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

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

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

Neil’s interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hmm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Only the Mail had any commentary on it.

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

An excerpt follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpts follow:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More scrutiny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guido Fawkes reported (red emphases his):

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

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

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

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

The Artichoke Trust puts out ‘art’ like this:

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

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

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

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

This is what the former Chancellor said in February 2022:

Guido has more on his February comments here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That includes Labour, too, by the way.

Wootton said, in part:

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

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

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

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

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

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

No, no, no, no it’s down to racism.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wallace told Sky News:

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

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

Interviewer: But Mr Sunak was not in support?

Wallace: Not that I remember.

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

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

Wallace pledged his support for Liz Truss.

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

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

Guido reported:

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

UPDATE: Now a spokesperson for Liz Truss says:

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

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

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

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

Oh, dear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Too right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her father founded global IT giant Infosys.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Before discussing the latest developments among the candidates for Conservative Party leader, let’s look at the weather here in England.

The weather presenters have been going on for a week about how hot it’s going to get here. From the beginning, they forecasted 40°C temps, roughly 100°F. Weather maps have been given a deep red colour, as if we’re going to burn alive.

Monday and Tuesday were going to be the hottest days of the week. Monday’s high was 38°C, reported in only five places, two of which were airports, so I discount those.

The other three were Cambridge University Botanical Gardens, Cavendish, Suffolk and a village called Sancton Downham.

One of Guido Fawkes’s readers posted a photo of the Cambridge location, which makes it suspect. The first photo shows the area when the weather station was first installed. The photo on the right shows what the area looks like today:

Guido’s reader commented (emphases in purple mine):

… the siting of Stevenson screens is crucial when recording temperature change. As I type the Cambridge station is now recording the highest temperature in the UK but it has been surrounded by new buildings which invalidates its scientific accuracy. It certainly must not be used to claim all time highs.

The unit and sensors should also be positioned in open space away from any nearby potential sources of heat such as buildings, airports and brick walls, where free circulation of air can occur, and over a natural surface, grass is recommended as other surfaces such as concrete can cause significant error leading to all time high temperatures being recorded inaccurately.

Was it warm yesterday? Yes.

Was it pleasant? Of course. I did some heavy duty gardening.

I do not understand why the British panic over summer temperatures, especially since most of them go to scorching hot climes on holiday. This graphic sums it up well:

https://image.vuukle.com/c4318e5c-ff26-463e-83e3-1b1398dfdcc3-53113164-d82c-42d0-9775-ee09473cb692

It’s hard not to agree with this university lecturer, who wonders how ever created an Empire when we are such Moaning Minnies about heat. Were the British made up of sterner stuff in the 18th and 19th centuries? Perhaps so:

Now on to the Conservative Party leadership contest.

Monday’s vote: Tugendhat’s out

Conservative MPs voted again on Monday, July 18, 2022.

Tom Tugendhat, our Army superhero, was eliminated from the contest:

Was this his mode of transport home?

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Here’s Tom in an Army sweater:

He made a video thanking his supporters:

Guido Fawkes gives us Tom’s main statement:

I have been overwhelmed by the response we have received across the country. People are ready for a clean start and our party must deliver on it and put trust back into politics.

No doubt the ladies at Mumsnet enjoyed it:

The final four

Going into Tuesday, these were the final four candidates:

Guido has Monday’s vote tally. Results went down as well as up (red emphases his):

    • Rishi Sunak – 115 (+14)
    • Penny Mordaunt – 82 (-1)
    • Liz Truss – 71 (+7)
    • Kemi Badenoch – 58 (+9)
    • Tom Tugendhat – 31 (-1) OUT

Penny’s lost support, Kemi is still in contention. Liz is now second favourite at the bookies. All to play for…

Guido had more analysis later in the day:

Whilst tonight’s leadership vote-off is unsurprising in that sense, the way the votes have gone for the remaining candidates are much more interesting.

Penny has gone down one vote, totally stalling. While she still leads Liz Truss, this trajectory will kill her momentum. Kemi has done very well; gaining nine backers to Truss’s seven. While tonight’s result in terms of eliminating Tugendhat may have been predictable, the remaining results make the final two more uncertain than ever. Though Rishi is now guaranteed a space in the final two…

The next vote took place on Tuesday afternoon. I will have an analysis of the results on Wednesday.

Conservative Party members see things differently

After Conservative MPs whittle their choices down to two candidates, the Party will send ballots out to members to vote for their choice, with a new leader — and new Prime Minister — to be in place by September 5, when Parliament reconvenes.

Note the latest polling from the Grantham and Stamford Conservative Association, which I featured last week. Kemi Badenoch was — and is — still in the lead. Rishi Sunak comes in a rather distant third:

Guido says:

The slick Rishi machine has to move the dial with the membership in a big way…

Rishi Sunak

Rishi is in a bit of a pickle, which gives Labour a lot of ammunition should he be our next Prime Minister.

The pandemic turned a lot of Britons into supporters of big state government, as Lord Hannan points out:

On May 26, the then-Chancellor announced a handout of £400 to all households in order to help them with rising energy costs:

The financial support has now been distributed.

Is it a good plan? Guido reported on the reaction from various think tanks.

The one from Taxpayers’ Alliance resonated with me most:

The TaxPayers’ Alliance isn’t impressed either, claiming the move is “little more than the government taking with one hand and giving with the other“. Chief Executive John O’Connell said:

Taxes are the single biggest bill families face and these huge handouts will see politicians hoovering up the incomes of struggling taxpayers, creating a cost of government crisis. If the chancellor wants to boost growth and help households, he can deliver both right now by bringing forward the planned income tax cut and slashing costly levies on energy bills.

But that was not all.

Rishi outlined other plans, altogether resulting in a £15bn bailout:

Guido has a summary:

As expected, Rishi has fired up the money printer once again to combat inflation. The Treasury claims it’ll cost £15 billion, with £5 billion a year supposedly coming from the newly-announced windfall taxenergy profits levy“. Here’s what to expect:

    • Windfall tax on oil and gas companies. Projected to raise £5 billion a year.
    • One-off ‘cost of living payment’ of £650 to approximately 8 million means-tested households. Two lump sum payments directly to bank accounts.
    • Households already receiving winter fuel allowance will also get a one-off payment of £300.
    • Those on disability payments will also get of £150. Many of those in receipt of this payment will also be eligible for the £650 sum, bringing their total support to £800.
    • Universal grant of £400 to all households. Doubling the £200 energy bill loan, and turning it into a full grant.

Rishi boasted when making the announcement that his plan is more generous than that proposed by Labour’s Rachel Reeves. The levy will raise £5 billion a year, and this will cost £15 billion. The difference will have to be financed by borrowing repaid by taxpayers…

People were shocked.

Labour won this round.

In Parliament, Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves said:

We pushed for the windfall tax. They’ve adopted it.

We said the buy now pay later scheme was wrong. Now they’ve ditched it.

This government is out of ideas, out of touch and out of time.

When it comes to the big issues facing the country, Mr Speaker, the position is now clear:

We leadThey follow.

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who was Boris’s opponent in the 2019 general election, was also pleased:

This was Jeremy Corbyn’s plan in Labour’s 2019 manifesto. It included a windfall tax:

Taxes in Britain are now at a 70-year high. Who was Prime Minister then? Labour’s Clement Attlee:

Lord Hannan, a former MEP, fears this will be a permanent development. He might well be right, unfortunately:

The plan made two front pages:

Cabinet members reacted the following day, including Jacob Rees-Mogg:

According to The TimesRees-Mogg raised concerns in Cabinet yesterday, suggesting “the package would be better funded by reducing government spending on infrastructure projects.” The paper puts BEIS Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng in this camp as well, with him telling allies he’s particularly concerned by BP’s announcement that it’s reviewing its plans to invest in the North Sea. Guido agrees with the anonymous cabinet minister who said “The politics of this is just so bad. We voted against it, we marched the whole party up the hill and are now taking them back down again. It looks like we’re being dictated to by Labour”…

Conservative MP John Redwood said that taxation does not equal prosperity:

On May 28, Lord Hannan wrote an excellent editorial for The Telegraph, ‘The Tories have almost wholly given up on conservative principles. What a tragic waste’.

Excerpts follow:

The Tories have almost wholly given up on conservative principles. They used to argue that lower taxes stimulate growth and so lead, in the long run, to higher revenue; that countries, like families, should live within their means; that individuals spend their money more wisely than state bureaucrats; that arbitrary and complicated taxes are as much a deterrent to investment as high taxes. Not any more …

When George Osborne imposed a one-off tax on energy firms in 2011, the Treasury Red Book predicted that it would bring in £2 billion. Instead, oil companies cut their North Sea investments and tax revenues fell.

Again, Johnson and Sunak know this. As recently as three months ago, the Chancellor was telling us that the “obvious impact of a windfall tax would be to deter investment”. Both men understand that the only way out of our present predicament is through growth. Both understand that the way to achieve higher growth is to cut spending, scrap regulations, remove trade barriers, and ensure sound money. But these things are usually unpopular in the short term, and that seems to be their chief consideration.

We are thus in a negative feedback loop. When voters see the Conservatives, supposedly the party of fiscal responsibility, spraying cash around, they conclude that there must be plenty of depth left in the Government’s reservoir. When they see a Tory Chancellor promising to bring in extra revenue by hiking corporation tax – despite the experience of cutting corporation tax rates from 2011 and seeing revenues surge – they naturally believe him. All this then heaps pressure on ministers to spend even more

It was all so unnecessary. Outside the EU, Britain could have become freer and more competitive. We had a Conservative Government with an 80-seat majority, for Heaven’s sake. We could have scrapped Brussels regulations, flattened and simplified taxes, embraced global markets, slimmed the civil service, decentralised powers and broken cartels. We could, in short, have made this the most attractive place in the world to do business.

Yes, the pandemic was an unforeseeable distraction – though, even then, some reforms could have been pursued. But nearly a year has passed since the end of the restrictions in Britain, and it is now depressingly clear that there is no plan to make use of our opportunities. After all their talk of buccaneering Britain, our leaders have shied away from almost every difficult economic decision. What a waste. What a tragic, needless waste.

Of course, Nadhim Zahawi is our current Chancellor. For how long remains to be seen. However, it will be difficult for him or his successor to roll back on Rishi’s plan. Labour won’t allow it. Either way, it will play to Labour’s advantage between now and the next general election.

Let us look at more recent developments.

When Rishi resigned as Chancellor, the press gathered outside the Sunak mews house in Kensington, London.

The Infosys heiress Mrs Sunak, in the tradition of other politicians, brought reporters mugs of tea:

One reporter expressed his appreciation:

Boris Johnson had only just stood down as Party leader when Rishi declared his candidacy to succeed him. Note that Channel 4’s poll participants still wanted Boris to stay in No. 10:

‘Ready for Rishi’ launched on July 8, complete with a video on his family’s arrival in Southampton on the southern coast of England. Rishi was born there:

Not surprisingly, Rishi’s promo did not include this clip from a 2001 documentary he participated in as a student at Winchester, one of the nation’s top public (very private) schools. This is from the BBC’s Middle Classes: Their Rise and Sprawl, shown in March 2001.

Rishi glibly says he doesn’t know any working class people. His father looks on admiringly:

Bim Afolami MP, who is one of Rishi’s supporters, defended his friend’s quick launch. Afolami said that all the video clips were there for his team to sort through and compile in 24 hours. Afolami said that it was not unusual that Rishi arranged for his campaign website in …. 2020:

Staunch Boris loyalist Nadine Dorries told Dan Wootton on GB News that Rishi was able to launch his campaign because he wasn’t at work:

Wootton asked whether Rishi was ‘too duplicitous’ to be PM:

Ninety-two per cent of those responding to his poll said YES:

Patrick Christys added to the doubt that many have about Sunak, from the timing of his campaign launch to his Boris backstabbing:

At the launch of the candidates’ contest, the public reacted negatively to Rishi.

One person was incredulous that both Boris and Rishi received Fixed Penalty Notices for Partygate, yet Boris had to resign only for Rishi to run as his successor:

Another predicts that the Conservatives will lose the next general election. The Opposition will fire too much ammunition Rishi’s way:

This chap objects to all of the top candidates:

I will leave it there for now.

More to come tomorrow, including an analysis of Tuesday’s vote.

On Monday morning, July 18, 2022, this was where the candidates for the Conservative Party leadership stood with their fellow MPs:

A third vote took place this afternoon. Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee, announced the result at 8 p.m. More on the outcome in tomorrow’s post.

Weekend debates

The final five candidates participated in two debates this weekend: one on Channel 4 on Friday evening and the other on ITV on Sunday evening.

Guido Fawkes summed up the results as follows (purple emphases mine):

The polls after both Channel 4’s Friday debate and ITV’s Sunday debate will have provided major morale boosts to Team Tom and Team Rishi, though whether they change the dials for tonight’s vote – set to be released at 8 pm – remains to be seen. Certainly Liz Truss’s declared supporters haven’t relented in promoting their candidate over the weekend despite said polls saying she came across rather poorly, the moniker ‘Maybot 2.0’ already cranking into gear by rival camps.

I’ll go into more detail below.

Sky debate cancelled

A third debate was to have taken place on Sky News on Tuesday, July 19, however, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss pulled out, so, despite Penny Mordaunt and Kemi Badenoch saying they would participate, the broadcaster has cancelled it:

Guido’s post says:

Guido has confirmed Steve Swinford’s report that Rishi and Liz have decided to avoid another round of the blue-on-blue mutually assured destruction of a televised debate. Last night candidates accused each other of being socialists.

Team Truss say: “It is not the right time to be doing more debates when this part of the contest only has 358 voters. The broadcasters should stop squabbling amongst themselves. The C4 debate in particular was a massive mistake and candidates were wrong to take part in it.”

Hmm.

Channel 4 debate

It would have been great if GB News had been able to host a debate, but, since the American-style format launched here before the general election in 2010, Channel 4 has always hosted one.

News presenter Krishnan Gurumurthy was the host. I remember the years when he was reasonably objective, but, for some time now, he makes no effort to hide his political leanings. Furthermore, it’s all about him:

Conservative Home journalist thought that GB News would have been a better channel for the debate:

Krishnan put what he described as ‘floating voters’ in the studio audience, but they looked like left-wing radicals to many viewers.

His main debate theme was trust.

He asked the candidates whether they trusted Boris.

Rishi Sunak gave the most pointed answer, more about which at the end of this post:

Here’s the video of Rishi saying that he resigned because ‘enough was enough’:

Not surprisingly, Rishi’s policies were front and centre of the debate.

He looked irritated when another candidate pointed out what he or she would have done better.

Rishi looked irritated quite a lot.

Liz Truss, on the other hand, looked wooden and stiff.

It’s no wonder why neither of them wants to do a third debate.

At the end of the first round, Krishnan asked whether Boris was honest. He wanted a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ answer.

Three of the candidates refused to say either way. Of the other two, Kemi Badenoch said ‘Sometimes’ and Tom Tugendhat shook his head. His was the only definite ‘no’:

This is why viewers called it Krishnan’s show:

One of the more memorable exchanges of the evening was between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss over tax cuts. We saw irritable Rishi once more:

Guido has the video of Rishi disparaging Liz’s tax cut plan:

However, experts say that Liz’s plan is affordable. Guido explains why, beginning with the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR):

The OBR’s latest economic and fiscal outlook estimates that for each 1% of higher nominal GDP, public borrowing in 2024/25 will be 0.8% lower. The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) forecast is that nominal GDP in 2024/25 will be 5.7% points higher than the OBR assumes. If they are right this alone generates £133 billion of net additional revenues. Against that needs to offset some likely higher spending.

