The Mumsnet interview in full

The insight lies in the questions rather than Bluster’s answers – Owl

(PS Boris if you are trying to win over “Waitrose Woman”, you are in for a disappointment there are no Waitrose stores in the Tiverton and Honiton consituency)

AS reported in the Guardian: Johnson came under fire from a slew of angry commentators in a Mumsnet interview, whose first question was: “Why should we believe anything you say when it’s been proven you’re a habitual liar?”

During the exchange, Johnson said he was “very, very surprised and taken aback” to be fined by the Metropolitan police for his surprise birthday party, which he called a “miserable event”.

Asked about the pressure he was under from MPs, Johnson said: “I’m not going to deny the whole thing hasn’t been a totally miserable experience for people in government.”

He said he was not considering resigning. “I just cannot see how actually it would be responsible right now, given everything that is going on, simply to abandon … the project on which I embarked to level up.

“I am still here because we have got huge pressures economically and we’ve got the biggest war in Europe for 80 years, and we have got a massive agenda to deliver.”

Profits dry up at Pennon as rising costs hurt South West Water group

The company is the Jekyll and Hyde of the ten regional monopolies privatised in 1989. While it is regularly praised by the industry regulator Ofwat for its financial discipline, its environmental record has been branded the worst in the country by the Environment Agency, which has said South West Water “drags down the whole sector’s reputation”. The agency has called its performance “consistently unacceptable”.

Robert Lea www.thetimes.co.uk 

The inflation crisis will blow a £60 million hole in the operating costs of the South West Water group this year, putting further pressure on already falling profits.

Revenues at Pennon increased last year as second-homers and others flocked to the southwest to escape the pandemic in cities. But its underlying profits tumbled more than 8 per cent, hit by rising energy costs and the impact of rising inflation on index-linked borrowing.

The company’s finance director, Paul Boote, said there would be more trouble to come, with the likely increases in gas and electricity prices sending its energy costs up by £30-£40 million. The cost of servicing its inflation-linked debt will rise by another £30 million. Boote said those rising costs would be partly offset by a full year of income from its newly acquired neighbour, Bristol Water.

Pennon is the FTSE 250 parent company of the water supplier for Devon and Cornwall and parts of Somerset and Dorset. South West Water has the most expensive average water bills in the country at £522 this year, which it blames on having to look after a third of the UK’s bathing waters but with just 3 per cent of the country’s population, meaning it spends a disproportionate amount of money on its sewage treatment works, mains supply and sewerage pipes.

The company is the Jekyll and Hyde of the ten regional monopolies privatised in 1989. While it is regularly praised by the industry regulator Ofwat for its financial discipline, its environmental record has been branded the worst in the country by the Environment Agency, which has said South West Water “drags down the whole sector’s reputation”. The agency has called its performance “consistently unacceptable”.

In Pennon’s financial results for the year to the end of March, underlying revenues increased by 6.7 per cent, and including Bristol Water rose from £644 million to £792 million. “The Covid-19 pandemic led to a substantial population increase in the southwest with continued higher levels of household demand,” it said.

Excluding the impact of the acquisition of Bristol Water, Pennon admitted its underlying profit before tax fell to £143.5 million compared with £157 million in the previous year. It blamed “cost pressures from macro-economic conditions and higher costs” including energy, labour and chemicals and “increased interest charges on index-linked debt driven by the high inflationary environment”.

Pennon’s net interest costs of £77.9 million last year were £20.2 million higher due to the impact of inflation on index-linked debt. Susan Davy, the group’s chief executive, described it as “another year of resilient performance”.

Despite falling profits, the company is increasing its dividend by 8.2 per cent to 38.53p. Shares in the group have been dribbling down since last summer, off about 25 per cent during that time, and slipped further yesterday, down 2.7 per cent, or 28p, at £10.01.

 

Hello Simon, Boris here! (And standby on Mumsnet)

Or perhaps not if he is confident that he can take you for granted.

The Independent reports that Boris Johnson rang potential rebels on the Conservative backbenches in a desperate bid to shore up his position ahead of a vote of no confidence in his leadership that many Tory MPs now expect to be called when parliament returns next week.

Standby on Mumsnet

Meanwhile the electoral battleground turns to “Waitrose Woman”.

According to the Independent “Waitrose Woman” is reported to be the voter demographic Downing Street reckons is crucial if the prime minister is to reverse plummeting ratings and defy rebellious Tory MPs in the wake of both Partygate and the cost of living crisis.

