Out of the Truss frying pan into the Braverman fire, Tory MP Chris Philp is just clinging on to the wreckage of his ‘Rt Hon’ ministerial career.
By WALTER CRONXITE, political editor
The wait had better be worth it. It was not until Wednesday evening that Chris Philp, the Conservative MP for Croydon South, heard that he was to be given a ministerial role under new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Every PM, it seems, needs a “Nose in Search of a Bum”.
It’s been a tumultuous few months for the Tory Party, and for Philp, who has been tossed around on the stormy seas of political opportunism more than many.
So after just 38 days in the job as Chief Secretary to the Treasury under Liz Truss, during which time he played a leading role in tanking the markets, Philp lasted only 11 days as Paymaster General, making him a candidate for the Guinness Book of World Records’ “Shortest stay in a government office” page. Again.
Now under Sunak, Philp is Minister of State in the Home Office, basically the Policing Minister. That he didn’t turn the job down and opt for a return to the backbenches says a lot about Philp.
It has been characterised as a demotion. This time, there was no trumpeted announcement, no official Downing Street photoshopped tweet featuring his picture… Philp’s appointment was sidled out more than 48 hours after the new Prime Minister took office.
He’ll no longer attend the important meetings with the Big Boys and Girls at Cabinet, though he keeps the “Rt Hon” title bollocks – once in the Privy Council, it’s very difficult to get slung out, however egregious or incompetent.
The fact that Philp has survived in ministerial office at all, as Grauniad parliamentary sketchwriter John Crace noted, “Shows just how little real talent there is in the Tory party”.
This may also explain the appointment as Philp’s boss at the Home Office of the ministerial rule-breaker and security risk, Suella Braverman.
Philp’s return to the Home Office – he’d worked there previously under Priti Patel, a figure as similarly toxic and as charmless as Braverman – has created a strange reunion of sorts which might just about be remembered by some of the less geriatric members of the Croydon Conservative Federation from the time eight years ago that they were deciding to whom to hand the lifetime sinecure of the Croydon South safe seat.
On their shortlist was Robert Jenrick, also this week appointed to a Home Office role (doing the job Philp once had on immigration), Philp and Braverman, then known by her maiden name, Suella Fernandez.
Jenrick did a bunk to Newark (there would be a by-election in 2014 after the constituency’s Tory MP was forced to resign for taking cash for lobbying), while Croydon’s Tories for some reason preferred “serial entrepreneur” and tax avoider Philp to the woman lawyer from an Indian family in Harrow. Fernandez found another Tory bolt-hole in Fareham, Hampshire, and she and Philp duly joined Jenrick in parliament at the 2015 General Election.
Now, their parliamentary careers coincide once more – though for how long, given the escalating scandal around Braverman’s dodgy emailing practices, remains to be seen.
In the space of four days, Braverman has dodged two urgent questions in the Commons amid the row over her controversial reappointment as Home Secretary. She was reinstalled by Sunak just six days after she resigned over a breach of the ministerial code – Braverman’s resignation letter was one of the last straws for Thick Lizzy’s premiership.
There has been a concerted effort by the government to play down the severity of Braverman’s breach, with ministers describing it as a minor “mistake” for which she “took responsibility”. But there’s also reports that Sunak appointed his Home Secretary against the direct advice of the Cabinet secretary, Simon Case.
The row is not going away, not least because stoking the controversy is a former (ie. until last week) chairman of the Conservative Party, Tory MPs and the right-wing mainstream media, as the appointment flies directly in the face of Sunak’s promise to ensure integrity and professionalism in government.
A former head of parliament’s intelligence and security committee warned that the row threatens to undermine officials’ confidence in sharing sensitive information with her.
The Guardian has reported that, contrary to Braverman’s version of events that she ‘fessed up to her mistake, she had instead been confronted about the leaking of a sensitive document by a senior civil servant. According to a Guardian source, “She only owned up to it when she was confronted with the evidence.”
A similar accusation has been made by Jake Berry, the Tory Party chairman under Truss. “As I understand it, the evidence was put to her and she accepted the evidence, rather than the other way round,” Berry said, contradicting what Sunak said during his first prime minister’s questions on Wednesday.
The sensitive government information, which Berry said related to cybersecurity, was sent by Braverman using a private email address to a fellow Tory MP, John Hayes, and while trying to copy in Hayes’s wife, she mistakenly sent it to a staff member working for another backbencher, Andrew Percy, who informed the chief whip of the breach.
Cabinet Secretary Case then spoke to the Home Office permanent secretary, Matthew Rycroft, and advised PM Truss that the ministerial code had been broken.
Last night The S*n reported that Braverman had leaked top secret plans to cut Britain’s deficit by £14billion with a new “growth visa”.
“Suella has tried to play down the scale of the cock-up but it was incendiary, market-sensitive information,” the Murdoch paper quoted a source as saying.
According to research for The Times today, Sunak’s appointment as Tory leader and PM has given the Conservatives a bounce in the polls. The Tories are now a “mere” 28percentage points behind Labour, closing the gap by 9per cent.
The Grauniad’s analysis of that polling says, “A large chunk of this movement, however, can be ascribed to the simple fact that his premiership marked the end of Truss – who was being openly and widely mocked by her opposition, the Conservatives and the press alike by the end of her 44-day tenure.”
In other polling, though, Sunak is reckoned by the British electorate to be better Prime Minister material than Labour’s Keith Starmer.
The Braverman scandal may not be the end of the Sunak administration. But it ties it in with the growing reputation for sleaze and ineptitude.
And let’s face it, if Prime Minister Sunak wanted to resolve the situation at the Home Office with decisive action based on sound practice, he’s hardly likely to turn to his new policing minister, is he?
Read more: ‘The Nose in Search of a Bum’ sniffs out new government job
Read more: Uber for Philp! Croydon MP blamed for disastrous Tory tax cut
Read more: A bad week for Tory MP just got very much worse for Croydon
Read more: ‘Rabbit hutch’ flats and the Chief Secretary: Philp’s conflicts
- Inside Croydon has been delivering local community news since 2010. To support independent local journalism in Croydon, please sign up today as a supporter. Click here for more details
- 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