Skip to main content

Hello. It looks like you’re using an ad blocker that may prevent our website from working properly. To receive the best experience possible, please make sure any ad blockers are switched off, or add to your trusted sites, and refresh the page.

If you have any questions or need help you can email us.

Rats in a Sack: Greg Hands starts a political bun fight

Our digest of the worst of Westminster looks at Chris Philp, Liz Truss, Boris Johnson and more

Greg Hands holds up some flip-flops with Keir Starmer on them at last year's Conservative Party Conference (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

Good to see that Greg Hands hasn’t let his removal as Conservative Party chairman – after a string of embarrassing by-election defeats in previously safe seats – get to him. Now a junior trade minister, he is using his new role to… wage a one-man culture war about Chelsea buns.

Hands was initially triggered by fast food chain Leon stocking something called a “blueberry and yuzu blondie”. Affronted by the sight, the 58-year-old took to Twitter/X to demand Leon offered “a delicious Chelsea bun” instead. And he’s not stopped since.

The following day, Hands posted a video of himself outside swanky West London food store Partridges munching “the quintessential Chelsea pastry”. The day after that, he was on local news website the SW Londoner urging local residents to “press” their bakers to stock the bun. It was important “for people to take pride in their local sweet treat”, he solemnly told the website.

Days later, Hands was back on social media with a video of him speaking to the chairwoman of a local resident’s association who, heart-breakingly, “has lived here since 1978, but hasn’t seen a Chelsea bun for six months”. Rishi Sunak must be delighted to have a trade minister devoting himself to such weighty matters of state!

Crime minister and Conservative MP for Croydon South Chris Philp was cock-a-hoop this week when planning permission was denied to knock down a house in Purley in his constituency and build a block (or “bock”, as it says on his website) of flats.

“New homes are needed but the right place for new flats is Croydon town centre, central London and brownfield sites,” he said.

Except that, er, it is a brownfield site. The National Planning Policy Framework’s literal definition of a brownfield site is “land which is or was occupied by a permanent structure”. Like, say, a house.

Conservative MP for South West Norfolk Liz Truss has a new book out this month about how she would sort out all the world’s ills if only she were given a chance. The eccentric backbencher posted a video on Twitter/X in which she weirdly failed to make eye contact with the camera while speaking like she was being held hostage.

But still, the quotes for the blurb are out, and what a cast is singing the praises of Ten Years to Save the West! There’s conspiracy-friendly, Covid-and-climate-sceptic Daily Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson, who describes Truss as “the people’s politician”, and her equally oddball colleague Sherelle Jacobs (“a must-read on both sides of the Atlantic”).

Then there’s Brexiteer Tory peer and man who is never knowingly right Daniel Hannan (“When Liz Truss of all people tells us how the West can overcome its enemies, foreign and domestic, we should listen”) and his fellow hardline red-bencher Matt Ridley (“an outstanding book”). Boris Johnson, meanwhile, phones it in with “I commend this invigorating tract!”.

And if all that doesn’t get you preordering on Amazon, that site tells us that it is “frequently bought together” with The Plot, Nadine Dorries’ ludicrous account of how everybody except Johnson himself was responsible for her hero’s downfall!

Truss’s advance from her UK publisher for the book, by the way, was £1,512.88, according to the House of Commons Register of Members’ Financial Interests, suggesting that they don’t expect to shift many copies.

In contrast, Boris Johnson landed a £510,000 advance from HarperCollins for his forthcoming memoirs. They might want to keep an eye on progress: some nine years have passed since he first agreed to write Shakespeare: The Riddle of Genius, receiving an advance of at least £88,000 from Hodder and Stoughton UK to write the book that his publisher said would bring his “characteristic curiosity, verve and wit” to retelling the life of the bard.

Thoughts with Danica Priest, a Green Party candidate in Bristol’s upcoming local elections who left one household with more than planned while out leafleting. She was popping some literature through the letterbox only to have her finger bitten off by a dog.

“I was leafleting and a dog bit off the tip of my finger through the letterbox,” she told Bristol Live. “So the owner came home to find a ‘Vote for Danica’ leaflet plus my finger and blood.” Giving voters the finger is rarely advisable but perhaps this one can be forgiven.

That buzz you can feel in the streets is the national excitement around Ukip’s leadership contest, as two candidates battle to succeed Neil Hamilton.

Lois Perry describes herself as an “Essex girl” who is “not camera shy and happy to offer my forthright views backed up with fact”. She wants to “promote patriotism” despite spelling “organization” the American way.

Old party hand Bill Etheridge, meanwhile, believes “love is the most powerful of all emotions. If we unite and campaign motivated by love of freedom and of our wonderful nation, we will be successful.” His manifesto is littered with randomly capitalised words and a pledge to end something called “Nett Zero targets”. Suitably, neither mention education, other than Perry’s pledge to “fight wokeness” within it.

Greg Smith, Conservative MP for Buckingham, was an opponent of Marcus Rashford’s Covid campaign in 2020 for free food vouchers to be given to children eligible for free school meals over the half-term break. Smith’s opposition saw a cafe in his constituency refuse to allow him help pack children’s lunches for a photo opportunity after it stepped in to fill the gap.

But there are some disadvantaged people for whom Smith is prepared to speak up. When it emerged new rules introduced by Michael Gove would see council tax rises for England’s second home owners, Smith told the Telegraph this week: “There is a stark reality here that most second home owners are people stretching themselves to have a modest investment, saving for their retirement or securing their future.” Good to get your priorities right!

Alex Phillips, the Reform UK policy advisor and TalkTV presenter, was very cross this week after Noa-Lynn van Leuven, a trans darts player, won the PDC Women’s Series. This was unfair, Phillips said, as apparently men “have a bigger field of vision”.

The evidence for this hitherto unheard-of claim? “Because they have to come out of the cave, look for predators and bash things over the head. In general, men were better at throwing spears at things and killing them, that’s how they evolved. Women were good at cooking the things.”

What a blow for science programming it will be when TalkTV shuts down this summer!

Over at GB News, meanwhile, it’s almost literal rats in a sack after deputy political editor Tom Harwood tweeted a link to a Mail on Sunday article unearthing some problematic Reform UK candidates (animal abuse, antisemitism, Covid crankery, er, fortune telling). “Reform UK is polling in third place nationally,” wrote Harwood. “It needs to get serious about vetting.”

“Hey Tom, why not publish the explanations from the ridiculous MoS lapdog Tory hatchet job?,” responded Reform UK leader Richard Tice, before listing a series of explanations for each of the alleged wrongdoings (“We have all done and said daft things that we may in hindsight regret, even you?”).

Bit awks, as the kids say, the next time Harwood bumps into Tice in the canteen at GB News where – of course – Tice is a fellow presenter.

Many column inches have been devoted to Nike tinkering with the Cross of St. George on the England football team’s new shirt, with every politician, commentator, Uncle Tom Cobley and all having their tuppence-worth. But surely nobody could compete with the anger of Daily Express columnist Christopher Smithers.

Of the slight change of colour, Smithers wrote: “We don’t need woke culture rammed down our throats in an overly zealous and sustained effort to control minds. That’s what authoritarians do, and if we continue accepting this then the likes of Mad Vlad and his chums in Beijing, Tehran and Pyongyang will have won the psychologically evil propaganda war.”

Such derangement used to be confined to the Express’ below-the-line comments. Now they’re actually paying people for it!

Hello. It looks like you’re using an ad blocker that may prevent our website from working properly. To receive the best experience possible, please make sure any ad blockers are switched off, or add to your trusted sites, and refresh the page.

If you have any questions or need help you can email us.