Like “Mondeo man” and “Worcester woman” before, she is, of course, a fictionalised construct based on stereotypes – the product of market researchers and focus groups.

But does “Waitrose woman” actually back Johnson at all?

According to Politico London Newsletter:

Johnson is holding a Q&A session with Mumsnet — his answers will be put online around noon.

Now or never? Tory MPs face last chance to ditch Johnson before election

Also The Times reports that Boris Johnson’s ethics adviser has threatened to quit over the Downing Street parties scandal after concluding that there were “legitimate” questions about whether the prime minister breached the ministerial code. A source said that Geidt was “60/40” in favour of quitting despite the prime minister’s clarification. The Cabinet Office denied that he was leaving.

Most likely result of any vote of confidence?

“He would hang on even if it was a one-vote majority,” said one former cabinet colleague. “He loves the trappings.”

As the Tories limp towards the next election, is Boris the best recruiting sergeant a progressive alliance has? – Owl

Now or never? Tory MPs face last chance to ditch Johnson before election

Heather Stewart www.theguardian.com 

For weeks now, Westminster has been fixated on the number 54 – the tally of Conservative MPs needed to trigger a vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson. If, as now appears increasingly likely, that threshold is breached in the coming days, another number will become all-important: the 180 MPs required to kick him out of Downing Street.

The Tories have a reputation for ruthlessness when it comes to throwing out their leaders, and the rules of a no-confidence vote are stark: if Johnson loses, he is out.

He would be expected to stay on as prime minister while a successor was chosen, but he would be disqualified from standing in the leadership race.

The House of Commons is in recess until the afternoon of Monday 6 June; but if the 54 threshold is reached this week the 1922 Committee chair, Graham Brady, could announce that a vote will be held when MPs return.

As when Theresa May faced a similar vote in December 2018, Conservative MPs would file into a House of Commons committee room to cast their votes in a secret ballot.

And with 359 sitting Conservative MPs, it would take 180 votes to defeat the prime minister.

In theory, Johnson should have a powerful built-in advantage: according to calculations by the Institute for Government, 80 Tory MPs are ministers in Johnson’s government, with another 47 serving as principal private secretaries, ministers’ aides in the Commons.

These MPs are referred to at Westminster as the “payroll vote” (though PPSs are not, in fact, paid) and can be expected to turn out reliably for the government in the division lobbies of the Commons. Another 20 are trade envoys to various parts of the world, owing these posts to the prime minister.

Yet while Johnson has used his powers of patronage ruthlessly, to shore up support and reward backbench waverers, the luxury of a secret ballot may free up some critics to vote against him, even if they have plum roles in government.

Is this the moment when the dam bursts – and his support drains away?

“It will be a secret ballot and I wouldn’t assume that the payroll will all vote for him. It’s a secret ballot for a reason,” said one Johnson critic on the back benches. Another suggested two-thirds of the payroll vote might stick with him, leaving perhaps 40 or more to peel off.

At least one minister in a marginal seat is understood to have concluded that they have no chance of remaining an MP if Johnson leads the party into the next election. They have not resigned from the government, fearing that would do little damage, and are wary of submitting a letter lest their name leaks, but would “100%” vote against him if the 54-letter threshold was attained.

Some MPs suggest Johnson might prefer to face a quick vote next week, rather than in late June, after the Tories are expected to struggle in a pair of key byelections, in Wakefield and Tiverton.

These two contests are seen by backbenchers as critical tests of Johnson’s popularity, in very different types of constituency.

If they lose both – or even see hefty swings against them – it would strongly reinforce the sense that he has become an electoral liability.

The mood at Westminster on Tuesday was increasingly that the threshold might be met within days, rather than weeks, however – a sense that was underlined by reports that Johnson had begun the task of ringing round potential swing voters in his party, in an attempt to shore up his position.

When he was last imperilled, earlier this year, the former education secretary Gavin Williamson ended up with a knighthood, and pressure groups of backbenchers were able to force their pet policies on the government – fracking being just one example.

As one senior Tory put it: “One of the things his critics underestimate about Boris is, Boris knows how to stack a deck in his favour.”

Several sources said Johnson’s allies had also recently used the threat of a snap general election against his critics – saying that if they tried to move against him, he would trigger an early poll and let the public decide if he should keep his job.

If the crunch point does come next week, the prime minister’s detractors will urge their colleagues to seize what could be their last opportunity to ditch him before the next general election – because if the prime minister wins, he is safe for a year.

That would take his party perilously close to the next contest, which must be held before January 2025 – though the executive of the 1922 Committee could, in theory, change the rules and allow another vote, if they felt it was in the party’s interest.