The CEBR argues that

If we assume that public spending will be the same share of GDP as in the OBR projections, this increases the cost of public spending by £34 billion; higher inflation will raise indexed debt payments by about £7 billion while higher interest rates could raise debt payments by as much as £30 billion. Even allowing for all these, it is pretty clear that the OBR’s forecasting failures mean that substantial additional net revenues are likely to be generated compared with those expected. Which in turn means that net tax (after allowing for expenditure) receipts in 2024/25 will be about £60 billion more than the OBR’s base estimates.

Since these receipts will come from the effects of inflation and fiscal drag meaning that people will be paying more tax than they would have expected, it would not be unreasonable for the additional revenues to be used for tax cuts.

Economist Douglas McWilliams points out that since these receipts will come from the effects of inflation and fiscal drag meaning that people will be paying more tax than they would have expected, it would not be unreasonable for the additional revenues to be used for tax cuts. The £60 billion will cover the tax cuts being advocated by Liz Truss…

Another memorable moment was when gender identity came up:

Penny Mordaunt denied that she supports self-ID, but Kemi Badenoch said that she did. Kemi and Liz Truss worked in the department that Penny did. Kemi urged, ‘Tell the truth, Liz’, which she reluctantly did.

Guido says (emphases in red his):

Kemi insisting self ID was government policy when she took over as Minister, and had to reverse it herself…

True. It’s all in Hansard.

Guido ran a poll on who was more believable — Penny or Kemi and Liz. The latter won by a landslide:

And the other memorable moments were when Tom Tugendhat talked constantly — so it seemed — about his military service.

Of course, he gave us no actual details.

Over the weekend, social media saw many people criticising Tugendhat’s many mentions of his service to his country, prompting comparisons to characters on past British sitcoms.

Tugendhat also thanked the NHS for giving him two children. He clarified the statement, but it was a comedy gold moment.

One of Guido’s readers compared Tugendhat to Uncle Albert of Only Fools and Horses:

Cripes! Please don’t encourage Uncle Albert with any more of this military fetishism. His “defend the nation” slogan might be a bit more passable if he didn’t look like a foppish library monitor. Come to think of it, maybe the NHS really did give him 2 childrenlike just handed them over. Not sure how he’d get his leg over otherwise.

Although the debate lasted 90 minutes, time moved quickly.

Notable by their absence were questions about coronavirus lockdowns and immigration. Then again, Channel 4 supports both.

Subsequent polling showed varying approval ratings.

Opinium said that Tom Tugendhat won. Really?

But Tom Harwood of GB News said that Kemi and Rishi performed the best. I agree on Kemi but not on Rishi:

Earlier in the evening, GB News panellists on Patrick Christys’s show discussed the candidates. One said that Penny wasn’t trustworthy and that Liz was better:

The Sunday Times had more about Truss, who has a problem gaining traction among certain Conservative MPs, it would seem:

Truss is seen as the Johnson continuity candidate, supported by staunch allies of the prime minister such as Nadine Dorries and Jacob Rees-Mogg. The born-again-Brexiteer from Paisley and Leeds has been marked out as a strong contender by influential figures on the Tory right for some time. In December, shortly after his return to the Daily Mail as editor-in-chief of its parent company, Associated Newspapers, Paul Dacre tipped her as a “comer”. He wrote in The Spectator: “She is clearly a toughie, possessed of a steely self-belief, an imperviousness to the media, a healthy contempt for the male species, a seemingly genuine belief in a low-tax, small-state economy and a disarming habit of asking abrupt questions and dismissing the response as ‘bollocks’ — a tactic clearly designed to gain further elucidation.”

But Truss is in third place after the second round of parliamentary voting, with the backing of 64 MPs. Despite trying to channel Margaret Thatcher in a pussycat-bow blouse and winning the backing of Suella Braverman, who was ejected from the race on Wednesday, she seemed unsure of herself on Friday night. One observer described her as a “robot on Valium”. References to her record in government prompted derision in the “spin room” next to the studio, where the Tugendhat supporter Anne Marie Trevelyan, who succeeded Truss as trade secretary last year, openly laughed at her. Truss allies are pleased, though, that the contest is being framed as a battle between her and Sunak. The idea of a ideologically driven run-off between the former chancellor and the foreign secretary could propel her into the final two.

Liz was more relaxed on Sunday evening. She gesticulated a bit more.

ITV debate

ITV’s debate on Sunday evening was an hour long.

Julie Etchingham was an excellent moderator.

Unfortunately, she had no questions about either coronavirus lockdowns or immigration.

Tom Tugendhat banged on again about his military service, prompting this response:

The same flashpoints reappeared: tax cuts and gender identity.

Liz pointed out that Rishi as Chancellor raised taxes to their highest level in 70 years:

The subject came up again with Penny. Rishi accused her of being to the left of Labour’s former leader Jeremy Corbyn on economic policy:

Yet, Rishi did borrow for daily Government spending during the pandemic:

Here’s the gender identity clash between Kemi and Penny. Note the tweeted reply:

China was a new entry, with Rishi insisting he supported the Government’s stance:

The Mail has a brief summary of the debate:

    • Mr Sunak insisted he had never had non-dom tax status but pointed out his billionaire heiress wife was from India, and said he was ‘incredibly proud’ that his father-in-law had ‘built’ a highly successful business from nothing; 
    • Ms Truss took a backhanded swipe at Mr Sunak’s style, saying she is ‘not the slickest presenter on this stage… I’ve shown I can deliver as Foreign Secretary’;
    • All the hopefuls dismissed the idea of a snap general election when the new PM takes over, saying the focus should be on addressing the cost of living; 
    • The would-be PMs were asked to put up their hands if they backed Brexit at the referendum, with Ms Truss unable to say she did;  
    • Mr Tugendhat said all the other candidates were tainted by having served in Boris Johnson’s government; 
    • Mr Sunak issued a campaign video directly trolling Ms Truss for backing Remain in 2016, and describing him as a ‘real Brexiteer from day one’;
    • Ms Mordaunt used a BBC interview to vent fury at ‘smears’ and ‘toxic politics’ as she struggles to stop her PM bid being derailed by a backlash at her trans rights stance.

Kemi took issue with Tom’s ‘clean start’ approach, pointing out that he has never served in Government:

Serving in Government is not easy. It requires taking difficult decisions. Tom has never done that. It’s very easy for him to criticise what we’ve been doing, but we have been out there on the frontline making the case.

Here is the dialogue between Kemi and Penny on gender issues:

Ms Badenoch reiterated that she had been responsible for reversing the trans policy put in place by Ms Mordaunt as equalities minister.

‘I’m saying that when I took on the role of equalities minister, we had to change the existing Government policy which previous ministers had put in place,’ Ms Badenoch said.

‘What I’m challenging or what I challenged Penny on is what that policy was. She is saying she did not agree with it, but I don’t understand how that would be the case if she had been the previous minister. If she didn’t agree with it, why was the policy as it was?’

Ms Mordaunt replied: ‘I wasn’t the previous minister. The stuff in the papers today demonstrates what my policy was and refutes this. I think this whole thing is unedifying, and I would just say to all four of my other colleagues and candidates here, I know why this is being done.

‘But what I would say to you is that all attempts to paint me as an out-of-touch individual will fail. I’m the only person on this stage that has won and fought a Labour seat. My constituents do not elect people who are out of touch.’

Ms Badenoch responded: ‘Penny I was just telling the truth. I’m telling the truth.’

I would love to see Kemi as our next Prime Minister. She’s upfront and straightforward. She manages expectations, not promising a lot.

In the Channel 4 debate she said that increased spending in one area often means less spending in another. We cannot have everything, and the Government simply cannot provide everything for everyone.

Boris’s weekend

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson visited RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire for the flight of his life and hosted a barbeque at the Prime Minister’s weekend home, Chequers:

Guido has a report:

… the PM held a well-timed BBQ at sunny Chequers, which unlike his belated wedding party, managed to avoid being scuppered by a relentless media onslaught. According to Politico, 130 people ate burgers and sipped sparkling wine in the sun. Among the guest list were the remaining Cabinet loyalists, No. 10 aides and Dilyn the Dog. Chequers staff may be happy to see the back of him after numerous stories about Dilyn gnawing on antique furniture…

As ever, Boris delivered plenty of gags in his well written, well delivered speech to guests.

He took a gentle swipe at Neil Parish, who stood down for having looked at tractor porn twice on the parliamentary estate. Parish was replaced by a Liberal Democrat, who took his place in the Commons last week:

Boris’s tubthumping valedictory speech went down a treat, with one of the best received gags celebrating his successful fibre optic broadband rollout:

Not only has it delivered incredible choice for consumers in the way in which we consume content but farmers in tractors up and down the land can watch whatever they like at any time of day to their hearts’ content

We will never see the likes of Boris’s speeches again in Government. How I will miss them.

He spoke about his flight at RAF Coningsby and took a dig at former Chancellor Rishi Sunak:

… we flung that eager craft through footless halls of air and generally put it through its paces and after a while the wing commander said to me do you want to have a go? I said are you sure, it seems very expensive – we only have 148 of them and they cost about £75 million.

He said don’t worry, you can’t break it and I thought ‘oh well famous last words’.

I pushed the joystick right over to the right and we did an aileron roll and then I hauled the joystick right the way back and we did a loop the loop and then I tried a more complicated thing called a barrel roll and we started as they say to pull a few Gs and when I came back to consciousness I could see the sea getting closer and closer.

And I want you to know that after 3 happy years in the cockpit and after performing some pretty difficult if not astonishing feats: getting Brexit done and restoring this country’s ability to make its own laws in parliament; vaccinating the population faster than any other comparable country; and ensuring the fastest growth in the G7; and being the first European country to give the Ukrainians the vital military help they need see off Putin’s aggression; cutting neighbourhood crime by 31%; lowest unemployment for almost 50 years; gigabit broadband from 7 to 69%; I am about to hand the controls over seamlessly to someone else.
 
But whoever it is I can tell you the twin engines of this conservative government will roar on fantastic public services, dynamic market economy, each boosting the other and there could be no better example of that relationship that symbiosis between government and the private sector than the aviation industry and if you want a final example of this government’s ambition I give you not just FCAS or Jet Zero but space flight.
 
This year if all goes well we will launch the first UK satellite in history to enter space from UK soil as Newquay becomes this country’s equivalent of Cape Kennedy and I leave it to you to imagine who I would like at this stage to send into orbit but with so much to look forward to and with the UK at the leading edge of progress not just for our national security and prosperity but for the protection of the planet itself.

The Mail on Sunday reported that Downing Street is most unhappy with Rishi:

Mr Johnson is keen to stay out of the contest, but his allies are clear: if Mr Sunak continues to cast doubt on Mr Johnson’s integrity, then there will be consequences

One ally says: ‘Rishi is being extremely pious in his disapproval about the [lockdown] parties, but he was working in the same building the entire time, so he must have known about them too. And he picked up exactly the same number of fines as Boris.’ 

It is clear that resentment is still boiling over at the manner of Mr Johnson’s eviction from Downing Street, catalysed by Mr Sunak’s resignation.

The PM is understood to have grown increasingly frustrated with Mr Sunak during the past year, complaining to aides that his Chancellor would go missing in a crisis

One Government source said: ‘Sunak was constantly physically and emotionally absent from the project. He governed in a parallel universe, and would refuse to answer his phone when he was needed most.’ 

The source said that during the many crises which have dogged Mr Johnson’s time in power, he felt he could not rely on Mr Sunak for constructive advice.

A Johnson ally said: ‘If Rishi was asked about an issue in Cabinet, usually as either the very first or the very last person he turned to, Rishi would just say, “Oh you don’t need to hear from me” – and would often turn his back as he said it, probably unconsciously. 

And he was conspicuously absent from the media when the s*** hit the fan. He was the submarine Chancellor.’ 

Despite Mr Johnson’s vow not to interfere in the contest, his closest supporters have been critical of Mr Sunak. 

Jacob Rees-Mogg, who called Mr Sunak ‘the Socialist Chancellor’, and Nadine Dorries have both publicly backed Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in the race.

It has also been claimed that Mr Johnson would be open to Ms Mordaunt succeeding him if it meant that Mr Sunak did not win the leadership, with the Prime Minister voicing concerns that Mr Sunak would go soft on Vladimir Putin and ease sanctions on Russia

The saga continues tomorrow.

Before I get into Thursday’s voting results in the Conservative Party leadership contest, readers should note that Labour are no longer afraid of losing the next election.

Please, someone, bring back Boris:

The only candidate who could put the frighteners on Labour is Kemi Badenoch, who is excellent at the despatch box when facing the Opposition.

Thursday’s vote result

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs, announced yesterday’s result promptly at 3 p.m.

Unfortunately, Suella Braverman had the lowest votes and had to drop out of the race. She had only 27 MPs backing her.

Going into the weekend, we have the following five candidates:

Guido Fawkes has a summary of Thursday’s activity, excerpted below.

Rishi Sunak has received over 100 votes, but overall, he is not doing as well as candidates in past leadership elections:

Rishi is one of the weakest first-place candidates in recent Tory leadership elections, comparing leads in the second round of MP ballots:* … *Hat-tip: Tom Harwood

Penny Mordaunt’s work ethic was slammed on Thursday. I covered Lord Frost’s damning comments in yesterday’s post.

Mordaunt also ran into trouble over past statements she has made on gender identity:

    • Ran into problems and heightened scrutiny over her trans stance, not least with a blow from newly-eliminated Suella Braverman, who accused her of not standing up for women when pushing for gender-neutral language in the ministerial maternity leave bill
    • Accused of lying about her trans stance by Team Truss

Kemi Badenoch is, happily, still in the race and is ahead of Tom Tugendhat, who is likely to be the next to be dropped when voting resumes on Monday.

Badenoch received 49 votes and Tugendhat 32, a decrease of five votes for him.

Early news on Friday

Much happened overnight, which I will review in recent campaign activity below.

Suella Braverman is now supporting Liz Truss.

There is likely to be increasing pressure put on Kemi Badenoch to bow out of the race. If anything, pressure should be brought to bear on Tom Tugendhat, who is in last place.

Guido calls our attention to three debates this weekend. One will be online and two will be televised (red emphases his, those in purple mine):

Today things get really interesting: it’s debate time. So far candidates have taken lumps out of each other from their respective trenches, today they finally have to go over the top – a special metaphor just for Penny and Tom. Things kick off at ConservativeHome at 1pm, and continue over to Channel 4 at 19.30, where all candidates have confirmed their attendance. Followed by ITV on Sunday and Sky on Monday. 

Debates can make or break candidates at this stage, especially when there are a decent number of votes up for grabs and no one knows who’s going to win. In 2019, one debate made Rory Stewart – securing his place in the next round – and the subsequent debate 24 hours later broke him, as he decided to get undressed live on air. In a sign of how febrile things are, even Rishi’s agreed to join tonight’s Channel 4 debate, an unedifying challenge the frontrunners are sometimes able to duck out of. Will some MPs finally have to recognise that their candidate makes Theresa May’s public speaking look relaxed and charismatic? Guido looks forward to finding out…

Let’s see what is going on with the various candidates.

Suella Braverman

Suella Braverman, Attorney General for England and Wales, is a committed Conservative, especially when it comes to social issues.

In 2019, along with Northern Ireland’s DUP MPs and several other Conservative MPs, she voted to keep abortion illegal in Northern Ireland. However, the Government has since legalised abortion there.

