‘If things go badly, a Bring Back Boris campaign will start’

Thick Lizzy: Truss is the best that the Tories have got in 2022. Sky TV’s veteran political commentator today described the selection process as ‘scraping the bottom of the barrel’

Far-right comedian Joe Lycett was not available to give us his take on the new Prime Minister, Liz Truss. So instead, we turned to the doom-laden Twitter feed of Conservative peer GAVIN BARWELL

Not-so-bright view: ‘Lord’ Gavin Barwell

“Lord” Gavin Barwell was Chief of Staff to Theresa May when she was Prime Minister, after he lost his Croydon Central parliamentary seat in 2017.

Barwell long ago abandoned any attempt to disguise his complete contempt for his opportunistic old mate, Boris Johnson, and his bogus Brexit mission.

Barwell’s concern for the state of the nation, and of his own party, have been made plain repeatedly. “This leadership election is taking place in an imaginary world where Brexit hasn’t made us poorer, we’re not facing a climate emergency and tax cuts don’t need to be paid for,” Barwell advised his 48,000 Twitter followers recently.

This morning, as is his Lordship’s wont, he posted a lengthy, stream-of-consciousness thread ahead of the anointing of Thick Lizzy Truss as his party’s new leader (“Scraping the barrel,” as described by Sky’s veteran political commentator, Adam Boulton).

This morning, Barwell wrote, “Later today, we will find out who is going to be our next Prime Minister. They will face one of the most difficult inheritances of any Prime Minister in my lifetime.

“I spent two years working for Theresa May. She inherited the huge Gordian knot of Brexit, but the rest of the policy environment was (relatively) benign. The new Prime Minister faces challenges on virtually every front

Important advice: Barwell highlighted the views of Torsten Bell

“First, there is the question of how to help people with the huge increase in their energy bill on 1 October (and what’s likely to follow in January and April). The opposition have predictably gone for the simple and popular option of freezing bills. Trouble is that costs £££s.

“But targeted help for those on the lowest incomes won’t be enough – people on average incomes need help. If you want a sense of what advice the new Prime Minister is likely to get from officials, this from Torsten Bell [chief executive of think tank the Resolution Foundation] is pretty close I would guess.

“Then there’s how to help businesses with their energy bills. If the government doesn’t do something, lots are going to cease trading. The total cost of these two interventions could be [more than] £100billion.

“Then there’s the prospect of widespread strikes over pay. In many cases, the government is the employer. Ministers may think it is good politics to take the unions on, but they need to be careful – there is strong public support for some professions.

“Plus the question of whether to increase departmental budgets to reflect higher inflation and pay increases. But the energy bill package and compensating departmental budgets and promised higher defence spending will leave little room for tax cuts unless borrowing goes [down].

“It’s a good example of how premierships are defined by events, not prior intentions (think Blair and 9/11, Brown and the global financial crisis, Cameron and the debt crisis, May and Brexit, Johnson and covid). The new Prime Minister may want low taxes but events will make it hard.

Crisis not over: how Barwell illustrated his point about the still-present deadly threat of covid and its pressure on the NHS

“The fifth challenge is how to keep the lights on this winter. It was unwise of Liz Truss to rule out any rationing – if we have a cold winter, there is a serious risk we won’t have enough supply to meet demand, so it’s better to reduce demand now as other countries are doing.

“And finally, in terms of the urgent issues, there’s the NHS and social care. As John Burn-Murdoch has demonstrated, it is really struggling right now and that’s before any winter pressures [or] a possible further wave of covid.

“Then there’s the equally important but slightly less urgent issues. First and foremost, how to raise the long-term growth rate of the economy. I would argue that the nature of Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal is part of the problem, but a) there is no chance of the new Prime Minister changing that and b) it’s not just the Brexit deal – low growth has been a problem since the global financial crisis. We need a package of reforms to skills, infrastructure, planning, investment, regulation etc. The trouble is these things take time.

“Linked to that, the government needs to deliver on levelling up, narrowing the gap between London and the South East and the rest of the country. It is in danger of being seen as just a soundbyte, but there is a lot of good analysis and substance in the White Paper

“Then there is the future of the UK. If the Supreme Court rules in the government’s favour, that will deal with the immediate risk, but the underlying problem cannot be dealt with by ignoring [Scotland’s First Minister] Nicola Sturgeon or changing the rules.

Waking up from the Brexit nightmare: only now is the British public realising what a bad deal the Tories have done over Europe

“Then there’s our relationship with the EU.

“If the government proceeds with the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, it is likely to lead with a trade war with the EU at the worst possible time economically but Liz Truss relied heavily on [European Reform Group, the Tories’ hard-right Brexiteers] support and may have little wiggle room

“Hardcore Brexiteers need to beware. The public is turning against their vision of Brexit, and if they recklessly do further damage, that trend is likely to accelerate.

Crisis management: Boris Johnson has left his successor with a full in-tray of impending problems

“Then there’s the question of how to stop asylum seekers and migrants crossing the Channel in small boats. As ministers are discovering, the only solution to this problem lies in co-operation with France – which is unlikely if we are tearing up the Brexit deal.

“And finally, there’s the geopolitical situation. How to ensure Ukraine wins, what relationship to have with an increasingly assertive China that is nonetheless a key market and vital partner in tackling issues like climate change, what to do about Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

“There are also tough political challenges. First, how to reunite the party after what has been a surprisingly bitter leadership election. Seeking to appoint a broad-based cabinet rather than just your allies as Boris Johnson did is a vital starting point.

“Then there’s Boris Johnson himself. He will presumably go back to writing newsworthy columns every week [that] the new Prime Minister will be asked to respond to, his supporters will push for the Privileges Committee investigation to be canned and he remains popular with members and has lots of cheerleaders in the media.

“So if things go badly, a ‘Bring Back Boris’ campaign will quickly start up.

“Finally, there is the question of how to win an election when you have been in government for 14 years, people have just been through a really tough time, the opposition is no longer led by Jeremy Corbyn and there is likely to be increased anti-Conservative tactical voting.

“Whoever wins (and I presume it will be Liz Truss), I wish them and their advisers well, because as George HW Bush famously said, their successes will be our country’s successes, but I hope they are under no illusion about the scale of the challenge.”

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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1 Response to ‘If things go badly, a Bring Back Boris campaign will start’

  1. 2deal2 says:

    Steven, please don’t assault my eyes with that picture of “Lord” Gavin Barwell! Aargh!

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