Commons Confidential: Liz Truss’s briefest briefings

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Trying times for wonks at the Department for International Trade, where Instagram’s own Liz Truss is raising blood pressure much quicker than exports. Overlooked for chancellor, slasher Truss – a gig economy evangelist who makes Thatcher look like a Keynesian pinko – is imposing austerity on her new charges anyway. Miffed mandarins, already dreaming of packing their new boss off in an Uber, grumble that the born-again Brextremist wants briefings kept to a single side of A4. “The problem,” one official whined to pals, “is that trade policy is quite complicated.” Even fans couldn’t say the same about libertarian Liz’s world-view.

Home Office toilers report verbal thrashings and lashings from Priti Patel, the authoritarian architect of the Eton Mess’s police state. Word is that Patel, a sometime fan of the death penalty, has taken to encouraging civil servants to “peddle optimism”. Those who don’t comply will be hanged, drawn and quartered.

Trouble ahead in Vauxhall, where contenders to succeed retiring Faragista Kate Hoey as Labour candidate are sharpening their elbows. Hoey’s local party unanimously demanded an all-woman shortlist, only to be rebuffed by Labour’s high command earlier this week. Locals detect the influence of Kebab Awards founder and Lambeth mayor Ibrahim Dogus, who hit the Durham Miners’ Gala with Jez and co earlier this summer. The edict would have denied Dogus the chance to take on Momentum’s Laura Parker and Corbyn apparatchik Katy Clark for the job for life. The revolution will eat its children. And then a doner wrap.

Tory yellowbellies in Grantham and Stamford, bruised by their fight with Cameroon smoothie-chops Nick Boles, are determined not to make it third time unlucky. Six former MPs applied to replace the Notting Hill Remoaner, who now plies his trade as an independent and himself replaced Quentin Davies, the posho turncoat who crossed the floor for a job in Gordon Brown’s government. Only one of the jobseekers, Boris bag-carrier James Wharton, made the shortlist, but subsequently pulled out. Westminster villagers need not apply.

Mystery surrounds the fate of Chris Growling, a man-sized teddy who took up residence in the Department for Transport press office. As Flailing Grayling’s reign lurched from farce to farce, Growling maintained a silent vigil as spinners doused the flames left in his namesake’s wake. Will he stay in situ? Ursine puns on Grant Shapps, Grayling’s successor, are harder to come by. But Whitehall wags suggest all is not lost. “He does have a lot of names to work with,” quips one DfT refugee of the man who once promised punters online riches under the pseudonym Michael Green.

Patrick Maguire was political correspondent at the New Statesman.

This article appears in the 21 August 2019 issue of the New Statesman, The great university con

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