As one MP working to remove him put it: “There will be people who wouldn’t themselves put a letter in, but when they’re given a ballot paper, you’ve basically got a straight, binary choice, and the question on the ballot paper is effectively, do you want to go into the next general election with Boris Johnson leading the Conservative party? It’s pretty much now or never.”

Many at Westminster believe the most likely outcome is that Johnson wins by a narrow majority – one veteran Tory described it as “nip and tuck”. He would then face the decision of whether to throw in the towel, rather than press on, with his authority badly undermined.

Colleagues who know him well suggest there is little or no chance of him voluntarily stepping aside, and instead would press on in the hope he can rekindle the public’s love for him.

“He would hang on even if it was a one-vote majority,” said one former cabinet colleague. “He loves the trappings.”

A report on Devon and Cornwall Police – no photo of Alison Hernandez!

Unusual of her to miss an opportunity – Owl

Police in Devon and Cornwall at “creaking” point over lack of Officers

Olivier Vergnaul www.cornwalllive.com

There are not enough police officers to do the job, which is why the system is creaking and crime prioritisation might have to take place, a high-ranking police union official has warned. Andy Berry, the chairman of the Devon and Cornwall Police Federation, believes there is so much demand on the force in our two counties that it is outstripping capacity.

As a result of the increased pressure on the under-resourced police force, members of the public are losing faith in the police while officers are at breaking point, he said. He said he has never seen the service in such a dire situation in his time as an officer. Speaking to BBC Radio Devon he said: “Everything is creaking. Not only is that service failure for the public but it is breaking officers because they are working themselves inside out, desperate to do a good job, and feel, in themselves, that they are failing.

“I have been in this role for four years, a police officer for 29 years and I’ve never seen so many inspectors, chief inspectors and superintendents coming to me and say this stuff. These are the people that are running the force and are close enough at the front end to see what is happening, or what is not happening.”

It comes as a rising number of police officers are leaving the force or feeling under strain for both their mental and physical health as a lack of resources makes them feel angry and frustrated for not being able to do their job properly. Mr Berry added: “We will have more officers in Devon and Cornwall by the end of the uplift – which will be sometime next year – but we will have fewer officers per 100,000 members of the public than a decade ago. We are not even keeping up with population rise, let alone the changes in crime.

“As a police force we try to prioritise everything, get to every call and try to provide the best service that we possibly can. But there aren’t enough people to go to the crimes and investigate the crimes. The chief constable needs to take some radical decisions and maybe, for a temporary period of time, say we won’t go to certain things, maybe not focus as much on certain crime types.

“A lot of energy goes into the low level possession of drugs. Maybe we should reduce that. Maybe the chief constable should think about stopping our neighbourhood team – the very visible part of policing, that do an immense amount of good work – maybe they should stop for a period of time to enable us to do the basics. It’s got to the stage where there needs to be that debate.”

He said that perhaps it is time the public are consulted on what they want their local police force to concentrate on. Mr Berry added: “Should the police concentrate on serious crime; rapes and domestic abuse and bringing those perpetrators to justice, or respond to urgent 999 calls quickly so they are getting there faster than they are now? Or do they want us to keep on spreading the jam really thinly?”

A Devon and Cornwall Police spokesperson agreed that officers’ workloads can be stressful and this can result in workplace pressures. He added: “Leaders in the force acknowledge these issues and the stressful work that our officers and staff do – it is a job like no other.

“Within Devon and Cornwall Police we are proactively recruiting. As of March, Devon and Cornwall police has recruited 281 additional uplift officers. The force has been allocated a further 188 officers for the final year of the programme. Funding for Devon and Cornwall Police increased by £20 million from around £356m in last year to £375m this year.

“We are doing everything possible to support officers and all of our staff in managing the impact of work on their physical and mental wellbeing. We remain committed to supporting officers and staff in helping them provide a sustainable, resilient and high-quality service to the public with the resources that we have.”

Alison Hernandez, Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, added: “I recognise many of the pressures that police officers, staff and volunteers are under. It is one of the reasons that, with the assistance of our communities, we started the uplift in officer numbers before central Government announced it would fund a national uplift.

“It takes time to recruit and train officers but Devon and Cornwall Police is now starting to feel the effects of this historic investment in policing. This year it will have 686 more officers than it did when I came to office and more police officers than at any other time in its history.

“We must not rest though. So many calls for help from the police should have been heard before people reached crisis point. Other agencies must do their bit to ensure that more of our residents are assisted before police have to become involved.”