While Tories fight amongst themselves,  Richard Foord MP asks for more help for rural areas

Liberal Democrat MP for Tiverton and Honiton has warned that the Conservative government isn’t doing enough to help rural areas like Devon being hit by soaring petrol prices.

More help needed for rural areas like Devon says Richard Foord

Paul Haydon www.devonlive.com

It comes after a report by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) found “cause for concern” in the sector. The urgent CMA review into fuel prices, originally commissioned by Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, also reported there are “significant differences in prices between many rural and urban areas.”

The government has not yet announced any further action to tackle sky-rocketing fuel prices despite several recommendations being but forward in the CMA review, including greater transparency for consumers over fuel prices.

The Liberal Democrats are calling for a rural fuel duty cut of 10p per litre, to help families being hardest hit by soaring prices at the pump. The party is also calling for an emergency VAT cut to 17.5%, which would reduce fuel prices and put an average of £600 in the pockets of the average family.

Liberal Democrat MP for Tiverton and Honiton Richard Foord said: “This review confirms what we already knew, residents in rural communities like Devon are being hit hardest by soaring petrol prices. Yet instead of acting now, the Conservatives are kicking action into the long grass. They’d rather wait to see who their next leader is than offer help to those who really need it now.

Boris Johnson accused of trying to derail Rishi Sunak’s bid to be next PM

Senior Tories accused Boris Johnson of trying to torpedo Rishi Sunak’s bid to succeed him as prime minister – and of refusing to leave No 10 with good grace – as the leadership race descended into bitter infighting.

Toby Helm www.theguardian.com 

As a trio of cabinet ministers entered the contest last night, senior MPs said the battle now risked inflicting even more damage on the party than the fall of Margaret Thatcher more than three decades ago.

One party grandee accused Johnson of installing unsuitable MPs to middle-ranking and junior government posts when he knew he was on his way out “to cause maximum problems for his successor” who would inevitably have to sack most of them on taking office.

“Those appointments were the most appalling thing I have seen in politics,” said the senior source. “It was obviously a move to sabotage his successor’s first weeks in office.”

Another senior figure in the government added that Johnson was so incensed at the way he had been ousted, having won such a huge mandate at the 2019 general election, that he was now intent on exacting revenge on those he saw as responsible, and on influencing events wherever possible from the outside.

“This is not an administration that is going to go quietly. There is a lot of anger about how this all happened,” said the source. “It is clear that much of it will now focus on Rishi. It is all very Trumpian.”

A former vice-chairman of the 1922 committee of Conservative backbenchers, Sir Charles Walker, told the Observer that pleas for restraint were pointless because there was so much bad blood.

“People like me can say until we are blue in the face that the Conservative party should not tear itself apart, but our pleas will fall on deaf ears.

“Clearly the prime minister remains deeply bruised by the chancellor’s resignation. Rishi’s camp will have to soak up a lot of anger over the days to come. That will apply to whoever takes over.”

Meanwhile, Johnson allies warned the party it would soon regret ditching him and accused the candidates vying to replace him of being incapable of repeating his successes. They say Sunak, in particular, faces questions of “loyalty and propriety” and accuse him of plotting his leadership bid for months while publicly professing his loyalty.

On Saturday night , amid the succession turmoil, fresh allegations emerged that Johnson had lobbied for a job for a young woman who claims she was having a sexual relationship with him during his time as London mayor.

According to the Sunday Times, the appointment was blocked because Kit Malthouse, then a senior figure in City Hall and now a cabinet minister, suggested the pair had an inappropriately close relationship. Johnson is said to have admitted pushing her forward for a job when the woman, who remains anonymous, confronted him in 2017.

The claims follow reports last month that Johnson had tried to secure his wife, Carrie, a role as his chief of staff during his time as foreign secretary. The pair were having an affair at the time. He is also accused of helping an American businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri gain access to taxpayer-funded business trips after their affair in 2011.

Foreign secretary Liz Truss, transport secretary Grant Shapps and the new chancellor, Nadhim Zahawi, all entered the leadership contest on Saturday night, alongside Sunak, the attorney general Suella Braverman, ex-minister Kemi Badenoch and the chair of the foreign affairs select committee, Tom Tugendhat.

Shapps said he would focus on the cost of living crisis, while Zahawi promised to lower taxes “for individuals, families and business”.

The chancellor also stressed his “culture war” credentials, saying he would “focus on letting children be children, protecting them from damaging and inappropriate nonsense being forced on them by radical activists”.

