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Liz Truss’s aide provides some entry-level media training

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Seemingly destined for installation by the Conservative cult as prime minister without a general election, Liz Truss is labelled a malfunctioning cyborg by an admiring Tory MP. Terminator Truss earned the doe-eyed admirer’s awe for her unstoppable progress, despite glitches such as short-lived public sector pay cuts and disparaging her good state school. The human side requires, he conceded, constant updating. A radar-lugged eavesdropper was surprised to hear an aide urging Truss to look into a TV camera and imagine seeing voters at the other end. Sound counsel… for a rookie.

Team Truss boasts that the Welsh Secretary, Robert Buckland, and former Tory ministers Alun Cairns and Chris Skidmore aren’t her rival’s only supporters who are switching sides. Advisers working on Rishi Sunak’s faltering campaign, whispered my snout, are putting out feelers to the likely victor. A PM’s patronage extends to special advisers, and there’s a rumour that a rat on Sunak’s sinking ship is prepared to trade inside info for a lifeboat after 5 September.

[See also: Nadine Dorries and the earrings of power]

Truss’s campaign is based in a £3m Westminster townhouse used by Boris Johnson in 2019. The launchpad is owned by Conservative peer and Norfolk landowner Greville Howard, an Old Etonian and former private secretary to Enoch Powell. While Truss’s team settle in, Michael Gove has housing issues. Without a cabinet role, eviction awaits from a Carlton Gardens grace-and-favour residence usually reserved for the foreign secretary and in the gift of the PM.

Energised on return from holiday by a plan to pull the plug on heating-bill rises, Keir Starmer privately apologised to trade union general secretaries for ordering shadow ministers to blacklist picket lines. Brother Starmer told a delegation including Mick Whelan, Paddy Lillis and Matt Wrack that he got it wrong. The negotiated withdrawal explains why Lisa Nandy wasn’t disciplined for visiting BT strikers and why Sam Tarry was officially sacked as shadow transport minister for unauthorised media appearances rather than for standing with striking rail workers. Solidarity is for sometimes.

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Buoyed by capturing three blue bastions, Ed Davey’s targeting Labour for a fourth grab. The Lib Dem leader wants back the history-essay notes he lent to Ed Balls more than 30 years ago when both were at the fee-charging Nottingham High School. Bullish Balls is refusing to hand over the scribblings, arguing they really belong to Davey’s brother. Taking a fourth Tory seat could prove a more achievable goal, particularly if Balls has lost the disputed notes.

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And the winner is Liverpool? Word is that Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries is determined her home city will host Eurovision. It contains the only reds she likes.

[See also: Tory diversity scuppers Labour’s white male hopefuls]

This article appears in the 17 Aug 2022 issue of the New Statesman, Six Months that Changed the World