Last Sunday, Danny Kruger, a thoughtful MP and Prue Leith‘s son, gave his reasons for backing Braverman:

Two days later, on July 12, a Conservative Home poll showed that Rishi Sunak would lose were Braverman the second remaining candidate on the ballot going to Party members:

Were Braverman up against Liz Truss, the vote would have been tied.

This was Braverman’s platform — lower taxes, border control, no identity politics and commitment to the Conservatives’ 2019 election manifesto:

What’s not to like?

She also would have taken us out of the ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights), which is preventing us from deporting faux refugees and serious foreign criminals:

https://image.vuukle.com/cabc9665-07dd-4e59-b5c4-201e96b27098-eb89d071-c031-42bc-bbbb-b39e220f0ca5

She refused to engage in ‘blue on blue’ sniping. Here she is with Kemi Badenoch, my other favourite:

Braverman was gracious in defeat:

She swiftly began a media round on Thursday afternoon.

Speaking to Tom Harwood of GB News, she expressed her gratitude for being able to run in the leadership contest, saying it was a real privilege. I agree that she would make an excellent Home Secretary:

She said that she sees both Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt as being on the left. So true:

She criticised Penny Mordaunt’s stance on gender identity and accused her of being a ‘false Brexiteer’:

In an interview with BBC Radio 4, Braverman pointed out that Hansard has a record of what Mordaunt has said in past debates on the Maternity Bill:

She told TalkTV’s Tom Newton Dunn why she has decided to support Liz Truss:

I hope that whoever wins will retain Braverman in their Cabinet. She is a true asset to the Conservatives.

Rishi Sunak

Could the wheels be about to fall off for Rishi Sunak, our erstwhile Chancellor?

On Friday, July 15, news emerged that the Chinese government hopes Rishi will be our next Prime Minister:

Guido reported:

This morning Rishi Sunak has successfully won the leadership endorsement none of the candidates wanted: from the Chinese Government’s propaganda outfit. Global Times has published an article entitled “China-UK ties ‘might improve’ with arrival of new PM”; subheading, “Most candidates are tough on Beijing, but ‘pragmatic’ one wins first round”. In the piece, Beijing’s mouthpiece notes concern that, despite Rishi winning among MPs, party members might vote for a rival candidate because of tax policy…

Former chancellor of the exchequer (finance minister) Rishi Sunak, the one candidate with a pragmatic view of developing balanced ties with China, has won the first round of voting by MPs.

When Sunak was the finance minister in July 2021, he used his annual Mansion House speech to insist that Britain should beef up its trading relationship with China

Apart from Sunak, almost all of the other candidates hold a very tough stance on China

As I write, mid-day, Guido is awaiting comment from Rishi’s team.

In other news, Rishi is losing traction with the bookmakers. He’s now in third place:

Guido tells us:

Rishi has fallen from hot favourite to his chances being third rated, with Penny as favourite and an overnight re-evaluation by punters seeing Liz move into the second favourite spot.

Allow me to repeat myself with the aforementioned Conservative Home poll from July 12. According to their readership, likely all Conservative Party members, Rishi could only beat Sajid Javid, who is no longer in the running and Tom Tugendhat, who is currently in last place:

Tom Tugendhat

I do not think that Tom Tugendhat’s candidacy will last beyond Monday’s vote.

I formed my opinion of him through his participation in House of Commons debates.

He is chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Last August, he spoke about Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, where he served with the Army. His contribution gained him a round of applause, which is normally forbidden in Parliament:

He wryly noted:

America’s back – back home.

In 2020, he wrote an editorial on terrorism for the Mail, calling for a return of treason laws, which Tony Blair got rid of:

In 2020, he was critical of China’s lockdown policy:

Last year, when there was a suspicion that vaccine passports could be turned into digital identity cards, Tugendhat rightly opposed such a development. talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer interviewed him on the subject:

Tugendhat announced his candidacy for Conservative leadership on July 7, via an editorial for The Telegraph:

It seems to me that he makes more of his military career than perhaps he should. In one recent interview, he made himself out to be a general (H/T to my reader dearieme):

‘What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?’

‘Invaded two countries.’

Guido thinks so, too:

He has the relevant clip:

Anyway, his campaign, increasingly weak, calls for ‘a clean start’:

A clean start:

On July 8, the Sun featured a profile of him, including his French connection:

Tugendhat is married to Anissia Tugendhat (née Morel).

She is a French judge and civil servant and Tugendhat holds dual citizenship for France and Britain.

According to a tweet from journalist Richard Eden, the pair got engaged in 2013.

Together they have two children, a boy and a girl.

Tugendhat’s mother Blandine de Loisne is also French.

Anissia comes from a family of diplomats and her brother has worked in the Foreign Ministry and the French embassy.

We did not know that before, did we? At least Tobias Ellwood told Parliament that he has dual US/UK nationality.

That’s probably why he voted Remain in the 2016 Brexit referendum.

He would not be drawn on the subject of whether he regretted his vote. Probably not, then:

The public are suspicious. As he is currently in last place, MPs must be, too:

He launched his campaign on July 12. To calm his nerves, he had a crafty ciggie on the tiny balcony outside his office, forbidden on the parliamentary estate. This, in my opinion, is the only decent thing about him:

I hope he was smoking a Gauloise …

At his launch, he took only two questions from the media:

Perhaps he feared questions about his Frenchness, such as this one:

Candidates, including those running for a position as MP, should declare their nationality or nationalities:

———————————————————————————

I will have more on the leadership contest next week.

For now, I am looking forward to the debates. It will be interesting to see how Rishi and Tugendhat, both of whom are short, look next to Penny Mordaunt, much taller than either of them. Optics are important.

Yesterday’s post introduced the ongoing Conservative Party leadership contest.

Today’s post will discuss what happened on Wednesday and lead up to Thursday afternoon’s vote, the result of which will appear tomorrow.

Before Wednesday’s vote

Guido Fawkes wrote the following on the morning of Wednesday, July 13, before the first round of voting (red emphases his, purple ones mine):

Good morning. Six of the eight remaining Tory leadership candidates face an uphill battle throughout the day, as they attempt to reach the 30-MP threshold required in the first knockout round of the contest at 6pm. Rishi now has 48 backers, meaning he can basically sit back and relax for at least the next two rounds, though that hasn’t stopped him adding Steve Barclay to his list of supporters this morning. Penny Mordaunt also has the 30 required. The other six, not so much…

All eyes are on Jeremy Hunt and Suella Braverman as the ones most likely not make it, though one of Hunt’s backers told Guido last night they believe they have the requisite support. They also described rumours that Gavin Williamson is instructing Rishi backers to temporarily support other candidates like Hunt and Kemi, so Rishi doesn’t have to face Liz in the final two, as utter rubbish, though members of other campaign teams believe it is absolutely happening. With Sajid, Shapps and Priti now out of the race, there are 30 newly floating MPs up for grabs…

News overnight includes a policy-light interview with Rishi in The Telegraph, who’s trying to get the press back onside after yesterday’s scenes at his campaign launch. He says he’ll run the economy like Thatcher if he wins. Tom Tugendhat committed to spending 3% of GDP on defence last night.  Penny has used a Times op-ed to commit to supporting families as PM. Stay tuned for her campaign launch at 10.30 this morning…

And:

from now on candidates can also vote for themselves…

Candidates experienced highs and lows, as covered below.

Nadhim Zahawi

When Boris Johnson appointed Nadhim Zahawi as Chancellor of the Exchequer on July 5, it was remarked that he is the first Chancellor with facial hair in 65 years:

Before Harold Macmillan, we have to go back another few decades to find another bearded Chancellor:

Zahawi appears to be the man who convinced Boris that he should stand down as leader of the Conservative Party. On Thursday, July 7, the Daily Mail reported:

Boris Johnson will finally announce his resignation today – but is lining up a ‘unity Cabinet’ as he battles to stay in Downing Street for months longer.

The PM admitted defeat in the wake of a shattering intervention from Nadhim Zahawi, who was only appointed on Tuesday night following Rishi Sunak’s departure. He told Mr Johnson that his situation is ‘not sustainable’.

Two days later, on Saturday, news emerged that HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) were investigating Zahawi’s tax situation. Hmm:

Zahawi said on a Sunday morning news programme that, if elected Party leader, he would release his tax returns. He complained of being set upon, something Boris knows only too well:

On Tuesday, July 12, he launched his campaign video in which he tells his life story. He arrived in England from Iran with his parents. He started school not knowing a word of English. Fast forward to the past two years and he was able to live his dream. He headed the coronavirus vaccine rollout and went on to become Education Secretary. Today, he is Chancellor. Amazing:

On Wednesday morning, he told LBC’s Nick Ferrari that, if elected leader, he would give Boris a Cabinet post:

Guido has the video and concluded:

He’s the second leadership contender to make such a pledge after Suealla Braverman. Clearly Zahawi sees some benefit in associating himself with Boris. A swift change of tone considering he was calling for Boris’s resignation just a few days ago…

Agreed, but there is no way that a former Prime Minister would take a Cabinet post.

Later on Wednesday morning, someone hacked Zahawi’s campaign website and redirected it to Penny Mordaunt’s. Penny’s website also seemed to have issues:

They are not the only ones, however, as Guido reported that Rishi Sunak’s site is banned on the Parliamentary estate:

Website woes are a common theme throughout the leadership campaign, Rishi’s site is blocked in Parliament as “insecure” and candidates have had their domain registration timings scrutinised. Turns out this stuff is hard to do right…

Jeremy Hunt

Conservatives either love or loathe Jeremy Hunt.

He served as Health Secretary and then as Foreign Secretary, until Boris sacked him in July 2019.

Hunt ran against Boris in the 2019 leadership contest. In one appearance during that campaign, he said his wife was Japanese. She quickly corrected him and reminded him that she is Chinese.

I wonder if he said that on purpose, because …

During the pandemic, as a backbencher, Hunt proposed Chinese-style lockdowns and mandatory vaccines for healthcare staff.

Nadine Dorries MP recalled a conversation with Hunt in July 2020:

On Christmas Day in 2021, the Mail reported that Hunt’s wife presents Chinese state-sponsored television programmes, broadcast on Sky TV from London:

The wife of former Cabinet Minister Jeremy Hunt presents a TV show for China’s state-run media that has been accused of ‘whitewashing’ the Communist Party’s human rights abuses.

Lucia Guo, who has three children with the former Health Secretary and Foreign Secretary, appears on China Hour, a series broadcast on Sky TV that showcases Chinese culture to a UK audience.

It is made by the state-owned China International TV Corporation and British-based Dove Media, in partnership with the Communist regime’s tourist office in London.

The programme has featured reports on the effectiveness of China’s pandemic response and about the beauty of the Xinjiang region without mentioning it is the site of ‘re-education’ camps for its persecuted Muslim Uighur population. 

Ms Guo, who is originally from the city of Xi’an in central China, hosts a feature on the show called Signature Flowers of China

It has been broadcast since September and is also available on YouTube.

Human rights campaigners at the US research institute Freedom House last year accused China Hour of being part of the Chinese Communist Party’s international media web.

The programme has been praised in Beijing for its viewing figures while its reports on the pandemic have been credited with ‘playing a unique role in communicating the Chinese narration of the epidemic to the world’.

On March 13, 2020, three days before the UK’s first lockdown, Hunt wanted all British schools closed.

Although Hansard has all of Jeremy Hunt’s contributions to parliamentary debates, in May 2022, he tried to walk back his promotion of Chinese-style pandemic measures.

Someone put this graphic together around May 21, a significant date for Hunt, as you will see below:

https://image.vuukle.com/afdabdfb-de55-452b-b000-43e4d45f1094-c4c6b24c-6016-418c-aeb4-a5db26a4495c

The next day, May 22, he appeared on Sophy Ridge’s Sky News programme to say that he did not want to see a Conservative leadership contest:

Guido posted the video and this comment:

Maybe Hunt is one of these Tories who thinks it might be good to lose the next election? He could become leader of the opposition…

That day, a number of letters to the editor appeared in The Sunday Times. The week before, he had written an article for the paper outlining how he would reform the NHS.

A retired GP wrote the Times to point out that Hunt had ample time as Health Secretary some years before, yet he took no action:

What a nerve! Jeremy Hunt tells us “How I would fix the NHS” (News Review, last week) — but he was the longest-serving health secretary in British history and has a huge responsibility for the NHS being in this parlous state.

He did nothing to increase the capacity of our hospitals, which has resulted in ambulances queueing outside A&E departments, unable to discharge their patients. He pledged that by 2025 we would be self-sufficient in “homegrown” doctors, but a lack of planning has resulted in a huge shortage of NHS staff in all sectors. He went out of his way to alienate junior doctors, causing the unprecedented strike of 2014. He did nothing to integrate the NHS with social care.

This is the man who could replace the fool we now have as prime minister. Heaven help us.

One week later, on May 28, an article in the Mail suggested that Hunt had a plan to topple Boris:

Boris Johnson‘s Cabinet allies have accused supporters of former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt of mounting a secret pub plot to oust the Prime Minister.

They suspect MPs who attended a dinner at an upmarket bar in West London called The Surprise last week were scheming to trigger a Tory leadership challenge.

The event, held the night before Sue Gray’s report into Partygate was published, was hosted by Devon MP Mel Stride, a former campaign chief for Michael Gove who is seen by the Johnson camp as a rebel ringleader.

Also in attendance was long-serving Ludlow MP Philip Dunne, a key ally of Mr Hunt.

The article has two familiar names, in addition to Hunt’s. Those MPs entered the current leadership contest:

Of the 16 MPs known to have been there and who voted in the 2019 leadership election, just three backed Mr Johnson.

Five backed Mr Hunt, who is widely expected to mount a leadership bid if a contest is called, while six supported Mr Gove, who is not expected to enter another contest …

Politicians at the dinner strongly denied they were scheming against Mr Johnson and accused his allies of ‘paranoia’.

They pointed to the fact that Boris arch-loyalist Grant Shapps – who has himself been tipped as an outside bet for the leadership –addressed the meeting.

But a Cabinet ally of Mr Johnson said: ‘Mel Stride is a Goveite looking for a new horse to hitch his wagon to. Many of the people he invited to the pub backed Gove or Hunt last time – including Dunne, who is running Hunt’s latest bid.

‘Any MP considering backing Hunt must be a masochist yearning for the kind of thrashing we sustained in 2017 and longing for the humiliation of a very long spell on the Opposition benches.

‘Without Boris, we will be handing the next Election to a Labour-SNP coalition. But then, some of our pro-Remain MPs and those who think they were naturally destined for high office, are too bitter to care’ …

Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt, considered a potential future Tory leadership contender, condemned behaviour at No 10 as ‘shameful’, telling the Portsmouth News she was ‘angry’ that people blocking ‘reasonable requests to relax [Covid] restrictions, were at the same time ignoring the rules’.

I agree with whoever said that without Boris, the next election will go to a Labour-SNP coalition. Yet, here we are, sadly.

By June 6, the story of Hunt’s yearning to be the next Conservative Party leader grew traction, especially with GB News presenters.

Neil Oliver threw his characteristic diplomacy away in this tweet:

Bev Turner shared a Hunt anecdote, wherein he advocated paying domestic staff low salaries:

Someone from Hong Kong confirmed the Chinese way of paying peanuts to domestic staff:

A Conservative Party member chimed in with disgust:

Adam Brooks, the publican who appears on Dan Wootton’s show was grateful that Boris was at the helm during the pandemic:

Now let’s look at what Jeremy Hunt told Nadine Dorries, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, back in July 2020:

Ben Leo, who works on Dan Wootton’s show, tracked Hunt down in front of his house on July 9 to follow up. This is an excellent video. Readers won’t be surprised to find out that Hunt said absolutely nothing:

Now let us fast forward to last weekend.

