better in reality, putting the OBR to shame.

Yet, the OBR is considered as an oracle:

The failure to produce an OBR forecast alongside the mini-Budget was jumped on by economists and critics to partly explain the reaction from the markets.

It is, in fact, useless.

On Tuesday, Kwarteng gave his reasons for the rushed fiscal event. Contrary to what the lefty narrative says, he was not blaming the Queen, just reminding people of the timeline:

Mr Kwarteng on Tuesday also appeared to cast some blame on the “pressure” of the Queen’s death for mistakes in his tax-cutting fiscal statement.

He said: “We had a nation in mourning and then, literally, four days after the funeral we had the mini-budget.

“It was a high speed, high-pressure environment and we could, as David Cameron used to say, have prepared the pitch a bit better.”

Kwarteng was rightly disappointed that the Government was not given credit for helping out the nation with their winter fuel bills. This is another part of the false lefty narrative that needs exposure:

Speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative conference on Tuesday night, Mr Kwarteng complained that his energy price freeze was getting too little attention because of the 45p tax row.

The Chancellor said: “If you look at the energy intervention, I mean, nobody’s talking about the energy intervention.

“That was a huge use of the balance sheet to help people. People were facing bills of potentially £6,000 next year, and we’ve intervened.

“There’s gonna be a limit of £2,500. That’s a huge intervention.”

Agreed. He did what people bayed for.

He criticised Rishi Sunak’s handling of taxpayer’s money, turning the former Chancellor’s cries of morality back on him:

Mr Kwarteng has also said the Treasury he inherited from Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson was “unsustainable”.

He said: “We were spending billions and billions and billions and raising the money in tax.”

“How can that be sustainable, when we have a very, very high tax burden and very low growth? We had to come off that trajectory.”

He called himself a “compassionate Conservative” inspired by his mother …

He added: “It’s the people’s money – we raise it through tax. And if we do that we have a moral obligation to look after it.”

Benefits increases

In line with Kwarteng, Liz Truss wants to be careful about taxpayer’s money.

Benefits will have to be raised, but the question is by how much.

One tranche of Conservative MPs says that it must be in line with inflation. Another group says it should be in line with salaries.

Early on Tuesday, The Sun reported:

She is under pressure to hike benefits for the poorest after repeatedly refusing to confirm they will go up in line with inflation.

Speaking at the party conference in Birmingham, the PM said: “We face massive challenges as a country and we need to get through this economic crisis and this energy crisis.

“And we need Britain to come out stronger on the other side, and I want to win over hearts and minds in the country, but also amongst my parliamentary colleagues, to make sure that we are able to deliver for the people of Britain” …

Emboldened rebel MPs are now pushing for further changes having forced her to ditch one flagship measure — with efforts now focusing against a real terms cut to Britain’s benefits bill.

Even her own Cabinet Ministers are ratcheting up the pressure for Ms Truss to commit to raising benefits with inflation and not wages.

Penny Mordaunt told the Times it “makes sense” to uprate benefits with prices.

The Commons leader said: “I have always supported, whether it’s pensions, whether it’s our welfare system, keeping pace with inflation.”

But Ms Truss insisted no decision had been made, yet reiterated her promise to keep the pensioners’ triple lock.

She admitted the reaction to her Growth Plan had not been “absolutely perfect” but insisted it – and the energy – package will help struggling families braced for a gruelling winter.

It includes cutting stamp duty, income tax and capping the price of energy so the typical household will pay no more than £2,500.

Here’s The Spectator‘s list of the benefits rebels hoping for an increase with inflation rather than wages.

Penny Mordaunt was one of Truss’s rivals in the leadership contest and the other five — led by Michael Gove — were staunch Sunak supporters:

Penny Mordaunt

Michael Gove

Damian Green

Esther McVey

John Glen

Mel Stride

Who can forget the day MPs eliminated Mordaunt from the leadership contest, leaving Truss and Sunak as the last two standing?

On July 20, Guido wrote about Mordaunt’s last ditch appeal:

It turns out Penny Mordaunt’s effort to run a “clean” campaign that puts an end to “toxic politics” lasted as long as she thought she had a chance of winning. Now that Liz Truss is the bookies’ favourite, and Kemi Badenoch’s voters are up for grabs, the Mordaunt camp has other ideas. This morning, Mordaunt tweeted an Allison Pearson Telegraph article headlined “Tory MPs – vote for Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss today and you’ll murder the party you love”, which went down like a bucket of cold sick with just about everybody. Don’t bother trying to find the tweet – she’s since deleted it…

Truss wisely made Mordaunt Leader of the House, probably the safest place for her.

The benefits row is likely to erupt after Parliament reconvenes next week. Gove is pictured with Truss:

On Tuesday morning, Guido posted an audio clip of Mordaunt speaking to Times Radio about increasing benefits in line with inflation:

… on Times Radio … Leader of the Commons Penny Mordaunt was busy once again going characteristically off-script, claiming “it makes sense” to commit to the uplift come rain or shine. Michael Gove is – predictably – saying the same. Even DWP Secretary Chloe Smith has been going around saying “protecting the most vulnerable is a big priority for me”, which surely signals the way the wind is blowing… 

However, as The Spectator‘s editor Fraser Nelson points out, Liz Truss is not being stingy in wanting to increase benefits with salaries rather than inflation:

Difficult decisions lie ahead for Liz Truss as she thinks of ways to constrain spending. One option is to increase benefits in line with average salaries (6.2 per cent), rather than CPI inflation (9.9 per cent): why, it might be argued, should someone on welfare see their income rise faster than someone in work? And with public sector wages rising at just 2 per cent, can government really give a near-10 per cent rise to those out of work?

So she is considering, at very least, uprating benefits by earnings rather than inflation. But if she’s ready for a fight, then so are her Tory opponents. Intriguingly, Penny Mordaunt now seems to be among them.

… Truss may struggle to get a lean settlement through the House of Commons. That’s why it matters that Mordaunt, the leader of the House of Commons, has declared in favour of increasing welfare by inflation. Such open lobbying by a cabinet member is rare and indicates a collapse in discipline

Uprating benefits to inflation would be hugely expensive due to the staggering number currently on out-of-work benefits: 5.3 million in total. This figure has yet to be acknowledged by the government (which prefers a more narrow definition of unemployment) and can only be produced by drilling into its website. There’s a six-month lag, such is the lack of attention to this figure. But it amounts to 13 per cent of the UK working-age population, rising to 20 per cent in Manchester and Birmingham and 25 per cent in Blackpool. Here’s the breakdown, which we keep updated on The Spectator data hub

Nelson has included The Spectator‘s graph in the article. It’s rather shocking.

He says it is time to get the nation back to work but realises that could be a hard sell for Truss to make:

As I’ve argued, the real scandal here is the waste of human potential, more than the waste of money. We have a near-record number of vacancies in the UK – about 1.1 million (hence a lot of the pressure to relax immigration rules), and to combine this with near-record levels on welfare is quite a feat. But it’s also a very expensive situation and a problem that will not be helped by decreasing the factor by which people would be better-off in work.

This is a complex and difficult argument to make – and one distinguishing feature of Liz Truss’s government is that it struggles to have such discussions even with the Tory party, let alone the country

this is a pre-rebellion from Mordaunt: she is describing a situation she’d like, not one that exists. By declaring the restoration of cabinet government, are cabinet members taking back control?

I have written this before Liz Truss gives her speech on Wednesday morning, closing the conference.

The question remains as to whether she can stamp her authority on the Cabinet and Conservative rebels. A tired Tom Harwood, who was also at Labour’s conference last week, explains the situation on GB News:

I will feature brighter aspects of the conference in tomorrow’s post.

My series on Boris Johnson’s downfall continues.

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

Also of interest are:

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

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

On July 8, Bloomberg had an interesting article: ‘Boris Johnson’s Downfall: The Inside Story of How His Government Collapsed’.

It states:

This account of how the Johnson administration unraveled is based on conversations with senior members of his inner circle, cabinet ministers, political advisers, civil servants and Tory MPs who were present at the key moments and spoke to Bloomberg News on condition of anonymity.

The journalists who wrote it say (emphases mine):

the man that Johnson’s inner circle blame for his downfall is Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor, who triggered that final, frantic act that ultimately forced the prime minister to quit.

Boris, being a survivor, stayed true to character. He survived a Conservative MP vote of confidence held the Monday after the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations the first weekend in June 2022. Then the Chris Pincher groping scandal broke, but he was not worried. In early July:

Johnson had spent last weekend largely ignoring the latest scandal raging around him.

There was another slew of allegations in the newspapers, this time related to what Johnson had known about the claims of sexual harassment against an MP who the prime minister had promoted to a senior party post. 

But Johnson had grown accustomed to riding out controversy, from his efforts in November to extricate an ally who breached lobbying rules, to the lockdown parties, the investigation into whether he misled Parliament and the resignation of his own ethics adviser.

His judgment, and that of his No. 10 team, was that revelations relating to his former chief whip Chris Pincher, damaging and unseemly though they were, did not pose an existential threat

That Sunday evening, July 3, Boris headed next door:

to Sunak’s flat in No. 11 Downing Street for one of their regular weekend dinners.

Johnson’s team had been wary of a potential leadership challenge from Sunak for months and suspected that he would already have moved against the prime minister if he hadn’t been fined over lockdown parties himself.

That night was businesslike, focused on plans for a new economic strategy and a joint speech. Sunak briefly mentioned his unease at the handling of the Pincher situation, but people close to both men said the meeting was good-natured and there was no hint of the coming storm.

Meanwhile:

Elsewhere in London though, Health Secretary Sajid Javid was discussing his own concerns about the Pincher case with his own advisers and starting to think he might decide to resign.

The week began normally:

No. 10 remained bullish throughout Monday despite the growing furor as Javid watched and waited.

On Tuesday, a Cabinet meeting took place (Bloomberg has a photo of it). There were signs that things could unravel quickly:

… there were ashen faces around the Cabinet table on Tuesday morning as ministers gathered to discuss Sunak’s plans for tackling rampant inflation. Johnson uber-loyalist [and Culture Secretary] Nadine Dorries told the room that the “dogs of hell” would be unleashed if Johnson was removed.

One Cabinet minister who spoke to Bloomberg that day warned that Johnson might be in real trouble. He had had an unspoken contract with the Conservative Party since surviving a confidence vote among his own MPs in early June, the minister said: he could remain in place only if the scandals stopped.

That compact had lasted barely a month.

Later that day:

Around 5 p.m., at a meeting in the prime minister’s office in Parliament, Javid told Johnson he was resigning. Johnson felt the announcement an hour later could be weathered by appointing a strong replacement.

But nine minutes after Javid published his resignation, Sunak also quit. And this blow came without warning.

Suddenly, Johnson was facing a rout.

A person with knowledge of Javid’s plans said that his team had had no meaningful contact with Sunak’s advisers before the double resignation, but they suspect that the then-chancellor got wind of what was coming and accelerated his own plans. A person with knowledge of Sunak’s thinking said there had been no collusion.

Sunak had worked in the Treasury for Javid when the latter was Chancellor from 2019 to February 2020. They were good friends.

The resignations became a game of whack-a-mole:

As the prime minister rushed to replace two key ministers, a wave of more junior officials announced that they too were abandoning his government.

Nadhim Zahawi became the new Chancellor and Steve Barclay succeeded Javid as Health Secretary:

Nadhim Zahawi and Steve Barclay were recruited late on Tuesday to solve the most immediate problem and Johnson’s advisers believed that both men were determined to take their jobs seriously. They understood that they had buy-in from Zahawi, the chancellor, for a new tax-cutting agenda to be announced imminently, though a person close to Zahawi says he made no such commitment.

All the same, as Johnson and his advisers surveyed the damage on Wednesday morning, they could tell that the situation was critical

That’s when [Levelling-Up Secretary Michael] Gove demanded his meeting. To Johnson’s aides, the timing seemed designed to inflict maximum pain.

Boris sacked Gove later on Wednesday, the only firing he made. He did it via a telephone call.

At that point:

the number of officials quitting his government climbed past 50.

That evening must have been a long one for Boris:

He returned to No. 10 after 6 p.m. for a series of meetings with his senior ministers.

Chief Whip Chris Heaton Harris advised Johnson that he no longer had the numbers to prevent Tory MPs from removing him, but that he would remain loyal. Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevalyan and arch Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg also made clear they would stay supportive. Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told Johnson he would not resign, changing for a formal white-tie event and then leaving via a side entrance.

Other meetings were more difficult.

Home Secretary Priti Patel had an emotional and teary meeting with the premier where she told him he had to go. A spokesman for Patel wasn’t able to comment on the details of the conversation. 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who kept a spreadsheet of Johnson supporters, agreed that the numbers were against them. Policing minister Kit Malthouse delivered a long monologue about how it was over. An exasperated Johnson told Malthouse that if he was going to resign, he should just do it

Malthouse had worked for Boris ever since the latter was Mayor of London.

Also:

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart was the only one who threatened to quit, handing Johnson a resignation letter and telling him that if he was not gone by the morning it would be published.

The most difficult meeting was with Zahawi who looked visibly awkward, according to one witness, as he told the prime minister that he too thought he should quit. The meeting left Johnson’s aides suspecting that Zahawi had simply been preparing for his own tilt at the top job.

Correct. Zahawi did not get far with his campaign.

The meetings lasted into the night:

Towards the end of the night, Johnson gathered his closest aides in his office to assess the damage.

No. 10 policy chief Andrew Griffith was the most determined to battle on, along with Nigel Adams, a minister and old friend of Johnson. Heaton Harris, the party enforcer, had accepted the situation but was staying in the bunker to the end.

Together they rehearsed arguments for and against resigning, as they briefed the media that he would not quit and appoint a new Cabinet. The reality was that no one was accepting jobs.

Political commentators, eager for Boris to go, compared him with Donald Trump:

Johnson told his team that he didn’t want to spark a constitutional crisis by clinging to office.

“I can’t do this,” he told them. “It’s all too ghastly. It’s not me.”

Eventually, he went to the Downing Street flat to see his wife and retire for the night:

As he went up the stairs to his Downing Street flat to see his wife, Carrie, the decision was becoming clear in his mind. Carrie did not advise him either way and insisted it had to be his own decision, according to a person with knowledge of the conversation.

On Thursday, July 7:

Johnson woke early on Thursday and drafted a resignation speech to read out to his staff at their 7.30 a.m. meeting.

