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Rats in a Sack: Truss bags the backing of Hugh Janus

Our digest of the worst of Westminster looks at Kemi Badenoch, Daniel Hannan, the New Statesman and more

Liz Truss speaks at the launch of the 'Popular Conservatives' movement (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Another week, another triumph for Liz Truss’ PopCons – the ‘Popular Conservative’ movement dedicated to keeping the short-lived former prime minister and her loopy views in the national spotlight.

A section on the organisation’s website headlined ‘Sign up here to be part of the conversation’ allows those who wish to receive newsletters, campaign alerts and advance notice of events to hand over their details.

Unfortunately, the site also allowed users to see the names of those who had already registered. Firstly, that is almost certainly a breach of pesky data regulations. Secondly, and embarrassingly, it made public that, by late on Tuesday, just 30 people had signed up before the site’s owners realised and removed them.

And thirdly, those 30 included such names as Hugh Janus, Mike Rotch, Geoff Romaine and Adolf Hitler.

Who to believe in the increasingly unseemly row between business secretary Kemi Badenoch and ex-Post Office chair Henry Staunton over whether the latter was told – as he claims – to stall compensation to sub-postmasters affected by the Horizon IT scandal?

It comes alongside a concurrent row with Canada over her claim that she was engaged in trade talks with the country, negotiations Ottawa insists do not exist (Canada’s high commissioner to the UK, Ralph Goodale, wrote to the House of Commons business select committee to insist Badenoch’s claimed talks had not happened).

But Badenoch, of course, has even earlier form in being, ahem, a tad economical with the actualité. In the ITV Conservative leadership debate of 2022 she told the audience: “I know what it’s like flipping burgers at 16, on minimum wage, and then watching my pay slip away to taxes.”

Badenoch was born in 1980. There was no minimum wage until after the National Minimum Wage Act 1998. In 1999 the first rate was set at £3.60 an hour, but this was for adults aged over 22. Clearly an unfortunate misremembering, but what else might have slipped her memory?

Coming out to bat hard for Badenoch, however, was Andrew Neil, sometime TV presenter and chair of the Spectator, who took to Twitter/X to defend the business secretary.

“Too many have simply rushed to judgement. Their political motivation is clear, their evidence flimsy,” he harrumphed. “It’s pretty thin gruel.”

It would, of course, be helpful for the Spectator – currently fighting off a bid from an entity bankrolled by the United Arab Emirates – to have its former digital director leading the Conservative Party!

Monday marked four years since Tory peer Daniel Hannan wrote his celebrated article for conservativehome reassuring readers that Covid was going to be nothing to worry about. Admitting that “I am not an epidemiologist, an immunologist or a pathologist”, he nevertheless mocked suggestions it might turn out to be a bit of an issue: “There is no reason to panic. Cheer up.”

Four years and, at the time of writing, 6,984,587 global deaths later, it’s a good time to revisit Hannan’s equally epic Reaction piece from 2016, painting a picture of how Brexit Britain would look in 2025 as “Britain is marking its annual Independence Day celebration” and “fireworks stream through the summer sky”.

Not only is the UK “now the region’s foremost knowledge-based economy” but “steel, cement, paper, plastics and ceramics producers have become competitive again”. “Financial services are booming – not only in London, but in Birmingham, Leeds and Edinburgh too” while traders flocked to the City from Paris, Frankfurt and Milan. And not only do we now have trade treaties with India and China, Brexit has been such a massive success that, “unsurprisingly”, Ireland, Denmark and the Netherlands followed us out of the EU!

To be fair to the self-styled “brain of Brexit”, there are technically still 18 months in which all that could happen. It’s just looking a tad unlikely.

Is the New Statesman on a mission to deliberately alienate the subscribers it still retains?

A couple of weeks ago it featured a broadly positive interview with the Conservatives’ Kinder Küche Kirche crackpot (or “radical traditionalist”, if you prefer the headline) Miriam Cates by its commissioning editor Will Lloyd, himself poached from the right-wing Unherd website.

The latest issue goes even further with a fawning interview with JD Vance, Republican senator, Trump fanboy and potential vice-presidential pick, by Sohrab Ahmari, a right wing author who has backed not only Trump but Viktor Orbán. Vance is “a compelling choice to be Trump’s vice-president”, he told NS readers.

Throw in an online piece lauding Kemi Badenoch and a regular diet of contrarian philosopher John Gray lambasting “Western liberals”, and it’s little wonder the journalists not made redundant in the latest round of cuts are wondering if some sort of political realignment is going on.

A few weeks ago this column recounted how Ukip chairman Ben Walker had been in touch, having belatedly discovered an article charting the party’s demise in The New European last year. “It’s ‘quite’ crap and doesn’t really reflect the truth,” he wrote. Would you like to discuss and maybe publish more facts?”.

