Sunak Sets Election Cabinet as Tory Rifts Explode

The long-awaited Ri-shuffle will continue tomorrow as Sunak shuffles the junior ranks in his election personnel team. The election Cabinet appears to be set as of tonight. Braverman’s ejection has her allies restless and plotting. The ball is in their court…

Cameron’s surprise appointment, which was brokered by Sunak consigliere William Hague, is meant to give Sunak more space for domestic policy. Cleverly is said to be frustrated with the loss of the FCDO brief and has already taken on a different tone to Braverman. No one is surprised at Coffey’s departure, which took a mammoth 2 hours and 45 minutes to be confirmed. Chief Secretary to the Treasury John Glen said he was “alarmed” about the tax burden and found himself out of a job four days later. Greg Hands was sent to the Department for Trade to serve there for the 4th time. One of the stranger reshuffle days, this is apparently the big plan for the campaign…

Team Sunak operatives Richard Holden, Victoria Atkins, and Laura Trott get new jobs. A crop of ministers looking to leave Parliament resigned – ACOBA rules mandate a 6-month wait between leaving government and taking a new job. An indication they are expecting the election to happen in May…

mdi-timer 13 November 2023 @ 16:58 13 Nov 2023 @ 16:58 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
HS2: Downing Street’s Communication Off the Rails

Knowing what’s really happening with HS2 is near impossible with Downing Street’s current comms strategy.  Especially when Grant Shapps and Jeremy Hunt were allowed to drop hints in recent days essentially confirming the Northern leg of HS2 is about to be derailed. All before the Tories head off to conference in… Manchester.

Number 10 are spinning the constant umming and ahhing over HS2 as a consequence of Rishi’s “alarm” at the cost surpassing £100 billion. Guido has taken a look back at the confusion in just the last few months:

  • March 26th: Michael Gove insisted HS2 would arrive in Manchester. Though perhaps not Euston…
  • July 30th: Government ‘committed‘ to HS2 after watchdog rates project as ‘unachievable‘. Strong start…
  • September 14th: Downing Street refused to guarantee the HS2 will run to Manchester as planned. Change of tune…
  • September 15th: Chris Philp said he didn’t know whether the line would go to Manchester as planned but that trains would go “very fast from London“.
  • September 17th: Foreign Secretary James Cleverly wouldn’t confirm HS2 link to Manchester despite PM’s ‘absolute‘ levelling up commitment.
  • September 18th: Richard Holden refused to confirm HS2 will run to Manchester but added in the Commons “we remain focused on its delivery.One-way ticket to uncertainty there…
  • September 18th: Pensions Minister Laura Trott told Sky News  “The government looks at every single penny it is spending to make sure that we’re getting the value for money.” Avoiding the question again… 
  • September 21st: Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said the costs of HS2 were “getting totally out of control” as he refused to commit to building the Manchester leg.
  • September 24th: Transport Minister Grant Shapps let the cat out the bag, responding to whether HS2 will run to Manchester that, “it’s not my area these days” adding that the PM is “prepared to do long-term difficult things.” 
  • September 25th: Rishi refused to comment on the speculation of scrapping northern leg of HS2, though claimed he is “still committed to levelling up“.
  • September 26th: Policing Minister Chris Philp said he “wants to see tax payers money spent prudently” and that “the chancellor and the PM are trying to control the costs”. 
  • September 26th: The Times reported Rishi Sunak is to delay or even scrap the leg of HS2 from Birmingham to Manchester, citing runaway costs.

Are we derailing HS2 or not?

mdi-timer 26 September 2023 @ 12:39 26 Sep 2023 @ 12:39 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Holden Insists Government “Focused” On Building HS2, Evades Question on Scrapping Manchester Leg

With Transport Minister Huw Merriman otherwise engaged, Richard Holden deputised for what turned into a tense Commons clash with Labour’s Louise Haigh over HS2. Despite Mark Harper’s assurances a few weeks ago that the high speed rail route will go all the way to Manchester by 2041, Holden’s coy responses in the Chamber this afternoon are casting fresh doubts. Haigh obviously relished her new “great rail betrayal” slogan… even if her colleague Pat McFadden claimed Labour haven’t made a final decision over the weekend.

