Kwasi Kwarteng’s defenestration at the hands of Nick Robinson – the presenter wearily apologised to the chancellor for being “impatient” with him as he backtracked on his abandonment of his 45p top-rate tax cut – is not the first time the pair have crossed swords. Although their backgrounds are similar – private schools, Oxbridge and early Conservative activism – they’ve never got along.
The antipathy was first evident with Kwarteng when he was business secretary in 2021 and found himself pre-booked to be interviewed by Robinson on the Today show on climate change. Boris Johnson’s extraordinary decision to enforce a three-line whip to compel Tory MPs to pass legislation to get the dodgy Owen Paterson off the hook had changed the ground rules and Kwarteng was clearly not happy.
Kwarteng tried to make out the government had been thinking of changing the rules when it came to regulating the conduct of ministers for 11 and a half years. There was an embarrassing silence when Robinson inquired why they’d waited until the vote on Paterson’s suspension to debate it.
Conscious he had Kwarteng on the ground, Robinson then asked him what system he would like instead, given that he’d had so long to consider it? “Er…” Kwarteng replied, definitively. He finally suggested the way forward was a cross-party committee of MPs. Robinson gently pointed out that was precisely the system already in place.
Flailing, Kwarteng then blurted out that what was needed was a cross-party committee with a majority of Tory MPs on it. Robinson must have been astonished by the rise and rise of this intellectual colossus.