MP Paul Scully won’t be writing a political memoir. He says he’s already recounted all of his ministerial career in 13 tweets, posted just after 8.30 last night, when he revealed he’d been sacked (“got the Spanish archer”, as he put it) from his dual ministerial positions in the Downing Street reshuffle.
Scully, the Conservative MP for Sutton and Cheam, must be cursing his political misfortunes: his sacking comes just a few months after he suffered an embarrassing sidelining when he was seeking to be the Tory candidate for Mayor of London.
Last week he made headlines when he had the good sense, and courage, to speak up against the comments made by Suella Braverman, as Home Secretary, which incited attacks on peace marchers and the police in the capital over Remembrance weekend.
Yesterday evening, after an extraordinary day of Westminster sackings and political comebacks, Scully’s Twitter thread was full of an implied: “What have I done to deserve this?”
The founder of the Croydon-based PR agency The Nudge Factory, until yesterday Scully had held the roles of Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy as well as Minister for London.
Scully’s seemingly exasperated Twitter thread betrayed his own frustrations of working in a Government which has been in a state of constant churn and crisis management for at least four years. In one of his comments, saying that he would be spending his time as a back bencher “looking in on government’s progress”, he attached a popcorn emojee. He, at least, thinks the Tories’ fun and games are not yet over…
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s reshuffle started with the sacking of Braverman (she claimed she resigned), and saw David Cameron grab a quickie ennoblement and return to government as Foreign Secretary.
One of Scully’s erstwhile colleagues, “Lord” Gavin Barwell, the former Croydon MP and Downing Street Chief of Staff, who has been through countless boxes of popcorn as he’s watched the goings-ons of the last four years, commented yesterday: “Lots of commentary on reshuffle. Bottom line: a) this is a better Cabinet than we had yesterday b) quite a shift in Number 10 strategy since Conference speech c) reshuffles rarely make a difference.”
And commenting on Braverman’s sacking, Barwell added: “The right decision both subjectively for Sunak (on multiple issues he was clearly unwilling to repeat her language) and objectively for the country (she used her time in high office to sow division, not bring the country together).”
Scully’s valedictory Twitter thread began: “Had better days at work. Waited for three buses to get in this morning and then got the Spanish Archer this evening from my two ministerial positions in the reshuffle…”.
The “Spanish archer” reference – meaning El Bow. Geddit? – is not Cockney rhyming, as befits a Minister for London, but is thought to be comic slang from 1970s entertainers of the likes of Bruce Forsyth or Bernard Manning. Perhaps a career doing stand-up at the Windsor Castle pub in Carshalton on a wet Tuesday beckons for Scully now?
Scully continued: “Still over the last four years, under three PMs, I was proud to serve and get things done. As Minister for London throughout covid, the collaboration across different layers of government, and across the political divide helped us get through the worst…”. Hmmm…
“Championing the fact that too many hospitality and retail businesses even now, whilst looking busy are minimising cash burn rather than turning a profit. Making the case for people to return to central London and more recently for people to dampen, not inflame, community tension…”. His Braverman defence.
“Building the case for levelling up London, not competing with the North; keeping London open as a shop window for UK-wide investment including making the case for a return of VAT-free shopping; scrapping the insane 10pm curfew which pushed everyone on to the Tube at the same time.” That “insane” curfew was his own Government’s policy.
“As Postal Affairs minister,” who knew? “… definitely the best thing I’ll ever do in politics was to start the statutory inquiry into the Horizon scandal and begin the long road for the original 555 postmasters to get compensation…”. Many would argue that Private Eye magazine did more to champion the cause of the badly wronged postmasters than any Government minister.
“I became an expert in wedding receptions, nightclubs, hairdressers and their huge contribution to our economy…
“After a summer trying to tackle struggling councils; building safety especially the continuing plight of Grenfell families, and planning the Holocaust Memorial in Westminster, I was moved too quickly to the exciting world of technology in DCMS where I was able to get long overdue work completed: Online Safety bill, five years in the making; the Gambling White Paper, two years in preparation; the semiconductor strategy and helping with the AI White Paper…
“As well as co-chairing the Digital Skills Council; working on a UK playbook to improve our approach to scale-up businesses; championing tech ecosystems across the UK including Newcastle, Leeds & Birmingham. We have such a bright future if we build on this amazing foundation…”. Not a hint of self-pity, oh no.
And in giving thanks to colleagues in the Civil Service (not something often heard from other Tory figures, who usually blame “The Blob” for their own inadequacies), Scully also managed to highlight how very little legislation the Conservative Governments under Johnson, Truss and Sunak have managed to enact.
“None of this, plus steering through 12 pieces of government primary legislation (8% of government’s output) would have been possible [without] great officials in the Civil Service including my great Private Offices and my extraordinary policy adviser…”
And that old line about all political careers ending in failure?
After being rejected as the Tories’ London Mayoral candidate (with the Conservatives picking a Harrow hairdresser instead), might Scully just add his name to the growing list of MPs opting to stand down at the General Election?
Inside Croydon asked him this morning, but Scully had not responded by the time of publication.
Scully’s final word on his sacking was his tweeted: “Well that saves me writing a memoir!
“Now I can concentrate on Sutton, Cheam and Worcester Park; my family, life in general whilst looking in on government’s progress and of course, getting a better Mayor for London who actually cares about our great city,”
By which he must mean Zoë Garbett…
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