He announced his resignation in front of No. 10 early that afternoon.

That evening, The Spectator team held their annual garden party, a major highlight of the political year. Something always happens and this one was no different:

Johnson’s communications chief Guto Harri got into a blazing and public row with Gove adviser Josh Grimstone, who accused Harri of briefing against his boss.

A Sunak aide spotted Harri and went over for a hug. According to people present, a smiling Sunak, standing next to her, asked Harri: “Don’t I get one?”

“You want a hug?” Harri said in disbelief, knowing that the former chancellor had made no contact with Johnson since his shock resignation. Harri had spent his week fighting to save the prime minister, Sunak was aiming to replace him, and in front of London’s political elite, the two men shared an awkward embrace.

Guido Fawkes has more (Guto Harri is on the right and the magazine’s Katy Balls is in the background):

His post says the argument went all the way back to Gove’s desertion of Boris in the 2016 leadership election, leaving Boris out of the race that year (emphases in the original):

… Leadership candidates Rishi Sunak, Nadhim Zahawi and Tom Tugendhat worked the crowd. Later in the evening as things were winding down the Spectator’s Katy Balls mischeviously introduced Josh Grimstone, the newly unemployed former Special Adviser to Michael Gove, to soon-to-be unemployed Guto Harri, the Prime Minister’s Director of Communications. Josh definitely had something to communicate to Guto about Gove’s late night sacking the night before…

Josh firmly protested that his boss had been loyal to the PM, that he personally loved Boris and that both Gove and himself had been nothing but loyal. He accused Guto of sacking Gove out of spite and attempting, unfairly, to make it look like Gove had been sacked for disloyalty. Guto was sceptical about Josh’s protestations of innocence and insistence that his boss had been loyal. The toing and froing went on in front of a silently listening audience that included Guido, Tim Shipman and Steve Swinford. Neither of the protagonists backed down from their position. Grimstone said Guto’s behaviour was a “f***ing disgrace”.

Guto eventually retorted that it was Gove’s fault that in 2016, when he betrayed Boris, the country was as a result put into 3 years of dismal turmoil under Theresa May. Guto’s stance seemed to be that even if it was true that he had been loyal of late, Gove had it coming to him for the 2016 trauma that he inflicted on the party and country. Unresolved and unreconciled Grimstone broke off leaving hushed onlookers uncertain that the summary justice of last night was entirely justified by recent events. Guto seemed relaxed and satisfied that it was amends for the sin of the past. 

But that wasn’t the only verbal dust-up that evening.

On the BBC’s Question Time, Tony Blair’s spin doctor Alastair Campbell and The Telegraph‘s Tim Stanley, who once ran for MP as a Labour candidate, argued about who was worse in terms of being economical with the truth, Tony Blair for the illegal war in Iraq or Boris Johnson with a piece of cake during lockdown. Campbell is on the left in the photo:

Guido has the video:

A few days later on July 11, Stanley wrote an article about it for The Telegraph: ‘My TV encounter showed everything that is wrong with the Left’:

I’m not a friend of Boris Johnson: my most recent contact was a Christmas card that I’m sure was signed by someone else. This didn’t stop Alastair Campbell from calling me part of the same “corrupt class” on Question Time, a grim experience I didn’t enjoy but my editor says I’ve got to address.

Around the five-minute mark, I was invited to give my take on Boris’s resignation – and Campbell butted in with the first of many attacks on my profession and character. Afterwards, a producer said: “How long have you known Alastair?” I replied: “I’ve never met him before.” Given how he spoke to me, many people assumed we had a feud going back decades.

No, he was just horrible, and the nastiness was camera ready. Campbell was nice as pie before the recording; he gave me a cheery goodbye after. My conclusion is that he’s an act. When he launched his on-air assault, I was shocked and considered walking off; I couldn’t take a whole hour of this. Instead, I pulled a one-liner out of the bag, noting that the Blair government took us into a war that cost thousands of lives, while Boris ate some cake.

The point was that Boris might have been chaotic, but it’s often the best organised regimes that make the biggest mistakes.

The line was hardly Oscar Wilde; the audience was furious that I appeared to make light of the Downing Street parties. I thought my career was over, and was wondering if Lidl might be hiring. But what I couldn’t see till I watched the show back was that Campbell shrugged away the reference to Iraq as if it were mundane. It was an ugly moment. By not bursting into tears, I think I came out better.

What irritates me about some people on the Left is that they talk about mental health and kindness yet they treat their opponents like dirt, not giving a damn how it might make them feel – and if a Conservative hits back, they act like we have crossed a line that doesn’t apply to them

And I wasn’t trying to defend Boris on Question Time, just explain his thinking. I have my own views, of course; but in that format I try to put both sides of a story, so the audience can make up its mind. I often find that Left-wing panellists can’t process this. They claim to be empathetic yet have zero interest in how other people think. It will be the Tory party that will produce the first non-white prime minister and how will the Left respond? They’ll call them a “racist”.

That night on Dan Wootton’s GB News show, opinions about Boris’s successor flew in thick and fast.

Former Conservative Home Secretary and later Brexit Party MEP Anne Widdecombe was adamant that the next Party leader be firmly committed to completing the Brexit process. We still have the Northern Ireland Protocol and French fishing difficulties to deal with:

Opinions swirled around the time it should take Boris to vacate Downing Street.

Someone in the know told the Daily Mail that Theresa May — a Remainer — should be caretaker PM. GB News reported:

While Mr Johnson is expected to stay on until Prime Minister, he could choose to relinquish his duties with immediate effect.

In which case an interim Tory leader would be appointed, who would in turn also become the caretaker Prime Minister.

And former Prime Minister Ms May, who held office between 2016 and 2019, could reportedly make a dramatic return to No.10.

A report in the Daily Mail said: “She knows the ropes and the security stuff, she’s a party woman through and through, she’s definitely not interested in standing for it herself and would be credible.

“She is uniquely placed.”

Thank goodness that didn’t happen.

Another Remainer, former Conservative Prime Minister John Major, apparently told the 1922 Committee, headed by Sir Graham Brady, to get rid of Boris pronto. Edwina Currie, a former MP who served with him in Parliament at the same time and who was Major’s mistress between 1984 and 1988, said that the former PM was being ‘a bit of a prat’:

The 2021 Conservative candidate for Mayor of London, Shaun Bailey, agreed. He would have made a great mayor, by the way:

However, biographer Tom Bower explained that Boris and Carrie had no other home, therefore, he would stay at Downing Street until such time as the couple buy a house:

And what about Carrie?

A lot of conservatives blame her for Boris going off the boil with a libertarian-Conservative manifesto to focus on damagingly expensive Net Zero policies, never mind the gaudy refurbishment of the Downing Street flat, allegedly paid for by a Party donor.

The day Boris resigned, The Telegraph‘s Celia Walden wrote ‘The Carrie conundrum: What next for the Prime Minister’s wife?’

Over the past two years and 11 months our outgoing First Lady has certainly garnered criticism – some unfair, some fair. And already commentators are saying that Carrie “helped blow it for Boris”. But it is surely her husband’s sociopathic behaviour over the past few days, weeks and months – and what has been described not as Boris’s downfall but his “clownfall” – that will have been most brand-damaging. So how easy will it be for Carrie to rid herself of that toxicity, and what next for the Prime Minister’s wife? …

Before Carrie became involved with Boris, and his special brand of bedlam, the daughter of Matthew Symonds, co-founder of the The Independent, and lawyer Josephine McAfee was described as “controlled” and “confident”.

Politics may have seemed a world away from the creative fields she immersed herself in at the University of Warwick – where she studied theatre and art history – but after a stint working for Zac Goldsmith, who was MP for Richmond at the time, Carrie moved on to the Conservative party’s press office, where she quickly rose through the ranks, working on her future husband’s re-election campaign, when he ran for Mayor of London in 2012, before becoming the youngest director of communications for the party at just 29.

That a woman who forged a career in the business of public perception – and was credited with taking charge of the Prime Minister’s image (and weight) after they first got together in 2019 – could go on to make the series of missteps Carrie made at No 10 remains baffling today.

It may always have been strenuously denied that the PM’s wife played any part in the prioritising of dogs over humans for evacuation from Afghanistan, but it was without a doubt the First Lady who oversaw No 10’s controversial maximalist redesign. It was she who picked out the infamous gaudy wallpaper estimated to cost £840 a roll and, as I write, Twitter is alive with memes about the one “burning question” that remains: “Now that the Prime Minister has finally resigned what happens to Carrie’s gold wallpaper?”

Because of this, reports that the Johnsons planned to build a £150,000 treehouse for their son at Chequers (but were stopped when police raised security concerns) prompted some to interpret this as “yet more Carrie”. Which might have been unfair. But then there was Carrie’s involvement in partygate.

The Sue Gray inquiry was told that it was she who was keen to throw a party during the first lockdown and “offered to bring cake” – so these cannot be written off as “sexist”, “misogynistic” slurs along with the rest. And while other First Wives have been busy out in Ukraine, shaking Zelensky’s hand, Carrie has been notably low profile in recent months, presumably acting on advice from spin doctors.

according to Craig Oliver, former director of politics and communications for David Cameron: “Leaving No 10 could be the making of Carrie. She’s an intelligent woman, interested in a lot of issues. Being the PM’s wife has an inevitable chilling effect on what you can do and say. She’ll now be free to speak her mind.” 

Lord Ashcroft, whose biography, First Lady: Intrigue at the Court of Carrie and Boris Johnson, was published in March, describes Carrie as “an impressive person – with a high-level career in politics and a record of campaigning on animal rights and the environment”. Another political writer, meanwhile, assures me that any toxicity will be shrugged off with characteristic ease both by Boris and his wife. “He will be a very successful ex-Prime Minister. His star quality is shoulders above any of the others and he will become very rich on the back of it. So very shortly, everything will settle down, and she will be glad to have left the fishbowl.”

… although Carrie is clearly a political animal, it seems likely that she’ll choose to concentrate next on animal rights campaigning, perhaps deepening her involvement with The Aspinall Foundation, for whom she has worked as head of communications since 2021 – which in itself is in a period of transition. Every PR knows that charity work is the best “brand rehab” there is, and her passion for the cause isn’t in doubt.

We can but see.

There was more to come with Mr and Mrs Johnson: their belated wedding celebration, which they weren’t able to have earlier because of the pandemic.

More to come tomorrow.

Yesterday’s post, ‘The Western world is changing, from coronavirus to climate change’, discussed the outrage that Britons felt on reading Rishi Sunak’s revelations in The Spectator about the UK’s coronavirus policy:

Rishi, Liz Truss’s rival in the Conservative Party leadership contest, did not do himself any favours. If he hoped to garner votes from the Party’s coronavirus sceptics, he was mistaken.

From March 2020 to the present, any sceptics voicing an opinion were thrown under the bus, such as Bev Turner, who featured in yesterday’s post.

On Thursday, August 25, the day that the ex-Chancellor’s revelations were published, another sceptic, GB News’s Dan Wootton, aired his views:

Wootton rightly took issue with Rishi’s claim that the wrongful promotion of the SAGE scientists to an all-powerful level was wrong and that he should have changed it.

After all, next to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the Chancellor is the next most powerful position in the Government. Yet, Rishi stayed quiet — for two years. Only now has he said anything.

He did nothing. Yes, he could have changed the course of events but did not:

At the end of that night’s show, the Union Jackass nominees — prominent names in the news cycle for dumb things — were Boris Johnson for flying to Ukraine again instead of visiting the Channel to see migrants being escorted in, Nicola Sturgeon for saying she will always be British in spite of pushing for a second Scottish independence referendum and Rishi Sunak for not resigning or doing anything about our damaging coronavirus policy. Wootton chose Rishi Sunak:

Another coronavirus sceptic, Robert Taylor, wrote for The Telegraph about his own experience over the past two years and Rishi’s revelations (purple emphases mine):

 … Take a bow, Rishi Sunak.

I had to do a double take when I saw the reports. For those long lockdown months, nobody in government, let alone the Cabinet, was prepared to say any such thing. It was left to a few courageous journalists and scientists to take on the overwhelming force of the lockdown fanatics, with police fining people for sitting on park benches and neighbours eagerly shopping each other like this was some authoritarian country.

The brave few kept the flag of personal freedom alive. That really is no exaggeration. And they paid heavily for it. On social media the abuse was intense. You don’t care about lives! they snarled. You’re murderers! they claimed. And in the mainstream, things weren’t much better. You’re a “small, disproportionately influential faction,” moaned a Guardian Leader, that “denies the virulence of the virus”. Thanks for that.

One MP, Neil O’Brien, took it upon himself to publicly discredit any sceptic, declaring “they have a hell of a lot to answer for”. No, you do Mr O’Brien, for stifling free debate, along with certain mainstream news outlets for failing over a two-year period to examine whether lockdown might cause more harm than good

But while I welcome and applaud Sunak’s intervention, I also have a question. He was second only to the Prime Minister for power and influence, and lockdown was the most consequential, freedom-destroying government initiative since the war. He had severe doubts about it. So why didn’t he resign? Yes, it would have been another headache for Boris. But given the massive consequences of the wrong strategy, didn’t he owe it to the British people?

It’s tragedy upon tragedy. Okay, it’s a relief to hear that someone in the heart of government had the guts to challenge the dangerous group-think. But it’s cold comfort to millions of children whose schooling was irreparably damaged along with their long-term prospects, and to patients who only discover now that they have cancer, diabetes or heart disease, and to those who were denied the chance simply to hug lonely, dying relatives.

For all these lockdown victims, Sunak’s words come two years too late.

Publican Adam Brooks tweeted the article, which didn’t get any replies in support of the former Chancellor:

However, earlier that day, two former Government advisers weighed in against Rishi: Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain.

Cummings blasted Rishi. The trolley in the tweet is Cummings’s symbol for Boris, who veers off in all directions like a supermarket trolley:

Then he had a go at The Spectator‘s editor Fraser Nelson who conducted the interview with Rishi. Recall that Cummings’s wife, Mary Wakefield, writes for the magazine:

Guido had a post on Cummings and Cain:

But, wait. Wasn’t Rishi a friend of Cummings?