GB News viewers were aghast to find out that Esther McVey, an MP many of us admired up to that point, cast her support for Hunt, as did her husband Philip Davies:

Why would a no-nonsense, straight-talking Conservative back Jeremy Hunt?

The answer came on Sunday, July 10, when Hunt announced that, if elected leader, Esther McVey would become Deputy Prime Minister.

Guido posted the video:

She must be stupid if she believes that, I thought. It’s like a would-be Romeo trying to seduce a girl. Promise her anything to get her to submit …

Just look at the man’s eyes. He often looks like this:

Guido tweeted:

That’s me done with McVey and Davies. I liked him, too. No longer.

On Monday, July 11, Dan Wootton warned that Conservative MPs could destroy the Party if either Rishi Sunak or Jeremy Hunt become leader:

He is not wrong in that assessment.

First round voting results

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbench MPs, declared the results of the first round of voting shortly after 5 p.m.

Nadhim Zahawi, the new Chancellor, and Jeremy Hunt were eliminated from the contest:

Conservatives around the nation breathed a sigh of relief at Hunt’s elimination from the race.

Perhaps Hunt should have taken a cue when the top of the bell he was ringing flew off, nearly hitting a bystander:

Bell GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

As for Zahawi, he posted a lengthy letter:

Image

He has a lot on his plate, so perhaps it is best that he focuses on recovering some of the millions that fraudsters took during the pandemic. Those people stole taxpayers’ money:

He should also do something about road fuel tax:

Meanwhile, Jeremy Hunt pledged his support for front runner Rishi Sunak:

And then there were six

As Wednesday closed, we were left with six candidates going into Thursday:

Kemi Badenoch, someone around whom most Conservatives could rally, had just over 50 MPs supporting her.

Tom Tugendhat, rather surprisingly, considering that he has a high profile, had fewer than 50.

Suella Braverman, another candidate who makes most Conservative Party members happy, has just over 40.

I think that Braverman and/or Tugendhat will lose on Thursday. Tugendhat is another one who deserves to go.

Guido summed up Wednesday’s activity. Highlights follow.

Rishi Sunak could be losing momentum:

  • … After hogging the limelight with his campaign launch yesterday, today he resumed being the punching bag of choice for all other candidates.
  • Faced some horrible polling from all quarters, which shows he basically stands no chance of winning among the members if he gets through to the final two.

Penny Mordaunt did well:

  • A great day for Penny – if she wins the contest, today will undoubtedly be viewed as the day she secured the victory
  • Received a major boost from YouGov polling that shows, should she get through to the final two, she’d smash every other candidate.
  • Remains a comfortable second among MP backers.

Liz Truss survives another day:

  • Vowed to halt green levies
  • Continued her campaign as the ‘Boris continuity candidate’.

Suella Braverman is unlikely to make it through past Thursday’s voting.

Kemi Badenoch does not want tax cuts but has gained support:

  • Continues to gain support, not least with her former employers at The Spectator.

Kemi is also opposed to the current form of the dreaded Online Safety Bill, the debates on which could not be completed before summer recess, as the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, quite rightly, took priority. There is also the debate on confidence in the Government on Monday, which should be interesting:

https://image.vuukle.com/d7c6fe0e-9619-4565-bd5c-842da1c18a99-40de4d4b-e1d3-4501-8f54-42d4cc2b50f2

Thursday, before the vote

Guido summed up the state of play on Thursday, July 14. An excerpt follows:

In a few months’ time, what will people remember of Jeremy Hunt’s 2022 leadership campaign? Nothing, obviously. Seemingly just 18 MPs realised he was running one at all, which is odd as he needed 20 to get on the ballot in the first place. As Sky’s Sam Coates asked last night: what exactly does Rishi gain from being endorsed by this competition’s biggest loser? He certainly won’t gain all of Hunt’s supporters – many of them are now angry that Hunt went with Rishi, and not Tugendhat. Mind you, there was already anger towards Hunt from Team Penny, who endorsed him in 2019, as it was very clear he was never considering returning the favour this time around. Et tu, Jeremy…

Today should, in theory, be Truss’s day in the spotlight. Her campaign launches bright and early in Smith Square, in two hours’ time. They’ll be delighted with The Mail splash this morning, which is blatantly campaigning for Liz and telling the right to unite behind her to defeat Rishi. The same front page carries a briefing from someone in the Truss camp accusing Penny of telling lies about her trans stance. Lord Frost has also just taken to the airwaves to slam Penny’s record in government, saying she was so rubbish as his deputy he had to ask the PM to move her during the Northern Ireland negotiations…

Yes, this was a damning moment for Penny.

Guido has the video …

… and the quote:

To be honest I’m quite surprised that she is where she is in this leadership race. She was my deputy, notionally more than really, in the Brexit talks last year… I felt she did not master the detail that was necessary in the negotiations last year. She wouldn’t always deliver tough messages to the European Union when that was necessary… she wasn’t always visible. Sometimes I didn’t even know where she was. I’m afraid this became such a problem that after six months I had to ask the Prime Minister to move her on… from the basis of what I saw I would have grave reservations about [Mordaunt].

Guido says that Lord Frost isn’t the only one critical of her, either:

On Tuesday, CityAM published damning claims from Department for International Trade sources alleging Penny was “missing for months” as a trade minister and wasn’t reliable something Guido’s ministerial sources later confirmed themselves…

As the day unfolded, Rishi tried to make his resignation and leadership candidacy appear sudden, failing to mention that he had his website domain registered in 2020:

On a lighter note, Tom Tugendhat will rue this photo of ‘Tom a tart’:

Oh, well, he’s likely to be out by the end of the day, anyway.

It is unfortunate that so many members of the public cannot identify the next Conservative leader:

Meanwhile, among the party membership, here’s the latest from Grantham & Stamford Conservative Association. I am surprised that Mordaunt is doing so well. At least Badenoch is in second place:

Today’s vote began at 11:30 and closed at 3 p.m. All being well, I will have an analysis of the results tomorrow.

Yesterday’s post discussed the first three days of the Conservative Party Conference.

Today’s entry will look at Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s speech on Wednesday, October 6, 2021.

It was still content-light, but at least he explained what ‘levelling up’ is. More on that below.

But first, let’s look at what happened the night before, the last opportunity for MPs and the party faithful to get together on the dance floor.

Tuesday, October 5, after hours

Pensions minister Thérèse Coffey had a great time as the temporary £20 Universal Credit boost came to an end.

A cold fish at the despatch box at the best of times, Coffey showed us a different side of herself as she, a chemist by training, belted out ‘Time of My Life’ from Dirty Dancing (video credit to the Daily Mail):

The Mail reported (emphases mine):

The cabinet minister in charge of Universal Credit was slammed today for belting out Time of My Life at a boozy Conservative party Conference karaoke bash hours before cutting payments to six million people.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey enthusiastically belted out the 1987 power ballad from the film Dirty Dancing in a duet with fellow Will Quince – a former welfare minister.

It came as a £20-per-week Covid uplift payment was removed from UC for families across the UK.

The Government has pressed ahead with the cut despite concerns – including from Tory backbenchers – that hundreds of thousands of people will be plunged into poverty.

From today, no assessments will include the uplift, meaning that from October 13 – a week later – no payments will be received that include the extra money.

I don’t know what I think about removal of the £20 uplift. The Government always said in Parliament that it was temporary and stated months ago that it would end in October 2021. I feel for those families. On the other hand, the last thing I want to see is Universal Basic Income, and if this £20 were maintained, it would have been a slippery slope along that road.

Furthermore, there are plenty of job vacancies and salaries are going up. Note the decrease in people clicking on the vacancies, however. Hmm:

Two other MPs, Levelling Up minister Michael Gove, in the process of divorcing his wife, and Tom Tugendhat, danced together. Guido referred to this season’s Strictly Come Dancing:

It was only a few weeks ago that Gove spent the early hours of one morning dancing in a nightclub in Aberdeen, his home town.

The Mail reported:

Michael Gove has been spotted rocking the dance floor again – this time busting moves to Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody and belting out Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse Of The Heart at the Tory party conference. 

One hilarious clip shows the Levelling Up Secretary, 54, arm in arm with Tom Tugendhat as he throws his finest shapes to a cover of the 1987 hit while wearing a suit and tie – just a month after his infamous night out in Aberdeen.  

Newly-single Mr Gove, and Mr Tugendhat, MP for Tonbridge and Malling, are seen taking turns to spin each other as they go all out at the gathering – which is not usually known as a hotbed of hedonism

In a second clip shared by The Sun, Gove can be seen passionately singing along to Bonnie Tyler’s hit 1983 anthem with his mouth wide open, hands interlocked with an unidentified woman in front of him.

Meanwhile, at another Conference party event, Liz Truss danced to Beyonce (video credit to Guido Fawkes):

Wednesday, October 6

Wednesday was Boris’s big day.

He abandoned his diet temporarily:

Guido Fawkes has the calorific coffee order:

Sat in the conference exhibition hall ahead of Boris’s speech Guido was astonished to overhear the Speccie’s Katy Balls being told by a barista that Boris’s aides turned up at his stall yesterday to fetch the boss a coffee. The coffee order in question was a stomach-churning triple shot flat white, with extra caramel syrup with three sugars – an astonishing departure from the diet Carrie supposedly put him on after his Covid hospital trip.

Later, an appreciative crowd gave their Party leader a standing ovation:

Guido has the full text of Boris’s speech, which was not much shorter than Keir Starmer’s last week but was delivered in half the time: 45 minutes compared with 90.

Before going into Boris’s speech, Keir Starmer’s speechwriter dived in to say that his went on ‘absolutely’ too long:

Guido reported that Philip Collins, Starmer’s speechwriter (and Tony Blair’s), said the policy sections were ‘a bit baggy’ (red emphases in the original, purple one mine):

Philip Collins, the man who drafted Sir Keir’s epic 90-minute address at Labour Conference last week, has admitted the speech “absolutely” went on too long – and even claimed the sections on policy (such that they were) were “a little bit baggy” and yes, “boring“. This is a speech he wrote only a week ago…

Speaking on Politico’s Westminster Insider Podcast, Collins said:

“It’s always the same bits […] the policy bits are very, very difficult to bring to life. If you don’t include them, everybody will write that you have nothing to say, that you’re empty […] those bits, if I’m critical, could have been tighter, could have been more compressed. I think they were a bit long, a little bit baggy.”

Which in view of criticisms of Boris that his conference speech was light on policy detail, suggests he made the right call. Collins, who was also Tony Blair’s wordsmith, goes on to say that while he thought Starmer handled the inevitable heckles well, the interruptions and subsequent applause (“people enjoyed it far too much!“) contributed to the running time, claiming Starmer “was getting standing ovations for things that were just basically boring lines that were meant to just take you to the next stage of the speech“. “It got ridiculous”, Collins said…

Returning to Boris, Guido also has videos of his speech.

It was clear that Boris, a former journalist, penned the words himself.

He opened with an amusing put-down of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, recalling the 2019 election:

Isn’t it amazing to be here in person, the first time we have met since you defied the sceptics by winning councils and communities that Conservatives have never won in before – such as Hartlepool. In fact it’s the first time since the general election of 2019 when we finally sent the corduroyed communist cosmonaut into orbit where he belongs

Then he threw in a joke about Michael Gove:

The Mail was on hand to give us Gove’s reaction:

Prime Minister Boris Johnson later referenced Mr Gove’s disco moves at his conference speech today, branding him ‘Jon Bon Govi’ – prompting the minister to turn bright red.

Here’s Guido’s video:

Boris said:

… for months we have had one of the most open economies and societies and on July 19 we decided to open every single theatre and every concert hall and night club in England and we knew that some people would still be anxious, so we sent top government representatives to our sweatiest boîtes de nuit to show that anyone could dance perfectly safely and wasn’t he brilliant my friends? Let’s hear it for Jon Bon Govi, living proof that we, you all, represent the most jiving, hip, happening and generally funkapolitan party in the world.

Tom Harwood, a Guido alum now working for GB News, gives us tweeted highlights.

Despite the rise in National Insurance tax, Boris insisted that Britain would move towards a low-tax economy:

Boris then had a go at Labour:

He then went on to slam Insulate Britain, which had blocked the roads for ten consecutive days at that point (12 as I write):

He discussed immigration from Afghanistan and Hong Kong …

… adding:

We are doing the right and responsible thing and, speaking as the great grandson of a Turk who fled in fear of his life, I know that this country is a beacon of light and hope for people around the world, provided they come here legally, provided we understand who they are and what they want to contribute, and that is why we took back control of our borders and will pass the borders bill, because we believe there must be a distinction between someone who comes here legally and someone who doesn’t, and, though I have every sympathy with people genuinely in fear of their lives, I have no sympathy whatever with the people traffickers who take thousands of pounds to send children to sea in frail and dangerous craft. And we must end this lethal trade. We must break the gangsters’ business model.

He made reference to 2022’s general election in France and the newly-conservative outlook on the EU and immigration from our Brexit negotiator:

And is it not a sublime irony that even in French politics there is now a leading centre right politician calling for a referendum on the EU. Who is now calling for France to reprendre le controle?? It’s good old Michel Barnier. That’s what happens if you spend a year trying to argue with Lord Frost, the greatest frost since the great frost of 1709.

Boris then illustrated what he means by ‘levelling up’. Different areas of England will get solutions to their specific needs:

I will tell you what levelling up is. A few years ago they started a school not far from the Olympic park, a new school that anyone could send their kids to in an area that has for decades been one of the most disadvantaged in London. That school is Brampton Manor academy and it now sends more kids to Oxbridge than Eton. And if you want proof of what I mean by unleashing potential and by levelling up, look at Brampton Manor, and we can do it.

There is absolutely no reason why the kids of this country should lag behind, or why so many should be unable to read and write or do basic mathematics at the age of 11. And to level up – on top of the extra £14 bn we’re putting into education and on top of the increase that means every teacher starts with a salary of £30k – we are announcing a levelling up premium of up to £3000 to send the best maths and science teachers to the places that need them most.

And above all we are investing in our skills, skills, folks. Our universities are world beating. I owe everything to my tutors and they are one of the great glories of our economy, but we all know that some of the most brilliant and imaginative and creative people in Britain – and some of the best paid people in Britain – did not go to university. And to level up you need to give people the options, the skills that are right for them. And to make the most of those skills and knowledge and to level up you need urgently to plug all the other the gaps in our infrastructure that are still holding people and communities back.

As I’ve been saying over this wonderful conference to you when I became leader of this party, there were only, can you remember, what percentage of households had gigabit broadband when you were so kind as to make me leader? 7 percent, only 7 percent, and by the new year that will be up to 68 per cent. Thanks to Rishi’s super-deduction the pace is now accelerating massively as companies thrust the fibre-optic vermicelli in the most hard to reach places.

On that topic, he had a witty go at Scotland’s Ian Blackford MP, a multi-millionaire who gives the impression he has nothing. This bit is about the remote video connections Parliament had during the pandemic:

It’s wonderful, for years SNP leader Ian Blackford has been telling the Commons that he is nothing but a humble crofter on the Isle of Skye. Well, now we have fibre optic broadband of very high quality that we can inspect the library or is it perhaps the billiard room of Ian Blackford’s croft. And that is levelling up in action.

Boris wants to get Britons back in the office:

And my friends it is not good enough just to rely on Zoom. After decades of ducked decisions, our national infrastructure is way behind some of our key competitors.

It is a disgrace that you still can’t swiftly cross the Pennines by rail, a disgrace that Leeds is the largest city in Europe with no proper metro system, a waste of human potential that so many places are not served by decent bus routes. Transport is one of the supreme leveller-uppers and we are making the big generational changes shirked by previous governments.

