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23 June 2021

Commons Confidential: No trust in Truss

Your weekly dose of gossip from around Westminster.   

By Kevin Maguire

With a brass neck garlanded by chutzpah, Boris Johnson exhibited breathtaking audacity as he kept a straight face while commanding Liz Truss to grovel over a gaffe. My snout reports No 10 officials dug fingernails into palms and bit tongues to avoid giggling as the Prime Blunderer boasted to Aussie PM Scott Morrison that he personally instructed the International Trade Secretary to eat humble pie. Hapless Truss was forced to send an apologetic text to her counterpart down under, Dan Tehan, after a minion briefed that wise, tough Liz would sit clueless, inexperienced Dan in an “uncomfortable chair” until he delivered the beef. Guilty of a list of offences longer than his arm, Johnson’s order was the pot, an extensive range of kitchen utensils plus an aged Aga calling the kettle black.

A round of Tories play a drinking game requiring them to knock back a glass every time 2019 rebel Neil Hudson says “As a vet…”, which is quite often. The successor to Rory Stewart in Cumbria’s Penrith constituency is unpopular with compliant colleagues. A fellow Conservative from northern England on the green benches rang a prominent Liberal Democrat to inquire if there was anything they could do to help Tim Farron, whose butchered Westmorland and Lonsdale seat could pitch him against the animal doctor. Hudson’s opposition is across the chamber, his enemies alongside.

The Mary Celeste was fully crewed compared with Keir Starmer’s tug as ratings jump ship or are pushed overboard. Recruiting replacements will be difficult. I understand a Westminster political hack who fancied a post in the past is no longer interested. They’re worried about employment security if Labour loses the Batley and Spen by-election.

Expelled from the Lib Dems after the prosecution included this column’s item on him lecturing Tories on how to beat his party, Lembit Öpik may fear the Cons want a refund after their defeat in the Chesham and Amersham by-election. An orange frenemy questioned the former MP’s assertion that there’s “currently no vaccine against stupidity”. Space cadet Öpik is “chairman of parliament” for Asgardia, a self-proclaimed utopian society established by a Russian billionaire fancying himself as first ruler of a human colony on the moon. The one-time colleague volunteered to buy Öpik a flight. One way, obviously.

Rishi Sunak’s attempt to grab Boris Johnson’s chequebook isn’t motivated solely by fiscal rectitude. The Chancer of the Exchequer is fighting a losing battle to save eye-catching announcements for his Autumn Statement.

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This article appears in the 23 Jun 2021 issue of the New Statesman, How Brexit changed us