Exclusive: Downing Street Accused Of ‘Quietly Editing’ One Of The PM’s Five Promises To Voters

“No tricks, no ambiguity” – Rishi Sunak

Downing Street has been accused of “quietly editing” one of Rishi Sunak’s five new promises to voters.

Kevin Schofield www.huffingtonpost.co.uk 

The prime minister unveiled the pledges in a major speech setting out his plans for 2023.

They included a vow to halve inflation this year, grow the economy and cut hospital waiting lists.

Sunak said: “No tricks, no ambiguity – we’re either delivering for you or we’re not.”

The original version of the announcement published on the government website after Sunak made his speech on Wednesday says: “By March, NHS waiting lists will fall and people will get the care they need more quickly.”

The fourth bullet point claims waiting lists will fall "by March".

The fourth bullet point claims waiting lists will fall “by March”.

UK government

However, visitors to the same page are now told that it was “updated” on Thursday and the March reference has been removed.

That pledge now says: “NHS waiting lists will fall and people will get the care they need more quickly.”

The page has since been edited and the March reference removed.

The page has since been edited and the March reference removed.

UK government

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting told HuffPost UK: “Just 48 hours after promising the British people a series of cast-iron promises, Sunak is already quietly editing the small print.

“The longer we give the Conservatives in power, the longer patients will wait.”

Answering questions from journalists after his speech, the PM said: “By spring of next year, we will have practically eliminated those waiting over a year, with the overall waiting list falling.”

A Downing Street source said the target for bringing waiting lists down is March 2024, and the government website had been edited to avoid any confusion.

HuffPost UK can also reveal that former health secretary Sajid Javid first made the March 2024 vow almost a year ago.

Speaking last February, he said: “Assuming half of the missing demand from the pandemic returns over the next three years, the NHS expect waiting lists to be reducing by March 2024.

“Addressing long waits is critical to the recovery of elective care and we will be actively offering longer waiting patients greater choice about their care to help bring these numbers down.”

More on PPE Medpro: Michelle Mone-linked firm referred to UK health watchdog

A company linked to the Conservative peer Michelle Mone was referred to the UK’s health products watchdog for an investigation after it allegedly presented a false document to the government when tendering for PPE contracts.

Can it get any worse? – Owl

David Conn www.theguardian.com 

The referral of the company, PPE Medpro, was described in a high court document made public this week, setting out the legal claim against the company by the Department of Health and Social Care. The DHSC is seeking the return of £122m in public money it paid for the supply of sterile surgical gowns, plus £11.6m for storing and disposing of them.

It has accused PPE Medpro of delivering gowns that were not sterile, did not comply with the regulations for the production of medical devices, and could have compromised patients’ safety had they been used in the NHS.

The DHSC awarded that gowns contract, and another contract worth £80.85m for the supply of face masks, to PPE Medpro within weeks of Mone approaching Conservative ministers in May 2020 offering to supply PPE through “my team in Hong Kong”.

In the court document setting out its claim, the DHSC states that PPE Medpro “made multiple offers to supply different types of PPE”. The referral of the company to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) related to a different tendering process from the one that led to the DHSC granting the company the gowns contract, the legal claim states.

“[PPE Medpro] was found to have supplied a test report (numbered SHAT06648491) purporting to be from an entity called Intertek, but which Intertek denied having issued. As a result, PPE Medpro was referred to the MHRA’s compliance unit for further investigation.”

Intertek is a large, global, UK stock market-listed quality assurance company, which provides technical testing, inspection and safety certification services in a wide range of industries, including medical devices.

PPE Medpro did not respond to a question from the Guardian this week about the DHSC’s allegation that it supplied an allegedly false document purporting to have been produced by Intertek, nor about the referral to the MHRA. Regarding the DHSC’s legal claim, the company said it refuted all the allegations, argued that the gowns it supplied did meet “correct quality standards and specification”, and said it will “rigorously defend” the court action.

In a statement, Intertek said: “We are not involved in the MHRA investigation or court process. We have reviewed the reference to us in the court document and we have no further comment to make.”