We will do Northern Powerhouse rail. We will link up the cities of the Midlands and the North. We will restore those sinews of the union that have been allowed to atrophy: the A1 north of Berwick and on into Scotland, the A75 in Scotland that is so vital for the links with Northern Ireland and the rest of the country, the North Wales corridor. And we will invest in our roads, unblocking those coagulated roundabouts and steering-wheel-bending traffic lights, putting on 4000 more clean green buses made in this country, some of them running on hydrogen.

And as we come out of Covid, our towns and cities are again going to be buzzing with life because we know that a productive workforce needs that spur that only comes with face to face meetings and water cooler gossip.

If young people are to learn on the job in the way that they always have and must, we will and must see people back in the office. And that is why we are building back better with a once in an a century £640bn pound programme of investment.

And by making neighbourhoods safer, by putting in the gigabit broadband, by putting in the roads and the schools and the healthcare, we will enable more and more young people everywhere to share the dream of home ownership, the great ambition of the human race that the left always privately share but publicly disparage.

And we can do it.

He discussed rewilding Britain:

We are going to re-wild parts of the country and consecrate a total of 30 per cent to nature. We are planting tens of millions of trees.

Otters are returning to rivers from which they have been absent for decades. Beavers that have not been seen on some rivers since Tudor times, massacred for their pelts, and now back. And if that isn’t conservatism, my friends I don’t know what is.

Build back beaver.

And though the beavers may sometimes build without local authority permission, you can also see how much room there is to build the homes that young families need in this country.

He talked about the housing crisis and the importance of home ownership, especially for the young:

He praised the success of the coronavirus vaccine rollout and the contribution of private enterprise:

He wittily criticised Labour’s reluctance to accept the Government’s pandemic strategy:

Boris discussed the Labour Party conference and Sir Keir Starmer. This is classic Boris:

Did you see them last week, did you watch them last week in Brighton? Hopelessly divided I thought they looked.

Their leader looked like a seriously rattled bus conductor, pushed this way and that by, not that they have bus conductors any more, unfortunately, like a seriously rattled bus conductor pushed this way and that by a Corbynista mob of Sellotape-spectacled sans-culottes or the skipper of a cruise liner that has been captured by Somali pirates desperately trying to negotiate a change of course and then changing his mind.

He discussed getting a trade deal with the United States, especially our export of British beef:

He touched on AUKUS …

… and Labour’s opposition to that alliance:

He also addressed political correctness, which, frankly, has only worsened under this Government. He really does need to tackle it, so I hope he means what he says here. On a lighter note, he mentioned Michael Gove again:

We are led by our values, by the things we stand for. And we should never forget that people around the world admire this country for its history and its traditions. They love the groovy new architecture and the fashion and the music and the chance of meeting Michael in the disco. But they like the way it emerges organically from a vast inherited conglomerate of culture and tradition. And we Conservatives understand the need for both and how each nourishes the other. And we attack and deny our history at our peril. And when they began to attack Churchill as a racist I was minded to ignore them. It is only 20 years ago since BBC audiences overwhelmingly voted him the greatest Briton of all time, because he helped defeat a regime after all that was defined by one of the most vicious racisms the world has ever seen.

But as time has gone by it has become clear to me that this isn’t just a joke. They really do want to re-write our national story starting with Hereward the Woke. We really are at risk of a kind of know-nothing cancel culture, know-nothing iconoclasm. And so we Conservatives will defend our history and cultural inheritance, not because we are proud of everything, but because trying to edit it now is as dishonest as a celebrity trying furtively to change his entry in Wikipedia, and its a betrayal of our children’s education.

He closed by paying tribute to England footballers, Emma Radacanu and Team GB’s Olympians and our Paralympians, who did so well this year:

The spirit of our Olympians. It is an incredible thing to come yet again in the top four, a formidable effort for a country that has only 0.8 per cent of the world’s populationbut when we come second in the Paralympics as well – that shows our values, not only the achievement of those elite athletes but a country that is proud to be a trailblazer.

To judge people not by where they come from but by their spirit and by what is inside them.

That is the spirit that is the same across this country, in every town and village and city that can be found. That can be found in the hearts and minds of kids growing up everywhere.

And that is the spirit we are going to unleash.

The crowd loved every minute:

Tom Harwood interviewed party members afterwards, all of whom gave Boris’s speech rave reviews:

I could go into the pundits’ analyses, but why bother? So many are disgruntled Remainers, still licking their wounds over Brexit, which means that they will attack any Conservative policy.

As a former boss of mine used to say: ‘Onwards and upwards!’

The Conservative Party Conference took place in Manchester from Sunday, October 3 through Wednesday, October 6, 2021.

It was the first one since 2019, which was two months before their victory in the December 12 election that year.

UK in crisis

This year’s conference took place during the ongoing petrol supply problems and shock record-breaking hikes in gas futures on Tuesday and Wednesday:

On top of that, on Wednesday, Reuters reported that the UK’s petroleum regulator rejected Shell’s plans to redevelop the Jackdaw gasfield in the North Sea (emphases in purple mine):

“We’re disappointed by the decision and are considering the implications,” a Shell spokesperson said.

It was unclear on what grounds the Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment and Decommissioning (OPRED) refused to approve the environmental statement for the field’s development.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, under whose umbrella OPRED operates, did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Maddening.

The supply chain crisis for food continues. On Wednesday, The Times reported The National Pig Association warned retailers that 120,000 pigs would have to be slaughtered because of a lack of butchers. Some pig farmers are closing down altogether.

Some supermarkets are also suffering from empty shelves. Tesco, however, is bucking the trend. The Times reported that the supermarket chain is:

often highest up the pecking order when it comes to suppliers committing to make the business a priority …

Good for them.

Conference theme disappointing

The conference theme was … Build Back Better.

How awful.

Here it is draped across Central Station Manchester:

The Conservatives riffed on this in a Bake Off-style event. Pictured with Prime Minister Boris Johnson is Home Secretary Priti Patel:

Having listened to some of the speeches and read excerpts from others, they were all light in content. Most of them were pep rally or visionary statements rather than what plans Cabinet ministers have for the nation.

As The Telegraph‘s Madeline Grant wrote:

Never at a Tory Conference has so little been said, by so many, to so few.

Sunday, October 3

As the conference opened, rumours circulated about three unnamed Labour MPs thinking of crossing the aisle to the Conservatives, as the Mail on Sunday reported:

Guido Fawkes had more on the story (emphases in red Guido’s):

… this is due to disillusionment with Starmer’s leadership, with the MPs already having opened up “lines of communication” with Tory whips. In related news, a senior Labour MP was spotted by a co-conspirator chatting with two Mail on Sunday hacks and three senior Tory advisors at a conference bar last night…

The day’s big event, according to The Spectator, was the drinks party that the 1922 Committee of backbenchers held, sponsored by ConservativeHome. Interestingly, a long-time Labour MP for north-west London — Barry Gardiner — was in attendance:

… the main focus of the night was the 1922 drinks with ConservativeHome in a room stuffed full of parliamentary talent and, for some reason, Barry Gardiner.

Strangely, Boris did not appear, leaving a gap which Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak ably filled (video):

While Johnson was not scheduled to make an appearance here, Prime Ministers have traditionally done so in the past to pay tribute to their colleagues. His ‘disappointing’ absence – in the words of one disgruntled backbencher – left a vacuum for Sunak to fill, in a room full of MPs who will presumably one day decide who Johnson’s successor should be.

The Chancellor leapt to the stage to tell fellow Tories about what he was most looking forward too at conference: Michael Gove dancing, the PM running in a full suit (not just a shirt) and ‘machine like message discipline from every single one of you – and that means you too Cabinet.’ He added that ‘I’ve got your back’ to anxious MPs in the room and that ‘for the record I too am a low tax conservative’ – welcome words for those party donors who Mr S[teerpike, columnist] understands attended a ‘tense’ meeting earlier at the Midland, amid considerable unease at the recent NI [National Insurance] hike.

In such circumstances, perhaps it’s understandable that Boris would stay away.

According to The Telegraph, senior Conservatives have warned Boris not to dream up any more future tax hikes:

Earlier that day, Boris gesticulated wildly at the BBC’s Andrew Marr, saying, ‘You have no fiercer opponent to tax rises than me’. This probably means more tax rises are on the way:

The Spectator has more on the interview.

On tax hikes, Sir Desmond Swayne MP told talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer the raw truth. He added that lower taxes will enable greater economic growth:

Another event that Boris avoided was the one by the Tory Reform Group (TRG), which wants the Conservatives to move closer to the centre politically. They are Remainers. The Spectator reported:

Theresa May’s former deputy Damian Green welcomed attendees

Green, a mainstay of various causes on the left-ish wing of the party over the past two decades, told activists that it was their task to ‘make sure that the voice of moderate conservatism, centre-right conservatism is as strong as possible within the party’ – a job ‘never more important than today because there are times when I slightly feel that it is only people like us that stop this party drifting back to being seen as the nasty party.’ A tacit rejoinder to Priti Patel perhaps?

But then it was time for the speaker and the great white hope of Tory moderation. Tom Tugendhat, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, took to the stage to ecstatic applause and, like Green, was under no illusions about the awesome responsibility he and his One Nation caucus members share – to keep the Conservative party effectively sane …

There was also ample time for several potshots at the current Tory leader Boris Johnson, with whom Tugendhat is said to enjoy a wary relationship.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, tipped to be a future Party leader, also made the rounds that day (video):

The fringes were packed last night as Tory ministers did the rounds. Liz Truss, the darling of the free market think tanks, appeared at the Think Tent equipped with a magnificent blow dry and an applause-winning speech which castigated cancel culture as ‘fundamentally wrong.’ That and other jibes at identity politics in her conference address lead the Daily Mail this morning to ask whether she is in fact the new Mrs Thatcher.

Several reporters wrote about her new hairdo, which, to me, didn’t look much different from the old one.

Returning to the mysterious Labour people who might want to change parties, here’s Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, a former Labour MP, heaping praise on Michael Gove, the minister in charge of Boris’s levelling up programme. Burnham spoke to Trevor Phillips on Sky News that morning. Hmm:

Neither Andy Burnham nor Barry Gardiner is a Conservative. Crossing the aisle for ideals they don’t believe in seems a rather rash way of getting their own back at Keir Starmer.

Boris made four appearances at conference that day, including one for the Scottish Conservatives. Guido captured his wit along with audio:

The PM warned of a “crackpot coalition” between the SNP and Labour – “the only way they could” kick the Tories out.

He described the Labour conference as “a total rabble”, saying it had the air to him of “a seriously rattled bus conductor” facing an “insurrection on the top deck of the bus”, or the “captain of a Mediterranean cruise ship facing insurrection by a bunch of Somali pirates”.

Douglas Ross MP/MSP also addressed Scottish Conservatives. As party leader in Scotland, he wants to position the party as that of the nation’s working class. It’s a good move, as The Spectator reported:

Like all good fables, Douglas Ross’s speech at Tory conference had a beginning, middle and end. Act One detailed the many iniquities of the SNP, from their dysfunctional vaccine passport scheme to their Hate Crime Act, and most of all their agitation for Scotland to break away from the UK. Act Two took the sword to Labour, bemoaned its abandonment of working-class voters and its internal divisions over the constitution. Theirs was not the party to take on the SNP. Only one party was and it was the subject of Act Three, in which Ross deepened a theme begun under Ruth Davidson’s leadership: the Scottish Conservatives as the party of the Scottish working-class.

He hit all the familiar notes about the SNP’s failings in government, the ones that never seem to stick longer than two or three news cycles and are invariably forgotten about by the next election. He also hinted at an interesting theme that, if teased out carefully, could come into greater play. It is the perception, no longer wholly limited to unionists, that Nicola Sturgeon is a bit… off. Out of touch. Superior. Maybe even a bit of a snob.

In other news, last week, Labour’s Angela Rayner called Conservatives ‘Tory scum’. Feisty Dehenna Davison MP, representing Bishop Auckland as the constituency’s first Conservative, had ‘Tory Scum’ badges made.

This harks back to 1948, when Aneurin ‘Nye’ Bevan said the Conservatives were ‘lower than vermin’. Following that, the Conservatives formed the Vermin Club. Club member Margaret Roberts — who would become Margaret Thatcher — also had ‘Tory Vermin’ badges made, as Nigel Farage told Dehenna Davison on GB News:

Party chairman Oliver Dowden pledged that the Conservatives would do away with ugly new housing developments by strengthening planning laws.

He also assured the public that they would have turkeys for Christmas, referring to ongoing supply chain problems.

Monday, October 4

Monday opened with the latest ConservativeHome popularity poll.

Liz Truss is at the top. Other MPs pictured are (left to right) Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi:

Guido analysed the results, excerpted below:

The turn round in her fortunes from last year when she was being tipped to be sacked from the Cabinet is quite something. Liz is one of the increasingly rare consistently free market voices around the Cabinet table…

Rishi Sunak is down by some 10 points and moves from second to fifth place. Rishi’s tax hikes have clearly taken the gloss off him with the true blue believers. 

Grant Shapps [Transport] and Priti Patel are bumping along the bottom in barely positive approval territory. Shapps has been doing fairly well with the incredibly difficult transport brief. Patel is suffering because she has failed to do the seemingly impossible – stop the cross channel migrants. Tory activists are unforgiving, they don’t want excuses, they want results.

It was the turn of Rishi Sunak to address the party faithful.

A rise in council tax would not go down well. Meanwhile, protesters pelted Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP with a traffic cone:

Some at conference are disappointed with Sunak, whose budget comes up in a few weeks’ time. Steve Baker MP is pictured in the second tweet:

Boris was out and about in Greater Manchester. He spoke to an interviewer about policing and said that the Government needs to change its culture, which has become misogynistic, particularly in light of the Sarah Everard murder earlier this year, committed by … a policeman, who recently received a life sentence.

In other news, Justice Secretary Dominic Raab plans to reform UK human rights legislation and do away with the ties to EU human rights legislation we are still under.

With regard to the Labour mystery, Manchester’s mayor, Andy Burnham, had a conversation with Levelling Up minister Michael Gove, whom he had praised the day before. The Mail reported that Burnham was also due to address Conservatives at a fringe event sponsored by Transport for the North the following day. Hmm.

The cervix question that appeared at Labour’s conference was also brought up with Conservatives. Dominic Raab responded by bringing up both misogyny and misandry in a highly confused way (video):

Two MPs decided to have a bit of fun with the issue as they drove to Manchester together:

Guido recapped their amusing exchange:

Health-conscious Conservative MPs Marco Longhi and Lee Anderson don’t want to fanny about when it comes to their well-being. Marco, according to their road-trip video, made sure to receive a cervix exam before heading to conference this week. Always better to be safe than sorry…

Why is it that no one ever asks if women have a prostate gland?

On the subject of health, Desmond Swayne told Julia Hartley-Brewer why he is firmly against vaccine passports:

Lord Frost (pictured on the right) threatened the EU over the post-Brexit trade issues with Northern Ireland. Outside of the conference, pig farmers protested over the inability to get their stock to market. Boris had said that government cannot solve every issue, referring to the supply chain problem. He also told British businesses to hike staff salaries, which did not go down well, either:

I think they should give the meat away. A lot of poor families would appreciate it.

Tuesday, October 5

Boris began the day with an interview to LBC’s Nick Ferrari. Extinction Rebellion offshoot Insulate Britain had blocked some of Britain’s roads for the ninth consecutive day.

Despite injunctions from Priti Patel’s Home Office, their human blockades continue.

