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Rats in a Sack: Will Sunak’s Loose talk cost people their holidays?

Our digest of the worst of Westminster looks at Kemi Badenoch, Chris Heaton-Harris, Rishi Sunak and more

Picture: ITV

On TV’s Loose Women just last week Rishi Sunak gave a pretty unambiguous steer that there would not be a general election until the autumn at the earliest. He told Janet Street-Porter et al it would be “good for your holidays”, indicating it wouldn’t be until October (given the usual six-week campaign).

A week is a long time in politics. Let’s hope no-one in Westminster booked a trip away off the back of the prime minister’s Loose talk!

“EXCL: Angela Rayner has been growing close to her ex Sam Tarry in recent months…,” posted Sun on Sunday political editor Kate Ferguson on Twitter/X at the weekend. “Sam was spotted leaving her London flat earlier this week.”

The post linked to a story about Tarry apparently leaving the deputy Labour leader’s flat with the smoking gun: “a toothbrush sticking out of his coat pocket.”

Given the pair are both divorced and single, it’s unclear quite what the scandal is here, but given it’s apparently important public figures’ consenting relationships are reported, it’s worth noting that Conservative Party chairman Richard Holden’s girlfriend is… Sun on Sunday political editor Kate Ferguson!

Business secretary Kemi Badenoch was celebrating this week as she announced new legislation making it easier for pubs, restaurants and cafes to get permission to serve customers outside.

“This government is seizing the benefits of Brexit by reducing burdens on business, pushing down the cost of living, and driving growth in every corner of the economy,” she cheered.

So apparently it was being in the EU which banned cafes from serving customers outside – something to keep an eye on when you’re in France, Italy or Spain this summer!

The Times’ Joanna Williams was this week excoriating in her attacks on the British media’s coverage of the attempt on Slovakian prime minister Robert Fico’s life, particularly in its use of one particular word.

“One word was used repeatedly: populist,” she fumed. “These epithets were used when Fico was critically ill.

“The line between popular and the more sneering populist seems always to correspond with the opinions of commentators. Fico is polarising only to journalists whose sympathies lie with Slovakia’s western-leaning professionals rather than the majority of voters.”

Williams cited the Spectator, Sky News and the Economist as being particularly at fault. Alas, restrictions of space prevented her from calling out the newspaper which, three days previously, used the headline ‘Who is Robert Fico? Slovakia’s populist prime minister who was shot’ – The Times!

Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton-Harris announced this week that he is standing down as an MP at the general election. Could his new free time mean we might finally see his Brexit book?

In 2017 Heaton-Harris, then a lowly Tory whip, wrote to university vice-chancellors across the UK asking for the names of any professors involved in teaching European affairs “with particular reference to Brexit”. In his letter, he asked for “a copy of the syllabus” and any online lectures on Brexit.

After being accused of “McCarthyite” tactics by academics who said it was an assault on free speech Heaton-Harris was defended by colleagues who said it was, in fact, research for a book he was writing. Seven years on, the work has yet to see the light of day.

Your correspondent contacted Heaton-Harris’ office to see if he was returning to his opus, now in gestation almost as long as Boris Johnson’s Shakespeare biography, but alas got no response.

For those impatient, Heaton-Harris’ previous book, Fighting the Kelmarsh Wind Farm, is still available as an e-edition on Amazon for 99p. “24 pages with lots of pictures of country houses, horses, a sleeping child, and inspiring local history,” says one review.

Also missing in action is the Museum of Brexit, announced in 2018 as a permanent celebration of Britain’s monumental decision to unilaterally leave the world’s most successful trade bloc.

It was registered as a charity in 2021, the same year it shortlisted Peterborough or Boston to be its home. Yet the trail has since gone cold and it seems no closer to being built.

We would ask one of its key supporters, still listed and pictured on the homepage on its website. But Lord Lawson of Blaby was unavailable for comment, having died over a year ago.

Once upon a time, prime ministers travelling overseas took journalists from across the spectrum with them to cover their visits. Not soon-to-be-former PM Rishi Sunak.

When he travelled to Austria to meet chancellor Karl Nehammer this week and discuss his Rwanda policy, the only outlets allowed to cover it, alongside the Press Association, were GB News and the Daily Mail – a sign of exactly where the prime minister is pitching his messages!

It appears that, having run out of things accused of being racist to defend, GB News host and Reform MP for Ashfield, has been forced to move on to things which literally nobody has accused of being racist.

“Full English Breakfast,” he posted on Twitter/X alongside a picture of his morning meal. “A great start to the day but how long before some highly educated expert tells us our traditional breakfast is racist?”.

(Incidentally, a “reserved for members only” sign was prominent in the picture, indicating Anderson was sitting in the section of the Commons canteen where MPs are not forced to mix with staff.)

Anderson’s GB News colleague and conspiracy theorist Beverly Turner was trending on Twitter/X this week after writer and broadcaster Matthew Sweet shared a late-night WhatsApp message from her. “I haven’t told anyone about our conversation at the conference,” she wrote. “But I will. Back off. You’re being an attention seeking little twat.”

A confused Sweet explained that the pair had met at the Conservative Party conference last year where she “explained her belief that Covid was a relatively unserious disease that the government had exaggerated as part of a global plot by Bill Gates and others to introduce a digital ID system which would be used to reduce human liberty”. She also explained how the media declined to reveal this by giving out lucrative advertising contracts.

Still, at least she’s moved on now. This week she was posting about “the government experimenting with the weather”.

A bizarre debate in the Commons last week as MPs somehow found themselves discussing the nationality of a 1970s gorilla.

In a debate notionally on the Zoological Society of London (Leases) Bill, Tory MP Bob Blackman got nostalgic about Guy the Gorilla, apparently a popular attraction at London Zoo until “tragically, he died of a heart attack after having a tooth extracted in 1978”.

Fellow Conservative MP chipped in that he “was amused to hear that Guy the gorilla only understood French”, prompting another Tory, Jerome Mayhew, to intervene and ask: “It is obviously a matter of deep concern for the House that Guy the gorilla spoke only French. I meant to intervene on my honourable friend the Member for Harrow East [Blackman] to ask whether Guy, at the end of his life, was bilingual”.

“We will never know, but perhaps a clue can be found in whether the statue of Guy the gorilla is wearing a beret,” pondered Everitt.

Later, another Conservative, James Wild, chipped in: “I understand that his tooth decay was caused by him being fed sweets by people visiting the zoo, so it is very important that only zookeepers should feed the animals. It is important to get that on the record.”

The creatures outside looked from MP to gorilla, and from gorilla to MP, and from MP to gorilla again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

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