Put yourself in the position, if you will, of a political columnist who writes a weekly diary, dutifully recording the daily events as he goes, polishing his prose. Then an event takes place during lunch at about the pudding stage which makes everything which has happened before the spotted dick irrelevant. One thing can be said about this week with near certainty. Pecksniff will rarely have to write about Liz Truss again.
So what happens now she has gone, another victim of Big Tofu? Amid the chaos, what way out seems most likely? First, we have to beware the new Tory scheme for electing a leader. They have invented a wholly new electoral system in half an hour and written on the back of a fag packet, squeezed into one week, which includes sensitive online voting for septuagenarians. What could possibly go wrong? There is a real possibility of its collapsing in further chaos. At that point, the likelihood of any Tory being appointed the new prime minister is, as our Scottish chums would say, “doon the cludgie”. It’s likely a majority of Tory MPs would realize the game is up and we need a general election.
But if a winner emerges, it will be somebody about whose plans we know nothing since the hustings will be held behind closed doors. Voters are to be told zilch about what is being planned in their name. But to have this farce continue till January 2025 would be such an affront to democracy, any victor would emerge so badly damaged that he or she could not walk into No.10 without proposing a truce: an election within a few months.
No doubt Liz Truss has received many messages about her resignation, and no doubt many have failed to wish her the best of luck for the future. However, one in particular is noteworthy. It is from Dmitry Medvedev, former prime minister and president of Russia, now still a major player in Putin’s coterie. He says: “Bye, bye, @trussliz, congrats to lettuce”.
The Conservative Party’s woes were illustrated last week, when EAB published an exclusive exposé of attitudes towards Liz Truss by members of her own local Tory party. They were not complimentary. They even spoke of what sounded like intimidation of some kind, principally by Tory central office. There does seem to be a terminal malaise in the party now, with each faction prepared to destroy the other even if it means the collapse of the government.
Readers can imagine what it must have taken to persuade several long-standing Tory members to come forward to EAB and speak their minds at last. Loyalty has always been seen as the party’s secret weapon, not to be scoffed at and perhaps a lesson for Labour. But that unity has gone – like so much, trashed by the ruthless delusions of a group of carpetbaggers who seem on the brink of destroying what is the world’s oldest political party.
More opinion polls this week giving staggering Labour leads. One actually suggests, in raw data, that the Tories would lose 364 of their 365 seats – leaving them with one. In another, even that one is lost: no Tories anywhere.
As with all polls, the usual conditions apply. But please don’t be too dismissive. Every poll shows a Labour lead of 20 points or more, so this isn’t polling error. Which means there are two questions to ask… What are the chances of the government falling during the next few months? If it does, then the deluge awaits them. If not, what are the chances of the Tories making up that extraordinary gap in the two years left to them, with all the horrors of a new austerity, mortgage chaos and electricity black-outs awaiting?
Even if we choose to follow one of the more moderate claims, it is possible the Tories would lose almost every seat in East Anglia, with only a Liberal Democrat win in North Norfolk in what would otherwise be a sea of red.
At last it was happening – a demonstration against Liz Truss and her government in her own backyard. The demo is or was being organized by supporters of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kings Lynn, which serves the Truss constituency of South West Norfolk. This is the hospital whose roof is being held up by 3,000 props. It will take or would have taken place at 10am on Saturday 5 November, at the Tory constituency offices at 23 London Street, Swaffham.
Will it still take place? Ms Truss will certainly hope not. Contrary to the blather in the national media, the word on the streets is the real reason La Truss decided to leave the stage was an unwillingness to face the wrath of NHS patients in her own backyard.
Let us return to what is left of government, to see what the children are up to now. Dr Dan Poulter (Central Suffolk), breaking free of his shackles as the parliamentary party crumbles, slams his near neighbour Therese Coffey (Suffolk Coastal) as health secretary (for the moment), for her “ultra-libertarian ideological” reluctance to introduce measures to crack down on smoking and obesity. In The Guardian he attacks her “hostility to what the extreme right call ‘nanny statism’” for her hands-off attitude to public health, and in particular her reluctance to move against the “major killers” of tobacco and bad diet.
He is to be congratulated on his initiative. We now await his damnation of his colleague for her apparent determination to run down the NHS further when millions are already awaiting treatment, with queues growing ever longer.
