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Rats in a Sack: Miriam Cates and the mystery of the 72 genders

Our digest of the worst of Westminster looks at Dehenna Davison, Nadhim Zahawi, Liz Truss and more

Photo by Pat Scaasi/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Conservative Kinder, Küche, Kirche crackpot Miriam Cates has been all over the airwaves this week with her new report on sex education in schools.

One of her main hobby horses is that schoolchildren are being taught there are 72 genders – indeed, she told the House of Commons back in March that 72 genders “is what passes for relationships and sex education in British schools”.

And it does, indeed, appear that children have been told that there are 72 genders. Once. In one school, Queen Elizabeth II High School in Peel. Which is on the Isle of Man. Which isn’t part of Britain.

How do those prime ministerial press conferences you see on the TV work?

The journalist Robert Hutton offered a peek behind the curtain this week, posting on Twitter/X a picture from inside Rishi Sunak’s ring binder. Inside was a list of the journalists selected to ask the PM a question, in order, along with a headshot for Sunak to identify them.

It was long standard for the BBC’s political editor to get the first question at a prime minister’s press conference, followed by ITV’s – the pair worked for national broadcasters. But not any more.

Top two were a pair of lobby hacks dependently loyal to the Conservative cause – the Sun’s political editor (and Carrie Johnson ex) Harry Cole, and the Telegraph’s Ben Riley-Smith. Then it was ITV’s Robert Peston, the BBC’s Chris Mason and the Daily Mail’s Jason Groves, followed by Natasha Clark from the cabbies’ favourite LBC and Channel 4 News’ Gary Gibbon.

Every other hack in attendance could attempt to raise their hand and pose the prime minister a question – but the result of this game was decided long before kick-off!

“Just cried a lot at Champagne Problems. Eek,” posted Conservative MP Dehenna Davison this week, along with a picture of her enjoying a Taylor Swift concert in Paris.

Twenty-four hours after enjoying the feminist superstar, Davison was back in Westminster – just in time to vote against a ban on MPs arrested for serious sexual or violent offences entering the Parliamentary estate.

Shadow international development secretary Lisa Nandy is meeting with everybody who has held the role in government in the past 20 years ahead of potentially taking on the job for real, she told an event held by the UK in a Changing Europe think tank last night.

“Well, not Priti Patel,” she added. “But the others.”

Event chair Anand Menon noted that might be problematic were Patel to defect to the Labour Party this week…

Good news for those of you worried about Nadhim Zahawi’s financial future after he announced he was stepping down as an MP – the short-lived former chancellor and disgraced Conservative Party chair has landed himself a new gig.

Zahawi has joined the Very group – the buy-now-pay-later retail group your parents almost certainly still think of as Littlewoods – as a non-executive chair. Which is useful income, as nobody expects him to retire off the profits of his autobiography, now due to be published in the summer.

At least Liz Truss’ memoir, Ten Years to Save the West, managed to sell a few copies, even though reviews, with a few notable exceptions, were appalling. Still, Conservative MPs would be kinder, surely? Er, no.

Reviewing his former leader’s tome in the House magazine, Tory MP and former minister Tim Loughton writes: “Much of the book comes across as a rage against the various establishment groupings that were out to bring her down and make her the victim she portrays herself as.

“Shamelessly brandishing her elevated position with the ultimate name drop on page one – I had an appointment with Her Majesty the Queen’ – even the late monarch inconsiderately dying on her watch entrenches her victim status: ‘Why me, why now?’.”

A special Just A Flesh Wound award for Wales Secretary David TC Davies who went on the News Agents podcast to explain why, actually, things are going great electorally for the Conservatives.

Davies drew his hosts’ attention no fewer than 10 times to the fact that, er, the Tories have more police and crime commissioners (PCCs) than Labour, apparently putting them on track to election victory. 

But, as host Jon Sopel pointed out, in Wales itself three of the four police and crime commissioners elected earlier this month were Labour and the other Plaid Cymru. “I’m not staking an argument on PCCs,” said Davies, who had brought them up a double-digit amount of times. “I’m just saying to you, you can’t say it’s all bad when across England and Wales together we ended up with more police and crime commissioners than Labour.” ‘Tis but a scratch!

Poor old Lee Anderson is whingeing about being removed from the Home Affairs Select Committee and, as usual, it’s a stitch-up for the little guy (with a £100,000 side hustle presenting a national TV show).

“I would’ve liked to have stayed on the committee but with the Home Office once again due to be scrutinised before this committee then I’m probably the last person they want asking questions in the run-up to an election,” he wrote on Twitter/X.

Possibly true – but more likely it’s due to the fact that the make-up of select committees reflects the party balance in the House of Commons and, as a member of a party currently holding 0.15% of its seats, there’s no space for him.

Ukip, who unaccountably still exist, have a new leader, with Lois Perry beating Bill Etheridge with 77.4% of the vote to take on the thankless task (regular readers may remember how former deputy leader Rebecca Jane, in her parting shot in February, said that “the leadership campaign is a farce and Lois is being parachuted in because of the chairman’s personal desires”).

“We are fighting a woke mind virus which stems from communism,” Perry said in her victory speech, given not in person but from an armchair in what looks like a kitchen. “Our focus must be future, family, food.” Sounds like something Miriam Cates could sign up to!

“The Magna Carta is one of the most important documents to ever exist, it is the foundation of freedom and rights,” wrote GB News host and noted historical scholar Darren Grimes this week after a case protecting it was damaged by Just Stop Oil protestors at the British Library.

As one of the nation’s most pre-eminent students of Angevin history, it’s surely an errant thumb from Grimes which gave Magna Carta a completely incorrect definite article. Next week: Darren asks: “Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you? Did she die in vain?”

It’s been a lovely week for most of us, weather-wise, and this tends to put people in better moods. Not so, alas, on the Daily Telegraph’s comment desk.

Among the tide of apocalyptic pieces published in the last week are Janet Daley’s “Our shallow political elites have given up on democracy altogether”, Sherelle Jacobs’ “Yes, Britain is at a crossroads, but all directions currently lead to disaster” and Allister Heath’s “The British dream is crumbling, replaced by a nightmare of sectarian division”.

Still, at least there’s Jemima Lewis’ “Thank goodness for complainers, who whinge so we don’t have to”!

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