Boris told Ferrari they are ‘irresponsible crusties’ (video). The question remains whether Extinction Rebellion gets any Government funding:

Dominic Raab confirmed in his speech that he would be reform the Human Rights Act to free it from EU hackles.

Guido’s post includes a quote and this summary:

They will detach it from the ECHR, enabling quicker deportations of convicted criminals and swifter action on domestic abusers …

Raab’s successor at the Foreign Office, Liz Truss, confirmed a trip to India later this month, ahead of COP26 in Glasgow in November.

Guido had a chat with her:

Among other topics, the foreign secretary confided in Guido she was finding the new department’s mandarins to be “a bit ‘Yes, Minister’”…

Rishi Sunak addressed the Northern Powerhouse Leaders’ Lunch.

Guido says:

Sunak claimed that there is a “new age of optimism” in the north thanks to Red Wall Tories, and heaped them with praise for “helping to change our party and change our country“. “In me, you have a Chancellor who is going to be with you every step of the way,” he added.

See? I told you these speeches were content-free.

Later in the day, he appeared at a fringe event where he was asked about the cost of Net Zero. This was his alarming answer:

Health Secretary Sajid Javid promised another reform of the NHS, which mostly involves digitisation. I can think of more pressing NHS concerns and agree with Guido:

… pouring in taxpayers’ money without checking how it’s being spent isn’t enough. That cash needs to be put to good use. Reviewing the eye-watering pay packets of some NHS diversity managers would be a start…

The Telegraph‘s Christopher Hope interviewed Oliver Dowden, who is thinking about resurrecting the singing of the National Anthem at conference, calling it a ‘splendid idea’.

Hope also took the opportunity to present Dowden with a ‘Tory Scum’ badge, which he put on and said he would wear for the duration of the interview. Hope suggested he wear it until the end of conference.

This video shows the badge exchange. Hope gives us more information on the aforementioned Vermin Club:

Guido says that the badges were most popular. Dehenna Davison had to order more:

Many conference-goers have spent the last couple of days asking Davison for one of her badges, only to be disappointed upon being told she’d run out. Good news however, after Davison put in an emergency order for 400 more given their popularity…

The most outrageous session of the day — and a British first — was an address by the Prime Minister’s wife to Party faithful. No Prime Minister’s spouse — we’ve had two husbands in that role — has ever made a party political address until now:

Never mind the subject matter: was it the right thing for Carrie Johnson to do — even if she is a very good public speaker? Boris watched from a distance.

Polling stable

I’ll review Boris’s closing speech in tomorrow’s post.

Post-conference polling is stable. YouGov’s was taken on Tuesday and Wednesday:

Sir Desmond Swayne explained to Julia Hartley-Brewer that Boris’s popularity and the lack of ideas from the Opposition have buoyed the Conservatives:

What Government should do next

Health Secretary Sajid Javid needs to keep a gimlet eye on NHS spending, especially on things like this:

Guido says:

The NHS is recruiting a supplier to deliver “compassionate conversations training” to 14,000 front facing NHS staff in a publicly funded contract worth a mind-boggling £3 million. The contract tender, which was published yesterday and closes on 5 November 2021, says the aim is to equip NHS staff with “the skills they need to handle challenging situations with compassion whilst ensuring they feel able to look after their own wellbeing if needed”. Guido assumed that doctors were already taught about the importance of a good bedside manner…

It’s almost ludicrous to think that this weekend Javid promised a forensic review of the NHS’s management and leadership whilst the NHS continues to recklessly splash cash on diversity roles. Just six months ago Guido revealed that the NHS was hiring eight more ‘diversity, equality and inclusion managers’ across the country, with salaries up to as much as a whopping £62,000. If Javid is going to cut down those waiting list times he needs to focus taxpayers’ money on the clinical front line, not nonsense make-work contracts and diversity roles…

Guido says it is also time for Boris to reconsider the current Government moratorium on fracking:

If Boris wants to energise Britain, domestic gas production should be part of that mix; it would provide energy security when Britain’s energy needs are being threatened by the Russians and the the French. Boris is now in a position to do something glorious, to stop pussy-footing around and leave no stone unturned or unfracked. So get on with it…

This is what Boris had to say on the subject while he was Mayor of London:

I won’t be holding my breath on either of those propositions.

Tomorrow: Boris’s keynote speech

We continue to find out more about what went on behind the scenes in Afghanistan.

Biden-Ghani telephone call transcript

Somehow, Reuters received recordings and transcripts of two telephone calls between Washington and Ashraf Ghani, the then-president of Afghanistan.

The fuller of the two transcripts comes from the July 23 call between Joe Biden and Ghani. Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Biden told Ghani that the ‘perception’ in Washington and the Pentagon is that Afghanistan’s fight against the Taliban is not going well:

And there’s a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture.

Biden suggested that Ghani implement a new strategy focused on major population centres. He also said that the Afghan army far outnumbered the Taliban:

You clearly have the best military, you have 300,000 well-armed forces versus 70-80,000 and they’re clearly capable of fighting well, we will continue to provide close air support, if we know what the plan is and what we are doing. And all the way through the end of August, and who knows what after that.

We are also going to continue to make sure your air force is capable of continuing to fly and provide air support. In addition to that we are going to continue to fight hard, diplomatically, politically, economically, to make sure your government not only survives, but is sustained and grows because it is clearly in the interest of the people of Afghanistan, that you succeed and you lead. And though I know this is presumptuous of me on one hand to say such things so directly to you, I have known you for a long while, I find you a brilliant and honorable man.

Ghani explained the situation at the time, which involved terrorists from Pakistan, insufficient pay for the Afghan army and the Taliban’s refusal to negotiate with his government:

Mr. President, we are facing a full-scale invasion, composed of Taliban, full Pakistani planning and logistical support, and at least 10-15,000 international terrorists, predominantly Pakistanis thrown into this, so that dimension needs to be taken account of.

Second, what is crucial is, close air support, and if I could make a request, you have been very generous, if your assistance, particularly to our air force be front loaded, because what we need at this moment, there was a very heavily reliance on air power, and we have prioritized that if it could be at all front-loaded, we will greatly appreciate it.

And third, regarding procedure for the rest of the assistance, for instance, military pay is not increased for over a decade. We need to make some gestures to rally everybody together so if you could assign the national security advisor or the Pentagon, anyone you wish to work with us on the details, so our expectations particularly regarding your close air support. There are agreements with the Taliban that we [or “you” this is unclear] are not previously aware of, and because of your air force was extremely cautious in attacking them.

And the last point, I just spoke again to Dr. Abdullah earlier, he went to negotiate with the Taliban, the Taliban showed no inclination. We can get to peace only if we rebalance the military situation. And I can assure you…

Biden appeared to be talking at the same time, as his reply is recorded as ‘crosstalk’.

Ghani continued, ending on an optimistic note about the strength of the resistance to the Taliban:

And I can assure you I have been to four of our key cities, I’m constantly traveling with the vice president and others, we will be able to rally. Your assurance of support goes a very long way to enable us, to really mobilize in earnest. The urban resistance, Mr. President is been extraordinary, there are cities that have taken a siege of 55 days and that have not surrendered. Again, I thank you and I’m always just a phone call away. This is what a friend tells a friend, so please don’t feel that you’re imposing on me.

Biden responded:

No, well, look, I, thank you. Look, close air support works only if there is a military strategy on the ground to support.

Was Biden indicating, consciously or otherwise, that he was going to pull US troops out within three weeks?

On August 31, Reuters issued further information about the phone call, allegedly the last conversation between the two men:

The men spoke for roughly 14 minutes on July 23. On August 15, Ghani fled the presidential palace, and the Taliban entered Kabul …

Reuters reviewed a transcript of the presidential phone call and has listened to the audio to authenticate the conversation. The materials were provided on condition of anonymity by a source who was not authorized to distribute it

I wonder about the first sentence below:

The American leader’s words indicated he didn’t anticipate the massive insurrection and collapse to come 23 days later. “We are going to continue to fight hard, diplomatically, politically, economically, to make sure your government not only survives, but is sustained and grows,” said Biden.

The White House Tuesday declined to comment on the call.

After the call, the White House released a statement that focused on Biden’s commitment to supporting Afghan security forces and the administration seeking funds for Afghanistan from Congress.

Well, the Biden administration would say anything, because:

By the time of the call, the United States was well into its planned withdrawal from Afghanistan, which Biden had postponed from the May date set by his predecessor, Donald Trump. The U.S. military had closed its main Afghanistan air base, at Bagram, in early July.

As the two presidents spoke, Taliban insurgents controlled about half of Afghanistan’s district centers, indicating a rapidly deteriorating security situation.

By August 9, it became clear that the US was leaving matters in Afghan hands:

In a little over two weeks after Biden’s call with Ghani, the Taliban captured several provincial Afghan capitals and the United States said it was up to the Afghan security forces to defend the country. “These are their military forces, these are their provincial capitals, their people to defend,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on August 9.

That said, US intelligence indicated that Kabul would not fall into Taliban hands for at least 30 days, possibly 90:

On August 11, U.S. intelligence reports indicated Taliban fighters could isolate Afghanistan’s capital in 30 days and possibly take it over within 90. Instead, the fall happened in less than a week.

I wonder if Britain received the same briefing (see below).

Pakistan took exception to Ghani’s allegations that they were fuelling the insurrection by the Taliban:

The Pakistani Embassy in Washington denies those allegations. “Clearly the myth of Taliban fighters crossing from Pakistan is unfortunately an excuse and an afterthought peddled by Mr. Ashraf Ghani to justify his failure to lead and govern,” an embassy spokesman told Reuters.

Ghani could not be reached for comment:

Reuters tried to reach Ghani’s staff for this story, in calls and texts, with no success. The last public statement from Ghani, who is believed to be in the United Arab Emirates, came on August 18. He said he fled Afghanistan to prevent bloodshed.

Military call with Ghani

Reuters’ August 31 article says that the second call with then-President Ghani also took place on July 23, after his conversation with Joe Biden:

In a follow-up call later that day that did not include the U.S. president, Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, General Mark Milley and U.S. Central Command commander General Frank McKenzie spoke to Ghani. Reuters also obtained a transcript of that call.

In this call, too, an area of focus was the global perception of events on the ground in Afghanistan. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Ghani “the perception in the United States, in Europe and the media sort of thing is a narrative of Taliban momentum, and a narrative of Taliban victory. And we need to collectively demonstrate and try to turn that perception, that narrative around.”

“I do not believe time is our friend here. We need to move quickly,” McKenzie added.

A spokesperson for McKenzie declined to comment. A spokesman for Milley did not respond by publication time.

US armoured vehicles move from Afghanistan to Iran

On September 1, The Gateway Pundit reported that US vehicles captured by the Taliban have been seen in Iran (emphasis in the original):

The Taliban was filmed this week moving captured US military vehicles to Iran.
Thanks to Joe Biden and the woke US Generals.

The article includes the following tweets.

The first comes from Asaad Hanna, a journalist:

Comments to Hanna’s tweet included another photo:

The second tweet in The Gateway Pundit‘s article is from Al Arabiya News:

The Gateway Pundit‘s article includes a long list of American military equipment that was left behind in Afghanistan.

Here is the summary:

As The Gateway Pundit reported earlier on Sunday — Joe Biden left 300 times more guns than those passed to the Mexican cartels in Obama’s Fast and Furious program.

A more complete list was created with public information and help from other intelligence sources.  The list does not include all the extra kinds of nonlethal equipment, everything from MRE’s, Medical Equipment, and even energy drinks.
 
The big story might be the pallets of cash the Taliban have been posting videos of pallets of weapons and stacks of $100 bills they have seized
 
If the Taliban has 208 military aircraft then according to the NationMaster list the Taliban now ranks #26 of all countries in the number of military aircraft.
 

The Biden administration would rather the public not know; the information has been scrubbed. Imagine if President Trump had done this:

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab appears before Parliamentary committee

On Wednesday, September 1, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab appeared before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, comprised of a cross-party group of MPs.

I watched the proceedings and thought that he acquitted himself well.

One of the difficulties in anticipating Joe Biden’s sudden withdrawal of troops, he said, was weighing up America’s ‘intent’ versus their ‘capability’.

It also appears that the UK gave Raab the same aforementioned erroneous intelligence from the US about the Taliban seizing control of Kabul within 30 to 90 days:

Andrew Gimson wrote for Conservative Home about the session which lasted just under two hours. I found his article rather unfair, especially considering the US was displaying the same lack of intelligence.

However, it does provide a précis of two main points of the hearing:

Tom Tugendhat (Con, Tonbridge and Malling), the chair of the committee, sought to establish how much attention ministers had been paying not only to Afghanistan, but to neighbouring countries such as Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan, through which evacuation by land might or might not be permitted …

Chris Bryant (Lab, Rhondda) reminded Raab that the Foreign Office’s travel advice for British nationals in Afghanistan only changed on 6th August.

Bryant also pressed Raab about why he went on holiday and did not return until after August 15, the day when Kabul fell to the Taliban. Another Labour MP asked the same question, as did an SNP MP who did not give Raab time to respond.

As for his lack of discussions with ambassadors in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries, Raab said that his department’s procedure is to receive regular reports from them then collate them into one report that provides a detailed meta view of the situation on the ground.

When asked why he had not been to Pakistan lately, Raab replied that the pandemic made it nearly impossible.

Tugendhat asked Raab why the UK wasn’t using a safe passage to Uzbekistan as the Germans were. Tugendhat said that it was an ‘effective’ route. Raab countered, saying that it was ‘effective’ until Uzbekistan closed its border.

Raab took great pains to point out the positive aspects of the past fortnight, e.g. evacuating 17,000 people at short notice.

A few MPs, including Conservatives, asked him about the evacuation phone number in the Foreign Office that was inoperable and the emails that went unanswered. Their in-boxes were full of complaints about it. Raab said that most phone calls were answered in under a minute. He said that his staff were responding to a great number of emails.

However, this was one of several tweets from the middle of August indicating there was a problem. Sir Laurie Bristow was the UK ambassador to Afghanistan:

A Labour MP, Neil Coyle, asked why the portrait of the Queen remained in the Kabul embassy. Raab said he was unaware that it was still there. According to Coyle, the Taliban posed in front of it.

The best part was the final question from Claudia Webbe (Lab). She asked why the UK had been in Afghanistan for the past 40 (!) years:

Raab gave her a withering look and reminded her of the two decades prior to 2001, which included Soviet occupation.

Guido Fawkes said (emphasis in the original):

Claudia Webbe was back for yet another Foreign Affairs Select Committee appearance this afternoon, once again taking Dominic Raab to task with the hard-hitting questions no one else is brave enough to ask. Raab’s look of total bemusement at “What is your understanding of civil wars in Afghanistan” was one particular highlight. “Claudia, this is just nonsense” was another…

It seems as if Guido Fawkes’s readers have a better reading of Raab’s performance than the pundits. A selection follows. Unfortunately, Guido’s system does not have URLs to each comment.

Overall (emphases mine):

What was there to discuss? Pushing to ask what date he went on holiday and whether he considered resigning through to whether picture of the Queen would have been abandoned. There would have been far superior questions asked by people on any high street.

This thread had two notable comments. Here’s the first:

Raab was working on intelligence assessments, not his own thoughts on what would happen.

It is about optics. It looks bad if you want it to, but the facts are that the collapse was quicker than anticipated, and the UK still managed to airlift 17,000 people out in a very short time frame, for which they should be commended.

And here’s the second, about the phone call to his Afghan counterpart that was never made. The first sentence is tongue in cheek:

Raab would have made a phone call which would have resulted in the immediate surrender of the Taliban.

