Last week we conjectured on the quality of some of Boris Johnson’s new government appointments after the chaos of his presumed resignation. They didn’t look up to snuff. And it turns out that our opinion was shared in an unexpected quarter: Boris Johnson. According to a view angrily held among some senior Tories, that’s the reason he chose them. He wanted to sabotage his successor’s government by landing him with a bunch of incompetents. So, we have a British prime minister who is actually conniving at this country’s failure.
Among those in the spotlight as hopeless and self-engrossed patsies who seriously thought their recognition meant they were worthy of higher things were Shailesh Vara (North West Cambridgeshire) promoted to Northern Ireland secretary, James Cleverly (Braintree) now education secretary, Steve Barclay (North East Cambridgeshire) who – god help us all – is in charge of health, and beaming Will Quince (Colchester), whose principled resignation on the grounds of Johnson being a liar you will recall was swiftly followed a few hours later by acceptance of another (more lucrative) post from the same man.
Shailesh Vara was the first out of the traps to show how well Johnson’s plot to undermine the country is working out. In his first TV interview, he didn’t know that his new charge, Northern Ireland, isn’t actually part of Great Britain. His much-vaunted new blue British passport might have given him a clue. On the cover it declares it is issued for “Great Britain and Northern Ireland”.
NHS managers reacted to Steve Barclay’s appointment as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care by describing the former junior health minister as “a real nightmare, vindictive, arrogant, a bully, hostile to the NHS and all its works, a micro-manager of the wrong things, views NHS management as bloated and profligate.”
He has already made clear his approach to being in charge of the NHS, only days after his appointment, by failing to turn up to health questions in the Commons. It has always been seen by the House as a grave breach of manners.
But then once again Priti Patel (Witham) has failed to give evidence to the Home Affairs select committee, just as she refuses to meet anybody who might be critical of her performance. You will recall that she even refused to answer questions from Yvette Cooper during the weekly home affairs questions in the House. Presumably she spends her time in the Home Office hiding under the desk.
This is not exactly the behaviour of a national leader, and the prospect of actually being questioned may be what persuaded her not to stand in the leadership contest.
Just as the Tory leadership fracas began, YouGov asked the public which of the candidates at this early stage they prefer.
So how did the voters see our regional hopefuls? It was perhaps not surprising that 58% of those asked answered “none of the above” or “don’t know”. Rishi Sunak held a clear lead, but with only 13%. In our region, of our own cheeky rascals, after all the effort Liz Truss (South West Norfolk) has put in she only has 3% public support. Priti Patel has 2% and that man for all seasons, Steve Barclay scored a big round 0%.
Liz Truss made a mess of her leadership campaign right at the beginning, as you would expect. She has had months or even years to get her launch video right, yet as soon as it was out there it was in trouble. Apparently, some of the footage was filmed by civil servants, who can’t be involved in any way in party politics.
Once we start on Liz Truss it’s always difficult to stop. She was late setting up her campaign website ready for Johnson’s overthrow, and ironically it was registered to coincide almost to the day with her public statement on Twitter that: “The Prime Minister has my 100% backing in today’s vote and I strongly encourage colleagues to support him.”
But for any of Johnson’s team who might have doubted the sincerity of that support, the title of her Twitter site that carried the message may have given a clue. It’s called ‘Liz for Leader’.
There were two incidents of acute embarrassment at the Liz Truss campaign launch. The first was when she announced we can trust her to “help squeeze families”, unfortunately missing an important ‘d’ off that last word.
The second was when she left the stage and instead of finding the exit she almost walked into a cupboard. Pecksniff has joked before about politicians so dim they can’t get through a door at the first attempt, and here was literal evidence.
But talk of Liz Truss may thankfully soon be over. Her leadership campaign has been lacklustre and full of elementary errors. She may well leave the contest a failure, unless Kemi Badenoch (Saffron Walden) is persuaded to hand over her votes. She has won few brownie points to suggest to the victor that he or she should offer her a senior position. The alternative would be going back to South West Norfolk and the ‘turnip taliban’ – her words – her loyal Tory voters. But she came into politics for excitement and glamour, and she may find little of either of her choice at the Swaffham Assembly Rooms.
So if she doesn’t make the final two, it’s quite likely she won’t be offered another senior post. In that eventuality it’s likely she would be off, trading in whatever kudos she has gained as our hapless foreign secretary to find a job in the private sector where she doesn’t have to pretend to care about the public. This could be the end of a political career that promised little, teetered to great heights with no visible means of support, then crumpled into embarrassment and the hilarity of her political enemies.
Kemi Badenoch has been a surprise in the leadership contest, and as this diary is being written is still in the fight. It seems the Tories like strident women, since she is another. But the tag-line for her campaign is apparently “The truth will set you free”, which sounds alarmingly like “Work will set you free”. You will recall that was the notice above the gates to Auschwitz.
It seems Tom Hunt (Ipswich) wants us all to know that he is backing Kemi Badenoch to be our next prime minister.
He is doing so, his tweet tells us, because she excites him, and he attaches a picture of himself apparently at the wheel. That may well be excitement on his face, but to this observer he looks rather more like a man who has suddenly realised he may not be in full control of his bowels.
Presumably he has just heard the news about Jack Abbott being his Labour adversary at the next election.
George Freeman (Mid Norfolk), who resigned from the government in such a display of principle, has asked please can he have his old job back…