For all that the country is in its most serious state since the war and the Tories don’t know which way to turn, the public isn’t convinced that Labour knows either. The party recognises their lack of cut-through though and are looking for a way forward, though still ignoring the deafening elephant in the room which is trumpeting ‘Brexit!’
Labour’s problem may be because it has worried itself to a standstill in confusion – a confusion paradoxically shared by the Tories – at not knowing quite what it is for. So Pecksniff is pleased to report from an irreproachable source that they have been discussing these woes with the kind of clever people who know how the public thinks. Ahead of the game as usual, Pecksniff has also been told what advice they would be given…
Be radical. Evidence says the country is ready for it, perhaps never readier. Everything is falling apart. Old suspicions of the left are being overtaken by fear of what the Tories will do next, and how families can survive the future.
But sadly, this same impeccable source believes, unfortunately, that the advice will be ignored.
Liz Truss and the man often tipped to be her chancellor if she wins, Kwasi Kwarteng, were joint authors (with Priti Patel, Chris Skidmore and Dominic Raab) of a book called ‘Britannia Unchained’.
They were young bloods at the time, anxious to make their mark. In it they claimed that: “The British are among the worst idlers in the world. We work among the lowest hours, we retire early and our productivity is poor.” Setting aside the insult, the comment on working hours was of course a comparison with the Far East and Indian sub-continent. The British work the longest hours in Europe, and I believe have the fewest holidays. And every study of our poor productivity concludes that it is down to catastrophically bad management.
Bear in mind though, if you will, that these are the sentiments of the woman likely to become the next prime minister.
Nadine Dorries (Central Beds) has been complaining about Rishi Sunak wearing a £3,000 suit when his rival, Liz Truss, wears earrings from Claire Accessories costing £4.50. This ‘down wiv da people’ position on extravagant wealth rather loses its way when you learn that our Nads’ own earrings are of diamonds and cost £6,000.
But perhaps of more interest is just how La Dorries grates on her colleagues too – it’s not just the public. Her parliamentary colleague, Tory MP Angela Richardson, has just about had enough and on the current spat exclaims on twitter: “FFS Nadine! Muted!”
It may have escaped the attention of Pecksniff’s readers, who to a man and woman are both literate and discerning, but Nadine Dorries is an author. Pity her poor editors, since few of the woman’s tweets are free of spelling errors or punctuation horrors. The subject of her novels seems mostly grotesque detailing of sexual foibles. My dears she is such a vulgarian.
So who knows what their lordships will make of her joining them, since word has been out for weeks that Boris Johnson intends to ennoble her. Here the story becomes more surreal. Boris Johnson’s present seat is Uxbridge and Ruislip – though it’s doubtful he has ever been there – where he has a majority of 7,210. In the present climate this is considered marginal, but when you are the most hated politician since Oswald Mosley, it’s practically a shoo-in for Labour.
So his most fervent cultists have been looking for a safer seat into which he can be dropped whenever the next election is called. And who is one of the favourites? Why, our Nads and her tempting majority of nearly 25,000. So if Ms Dorries is ushered up to the Lords, there sits an empty seat.
What do local Tories of Mid Beds make of this? Difficult to say since they seem no longer to have an office. The website declares the Shefford offices are “permanently closed”. No other address, and the phone number given is the House of Commons. So if you need contact with your local MP, good luck. A box on the party’s website asks plaintively: “Who represents you?” Who indeed?
The only offering from Ms Dorries on her local party’s website is a four month-old Facebook entry about elephants. Nothing since. One might imagine her party would be keen to promote her regular if erratic tweets. (There are many suggestions why they are erratic, and increasingly so as the evening wears on, but Pecksniff will leave that to readers’ imaginations.)
What is of interest is that her party chooses to ignore her tweets. Instead, for reasons which passeth all understanding, they regularly reprint the ramblings of an MP called Andrew Stephenson who represents Pendle in Lancashire.
Why? Their MP is a prominent member of the cabinet and also a garrulous member of the twitterati. Why should the website have only two very small mentions of her? Could it be that actually her own local party are ashamed?
On Monday James Cleverly (Braintree) gave an interview to Sky News regarding the endless queues at Dover. Alexander Solzhenitsyn once remarked that: “In our country the lie has become not just a moral category but a pillar of the state”. He was talking about the Soviet Union, but he might have been speaking of the Johnson government.
Mr Cleverly insisted that queues are all the fault of the French being difficult and nothing to do with Brexit. He knew this wasn’t true, but he kept repeating it.
The reason he knew it wasn’t true is because until two weeks ago he was a Foreign Office minister, and this is the official advice to travellers from the Foreign Office:
Pecksniff tried to call Mr Cleverly, but parliament is in recess. MPs used to provide contact details of their constituency address, but like all his colleagues Mr Cleverly has withdrawn that information.
Pecksniff avoids becoming angry, because it leads to erratic handwriting. But Mr Cleverly deserves special attention. Any rumour about him, any ridicule, gossip, hearsay, scandal, slur or tittle tattle will be of interest.
