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Rats in a Sack: What will Trevor Kavanagh make of Sun’s Starmer endorsement?

Our digest of the worst of Westminster looks at Jonathan Gullis, Reform, the Daily Telegraph and more

Sun columnist Trevor Kavanagh (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

The Sun has backed Labour because, er, they’re going to win. And one can only wonder quite how angry its star political columnist, Trevor Kavanagh, is.

The octogenarian Australian hates Keir Starmer with a passion, blaming him for the prosecutions of several News UK journalists following the phone-hacking scandal (rather than, say, the senior executives who coughed up the names of more junior staff in order to cover their own hides).

And he rarely fails to slate the Labour leader, in reasoned articles like ‘Starmer looks more like Lurch from the Addams Family than a future PM’ (May 2022), ‘PM Sunak is whacking Keir Starmer all over the park and revived jaded Tory appetite for battle’ (March 2023), ‘Rishi Sunak beats blobby Starmer at PMQs every week’ (April 2023) and ‘No ideas, no plan, and no answers – Keir Starmer is the new Neil Kinnock and voters will see through his Sir Shifty act’ (July 2023).

Not forgetting prescient predictions like ‘Sunak’s HS2 masterstroke may win him next election’ (October 2023) and ‘Tories can look forward to a hung parliament, not a Labour landslide’ (May 2024).

As recently as the weekend Kavanagh was warning of handing “absolute power to a hard-left socialist party bent on smashing our Westminster system of democracy”, saying that “seventeen million Brexiteers who voted to take back control will see us rejoin the EU by the back door — this time without a referendum” (alas, this is not Labour policy). Voters should “hold their noses and vote Tory”, he advised.

Now his paper says that by “dragging his party back to the centre ground of British politics for the first time since Tony Blair was in No 10, Sir Keir has won the right to take charge”. Let’s hope Kavanagh’s ageing heart holds up!

Not that the Tories are desperate, but their desire to make the focus of the last week of a vital general election campaign the issue of what time Keir Starmer plans to knock off as prime minister is likely to prove a head-scratcher for future historians.

Starmer told Virgin Radio’s Chris Evans that, even in Number 10, after 6pm on Fridays would be family time as he likes to have dinner with his wife and children.

Cue fire, fury and farce from the Tories. Health minister Maria Caulfield told Sky News: “Keir Starmer is saying he’s going to be doing a four-day week and finishing at six o’clock every evening”, which was very much not what Keir Starmer was saying (she also claimed she herself worked 20 hours a day, seven days a week as a junior minister).

But she was bettered by simian Stoke MP Jonathan Gullis, who told LBC: “The leader of the Labour Party is literally boasting that he plans to clock off at 6pm on a daily basis today,” which is very much not what the leader of the Labour Party was literally boasting.

He then added, absurdly: “So let’s hope Putin doesn’t choose 6.01pm when he wishes to go any further with his illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine.”

Thank goodness Gullis will soon be free to concentrate fully on his one-man campaign against avocados!

The Sun, before its reverse ferret, was quick to put the boot into Keir Starmer over Early-Dart-Gate.

The paper quoted Rishi Sunak as saying “there is always work you can do” and that “I work day and night to try and make people’s lives better”.

Meanwhile, how did the paper react during the 2017 general election campaign when it emerged that Theresa May made it clear to her team that Sunday mornings were out of bounds as she attended church? “The prime minister, the daughter of a vicar, is photographed attending her local church in Maidenhead every week,” it cooed approvingly.

In News UK’s London Bridge HQ, where the Sun is produced, a few eyebrows were raised this week at an item on offer in the staff canteen.

The publisher’s titles have been firm in their support for Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal journalist currently enduring a sham trial in Russia on ludicrous charges of spying. But was the ‘Evan Burger’ really the way to show it?

“It’s not a referendum about the past, it’s a really important choice about our future as a country” – Rishi Sunak, the morning of July 2, telling voters why they should not base their decision on the Conservatives’ record in office

“The greenest government ever! The best Olympics ever! The first out of lockdown and the fastest vaccine rollout in the world!” – Michael Gove, the evening of July 2, telling voters why they should base their decision on the Conservatives’ record in office

Another Tory highlight of the final week was a social video depicting Britain one year after a Labour victory, a piece of work so bad it may have been an elaborate art project.

A man rises at 5.45am to the news that Britain is suffering power cuts because of Labour’s energy policies. Leaving aside that is unlikely in July – when fuel consumption is at a low – the clock also shows that it is 27C outside. At 5.45am. And the house is plunged into darkness because it is pitch black outside. Which it isn’t at 5.45am in July. Especially when it’s weirdly 27C.

