Last week Pecksniff mused on how it could be that the career of South West Norfolk’s Liz Truss has taken her this far. The events of the past week have offered no more clues, and the sages gathered at the Muckrakers Arms of an early evening can offer no greater insight. The fond hopes expressed here that this might be the end of any serious hopes she held have been dashed; her career still “teeters to great heights with no visible means of support”. Except perhaps that support is a little more visible: the ERG were whipped to support her when it looked as though Mordaunt would pip her for the second spot.
But Truss will be Truss, my dears, and it seems this diary must continue to carry her almost daily gaffs. This week La Truss could not deny us. On the big stage at last, minutes after confirming she would be in the final two candidates, she tweeted to her supporters. It will not astound regular observers of that lady’s record to learn that she got it wrong.
The omission of an important word undermined the message sufficiently for it to become an immediate laughingstock, and it was deleted soon after. To no avail, of course. Many were the screenshots made in those few minutes. The tweet read: “I’m ready to hit the ground from day one.”
Laugh or cry, dear reader, this woman is favourite to become prime minister. Bolstered by several pints of Old Unprintable, Pecksniff pondered on how her behaviour seems to ring a bell. Let’s see… A supposedly important public figure but actually a walking catastrophe, with no self-awareness and the ability to turn the best laid strategies into the subject of hilarity in satire shows across the globe. Surrounded by embarrassed officials who never anticipate the next faux pas, the next slip of the tongue.
Now who does that remind you of…? Imagine for a moment that Inspector Clouseau gave up policing and was elected to parliament…
One of the first Liz Truss announcements was of course to pay homage to Boris Johnson, whilst at the same time trashing his economic policies – the very policies she so enthusiastically backed. (This was of course before the ERG instructed her on theirs.)
She revealed that she would really have liked him to continue as leader. This does not perhaps fully explain how it was that for the past few months Ms Truss has used a Twitter account called ‘Liz for Leader’, but it does so reassure the members. Appearing on TV talking to a group of children who candidly explained how much they hate Boris Johnson, however, she did not obviously rush to his defence. She let her sickly smug grin do the talking.
Liz Truss was already the hot favourite to beat Rishi Sunak as the final membership vote opens, and before many of his tales of the egalitarian Rishi who always paid his taxes began to unravel. This is the last thing he needs. Somebody – Mr Sunak himself perhaps, through one of his creatures – needs to come up with some particularly sticky scandal about her which will shock the members. What could it be? The briefest glimpse into the lady’s past might give a clue as to quite where her skeletons might be buried, and there are already several wholly unsubstantiated rumours. Pecksniff begs readers not to trawl through Google to learn more.
Journalists leaving the committee room where the final hustings result in the Tory leadership election was announced report one leading Tory MP saying tersely: “We’ve just lost the next election”.
He has a point. One of the characteristics of most Tories is their complete inability to imagine how anybody else could see the world through different eyes from their own. So whatever the members’ feelings for Ms Truss, as Pecksniff reported last week, she enjoys only 3% of public support.
And a poll published the day after the MPs’ vote was announced suggests that, following this outcome, the Tory vote has fallen from 45% at the 2019 general election to 25%.
One of the last of the MP contestants in the Tory leadership elections was Kemi Badenoch (Saffron Walden). Britain First is an openly fascist party which makes no bones about the fact that its members have infiltrated the Tories as members. The party, this fascist party, instructed those infiltrators to vote for Badenoch.
Tom Hunt (Ipswich) told the world how excited he was at the prospect of having Badenoch as prime minister and was part of her campaign.
Recently, Pecksniff reported that George Freeman, MP for Mid Norfolk, had deleted any reference to his constituency from the brief bio on his Twitter account, speaking only of his ministerial duties – at least as they were before he resigned, then asked for his job back. (Is he still there? Does anybody know?)
There is no point in trying to ask Mr Freeman, who is going the way of so many Tory MPs and councillors in trying to sever any connection with the actual voters. His Twitter account no longer permits interaction: he has removed the right to reply. We are permitted to hear his words, but not to question him nor express our own views.
Mr Freeman supported Penny Mordaunt for leader. She was heavily criticised for being unable to explain how she would fund her huge tax cuts. So Mr Freeman had a go. It seems that the ten quid you’d save on filling up with petrol would so burn a hole in your pocket you would immediately rush out to the nearest pub and blow the lot – thus expanding the economy.
