Tag Archives: liz truss

28-30 October 2022 – the weekend’s press releases

  • Lib Dems call for Suella Braverman to hand over texts and emails for future inquiry
  • Jane Dodds – The Housing Sector in Wales is Broken
  • COP27: Nadine Dorries as the voice of reason?
  • Liz Truss phone hacking story: Urgent investigation needed
  • Suella Braverman: Government must publish legal advice on detention of asylum seekers

Lib Dems call for Suella Braverman to hand over texts and emails for future inquiry

The Liberal Democrats have written to the Home Office Permanent Secretary, asking him to facilitate the handover of Suella Braverman’s text messages, WhatsApps, and emails for use in any future inquiry into her misconduct.

Lib Dem Home Affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael raised concerns that the embattled Home Secretary could take advantage of a loophole exploited by Boris Johnson during an inquiry into the funding of the refurbishment of the Downing Street flat. The former Prime Minister claimed that he had been unable to hand over important messages because he had changed his phone.

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson, Alistair Carmichael said:

We need an independent inquiry with access to all the relevant evidence, to establish the true scale of Suella Braverman’s rule breaking.

We saw how Boris Johnson and other Conservative ministers have tried time and again to duck accountability and cover up the truth.

Suella Braverman must be required to hand over all relevant evidence now before it is too late.

It took less than a day for Rishi Sunak’s government to be mired in the same old Conservative sleaze. His promise of ‘integrity’ was broken within hours of entering Downing Street. If he was serious about integrity he would commit to an independent inquiry now.

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Observations of an expat: Brexit is back

Britain’s political classes have finally recognised the elephant in the room. It is now safe again to utter the B-word.

Brexit was embraced (narrowly) first in the 2016 referendum and then again in the 2017 general election.

Political leaders decided that the issue was decided and to press for a return to the EU would damage electoral chances.

The Labour Party decided to work on the basis of trying to achieve the best of a bad job. The Liberal Democrats, who had led the charge against Brexit, remain committed to EU membership as a “long-term aim” but have shelved it for the short and medium term.

But then they had not foreseen the logical consequence of Brexit—the disastrous mini-premiership of Liz Truss.

They should have. Truss clearly stated her plans in her campaign for the Conservative Party leadership. And before that it was outlined in detail in the 2012 book “Britannia Unchained” written by Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng along with Chris Skidmore, Priti Patel and Dominic Raab – all ministers in Boris Johnson’s “Get Brexit Done” government.

Truss has repeatedly stated that Britain is a “bloated state with high taxes and excessive regulation” and that the country’s workers are “among the worst idlers in the world” Her solution—and that of the libertarian right-wing of the Conservative Party—was cut taxes, throw out regulations, reduce public spending, and establish tax-free enterprise zones to attract foreign companies. Controlling immigration was not a core policy. It was a useful sidecar bandwagon which could be used to attract voters.

None of the above could be done as members of the European Union. Brussels is a maze of regulations designed to protect workers’ rights, the environment, consumer rights, freedom of movement and competition between member states and their companies.

The only way for the libertarian Tories to achieve their aims was by “taking back control” from Brussels.

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The fallout

Lib Dems have been busy today dealing with the fallout from the resignation of Britain’s shortest ever Prime Minister. I’ll rephrase that – the British Prime Minister who served for the shortest time in office EVER (although the original version is probably also true, if of no political significance).

First, all departing Prime Ministers are entitled to an annual allowance for the rest of their lives of £115,000 to cover office costs. This was covered in a press release yesterday, where Christine Jardine is urging her not to take it. Today Ed Davey told LBC radio:

Most people have to work at least 35 years to get a full state pension. I think working 45 days shouldn’t give you a pension that is many many times what ordinary people out there get after a lifetime of work.

Second, traditionally Prime Ministers can hand out peerages and other honours in a resignation list. Boris Johnson has only just honoured 29 people in that way. Another tranche following so soon from Liz Truss would be completely inappropriate. Wendy Chamberlain, Lib Dem Chief Whip, has written to the Chair of Parliamentary and Political Service Committee:

As you know, it is traditional upon a Prime Minister’s departure from office for them to issue a ‘Resignation Honours’ list. This list signifies individuals who are to be rewarded with an honour from the King which, in turn, would be considered by your committee.

However, because of the unprecedented circumstances surrounding Liz Truss’s tenure and resignation, I am writing to urge you and the committee to reject any Resignation Honours list put forward by her.

Liz Truss will be the shortest serving Prime Minister in British political history. It is possible that by the time she formally resigns, she will not have held office for more than 50 days.