Guido’s post says, in part (emphases his):

Whilst many sources disagree with some of Rishi’s more lockdown-sceptic policy views, his criticism of the decision-making process by which those policies were reached are more widely supported. Lee Cain and Dominic Cummings, however, are not playing ball…

Former comms director Lee Cain argues that whilst he is a “huge admirer” of Rishi, “his position on lockdown is simply wrong. It would have been morally irresponsible of the govt not to implement lockdown in spring 2020.”

Dominic Cummings is, characteristically, less diplomatic. Taking on Twitter he says, “the Sunak interview is dangerous rubbish, reads like a man whose epicly bad campaign has melted his brain & he’s about to quit politics. Also pins blame *unfairly* on 🛒 & others”. A very rare defence of Boris. He ominously promises more blogging on the topic later…

I checked Cummings’s Twitter account, but he hasn’t posted anything more on the subject.

He defends his former boss here because he, too, wanted lockdown, even though he sneaked off to County Durham with his family one weekend during the first one in Spring 2020. He got rumbled, and, as penance, Boris made him give an agonising televised press conference about it. Cummings left Downing Street later in November that year.

Professor John Edmunds, a prominent SAGE member, pointed out that it was not SAGE’s remit to do a cost-benefit analysis of lockdown. That would have been the responsibility of the Chancellor and the Treasury:

So, Conservative Party members should elect Rishi Sunak as their next leader when he couldn’t be bothered to do a cost-benefit analysis during the pandemic? The Treasury has a lot of civil servants. That would have been part of their job. If only someone had asked them to do it:

GB News had a good article with reaction from Government advisers, including scientists:

Boris Johnson’s former communications chief, Lee Cain, dismissed Mr Sunak’s assessment of the situation, saying he is “simply wrong” …

He said No 10, the Treasury and Department of Health and Social Care “met multiple times daily and discussed the trade-offs”.

Mr Cain added: “We all knew lockdown was a blunt instrument that had many downsides but in a world without vaccinations it was the best option available.”

… A No 10 spokesman said: “At every point, ministers made collective decisions which considered a wide range of expert advice available at the time in order to protect public health.”

Prof Graham Medley, a member of Sage, said: “Government have the power, so if one member of Cabinet thinks that scientific advice was too ‘empowered’ then it is a criticism of their colleagues rather than the scientists.

“The Sage meetings were about the science, not the policy options, and the minutes reflect the scientific consensus at the time.”

… Another scientist who contributed advice to the Government during the pandemic said Mr Sunak’s comments “are very misleading as they suggest that he was alone in thinking about the wider impact of lockdown on schools and other social impacts”.

The source said the SPI-B group, which investigated behavioural impacts, and other advisers spent a lot of time examining the issues around school closures.

“If the former chancellor was arguing against school closures he would have found plenty of evidence to support his case from the very group of scientists he now appears to be criticising,” the source said.

On Friday, August 26, Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave an interview in which he discussed the controversy. GB News reported:

Boris Johnson said he is “very confident” the Government made the “right” decisions about lockdowns.

The Prime Minister was asked to address the comments made by his former chancellor during a visit to South West London Elective Orthopaedic Centre in Surrey …

Speaking to broadcasters at the orthopaedic centre , Mr Johnson said if the Government did not lock the country down during the pandemic, “the delays for cardiac, the delays for hips, the delays for cancer treatment, or the other procedures that people care about” would have been “even greater”.

He added: “I’m just giving you my view, which is that the… about the decision to try to stop the spread of Covid, and with all the things that we did.

“Of course, the inquiry will have to look at those decisions. I’m very confident that they were the right ones. I just want to remind people of the logic because I think there’s a bit of… it all gets turned upside down.

“People say, ‘Oh, well, it was because of the lockdowns that people’s health was impaired’. Actually, the purpose of using those methods, imperfect though they were, to restrict the spread of Covid, was to reduce the huge numbers in the NHS.

“Forty-thousand people at one stage occupying beds in the NHS because of Covid, and therefore, to reduce the numbers of patients with other complaints, other sicknesses, other needs, who were displaced by Covid, and are now coming back into the NHS. That was the purpose of what we were doing.”

Unfortunately, lockdown has made the NHS worse. We still cannot see a GP. The A&E wards are full, even early in the evenings on a weekday. Six million patients are awaiting various medical procedures.

Lockdown was the worst thing we could have done. I know the UK is not in an isolated position here, but we should have been better at this.

Rishi Sunak could have come up with a cost-benefit analysis during those two years, yet he never did.

And he’s running to be our next Prime Minister?

It turns out that Conservative Party members are asking the same question. On Saturday, August 27, The Telegraph featured an article: ‘The moment Rishi Sunak knew his leadership dream was over’.

It had nothing to do with The Spectator interview, but with remarks he made earlier in the month during the hustings in Eastbourne, on the south coast:

It was when Rishi Sunak mentioned California for the third time in less than 10 minutes that his campaign team realised it was all over.

On stage at the Conservative leadership hustings in Eastbourne on Aug 5, Mr Sunak answered a question about the career he would choose as a young graduate by reflecting on the “culture” of enterprise he saw while living on the West Coast between 2004 and 2006.

“I think it’s incredibly inspiring and empowering,” he said. “If I was a young person, I’d want to go and do something like that.”

But back at his campaign headquarters in Holborn, Central London, his strategists were far from inspired.

Staff felt his focus on California showed he was out of touch and summed up his failure to win over grassroots Tory members as polls showed members backing Liz Truss by more than two to one.

“People started to say that it wasn’t going to happen now and he wasn’t connecting with voters in the room,” a source on the campaign told The Telegraph.

“He kept talking about California and tech. It became an open secret within the campaign that he wasn’t going to win. That hustings was the point things really took a turn as everyone started to realise that.”

Just as well, really.

All this talk of California? He must be wondering how he’ll get his Green Card back.

Knowing Rishi and his in-laws’ connections, he’ll find a way.

My far better half and I never miss a Neil Oliver editorial during his Saturday evening GB News shows.

His topic is the changing fabric of the Western world post-pandemic, whether it be through farming prohibitions, climate change or the ongoing revelations about coronavirus policies.

Here is the transcript and the video from his August 13 editorial:

Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

It is hard to think the unthinkable – but there comes a time when there’s nothing else for it. People raised to trust the powers that be – who have assumed, like I once did, that the State, regardless of its political flavour at any given moment, is essentially benevolent and well-meaning – will naturally try and keep that assumption of benevolence in mind when trying to make sense of what is going on around them.

People like us, you and me, raised in the understanding that we are free, that we have inalienable rights, and that the institutions of this country have our best interests at heart, will tend to tie ourselves in knots rather than contemplate the idea those authorities might actually be working against us now. I took that thought of benevolent, well-meaning authority for granted for most of my life, God help me. Not to put too fine a point on it, I was as gullible as the next chump.

A couple of years ago, however, I began to think the unthinkable and with every passing day it becomes more and more obvious to me that we are no longer being treated as individuals entitled to try and make the most of our lives – but as a barn full of battery hens, just another product to be bought and sold – sold down the river

Once the scales fall from a person’s eyes, the resultant clarity of sight is briefly overwhelming. Or it is like being handed a skeleton key that opens every locked door, or access to a Rosetta Stone that translates every word into a language instantly understood.

Take the energy crisis: If you’ve felt the blood drain from your face at the prospect of bills rising from hundreds to several thousands of pounds while reading about energy companies doubling their profits overnight while being commanded to subsidise so-called renewables that are anything but Green while listening to this politician or that renew their vows to the ruinous fantasies of Net Zero and Agenda 2030 while knowing that the electricity for electric cars comes, in the main and most reliably, from fossil fuels if you can’t make sense of it all and just know that it adds up to a future in which you might have to choose between eating and heating then treat yourself to the gift of understanding that the powers that be fully intend that we should have less heat and less fuel and that in the planned future only the rich will have cars anyway. The plan is not to fix it.

The plan is to break it, and leave it broken. If you struggle to think the best of the world’s richest – vacuous, self-obsessed A-list celebrities among them – endlessly circling the planet on private jets and super yachts, so as to attend get-togethers where they might pontificate to us lowly proles about how we must give up our cars and occasional holiday flights – even meat on the dinner table … if you wonder how they have the unmitigated gall … then isn’t it easier simply to accept that their honestly declared and advertised intention is that their luxurious and pampered lives will continue as before while we are left hungry, cold and mostly unwashed in our unheated homes.

Here’s the thing: if any leader or celeb honestly meant a word of their sermons about CO2 and the rest, then they would obviously lead by example. They would be first of all of us willingly to give up international travel altogether … they would downsize to modest homes warmed by heat pumps. They would eschew all energy but that from the sun and the wind. They would eat, with relish, bugs and plants. They would resort to walking, bicycles and public transport. If Net Zero and the rest was about the good of the planet – and not about clearing the skies and the beaches of scum like us – don’t you think those sainted politicians and A-listers would be lighting the way for us by their own example? If the way of life they preach to us was worth living, wouldn’t they be living it already? Perhaps you heard Bill Gates say private jets are his guilty pleasure.

And how about food – and more particularly the predicted shortage of it: the suits and CEOs blame it all on Vladimir Putin. But if the countries of the world are truly running out of food, why is our government offering farmers hundreds of thousands of pounds to get out of the industry and sell their land to transnational corporations for use, or disuse unknown? Why aren’t we, as a society, doing what our parents and grandparents did during WWII and digging for victory? Why is the government intent on turning a third of our fertile soil over to re-wilding schemes that make life better only for the beavers? Why aren’t we looking across the North Sea towards the Netherlands where a WEF-infected administration is bullying farmers off their land altogether, forcing them to cull half the national herd

Why do you think it matters so much, to the government of the second most productive population of farmers in the world, to gut and fillet that industry? Why? Why have similar protests, in countries all across Europe and the wider world, been largely ignored by the mainstream media – a media that would have crawled on its hands and knees over broken glass just to report on a BLM protester opening a bag of non-binary crisps. Why the silence on the attack on farming?

Isn’t the simple obvious answer … the answer that makes most sense and that is staring us in our trusting faces … that power for the power-hungry has always rested most effectively upon control of food and its supply? Why are the powers that be attributing this to a cost of living crisis when everyone with two brain cells to rub together can see it’s a cost of lockdown crisis – the inevitable consequence of shutting down the whole country – indeed the whole world – for the best part of two years. Soaring inflation, rising interest rates, disrupted supply chains

Rather than dismiss as yet another conspiracy theory the idea of cash being ultimately replaced with transactions based on the exchange of what amount to glorified food stamps that will only be accepted if our social credit score demonstrates that we’ve been obedient girls or boys … how about taking the leap and focussing on the blatantly obvious … that if we are not free to buy whatever and whenever we please, free of the surveillance and snooping of governments and the banks that run them, then we have absolutely no freedom at all. And while we’re on the subject of money and banks, why not pause to notice something else that is glaringly obvious – which is to say that the currencies of the West are teetering on the abyss, and that one bank after another is revealed, to those who are bothering to watch, as being as close to bankruptcy as its possible to be without actually falling over the edge.

Then there’s the so-called vaccines for Covid – I deliberately say “so-called” because by now it should be clear to all but the wilfully blind that those injections do not work as advertised. You can still contract the virus, still transmit the virus, still get sick and still die. Denmark has dropped their use on under-18s. All across the world, every day, more evidence emerges – however grudgingly, however much the various complicit authorities and Big-Pharma companies might hate to admit it – of countless deaths and injuries caused by those medical procedures

Now I ask myself on a daily basis how I ignored the stench for so long. Across the Atlantic, the Biden White House sent the FBI to raid the home of former president Donald Trump. Meanwhile Joe Biden and his son Hunter – he of the laptop full of the most appalling and incriminating content – fly together on Air Force 1. No raids planned on the Obamas, nor on the Clintons. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi flew to Taiwan and onwards to China. Her son Paul, an investor in a Chinese tech firm and with seats on the board of companies dealing in lithium, was along for the ride, into that part of the world where three quarters of the world’s lithium batteries are made. Taiwan leads in that technology.

It is hard to think the unthinkable. It’s hard to think that all of it, all the misery, all the suffering of the past and to come might just be about money, greed and power. It is hard to tell yourself you’ve been taken for a fool and taken for a ride. It’s hard, but the view from the other side is worth the effort and the pain. Open your eyes and see.

In the middle of last week, Rishi Sunak gave an interview to Fraser Nelson, editor of The Spectator, about his view on the Government’s coronavirus policy and SAGE, their medical and scientific advisory team.

Excerpts from ‘The lockdown files: Rishi Sunak on what we weren’t told’ follow:

When we meet at the office he has rented for his leadership campaign, soon to enter its final week, he says at the outset that he’s not interested in pointing the finger at the fiercest proponents of lockdown. No one knew anything at the start, he says: lockdown was, by necessity, a gamble. Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance, the chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser, would openly admit that lockdown could do more harm than good. But when the evidence started to roll in, a strange silence grew in government: dissenting voices were filtered out and a see-no-evil policy was applied.

Sunak’s story starts with the first Covid meeting, where ministers were shown an A3 poster from scientific advisers explaining the options. ‘I wish I’d kept it because it listed things that had no impact: banning live events and all that,’ he says. ‘It was saying: you should be careful not to do this stuff too early, because being able to sustain it is very hard in a modern society.’ So the scientific advice was, initially, to reject or at least delay lockdown.

This all changed when Neil Ferguson and his team at Imperial College published their famous ‘Report 9’, which argued that Covid casualties could hit 500,000 if no action was taken – but the figure could be below 20,000 if Britain locked down. That, of course, turned out to be a vast exaggeration of lockdown’s ability to curb Covid deaths …

A cost-benefit calculation – a basic requirement for pretty much every public health intervention – was never made. ‘I wasn’t allowed to talk about the trade-off,’ says Sunak. Ministers were briefed by No. 10 on how to handle questions about the side-effects of lockdown. ‘The script was not to ever acknowledge them. The script was: oh, there’s no trade-off, because doing this for our health is good for the economy.’

When he did try to raise concerns, he met a brick wall. ‘Those meetings were literally me around that table, just fighting. It was incredibly uncomfortable every single time.’ He recalls one meeting where he raised education. ‘I was very emotional about it. I was like: “Forget about the economy. Surely we can all agree that kids not being in school is a major nightmare” or something like that. There was a big silence afterwards. It was the first time someone had said it. I was so furious.’

