Noisy Liz Truss is testing the patience of hitherto supportive MPs. Echoing Clement Attlee, who advised Labour left-winger Harold Laski that “a period of silence on your part would be welcome”, Tory right-whingers now fear she’s damaging their case for tax cuts and a smaller state. Several grumbled that Truss is irredeemably toxic – a messenger who is damaging the message. Silencing her won’t be easy. Calamity Liz is seething with self-justification.
Nor is Truss shy as she enjoys all the perks of being a former, albeit brief, PM. As the front-woman of a Tory punk band that trashed the economy, she requested an invitation to the Brit Awards, I’m told. The dizzy rascal isn’t only a stuck record on unfunded tax handouts for the rich and big business – she’s got virtuoso blagging chops too.
[See also: Who will be Keir Starmer’s chief of staff?]
Balloons inflating into a diplomatic crisis have coincided with the disclosure that Theresa May is a secret admirer of Chinese organisation. I was directed to the late Japanese prime minister Abe Shinzo’s recently published memoir. In it Abe revealed that May gushed at a G20 summit in Hangzhou that a stunning Swan Lake performed on a transparent sheet over water “was only possible in a dictatorship”. May, who has told Maidenhead Tories she will stand at the next general election, backs a UK regime striving to prove her thesis. The Arts Council is cutting English National Ballet funding.
The tea-room Tory whisper is that Dominic Raab could be replaced as justice secretary by Victoria Atkins, should a bullying inquiry require his departure. The financial secretary to the Treasury is a barrister and former prisons minister, so knows the territory, and the leg-up would avoid a wider cabinet reshuffle. Rishi Sunak’s recent round of musical chairs was risky with Raab C Brexit on Death Row. Government whips are keeping the overlooked onside by whispering there’ll be pre-election changes next year.
A rumour refusing to die is the possibility of David Miliband flying back from New York to succeed retiring veteran MP Barry Sheerman in Huddersfield despite the party selecting Harpreet Uppal, a Sikh former councillor. Douglas Alexander winning the Labour nomination in East Lothian will reignite comeback speculation about a host of Blair- and Brown-era cabinet ministers including Ed Balls, Andy Burnham and Sadiq Khan. The alluring prospect of government may keep minds open: brace for non-denial denials.
Foot-in-mouth “30p Lee” Anderson is a deputy chair, not the deputy chair, of the Tory party. The other three – MPs Nickie Aiken, Luke Hall and Matt Vickers – aren’t best pleased, I hear, that the Ashfield trampler is presented as the one and only. It’ll end in tears.
This article appears in the 15 Feb 2023 issue of the New Statesman, Why the right is losing everywhere