I do not believe that it would be appropriate for Liz Truss to be permitted to issue a resignation honours list, given the extremely short length of her tenure.

I urge you to make it clear that you and your fellow committee members would not sign off on any such honours, which would be the second list in a matter of months.

Third, there is a lot of concern that Boris Johnson is thinking of entering the leadership contest. This was, of course, the Prime Minister who was only persuaded to stand down after 50 ministers resigned. As also mentioned in press releases our MPs have now tabled a motion to stop anyone who has broken the law while in Government from ever becoming Prime Minister. It reads:

That this House believes that the upholding of standards by its Members is of vital importance to the functioning of UK democracy; believes that it is vital that the Prime Minister and Ministers uphold these standards; and therefore resolves that any honourable or right honourable member that is found to have broken the law whilst in Government should be barred from holding Prime Ministerial Office.

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Liz Truss goes, the country and world breathes relief

Jeepers. We needed this. But we didn’t need the continued instability. Liz Truss has rightly resigned this afternoon. She had no credibility when elected. She had no credibility in her few days in office.

The procedures for replacing Truss are uncertain. The Tories after a summer that saw potential candidates for the Tory leadership tearing each other and the Tory’s ability to govern the nation, govern anything was trashed.

In a statement outside No 10 today, Liz Truss resigned. She boasted of her low tax, high growth economy. She has submitted her resignation to King Charles.

The new Tory leader and the prime minister will be decided within the next week (by the Tories).

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This fantasy government is now the stuff of nightmares

When we were children, we played games of fantasy. Believing we were nurses, fire fighters, astronauts. As adults we still play games, not always acting like we are grown up. The Conservative Party has become adept at this. It previously appointed a prime minister who fanaticised that rules didn’t apply to him. Its current fantasy prime minister claims she is running the country. And too many the party fanaticises that no matter what it does, people will still vote it into power.

Yesterday, the Conservative fantasy turned into farce. A pantomime. Party managers’ attempted to whip Tory MPs into voting in favour of fracking by turning it into a vote of confidence on Liz Truss. That failed big time, with around 40 Tory MPs failing to vote. Fracking is a contentious issue but for a prime minister to stake her job as prime minister on it when it was known that many Tory MPs will not support it was one of the most ill-considered decisions of modern government. And, as it proved, the stuff of nightmares.

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Olney: PM’s apology brings nothing but cold comfort

Yesterday afternoon, Penny Mordaunt was given an impossible job – defending the indefensible. She was asked to deputise for the Prime Minister in the Commons for Labour’s urgent question on the sacking of the Chancellor.

Mordaunt did much better than Truss ever could have done. She had a reasonable balance of “**** you”, humility, and even a bit of sincerity in the face of quite an onslaught from opposition MPs. It is hard to imagine anyone having a go at the opposition when they were part of a government that had made a crap economic situation much worse.

Labour missed a trick …

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Reactions to the churn

So Kwasi Kwarteng is out and Jeremy Hunt is in. How long can Liz Truss last after today’s extraordinary moves?

Prominent Lib Dems have, of course, been giving us their take on the news:

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think we can see a clear message here!

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Ed Davey calls for General Election after Chancellor leaves office

We know now that Kwasi Kwarteng is out as Chancellor just hours after Downing Street told the BBC’s Chris Mason that he and Liz Truss were “in lockstep.” Whether he jumped or was pushed is for the journalists to work out.

I would be very surprised if we see them leaving Government in lockstep together, which seems unfair given that he was basically implementing the policies she put forward during her leadership campaign. In fact, he blinked first when the markets first went wild, putting out a statement after what was described at the time as a heated row between him and Truss.

It’s going to be interesting to see who she appoints as Chancellor – and who would be willing to do the job. Could we see Penny Mordaunt in No 11, or some  have suggested Jeremy Hunt.

We just have to wait to see what Liz Truss says at the press conference later this afternoon. She’s not a great one for humility and if there was ever an occasion that called for that in huge amounts, this is it.

While a u-turn, or partial u-turn (a j-turn?) on the Budget of Chaos will likely calm down the markets, the damage has been done to people’s mortgages and they will be feeling that for years to come.

Ed Davey has called for a General Election to get this lot out of office:

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Lib Dem MPs on health crisis: government has got it badly wrong

One of the most stunning non-answers in the House of Commons of late was Liz Truss’s response to Daisy Cooper at PMQs yesterday on the danger of collapsing hospital buildings. The here today, and possibly gone tomorrow, prime minister either didn’t hear the question or did not know how to respond (Hansard).