One of Sunak’s big concerns was about the fear messaging, which his Treasury team worried could have long-lasting effects. ‘In every brief, we tried to say: let’s stop the “fear” narrative. It was always wrong from the beginning. I constantly said it was wrong.’ The posters showing Covid patients on ventilators, he said, were the worst. ‘It was wrong to scare people like that.’ The closest he came to defying this was in a September 2020 speech saying that it was time to learn to ‘live without fear’ – a direct response to the Cabinet Office’s messaging. ‘They were very upset about that.’

Lockdown – closing schools and much of the economy while sending the police after people who sat on park benches – was the most draconian policy introduced in peacetime. No. 10 wanted to present it as ‘following the science’ rather than a political decision, and this had implications for the wiring of government decision-making. It meant elevating Sage, a sprawling group of scientific advisers, into a committee that had the power to decide whether the country would lock down or not. There was no socioeconomic equivalent to Sage; no forum where other questions would be asked.

So whoever wrote the minutes for the Sage meetings – condensing its discussions into guidance for government – would set the policy of the nation. No one, not even cabinet members, would know how these decisions were reached.

In the early days, Sunak had an advantage. ‘The Sage people didn’t realise for a very long time that there was a Treasury person on all their calls. A lovely lady. She was great because it meant that she was sitting there, listening to their discussions.’

But his victories were few and far between. One, he says, came in May 2020 when the first plans were being drawn to move out of lockdown in summer. ‘There’s some language in there that you will see because I fought for it,’ he says. ‘It talked about non-Covid health impact.’ Just a few sentences, he says, but he views the fact that lockdown side-effects were recognised at all at that point as a triumph.

He doesn’t name Matt Hancock, who presided over all of this as health secretary, or Liz Truss, who was silent throughout. As he said at the outset, he doesn’t want to name names but rather to speak plainly about what the public was not told – and the process that led to this. Typically, he said, ministers would be shown Sage analysis pointing to horrifying ‘scenarios’ that would come to pass if Britain did not impose or extend lockdown. But even he, as chancellor, could not find out how these all-important scenarios had been calculated.

Liz Truss was not part of the ‘quad’, though, the four Cabinet ministers who determined policy. If I remember rightly, the ‘quad’ were Boris, Hancock, Michael Gove and Rishi. Truss claimed that she didn’t speak up because she was told that the decisions were a fait accompli. Nelson verifies that below.

Returning to Rishi:

‘I was like: “Summarise for me the key assumptions, on one page, with a bunch of sensitivities and rationale for each one”,’ Sunak says. ‘In the first year I could never get this.’ The Treasury, he says, would never recommend policy based on unexplained modelling: he regarded this as a matter of basic competence. But for a year, UK government policy – and the fate of millions –was being decided by half-explained graphs cooked up by outside academics.

‘This is the problem,’ he says. ‘If you empower all these independent people, you’re screwed.’ Sir Gus O’Donnell, the former cabinet secretary, has suggested that Sage should have been asked to report to a higher committee, which would have considered the social and economic aspects of locking down. Sunak agrees. But having been anointed from the start, Sage retained its power until the rebellion that came last Christmas.

In December 2021, at the time JP Morgan’s lockdown analysis appeared:

He flew back early from a trip to California. By this time JP Morgan’s lockdown analysis was being emailed around among cabinet ministers like a samizdat paper, and they were ready to rebel. Sunak met Johnson. ‘I just told him it’s not right: we shouldn’t do this.’ He did not threaten to resign if there was another lockdown, ‘but I used the closest formulation of words that I could’ to imply that threat. Sunak then rang around other ministers and compared notes.

Normally, cabinet members were not kept in the loop as Covid-related decisions were being made – Johnson’s No. 10 informed them after the event, rather than consulting them. Sunak says he urged the PM to pass the decision to cabinet so that his colleagues could give him political cover for rejecting the advice of Sage. ‘I remember telling him: have the cabinet meeting. You’ll see. Every-one will be completely behind you… You don’t have to worry. I will be standing next to you, as will every other member of the cabinet, bar probably Michael [Gove] and Saj [Javid].’ As it was to prove.

Nelson claims that Rishi is telling the truth:

For what it’s worth, his account squares with what I picked up from his critics in government: that the money-obsessed Sunak was on a one-man mission to torpedo lockdown. And perhaps the Prime Minister as well. ‘Everything I did was seen through the prism of: “You’re trying to be difficult, trying to be leader,”’ he says. He tried not to challenge the Prime Minister in public, or leave a paper trail. ‘I’d say a lot of stuff to him in private,’ he says. ‘There’s some written record of everything. In general, people leak it – and it causes problems.’

Rishi said why he did not resign at the time:

To quit in that way during a pandemic, he says, would have been irresponsible. And to go public, or let his misgivings become known, would have been seen as a direct attack on the PM.

At the time, No. 10’s strategy was to create the impression that lockdown was a scientifically created policy which only crackpots dared question

David Cameron employed the same strategy with the Brexit referendum in 2016. He said that the only people supporting Leave were ‘swivel-eyed loons’.

Rishi explained why he waited until now to speak out:

He is opening up not just because he is running to be prime minister, he says, but because there are important lessons in all of this. Not who did what wrong, but how it came to pass that such important questions about lockdown’s profound knock-on effects – issues that will probably dominate politics for years to come – were never properly explored

And the other lessons of lockdown? ‘We shouldn’t have empowered the scientists in the way we did,’ he says. ‘And you have to acknowledge trade-offs from the beginning. If we’d done all of that, we could be in a very different place.’ How different? ‘We’d probably have made different decisions on things like schools, for example.’ Could a more frank discussion have helped Britain avoid lockdown entirely, as Sweden did? ‘I don’t know, but it could have been shorter. Different. Quicker.’

Even now, Sunak doesn’t argue that lockdown was a mistake – just that the many downsides in health, the economy and society in general could have been mitigated if they had been openly discussed. An official inquiry has begun, but Sunak says there are lessons to learn now …

To Sunak, this was the problem at the heart of the government’s Covid response: a lack of candour. There was a failure to raise difficult questions about where all this might lead – and a tendency to use fear messaging to stifle debate, instead of encouraging discussion. So in a sentence, how would he have handled the pandemic differently? ‘I would just have had a more grown-up conversation with the country.’

Hmm.

On Thursday, August 25, Fraser Nelson wrote an article about it for The Telegraph: ‘Rishi Sunak is just the start. The great lockdown scandal is about to unravel’:

For some time, I’ve been trying to persuade Rishi Sunak to go on the record about what really happened in lockdown. Only a handful of people really know what took place then, because most ministers – including members of the Cabinet – were kept in the dark. Government was often reduced to a “quad” of ministers deciding on Britain’s future and the then chancellor of the exchequer was one of them. I’d heard rumours that Sunak was horrified at much of what he saw, but was keeping quiet. In which case, lessons would never be learnt.

His speaking out now confirms much of what many suspected. That the culture of fear, seen in the Orwellian advertising campaign that sought to terrify the country, applied inside Government. Questioning lockdown, even in ministerial meetings, was seen as an attack on the Prime Minister’s authority. To ask even basic questions – about how many extra cancer deaths there might be, for example – was to risk being portrayed as one the crackpots, the “Cov-idiots”, people who wanted to “let the virus rip”. Hysteria had taken hold in the heart of Whitehall …

Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance began by advising ministers not to lock down, saying public events were fine, and that face masks were pointless. They were talking about herd immunity as the way out. Then they flipped entirely. But this reveals something crucial: lockdown never was backed by science. It was about models and suppositions, educated guesswork. It was driven by moods, emotion, fear – and, worst of all, politics masquerading as science.

This is part of Sunak’s point. He doesn’t say locking down was wrong. Just that it somehow went from being a daft idea, rubbished by scientists, to a national imperative whose necessity was unquestionable scientific truth. So we need to ask: was the fear messaging really necessary? Why were No 10 outriders sent out to savage dissenting scientists? Why was Sunak made to feel, as he told me, that he was being seen – even inside government – as a callous money-grabber when he raised even basic concerns?

The disclosures should start a great unravelling of the lockdown myth, its pseudo-scientific sheen stripped away and the shocking political malfeasance left to stand exposed. Were Sage minutes manipulated, with dissent airbrushed out? If Sage “scenarios” were cooked up on fundamentally wrong assumptions we need to know, because that will mean lockdowns were imposed or extended upon a false premise. A premise that could have been exposed as false, had there been basic transparency or proper scrutiny.

This isn’t just about a virus. An autocratic streak took hold of the Government and overpowered a weak Prime Minister – and did so because our democratic safeguards failed. It should have been impossible for policies of such huge consequence to be passed without the most rigorous scrutiny. So many lives were at risk that every single lockdown assumption should have been pulled apart to see if it was correct. It should have been impossible for government to suspend such scrutiny for more than a few weeks.

I suspect that this authoritarian reflex lies embedded in our system, ready to twitch again. Life, after all, is easier without opposition so if tools exist to suspend it, we can expect them to be grabbed

Sunak doesn’t speak like a man expecting to end up in No 10. He said earlier this week that he would rather lose having been honest with people than win by telling half-truths. Opening up on lockdown may not save, or even help, his campaign. But his candour has offered important insights into one of the most important stories of our times – and one that is only beginning to be told.

As the then-Chancellor, he was the most powerful man in Government after Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Rishi held the nation’s purse strings and could have said ‘no’ at any point to the policies. But he didn’t.

It was difficult to know exactly what Rishi’s motives were in giving such an interview. Perhaps he was trying to glean votes from sceptical Conservative Party members in a last ditch attempt to save his candidacy.

Whatever his reason, one outcome was that it got Covid sceptics talking again, with some indirect support from him.

On Friday, August 26, one of those sceptics, Bev Turner, delivered a guest host editorial on GB News.

She was not happy with Rishi’s silence over Government policy:

Now, Rishi Sunak says that lockdowns “could have been shorter. Different. Quicker. We could be in a very different place”, he says now with the benefit of hindsight that some of us never needed… Apparently, as the economy tanks, he regrets the Government’s Covid strategy, stating that the scientists at Sage should never have been put in charge of the country’s response.

Well…who knew?…thanks for that, Rishi. Now I can sleep at night….except of course I can’t. And I won’t until there are arrests over the despotic, unscientific measures of the scamdemic and the perverted profits sucked up by vampirical pharma companies aided and abetted by a media paid off to the tune of £300m. Paid for, by Rishi Sunak’s department with our tax payers money!

“If you empower all these independent people, you’re screwed,” he now says in reference to Sage, “We shouldn’t have empowered the scientists in the way we did.”

She brought up Susan Michie, who is now — or who soon will be — working for the WHO:

a leading member of Sage is a life-long member of the Communist Party and might just have enjoyed the frisson of power.

She wondered why Rishi didn’t do more in his position of power:

… Rishi’s wrong, you can empower scientists – except that as with any medical decision – the consequences of which could be life-changing, you seek a second opinion.

Are you telling us, Rishi Sunak, that you didn’t have the chance, at one of your Sage meetings to ask your colleagues to read The Great Barrington Declaration for instance? That statement written in October 2020 by some of the world’s top epidemiologists and public health scientists in which they expressed their grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of your policies, instead recommending more Focused Protection for the vulnerable. They were publicly discredited as ‘fringe’ according to leaked emails and denounced as quacks. You should have had the gumption, Rishi Sunak, to insist to your team that there might have been a different way.

Rishi acknowledged that there was no cost-benefit analysis of the lockdowns. I remember a handful of  Conservative MPs asking for them in Parliament. Answer there came none.

Bev discussed her own demonisation during the pandemic:

Is he FINALLY referencing the necessity of a cost-benefit analysis of lockdowns?

Let me tell you, after making such statements on TV I was vilified by the press, demonised on social media and written off by former employers as a selfish granny-killer

But it was so obvious if you chose to look. You didn’t need to be the Chancellor to see what was coming. You just needed to switch off the BBC; seek out people who were looking at facts rather than trilling with emotion.

It wasn’t easy taking a public stance for the poor, the old, the young, and anyone who was going to suffer harms from Covid theatre. But I did it anyway. Because it was the right thing to do.

She finds it hard to support Rishi’s stance:

In my opinion, Sunak’s words paint a picture of a man who lacked the spine to publicly call-out what he now says he knew were policy mistakes. How dare you, Rishi Sunak, How dare you

… He wasn’t a passenger when, long after we had a clear picture of the infection fatality rate, said nothing to stop confused, 98-year-old care-home residents having to mouth “I love you” through windows when all they wanted was to hold someone’s hand.

Sunak wasn’t a passenger when schools closed; when the decades-old pandemic response plan was mysteriously ripped up in favour of a Chinese style quarantine-the-healthy strategy. He wasn’t a passenger when the Chief Medical Officers took to their lecterns with baffling figures seemingly obfuscated to maintain the fear.

He was a driver, one of a handful up front at the wheel, map in hand as he helped drive the country into a brick wall with businesses closed, families destroyed, mental health problems exacerbated and some educational achievements lost forever.

He was in on the meetings that decided the NHS must be solely obsessed with a disease that was involved in the deaths of those averaging 82 years of age. Thanks to the growing treatment backlog he was well aware of, we are now deep in a period of excess weekly mortality in the relatively young which dwarfs anything that Covid-19 managed …

“In every brief, we tried to stop the fear narrative,” he now says. “I constantly said it was wrong.”

No, you did not. If you had genuinely believed that you would have resigned noisily and defiantly with the backing of so many British people who could also see the Covid pantomime for what it was. You could have taken a temporary step off your own political career ladder and ironically – you could have eventually come back free from the stains of the Covid oil slick in which this country is now drowning.

You say, Rishi, that you were ticked off by the Cabinet Office after saying it was time to ‘live without fear’. So tell us – who didn’t want to hear that message? Name names now and put your money where your mouth is.

It’s actually hard to know who Sunak is aiming this about-turn at: those of us who stuck our own necks out to question the non-scientific policy, whether that was on TV or even just round a family dinner table are not ready to forgive those who were in power.

Sunak has even said that minutes from Sage meetings were edited to omit dissenting voices from final drafts.

This has caused lawyer Francis Hoar to tweet: “This is absolutely shocking. If this is true then those responsible – and it is reasonable to suppose that Whitty and Vallance were at least aware – should face a criminal investigation for misconduct in public office.”

Quite right.

Sunak has thrown the scientists under the bus. They will now blame the politicians who took the decisions. The inevitable infighting will be bloody and brutal and it will finally allow us to see behind the curtain and find out WHY in my opinion insanity was allowed to run riot. I will have my popcorn ready.

