Today promises to be a momentous day for Britain. But not in a good way.
Political editor WALTER CRONXITE on how the promotion of a Croydon MP is a signal of mediocrity of the Tory government
Liz Truss is expected to be confirmed as the new leader of the Conservative Party at lunchtime today, and thus become the country’s new Prime Minister.
“*** help us,” said Labour MP John McDonnell after seeing the gormless Truss give a television interview yesterday morning (without quite explaining what three-letter word he had in mind).
Amid all the speculation about what a Truss government might do, Tim Shipman of the Sunday Times revealed what he suggested was very likely to be the new Prime Minister’s first cabinet.
And there’s perhaps never been a clearer indication of how, after 12 years in power, the Conservatives at Westminster are running on empty – empty of ideas, of morals, of talent – than the inclusion in the mediocre Truss’s cabinet of one MP who was passed over for such a promotion by three previous Prime Ministers.
Step forward Chris Philp, MP for Croydon South.
All those months of humiliating himself on television and radio, happily making media appearances to lie on behalf of lying PM Boris Johnson, look to have paid off finally for the egregiously politically ambitious Philp. All that cringe-worthy social media flag waving for Truss – who was never Philp’s first choice to be his party’s new leader – look to have been rewarded.
According to Shipman, Truss has Philp lined up to be Chief Secretary to the Treasury.
Such an appointment for Philp, who left failed businesses behind him before he jumped on to politics’ gravy train, might not fill serious economists and social policy wonks with much confidence, as the country heads into a winter of rapidly rising fuel bills, soaring inflation and serious uncertainty for thousands of business owners.
Shipman’s cabinet predictions carry all the expected journalistic caveats.
Philp’s promotion may be the least of the nation’s worries if Shipman is anywhere near to the mark with the predicted appointments.
Truss’s top team looks better suited to Madame Tussaud’s House of Horrors than the cabinet room in No10. A prisoner to the Brexiteers, Truss could be about to form the most right-wing, backward-looking government since the Marquess of Salisbury nearly 150 years ago.
According to Shipman, Suella Braverman (whom Philp beat to be selected for the Croydon South safe seat eight years ago) is to become Home Secretary (could she really be worse than Priti Patel?); “Go Nads!” Dorries, who has no idea how the country’s media is run, will keep her Culture Secretary role, or be sent off to the Lords where she will be able to accept a lucrative book deal; Therese Coffey goes to Health; Jacob Rees-Mogg is to be handed the Business brief (where he is expected to re-legalise the sending of small children up chimneys and down coal mines); and yesterday’s man, Iain Duncan Smith, is also allowed back into a leading role.
LBC’s James O’Brien described the likely new cabinet as showing that “intelligence and expertise disqualify people from cabinet roles”.
It is truly a collection of wannabes and nobodies, and only serves to further fuel speculation that Truss, the choice of the Tory members over Rishi Sunak, is only ever going to be a stop-gap Prime Minister, a caretaker for the expensive flock wall-paper in the flat above No11 Downing Street until the time is right for… the return of Johnson.
If his promotion is confirmed sometime in the next 24 hours or so, Philp would become Croydon’s first Cabinet Minister-level MP since John Moore in 1989.
It may have been a pretty close call. Philp started off the Tory leadership campaign backing not Truss, but Sajid Javid, who was swiftly eliminated from the race during the MPs’ selection process.
Backing the winner for leader is important for career progression in British politics, where capability and merit is rarely the key requirement for success.
One uncharitable Katharine Street source said of the Philp promotion, “This is an example of what egregious arse-licking can get for the even most miserably failed businessman.”
In the case of Philp, his most recent experience in business has been in tertiary lending for property development, mostly in eastern Europe. His dealings made Philp a millionaire. One of Philp’s earlier businesses did fall into administration shortly after he bailed out, but Chief Secretary to the Treasury may well be an appointment that suits his skills outside politics.
Rather than playing third-fiddle to talentless political hacks like Dorries, or acting as an enforcer to the spiteful Priti Patel, as Philp has done in his previous junior ministerial roles, this new role is made for Philp and could launch his career to a much higher profile, as the economy and society faces a cost of living crisis.
Alongside the expected new Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, Philp will have a busy few weeks preparing the Truss government’s first Budget. After months of drift and inaction on the crashing economy, that first BUdget seems likely to be an emergency Budget.
In spite of his recent series of car crash TV appearances, some in Croydon political circles rate Philp as being brighter than some other Tory politicians.
The dreadful performances on Newsnight and elsewhere look to have made Philp, if anything, more… memorable.
He now has to hope that his future political prospects don’t follow the fate of one of his predecessors as a Croydon MP, who was passed over for promotion when a Post-it note lost its stickiness.
One of the great rumours of Croydon’s chattering political classes seeks to explain why Malcolm Wicks never achieved a cabinet position. The Labour MP for Croydon North from 1992 until his death in 2012, Wicks was apparently being lined up for a seat at the top table when Gordon Brown was Prime Minister.
But while the government reshuffle was being planned, the piece of bright yellow note paper carrying Wicks’s name was knocked to the floor, unseen and forgotten, never to be stuck alongside whatever job it was that Brown had in mind.
Who’s to say that there may be a few named in Liz Truss’s first cabinet who might, within the next few weeks, come to regret that their Post-it note was also not lost in the chaos of the first hours of the new regime?
- If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, or want to publicise your residents’ association or business, or if you have a local event to promote, please email us with full details at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Inside Croydon is a member of the Independent Community News Network
- By having a comment section, we provide all readers with an immediate “right of reply” on all our content. Details of how this works can be read by clicking here
- Inside Croydon works together with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, as well as BBC London News and ITV London
- Inside Croydon: 3.3million page views in 2021. Seen by 1.6million unique visitors in that 12-month period