In a debate in Westminster Hall, Daisy Cooper was again in action, this time on the preventive covid-19 drug Evusheld. This is a pre-exposure prophylactic drug administered by injections that gives a degree of protection against catching Covid-19. There are around half a million immunosuppressed people in the UK who could benefit from this treatment, including people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. But the government refuses to make it immediately available, instead waiting on a NICE review which may not conclude until well in 2023, after the expected winter surge in illness, including Covid and seasonal flu. Cooper said the government had got this “badly wrong”.

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The £500,000 donations for Liz Truss’ Tory leadership campaign

The Guardian has broken a horrifying and believable story that Liz Truss raised £500,000 in donations for her Tory leadership campaign with “about half of it coming from donors linked to hedge fund bosses, venture capitalists and other City financiers”.

In August Liberal Democrat Voice ran an article where I suggested that the Tory leadership campaign was looking like a presidential election — with a tiny, and unrepresentative electorate. That tips power further from Parliament to No.10 and pretends that the new leader has an entirely false legitimacy.

News of these donations takes this to a whole new level.

Of course, a leadership campaign costs money. A large number of small donations from Tory members would have been an early indication of support. But the actual donations are large, mostly in excess of £5,000, and the largest being £100,000. That looks like a small number of people having a large influence. Have we just seen a Prime Minister chosen by the 172,437 members of the Conservative party, or by the handful who put up the money?

Is Liz Truss’ perception of “the national interest” shaped by the perspectives of those who funded her campaign? Or did some wealthy backers find someone who could be bent to their interests?

The Guardian article is worth reading in full. Among its observations is that one donor gave similar donations to Rishi Sunak and Penny Morduant, which I hear as gaining influence over whoever was elected. It’s hard to track from donations to policy, but one donor also supports a think tank that supports the denial of climate change, and King Charles has withdrawn from plans to attend COP27 on the “advice of Liz Truss”. The article also says the expenditure limit was £300,000.

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Just deserts at Conservative Conference

Last week Ed Davey called on the Conservatives to cancel their Conference and sort out the economic mess they had created.

After days of rebellion, doom and u-turns, I bet they wish they had listened to him.

They aren’t getting the best press, that’s for sure, but then they don’t deserve it.

Kwasi Kwarteng’s feeble attempts at humour in his speech belie any contrition. And I doubt many of those who are now condemned to years of high mortgage payments will feel that either he or Liz Truss truly do get it.

The u-turns on the 45p tax rate and the publication of the OBR forecasts, although major events, are not the only things that need to change.

The Conservatives are showing themselves up as way nastier than they were when Theresa May gave her warning to Conservative Conference a whole twenty years ago.  This generation of leaders seem to have taken it as encouragement to become even worse.

For example, party Chairman Jake Berry had this to say to people struggling to pay their bills this Winter:

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Tom Arms’ World Review

UK

The freshly minted British Conservative government of Liz Truss is on the ropes. They have only themselves to blame. The “mini-budget” of Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng has plunged the economy into a downward spiral. The pound is plummeting. Interest rates are rocketing. People are literally on the cusp of losing their homes, and the problems of the world’s fifth largest economy is having a knock-on effect around the world.

The Opposition Labour Party has soared to a 20-point lead in the opinion polls. The Truss-Kwarteng policy of borrowing billions to cut taxes in the middle of a recession has been totally rejected by the markets. One reason for the traders’ emphatic thumbs down is Kwarteng’s refusal to support his budget with an assessment by the independent Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR). Such support is usually a pre-requisite for any budget announcement. The market has interpreted its absence as a sign that the chancellor knew that the OBR would refuse its seal of approval.

Well, now the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee, has demanded that Kwarteng organise a retrospective OBR report by the end of October at the latest – and, if the OBR report is as scathing as the statements emitting from the corridors of the Bank of England and the International Monetary Fund – amend the budget accordingly. In the meantime, the Truss-Kwarteng duo are doing what every politician does these days when caught in a mess of their own making – doubling down and blaming someone else. In this case Ms Truss has hummed and hahed through a series dramatically misjudged local radio interviews. Putin, Ukraine, covid and world energy prices – everything except Brexit – were blamed for the reaction to the budget. But the fact is every other developed country has the same problems (except self-inflicted Brexit) and they have succeeded in propping up their troubled economies. The markets, therefore, have decided that Britain’s problems can be ascribed to political competence.

Baltic

Who blew up the Baltic Sea gas pipe lines on Tuesday? And who is the legal victim? It is almost universally agreed that the explosions were sabotage that involved a state military operation. But which state? Officially neither the Russians nor NATO are pointing a finger, but both are implying that the other is responsible. Sweden said it detected Russian submarines and surface vessels in the sabotage area shortly before the explosions. Russia retorted with a claim that there were even more NATO naval forces in the neighbourhood. Furthermore, the UN Security Council meeting to discuss the issue has been called by Moscow.