No doubt Mr Freeman believes every word he says. After all he is (or was: who knows?) a government minister. But note in the video clip his incessant blinking. This is said to occur to those under severe stress, or to block out a conversation they fervently wish they weren’t having.
Two Norfolk MPs have been named as having made false statements and failed to correct them, as theoretically required to do. (Surely not! I hear you cry.) But wait. The claims come from a group of independent journalists called FullFact.
In January, Jerome Mayhew (Broadland) declared in a Commons debate that: “There is now more employment in this country than in pre-pandemic times — over 400,000 more jobs — and we should celebrate that”. This was untrue: those employed have dropped by more than half a million. An easy mistake to make, obviously. But the rules of the Commons require any false statement to be corrected at the earliest opportunity.
The Eastern Daily Press put it to Mr Mayhew that he hadn’t done so. He told them: “They were right, and I acknowledged my error to them, but did not think that this in itself warranted a formal correction of the record.”
He failed to explain why he thought it unnecessary, or why the Commons rules apparently did not apply to him, and also declined to say whether he would put right the untruth in future.
Meanwhile, in May Brandon Lewis (Great Yarmouth) made a similar statement, telling Sky News that “We’re seeing more people in work, even than we saw before Covid.” He too has yet to correct the statement, even though he wrote in The Times this week that “trust in our politics is at rock bottom”.
Readers will recall there is a word for people who knowingly tell untruths and refuse to correct them, but for the sake of delicacy and the possible intrusion of libel writs, the editor will not permit Pecksniff to use it.
Norwich North is a Tory marginal, held by Chloe Smith, and without an act of god is expected confidently to turn Labour at the next election. Or was. But we had reckoned without the Labour Party.
Fratricide is so much more compelling than fighting the Tories – or in this case sororicide. The comrades are getting round to choosing a prospective candidate, albeit about two years too late to be effective. Norwich city councillor Karen Davis, who lost to Ms Smith in 2019, announces her intention to try again. She is followed by Alice Macdonald, daughter of a former prominent local Labour figure, educated locally and a councillor in Southwark.
But this has infuriated Emma Corlett, deputy leader of the Labour group on Norfolk County Council. (Are you keeping up? You may need a pencil and paper handy.) Ms Corlett publicly accuses Ms Macdonald of that worst of all sins, not being local, as well as pinching photos from the Davis campaign. “Shameless,” she claims.
The reason Pecksniff dedicates four whole paragraphs to this is that it’s easy to see it may run and run, getting bloodier by the week. And we only have two potential candidates showing their hand at the moment.
This week, when Britain had its two hottest days ever and every scientist and meteorologist warns that the earth is burning up, Norfolk County Council had before them a motion addressing just this issue. But the Tory group voted it down, refusing to accept there is a climate emergency.
There is a great deal of unfinished business involving East Cambridgeshire Council and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, much of it apparently referring back to when James Palmer was cock of the walk. This is a long-term investigation into which Pecksniff and others have been peering. Murky waters indeed. Pecksniff would always be pleased to hear from anybody who can help illuminate them.
Babergh District Council in Suffolk is rarely a happy place these days. It’s presently being run by the Independent Conservative group. (Me neither.) The leader is Councillor John Ward. During a televised council meeting this week it seems that Councillor Simon Barrett, the leader of the presumably not at all independent Conservative group and chair of South Suffolk Conservative Party, made an unsuitable gesture towards Councillor Ward.
The gesture is delicately described by the Hadleigh Nub News as “involving an almost closed fist shaken at the wrist”. Discreet enquiries reveal this to be a dismissive insult aimed at what one assumes is Councillor Ward’s profession. As Pecksniff heard it, the gesture implies that he is a banker.
Councillor Barrett remains unrepentant, even though he has been found to have breached the council’s code of conduct and ordered to make a full apology at the next full Babergh council meeting. Indeed, he has previous. In 2018 he was ordered to apologise following an incident with a council officer involving “failing to treat others with respect, and bullying”. In 2017 it had been a suspension for improperly revealing details of a private meeting to the full council.
Babergh sound a fun council, in which councillors regularly dance a political hokey-cokey between warring groups. Councillor Barrett in particular is a man well worth following, if Pecksniff’s instincts do not fail him. What fun if some reader has more to tell Pecksniff about him and his chums.
A sketch which ought to have relevance this week.
Special thanks this week go to Spike Milligan.