Truss is expected to pledge to reverse the government’s recent national insurance rise when she officially launches her campaign this week.

Others expected to declare in the coming days include former cabinet ministers Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt. Supporters of trade minister Penny Mordaunt are urging her to declare, while the defence secretary Ben Wallace – one of the bookies’ early favourites – said on Saturday that he would not be throwing his hat into the ring.

The chair of the 1922 committee, Sir Graham Brady, will meet senior MP colleagues and members of the party’s board on Monday to decide how the contest will proceed. They are expected to agree a timetable that will see the number of candidates whittled down to two in a series of votes by MPs over the coming fortnight. Then there will be a programme of hustings for the final two, leading to a vote by party members, and the announcement of a new leader and prime minister in early September.

According to the latest Opinium poll for the Observer, Sunak is the favourite among people who voted Conservative at the last general election. Some 55.4% said he would be a good prime minister. Javid was in second place on 50.5%.

Those close to Johnson are struggling to decide which candidate they should back. “People are trying to work this out at the moment, the field is muddied by so many unrealistic candidates,” said one.

“There is a strong concern in what you might call the pro-Boris camp of certain candidates – some, perfectly reasonably, have never bought into what Boris was trying to do.

“Then there are those who have been running leadership campaigns from within the cabinet for some time, which is an act of the highest disloyalty. If you’re that far gone in terms of your support to the prime minister, you ought to have resigned months ago. I think that raises a fundamental question of loyalty and, indeed, of propriety.”

Johnson loyalists will look at any potential campaign by the home secretary, Priti Patel, as well as Truss and Zahawi, before deciding who to back. Another Johnson supporter said “buyer’s remorse” was already beginning to grow among those who had helped to topple Johnson.

Parish’s wife wasn’t going to cut them off, she was going to crush them with a burdizzo!

Neil Parish’s wife says he’s ‘oversexed’ and obviously feels the detailed record should be set straight.

If neither were very good with computers, why did Neil employ her as his parliamentary assistant?

It’s probably a good job the voters of Tiverton and Honiton got rid of him.

He can now spend more time with his family. – Owl

Not scissors!

‘Porn MP’ Neil Parish is ‘oversexed’, wife claims – but he says it’s just ‘healthy appetite’

Lili Stebbings www.devonlive.com

Mr Parish said wife Sue of 41-years “always says I’m oversexed – I don’t know if I am but I have a healthy appetite.”

The wife of former Devon MP Neil Parish who was caught watching porn in the House of Commons has branded him ‘oversexed’ – but he insists he just has a “healthy appetite.”

Mr Parish, 66, quit his role as Tiverton’s MP after he was caught watching porn – although he insists he really was Googling tractors the first time. He told the Mail: “Everybody laughs and says you’re telling porky pies but I’m not. When you go on to Google, lots of things come up. I look at tractors and cars.

“There was a direct link [to the site]. I’m not going to say what I Googled but it’s not The Dominator as has been reported, because that’s a combine harvester.

“I have gone on to sites before — you know, scantily clad things and what have you — but I haven’t gone on to anything like this, to be honest with you. The problem is I shouldn’t have gone on to it a second time. It was the second time that did it.”

Sue, 66, rallieed to his defence saying: “I guess we’re not very good at IT, either of us. We’ve just booked a holiday. Neil wanted to go from Dover to Dunkirk. It ended up being Dover to Calais. It’s only down the road so it doesn’t matter but we aren’t very good on computers at all.”

Mr Parish’s resignation as an MP prompted the Tiverton and Honiton by-election, where Boris Johnson suffered a crushing defeat, losing the seat to the Lib Dems for the first time in nearly a century, the Mirror reports.

Mr Parish claimed he had accidentally stumbled upon the X-rated videos while searching for farm machinery, before doing so deliberately a second time.

Mr Parish said his wife Sue of 41-years “always says I’m oversexed – I don’t know if I am but I have a healthy appetite. She used to say when I was a little too amorous, “I’ll get the scissors to you if you don’t behave yourself. Snippety, snip.”

Mrs Parish corrected him to say she had, in fact, chased him around the kitchen with “burdizzos — the things you use on cattle to crush their b***s.”

Earlier this week, Mr Parish appeared on ITV programme Lorraine, where he admitted he experienced a “moment of madness”. Speaking on the show, Mr Parish said: “I think there are moments of madness in your life and this was one of them and of course, you know, one has plenty of time to regret afterwards. I did the right thing, I’ve apologised and I left parliament.”