An MHRA spokesperson said the agency could not confirm the outcome of the referral to its compliance unit: “We are not able to provide updates regarding the state of any referrals or investigations due to the confidentiality requirements set out in the Medicines and Medical Devices Act 2021.

“However, we review all information and referrals we receive and where necessary we will take appropriate regulatory action.”

Mone has been under intense public and political pressure since the Guardian reported in November that leaked bank documents indicated she and her three adult children secretly received £29m originating from PPE Medpro’s profits on the government deals. Her lawyer told the Guardian at the time: “There are a number of reasons why our client cannot comment on these issues and she is under no duty to do so.”

Mone has previously denied via her lawyers that she had any involvement in PPE Medpro, despite her approach to ministers in May 2020 and the Guardian reporting last year, based on leaked files, that she did appear to have been secretly involved. Her lawyer has also said she did not declare PPE Medpro on her Lords register of interests because “she did not benefit financially and was not connected to PPE Medpro in any capacity”.

Lawyers for Mone did not respond to requests for comment about the DHSC’s legal claim or the purported Intertek document.

PPE Medpro is the subject of an ongoing potential fraud investigation by the National Crime Agency (NCA). Lawyers for PPE Medpro have declined to comment on the NCA investigation.

For the Love of Money: Michelle Mone – the Epitome of Modern Conservatism Byline Times 

The scandal-hit baroness was elevated for years by the party now backtracking over the PPE firm linked to her that won millions in pandemic contracts


Michelle Mone is today’s tabloid baddie.

The baroness stands accused of earning a fortune from two 2020 contracts that went to PPE Medpro worth £203 million to supply masks and medical gowns during the pandemic.

The claim is that the company, which was only a few weeks old when it landed its first contract, was lobbied for by Conservative peer Mone herself. If true, this might constitute an abuse of power, given that she enjoys a seat in the House of Lords. 

It has been alleged that millions of pounds worth of the medical gowns were never even used, even though PPE Medpro claims it delivered the contract to its terms and supplied equipment “fully in accordance” with the contracts.

It has also recently been revealed that a company linked to Mone’s husband donated £171,480 to the Conservative Party. The payments were made through UK firm Lancaster Knox LLP, which forms part of the Doug Barrowman Knox Group. The donations were made before he and Mone were alleged to have benefited from the PPE deal struck during the pandemic.

In response, the Government has announced it is suing PPE Medpro, which won contracts through the so-called ‘VIP lane’ of suppliers, claiming that the gowns supplied “did not comply with the specification in the contract”.

Mone’s reputation stands in tatters. But she isn’t the only villain in all of this.

The baroness is the product of a Conservatism that has uplifted and honoured her up until this point of hubris. She was steadfastly very much the epitome of a modern day Tory, and the Government suing the firm linked to her shouldn’t mask what’s really under all that political greasepaint.

When that is removed, it is clear that – in truth – Mone represents stolid Conservative values.

First, she is the epitome of the Conservative ‘rags to riches’ promise. Born in the east end of Glasgow, her story is one of being raised in a one-bedroom house with no bath and becoming a millionaire through hard work and perseverance. It is the ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ political trajectory that she shares with the likes of Nadine Dorries, Sajid Javid and Gillian Keegan.

Although just one in 100 Conservative MPs have come from a working-class job, Mone’s rise from The Barras to the Baronetcy is held up as heady proof that Thatcher’s promise holds true. The self-same entrepreneurial spirit that saw Mone make her millions out of lingerie was lauded until it made the Conservative Government look bad. 

Mone’s story is representative of a Conservative ethos that has all too clearly been recently revealed: that political connections are not there to debate ethical principles and work together for society. They are there for profit. Her messages to Michael Gove – WhatsApp discussions the Government once refused to admit even existed – were just a fraction of the secret lobbying endemic in Westminster.  

Connections matter. Yes Gove, poor man, claimed he was “bullied” into giving her company a contract. But don’t forget that – as reported by this newspaper – more than half a billion pounds in Government PPE deals went to Conservative backers. Remember too that companies which were referred by Conservative MPs and peers to the expedited ‘VIP lane’ have since seen their profits quadruple. When it comes to Conservatives profiting from the pandemic, Mone is not alone.

But Mone’s own place and behaviour in the Lords also reflects a wider pattern that seems noticeable among some Conservative peers.