The next day, Neil Oliver delivered another great editorial.

This one is spectacular:

He advised us not to be taken in by Sunak, although he admits that the ex-Chancellor’s revelations have brought the coronavirus policy narrative to the fore.

Excerpts follow:

Don’t be fooled into thinking this disaster movie is coming to an end.

Rishi Sunak was quick off the mark last week with his pitiful, self-serving claims about having known the lockdowns were a bad thing but that despite him drumming his tiny fists on the table until they were a little bit sore no one would listen to him.

He said his heroic efforts to avert disaster were deleted from the official records of meetings he attended.

If that’s true – if minutes of meetings affecting government policy were doctored – then Sunak’s claims demand criminal investigation and jail time for those responsible – including big wigs with letters after their names, who presumably knew the truth of it as well and kept their mouths shut while people needlessly died miserable deaths, endured miserable lives and the country was driven off a cliff.

Sunak squeaks that he was on the right side of history but powerless. What absolute twaddle. He was arguably the second most powerful figure in government. By his own admission, he went along with all that was done to us. If it had ever been about principles, he would have resigned the first time his dissent was ignored and erased. He would have made his way hot foot to a television studio and there delivered an honest statement about how doing the right thing was more important than keeping his job. He did none of those things.

For all that, there’s excitement in the air. The mere fact the former chancellor and would-be prime minister have broken ranks – basically opting for the tried and trusted playground tactic of claiming a big boy did it and ran away means many are scenting blood in the water.

I’m hearing a lot of people, desperate and hopeful that the whole truth will finally come out, saying things like, “the narrative is finally falling apart.”

It might be and it might not. But the Covid and lockdown double-act is expendable. They’ve wrung all the juice they’re ever going to get out of that rotten fruit and now it’s ready to be cast aside. Or maybe it will just go on the back burner while other, fresher concoctions are brought forward. Either way, someone, somewhere seems to have decided it’s time to move on.

Just don’t be fooled into thinking that stuff about saving Granny and the NHS was ever the point, far less the main event. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again:

“It’s never about what they say it’s about.”

Thousands of grannies and grandpas died anyway and the NHS is a vast money pit that sucks in billions and now shuts its doors against people dying of cancer. I don’t believe the last two years was ever about public health

The good ship Pandemic is holed below the waterline and all the rats are scuttling towards the life rafts. All the lies about Covid, all the lies about vaccines, more and more exposed every day.

On the other side of the Atlantic, micro megalomaniac Antony Fauci is making for dry land as fast as his little paws will propel him. There are so many rats on that sinking ship, however, that they know there won’t be enough rafts. They are aboard the Titanic and many won’t make it. Here’s hoping.

Now that some of the great and the good are changing their tune … now that more and more of the mainstream media are pirouetting like ballerinas and finally contemplating questions some of us have been asking, shouting indeed, on a desperate loop, for months and years, there’s a narrow window of opportunity for getting some other stuff out into the open. And so now seems like the right time to think more of the unthinkable and say more of the unsayable.

Things are unfolding now exactly as the so-called conspiracy theorists, us with the tin hats on, said they would. And while everyone else – those who poured scorn, and ridiculed and hated – surely have to face the fact that we, the outcasts who lost work and reputations and much else besides – were right all along about the unforgivable damage of locking down, about harms to children, about being determined to refuse the Covid injections – in this brief moment while those who had nothing to offer but spite, and vitriol and undisguised loathing for those of us who first suspected we were being sold a pup – and who felt something wrong in our guts and so bothered to do our own reading and learned we were absolutely right and so spoke out and kept speaking out – right now before those smug smarty pants regroup behind the next line trotted out by the establishment, we can state some more of the blindingly obvious.

Let me, on behalf of my fellow conspiracy theorists, put more of the truth out there. After all, in a few months’ time it’s what those same smarty pants will be saying they knew all along as well.

Here’s what I make of the bigger picture – and what some of us so-called Covidiots, anti-vaxxers, Putin-apologists, fascist, far-right extremist swivel-eyed loons want to talk about next.

… The horror show in the Ukraine is being exploited.

Here at home last week, Boris implied that while only lesser mortals are fretting selfishly about heat and food, his attentions are focused on the lofty heights of saving the world. The little people of Britain must endure cold and hunger for … guess what … the greater good.

Anyone with even the faintest grasp on, at least an interest in, geopolitics knowns it is utterly bogus and he is a fraud – along with Biden, Trudeau, Macron, Von der Leyen and the rest of a list so long I don’t have time to read it out.

The imminent cold and hunger were made inevitable not by Putin in 2022, but years ago by the adoption of ruinous, ideologically-driven nonsense presented as world-saving environmental policies that only denied us any hope of energy independence, the profitable exploitation of all the resources beneath our feet and seas, and condemned much of Europe to dependence on Russia.

What we are paying is the cost of going Green, when those polices are not green at all but predicated upon some of the most destructive and toxic practices and technologies ever conceived.

Wind and solar will never provide the energy we need to keep thriving as societies, to grow and flourish. The situation is so insane I find it easiest to conclude we are simply meant to do without.

Stop thinking we’re all going to have cars, and international travel, and warm homes – just different than before. What seems obvious is that we are being groomed to live small lives, to make way for the grandiose expectations and entitlements of the elites that are working so effectively to hoover up the last of the wealth …

Energy prices will keep going up. This will obviously hurt the poorest countries and poorest people first and worst. What is obvious about the Green warriors making war on affordable, reliable energy is that they care not a jot about the poor – at least not the actual poor alive in the world today. Those real flesh and blood people are to be sacrificed, by the millions, utterly denied the energy that might have lifted them out of poverty, so that imaginary people as yet unborn might thrive in a Utopia that exists only in the imaginations of pampered protesters. China will just burn more coal to compensate and seize more control but, shh, best not mention it.

That corrupted thinking comes from Communism – or perhaps Communism’s idiot cousin Socialism. Green warriors don’t care about the poor, in the same way socialists don’t care about the poor … they just hate the rich.

Which is ironic, given that with their infantile protests they are doing the work of the very richest for them.

Ukraine produces a fifth of the wheat crop, required by the poorest. Not this year though. Whatever has been grown will be hard to store and harder to export – so that hunger and full-blown famine becomes a looming threat for hundreds of millions of the world’s hungriest people.

In richer countries, life is being made deliberately impossible for farmers. Spiking costs of fertilisers and fuel are one thing but governments in the Netherlands, across Europe, in Canada and elsewhere around the world are persecuting those who grow our food. Farmers are being made to endure restrictions that destroy their businesses, being driven off their land altogether. They will have to watch as fields they have known and cared for over generations are hoovered up by transnational organisations with other ideas about what that land might be used for.

If you think mass migration and immigration are difficult problems now, wait until the unavoidable famines cause a haemorrhage of humanity out of the poorest countries of Africa and the Middle East. Perhaps hundreds of millions of people with nothing more to lose. Where do you think they’ll go?

And here’s another inconvenient truth: money and weapons keep flowing into Ukraine, but despite months of war and sanctions, the Russian rouble remains strong and an end to hostilities seems as far away as ever. Maybe no one wants that war to end. Wars don’t determine who’s right anyway; wars determine who’s left.

Ultimately this is all about wealth and power. Not money, remember. Money is to wealth as a menu is to a steak. One’s a worthless bit of paper, the other something that will keep you alive. This is about actual wealth and its acquisition. It’s about the already super-rich getting hold of even more of the real things. Land, buildings, natural resources, gold. While we are supposed to be frightened out of our wits, squabbling among ourselves, and just hoping that one day it will all be over, a relative handful of others are hoovering up all the wealth, as planned

Don’t be fooled by Sunak and the rest and their about face – their pretence that they were with us all along. Covid and lockdown carried them only so far – but they plan to go much further. Disease, War, Famine, Death – the same people always ride on the same four horses. Now is not the time to take our eyes off the ball. Not by a long chalk. Keep watching the usual suspects.

On Sunday, August 28, Scottish comedian Leo Kearse guest hosted Mark Dolan’s GB News show.

He gave an excellent editorial about eco-warriors. This is a five-minute video you won’t regret seeing, full of fact with a generous scoop of wit:

He points out that Green pressure on Government has made us back away from energy independence over the years. The result? We are now dependent upon Putin for gas. He says that eco-warriors are helping Putin to win the war in Ukraine. Meanwhile, the rest of us will be cutting back on fuel we need to heat our homes this winter.

He concludes that Green policies are a nonsense, especially when the Scottish Green leader Patrick Harvie says that only right-wing extremists advocate energy independence.

He gives President Trump credit for telling Germany to become energy independent, even if the German delegation listening laughed in his face. He asks when Germany will ever be on the right side in a war.

I cannot help but agree.

Returning to Rishi’s coronavirus revelations, I will have more on that tomorrow, as there was fallout over the weekend. Bev Turner was not wrong. They’re turning on each other.

Last week I posted about the comedian Jerry Sadowitz, whose Fringe show was cancelled by Edinburgh’s Pleasance Theatre.

We have seen more examples of the demise of free speech, particularly in the UK, in 2022.

Restaurant’s help wanted ad

In February 2022, Steve Bothwell, who owns the 27-year-old Aberdeen restaurant Cafe 52, placed a no-nonsense advert online in an attempt to hire more staff:

The job advert went viral on Twitter

On February 28, Scotland’s Daily Record reported that the advert went viral and received much online how-dare-he criticism, included in its article.

However, the ad’s wording spells out what Steve Bothwell wants: a hard-working employee who is focused on continuing the excellent reputation of the restaurant rather than his or her social identity politics.

I admire a man who says he doesn’t want mask wearing Guardian readers, virtue signallers and self-testers. I wouldn’t, either. He was also right to say that hospitality works only when staff:

leave their egos in their lockers.

He gave an interview to the paper (emphases mine):

Speaking to the Daily Record he said: “I don’t regret the wording [of the job advert], but I wish people would get on their pins about more important issues.

“I’m not banning anyone. The advert was tongue in cheek.”

He added: “I’ve had three good applications this morning off the back of the advert.”

Some weeks later, one of The Guardian‘s restaurant critics, Grace Dent, had lunch at Cafe 52. Wow! If any of my readers are in Aberdeen, this place looks great. It’s right across the street from Aberdeen Market.

Dent’s review, complete with must-see close-up photos, appeared on April 1, but this was no April Fool’s joke:

The menu was full of delicious-sounding things such as cullen skink, hot smoked mackerel, and Normandy chicken casserole with leeks and tarragon. As I loitered by the door, something about the cafe’s name rang a bell, then, to my glee, I realised this was the place whose owner famously doesn’t like Guardian readers, and who earlier this year penned a job advert banning them. Perhaps I should have been offended, but there was a bread-and-butter pudding made with crumpets on the menu, plus, to quote Groucho Marx, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.”

… This charming, long, narrow strip of a bistro has survived for more than 25 years without the likes of me, and is these days serving a sort of boho, rustic, French-Scottish, casual-elegant menu to a unending stream of walk-ins. Cafe 52 has no need for my pronouncements.

Dent was complimentary about the servers as well as the food. So, the advert worked!

She described the food as follows:

I like Aberdeen a great deal, and spent three wonderful days there alone, talking to strangers and eating …

But Cafe 52 was my favourite. Proprietor Steve Bothwell … has created a place where glorious food matters, and I can say beyond doubt that my restorative bowl of Normandy chicken casserole will be one of the greatest things I’ll eat all year. Chicken soup – or stew, in this case – does touch the soul, and a good one is as close to a cuddle from Mother T herself as you can get. This one featured five or six chunks of soft, stewed breast, thigh and leg in a clear tarragon broth with the very occasional chunk of soft potato or slice of garlicky mushroom, and was way more than the sum of its parts. This stew, topped with a vivid pink bundle of pickled red cabbage, was a wonder, with fragrant tarragon the hero ingredient. I ate it with a side of kale, deep fried and laced with chilli, which is the only way to treat it – that is, mercilessly …

Steve Bothwell’s mother, who is in her 80s, makes all the desserts. Amazing:

Bothwell’s octogenarian mother makes all the puddings at Cafe 52, and just two spoons into her crumpet bread-and-butter pudding I felt the need to check with the staff if anyone had written down the recipes for her carrot and brandied fruit cake or her coffee cake with rum syllabub. The bread pudding is a fearsome, rib-sticking challenge of a dessert, with crumpet after crumpet smothered in sweet, eggy custard and served with vanilla ice-cream. It’s the sort of dish that makes guests at other tables wink and wish me luck, as if I was some sort of amateur at this game. The first four or five spoons were sublime, all sticky and compelling; I was living my best life.

The owner also asked if she had enjoyed her lunch:

“Yer stew all right?” he asked, semi-begrudgingly, as if he didn’t really care what the answer was going to be, but was curious anyway.

“Incredible,” I said. “I loved it.”

“Fine,” he said, and walked off without another glance in my direction. I have paved a way for all of us. Just don’t go in carrying this newspaper.

Edinburgh Fringe’s best jokes

Speaking of Scotland, the Edinburgh Fringe is supposed to be — and once was — the world’s edgiest comedy festival.

It was last held in 2019 and resumed again this year.

Each year, a series of comedy awards are bestowed upon the best talent. They were once sponsored by Perrier and propelled comedians to stardom. Now it seems that the UK comedy channel Dave has assumed the mantle.

On Monday, August 22, The Guardian gave us the top, award-winning jokes from the 2022 Fringe.

At best, these are Christmas cracker jokes, most of which a 10-year-old could tell:

1. I tried to steal spaghetti from the shop, but the female guard saw me and I couldn’t get pasta – Masai Graham (52%)

2. Did you know, if you get pregnant in the Amazon, it’s next day delivery? – Mark Simmons (37%)

3. My attempts to combine nitrous oxide and Oxo cubes made me a laughing stock – Olaf Falafel (36%)

4. By my age, my parents had a house and a family, and to be fair to me, so do I, but it is the same house and the same family – Hannah Fairweather (35%)

5. I hate funerals. I’m not a mourning person – Will Mars (34%)

6. I spent the whole morning building a time machine, so that’s four hours of my life that I’m definitely getting back – Olaf Falafel (33%)

7. I sent a food parcel to my first wife. FedEx – Richard Pulsford (29%)

8. I used to live hand to mouth. Do you know what changed my life? Cutlery – Tim Vine (28%)

9. Don’t knock threesomes. Having a threesome is like hiring an intern to do all the jobs you hate – Sophie Duker (27%)

10. I can’t even be bothered to be apathetic these days – Will Duggan (25%)

Dire.