But the interview seems to have left the former MP with some fans as left viewers in stitches with one person calling it “one of the funniest interviews” on Lorraine.

Boris Johnson’s resignation leaves Conservative Party at a crossroads

The Conservative Party faces two key questions as it begins the process of electing a new leader. First, how much distance should it put between itself and Boris Johnson? Second, what policy stances should it take in the post-Brexit, post-Covid world that threatens the biggest crisis in living standards since 1945.

John Curtice www.thetimes.co.uk 

The controversy surrounding Johnson’s judgment and ethics that has dogged the party over the last six months has not only damaged his personal reputation, but also harmed its electoral standing. On the eve of Johnson’s eventual downfall on Thursday, the party stood at just 33 per cent in the polls, seven points behind Labour.

But will simply replacing Johnson be enough to reverse the damage? Certainly, the new leader will need to have a different style — to be seen to show more regard for due process, a greater sense of collegiality, and a greater readiness to provide a direct answer to tough questions than was characteristic of Johnson.

However, will voters be willing to warm to anyone who was a member of Johnson’s cabinet through thick and thin until earlier this week? And will the spectacle of a near collapse in the government this week have raised questions in voters’ minds about the ability of the party collectively to provide effective government? Certainly, support for the party is down on average by another three points in the first polls to be taken since Johnson’s resignation, leaving Labour as much as 11 points ahead.

One way in which the next leader might hope to reverse the damage done to the party’s reputation in the eyes of voters is to provide it with a renewed sense of direction. In truth, the party has found itself in an uncomfortable place in the wake of a pandemic that has resulted in record levels of spending, taxation and fiscal deficit, a trio now overlaid by a “cost of living crisis”. Many Conservative MPs feel they did not come into politics to preside over a significant growth in the size of the state, and the debate over how best to respond had opened a gulf between Johnson and his chancellor, Rishi Sunak.

The reaction among many in the party has been to reach for the familiar ideological lever of tax cuts, arguing that such a step would immediately help put money in voters’ constrained pockets. Yet those advocating this course have yet to spell out the implications of such cuts for both the management of the fiscal deficit and public expenditure.

Is the party ready to abandon the spending on infrastructure that was central to Johnson’s “levelling-up” agenda, from which Leave voting areas in particular are meant to profit? And will tax cuts — rather than trying to repair the damage done by Covid to the NHS and schools — have a sufficient appeal for an electorate that has already shown signs of concern about the impact of a pre-Covid decade of fiscal austerity on the funding of public services?

Equally, there is debate within the party about how Johnson’s principal legacy as prime minister — Brexit — should now be managed. Some Tory MPs appear keen to seize more vigorously what they regard as the opportunity afforded by Brexit to deregulate the economy by divesting the country of many an EU regulation. Yet research suggests that voters, including many Leave voters, value much of the consumer and environmental protection that has been put in place by the EU and are inclined to evaluate regulation on an unideological, case-by-case basis. Meanwhile, although even many Remain voters do not want to see a return to EU freedom of movement, voters do not necessarily want to see immigration cut at the expense of being able to deal with the labour market shortages that have evolved in the wake of Covid.

Hanging on to old verities will not necessarily provide the Conservatives with the direction they need to persuade voters that the party can govern effectively in the midst of the very different and complex challenges that Britain now faces. Rather, the party needs to be willing to think afresh rather than simply resort to its comfort zone.

John Curtice is Professor of Politics, Strathclyde University, and Senior Research Fellow, NatCen Social Research and ‘The UK in a Changing Europe’.


Dirty dossiers on S&M and affairs as Tory rivals turn on each other

“At least three current candidates would be worse than Boris.”

The Tory civil war has begun. 

On one level it will be hugely entertaining but from a national perspective very damaging. 

Also, our local porngate saga continues:

Read in a separate EDW post: ‘Porn MP’ Neil Parish is ‘oversexed’, wife claims – but he says it’s just ‘healthy appetite’

Caroline Wheeler www.thetimes.co.uk 

No sooner had Boris Johnson announced his resignation last week after a series of scandals rocked Downing Street than the fresh mud-slinging begun.

The bitter civil war engulfing the Conservatives looks set to deepen as the party braces for what is likely to become the dirtiest leadership campaign in history.

So divided is the party that at least two rival leadership campaign teams have passed the Labour Party a digital dossier containing a series of lurid allegations about their potential opponents. Last week tongues were set wagging when a prominent supporter of one of the frontrunners in the race was seen meeting a senior Labour official at the White Horse pub in Soho, central London.