The baroness, who joined the second chamber in 2015, has not taken part in a vote since last April and has not spoken in a debate since March 2020. She has now taken a ‘leave of absence’ from the Lords – a seeming technicality given her attendance rating – but hers was always a lukewarm commitment to public service that exposes the upper house for what it has become.

Take Lord Evgeny Lebedev, co-owner of the Evening Standard and the Independent newspapers. He was appointed to the Lords by Boris Johnson in December 2020, but has since turned up to just 1% of sessions. Similarly, Lord Bamford, the JCB owner and Conservative Party donor, attended only 32 times between April 2015 and March 2022. Indeed, of the 1,042 peers who have sat in the House of Lords since April 2015, 142 (13.6%) attended the Palace of Westminster on 25 days or less, with 58 having never attended during that period. 

Under the Conservatives, the House of Lords has become more sclerotic, not less. The fact that this roughly 800-member club has seen appointments such as Johnson’s brother, Lord Johnson of Marylebone, has already raised concerns. And that, of all upper houses in the world, only the Chinese National People’s Congress is bigger shows just how much it’s been packed by donors and sycophants.

Mone’s place there – or her absence – is reflective of a wider decay of an institution whose average age is 71. No wonder Labour wants to get rid of it.

Then there are her opaque business interests in the Middle East. Whether working with the Sultan of Oman or trying to sell apartments in Dubai using crypto-currency, Mone reflects a wider Conservative obsession with the oil-rich states. 

‘Follow the money’ might be an investigative journalist’s mantra, but it is also a Conservative’s own. From scandals such as the Conservative Party chair Ben Elliot failing to disclose client ties with Middle East envoys, to Middle East-based magnates being revealed as major party donors, and the UK Government being paid more than £300 million by Saudi military for weapons systems training, there are countless political scandals linking Conservative politics to the Gulf states. These are the result of stronger post-Brexit ties with countries like Oman and Saudi Arabia driven forward by a Tory Party desperately seeking economic allies, regardless of their human rights records.  

Finally, there is Michelle Mone’s own poor character. There was the Met Police investigation, for instance, into allegations that she sent a racist message after a banker of Indian heritage Richard Lynton-Jones complained to the police. During a disagreement following a fatal yacht collision in 2019, Mone told him in a WhatsApp message that he was “a waste of a man’s white skin”. She settled for £50,000.

There was also the time she replaced Rod Stewart’s wife with his ex, choosing Rachel Hunter as the face of her bra company Ultimo, ditching model Penny Lancaster. The singer branded Mone “a manipulative cow”. Mone said she had done it “for the publicity”.

Then, in 2016, she faced her fourth employment tribunal over claims of bullying and failure to pay wages, her company having lost or settled the previous three. Mone had bugged employees’ offices and listened to the recordings for evidence of disloyalty.

Mone’s behaviour – evident in her litigious threats to reporters covering the PPE scandal – appears to show a person who seems to care little for the feelings of others. And, in this way, given all the scandals of bullying by Conservative ministers – with Dominic Raab, Priti Patel and Gavin Williamson all exposed as martinets – she seems to fit right in.

Mone then does seem to be driven forward by a desire for power not principle, whatever the cost. And just over her shoulder, stood the Conservative Party – facilitating, or at the least not condemning, her behaviour all the way.

District council agrees council tax reduction changes

At a cabinet meeting on Wednesday (4 January), East Devon District Council agreed a series of council tax reduction (CTR) changes to help people in arrears during the cost-of-living crisis.


Currently, 18 per cent of households in tax arrears in East Devon are of working age, up from 13 per cent in 2019 before the start of the covid pandemic.

It was decided that the council should cover 100 per cent of council tax for band one households – up from 85 per cent – and matching the discount already being applied by North Devon, East Devon and Teignbridge.

The council agreed that self-employed people who work at least 16 hours per week are entitled to support, in line with universal credit. This means people who are self-employed who do not work more than 16 hours a week due to caring responsibilities are covered under the scheme.

Claims can be backdated for up to 12 months, with any increased income from universal credit also being considered when dealing with tax reduction claims to ensure that those receiving such funding or other emergency schemes don’t lose out.

