Yesterday’s Times ran a story on Keir Starmer’s quest to find a new Chief of Staff, having sacked Sam White in October. Apparently Sir Keir is on the hunt for someone with “government experience” amid concerns that virtually nobody on his team actually has any. Rumours have been going around for weeks about the name floated in the piece: Sir Tom Scholar…
Scholar, of course, is the former Permanent Secretary at the Treasury – and in a previous life, Downing Street Chief of Staff under Gordon Brown. The fact he’s even being considered for that same job again under Starmer, having only been sacked on ideological grounds by Kwasi Kwarteng as the Treasury’s top civil servant four months ago, speaks volumes. “A friend of Scholar” is quoted saying he’d be “very unlikely” to take the job. “Former colleagues” add he’s “never been very political”. He also happened to be at Yvette Cooper and Ed Balls’ anniversary party at the weekend…
If Sir Keir makes him an offer he can’t refuse, however, there’s another problem: the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACoBA) might have a thing or two to say about it. Here are their rules on new appointments for ex-Permanent Secretaries:
“An application is required for any new appointment or employment that individuals wish to take up during the two year period after leaving office. All applications at this level must be referred by the Department to the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (the Advisory Committee). The Advisory Committee provides advice to the Prime Minister, who makes the final decision.”
Which reads to Guido like Rishi himself would have to approve the appointment for his own opponent’s Chief of Staff, at least if Sir Keir wanted Scholar onboard within the next two years. “Do us a favour, Rishi”…
Kwasi Kwarteng speaking to the FT:
“My biggest regret is we weren’t tactically astute and we were too impatient. There was a brief moment and the people in charge, myself included, blew it.”
As new instances of the strife inside the Conservative party come to light on a near-daily basis, Anthony Mangnall has joined the frontlines of Tory warfare. The MP was speaking at a fundraiser in the exclusive Cavalry club in Mayfair, with William Hague as the main guest. In his remarks Mangnall made reference to Matt Hancock’s time in the jungle – reusing his old material from PMQs.
He then moved on to suggest other TV programmes where his colleagues might appear. For Kwasi Kwarteng he proposed Homes Under the Hammer – “given he has done so much damage to the housing market”. Jacob Rees-Mogg was assigned Antiques Roadshow. And for Liz Truss… Pointless.
Harry Cole has finally addressed the thus-far unpublished rumour in SW1: that Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng previously enjoyed a sexual relationship.
The rumour has been around for years and following Liz’s victory in the Tory leadership race, and appointment of Kwasi Kwarteng as Chancellor, plenty of news outlets used knowing euphemisms such as ‘political bedfellows’, ‘close allies’ and ‘ideological soulmates’. Now Harry Cole’s finally addressed the rumour in his new biography of Liz:
“The suggestion was from, perhaps, her political enemies and wider-spread Westminster gossip that perhaps there was something more than just friends to Kwasi Kwarteng and Liz Truss.
“We reveal that their allies, their friends, their supporters that know them best are actually saying they were nothing more than political bedfellows.”
And that’s the end of the matter…
Last night* this message appeared on Kwasi’s doorstep. Chalk it up as a cheap prank…
*Apparently it appeared a couple of weeks ago according to Times diarist Patrick Kidd.
With Kwasi out, Guido takes a look at the runners and riders for next Chancellor:
Nadhim Zahawi: Already a good day for Zahawi, whose tenure as interim Chancellor over the summer has outlasted that of Kwasi Kwarteng’s. Recent Treasury experience is a plus, albeit under a different permanent secretary.
Simon Clarke: A key and prominent supporter of Liz. Chief Secretary to the Treasury under Rishi, though with some major disagreements with the former Chancellor reported during his time there. A very likely candidate.
Sajid Javid: Again, previous experience though even during his short time at the Treasury he didn’t show much promise of breaking free of Treasury orthodoxy. Steven Swinford reports it’s not going to be him.
Jeremy Hunt: The centrist, ‘party unity’ candidate that may placate backbench opponents. Would be an admission that the Truss economic programme is DOA. Currently out of the country.
Rishi Sunak: Stranger things have happened over the past 40 days.
Chris Philp: The current chief secretary to the treasury, a role with a decent track record of stepping in to replace unexpectedly departing chancellors. Would need some lessons on tweeting about the value of the pound.
Steve Barclay: Widely reported to have been Rishi’s choice for Chancellor had he won the leadership contest.
Alan Mak: Treasury minister from July to September. The best candidate to reverse Liz’s fortunes and lead Britain into a new golden age of economic growth.
All of this is helpfully contextualised by Stephen Bush, who points out that when Kwarteng’s replacement is appointed, the Conservative party will have had as many Chancellors of the Exchequer in 2022 as the Labour party has had since 1967…