We turn to Therese Coffey (Suffolk Coastal), who is no better. Her main attribute to any prime minister is her willingness to fill an interview slot and stick it out mouthing any kind of untruth or inanity until it’s time to move on to the weather. H L Mencken’s advice to young journalists about to interview a politician was to ask yourself: “Why is this bastard lying to me?”
But this constant charade is beginning to tell on Dr Coffey – the set of the mouth, the beetled eyebrows. Has anybody else noticed she is morphing into that creation of the cartoonist, Giles – Grandma?
Imagine a chancellor of the exchequer wearing that grimace. Well, if rumours are true then you may not need to. If Kwasi Kwarteng isn’t offered the position it will be either ‘Dr Death’ John Redwood, or Dr Coffey.
The minister for the disabled is Chloe Smith (Norwich North).
This week she published an official report on government policy for the disabled she had commissioned and which had been lying on her desk, ignored, for 18 months. The reason becomes clear. It makes seven recommendations. She rejects four totally and one partially, leaving only two recommendations she will take forward.
Ms Smith only holds on to her seat in Norwich North by the slender majority of 4,738. It is quite certain that there are more than 4,738 disabled voters in her constituency.
And still in Norwich North, after last week’s report of a bit of a hoo-ha in the Labour Party over selection of a prospective parliamentary candidate, we have a result. The winner is Alice Macdonald, widely acclaimed, and sources in the Labour Party were keen to play down the Pecksniff report. But there is good reason for Ms Macdonald’s adoption and how it came about to be of wider interest than within the local party. As the previous entry points out, Norwich North is one of the key marginals in East Anglia which Labour will hope to win, and is something of a litmus test. If Ms Macdonald doesn’t become the new MP for her constituency, then it is unlikely Labour will form a government.
Throwing a blanket over probably trivial disputes isn’t always the best way of convincing the public you can be trusted. There is a rule in public relations that it isn’t necessary for the public to love the client; they just need to feel they know them. Much the same can be true in politics. So we look forward to knowing more of Ms Macdonald in the months ahead. Progressive politics in East Anglia is depending on her.
It has been drawn to Pecksniff’s attention that James Wild of North West Norfolk is another of our MPs who doesn’t see fit to permit his voters to respond to those views he published on Twitter. Nobody is permitted to reply or ask a question, not even about what he is doing about the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kings Lynn, which is falling down. We are allowed to see Mr Wild welcoming the new health secretary Steve Barclay (North East Cambridgeshire), but not his failure to answer questions on the hospital.
Lord Peter Cruddas has made his way up from being a barrow boy to live in a £5 million house in Hertfordshire and become the wealthiest man in the City of London.
Against the advice of the Lords Appointments Commission, in February last year the prime minister made him Lord Cruddas of Shoreditch. Three days later his lordship donated £500,000 to the Conservative Party.
It is important to point out there was no connection between the two events, because if there had been it would have been illegal. His lordship was shocked at accusations of wrongdoing and strongly denied that the two events were in any way connected. The Good Law Project is investigating.
But we digress. His lordship thinks Boris Johnson should also be on the leadership ticket… and he wrote in the Telegraph saying so. In fact he has made it known he had intended to donate a further £500,000 to the Tories, but that is now “on hold” until he sees the outcome of his appeal.
EAB is keen to reiterate his protestations that his peerage and his donations to the Tories are in no way linked. But there may be those who might feel this is just a very rich man trying to buy the prime minister of his choice.
Last week, Anglian Water was judged by an independent report to have an appalling record on poisoning our rivers, one of the worst in the country.
Last year they were responsible for a quarter of all serious incidents of poisoning. They claim there is nothing they can do, or at least have any intention of doing, to reduce the amount of human sewage they pump into our rivers every week. The Environment Agency is investigating the company for falsifying its records.
This week the company announces it is going to pay its chief executive, Peter Simpson, a total pay package of £1.3 million. Of this, £337,651 is as a bonus presumably based on his performance…
An invitation arrived this week to the launch of the West Suffolk People’s Assembly, a promising-sounding title. Ideas for a new constitution, perhaps? A renaissance of democracy and so on? Only it seemed suspicious. The invitation was published only a couple of days before the event, and there were no details to follow up. This seemed familiar to Pecksniff. The format is that used habitually by the Socialist Workers, a long-standing and and to his mind, utterly disreputable Trotskyist group.
Fortunately it was not the Trots, but our old friends the Communist Party and what seems to be its latest off-shoot, the Breakthrough Party. Fair-do’s, they were attempting something. A small group attended, no shame there, and Pecksniff is informed that it was made up not only of Communists and Breakthrough, but also Greens and Labour. The left has a well earned reputation for fratricide, so let’s see how they react when the first Liberal Democrat darkens their doors.
But it is an initiative, and to be applauded. The organisers claim the assembly is mostly concerned with supporting local people through the cost-of-living crisis, and they have energetic-sounding plans. Pecksniff wishes them well, and will keep a benevolent eye on proceedings. EAB is always interested in hearing of other grassroots political action.