The documents include a catalogue of claims about the likely runners and riders, including allegations about their private lives and financial arrangements, among them the use of tax dodges and loans. At least one private investigator has been hired to dig into some of the candidates’ financial arrangements. There are also claims of drug taking and the use of prostitutes.

A senior Tory party source said: “There are rumours being widely circulated about candidates getting involved in bondage, domination and sadomasochism, claims of inappropriate relationships and compromising explicit photographs that could be used as kompromat.

“It has even been claimed that one of the contenders requests that staff deliver their government papers to them while they are in the bath.”

The negative briefing has sunk to such depths that even the staff who work for candidates are being targeted. One aide is accused of regularly attending orgies, something that is alleged to have precluded them from receiving the highest level of security clearance.

Details of alleged extramarital affairs are also being widely shared with Labour by Tories desperate to discredit their opponents. Hostile briefings between the rival camps raises the prospect of blue-on-blue attacks escalating during the course of the contest.

Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s former aide, has already gone public with some of the claims about affairs between the leadership hopefuls and their special advisers, known as spads.

In a tweet posted on Friday, he wrote: “At least three current candidates would be worse than Boris. At least one is more insane than Truss, clearly unfit to be anywhere near nuclear codes. At least one is a spad shagger.”

He later tweeted: “Sorry, correction, I’m informed by Cabinet Office at least two spad shaggers . . . would be very Westminster for Boris to get the bullet cos of lies over sex/groping . . . only to be replaced by someone actually shagging their spad!”

Guto Harri, Johnson’s director of communications, has already been forced to deny that he has been briefing against Rishi Sunak’s campaign. He called the campaign team on Saturday morning to reassure them that he was not the source of hostile briefings against the former chancellor.

According to the Financial Times, Johnson’s allies aim to stop Sunak becoming leader and are accusing the former chancellor of treachery for triggering the prime minister’s premature exit. More than 50 Conservative MPs quit the government after Sunak and health secretary Sajid Javid resigned on Tuesday, leading Johnson to step down as Tory leader two days later. Close allies of Johnson said there was “huge anger” in Downing Street over Sunak’s resignation. One senior No 10 official called Sunak “a treacherous bastard”.

A government source said the skullduggery had reached new depths and was symptomatic of a party where scandal had become commonplace.

Last week it was claimed that Chris Pincher, the former deputy chief, whip, had groped two men in a private members’ club, triggering a chain of events that eventually led to the prime minister’s downfall. Pincher denies the claims. It was the latest sleaze scandal to hit the Conservative Party, which has now lost four MPs over allegations of sexual misconduct, with a fifth being investigated by the police for rape.

A senior MP said: “Everybody is desperate for this sordid period of our party’s history to end and for us to elect a new leader with bags of integrity who can draw a line under this disastrous episode. But that does mean that scandal now has a currency in the forthcoming leadership elections, which will likely make this the dirtiest campaign in history.”

Many of the candidates who have declared, including Sunak, have avoided the traditional campaign launches and interviews with leading media outlets. Sunak launched his campaign by posting a video on Twitter.

It is understood this is to avoid the candidates being asked too many difficult questions as they progress through the first stages of a swift campaign.

Penny Mordaunt, the trade minister, is expected to run on a “zero-tolerance” ticket promising to clean up politics. One source feared this could make her vulnerable to a dirty-tricks campaign.

“If she is going to make this a dividing line, surely her rivals will do whatever it takes to undermine her and make her look like a hypocrite,” they said.

Last night the briefing against her had already begun, with one Tory source claiming that Mordaunt had spent months priming allies for her resignation, only to remain in government and let others finish Johnson off. “Tom Hunt and Lee Anderson resigned from the government before she did. She’s still there,” they added.

“When it comes to the crux of it she has done absolutely nothing in government. There’s a reason she’s known as ‘Penny Dormant’.”

Meanwhile, Lord Goldsmith, a close ally of Johnson who has thrown his weight behind Nadhim Zahawi, has broken ranks to accuse Mordaunt of failing to heed concerns about the environment.

As international trade secretary, Goldsmith claimed that colleagues “couldn’t persuade her of the importance of nature”, adding: “You can do all the development you want, but lose the Congo Basin and hundreds of millions lose their rainfall and food and there’s an unprecedented refugee crisis.”

The Brexiteer candidates, who are all trying to win the support of the European Research Group and Common Sense group, are also turning on each other.

