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Rats in a Sack: Truss fails to make her mark on Milei

Our digest of the worst of Westminster looks at Suella Braverman, Robert Jenrick, Brendan Clarke-Smith and more

Javier Milei speaks at the Milken Institute's Global Conference in California (Photo by Apu Gomes/Getty Images)

Giving his first interview to the UK media since taking office, chainsaw-wielding Argentine president Javier Milei was asked by the BBC’s Ione Wells about receiving praise from Liz Truss.

“Liz Truss recently said that you were her favourite conservative leader,” said Wells. “Do you admire her?”.

Milei’s one-word answer? “Who?”.

“The hole to dig us out is the PM’s, and it’s time for him to start shovelling,” said Suella Braverman after the local election results, dismissing the idea of Rishi Sunak being replaced as Tory leader.

Broadly speaking, most agree that when one is in a hole it’s time to stop digging. It’s that stellar political acumen which makes Braverman currently 7/1 to be Sunak’s successor!

Languishing at 12/1 in the betting odds is Robert Jenrick, who this week launched his putative campaign to inherit the rubble of the Conservative Party after the last election.

“Instead of banning smoking or regulating London’s pedicabs, the government could use the time left in the parliamentary session to deliver the post-Brexit immigration system voters were promised,” he wrote in the Daily Telegraph. “We shouldn’t wait to save conservative policies for our manifesto when we are 20 points behind in the polls in an election year – that would be government by posturing and an abdication of duty.”

Friends tearfully recall the days Jenrick was part of a trio of hotly-tipped young Conservative junior ministers who penned a joint op-ed in the Times back in 2019 backing Boris Johnson for the party leadership – alongside Rishi Sunak and now deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden.

“We need to be honest,” they wrote. “We are in deep peril. Not difficulty. Not a bump in the road. The Conservative Party is facing an existential threat.” Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, as those pesky Europeans say!

Conservative MP and Brexit hardliner Brendan Clarke-Smith was contemptuous of those who disliked the result of the 2016 vote, blasting “elites who think they know better than the Brits who resoundingly rejected them in the referendum”. Last year he hit out at Keir Starmer’s record following the referendum, writing about how he “called for a second referendum, blocked Brexit 48 times, and ran for Labour leader on the promise of free movement”.

And what was Clarke-Smith’s response to the local election results last week, in which the Tories were roundly shellacked? “Postal voting – it’s time to scrap it,” he wrote on Twitter/X.

It is with much regret that we must report that, once again, someone has been briefing the Times about clever things Michael Gove has said in Cabinet.

The levelling-up secretary apparently invoked Kate Moss this week as he warned right-wing Tories against “comfort eating” by pursuing hard-line policies that “make us feel good about ourselves”. He added: “As Kate Moss once said ‘nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’.”

This is just the latest in a string of occasions in which Gove’s wise Cabinet musings have been leaked to his former employer. He must be absolutely furious!

Last week we reported on George Galloway’s Workers Party for Britain unveiling former England spinner Monty Panesar as a candidate for the forthcoming general election, and how the cricketer’s political judgement was as comical as his fielding.

In his initial interviews, Panesar outlined why he thought Britain should leave NATO in order to bring down migration, an area on which the military alliance has no effect whatsoever.

Now, after just a week, the dream is over. “I am withdrawing as a General Election candidate for The Workers Party. I realise I need more time to listen, learn and find my political home, one that aligns with my personal and political values,” Monty posted on Twitter/X. Traditionally one joins a political party after finding out what it stands for, but Panesar always was a mercurial talent.

“Today I asked what bold measures the government is taking to counter the oppressive weight of sky rocketing business rates imposed by Labour-led Leeds City Council – the worst rated council in the country for financial management,” posted Tory MP Andrea Jenkyns on Twitter/X.

Whoops! Because business rates are not set by Labour-led Leeds City Council, nor indeed any council – they are set by central government, which, Jenkyns may have noticed, has been run by her party for the past 14 years.

Among all the soul-searching about the Tories’ disastrous local election results, only Ann Widdecombe seems to have stumbled upon the obvious reason for their woes – they didn’t stick with Liz Truss long enough!

“I think that when some of those precipitate fools look back in later years, they may wonder just what might have happened if they had stood by Liz Truss,” writes Widdecombe, now of Reform UK, in the Daily Express.

“She introduced the only Conservative budget we have seen in years. Initially welcomed, it unravelled at high speed but that was largely due to activities around pension funds on which neither she nor her Chancellor had been briefed.

“Yes, she would have had to row back on some aspects and move more slowly but at least she was on the right path.”

Nurse! The smelling salts!

Truss herself, meanwhile, took part in a live-streamed talk this week as part of her Popular Conservatism movement, chatting with its director Mark Littlewood.

As she once again explained how everyone was responsible for the ousting of Liz Truss except Liz Truss, Littlewood boasted about the numbers tuning in – “more than 200 people”, he said, “over the course” of the hour.

For context, 200 is 0.0003% of the population of the United Kingdom, or approximately 50% of the average home attendance at Isthmian League Division One North side Walthamstow FC.

Incidentally, next week it’s Robert Jenrick being interviewed live online by Littlewood. The National Grid must already be making preparations!

Proper rats in a sack action between two other contenders to lead the Conservatives after the general election – Penny Mordaunt (7/2) and expert Brexit negotiator David “Frosty” Frost (approximately 40/1 if he can bag a safe seat and renounces his peerage).

On Tuesday night Mordaunt told the Westminster Conservative Association that a general election win for the party is “not impossible” if its factions end their civil war. Speaking at Piccadilly’s Royal Air Force Club, she larked: “To be effective, to be our best, we need both wings. As members of this club will tell you – those are the only kinds of planes people want to travel on.”

And Frost? The following day he approvingly shared on Twitter/X a letter from that day’s Daily Telegraph from the former police and crime commissioner for Thames Valley, who wrote: “My very pleasant local MP is a member of the One Nation Conservatives, who seem to represent everything that has gone wrong with the party. This group should be disbanded and proper Conservatives put forward at the next election.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Telegraph, a headline frets “Thirty years on, new EU rules could kill the Channel Tunnel dream”.

Writes senior travel writer Greg Dickinson: “Longer queues, higher fares, dropped destinations: how did things go so wrong for the tunnel where England meets France?”.

Well, there is something which happened a few years ago which might have led to new rules and longer queues, and for which the Telegraph campaigned aggressively for the hardest possible form of. Do you think we should tell them?

Similarly, GB News ran an article on its website this week, which began: “With its relaxed pace of life, Italy is a popular pick for expats looking to live abroad after retirement.” It then went on to pick out some of the parts of the country GBeebies viewers may wish to relocate to after giving up work.

It’s certainly an about-turn for GB News to back economically inactive migrants moving willy-nilly to other countries!

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