Other than that, another great performance by the Tories’ crack communications team!

The right were very excited this week by a poll by JL Partners which showed a large level of support for Reform among 16 and 17-year-olds.

“Nigel Farage would clean up under Labour’s plan to lower the voting age to 16, polling shows,” reported the Sun, who commissioned the poll. “His Reform Party would hoover up almost a quarter of all 16 and 17-year-olds – second only to the support for Sir Keir Starmer.”

Impressive stuff – until you look under the bonnet. The full breakdown of stats, downloadable from JL Partners’ own website, show they polled just 201 teens – approximately a fifth to a tenth of the sample size which any serious polling firm would usually require for it to be in any way meaningful.

If you’ve got £1.6m to chuck around, are a proud Conservative and – crucially – a complete moron, then your correspondent has found just the souvenir of the Tories’ 14 years in power for you.

Personalised numberplate firm Absolute Reg is flogging the number TOR 13S – Tories, geddit? – to anyone who wants to publicly flaunt their idiocy for the sum of just £1,625,065 (plus an £80 transfer fee to the DVLA to use it).

“For the right person this ticks all the boxes of being exclusive and fun,” cheers Jake Smith from the firm. “I could picture it on a Rolls or a Bentley, but obviously it wouldn’t be for everyone,” he adds, entirely unnecessary.

Reform had to apologise for yet another campaign boo-boo this week after soundtracking a video about the Tories’ record on immigration with a song widely associated with the far right.

The party used L’Amours Toujours by Gigi D’Agostino, a 1999 Italian disco hit which has gained an unfortunate second act after being appropriated by fun-loving German Nazis who have changed the lyrics of the chorus to ‘Auslӓnder raus’ (‘Foreigners out’).

Reform, of course, knew nothing of this link when selecting the tune. Nigel Farage said he “didn’t know” the connotations and “once we realised what we’d done, we took it down”.

It really is unfortunate that these things keep happening. Spotify has more than 100,000,000 songs on it, the overwhelming majority of which have no association with fascism. What a coincidence Reform managed to randomly select one of the few which have!

A quick last pre-election check-in at the Daily Telegraph to see how they’re coping. Oh. “Armageddon is upon us, and Britain will never be the same again,” runs the headline on Allister Heath’s column.

Nurse! The smelling salts!

“On the day Boris was removed from office we were between 2-4pc behind in the polls,” mused airport fiction writer and Boris Johnson fangirl Nadine Dorries on Twitter/X this week.

“The most effective part of the campaign so far has been Boris columns in the @DailyMailUK and the letters he’s written and videos he’s made for candidates. This mess is 100pc owned by Sunak and those of you who advocated for BJ to be removed and replaced with Sunak.”

Strong stuff – and, as usual, utter twaddle. The two polls conducted on the weekend before Johnson was forced from office show the Conservatives slipping six and seven points behind Labour. As the Financial Times journalist John Burn-Murdoch pointed out, when Johnson announced his resignation in July 2022, the Tories were on course to win only 211 seats in a general election, which would have been the fifth-heaviest defeat in their 190-year history. But if the party wants to spend the next decade flagellating itself over its lost hero, go for it!

The Guido Fawkes website, which younger readers may not recall was once a must-read at Westminster before throwing in its lot as the Johnson government’s digital cheerleader-in-chief, might, alas, be in a spot of bother.

It is being sued by green energy entrepreneur Dale Vince after falsely suggesting that he supports Hamas, a proscribed terrorist group. The blog’s owner and founder, thirsty former City trader Paul Staines, has previously escaped legal threats by being based in Ireland (“I don’t have to pay attention to what a British judge orders me to do”, he has boasted).

Now Vince has been given permission by an English judge to serve libel papers on Staines via email and post to his home in Ireland, as well as seeking a website blocking order, which could order British internet service providers to block access to specific posts. What a loss it would be!

The news comes, incidentally, as Guido Fawkes announced the appointment of Ross Kempsell as a contributing editor. Let’s hope it doesn’t impinge on his vital work in the House of Lords, where he has managed to speak just once since being appointed a legislator-for-life by Boris Johnson at the age of 31.

Finally, having attained his ultimate ambition of becoming Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and leaving office at the age of just 44, how did Rishi Sunak yesterday spend his penultimate full day in power?

In the studio of This Morning. Talking to ‘Britain’s most tattooed woman’.

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