December Review: Strikes, Snow and SNP’s Self-ID Controversy

December carried on much the same way as November. Immigration and strikes continued to top the agenda, and as Mick Lynch showed his true colours on the airwaves, another media personality was making the most of his opportunity. Labour gave a lesson in grievance politics as they launched an attack on private schools – despite their own associations with them. All the while, polls continued to show a bleak mid-winter landscape for the Conservatives. They’re polls even Santa would struggle to come back from.

As Westminster entered Christmas party season, there was some uncharacteristically wintery weather- conveniently timed to coincide with record energy prices. The public were provided some relief from strikes and soaring utility bills through the rare spectacle of a winter World Cup. Which provided at least one entertaining own goal.

The freezing temperatures didn’t bring a corresponding cooldown in the culture war. Jeremy Clarkson found himself on the receiving end of a woke mob, incited by a Game of Thrones reference, as two Tory MPs hatched a plan to protect free speech. The SNP passed their controversial reform to gender recognition, to a too revealing reaction from the public gallery, though the government seems prepped to launch a counter-attack of their own. No sign of a Christmas Truce there…

December ended up being a month to forget for a lot of people. The EU became embroiled in a corruption scandal and three Labour candidates stepped down amid scrutiny of their inadequate selection processes. Eddie Izzard’s losing streak was extended, as was Jolyon’s. Twice. At least they should be used to it by now.

The month was not without its winners. Stephen Flynn became the newest SNP leader in Westminster, providing the ears of Westminster watchers with some welcome relief after years of Ian Blackford’s interventions. Even with his drastic personnel changes, Stephen was quick to follow his predecessor in showing himself up. Civil servants also had a good month. Beyond splashing the cash on taxis and pitching for public sympathy for their cushy conditions, Guido revealed one was able to stay on the payroll whilst launching his own parliamentary campaign… against Boris Johnson. The former PM didn’t do too badly himself; his campaign’s backers claims were vindicated as he raked in cash on the speaker circuit and registered solid poll results. He may well be hoping his unfinished business gets a resolution in the New Year…

Honourable Mentions:

Headline of the Month: Public Support for Rail Strikes Crashes as Mick Lynches Christmas


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November Review: Rough Ride for Rishi and Hancock’s Holiday

With the second leadership contest of the year out of the way, November proved a more tranquil month in Westminster. Though not all were accustomed to the new-found peace. Coming down from the adrenaline rush of political chaos, the Lobby were on the hunt for scalps. They first tried, and failed, to take down Suella Braverman, before setting their sights on Gavin Williamson – even with initial backing, he couldn’t survive the onslaught. Dominic Raab was the Lobby’s final target and, despite harrowing allegations of tomato throwing, managed to come out the other side. That’ll Raab them up the wrong way.

Rishi got down to business in November as he made appointments to his top team, including a… diverse lineup of talents. Though, irrespective of the personnel behind it, November was a challenging month for the government. Immigration was back on the agenda, as it reached an all-time high, whilst the government failed to get to grips with channel crossings. The Conservatives, then, faced challenges from both flanks, as Labour maintained their 20-point poll lead, all before a wave of strikes looked set to bring the country to a halt. And this is the honeymoon…

Beyond the strikers, more lefty activists frustrated the public as eco-loons continued their activism. Guido undertook the public service of bringing scrutiny to their hypocritical excesses: from hysteria, to polluting sponsors and their far-flung financiers. Thankfully, they don’t make it difficult.

One person immune from the trials facing the public was Matt Hancock. In November, Matt made headlines when he jetted-off to Australia to rake in the dingo dollars on I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here. Over the course of the month, Hancock left his constituents hanging as he continued to excel at embarrassing himself on a daily basis. Even after suffering the indignity of being tarred-and-feathered, eating penis and taking any opportunity to sing – badly – Matt fared quite well. He finished third overall, an experience many Tory MPs may soon come to share…

Honourable Mentions:

Headline of the Month: Public Complain to Ofcom Over Hancock Shower Scene

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October Review: Truss Resigns and the Spreadsheet Returns

The start of October coincided with the Conservative Party Conference, and with Labour holding a 20% lead in the polls the sharks began to circle. Conference began with some high profile interventions from the likes of Michael Gove and Grant Shapps, as loyalists responded with barbs of their own. A sign of things to come.

