Good Tuesday morning. There are 11 days left of this leadership race.
Liz is in the West Midlands today, once again selling how her programme for government will help the region ahead of this evening’s Birmingham husting.
Specific to the West Midlands are the delivery of the Midlands Rail Hub; government support for the battery gigafactory in Coventry; and supporting Andy Street to deliver the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Metro extension in full.
Andy Street, a key backer of Liz’s, renews his support, saying “Liz Truss has the right plan for the West Midlands and the determination to carry it out. Liz understands that we must deliver on levelling up and create new opportunities for people across the West Midlands. This means strengthening our infrastructure and ensuring our people are trained for the jobs of the future.”
Liz’s pause to new policy announcements, while entirely logical at this stage in the contest, is creating a news vacuum and allowing various political hit jobs to catch the media’s attention. Rob Colville had a good op-ed on this problem in the Sunday Times, warning that Liz’s plan to deprioritise the No. 10 press office will mean an inability to fill the news grid and create a vacuum to be “filled by her enemies”.
Today, for example, she’s taking a clobbering over sewage. Pippa Crerar’s got a piece out accusing her of having “sewage on her hands”, metaphorically one hopes, over her presiding over an £80 million cut to sewage monitors as DEFRA secretary, as part of the government’s £235 million cut to the Environment Agency’s budget.
Labour claims that, since 2016, raw sewage discharge in England & Wales has more than doubled, though it should be noted Liz Truss was moved on from DEFRA in July 2016.
Guido contacted Team Liz for a comment or rebuttal last night. None was forthcoming…
UPDATE: This morning a spokesperson for Liz says “These spending reductions were part of a wider drive from central government to find efficiencies across department budgets and government agencies.“It’s vital we get a grip on pollution in our water and ensure it is clean and safe for all to enjoy. As Prime Minister, Liz will make sure the necessary action is taken to deliver this.”
In other news:
Given news over the weekend that the OBR won’t be asked for an economic forecast to be published alongside her emergency September budget, Liz appears to have backed down from naming it as such. Instead, the Times reports, she will hold a “fiscal event” and comply in that light with all necessary rules about forecasts. Immediate tax cuts, her team emphasises, will still be front and centre…
Labour has preemptively sent Pippa a press release that warns their internal polling predicts the Tories could receive a double-figure bounce in the polls should Liz win, “but that her ‘honeymoon’ could be very short lived.” Already getting excuses out there early – they’re worried…
Unlike Liz, Rishi seemingly has no end to policy announcements. Guido’s inbox is turning into a very forgettable advent calendar…
Today Rishi promises to “make the UK a science and technology superpower” by:
Delivering a better UK alternative to Horizon Europe.
Turbocharging clinical innovation, to help the UK innovate in, and
benefit from, clinical science.
Improving and speeding up the research grant process.
Increasing the amount of lab space available.
Ensuring we have access to the best talent
Implementing a cross-government taskforce-style approach to science and technology.
His team boast that Rishi was “one of the most pro-innovation and science Chancellors in history”.
The only Rishi news SW1 cares about is his implication yesterday that he’ll turn down a job in a Liz Truss cabinet.
The question came on BBC Radio 2 yesterday in light of rumours Liz is set to offer him Health Secretary. Surely the perfect job given rumours – unverified admittedly – that Rishi has job experience in a chemist’s…
Here’s precisely what Rishi told Vanessa Feltz:
“I am not focused on all of that and I doubt Liz is… I am not thinking about jobs for me or anyone else. One thing I have reflected on as well a bit is being in a government, in cabinet, over the last couple of years, you really need to agree with the big things. Because it is tough, as I found, when you don’t. And I wouldn’t want to end up in a situation like that again.”
When Guido asked his team whether the latter comments should be read as an implication he’d turn down a job, they said “I don’t think so” and emphasised his first sentence about not focussing “on all of that”. Guido’s sure an on-the-road hack can get clarification at some point today…