According to pollsters Redfield and Wilton, Labour lead the Tories by 2% in the Blue Wall seats which, though perhaps remarkable, is down from 10% six months ago. The Tory vote is flatlining, down by one point in the same period. But sneaking up are the Liberal Democrats, just five points behind the Tories.
But the most salient point to draw seems to be that, whatever Rishi Sunak does, he can’t shift public opinion in what ought to be his base. They are simply not convinced. That is what will most worry Tory HQ.
This is your regular reminder that Keir Starmer is an honest man and a man of integrity; but also an idiot and a spineless idiot at that. On Thursday this week he told us: “There’s no case for going back to the EU, no case for going into the single market or customs union and no freedom of movement. I’ve been really clear that that’s the parameter.”
One has to wonder what political parties are for. None seem able to represent anybody any more.
This week we feature the resignation from the Conservative Party of a rather obscure local politician, though it is always possible he does not see himself in those terms.
What prompts his inclusion here is the news that Tory moderates – Hello? Is anybody there? – have decided at last to fight back against extremists in their party. Because Suffolk Councillor Stephen Britt – for it is he – is an excellent example of what they are up against.
He has left the party because of the party’s “abandonment of its core values” and apparently just, when it turns out, the country is gagging for them. He claims: “At the most basic level, nothing works properly anymore.” Well, we would all be with him so far…
But he goes on: “The one legitimate spending role of the state is to create the conditions which promote economic growth.” So, does this include health, education and so on? It doesn’t look like it; but if so only in order to make more efficient workers. Now, every opinion poll may show the public actually takes exactly the opposite view, but Cllr Britt is out there, wild eyed and dribbling and marching to glory.
This happens in the same week that the Rishi Must Go letters pile up in the in-tray of the chair of the 1922 Committee, and we are reliably informed by the sycophant-in-chief Lord Peter Cruddas that ‘Bring Back Boris’ was the top trending hashtag.
So, at a time when Tory moderates will try to wrest their party from the hands of the headbangers, there are plenty who feel the party has been betrayed by those who have not gone far enough.
The supposed leader of the Tory moderates is Damian Green, though bear in mind that – when we talk of Tory moderation – he was after all deputy prime minister to Theresa May. But leader of the Tory moderates is a sad and rather embarrassing position to hold, with echoes of past grandeur but hardly enough supporters to fill a public toilet. The title has echoes of being the deposed king of one of the minor Balkan fastnesses. And like any such figure, no doubt Mr Green will plot his mad campaigns to resurrect their former glory on his kitchen table.
In the general hoo-ha over crumbling concrete in schools and other public buildings, it is sometimes overlooked that last May an amendment in the Commons would have required the government to publish the findings of the report into the problem. But the amendment was lost, with Tory MPs voting with the government whip. So 41 MPs from the east region all voted, in effect, to cover up the scandal of dangerous concrete. It is true that the government had plans to publish later in the year, though the record of the government publishing unhelpful reports on time is hardly reassuring.
The 41 comprised almost all Tory MPs in our region and is too long to publish here. However, let us give a little space to those shy and retiring MPs who hardly ever get a mention in this diary and, it seems remain wholly anonymous. Those shy Tory mice include Gagan Mohindra (SW Herts – me neither), Andrew Selous (SW Beds), Julie Marson (Hertford and Stortford), Rebecca Harris (Castle Point) and Alex Burghart (Brentwood and Ongar).
Regular readers will not need reminding of the plight of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kings Lynn, whose roof is presently held up by several thousand props, and which has been assiduously ignored by health secretary Steve Barclay (NE Cambs) ever since he came into post. But now we learn that three years ago, when Rishi Sunak was chancellor, it was Mr Sunak himself who blocked plans to rebuild it. His chief secretary to the Treasury at that time was none other than Steve Barclay.
The Queen Elizabeth was one of five hospitals whose condition is described as at “catastrophic” risk, with warnings that an incident is “likely”. One other is also in this region: Hinchingbrooke at Huntingdon.
This week NHS England issued instructions to all health trusts to familiarise themselves with an evacuation plan drawn up by the NHS in this region, on what to do if buildings begin to crumble.
Messrs Sunak and Barclay still refuse to act.
News comes this week of the likelihood that ministers and the Environment Agency may have broken the law in allowing raw sewage to be dumped in our rivers. This may not come as a surprise to the millions who have been shouting the same thing for the past couple of years, but no doubt it will come as a shock to the environment secretary, Thérèse Coffey (Suffolk Coastal), who until now has been trying to convince us that the despoilation is all down to coastal waders moving their bowels promiscuously at every falling tide.