Though I prefer to be controversial and think that it would have made zero difference. Raab is a leaver and a Tory so the blame for the Afghan farce lies squarely with him and Trump, in the eyes of the loons.

The final comment is about Tom Tugendhat, which is probably true:

Tugendhat is an opportunistic @rsehole who is trying anything to advance his own position out of this crisis.

The back-stabber was even quoting from leaked FO documents at yesterday’s hearing to attack Raab.

Raab left the session promptly in order to travel to Qatar where he discussed various issues relating to Afghanistan:

Raab is spending the weekend in Pakistan for talks with his counterpart from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There will be a discussion about the UK’s £30 million aid package; one-third will go to humanitarian organisations and the rest to countries taking in Afghan refugees.

Two other political journalists reviewed Raab’s performance. Madeline Grant, writing for The Telegraph, gave him a thumbs-down. However, The Times‘s Quentin Letts reminded us that select committee hearings are often about political point-scoring:

As Westminster cynics know, select committees are not really about policy. They are vehicles for the ambitions of the MPs who run them and they can be used to give legs to a juicy hoo-hah …

Raab’s own performance? The left shoulder twitched. That is always a sign he is under pressure. He kept fiddling with his nose, too. But he is one of the grown-ups in the cabinet and it was not immediately apparent he had been seriously damaged by his self-serving scrutineers.

At Conservative Home, James Frayne did not think the public will be bothered by the select committee hearing or by Raab’s perceived neglect of the Afghan situation:

While unnamed Government sources are seeking to apportion blame to particular politicians (Raab, most obviously), the public don’t and won’t think along these lines; within reason, they think of the Government as an entity, rather than as being devolved in any meaningful way.

This means there’s a limit to what “damage control” the Government can do by throwing particular politicians and officials under a bus. It will all land at the door of the PM where public opinion is concerned.

Will there be enough stories, cumulatively, to provoke a general backlash against this Government at last? Time will tell (I have no idea what’s coming out) but I doubt it. Hard as it is for many commentators to understand or believe, for most of its supporters, this Government has a lot of credit in the bank on questions of judgement and competence.

I fully agree. Dominic Raab could not have prevented the Taliban taking over Kabul. He’s not one of my favourite MPs, but he is doing a good job in very difficult circumstances.

————————————————————————————

The next few weeks should be interesting. What new revelations about Afghanistan will appear?

Following on from yesterday’s post about Britain’s presence in Afghanistan, today’s entry has more.

On Tuesday, August 17, Strategic Culture posted ‘Afghanistan: Whatever the Future Brings, One Thing Is for Sure, Britain and the U.S. Should Stay Out’.

While I disagree with the general premise, the article did have interesting historical information about the UK’s involvement in Iraq and Libya based on questionable intelligence by a security chief who promoted the Russian dossier nonsense during the 2016 US presidential election. Emphases mine below:

All the blood and treasure spent, yes that is a tragedy, but not because of how it is ending, but rather how the War on Terror was started.

That is, that the Iraq and Libya wars were both based off of cooked British intelligence, which resulted in the attempt by the British people to prosecute Tony Blair as a war criminal for his direct role in causing British and U.S. troops to enter an illegal war with Iraq. This prosecution was later blocked by the British High Court claiming that there is no crime of aggression in English law under which the former PM could be charged. It seems there is no law against being a war criminal in Britain.

And it was none other than MI6 chief (1999-2004) Sir Richard Dearlove who oversaw and stood by the fraudulent intelligence on Iraq stating they bought uranium from Niger to build a nuclear weapon, the very same Sir Richard Dearlove who promoted the Christopher Steele dossier as something “credible” to American intelligence.

In addition, the Libyan invasion of 2011 was found to be unlawfully instigated by Britain. In a report published by the British Foreign Affairs Committee in September 2016, it was concluded that it was “the UK and France in March 2011 which led the international community to support an intervention in Libya to protect civilians from forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi”. The report concluded that the Libyan intervention was based on false pretence provided by British Intelligence and recklessly promoted by the British government. This is the real reason why David Cameron stepped down.

This is what caused the United States to enter both wars, due to, what has now been officially acknowledged as fraudulent or deliberately misleading evidence that was supplied by British intelligence.

Now onto Afghanistan. After the horrifying weekend of August 14 and 15, Britain’s Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, tried to enlist NATO allies’ help to fill the gap from Joe Biden’s withdrawal:

UK Defense Secretary, Ben Wallace, has been actively trying to call on NATO allies to join a British-led military coalition to re-enter Afghanistan upon the U.S. departure! Wallace states in an interview with Daily Mail:

I did try talking to NATO nations, but they were not interested, nearly all of them…We tried a number of like-minded nations. Some said they were keen, but their parliaments weren’t. It became apparent pretty quickly that without the U.S. as the framework nation it had been, these options were closed off…All of us were saddened, from the prime minister (Boris Johnson) down, about all the blood and treasure that had been spent, that this was how it was ending.

This has left the UK in a tailspin, although, as of August 26, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that Britain would remain in Afghanistan to complete evacuation efforts.

However, some of our brightest commentators are fumbling to come up with reasonable solutions to America’s withdrawal. Andrew Neil said that we should ask France to partner with us. Hmm:

Meanwhile, Biden acts as if everything is fine.

On August 20, he said that the US gave the Afghans ‘all the tools’ they need. This is the tally over the past 20 years:

Nigel Farage has disparaged Biden in recent days:

It’s not so much the withdrawal itself but how it is being done that is the worry. Troops should be the last to leave:

As if that is not bad enough, the Biden administration has supplied the Taliban with the names of people who helped the US effort. One could not make this up:

Johnny Mercer MP (Con), himself a veteran, posted the video:

But, then, according to his fellow Conservative MP, Tom Tugendhat, the British did the same thing. How is this even possible?

The Times article says:

Foreign Office staff left documents with the contact details of Afghans working for them as well as the CVs of locals applying for jobs scattered on the ground at the British embassy compound in Kabul that has been seized by the Taliban.

The papers identifying seven Afghans were found by The Times on Tuesday as Taliban fighters patrolled the embassy. Phone calls to the numbers on the documents revealed that some Afghan employees and their families remained stranded on the wrong side of the airport perimeter wall days after their details were left in the dirt in the haste of the embassy’s evacuation on August 15.

The fate of Afghans who worked alongside western diplomats and troops, and who may face reprisals after being left behind, has become an emblem of the West’s retreat from Afghanistan.

Such was the British surprise at the speed of the capture of Kabul that the embassy’s evacuation protocols, necessitating the shredding and destruction of all data that could compromise local Afghan staff, their families or potential employees, appear to have broken down.

The article mentions Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who was on holiday in Crete on August 14 and 15. He was supposed to make an important phone call, which he delegated to Lord Goldsmith. On the face of it, that wasn’t a bad idea, because Goldsmith is close to Carrie Johnson and could have had direct access to Boris through her. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the phone call was never made. I’m still not sure whether it was as crucial as the media make it out to be, because the media are anti-Boris anyway. More will emerge in the weeks to come, but this is what we know for now:

The discovery of the documents comes after Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, rejected a request to speak with his Afghan counterpart to discuss the evacuation of interpreters who worked for Britain two days before the fall of Kabul. It suggests that staff at the British embassy were careless with the lives of Afghan employees in the rush to save their own.

Labour now have a real issue with which to attack the Conservatives:

Labour said foreign secretary Dominic Raab has “serious questions to answer” and that the destruction of sensitive materials should have been a “top priority”. Lisa Nandy, his opposite number, called on the government to “urgently assess” the individuals who may have been identified by the breach and whether operations may have been compromised. The Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee is now set to launch an inquiry.

I hope that Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is committed to sorting this out:

Reacting to the revelations this morning, Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, said the blunder was “not good enough” and would be investigated. Wallace said that the prime minister “will be asking some questions” about how the documents came to be left on the ground.

Wallace gave an interview to Sky News Friday morning. Contrary to what the British public understood yesterday from Boris about the evacuation efforts continuing, they will be coming to a close shortly, possibly by the time you read this:

Tom Tugendhat chairs the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, so my expectations for the upcoming inquiry into this security breach are high:

Tugendhat spoke about the American withdrawal:

Sorry, but the withdrawal debacle is a military defeat.

I feel very sorry for British — and American — troops. They are still heroes, as Johnny Mercer, who served in Afghanistan, says:

Meanwhile, Home Secretary Priti Patel visited a refugee centre:

She is preparing the British public. We will be taking in 20,000 or 25,000 Afghan refugees over the next five years. However, the British are also concerned about the number of illegal immigrants coming in from France across the English Channel:

Nigel Farage urges caution over the refugee programme:

The Daily Mail article says that Ben Wallace was satisfied that the man on the ‘no fly’ list was not a threat. However, the Mail states that some security checks have been taking place once the military plane is in the air:

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace today insisted security checks at Kabul airport are working after it emerged a person banned from Britain under a ‘no-fly list’ was able to travel to the UK as part of the Afghanistan airlift. 

In a potential security breach, the individual was cleared to board an RAF plane before checks in mid-air revealed they were barred from coming to this country.

In a sign of the challenges facing British soldiers at the airport – who are already on high alert amid fears of terror attacks – it emerged last night that a further four people on the no-fly list tried to board mercy flights to the UK, but were stopped before the planes took off.

Mr Wallace defended the security checks, telling Sky News: ‘The watch list, or the no-fly list, pinged and the individual was identified so that is a plus side that it worked.

‘I wouldn’t be as alarmed as some of the media headlines are about this individual and I would also take some comfort from this process is working and flagging people.’

It came amid fears that more than 1,000 heroic Afghan translators, staff and their families could be left behind by the frantic evacuation operation.

Ministers have outlined plans to extract a further 6,000 UK nationals and eligible Afghans, but sources said there were 7,000 who Britain would ideally like to rescue.   

The Home Office said yesterday a ‘security assessment’ of the individual who arrived in the UK revealed they were no longer considered a threat by the security or law enforcement agencies. Sources said there would be no further action taken against the person, whose nationality is unclear.

But the development raised concerns over security relating to the airlift.

That was the state of play on August 23.

On August 26, another report emerged, this time from The Telegraph. The British public will not find this reassuring:

The Twitter thread received comments of astonishment and concern, such as these:

The men coming across the English Channel are also unlikely to have their papers, creating one terrible mess in the months and years to come.

In closing, today’s main story in the UK is that the British evacuation in Afghanistan will end this weekend:

Ben Wallace always maintained that some Afghans would be left behind. Where possible, more will be airlifted:

What a terrible ending after 20 years.

Parliament returns in early September. Both Houses will have a lot of questions for the Government.

Last week proved to be another emotive and passionate one in the House of Commons with regard to coronavirus and Brexit.

This post concerns coronavirus.

On Monday, September 14, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Rule of Six, which he announced on September 9, came into effect. It sounds rather Chinese.

It means that people living in England cannot meet in groups of greater than six, indoors or outdoors. If we do, according to him, we ‘will be breaking the law’.

He also introduced a new platoon to keep us in line: COVID marshals, to remind us of existing coronavirus rules in England — ‘hands, face, space’.

Recall that Boris said after the December 2019 election that we now have the People’s Government. Hmm.

The UK government is copying a Belgian idea. The Rule of Six reduced their second spike.

Increasingly, Britons have been looking back at Sweden, which refused to lock down. Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. Chris Whitty is our Chief Medical Officer; in May, he said that coronavirus was harmless for most people and most of us would never get it:

Michael Gove MP, a Cabinet minister and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, made matters worse when he confirmed that under-12s were part of the Rule of Six, unlike in Scotland and Wales, where under-12s are not. With life getting back to normal as school has started again, this came as a blow to many families:

The Telegraph reported that the Cabinet was split on the proposals (emphases mine):

… one senior Tory source said that “half the Cabinet” had doubts about the so-called ‘rule of six’, and it was “pretty hard to find a Conservative member of Parliament who agrees with all of this”.

The COVID marshals are also a problem for police and local councils:

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson’s plan for coronavirus marshals to help enforce the six-person rule was unraveling as police derided them as “Covid Wombles” and councils said they were a “gimmick”.

Downing Street admitted councils would not be given any money to pay for the marshals, suggesting volunteers could do the job, and said it would be up to individual local authorities to decide whether they actually wanted them.

It got worse, as curfews were mooted:

The Government has discussed going even further with new lockdown restrictions, and has drawn up “a well-developed proposal” for a nationwide curfew which was discussed at ministerial level.

My head spun.

Then the ministerial snitch crowd appeared on weekend news programmes to say that people must tell on their neighbours if they are seen to be violating the Rule of Six:

Political journalist Isabel Oakeshott rightly responded:

I couldn’t agree more. This is supposed to be the People’s Government, isn’t it?

History will not look kindly on 2020 with regard to the measures taken to combat the virus:

I was wrong.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said that people should not even talk when they see friends in the street, even at a distance (audio here, thanks to Guido Fawkes, and there’s video, too):

Yebbut, if you DO report what appears to be criminal activity, allegedly, the police do not want to know. Here is a printscreen of a set of comments on a Guido Fawkes thread. I call your attention to the last two. Police would rather pick on mums and their children. Ironically, that was posted on the anniversary of the Battle of Britain. Go figure.

A mild-mannered man from Buckingham called talkRADIO to say he would not comply with the Rule of Six because the Government had gone too far.

So did a lady from Brighton, saying that the Rule of Six was about:

control. They’re trying to see how much they can get away with.

Another talkRADIO host, Julia Hartley-Brewer, had a go at Roy Lilley, former NHS Trust chairman. She said:

We are being scared into thinking we have to give up our civil liberties when that won’t save lives. Being sensible will save lives.

The Telegraph‘s Salley Vickers wrote of the restrictions on her and her loved ones:

I would rather risk dying and have the joy of their company than lose that vital contribution to my own happiness.

With the festive season only several weeks away, the Daily Mail‘s Peter Hitchens told talkRADIO’s Mike Graham that the Rule of Six has:

made Christmas an arrestable offence.

Another Daily Mail journalist, Bel Mooney, wrote an editorial for Conservative Woman saying that she was surprised at the amount of resistance she received when she wrote that she would be defying the Rule of Six at Christmas:

in response to Matt Hancock’s sudden, arbitrary and illogical ‘rule of six’ diktat, I wrote a strong opinion piece (at the request of my newspaper) headlined ‘NO, NO, NO! I’m having Christmas for 14 – and no puffed-up Covid marshal will stop me’.

As you might expect, there was a huge response. I never look online, and am not on Twitter (I expect there was a lot of poison swilling around out there). I am talking about emails to me and the newspaper. What interested me was the fact that, if I am to be honest, the antis outnumbered the prosI didn’t expect that from Mail readers.

You can never tell with Mail readers, though. They’re a tricky lot.

Oxford University’s Professor Carl Heneghan and honorary research fellow Tom Jefferson wrote an article for The Spectator against the Rule of Six, saying that Boris must bin it:

At Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence Based Medicine, we have spent years trawling through the scientific evidence on the effects of measures such as distancing on respiratory viral spread. We are not aware of any study pointing to the number six. If it’s made up, why not five or seven?

Northern Ireland has taken a more measured approach and not announced any changes to how many people can meet. These disagreements in policy reveal how decisions are being made without evidence. It seems that somebody in government sat in a cabinet office room and said six is a good idea and nobody disagreed

The problems with policy stem from the current cabinet’s vast inexperience: the Health Secretary has been in post for just over two years now; the PM and the Chief Medical Officer a year. The Joint Biosecurity Centre is overseen by a senior spy who monitors the spread of coronavirus and suppresses new outbreaks. Add to this mix the new chair of the National Institute for Health Protection, who similarly has little or no background in healthcare. Our leaders amount to little more than a Dad’s Army of highly paid individuals with little or no experience of the job at hand.