Always happy to help, so here are more facts! Last week Benny Boy was stripped of his role as a magistrate, having absent-mindedly forgotten, when applying for the role, that he was ordered to pay more than £11,000 after being found guilty of five breaches of building regulations at Bristol Magistrates Court in 2019.

“The Lord Chancellor, with the Lady Chief Justice’s agreement, has removed Mr Ben Walker of the Gloucestershire bench from office for failing to disclose that he had been convicted of five offences in his application to join the magistracy, despite clear guidance in the application form to do so,” said a spokesperson for the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office.

“Mr Walker did not declare that he had been convicted of five offences in either the application form or at interview, despite being asked whether there was anything in his private life which could damage his credibility as a magistrate if it became known to the public.”

In his defence, Walker said he “did not think that the matter for which he was fined amounted to a conviction, therefore, did not need to declare it”. Which is ‘quite’ crap.

David ‘Frosty’ Frost, former whisky peddler turned Boris Johnson’s hapless Brexit negotiator, has been treating readers of The House, Parliament’s in-house magazine, to his diary.

“In Somerset I was able to get to a place I’d always wanted to go, as a confirmed devotee of TS Eliot – East Coker,” he writes. “Eliot’s family left this small Somerset village for America in the 17th century.”

Quite what attracts Frost to the writer of such titles as The Waste Land and The Hollow Men remains unclear. But it’s a strange time to hitch one’s wagon to Eliot, given that he held such vile, anti-semitic views. “What is still more important [than cultural homogeneity] is unity of religious background, and reasons of race and religion combine to make any large number of free-thinking Jews undesirable,” he said in a lecture to the University of Virginia in 1933.

Richard Littlejohn, the Daily Mail’s soporific one-note you-couldn’t-make-it-up merchant was this week back on his favourite hobby horse: working from home.

“It was no surprise to read a report at the weekend claiming that Britain is facing an obesity epidemic because people ‘working from home’ are piling on the pounds, stuffing their faces with Hobnobs and watching Bargain Hunt in their jimjams,” he moaned.

“Half the country now considers work an optional extra. Even those prepared to take a job believe it is their right to ‘WFH’ for at least part of the week. No wonder productivity has plummeted.”

Not that you’ll see Littlejohn in the Mail’s London offices. Because, for many years, the old bore has filed from his home in Florida – something that space, presumably, prevented him from mentioning.

Ofcom finally flashed some teeth this week, announcing it was launching a probe into GB News’ ‘People’s Forum’ with Rishi Sunak, handing the prime minister an hour of primetime TV three days before a set of key by-elections.

Not everyone was happy. “If OFCOM rule against GB News for this, then it’s clear that there’s a sinister agenda,” wrote Adam Brooks, an Essex publican, boxer and regular talking head on the channel, wrote on Twitter/X. The tweet was reposted by Philip Davies, a Conservative MP with a tiny side-hustle earning £60,000 a year for presenting shows on the station. From here, that reposting looks quite a bit like a sitting MP lobbying on behalf of an organisation which pays him…

Harry Greenway, former Conservative MP and an early Brexiteer, died last month, but his obituaries only appeared this week.

They were a reminder that as well as obsessing over his distaste for Europe, homosexuality and the pill, Greenway also had an eccentric – even for Conservative MPs of the time – opposition to, er, videos.

“I confirm from my own research and observation that the first thing that people with redundancy money buy is a video,” he told the Commons in 1984. “Videos are a priority in the homes of probably as many as 60 percent of the working population of the country. They are often a higher priority in the homes of people who are not particularly articulate, and who do not read books or listen to music very much. In some homes, videos even take priority over food and furniture. That is the situation with which we are dealing.” They don’t make them like that anymore!

George Galloway, who has been a passionate advocate for the town of Rochdale ever since a by-election was called there on January 29, this week unveiled a new endorsement in his bid to be MP.

The backer was Tiger Patel, a Conservative until last year who now sits as an independent on Blackburn with Darwen Council. If you’ve heard of Patel, it’s likely because of an absurd campaign video which went viral in 2021, depicting him walking silently around a children’s playground, occasionally pushing a swing. The whole thing was set to the tune of a song from Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan’s election campaign, albeit largely drowned out by the wind.

The self-styled “Bojo of Blackburn” later met his hero, Boris Johnson, putting the video on his Facebook page (although misspelling the then prime minister’s name).

Now, in the weird world of British politics, he’s fully on board with Galloway’s latest carpetbagging campaign. “Thank you Tiger. That is an endorsement to be proud of!,” says Galloway.

Finally, it was reported this week that, according to the Royal College of General Practitioners, scabies cases are now running at three per 100,000 of the population in England. In addition, in 2022, 423 patients were admitted to English hospitals with rickets, a disease caused by lack of sunlight and inadequate levels of vitamin D.

But remember: don’t vote Labour and go back to square one!

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