We have looked previously at the forthcoming Mid Beds by election and how Labour and the LibDems are vying ruthlessly to be seen as having momentum, so as to influence tactical voters. Last week Pecksniff remarked that “in the matter of telling whoppers, the LibDems probably take the biscuit”. And so it is proving. Their attempts to smear the Labour candidate – which this diary is not going to spell out in detail – go beyond unscrupulous, to make one wonder if there is any depth to which the party wouldn’t stoop.
Those tactical voters whom the LibDems are so assiduously and dishonestly courting would do well to ask themselves whether they really want, after their years of Nadine Dorries, to vote in a party which makes no secret of its lack of principle.
Meanwhile, the Tory candidate is hardly less unscrupulous in his attempts to mislead the voters. He is another who tries to make readers of his literature believe he’s really the Green candidate and not a Tory at all.
Andrew Rosindell is the MP for Romford, and is presently suspended from the Commons while he is on police bail, after being arrested in May 2022 on suspicion of indecent assault and abuse of a position of trust. He denies any wrongdoing. About that we must say no more.
But Mr Rosindell has set up a new project, to pursue his usual interests of taunting anyone with more sensibilities than a mollusc. He is supposedly launching something called ‘Woke Watch’ and wants to make Romford a ‘woke-free zone’. Now this diarist isn’t fond of the word, not least because its present usage is new and wildly mis-used. But according to the Oxford Dictionary it means ‘being aware or well-informed’. So Mr Rosindell wants Romford to remain unaware and ill-informed. Hardly surprising, one supposes, since that’s what got him elected.
“What this Bill is doing is asking taxpayers to subsidise the housebuilders … one of the worst pieces of legislation I have ever seen … I am voting for the principle of the polluter pays, for facts and for knowledge. I am NOT voting for ignorance and disregard of the facts.”
These are the words of Tory peer Lord Deben, speaking on the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. Lord Deben is the former MP John Gummer, who ironically represented Suffolk Coastal, the seat of the present environment secretary Thérèse Coffey.
Baroness Jennie Jones spoke immediately after him in a similar vein: “We were told … that there would be no lowering of environmental standards in post-Brexit legislation. That clearly has happened … Even I would not have predicted that the government could choose such an act of environmental vandalism…
“The developers will be allowed to pollute and the taxpayers will be expected to cover the cost of the clean-up…. Donations [from housing developers] account for about a fifth of Conservative party funding. I am not sorry to get in the way of such systemic corruption.”
But in spite of what was described as a brilliant speech by their fellow Conservative Lord Deben, only three other Tory peers joined him in voting against it.
There seems to be a row brewing over the Conservative candidate in the new constituency of Harpenden and Berkhamsted, who is a national journalist and former spokesperson for the EU in Brussels. He is Nigel Gardner, and the dissent has been caused by his political past. Mr Gardner has stood three or four times in elections both for Westminster and Brussels, for Labour. Now there is no reason why a leopard can’t change his spots. But the curiosity about this is it’s not clear that the Tory selection panel knew. He doesn’t mention it in his CV – hardly something one would forget, surely – nor at his selection interview, and according to one account nobody on the panel asked him about it.
His old Labour stamping ground is also on our patch, Suffolk Coastal.
Lord Peter Cruddas isn’t happy.
The region’s brexitometers are still at work, recording the nation’s anger and frustrations at the mess Brexit has left us with. This week Suffolk for Europe visited Lowestoft, something of a kamikaze canvass given that the town was one of the pro-Brexit hot spots. But no more. As usual, the chart describes clearly the way that sentiment has swung back to Europe, and the realisation of what a mistake Brexit was.
But one has to ask: having established that the region has now swung dramatically towards support for the EU, what next? It seems to this writer that, with the public receptive, now might be the time for activists to explain what it was the EU ever did for us. It might possibly be the first time anybody has ever bothered. For any reader not already au fait, the possible ways back to the EU are the subject of our highly successful series Our Place in Europe, published every Friday.
We return to Norfolk County Council for their latest example of arrogance. It seems two road schemes costing £32 million are in trouble; and the council’s immediate response is to disband the committee responsible and instead discuss the problems in secret, behind closed doors. The projects include the Heartsease roundabout and the St Stephens Street facelift.
Your diarist put this to the wise men at the Muckrakers and asked what possible reasons the council could have. It took another round before they reached a conclusion: it must be one of only three reasons. Corruption, incompetence, or illicit sex. So unless you can come up with another, dear reader, one of those three it must be, and we asked the council which it is.
They were not helpful. They first sent us a lengthy quote from Councillor Graham Plant, the council’s member for highways, infrastructure and transport. It didn’t address why the meetings must be held in secret. (Or the illicit sex or the other stuff.) In fact it didn’t say much at all except there had been delays. A second reply seemed to think the first had gone too far, but complained people didn’t turn up to meetings, and implied that if they did there were disagreements, which is sort of what’s expected to happen in a democracy when there is more than one point of view. But not, apparently, at Norfolk County Council.