Despite claiming “construction continues in earnest“, Holden’s refusal to commit at the despatch box to building the Manchester leg will, like Downing Street’s ambivalence last week, suggest they’re about to hit the brakes. Scrapping or delaying the Northern leg could save £35 billion for tax cuts before the election…

mdi-timer 18 September 2023 @ 16:48 18 Sep 2023 @ 16:48 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Sadiq Instructs TfL to “Investigate” Pay-Per-Mile Road Charge Plan

Sadiq Khan is quietly pressing ahead with his pay-as-you-drive plot across London. Having previously floated the idea in a Financial Times interview earlier this year, Transport Minister Richard Holden revealed at the despatch box this morning that Khan has asked Transport for London officials, including Deputy Mayor for Transport Seb Dance, to look into the “technicalities” of introducing the money-grabbing plan. Despite his spokesperson claiming “there are no proposals on the table for such a scheme”…

Holden said today:

“…I met the acting CFO and Seb Dance, the Deputy Mayor for Transport yesterday. They informed me that the Mayor of London, in anticipation of falling revenues from ULEZ in the future […] had asked them to investigate the technicalities of introducing road charging across London in the future.”

Sadiq has already admitted he finds the idea of whacking Londoners with a pay-per-mile charge “potentially quite exciting“, though insisted “the technology’s quite a long way off“. Clearly that hasn’t deterred him – as if the ULEZ debacle wasn’t enough. Better hope for another screeching U-turn.

UPDATE: Steve Tuckwell, Tory candidate for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, tells Guido:

“Sadiq Khan’s plans to charge every single driver in Hillingdon with road user charging prove once again that he just ignores Outer London. If he gets his way, nobody will be safe from his war on motorists. There are already reports of Labour MPs starting to panic – so people know that if Labour doesn’t get the big win the bookies predict, they’ll put pressure on Sadiq to scrap his plans. People here in Uxbridge know there’s only one way to make the Mayor listen to Outer London. That’s with a vote to stop Ulez on 20th July.”

mdi-timer 13 July 2023 @ 14:34 13 Jul 2023 @ 14:34 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Mary Foy Blames Holden for ‘Ruining’ Professional Relationship Over Beergate

The Guardian’s just published an interview with Durham MP Mary Kelly Foy in which she talks about the pressures she faced from the media over her central involvement in the Beergate investigation. She claims a reporter broke into her office to find materials relating the curry and says she has been “shattered by the media storm”. That’s politics for you…

The one bit of the interview that really grabbed Guido’s attention, however, was where she spoke of her relationship with constituency neighbour Richard Holden, who had been one of the most prominent Tory voices holding Sir Keir and the Labour Party to account for the curry:

“Foy said one of the lasting legacies was a breakdown in the relationship between her and Tory Durham MPs, something she said could affect work in the local area.

“I thought I was quite friendly with Richard Holden – we were all new together,” she said. “We were getting on well with plans for levelling up – what a farce that is – but we had to decide on some projects and we had issues we talked about. Obviously now it’s a working relationship that is really ruined.”

The Guardian failed to mention the more relevant factor that may have hurt her and Holden’s professional relationship: the fact she drunkenly grabbed and furiously berated him on the House of Commons terrace. For those who missed the Mail’s report at the time:

“A Labour MP launched a ‘drunken tirade’ against the Conservative MP leading calls for the police to review claims Sir Keir Starmer broke lockdown rules.

Three witnesses told the Daily Mail that Mary Foy vented her fury at Richard Holden on the Commons terrace on Tuesday night.

She is said to have verbally abused him for asking Durham Police to reopen the investigation into footage of the Labour leader having a beer with officials in her office on April 30, 2021.

Witnesses claim the City of Durham MP grabbed Mr Holden by the arm with both hands and tried to drag him across the terrace before staff restrained her.”

For Mary Foy, any self-reflection of her own behaviour during the political storm appears to be a naan-starter…

UPDATE: Holden tells Guido

I accepted Mary Foy’s unreserved apology for her drunken and unprovoked assault on me terrace of the House of Commons and considered the matter closed.

“I’m sad that Mary considers that our working relationship is ruined. I’d urge her to try and forgive herself, or at least come to terms her actions, and to now work constructively on herself and with me for the people of the county that we were both elected to serve.”

mdi-timer 23 August 2022 @ 15:21 23 Aug 2022 @ 15:21 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
WATCH: Richard Holden Tears Chunks Out of Corbyn-Backing Starmer
mdi-timer 18 July 2022 @ 18:11 18 Jul 2022 @ 18:11 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
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