The identity of the attacker is important because the attack occurred in Danish territorial waters which means that it can be construed as an attack on a NATO member. On the other hand, it was an attack on Russian property and so Moscow might be able to claim that it was a NATO attack against them. It is quite possible that we will never know who was responsible because revealing the identity would further escalate the Ukraine War.

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What does the economic chaos mean for us?

Yesterday’s YouGov poll gave Labour an unprecedented 33 point lead over the Tories. With Lib Dems dropping to 7% you might think that is bad news for us, but, as we all know, polling is granular, and it actually increases our chances in Blue wall seats.

In the Guardian, Gaby Hinchcliffe reports on our chances in Surrey, driven by fears over fracking as well as the cost of living (which has now gone far beyond high energy prices).

For in his (Jeremy Hunt’s) South West Surrey seat and Dominic Raab’s Esher and Walton, plus neighbouring Guildford and Woking, Lib Dems are snapping closer to Tory heels.

Seats like this only really wobble in a crisis, as happened in the mid-1970s after economic turmoil under Ted Heath, and in the 1990s after the last sterling crisis. The combination of economic chaos and threats to the green belt is theoretically a gift to them. But is it enough to collapse the “blue wall”, that small but strategically important set of Tory-held seats where Labour can’t win but the Lib Dems just might?

Neil Sherlock, a former adviser to Nick Clegg, fought South West Surrey for the Lib Dems in 1992. He remembers the thrill of feeling the tide running his way, until the last few days when voters suddenly got cold feet. “They’d say, ‘I’d love to vote for you, but we’re not having that Neil Kinnock’,” he recalls. The Lib Dems thrive under opposition leaders who don’t scare their voters, a description that increasingly fits Keir Starmer. But still, though they came within a few hundred votes of snatching South West Surrey in 2001, it’s always hovered just beyond reach.

The YouGov poll may be a bit of an outlier, so we need to watch the general trend, of course. However the vultures are gathering.

For example, a petition to Parliament to “Call an immediate general election to end the chaos of the current government” is already well past the 100,000 threshold that triggers a debate in Parliament.

As we reported yesterday, Ed Davey has called on Liz Truss to cancel the Conservative conference and recall Parliament so MPs can debate the economic crisis.

And there are rumours that letters of no confidence in Liz Truss have already been sent to the 1922 Committee. Although the rules state that a leader should not be challenged for at least a year after a contest, there is nothing to stop the Committee changing the rules.

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29 September 2022 – today’s press releases

  • Davey: Truss must cancel Conservative conference to deal with economic crisis
  • Revealed: 32 crumbling hospital buildings including in PM’s backyard
  • Truss in complete denial on BBC Local Radio round
  • Liz Truss refuses to guarantee people’s pensions are safe
  • Fracking interview: Truss shows contempt for rural communities

Davey: Truss must cancel Conservative conference to deal with economic crisis

Ed Davey demands Liz Truss and her ministers spend time fixing the budget as new research finds Government energy bill support will be wiped out by higher mortgage bills

Typical family faces £2,000 rise in mortgage bills following last week’s disastrous budget

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey has called on Liz Truss to cancel the Conservative party conference this weekend, and instead recall Parliament to vote to fix the disastrous mini-budget. The party is also calling on the Government to bring forward a rescue package for homeowners unable to pay higher mortgage bills as a result of last week’s budget.

Ahead of the energy price cap rising on Saturday (1st October), new analysis by the Liberal Democrats reveals the predicted rise in mortgage bills is more than double what the Government has offered to support households with their energy bills.

The Government has pledged to freeze energy prices at £2,500 for the average household, which would have equated to around £1,000 support for the average household.

However, the fallout from last week’s budget is predicted to force the Bank of England to raise interest rates to as much as 5% next year, costing the average mortgage borrower on a Standard Variable Rate a staggering £2,100 per year. Those on an average tracker mortgage would face an even higher annual increase of £3,000 per year if interest rates rise to the predicted 5% next year.

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

There is no way the Conservative Party can hold their conference whilst the British economy nosedives. The arrogance of Liz Truss and Conservative Ministers is frankly an insult to millions who now face higher bills as a direct result of last week’s budget. From this weekend they will abandon their posts in Downing Street, leaving a mess behind them and heading for the cocktail parties and mutual back-patting of the classic conference season.

In one fell swoop, Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng crashed the economy, trashed the pound and paved the way for record interest rate rises.