On Sunday, the topic came up for discussion on Andrew Doyle’s Free Speech Nation show for GB News (54:43 to 58:00):

Doyle’s guests, fellow comedians, deplored the level of comedy at this year’s Fringe.

One said that there are ‘tastemakers’ who nominate comedians for an award and go on to nationwide shows.

Another said that, if this trend continues and edgy comedians like Jerry Sadowitz aren’t allowed back in, it will spell curtains for the top Fringe venue:

The Pleasance will die.

Another intimated that the establishment wanted to reshape comedy into something anodyne:

These big venues are getting large donations from the Scottish Government.

That might well be true. I read or heard somewhere that someone from the Scottish National Party owns a few comedy clubs in Edinburgh.

Hmm.

Censored television shows versus nudity

On the topic of censored comedy, British actress Vicki Michelle from the classic sitcom ‘Allo, ‘Allo! weighed in last week on the current preference for saucy reality shows over reruns of old family-oriented shows.

‘Allo, ‘Allo! satirised the Second World War and was a huge hit that ran for ten years. Until recently, it, and other classic sitcoms from the 1960s through to the 1980s, were often shown on the BBC.

Now they are all on a paid-subscription streaming platform called BritBox. It’s odd that the British paid in television tax to see these shows, now they are expected to pay again to see them.

BritBox has put content warnings on ‘Allo, ‘Allo! and other programmes from that era.

Television and streaming services are dictating what we can and cannot see.

On August 19, Vicki Michelle gave an interview to The Mirror, which The Telegraph reprised:

A string of content warnings for TV series was issued last year by streaming service BritBox – a collaborative venture between the BBC and other broadcasters – including one advisory note which told viewers that ‘Allo ‘Allo! featured “outdated” material.

Comedy is being neutralised – or nuked,” Ms Michelle said. “I think 80 per cent of this country would love comedy like ‘Allo ‘Allo! to be made again, so 20 per cent might take aversion to some of the content.”

The series which ran from 1982 to 1992 was set at the Cafe Rene in the town of Nouvion and followed the comic troubles of proprietor Rene Artois – played by Gorden Kaye – as he juggled the dangers posed by British airmen, the French resistance and Nazi occupiers.

The humour stemmed from innuendo and mockery of national stereotypes and accents, and in 2021 Britbox warned modern audiences about the supposedly dated content of the decades-old programme, with a note stating: “This classic comedy contains language and attitudes of the time that may offend some viewers.”

BritBox explained at the time that certain classic programmes required advice on the “potentially sensitive language or attitudes of their era”.

The actress objects, pointing out the near-obscene content of some of our reality television shows, both visually and orally:

Michelle argued that contemporary television is far more offensive than the comedy now deemed worthy of content warnings, telling the Daily Mirror: “People eff, blind and use the c-word on telly and that’s considered fine.

“And on reality TV people make love under a sheet, and that’s fine. There was none of that in ‘Allo ‘Allo!. I don’t think there’s anything in there that would upset a normal person.

She added: “‘Allo ‘Allo! didn’t send up anyone in particular – we sent up everyone.

“It was a family show where the adults got the double entendres and the children just thought the situations were funny. You can see someone on telly in a bikini and their boobs out.”

Let’s look at it another way. If Blazing Saddles were shown on television now, it would only be seven minutes long:

https://image.vuukle.com/7be2fc3b-e0e9-40d3-9ac0-27c21ba272b2-04dc70c2-ca8f-4962-a68e-f88f450a7770

Free speech, Salman Rushdie and the average Twitter user

Along with many millions, I hope that Sir Salman Rushdie is making a steady recovery from his attack less than a fortnight ago.

Conservative commentator Emma Webb told Andrew Doyle on his show last night (see video above) that no publisher would dare print anything like Satanic Verses today. Publishing houses are self-censoring, as if there were a blasphemy law in place:

This year, a few high-profile arrests have been made in the UK with regard to tweets that have caused other Twitter users ‘anxiety’. Not long ago, a middle-aged man was pinned down by five police officers in his garden, so it is a bit rich of Boris Johnson to come across as a big supporter of free speech in Salman Rushdie’s case when the average Joe is being arrested for lesser offences:

https://image.vuukle.com/63ebaa37-331d-4dc2-90ad-c81b2ee54efe-cafde0c8-a6fc-4408-83c4-e703a8da3b2c

On that subject, lefty lawyer Jolyon Maugham rightly condemned the attack on Rushdie, then asked who has a platform on which to speak.

Well, I do wonder.

A reply to Maugham’s tweet told the raw truth of the matter. The Left used to advocate free speech when they thought theirs was censored. Now that the leftist point of view is ubiquitous, they censor any opposing view:

https://image.vuukle.com/42c85f62-4bbb-4aff-b15a-100d5034d7aa-1ad7eb2a-b8f4-4af7-8869-fd9bce9ea47c

Scarily, this clampdown extends to health issues now.

Censorship of coronavirus vaccine opposition

The truckers’ protest in Ottawa in February showed how draconian censorship can get.

The men and women were protesting against the Canadian government for mandating coronavirus vaccines as a condition of employment. Justin Trudeau took the extraordinary action of freezing some protesters’ — and contributors’ — bank accounts.

On March 8, The Spectator‘s Jane Stannus wrote an excellent article about this, just as Premier Justin Trudeau visited the UK: ‘Where’s the outrage over Trudeau’s trip to Britain?’

She wrote:

Trudeau used the Emergencies Act to allow banks to unilaterally freeze accounts and assets, not only of participants in the peaceful Ottawa freedom convoy but also of anyone who supported the protest financially – all without a court order and legal immunity. And insurance policies of participants were subject to cancellation. Nothing says ‘free country’ like being able to freeze the assets of your political opponents without notice, judicial oversight, or possibility of legal recourse, on suspicion of having donated $25 to a trucker who parked in front of Canada’s parliament because he didn’t want the government to take away his job

Perhaps this seems unfair. Trudeau may have invoked the never-before-used Emergencies Act to resolve a parking problem. An error in judgement, but in the end he rescinded it.

Quite true. But not before he suspended Canadians’ rights to due process and to peaceful assembly. Or delayed the Act’s debate in the Canadian House of Commons until after the protestors were forcibly removed by police. Or cynically strong-armed its approval through the House of Commons via a confidence vote – cleverly changing the subject of the vote to whether or not MPs wanted to call an election. And remember too that he hinted that the Act would be needed for months to come. Can the country ever be considered truly safe when – at any time – a truck driver apparently going about his business might approach the heart of Canada’s capital city and run up the Canadian flag, thereby magically metamorphosising into a terrorist?

Trudeau lifted the Emergencies Act on 23 February when it became apparent that the Canadian Senate was likely to vote against it. The next day, Russia attacked Ukraine and both national and international attention turned elsewhere – doubtless to the Liberal government’s great relief.

But anyone who thinks Trudeau has learned his lesson is sadly naïve. In a speech to the Toronto Ukrainian community on 4 March, he had the audacity to deplore the ‘slippage in our democracies’ and express concern about countries around the world ‘turning towards slightly more authoritarian leaders’. Why is this happening? According to Trudeau, it’s because ‘misinformation and disinformation’ are allowed to be shared on social media, thus ‘turning people against the values and the principles of democracies’. Right. To preserve democracy, what we need is censorship?

For all Trudeau’s talk, the real threat to Canadian democracy is not the truckers’ movement, whose actions revealed that large numbers of Canadians just want a return to normal life. No: the real threat to democracy is Canada’s ideologically driven leadership, seizing more and ever more unchecked power so as to force Canadian society into the mould of a collectivist utopia. It would be nice if the British parliament cared enough to discuss it.

Lord Ridley — Matt Ridley — pointed out that it was quite the opposite for the British parliament with regard to President Donald Trump. MPs wanted to ban Trump for ‘hate speech’:

When Trump came to the UK, neither House of Parliament extended him an invitation.

Yet, when Trudeau uttered real hate speech against people who did not want to be vaccinated, that was A-okay with our parliamentarians:

Fortunately, he was not invited to address Parliament.

He did, however, address EU parliamentarians in Brussels. A German MEP, Christine Anderson, took strong exception to Trudeau’s actions over the truckers’ protest and pointed out his love of Chinese coronavirus policies.

This very short video is a must-watch. Anderson’s English is flawless in every respect:

I don’t know what the reaction was, but at least she said it and he was there to hear it.

GB News’s Mark Steyn has been interviewing British family members of those who have died from the coronavirus vaccine and have been receiving compensation (£100,000) from the British Government.

Unfortunately, many are heartbroken as they share their stories on Twitter and other social media platforms. Not only do they get harsh feedback from readers accusing them of lying, but the social media moderators accuse these people of peddling mis- or disinformation.

This has been going on not only in the UK, but also in other Western countries.

Alexandra Marshall, the editor of the online edition of The Spectator in Australia, says the censorship is taking place because the push to get people to take potentially harmful vaccines has been a ‘global error’, one that, in some countries, could result in class action lawsuits. This catastrophic failure is too big to fail and no politician wants to jeopardise his or her career by facing a legitimate pushback from citizens. This video is from May 11:

The Online Safety Bill

Meanwhile, our Conservative Government has put forward a potentially damaging Online Safety Bill, notionally designed to protect the most vulnerable but which, in reality, will ‘protect’ — restrict — everyone else.

Nadine Dorries, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said that she wanted to stop social media ‘pile-ons’. It’s like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Guido Fawkes explains in a Twitter thread:

Who is going to define what a ‘pile-on’ actually is?

And will different rules apply online and offline? Think of newspapers:

On May 11, Kathy Gyngell, editor of The Conservative Woman, wrote:

YESTERDAY marked a black day in British history. It was the most repressive Queen’s Speech ever. A reversal of Britain’s centuries-long march to freedom. 

It contained not one, but a number of ‘innovative’ measures that threaten to curtail our basic rights, including our freedom of speech and movement, under the guise of what are, I am afraid, spurious claims to reform the law and protect us.   

The proposed new Bill of Rights and a series of other state interventionist and regressive measures will make it harder for any who ‘dissent’ the official narrative – whether on ‘pandemic’ policy, vaccine risks or further lockdowns – to air and share their critiques and evidence, or to publicly protest against such curtailing of our rights. 

The Bill of Rights is set to replace current Human Rights law in the name of curbing an incremental rights culture. However, it will quite specifically undermine, if not take away, individual choice and responsibility when and where it is deemed to conflict with the State’s definition of the common good.  

Back in March, I asked whether this was the reform of human rights we need? My answer was that it emphatically was not. I argued that the proposed legislation is a perversion of the traditional notions of rights and duties, and a mendacious and threatening one at that.  

Who will decide what those broader interests of society may be? The Government, the World Health Organisation, or any other international public health body with undue influence over our political masters? The last two years of irrational lockdown and all but compulsory vaccination, all in the name of the higher public good, fills me with foreboding. 

The proposed Online Safety Bill is also deeply worrying. Under its terms, ‘major social media firms will face fines worth up to ten per cent of their global turnover if they fail to tackle illegal content getting on to their sites under reintroduced duty of care plans to protect users from online harms’.

At the rate we at TCW are already being censored, under the notion of ‘harms’, this also bodes very ill for us and any other dissenting or free speech site

The proposed Public Order Bill and its additional police powers, also in yesterday’s speech, again would be welcome if it was restricted to stopping eco-protesters blocking roads and inflicting fuel shortages on motorists, and not used against peaceful protest against government policy.  

However, it will allow police to ban suspected troublemakers from attending specified events. Does that mean Piers Corbyn, for example? I defend his right to protest and so should anyone. Does it mean in fact any government critic or opponent could be singled out? How will it be interpreted? The degree to which the police are already politicised and discriminate does not augur well … 

All this proposed new legislation needs to have a bright torch shone on it. We need to protest against it and remember those of centuries past who gave their lives for today’s, now to be curtailed, freedoms.

I could not agree more. It is difficult to believe that Conservatives have come up with this unholy intrusion into our lives and thoughts.

Labour have since said that they would take these laws even further once — or if — they are ever in power. We would do well to take them at their word.

On June 27, Lord Frost urged Conservatives to scrap the Online Safety Bill. The Daily Mail reported:

The Tory peer claims the Online Safety Bill contains so many flaws ‘it is hard to know where to start’.

He singles out for criticism the fact that it will outlaw comments on social media that would be legal in the real world.

Lord Frost, the former Brexit minister, says the move will be ‘highly damaging’ to free speech and will benefit only the ‘perennially offended’ who want to be protected from anything they disagree with.

He says: ‘A Conservative Government should not be putting this view into law. The best thing the Government could do would be to slim down the Bill so they can proceed rapidly with the genuinely uncontroversial aspects, and consign the rest where it belongs – the wastepaper basket.’

It is hoped that a new Prime Minister will sink this bill once and for all in September.

I certainly hope so. We have bigger worries right now.

My advice to social media users? If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

The 150th birthday of Speaker’s Corner

In late June, advocates of free speech gathered at London’s Speaker’s Corner to celebrate its 150th birthday.

The day before, police arrested a female Christian apologist at Speaker’s Corner because she wore a tee shirt with a Charlie Hebdo cartoon featuring an image many think should not see the light of day.

I do not know if this was the same lady who was brutally attacked with a knife there some months earlier for giving a defence of the Christian faith.

Toby Young, the General Secretary of the Free Speech Union, was at Speaker’s Corner on its 150th birthday and gave Mark Steyn his report, including one about the Christian lady:

Young pointed out that, in Victorian times — certainly leading up to the founding of Speaker’s Corner in 1872 and beyond — people were much more able to speak their minds than they are today.

Young lamented the fact that not many people were present at the 150th birthday celebration. Nor did the mainstream media cover such an important event.

He said that, if people want to read or hear free speech, they now have to go online.

Conclusion

The great irony in all of this censorship is that it took a Russian emigré to the UK to point it out.

Author, comedian and podcaster Konstantin Kisin is putting his views, personal and historical, into a book on the subject: An Immigrant’s Love Letter to the West.

On July 10, he discussed free speech with Andrew Doyle and told him that, right now:

We are in the late Soviet stage …

He went on to describe how his grandfather fell foul of this in Stalin’s Soviet Union. He lost his job and ended up in a gulag as a result.