Devon Fire and Rescue Service, and Devon and Cornwall Police, both supported the scheme, although Devon County Council objected on the grounds that it is forecast to cost the council more than half a million pounds.

Of the 178 members of the public who responded to a six-week consultation, 25 were “very against” the planned council tax reductions for eligible people.

Some respondents felt that discounting taxes based on low income did not ‘incentivise working,’ and that cases involving self-employed workers should be considered using their actual income, rather than the hours they work.

Others suggested that allowing backdating for 12 months would be “excessive,” and that considering emergency income through other schemes is “unfair” to those whose income does not include government support.

Cllr Paul Hayward (Independent East Devon Alliance, Yarty) asked that those against the proposal show a little more compassion.

“It reads like watching the first 10 minutes of Christmas Carol over and over again,” he said. “And it appears that the milk of human kindness has just curdled for some of these people who respond.

“It’s just astonishing that… we are simply attempting to help those most vulnerable people who have the least, who are struggling.”

Libby Jarrett, the officer presenting the proposal, reasoned that increasing band one support to 100 per cent has the same effect on the tax received as simply writing off the arrears. Cllr Hayward agreed.

“If we don’t do this, they’ll end up reneging, they’ll end up defaulting, and we’ll end up in the same position,” he said. “So actually we can be ahead of the game and help people at this time of absolute crisis, so I’m delighted to propose this.”

Tory leader confident Conservatives can take back control of East Devon District Council

“We believe in what we believe in, and we go from there.” (Cllr Phil Skinner leader of the EDDC Conservatives).

Well that clarifies things, Owl is always in favour of transparency!

For those wanting to know where our “Blue Leader” is coming from, you only have to type “Skinner” into the Watch search box (above right) to find out, or refresh your memory. Our Phil has plenty of “form”.

As Leader, all Tory candidates will be expected to follow his example or “beliefs”.

Really think you can win Phil, having won less than one third of the seats in 2019 and with the Tories polling 113 votes in the October by-election coming third behind Labour?

The leader of the Conservatives in East Devon is feeling positive ahead of local elections in May.


The 2019 elections in East Devon dealt a blow to the party which, having won 35 seats in 2011, added another to that tally in the next full poll four years later.

However, the Tories came out of the elections four years ago with just 19 seats, and after the Liberal Democrats, the East Devon Alliance, the Green Party, and three Independents joined forces to form the Democratic Alliance, the Conservatives lost control of the council they had led since the district was created.

Right now, though, East Devon District Council has no overall majority, and Conservative leader Cllr Paul [sic] Skinner (Conservative, Tale Vale) ) believes the time for change has come.

“It’s difficult from a Westminster perspective [that the Tories will do well],” he said. “But as far as [local] Conservatives, I think the true values that people sit within are at the core of the Conservative party.

“I think people believe, in a general sense, in a capitalist state, but what we want is a capitalist state that’s also got responsibility in ensuring people are able to afford and pay for services, and that’s what we want.

“I think Rishi Sunak, from a perspective of central government, is doing a fantastic job. And I happen to think that, in many aspects, East Devon District Council are not doing a very good job.

“I think there’s a change of administration required at East Devon District Council, and I’m very optimistic going forward.

“We’ve nearly fulfilled most of our places now for our seats, so there’s many people wanting to stand as Conservatives, and no one’s shying away from that – why would we?

“We believe in what we believe in, and we go from there. As leader of the Conservative boot, I’m very optimistic in the teams we’ve got going forward. That optimism is shown by many candidates coming forward and by existing councillors.”

Cllr Skinner is confident of taking back overall control of East Devon.

“Absolutely, and I firmly believe that,” he said. “That’s not just a limp comment, I firmly believe that. We are tainted I’m afraid to say with what central government does, because people see that as a concern when you mention Conservatives on the doorstep; people immediately revert to central government.

“There are lots of people who know local cabinets, and who know that we do things for the area which we live in. We’re very passionate about delivering for East Devon.”

Other parties have been asked for their views about the forthcoming elections.

The Democratic Alliance said that it was “too soon” to make any predictions, while Labour said they did not want to speculate, but will be “fighting to win.”