Innocent mortgage borrowers will be left to pick up the bill of this gross incompetence. It is time Parliament is recalled and new measures passed to save families and pensioners unable to cope with this mortgage crisis. This botched budget cannot survive any longer.

Revealed: 32 crumbling hospital buildings including in PM’s backyard

  • Dangerous roofs not set to be replaced until 2035, Freedom of Information request reveals.
  • Hospitals in the Prime Minister’s and Health Secretary’s local areas have roofs at risk of collapse.
  • Liberal Democrats call on Government to fix the budget to save NHS from real-terms cuts amid rising inflation

32 hospital buildings across the country are fitted with dangerous roofs at risk of sudden collapse, data uncovered by the Liberal Democrats have revealed.

The Freedom of Information request has revealed that 32 buildings at 19 NHS Trusts are fitted with reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) which is said to be ‘structurally weaker’, ‘lightweight’ and ‘cheaper’ than a regular fitting. NHS England has also revealed that the dangerous roofs are not set to be fully replaced until 2035.

Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn, near Liz Truss’s constituency, is the worst in the country with four buildings fitted with the dangerous material. The chief executive of the hospital has previously likened the material to a “chocolate Aero bar” with bubbles that could break and collapse at any point. Liz Truss this morning refused to guarantee that the hospital would be fixed in an interview with BBC Norfolk, adding that she couldn’t make any promises on the Health Secretary’s behalf.

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Truss car crash interviews on BBC local radio on cost of living and fracking

Having absented herself from the media for days, the prime minister chose to defend her decisions and Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget on BBC local radio. Truss appeared on breakfast shows on BBC Radio Leeds, Norfolk, Kent, Lancashire, Nottingham, Tees, Bristol and Stoke. Her media advisers clearly thought local radio would be a soft touch with presenters more used to talking about a church fete. So very wrong. The interviews were sometimes excruciating. You could hear pauses at times, as she struggled to find her scripted reply and to remember which radio station was interviewing her.

First up for the prime minister was an interview with on BBC Radio Leeds. As the first of the day, it wasn’t so much of a car crash for Truss as the later interviews.

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Davey: Truss must cancel Tory conference to deal with economic crisis

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey has called on Liz Truss to cancel the Conservative party conference which begins this weekend, and instead recall parliament to vote to fix the disastrous mini-budget. Lib Dems are also calling on the government to bring forward a rescue package for homeowners unable to pay higher mortgage bills as a result of last week’s budget.

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The Conservatives no longer stand for a stable economy

Friday’s Kwasi-Budget was not officially a budget, despite being on of the most important fiscal statements since the Thatcher era. Because it was not a budget, it was not scrutinised by the Office of Budget Responsibility. That is yet another example of the Conservatives trying to circumvent processes designed to ensure that government’s act rationally.

This was a budget that will make top earners even more wealthy, while leaving the country and the poorest more impoverished. It was a budget based on the discredited myth of trickle-down economics. It was a budget that will allow wealthier people to dine out in style while those on the breadline scramble for crumbs.

This is an idealist budget driven by a leader who is beginning to make Margaret Thatcher look left wing.

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Davey: We have most right wing government in modern history

In an interview with the Guardian yesterday, Ed Davey discussed Liz Truss’s administration ahead of tomorrow’s budget that is not a budget. He said of Truss:

She is saying some of the most extraordinary ideological things. She has appointed probably the most right wing government in modern history. And it seems completely out of touch.

He said Truss’s decision to style Friday’s announcement as a “fiscal event” rather than a budget seemed to be aimed at preventing the independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) scrutinising its impact.

The failure to have an OBR assessment shows the economy is being run by ideology, not a plan. They clearly don’t want the evidence, because that would be unhelpful to their argument. And that should trouble everybody.

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Which public services will the Conservatives shrink further?

Liz Truss has just handed Liberal Democrat campaigners a powerful set of questions to put to Tory MPs. She insists that tax cuts are the answer to Britain’s economic problems – amounting to 1-2% of GDP, perhaps more once the full package of proposed cuts emerges. She’s pledged to raise defence spending by 1% of GDP – for which, sadly, there is a case when Russia intervention in Ukraine threatens European security. She’s promising to provide financial support for household and business energy bills, likely to amount to between 2% and 4% of GDP over the coming year, without offsetting the cost through a windfall tax on energy companies of the sort that most of our continental neighbours are levying. Other government programmes will have to be slashed to prevent public deficits spinning out of control.