Here’s the video:

It is sad that it takes an emigré to point out how far down the rabbit hole we are.

That said, thank goodness for Konstatin Kisin. I hope that people listen to him and read his book.

We must defend free speech at all costs.

Last week, I posted a series on the effect of London’s metropolitan elite on England’s voters in 2015 and 2019.

Those who missed it can read Parts 1, 2 and 3.

On December 12, 2019, a surprising number of staunch Labour voters in the North and the Midlands lent their votes to the Conservatives for the first time.

Those constituencies in England that switched from Labour to Conservative either for the first time or for the first time in decades are known as the Red Wall.

The Conservative MPs who represent them are local people familiar with the issues that concern their constituents.

These MPs are a far cry from the Sir Bufton Tuftons from days of yore.

When the new intake took their seats in the House of Commons, spirits were high on Conservative benches as the UK exited the European Union.

In debates in January 2020, we heard them discuss the hopes they had for Boris Johnson’s levelling up plan concerning rail, roads and industry.

What follows is what is on the minds of Red Wall voters and their MPs.

Tax

Five days before Chancellor Rishi Sunak presented his dynamic budget to the House on Wednesday, January 16, 2020, a pollster surveyed Red Wall voters for their views on taxation.

Guido Fawkes has a graph and summary of the poll results: 36% wanted cuts to council tax; 29% wanted cuts to income tax and 22% wanted cuts on fuel duty.

However, Guido found that the voters surveyed contradicted themselves (red emphases in the original):

According to Opinium Research for Lansons, 42% of the famed ‘Red Wall’ new Tory voters state the priority measure they would like to see for this afternoon is a rise in their take-home pay being introduced in the Budget – an income tax cut in other words. That is because 41% of the new Tory voters think taxes are too high and errr, 40% of the same new Tory voters think government spending is too low. Workington, we have a problem….

If the coronavirus is an economic hit on the scale of the credit crisis, a temporary halving of VAT to 10% would incentivise spending, immediately and effectively….

Sadly, because of coronavirus, most of Rishi’s budget had to be binned.

Levelling up

In September 2020, Conservative MPs created a taskforce to level up, i.e. reduce regional inequalities between the North as well as the Midlands versus the South.

The BBC reported that these poorer constituencies now have Conservative MPs:

A report produced for the taskforce says Conservatives now hold more seats in the lowest paid areas than Labour

In the 2019 election the Conservatives won a number of seats across the Midlands and the north of England previously considered to be Labour strongholds, also known as ‘the red wall’

Now this new group, the “levelling up taskforce” – which includes many of the new “red wall” MPs – is urging the government to set itself three key tests as part of its drive to reduce geographical inequality.

It says those areas that have seen the lowest growth in earnings, should see earnings rise faster than they have in recent years; areas with the worst unemployment rate should converge with the national average; and areas with the lowest employment rate should also catch up with the national average.

It also calls on the government to set out geographical analysis of how tax and spending changes impact different areas

Analysis produced by the Onward think tank for the new group found that of the bottom quarter of seats in Britain with the lowest earnings, more are now held by the Conservatives (77) than Labour (74).

The following month, Northern Red Wall MPs formed a new group to ensure that Boris Johnson keeps his campaign promises:

The BBC reported:

… the 35-strong Tory group say they want to ensure the government delivers.

It includes several MPs who won seats in traditional Labour heartlands – the so-called “Red Wall” – at last year’s general election.

Paul Howell, who won Tony Blair’s old seat, in Sedgefield, Simon Fell, the MP for Barrow-in-Furness and Sara Britcliffe, who at 24 became the youngest Conservative MP when she won Hyndburn, in Lancashire, are among those who have signed up to the group provisionally named the Northern Research Group.

Ms Britcliffe said: “I don’t need to join a group to speak up for Hyndburn but I have also the responsibility of making sure that we do deliver on our promise.”

The group’s leader Jake Berry, who has been the Conservative MP for Rossendale and Darwen since 2010, said it was not “about giving government a bad time”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s The Week in Westminster: “There are arguments that we collectively as northern MPs make together, to create a compelling case for the government to invest in the north”.

These include “making sure that this government delivers on its promise to ‘level up’ the north, deliver that Northern Powerhouse and create wealth across the north of England,” he added.

“We don’t form a government unless we win the north.”

Mr Berry is the former minister for Northern Powerhouse, which was set up by former Chancellor George Osborne to redress the North-South economic imbalance, and to attract investment into northern cities and towns.

The problem with levelling up is that some of the local councils most in need of funds are Labour-run. As I have been writing this post on Friday afternoon, February 25, 2022, I have heard Philip Davies, who represents Shipley, tell his fellow MPs that Bradford Council has not even put together a bid in order to get levelling up funds from the Government. Other Red Wall MPs had similar complaints.

This took place during a Private Members’ Bill debate on the Local Authority Boundaries Bill, urging reviews of local council boundaries and making such changes easier. Kemi Badenoch, the minister representing the Government, said that the bill would need significant rewording in order to be considered. She will work with Robbie Moore, also a Red Wall MP, to revise his proposed legislation.

Bradford Council is not the only Labour council that has been under the spotlight.

In October 2020, another Red Wall MP, Chris Clarkson, made known his concerns about Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Manchester.

That brought about a furious backlash from Angela Rayner on the Labour benches. She allegedly called him ‘scum’ …

… and was given a dressing down by Deputy Speaker Dame Eleanor Laing.

Paying for coronavirus

In March 2021, a pollster asked Red Wall voters how they wanted the Government to handle the cost of coronavirus.

Most Red Wall voters opposed higher taxes, preferring lower spending instead:

Guido’s accompanying post says:

Research from Public First’s Rachel Wolf has revealed that when asked to choose between higher taxes, borrowing, or spending cuts, a plurality of the public back spending cuts over the other options. Tax rises are most popular with high social status white collar ‘AB’ voters, and least popular with working class ‘DE’ voters, who overwhelmingly back spending cuts. Working class constituents in the red wall aren’t typical Islington socialists…

Also:

The other finding is that people are less opposed to taxes they think they don’t have to pay, and more opposed to taxes they think they do have to pay. In reality this translates to taxes they have to pay directly. Any tax that is indirect on business still has an economic cost that is borne in the end by individuals, for example dividend taxes reduce your pension income, business rates and carbon taxes increase consumer prices. The more taxes are understood, the less popular they become.

True. We have tax rises coming, so there will be dissatisfaction in these constituencies.

Net Zero

Another plan that will not go down well is the drive to reach Net Zero. The cost is upwards of £1.5 trillion:

This tweet from 2021 encapsulates the thinking of Red Wall MPs (ignore Michael Fabricant, who was commenting on the wrong thread). Click on the image to see all the comments, especially from Jackie Doyle-Price, who mentions the metropolitan elite:

Minimum wage

In November 2021, Rishi Sunak presented a more sombre budget as the nation was still grappling with coronavirus.

One of the more positive points was his commitment to raising the national minimum wage.

On the face of it, it would seem to appeal to Red Wall voters. However, The Spectator‘s Patrick O’Flynn was less sure, asking if Sunak understood them properly. Raising the minimum wage does not lift those in more responsible positions. In fact, the latter have been earning less over recent years (emphases in purple mine):

In his recent Budget, the Chancellor committed the government to several eye-catching policies, including a big uplift in the minimum wage, these days rebranded as the ‘national living wage’. But something that went unremarked upon was reaffirmation of a target of raising the minimum wage as a share of average pay.

A 6.6 per cent uplift this year would, said Sunak, keep the government ‘on track for our target of two-thirds of median earnings by 2024.’ Many Tory MPs beamed with happiness, no doubt thinking this would further bolster the working-class parts of their new electoral coalition. But will it?

According to the OECD, the UK minimum wage was worth 34 per cent of mean earnings and 41 per cent of median earnings in the year 2000. It has since risen steadily as a share of these averages, hitting 48 per cent of mean earnings and 58 per cent of median earnings in 2020.

Think about how this must feel to workers on roughly median earnings. Two decades ago they earned two-and-a-half times as much as minimum wage workers. Now they earn less than twice as much. By 2024, Sunak has decreed that minimum wage workers in entry level roles will be earning two-thirds of the amount that median earners do. This will represent a massive compression of wages within a single generation.

For those working people who put in a lot of effort in their schooldays compared to their more idle classmates, or who perhaps underwent apprenticeships on very low earnings at the start of their careers, this is highly unlikely to feel like progress.

When you consider the extra responsibilities higher-earning working class jobs typically entail compared to minimum wage roles – and the fact that various welfare entitlements may further reduce the net advantage – this government policy is coming close to rendering the entire hardworking ethos pointless.

This issue of earnings relativities between different grades of workers has long been a highly sensitive one in industrial relations, often more so than the level of raw pay per se. Indeed, it was the cause of countless strikes in the 1970s.

Instead of anticipating a celebratory mood among new working-class Tory voters, ministers should be on the lookout for restlessness and resentment. Indeed, the former Downing Street pollster James Johnson has already spotted the first stirrings of this in focus groups with participants grumbling that too much help is being directed to those at the very bottom.

Sunak has no parallel policy of ensuring that median earnings catch up as a proportion of the top 10 or 1 per cent of earners. In other words, his approach defies logic. Those in the modest middle of the pay scale have every reason to feel victimised

One can’t help feeling that Margaret Thatcher and her advisers had an altogether better innate understanding of what makes the ambitious working classes and lower middle classes tick than Boris Johnson’s administration. Which is why her flagship policy of bringing in the right-to-buy their council houses at a discount scored an electoral bullseye with aspirational voters

If Tory MPs in red wall seats think this policy is going to delight many of their constituents then I predict that they are about to be disabused of that notion.

It is still too early to tell what most Red Wall voters think of a rise in the minimum wage, but Patrick O’Flynn’s arguments make sense.

Guido Fawkes agrees with O’Flynn and thinks that Red Wall voters would benefit from a reduction in basic income tax rates. Guido took issue with an article in Politico. ‘UC’ stands for Universal Credit:

Sleaze

In November 2021, the then-MP for North Shropshire, Owen Paterson, faced accusations of sleaze via his lobbying. He was forced to resign the seat he had long held. A Liberal Democrat won the by-election.

Some Conservative MPs tried to save Paterson from a 30-day suspension. However, Red Wall MPs were not among them. They objected to having a whipped vote to give Paterson a reprieve. Some voted against the Government, and rightly so.

The rest of the nation also disapproved. This was the beginning of low polling results for Conservatives. It wasn’t long afterwards that Labour began leading in the weekly polls. They still do.

Not only did Red Wall MPs disapprove, so did their voters, as the Daily Mail explained:

Boris Johnson is struggling to contain mounting fury on Tory benches today as a poll laid bare the damage inflicted by his bungled effort to save ally Owen Paterson from punishment for lobbying.

Research by YouGov carried out in the wake of the dramatic Commons vote to suspend the standards system showed the Tory poll lead plunging by five points.

The party is now just one point ahead of Labour, after dropping from 39 per cent to 36 per cent in a week, while Keir Starmer has seen a boost to 35 per cent, according to the survey in The Times.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi tried to cool the growing backlash among MPs this morning, admitting that the government ‘made a mistake’ in retrospectively tying Mr Paterson’s case to wider reforms.

Meanwhile, a blame game is in full swing over who was responsible for the meltdown – which culminated last night when Mr Paterson resigned from the Commons after the PM cut him loose. His exit was made official this morning when he was appointed Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead – the traditional way for MPs to quit the House.

As well as a wave of anger about Mr Johnson’s lack of judgment, many Tories have been pointing the finger at chief whip Mark Spencer, saying he should have realised that the tactic would not ‘fly’. One MP told MailOnline that Mr Spencer had not done his job properly. 

‘If the PM was told about the extent of disatisfaction then he wouldn’t have pushed it,’ they said. ‘You could tell there was a problem because the whips were literally running around the Commons.’

Mr Johnson’s media advisers are thought to have warned that the tactics were high-risk, but those pushing the political benefits of shoring up Mr Paterson and reforming the standards regime won the internal argument.  

The premier is said to be ‘p****d off’ that the crisis has distracted from the progress being made on climate change at the Cop26 conference in Glasgow. Senior MPs said he was also ‘livid’ about triumphalist interviews by Mr Paterson in which he claimed he would not change anything about his past behaviour

One Conservative MP who spoke to The Mail said:

‘I had two marginal male MPs from Red Wall seats in tears looking at their social media feed, looking at their emails coming in after the vote, going ‘what the hell have we done?’.’

… ‘The chat on the WhatsApp groups is that the whips can stick their whipping up their a***. It’s now every man for himself,’ they said.

Chief Whip Mark Spencer recently became the new Leader of the House as Jacob Rees-Mogg moved to a new Cabinet position for Brexit opportunities.

Latest news

Many Red Wall MPs were incensed to learn of the Downing Street parties during lockdown.

Some began joining forces on January 18, 2021, when Boris apologised to Parliament:

As someone tweeted, this could have been about damage limitation for themselves:

Boris met with his own MPs that evening:

Lee Anderson is a former Labour councillor. He often confronts Labour benches with their own dismal record in local and national government.

The Red Wall MPs’ plot to write letters of no confidence to Sir Graham Brady became known as the Pork Pie Plot, because their alleged leader, Alicia Kearns, represents Rutland and Melton. Melton Mowbray is home to England’s famous pork pies.

Steven Swinford, The Times‘s political editor, spoke with a member of Cabinet who found the rebellion a disgrace:

The Red Wall plot to remove Boris Johnson – with Tory MPs meeting to discuss submitting letters – is not going down well in Cabinet

‘It’s pretty sickening. They were only elected because of him. Most of them are a load of —-ing nobodies. It’s nuts’

Hmm:

With the current situation in Ukraine, the Pork Pie Plot seems like a long time ago. Then again, a week is a long time in politics.

The next thing Red Wall residents can look forward to is a Northern branch of Conservative Party Headquarters in Leeds, which is not part of the Red Wall, but it’s close enough. Pictured is Party chairman Oliver Dowden MP:

Guido Fawkes wrote that this had been a promise from Government since 2020:

The Tories look set to imminently boost their red wall presence – and given recent polling, not a moment too soon. A party source tells Guido that their long-awaited Leeds campaign headquarters – first announced by Amanda Milling way back in September 2020 – is set to open in mere weeks …

… staff are already at work following a prolonged recruitment drive and the project will get up to full steam when work-from-home guidance is lifted. Another source suggested given recent events the party will be keen for the moment to be noticed by the media. Guido looks forward to Dowden’s forthcoming ribbon-cutting…

I will have more on the Red Wall coming soon: profiles of those MPs with the most spark.