In one hostile briefing, Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, has been accused of not reading her own Northern Ireland Protocol Bill and staying quiet during key meetings. “It’s important to remember, when she is flashing her Brexit credentials, that Liz campaigned for ‘project fear’ and the emergency budget. She also supported Theresa May’s deal,” a source in a rival camp added.

There have also been claims that whips, who have been ordered to stay neutral, have been ringing around on behalf of candidates, including Ben Wallace, the defence secretary.

With the field wide open and the potential for more than a dozen candidates to run in the contest, the knock-out rounds, which could start as early as Tuesday, are likely to be particularly brutal.

Previously, the parliamentary stage of the contest has lasted for weeks, but it is likely the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs will announce on Monday that the slate is to be whittled down to the final two by the time the Commons rises for the summer recess on Thursday, July 21.

One source close to the 1922 Committee said active discussions are under way to truncate the second stage of the process, when party members vote for their preferred candidate. This could last for just three weeks, meaning a new Conservative Party leader — and prime minister — will have been elected by mid-August.

A Tory MP said: “The candidates will only have a matter of days to make their mark. The gloves are going to have to come off pretty quickly.”

Candidates vying for support from the same wing of the party will be particularly eager to pick each other off in order to hoover up their rivals’ support and make it through to the final two.

Previously, candidates have been accused of lending others support in order to ensure they knock out their closest rival. In 2019, supporters of Michael Gove accused Johnson’s campaign team of “dirty tricks” after the former housing minister was narrowly eliminated in the battle for No 10.

In 2016, Theresa May’s aides are alleged to have drawn up a dirty dossier on Johnson at a time when he was considered her fiercest rival. It was not used because his campaign imploded. The document, which was seen by The Sunday Times, contained a string of allegations about Johnson’s sexual liaisons, quips from him about cocaine, and damning assessments of his character.

“If only we had taken more heed of that dossier,” said one aide. “Maybe we would not have got into this mess in the first place.”

Tories – looking to get the Johnson flat makeover on the cheap?

If you are a Tory and need Johnson’s flat makeover items on the cheap, the Daily Mail is always there to guide you:

Budget stores (and even John Lewis) have VERY convincing copies of Lulu Lytle’s expensive pieces

Harriet Johnston www.dailymail.co.uk (Extract)

While Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie may have been billed £200,000 for their flat revamp in Number 11 Downing Street by Lulu Lytle, the couple could have picked up high street alternatives to their purchases – for a fraction of the cost. …..

…FEMAIL can reveal that many items similar to those for sale on the exclusive Soane Britain website can be purchased from high street stores like John Lewis, whose furnishings Carrie apparently rejected, as well as Wayfair and Dulemn – without the hefty price tag. 

On the other hand a more sophisticated critique is offered by Oliver Wainwright in the Guardian:

A £200,000 paean to French knock-offs and gilded tat

…..Beyond the sense of fortified desperation, the shopping list reflects other sides of the prime minister’s worldview. In keeping with Boris’s talk of “piccaninnies” and “watermelon smiles”, Lytle’s aesthetic has been criticised for its colonial undertones, with patterns featuring exotic animals and Orientalist motifs. She has defended her designs as the result of “30 years of research” and said in one recent interview that she was “completely baffled by the idea that having a woven lion on my wall from Nepal could be anything other than respectful”.

Instead, she likes to think she is following in the footsteps of William Morris, the socialist artist and designer who saw craftsmanship as a route to fundamental social change (he later realised he had spent his life “ministering to the swinish luxury of the rich”). Like Morris, Lytle sees her work as championing a revival of lost traditions, peddling a Brexit-friendly message as “the Boudicca of British craftsmanship”, as one antique dealer described her.

Foremost in her crafts crusade is rattan, a material with its own allusions to colonial verandas, and the Johnson bill includes several such items of rattan furniture – the £3,650 Leighton table and a £3,800 Hurlingham bookcase, which would both be at home on the terrace of a Raj-era governor’s palace. When Britain’s last rattan workshop, Angraves in Leicestershire, went into administration in 2011, Lytle bought the machinery and hired two of the staff. In another exquisite piece of Johnsonian symbolism, she also acquired the rights to Dryad – the company that designed rattan seating for the Titanic.

Theresa May’s No 11 decor might have been dismissed as a “John Lewis nightmare”, but that sounds infinitely preferable to being stuck inside this folksy, chintz-laden sinking ship.