So what cuts in other public services will Conservative MPs accept in order to prevent government debt spiralling and the pound sinking further on international markets? A squeeze on schools, or policing, or on the already-overstretched NHS? Holding down public service pay, while letting bankers’ bonuses soar? Slashing public investment in hospitals and transport infrastructure, and reducing local authority budgets further, thus saying goodbye to the promises of ‘Levelling Up’ that helped them to win the last general election? Or holding down benefits, leaving the poorest in our society even poorer? Ask every Conservative MP what further cuts they will support – or whether they will oppose this tax-cutting strategy.

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Daisy Cooper slams Truss speech and Ed Davey calls for General Election

Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper has absolutely slammed Liz Truss’s speech on the steps of Number 10.

It did nothing, she said, for the business owners who were scared that they might have to close their businesses in days if not weeks.

She criticised the reported Truss plan on energy bills, saying that she should pay for it by taxing the energy companies’ massive profits rather than through general taxation.

Ed Davey was up early this morning. A friend of mine on Twitter saw him keeping warm with a Pret coffee. He explained to BBC Breakfast why the Government should tax energy firms:

 

Ed also called for a General Election to get the Tories out of power once and for all:

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Another day, another new Conservative Prime Minister to muck up our lives

Boris Johnson and Liz Truss are in for an absolute treat today. It’s more of a faff to get to Balmoral than a quick spin up the Mall to Buckingham Palace, but the journey from Aberdeen through Royal Deeside is absolutely gorgeous. The heather in the hills round about Aboyne is particularly stunning, even if it is, as forecast, tipping it down.

I am so glad that they are going north to see the Queen. The 96 year old monarch has earned the right to say that they should come to her.

I wonder what arrangements have been made for Boris and Carrie to get back from Balmoral. Normally the outgoing PM gets a taxi from Buckingham Palace. Will the estate manager drop them in Ballater so they can get the bus back to Aberdeen to catch the Easyjet back down south? Probably not, but it’s an amusing thought.

Much has been said about the new Prime Minister’s bulging in tray. Competing economic, energy, international and health crises require urgent action. I don’t think we are emphasising enough, though, the extent to which all these issues have been made worse by the foolish actions of the Conservative Party in Government since 2015.  From David Cameron’s ill-advised pledge to hold a referendum on our EU membership, to Theresa May’s and Boris Johnson’s choice to pursue the most extreme form of Brexit, they have helped create much tougher economic circumstances than in similar economies.

Sectors like social care are falling apart because of their anti-immigrant ethos. As care workers went back to the EU, our disabled and elderly friends and family found that the help that they relied on disappeared.

Boris Johnson’s boasterish farewell speech this morning didn’t mention this. He didn’t get Brexit done. He left a predictably impossible situation in Northern Ireland and the new PM intends to take the nuclear option of breaking international law rather than find a more pragmatic solution.  Deaths from Covid in the UK are the highest in Europe and the long term consequences of their pretence that the pandemic is over are being felt by too many people.

It takes some brass neck to deliver such a bullish speech when you have been forced from office in disgrace after the resignation of half of your government. Tim Farron summed it up this morning:

Jo Swinson said back in 2019 that the worst thing about Boris Johnson was that he just didn’t care. He simply couldn’t be bothered to understand how his Government’s actions affected people. Liz Truss, similarly, shows no sign of giving a damn and she doesn’t have anything like the charisma of her predecessor.

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William Wallace writes: The chaos of single-party government

Conservative HQ has briefed the media that it plans to attack other parties in the next election campaign for offering ‘a coalition of chaos’ instead of the ‘strong and stable’ single-party government the UK has benefitted from since 2015.  Liberal Democrats should be rubbishing this fantasy.

In the past seven years we have suffered two early elections and three prime ministers – with a fourth now coming into office.  We have had four Chancellors of the Exchequer, five foreign and business secretaries, and six cabinet ministers for education – seven if we include Michele Donovan’s two-day term.  Junior ministers have turned over at an even faster rate, many moving on after less than a year without time to learn their jobs.  Rapid shifts of policy, inconsistent announcements on priorities, officials having to start again briefing new ministers often arriving without any relevant expertise about their responsibilities: chaotic government by any definition.

We can expect another round of ministerial churn in the coming week.  In 2019, what’s more, 21 MPs were suspended from the Parliamentary Party.  Only 10 had the whip restored; two former chancellors and two other former cabinet ministers were among those expelled from the party.  Ken Clarke remarked that the party that expelled him was no longer Conservative; ‘it’s the Brexit Party, rebadged.’

At a Liberal Democrat Business Network gathering last week people were telling me how they longed for the stability that a coalition government might offer after the twists and turns, factional plotting, and inconsistent ministerial directives they have suffered since 2015.  We are likely to face more infighting after the embittered leadership contest we have seen this summer, which will make it even harder for the Conservatives to present themselves as a model of stability at the next election, and easier for us to make the case for institutional change to give Britain better government.