This inexperience leads to rash decisions and arbitrary policies.

One example is that entire areas can be locked down if they have 50 cases per 100,000 people. Yet the recognised alert threshold for ‘regular’ acute respiratory infections is 400 cases per 100,000.

Lord Sumption, who has been speaking out against lockdown this year, said that the Rule of Six will be unenforceable. I hope he is right:

Tom Tugendhat (Tunbridge and Malling, Con) expressed his concerns about the new rule and rightly wanted MPs to vote on it and similar measures:

It’s unlikely that the House of Lords can help, either. They already have a full schedule. We should thank Lord Lamont for raising the issue of consulting the public, however. ‘SI’ means ‘statutory instrument’:

Monday, September 14

Behind the scenes and well outside of Parliament, an email emerged dated May 23, wherein Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance stated he had pushed the most for March’s lockdown:

Guido Fawkes has the full text of the email. I am not sure how Sir Patrick thinks that a vaccine will achieve herd immunity, though.

In the first of the debates on the Brexit-related Internal Market Bill, Charles Walker MP (Broxbourne, Con) prefaced his comments by expressing his dismay about the Rule of Six, the lack of consultation with Parliament and the fining of Jeremy Corbyn’s brother Piers at the anti-lockdown rally on Saturday, September 12.

Thank you, Charles Walker:

This is short and well worth watching:

Tuesday, September 15

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock poled up to make a statement to MPs about the Rule of Six and testing.

Excerpts follow:

There are signs that the number of cases in care homes and the number of hospitalisations is starting to rise again, so last week we acted quickly, putting in place new measures—the rule of six, which came into force yesterday. We do not do this lightly, but the cost of doing nothing is much greater.

Testing also has a vital part to play. Everyone in this House knows that we are doing more testing per head of population than almost any other major nation, and I can tell the House that we have now carried out over 20 million tests for coronavirus in this country. As we expand capacity further, we are working round the clock to make sure that everyone who needs a test can get a test. The vast majority of people who use our testing service get a test that is close to home, and the average distance travelled to a test site is now just 5.8 miles —down from 6.4 miles last week; but the whole House knows that there are operational challenges, and we are working hard to fix them.

We have seen a sharp rise in people coming forward for a test, including those who are not eligible.

Jonathan Ashworth (Leicester South, Lab/Co-op), speaking for the opposition, said:

I am grateful for advance sight of the Secretary of State’s answer. That was decent of him.

Yesterday LBC revealed that there were no tests available in covid hotspots, including Rochdale, Pendle and Bradford. Over the weekend in Bolton, where infections are the highest in the country, a mobile testing centre failed to turn up. Meanwhile, in Bury hundreds queued for five hours for a test. In Walsall, a father with his sick child travelled 76 miles to an appointment in Wales, only to find on arrival that tests had run out. Increasing numbers of teachers and pupils are not in school. In hospitals, operations are cancelled while NHS staff are stuck in limbo, waiting for tests.

The Secretary of State blames increased demand, but when tracing consistently fails to reach 80% of contacts, when less than 20% of those with symptoms self-isolate properly and there is a lack of financial security, infections rise. When schools reopen and people return to workplaces and social distancing becomes harder, infections rise. Extra demand on the system was inevitable. Why did he not use the summer to significantly expand NHS lab capacity and fix contact tracing?

Just as demand is increasing, the ability to process tests is diminishing. Post-graduate students working in the Lighthouse labs are returning to university, so why did the Secretary of State not plan for the inevitable staff shortages in the Lighthouse labs? Those commercial pillar 2 labs, The Sunday Times revealed at the weekend, have a huge backlog of 185,000 tests. Thursday’s data revealed that 65,709 test results were not returned by the end of the week. Care home residents now wait an average of 83 hours for their result. The Prime Minister promised us a 24-hour turnaround for results, so what is going on? What is the current backlog and what is the timeframe for clearing it?

We were promised a world-beating system, so why are we sending tests to Germany and Italy for processing? But, most importantly, people want to know when they will get a test and when this mess will be fixed. Today there will be thousands of ill people trying to book a test, only to be told none is available. When will people be able to book a test online again, or has the online booking system been deliberately disabled? When will ill people no longer have to travel hundreds of miles for a test that should be available on their doorstep? When will pupils and teachers out of school get access to testing, so they can get back to school? When will NHS staff have access to regular testing, so they can focus on their patients and not be sitting at home?

We are at a perilous moment. Imperial College estimates the virus is doubling every seven to eight days. We all want to avoid further restrictions or another national lockdown, but when testing and contact tracing break down, the growth of the virus cannot be tracked. The Prime Minister promised us whack-a-mole, but instead his mallet is broken. The Secretary of State is losing control of the virus; he needs to fix testing now.

Many MPs — from both Opposition and Conservative benches — said that their constituents could not get tests.

Even the Speaker of the House tweeted that his constituents were having similar problems:

The testing situation is shocking — as Terry-Thomas used to say in the Boulting Brothers films: ‘An absolute shower!’

On the upside, the British coronavirus jobs situation is improving, thank goodness (more from Guido here):

Wednesday, September 16

Deputy Labour Leader Angela Rayner (Ashton-under-Lyne) stood at the Opposition despatch box for Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), as Sir Keir Starmer was self-isolating:

She did a good job.

She began by saying:

Many people in the Chamber will think that the battle of Britain is today, but actually we marked the 80th anniversary of those veterans yesterday, and I want to put on record our thanks to all those who fought for our country in the past.

I want to start by reading to the Prime Minister a message that I have received from a man called Keir. Keir was not able to go to work today and his children could not go to school because his family had to wait for their coronavirus test results, despite the Prime Minister’s promise of results within 24 hours. Keir was able to do the right thing and self-isolate and work from home, but other people are not in this position, and many of them are the very people who were getting us through this crisis, such as the care workers, who I used to work alongside before I was elected to this House. The Prime Minister once earned £2,300 an hour; can he tell us the average hourly rate of a care worker in this country?

Boris was singularly unimpressed, although he had a neutral expression on his face, even when discussing Starmer:

I congratulate the hon. Lady on her elevation. She speaks of the constituent Keir, and I can tell her that—allegedly, apparently—he has had a negative test, and I do not know quite why he is not here. But 89% of those who have in-person tests get them the next day, and we are working very fast to turn around all the test requests that we get. I think that most people looking at the record of this country in delivering tests across the nation will see that that compares extremely well with any other European country. We have conducted more testing than any other European country, and that is why we are able to deliver tests and results in 80% of cases where we know the contacts.

The hon. Lady asks about care homes, and I can tell the House that today we are launching the winter care home action plan. She is right to raise the issue of care homes, and we are concerned about infection rates in care homes, but we will do everything we can to ensure that care homes and their workers are protected.

On the hon. Lady’s final point, I am proud that it is this Government who have instituted the national living wage to ensure that every worker in this country, including care home workers, is paid substantially more, thanks to the care and the work of the people of this country.

Boris listened attentively and responded sensitively to all the points that Angela Rayner raised until this point, which came several minutes in, when she said:

Infections are rising. The testing system is collapsing. When you are the Prime Minister, you cannot keep trying to blame other people for your own incompetence. We have the highest death toll in Europe, and we are on course for one of the worst recessions in the developed world. This winter, we are staring down the barrel of a second wave, with no plan for the looming crisis. People cannot say goodbye to their loved ones. Grandparents cannot see their grandchildren. Frontline staff cannot get the tests that they need. And what was the top priority for the covid war Cabinet this weekend? Restoring grouse shooting.

I suppose that is good news for people like the Prime Minister’s friend who paid for a luxury Christmas getaway to a Caribbean island and funded his leadership campaign, and just so happens to own two grouse moor estates. So Prime Minister, is this really your top priority?

The Prime Minister answered:

While the Labour Opposition have been consistently carping from the sidelines throughout this crisis and raising, frankly, issues that are tangential, if not scare stories about what is going on, we are getting on with delivering for the British public. We are not only massively ramping up. She has not contested any of my statistics today about the extent to which this country is now testing more than any other European country.

She has not disputed the massive acceleration in our programme. [Interruption.] I will answer the substance of her question, thank you very much. We are getting on with delivering on the priorities of the British people: getting us through this covid crisis; delivering on making our country safer, bringing forward measures to stop the early release of dangerous sexual and violent offenders, which I hope she will support; strengthening our Union, which in principle Opposition Front Benchers should support; and building more homes across this country and more affordable homes across this country, which she should support. That is in addition to recruiting more doctors and more nurses, and building more hospitals.

I do not think anybody is in any doubt that this Government are facing some of the most difficult dilemmas that any modern Government have had to face, but every day we are helping to solve them, thanks to the massive common sense of the British people, who are getting on with delivering our programme and our fight against coronavirus. It is with the common sense of the British people that we will succeed, and build back better and stronger than ever before.

If only.

That day, news of an upcoming curfew in London emerged.

Apparently, the British people don’t have much common sense, after all.

Currently, London has some of the fewest new coronavirus cases (i.e. positive tests, little hospitalisation):

Guido rightly wrote (emphases in the original here):

If this afternoon’s splash from the Evening Standard is true, it is a step too far. The London director of Public Health England (yes, the organisation is still limping on for now, despite the Health Secretary announcing its abolition back in August) has issued a “curfew alert” to the capital through the newspaper, saying residents could face a mandatory curfew if Covid cases continue to rise. A ridiculous suggestion that should be forcefully opposed.

Shutting pubs, bars, restaurants, and just about everything else at an arbitrary hour will obviously do nothing to stop the spread of coronavirus. If anything, the move will be counter-productive – compressing the same number of customers into a shorter time and making social distancing harder still. Or pushing social gatherings into homes not bars, which are thought to be more likely to spread the virus. This no doubt ineffective PHE [Public Health England] nannying should have been dumped when the organisation was. The government need to remember there is a limit to people’s compliance. This might just hit it.

As I write early on Tuesday, September 22, Boris is planning to bring in an England-wide curfew for pubs and restaurants on Thursday. As if the virus will know the difference between a 10 p.m. closing time versus the usual one of 11 p.m. The mind boggles.

Thursday, September 17

Matt Hancock appeared again with another update on coronavirus.

This time, it was about measures taken on lockdown in the North East of England. This includes strict adherence to household bubbles, table service only in hospitality venues and a curfew between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.:

Once again, he was straining every sinew, an expression he has been using since March:

The battle against coronavirus is not over, and while we strain every sinew to spring free of its clutches, with winter on the horizon we must prepare, bolster our defences and come together once again against this common foe.

Then he announced upcoming plans to make everyone using A&E (Accident and Emergency) departments to make a booking! Good grief:

… we are working to get patients the right care in the right place, by expanding the role of NHS 111. During the peak of this pandemic, we saw millions of people using NHS 111, on the phone or online, to get the best possible advice on coronavirus, helping them to stay safe and, where possible, to stay out of hospital, where they could have unknowingly spread the virus. It is crucial that, ahead of winter, we use this window of opportunity to seek out what worked and build on it, so we provide a better service for patients and protect the NHS. Of course, no one will ever be turned away from our emergency departments in the most serious of cases; however, we have worked with the royal colleges, the NHS and others to develop a better, quicker and more clinically appropriate service for patients by using NHS 111 first.

This is how it works. We will invest £24 million to increase call-handling capacity and to make sure there are more clinicians on hand to provide expert advice and guidance, and we will build on our trials to make NHS 111 a gateway to the emergency care system, providing a first port of call for patients. In future, rather than having to queue in an emergency ward, we are testing that people should call NHS 111 first to book an appointment with whoever can give them the most appropriate care, whether it is a GP, a specialist consultant, a pharmacist, a nurse or community services. Of course if they need to go to the emergency department, NHS 111 will be able to book them into an appropriate time slot. We want to see this approach lead to shorter waiting times and better availability of appointments for patients. We will consult on how its performance is best measured, and, with successful pilots, we will roll out NHS 111 First to all trusts from December.

This is the bit that galled me the most:

The purpose of 111 First is to improve access, including in terms of inequalities in the NHS, by ensuring that people get the right treatment in the right place and easier access if they do need to go to an emergency department, because the emergency department will know that they are coming. It is commonplace now in almost every part of our life to let people know that we are coming. If we are going to do something as important as visit an emergency department, it will help both the patient seeking treatment and the NHS to let them know that they are coming first. That is the principle behind 111 First. It sits alongside 999, which anybody should call in a serious incident.

‘People’s government’, my eye.

Nor is the NHS the people’s health service.

If you have a serious injury, you or your loved ones could be losing life- or limb-saving time by calling 111 or 999.

Based on what I read during the March lockdown, calling 111 was life-threatening. Children calling on behalf of elderly parents were told, ‘If your relative is not turning blue, do the best you can.’

Calling the ambulance service on 999 generally produced this result: ‘We’re overloaded. If you can take your relative to hospital yourself, please do so.’

Over the past few months, I have heard NHS senior executives give testimony to Select Committees. They do not want patients coming in to a hospital, to a GP surgery — anywhere on NHS property.

An absolute shower!

Speaking of absolute showers, Baroness Harding — Dido Harding, a former jockey and failed business consultant/corporate director — gave testimony to a Select Committee, the Commons Science and Technology Committee, led by Greg Clark MP (Tunbridge Wells, Con).

Wow. It was car-crash television on BBC Parliament.

Baroness Harding is, inexplicably, the director of NHS Test and Trace programme.

Greg Clark is no slouch. He pressed and pressed the same question. Did she not anticipate the increase of demand for tests after lockdown lifted?

Finally, she gave the answer.

The Independent reported:

Demand for coronavirus tests is three to four times the number available, the director of NHS test and trace has admitted.

Baroness Dido Harding, who told MPs there was capacity to carry out 242,817 tests a day, said the “sizeable” rise in demand had been unexpected.

Boris Johnson has pledged to raise capacity to 500,000 by next month – but Baroness Harding’s estimates suggest that even that figure would not be enough to satisfy demand.

Even then:

despite images of queues outside Covid-19 drive-in centres, the testing tsar said: “I strongly refute that the system is failing.”

She put the blame on SAGE …

Baroness Harding insisted current capacity had been based on modelling provided by the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) and suggested that around a quarter of those seeking tests did not have symptoms.

… and the testing laboratories:

Quizzed by the committee chair and former Tory minister Greg Clark on the current issues in the system, she said that the “constraint” in the testing was in processing and laboratories.

On Friday, Sir Jeremy Farrar, a SAGE member and director of the Wellcome Trust, hit back.

The Telegraph reported:

Sir Jeremy Farrar, the director of the Wellcome Trust, who sits on the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said the body had given “clear advice” that a fully functioning test, track and trace system should be in place

Responding to her comments on social media, Sir Jeremy said he had personally warned that a growing testing crisis was looming.

“Interesting to be blaming Sage,” he wrote on Twitter. “Has been clear, and in the advice, that the UK faced an inevitable increase in community transmission and cases after the summer and needed a fully functional and trusted test, track and trace in place.”

Sir Jeremy posted his comments from a BBC interview with Andrew Marr in June, in which he warned of a “nasty rebound” if steps were not taken to improve testing. He also re-posted an article from May in which he warned that lifting restrictions was difficult even with a fully working testing programme in operation.

The testing crisis deepened on Friday when it emerged that children at four out of five schools are staying at home because they cannot get a test

This coronavirus business will only get worse. Watch and wait.

Part 2 concerns the Brexit-related Internal Market Bill.

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