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Ministers are on resignation watch as Rishi goes rogue

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.

By Kevin Maguire

Spinning faster than the Large Hadron Collider, hyperactive Rishi Sunak is losing Tory friends and alienating supporters. One middle-ranking minister moaned that the matchbox-sized Prime Minister is behaving like a “little Napoleon” by failing to inform, never mind consult, colleagues before Downing Street’s almost daily headline-generating propaganda. Those bypassed include ministers in the Treasury (inheritance tax), transport (HS2), justice (prisons) and environment (mythical meat tax).

It’s why Downing Street is on resignation watch, worried a humiliated member of the overlooked might hand in their red box. Kemi Badenoch at business supported the fossil fool delaying the end of new carbon-powered-car sales, so she’s in Sunak’s good books. Badenough is openly manoeuvring to grab the wheel should the Tories crash next year, as is refugee-bashing Suella Braverman. The vultures continue to circle.

[See also: Keir Starmer lands with a bump]

Spooked by the long shadow of Russell Brand, eco-warrior Ed Miliband’s old team are playing the blame game. Keir Starmer’s shadow leader of the Commons, Lucy Powell, is carrying the can for the 2015 interview with Brand as the campaign chief behind the encounter. Recriminations reopened wounds over Harriet Harman’s Barbie bus, when her former adviser Ayesha Hazarika yelled Brand was nothing to do with them because they were sent on the road in a pink vehicle. Two Labour senior strategists screamed the idea came from Hattie’s office. Recollections may vary, as somebody once said.

The Battle for Mid Beds is gloriously dirty, with Sunak increasingly hopeful Labour and Lib Dem mud wrestling could let him retain Nadine Dorries’ abandoned realm. I’m told Tory focus groups found that disinterring photos of Starmer’s candidate as a zombie in an eco protest didn’t harm the lad – voters liked that he stood for something. The Lab-Dem war extends to Starmer’s and Ed Davey’s knighthoods. Labour MPs crow their boss received his for public service, Lib Dem chief Davey for services to David Cameron in the ConDem coalition cabinet. No wonder Tories are quietly optimistic.

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Incapable of feeling shame, Liz Truss is “doing a Thatcher” and meeting Tory candidates to build a cadre of next-generation MPs sympathetic to her failed economics. The “lunch with Liz” offensive is yet more proof, if any were needed, that she has learned nothing and forgotten nothing since last year’s 49-day fiasco.

Most village fetes are larger than the tiny exhibition area at the Lib Dem’s Bournemouth conference, with Dignity in Dying and Wessex Water among the few outsiders buying space. The patch was dominated by party factions. Buffer stalls kept apart the Lib Dem Christians and the Lib Dem secularists, avoiding an ungodly row.

[See also: Nadine Dorries’ “Plot” to hijack the Tory party conference]

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This article appears in the 27 Sep 2023 issue of the New Statesman, The Right Power List