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The perils of nostalgia and boosterism

I think most political activists outside the Conservative party will have worked out that Liz Truss tries to combine the style of Thatcher with the boosterism of Johnson. The Iron Lady will always be “that bloody woman” for many of us. She can be accused of promoting profoundly destructive policies but I don’t think she went down the road of cheap optimism as far as Johnson/Truss have gone. Most politicians will use the word “hope” in their speeches and leaflets but it is important to distinguish between the hope that flows from a vision of a better world and a more civilised society and the promise of a golden future which simply ignores reality. The latter is, of course, the stock-in-trade of populist authoritarians. Few nations wish to dominate the world but Hitler and Goebbels managed to sell the plan for doing so to the German people even when the Nazis started to lose World War 2.

I would be hard pressed to say which is the most dangerous between nostalgia and boosterism. Both refuse to face and communicate reality, or perhaps an interpretation of reality, and in different ways both can have cruel consequences.

In England nostalgia played a powerful part in the EU referendum and in the Conservative so-called Red Wall gains in the 2019 General Election. Looking back to imperial glory has contributed to the UK’s steady decline over the post-war decades. Other European countries managed to get over the loss of colonies, with the exception of Putin’s Russia! English nostalgia for the past is a grim drag on our politics. At a time when generations have never hitherto been so polarised both in political outlook and political participation, it is perhaps a cliché to suggest that hope for the future lies with younger generations. The best political legacy that my generation could offer (apart from continuing to die off!) may be discussing politics with grandchildren and persuading them to vote.

While recession looks inevitable in the midst of so many other crises, we must hope that people will realise the hollowness of the promises of sunlit uplands emanating from Truss and her ilk. My parents lived through the 1930s in one of the poorest parts of the North-East but they claimed that never being without shoes helped to get them through tough times. Between the wars some working class communities were lured into voting Conservative, expanding the minority ongoing working class Tory vote. They insisted that the harsh realities of the thirties resulted in the “never again” approach, reflected in the 1945 election result.

Posted in Op-eds | 8 Comments

25 August 2022 – today’s press releases

  • GCSEs: Government deserves an ‘F’ for letting down pupils
  • Missing: UK’s Foreign Secretary. Last seen leaving G20 early
  • Dentist crisis escalates as new data reveals drop in NHS dental appointments

GCSEs: Government deserves an ‘F’ for letting down pupils

Responding to today’s GCSE results, Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Munira Wilson MP said:

The Conservatives have fiddled the figures and failed our young people yet again. Ministers have thrown into question thousands of students’ futures by taking their grades away to correct two years of exam chaos.

Young people receiving their results today faced unprecedented disruption to their studies. The Government deserves an ‘F’ for letting down these pupils, their parents and their teachers since day one of the pandemic.

This uncaring Conservative carousel of Education Secretaries cannot be trusted with our young people’s future any longer. We need proper investment in helping children recover lost learning from the pandemic, and we need them gone.

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What if the Tories lose an Autumn 2022 General Election?

The temptation for Liz Truss to call a General Election soon after becoming Tory leader might be too much to resist. A shiny new leader might enable them to win. But I’m wondering about the other side: might they be planning to lose? In an ideal world they’d have done that before Boris Johnson’s position became completely untenable, but there’s a narrow window in which Truss might be able to lead per party to defeat and survive as leader by blaming her predecessor.

We need to think about this because it would inform our campaign and shape some difficult decisions afterwards.

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Liz Truss is still a Republican

Liz Truss was a British Republican when an undergraduate.  Now she’s much more an American Republican than a British Conservative.  Her rhetoric about tax cuts, paying for themselves through increasing economic growth, is straight out of the Reaganite textbook; which is hardly surprising, since she is on record as having asked right-wing think tanks in Washington while visiting what lessons she could learn from Reaganomics and their attacks on regulation and red tape.

It is surprising that commentators in Britain have not paid more attention to the long-term colonization of the Conservative Party by the American right.  I first caught a glimpse of the process when catching a plane to Washington for a transatlantic conference during a short parliamentary recess, some twenty years ago, and found myself accompanied by over a dozen Conservative MPs – none of them specialists in US-European relations – invited to meetings with Washington think tanks.  The stalwarts of the European Research Group look across the Atlantic for intellectual leadership, and often travel across; though they rarely interact with Conservative politicians on the European continent, except with Fidesz in Hungary and other authoritarian populists.

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Sunak and Truss on Grammar Schools

Yesterday Rishi Sunak agreed that he wanted to bring back grammar schools. Earlier Liz Truss had said that she wanted to end the ban on new grammar schools.