Despite receiving more brickbats this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is still standing as Parliament enters its February recess.

Former PM John Major had a go at Boris about Brexit in a speech he gave to the Institute for Government this week. Like another former PM, Theresa May — still a serving MP — Major is a staunch Remainer.

Writing for The Spectator, historian Nigel Jones discussed the Blob (our Swamp) on Thursday, February 11, 2022 (emphases mine throughout except for Guido Fawkes’s posts):

Still fighting their neverendum certain Blobbers, so used to having things go their way for the past half century, view the man who brought us Brexit as the one who betrayed the favourite cause of his caste. For that alone he must be punished. They seek not only Johnson’s removal from office but his total humiliation

The Mays and the Majors of this world, uniting with the legions of the left who have always loathed Johnson, cannot bear it that someone who sums up in his rumpled and hitherto popular persona all that they are not, is, after all the ordure that they have poured over him, like Elton John: still standing. After weeks of sustained bombardment with the most vicious projectiles his enemies can muster, the object of their righteous wrath is still withstanding the siege from the Downing Street bunker, even belting out ‘I will survive!’

… And those such as Johnson’s former editor Max Hastings, who has predicted the PM could be gone within weeks, could yet be proven wrong. But if Boris does go he will not have been brought down in a flood of booze but by the bile of ‘the Blob’ against the black sheep who dared, by accident or design, to stray from the flock.

The Spectator‘s Katy Balls says Boris is succeeding because he is buying himself time, putting forward his ‘red meat’ policies to win back MPs and those souls who voted Conservative in 2019:

After a difficult few weeks, Boris Johnson has made it to parliamentary recess. Given few expect a no confidence vote to be held during recess, time away from parliament gives the Prime Minister much-needed breathing space. After the seemingly never-ending parade of partygate stories, there have been times when MPs were sceptical he would make it this far.

Instead, the Prime Minister has succeeded in buying himself timetalking down would-be plotters and rushing out a string of red meat announcements to keep the right of his party on side. The announcement this week that all Covid restrictions could end a month early is a prime example of this. When MPs return from recess, Johnson will unveil his plan for living with the virus — which will include the guidance rather than law (self-isolation is expected to become just advice) and reduced access to tests.

Boris made his liberating announcement about lifting coronavirus restrictions to the House of Commons on Wednesday, February 9:

Guido Fawkes wrote:

Boris in the Chamber just now announcing that the final Covid restrictions, including the legal requirement to self-isolate after a positive test, are likely to be lifted after the February recess. The “living with Covid” plan will be revealed on 21st February. A full month ahead of schedule…

February 24 could be our third liberation day. We already had Independence Day on July 4, 2020, followed by Freedom Day on July 19, 2021 and now this. Let’s hope it is permanent.

In any event, the announcement made two front pages on Thursday, February 10, with the Daily Mail being more positive about this world leading move than The Star. I can empathise with both:

When SAGE’s scientists and the unions object, we know Boris is on the right track. Boris didn’t even bother consulting the former, as The Mail reported:

Unions are already digging their heels in after Boris Johnson revealed he intends to ditch all remaining Covid laws within a fortnight as a poll revealed that three in four workers ground down by almost two years of lockdowns and restrictions want to continue with self-isolation.

Unison, Britain’s largest union serving more than 1.3million members from swathes of the public sector, has accused the Prime Minister of going ‘too far, too soon’, insisting that the virus ‘hasn’t disappeared’ — despite a raft of data suggesting the worst is now over.

SAGE scientists have also warned of the ‘dangers’ of the PM’s plan to make England the first country in the world to scrap all Covid rules, after it emerged Mr Johnson had not discussed it with the committee which is now infamous for its gloomy predictions about the pandemic.

Boris appears to be placing more weight on what is actually happening rather than alarming data projections from SAGE:

The resistance comes despite Covid infections falling consistently, with even the gloomiest surveillance study now accepting that the country’s outbreak has peaked — mirroring the official numbers.

The milder nature of Omicron, coupled with sky-high immunity, mean the NHS never came under the levels of pressure that No10’s experts feared would happen, with hospitalisations and deaths both now in freefall.

People with fragile health should note that they will be free to continue self-isolating. That freedom is an individual choice rather than a mandate by law.

The same goes for masks.

Boris is no doubt trying to encourage the socialist governments in Wales and Scotland to do the same thing:

The announcement annoyed the devolved governments in Scotland and Wales – with Nicola Sturgeon’s administration calling it a publicity stunt to divert from the Partygate scandal that has left the PM fighting for his job.

The First Minister did this afternoon pledge to ditch face masks in Scotland’s classrooms from February 28 — keeping them in communal areas — but says she will wait for expert advice before following Boris’s lead on any other rules.

The Scottish Government is unlikely to go as far as dropping all rules when it publishes its strategy for living with Covid in the months ahead on February 22. The plans will be debated by MSPs, meaning any changes could be several weeks behind England. The Scottish Government is even set to extend its Covid powers until September 24.

Conservatives applauded Boris’s move:

Lord Frost, who dramatically quit Cabinet partly in protest at draconian curbs, was among the senior Tories praising the move. ‘The PM’s plan to end all Covid restrictions a month early is the right thing to do & is extremely welcome. I hope the government will also make clear we will not go down the road of coercive lockdowns ever again,’ he tweeted.

Tory MPs last night insisted that lockdowns should never be deployed again. ‘I am glad to see the emphasis on learning to live with Covid,’ said Bob Seely, who represents the Isle of Wight …

David Jones, a former Cabinet minister, welcomed the ‘very positive’ news, adding: ‘The PM deserves credit for this. We have locked down for too long and we now need a commitment that we will not lock down again, save for in the most exceptional of circumstances.’  

Steve Baker hit the nail on the head. The lifting of restrictions is meaningful only if Boris reforms the Public Health Act of 1984 — and, may I add, scraps the Coronavirus Act of 2020:

Former minister Steve Baker added: ‘I welcome this announcement but we are not out of the woods until the Public Health Act has been reformed, we have new rules for better modelling, competitive, multi-disciplinary expert advice and wellbeing-based cost-benefit analysis covering the costs of lockdowns and restrictions. There is much to do!’

Earlier this week, Boris made another reshuffle involving the Cabinet Office and Downing Street, in line with the preliminary recommendations from Sue Gray’s report on Boris’s lockdown parties on January 31. Boris had met with Conservative MPs that evening:

Guido’s accompanying post reads in part:

It could be “imminent”.

Guido was also first to reveal the PM won over swathes of support from wavering MPs by promising to massively up their involvement in No. 10’s policy-making, saying he liked Graham Brady’s suggestion of 1922-organised MP policy committees.

In a sign of how the day had played out, in the evening Birmingham 2019 MP Gary Sambrook put out a gushing tweet about the PM:

Guido understands he’s now withdrawn his letter of no confidence to Graham Brady. After the vaccine rollout and Brexit, the new shadow whipping operation has to be one of the most impressive things Boris’s No. 10 has managed to organise…

On Tuesday, February 8, GB News gave us the details on the reshuffle:

Jacob Rees-Mogg will be the minister responsible for “Brexit opportunities” in the first move confirmed as part of Boris Johnson’s reshuffle.

The shake-up of the ministerial team follows the appointment of Stephen Barclay as the Prime Minister’s chief of staff and comes as Mr Johnson seeks to relaunch his administration following the partygate row.

Mr Rees-Mogg, previously the Leader of the House of Commons, will still sit at the Cabinet table in his new role as Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency

Former Chief Whip Mark Spencer has been confirmed as the new Leader of the House of Commons to replace the vacant role left by Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Mark Spencer has been the MP for Sherwood since 2010 and has previously been Deputy Leader of the House of Commons.

Stuart Andrew has been appointed as Minister of State (Minister for Housing) in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities; he has been the MP for Pudsey since 2010, he has most recently been a deputy whip.

Chris Heaton-Harris has been confirmed as the Government’s new Chief Whip; he has served as MP for Daventry since 2010, he had most recently been Minister of State for Europe and is famed in Westminster for his use of Twitter to post one-liner jokes.

James Cleverly MP will become Minister of State (Minister for Europe) in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office as part of the shake-up of the Government frontbench, Downing Street said.

Wendy Morton MP to be a Minister of State in the Department for Transport.

Rt Hon Christopher Pincher MP to be Treasurer of HM Household (Deputy Chief Whip).

Samantha Jones, the Prime Minister’s adviser on the NHS and social care, has been appointed as the new No 10 permanent secretary and chief operating officer, Downing Street said.

Samantha Jones, who is a civil servant, is a former NHS trust executive.

She helped develop the plan to reduce hospital waiting lists, but it did not go down well in Parliament this week when Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced it. Even Conservative MPs thought it was weak, especially as a record high of 6.1 million patients are awaiting surgery or other medical procedures.

Samantha Jones will be both an interim No 10 permanent secretary and its COO, both new posts, as The Telegraph reported on February 9:

Boris Johnson has appointed a former NHS trust executive who advises him on health policy to the newly created position of No 10 permanent secretary.

In the latest move to shake-up his inner circle, the Prime Minister announced that Samantha Jones will take the role for six months on an “interim” basis.

Ms Jones had been Mr Johnson’s expert adviser on NHS transformation and social care, meaning she helped craft the newly announced plan to bring down NHS waiting lists.

The former nurse and NHS veteran will also hold the title of Chief Operating Officer for Downing Street as she helps shape the new civil service structure being created for the Prime Minister.

There was another appointment, that of Stuart Andrew MP as Levelling Up Minister:

Andrew Griffith, one of the MPs who was reshuffled in the first week of February, laid out his plans as Boris’s new Director of Policy:

You would not know it from the media headlines, but families want to hear about our plans to grow employment, tackle the NHS backlog, control our borders, make their streets safer, bring down the cost of living and return rapidly to the point when we can cut taxes to let everyone keep more of their own money – all policies that are rooted in strong Conservative values.

As the Prime Minister’s Director of Policy, these are my top priorities together with delivering the tangible opportunities from Brexit that will allow our economy to be more competitive and the reform of government to deliver better public services. Whilst the Policy Unit’s remit is to advise the Prime Minister across the widest breadth of government policy, we will be unafraid to ruthlessly focus on the key issues. It is ultimately outputs that matter.

Elected in 2019, he is far from the Sir Bufton Tufton brand of Conservative MP and has been against the EU since John Major’s time as PM:

From a comprehensive school in south-east London, I was the first in my family to go to university, where campaigning to keep the UK out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism turned me into a lifelong Conservative.

Jacob Rees-Mogg went further, asking Sun readers for suggestions on which EU regulations should be rolled back in the UK:

The opportunities in front of us are immense. Huge parts of our economy are no longer regulated by the EU.

Before Brexit, many of my constituents would write to me to complain about regulations that burdened them daily.

From farmers to electricians, on so many issues I had to tell them that even as an MP I could not help to solve their problems, as these rules were set by the EU, not the British Parliament.

Thanks to Brexit, that has all changed. Sun readers can hold their MPs accountable, as the buck truly stops with them …

You are the ones who know the red tape binds your hands, and to do my job I need your wisdom. Ronald Reagan rightly said: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help’.” This needs to be turned on its head: Britain needs The Sun readers’ help instead.

I implore you all to write to me with the regulations you want abolished — those which make life harder for small businesses, which shut out competition, or simply increase the cost of operating. Through thousands of small changes, we can enact real economic change — which means The Sun’s readers will feel a real Brexit bonus in their pockets and in their lives  every day.

WRITE TO ME: Jacob Rees-Mogg, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA

EMAIL: jacob.reesmogg.mp@parliament.uk

In other news, the UK economy grew 7.5% in 2021:

Guido has the quote from the ONS:

 Darren Morgan, ONS: 

“Despite December’s setback, GDP grew robustly across the fourth quarter as a whole with the NHS, couriers and employment agencies all helping to support the economy,” he said.

“Overall, GDP in December was in line with its level in February 2020, before Covid-19 struck, while in the fourth quarter as a whole, it was slightly below that of the fourth quarter in 2019.”

People are trying to cast shade on this achievement, but even The Spectator, hardly pro-Boris, has a compliment for his administration. Today, Katy Balls pointed out:

With prices soaring, interest rates rising and the cost of living crisis growing more acute by the day, we could do with some more positive news: and this morning’s GDP update has played a small part in providing it.

Despite suffering the largest economic contraction in 300 years in 2020 – and taking the biggest economic hit in the G7 – Britain had the fastest growing economy in the G7 last year, boosting its GDP by 7.5 per cent.

It’s still a mixed story: looking at where the UK economy is now compared with pre-pandemic levels, it ranks average within the G7. But with one of the steepest hills to climb back to recovery, the UK’s relatively fast growth enabled the economy to get there several months before it was forecast to do so

while the economy did take a slight hit at the end of last year, it did not fall back below pre-pandemic levels. Britain can still boast that it made a full economic recovery – and hopefully recoup December’s losses fairly quickly, given how quickly fears about Omicron’s severity were put to bed.

Finally, with local elections coming up in May, Boris will be doing what he does best — campaigning around England (with one stop in Wales):

Guido notes that not all of Boris’s destinations will be holding an election this Spring, but the PM needs to turn things around for the Conservatives:

Boris has spent a lot of time on the road recently. Almost every day he seems to show up at another school, building site, or hospital somewhere outside SW1 – in just the last 5 weeks, he’s made 10 trips across the UK. Coincidentally, 7 of those trips happen to be in seats which are holding local elections in May …

With Labour and much of the media hammering away at Partygate since December inside the Westminster bubble, Boris obviously knows his best chance of turning things around is to get back into campaign mode. It is what he does best, after all…

Although Labour are still ahead in the polls, an amazing reversal that began when the Downing Street parties during lockdown came to light, a pollster from Savanta ComRes thinks that it will be easier for Boris to win his 2019 voters back than it will be for Starmer to encourage them to vote Labour:

This is what Savanta ComRes uncovered from their latest focus group — Starmer isn’t capturing their collective imagination, so Boris is still in with a chance:

I will have more next week on Boris’s attempt to survive at No. 10.

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