Peppa Pig, PPE and care cuts – Owl
November has been a month to forget for the Conservatives, who have seen their polling numbers plummet on the back of successive scandals.
By the middle of the month, Savanta ComRes had Labour six points ahead in a sign that the recent revelations have hurt Boris Johnson’s party at the ballot box.
YouGov polling published subsequently suggested the Tories had lost their lead, while a separate survey by Redfield & Wilton Strategies put the nail in the coffin.
And that was before the north was nuked not once, but twice by a party that won a landslide election victory in 2019 on the back of support from those very communities.
It is a month that most people are unlikely to forget in a hurry.
Here is just a flavour of what went down.
Boris Johnson and the leader of the house, Jacob Rees-Mogg ripped up the Commons rule book to save one of their colleagues, Owen Paterson at the start of the month.
Two former prime ministers hit out at him in the aftermath, with Sir John Major launching an extraordinary broadside at Johnson, describing his conduct as “shameful”.
Theresa May also slammed the government for its “misplaced, ill-judged and just plain wrong” attempt to protect former Tory MP Owen Paterson from being suspended for corruption.
She said that despite the government’s embarrassing U-turn, Parliament’s reputation has been harmed by “effectively letting off” an MP who was judged to have done wrong by regulations that have kept British democracy in check for centuries.
Johnson’s botched handling of the Owen Paterson affair thrust how much time and money MPs raise from second jobs back into the spotlight, along with scrutiny of second home arrangements.
The Times reported 14 MPs were taking advantage of a loophole in the Parliamentary expenses scheme which means they can let their homes to tenants, and then claim for rent paid on a London rental property to live in.
Defending the revelations, Tory MP Andrew Rosindell said: “We have to be careful about this, we have to realise we are dealing with human beings who have families and responsibilities.”
The same MP said back in July,when the government announced it was to cut the £20 a week uplift to Universal Credit, that “there are people that quite like getting the extra £20 but maybe they don’t need it.”
And even more sleaze
The PPE scandal showed no sign of abating in November, with a Tory party donor who supported Michael Gove’s leadership bid revealed to have won £164 million in Covid contracts.
The minister referred his firm to a “VIP lane” that handed £5 billion to companies with political connections.
The revelation drew yet more accusations of a “chumocracy” at the heart of government, with new analysis revealing that MPs’ friends and contacts have won huge contracts without proper process of transparency.
Social care cuts
Boris Johnson narrowly succeeded in getting the Commons to back a change to social care reforms that are likely to disproportionately hit those in the north harder than those in the south.
Senior Conservative MPs warned they would not back the new policy to cap care costs in England, which critics argued had been watered down to be less generous.
Ministers were unable to say whether the change to the £86,000 cap on care costs would fulfil an election pledge to guarantee no-one would have to sell their home to pay for care.
The Resolution Foundation think tank warned that people in the North and in Yorkshire are most at risk from having their “wealth wiped out by care costs”.
Former justice secretary Robert Buckland urged ministers to “look again” at the issue, and Bury South MP Christian Wakeford said he was uncomfortable with the change “to move the goalposts”.
“Why are you betraying the north?”, Victoria Derbyshire asked Tory MP Miriam Cates after the government scaled back its plans for rail investment in the north.
There was anger in the Commons as transport secretary Grant Shapps confirmed that the eastern leg of HS2 was being scrapped while the planned Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) was being curtailed.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said Mr Johnson had “ripped up” promises he made that HS2 would go all the way to Leeds and that there would be a new NPR line from Manchester to Leeds.
“This was the first test of ‘levelling up’ and the Government has completely failed and let down everybody in the North. You can’t believe a word the Prime Minister says,” he said.
Concerned journalists started to check in on the prime minister’s wellbeing after his bizarre speech to the CBI.
The prime minister enthused about a visit to Peppa Pig World and pretended to be a speeding car during an occasionally baffling speech to business chiefs.
He also made a passing comparison between himself and Moses and quoted Lenin in a speech that quickly went viral.