I find this profoundly depressing.

No-one should talk about grammar schools in isolation from the rest of the education system. They are one aspect of a selective system which sees all children placed in either a selective grammar school or a non-selective school. Each new grammar school generates, by default, at least two other schools designed for those who don’t attend grammar schools.

Such a system is based on three questionable assumptions.

  1. Bright children are not served well by comprehensive schools. (Odd then that Liz Truss got into Oxford from a comprehensive, even though she now chooses to denigrate her old school.)
  2. A child’s educational potential is fixed and can be identified at the age of 11. (This has been thoroughly debunked.)
  3. Selective systems benefit all children and society at large. (Ah, where do we start?)

I was a product of the selective system – as indeed were many people who are still in positions of influence and power, who believe that Grammar Schools gave them a good start in life. At the time it didn’t feel right to me. I went to a Grammar School where I was expected to take O levels and A levels while some of my friends were channelled into Secondary Modern Schools where they were forced to leave at 15 without any qualifications. I knew that they were being educationally disadvantaged and that it would have an impact across the whole of their lives.

In 1965 just 20% of pupils gained 5 or more O Level passes in England and Wales – and they would have all been studying at Grammar Schools. By 1975 the majority of local authorities had moved to a comprehensive system, and improvements in attainments started appearing in the 1980s. Over the years the percentage of pupils gaining what is now known as a Level 2 qualification (5 or more GCSEs with A* to C grades, or equivalent) has risen steadily.  By 1988 it stood at 30%, but by 2015 it was 86% (although it has dropped back a few points since then).  So no-one can argue that outcomes were better under a selective system – it was comprehensive schools that overwhelmingly delivered these results.

And of course there is plenty of research which shows that selection favoured the middle classes. Indeed my feelings of unease solidified when I spent some months in my gap year working for a renowned team who were researching just that.

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How Liz Truss emulated Margaret Thatcher as an Education Minister

David Laws’ Coalition memoirs tell  how Liz Truss’s stubbornness as a  junior minister became part of the Tory-Lib Dem mudslinging fest by Michael Gove

I would like to point especially new Lib Dem members to the memoirs of David Laws on his experiences at the heart of the 2010-2015 Tory-Lib Dem Coalition government. Laws  tells us about Liz’s first steps as a junior Education minister, and her characteristics and policymaking attitudes  which shone through.

On Saturday, Andy Boddington reported on a Times article in which Neil Fawcett, now a Federal Board member and  Oxfordshire County councillor, said that Liz in her LDYS days was on the radical wing of our party, promoting both abolishing the monarchy and legalising cannabis. On that last point she made the first of a whole series of Damascene conversions  after joining the Tories in 1996.  During her 2001 Hemsworth parliamentary campaign she said that she now opposed it.

From 1998-2010 she was active in Tory local politics in Greater London and Greenwich, before entering parliament in 2010 from David Cameron’s A-list. So she knew about local politics, in which Education and Childcare (at least in  Dutch local politics) are always a big issue. For all Social Liberals, good childcare and good education from the earliest stages has been a major issue for the past 140 years.

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Eugh! Lib Dems react to Sunak v Truss debate

The press release from the Lib Dem Press Office just after the BBC debate between Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak last night was very short.

Lib Dems respond to BBC Tory leadership debate

Responding to this evening’s BBC Tory leadership debate, a Liberal Democrat spokesperson said: 

“Eurgh.”

ENDS

While it lacked in words, it summed up the feelings of much of the country, although I still think it was a bit generous.  Neither the participants nor the BBC covered themselves in glory.

Other Lib Dem reaction included:

You wouldn’t expect there to be much for liberals to be pleased about in a Conservative leadership debate, particularly as the participants are pandering to an increasingly right wing membership that would not be out of place in the Republican Party of Donald Trump. Ultra-nationalist, small state, minority bashing, this is what’s left after all the decent, one-nation types left in disgust in 2019.

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Did Liz Truss jump parties to advance in politics?

Here on LDV, we have been reviewing the past of a politician who might our next prime minister. Once an ardent Lib Dem with a passion for getting rid of the monarchy, she appeared on national TV with Mark Pack and Paddy Ashdown. In today’s Times, we learn more about the young Liz Truss from Neil Fawcett, a Liberal Democrat councillor who is part of Layla Moran’s team in Oxfordshire.

She was bloody difficult to work with… I wasn’t massively surprised when she turned up as a Tory. I would not be surprised if she made a choice that she wanted to get on in politics and jumped horses to do it.

What has surprised me is that she has got to the level she has, because I never felt that she was particularly talented.

 

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