In fact Dan Poulter finds himself in the unhappy position of being Billy No-Mates in his part of the world. He and Therese Coffey on the border aren’t speaking; as a One Nation Tory he has nothing in common with the belligerently xenophobicand anti-immigrant Tom Hunt (Ipswich) to his south. Then there is James Cartlidge (South Suffolk), with his frothing-at-the-mouth shared enthusiasm with Dr Coffey for running down the NHS. Next comes No-Show Jo Churchill (Bury St Edmunds), who may share some of Dr Poulter’s views but would always be too timid to say so, and the egomaniac Matt Hancock (West Suffolk), whose obsession with buffing up his biceps and wondering whether his bum looks big in black is not quite the fastidious Dr Poulter’s cup of tea.
That only leaves the tweedy Richard Bacon (South Norfolk) with his pretensions to being a country gentleman – an unlikely pairing. Still, there is always his mum for when he needs a chat – he employs her as his senior researcher.
Therese Coffey features elsewhere at EAB at the moment, over her alarming prescription for accessing drug shortages when you can’t see your GP: just share round whatever you’ve got in the medicines cabinet. But this week of course she also made the headlines in another role: as chief Tory bouncer as Liz Truss and her government struggled to pass the fracking vote.
Those not given to supporting Dr Coffey have often had rude things to say about her and her appearance. It is often described as “body shaming”, but if somebody not only looks like a bouncer but also behaves like a bouncer, it seems reasonable to point that out.
If further proof were needed that Tory MPs occupy a place in the space time continuum beyond any reality recognized by the public, we have it in a tweet from James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend East). Mr Duddridge was eager to be in early at the traditional parliamentary lickspittle events attending any mention of Boris Johnson. Hardly had the lectern been dragged back into No.10 than he was sucking up to Fatty. (Incidentally it is interesting that the charge of “body shaming” is never brought against those who attack Mr Johnson.)
“I hope you enjoyed your holiday boss,” he slathered on Twitter. “Time to come back. Few issues at the office that need addressing. #bringbackboris”.
Imagine, if you can bear it, with what motivation the oleaginous Mr Duddridge must have written those words.
Ian Dunt is a hack not given to mincing his words. This week he spoke of “this blithering micro-brained buffoon”. To whom was he referring? Step forward Paul Bristow (Peterborough), whose seat would go to Labour not in a political storm but in just a light drizzle. He knows his time is up. It is hardly surprising then that he prefers to ignore the electoral horrors which might await him, but instead, like James Duddridge and others in his party, he is …
Like one, that on a lonesome road doth walk in fear and dread
And, having once turned round, walks on and turns no more his head
Because he knows a frightful fiend doth close behind him tread
Of a dramatically different view is John Baron (Basildon and Billericay), who says he would find it impossible to serve under Boris Johnson and would consider sitting as an independent. He claims many of his colleagues feel the same way. He is right. For every MP who supports Mr Johnson, two would rather resign.
My colleague Stephen McNair has already written (“F***ing chaos”) about the events during the Commons vote on the fracking debate. But it is worthwhile drawing attention to the major part played in the drama by Charles Walker (Broxborne) in his BBC interview about the evening’s events.
Ironically, if the polls are true and the Tories are almost wiped out, Mr Walker’s may be one of the few seats they may retain. But Mr Walker will not be sitting in it – he is due to retire at the next general election.
The time may soon come when there is no longer reason to write about Nadine Dorries (Mid Beds). The seemingly interminable matter of whether Boris Johnson has managed to wangle her a peerage may at last be drawing to a close. There was the small matter of a charge of misleading the House to get past first.
The Commons culture committee has just reported, and it’s not looking good for Nads. She had made accusations about a Channel 4 programme in which she claimed apparently poverty-stricken people featured were in fact actors, and therefore not real people at all.
“We do not find either the original claims or the clarifications to be credible,” the report says. “We are concerned Ms Dorries appears to have taken the opportunity, under the protection of privilege, to traduce the reputation of Channel 4.”
The committee is a quasi-judicial body with serious powers about being lied to. But it’s almost as though all that evidence she gave about meetings with people who claimed to be actors, was actually entirely made up.
Anna Firth (Southend West) is a member of the Conservative Environment Network. On Wednesday she voted in favour of fracking.
Some time ago George Freeman removed any mention from his Twitter account that he is in fact the MP for Mid Norfolk, causing some aggrieved comments from constituents who saw this as confirmation that he had long since forgotten about them. He was proud however of being a government minister.
He has since been sacked, but he is still happy to include on his biography that he was once a minister. So even being an ex-minister seems more important than representing his constituency. Perhaps the state of the polls might explain it. As things stand, Mr Freeman may well lose his seat at the next election, and he is keen to put his CV before any potential employers. As the date draws near, don’t be surprised if Mr Freeman announces he is to step down and pursue a career in commerce.
And finally, a street photograph taken in Ely.