With Conservative Conference came a host of not wholly unprecedented controversy: a young Tory got himself in hot water for controversial comments, Lee Anderson was confronted by a protester and a Tory MP was subject to a (bogus) behavioural complaint. Liz Truss rounded off proceedings by calling out the “anti-growth coalition” in her speech. Characteristic of her premiership, it was short, sweet and of little consequence.

Conservative Party internecine warfare continued over the next week, culminating in the sacking of Kwasi Kwarteng. Jeremy Hunt stepped in and immediately re-assessed the government’s fiscal policy – the writing was on the wall. Though nobody had yet informed Liz Truss, as the Prime Minister insisted she would carry on fighting. Liz Truss resigned that week.

With that, the spreadsheet was back. Guido spent one frantic weekend split between Gmail, Twitter and Google Sheets keeping tabs on the contest. Where, despite a fast start, It was perhaps too soon for Boris’ “I’ll be back” return, much to the delight of media types. As backroom dealings bore little fruit and Rishi’s column climbed, the eventual outcome became clear and the prodigal prince got his coronation. Although Rishi did alright, the real winner from the weekend was Guido’s view count.

With the culmination of the year’s second Conservative Party leadership contest, Sunak undertook his first Ri-shuffle and got down to business. Elsewhere in October, Jolyon lost another case, Nigel Farage teased a political comeback and Matt Hancock made a fool of himself. Overall, it marked a welcome return to normality.

Honourable Mentions:

Headline of the Month: Harry Cole Nails That Liz & Kwasi Rumour…

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September Review: Prime Minister Truss, Mini-Budget and The Death of the Queen

There is only one place a review of September can start. On the afternoon of the 8th, the world was shaken by news of the passing of Britain’s longest serving monarch. Political big beasts led the country with heartfelt tributes, as Theresa May’s light relief proved the highlight. The following weeks saw the country grind to a halt over the period of mourning. Guido was keen to report on Westminster’s excesses during this period, ranging from Anneliese Dodds’ illicit corporate schmoozing to the IPSA and MPs alike taking mourning off. Guido also revealed the hypocrisy of one monarchy-hating Hansard staffer. A bad week for Queens…

This obviously marked a difficult start to the Liz Truss premiership, as she had come to power just two days prior. Yet things didn’t get much better for the new Prime Minister. After getting underway with her first reshuffle, Kwasi Kwarteng delivered the ill-fated mini-budget. Despite the ringing endorsement of some Westminster wonks, its lasting result was sterling falling to an all-time low against the dollar.

Labour’s conference was, much like their leader, subdued and unremarkable. Despite Labour’s best efforts – a barrage of handouts funded by “fully-costed” borrowing – the most memorable story was a Guido scoop sharing remarks made by Rupa Huq, where she called Kwasi Kwarteng “superficially” black. This was rightly met with condemnation from Labour figures, with the whips having her scalp within the afternoon. Huq off.

Co-conspirators were also enthusiastic to read the inside scoop on James O’Brien’s true nature, as the radio presenter engaged in a sweary tirade in a Soho champagne bar. A new prime Minister also meant a revised SpAd list, as September also saw the debut of the PAd list. A quiet month all round, then…

Honourable Mentions:

Headline of the Month: Rishi Refuses to Rule Out Second Leadership Bid in Future

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August Review: Tory Leadership Race, Part One

August was dominated by the Tory leadership race. With Liz Truss squeaking past Penny Mordaunt in the fifth MPs’ ballot, she and Rishi Sunak hit the road for a never-ending series of hustings across the country, trotting out the same soundbites over and over again: Truss arguing we had to go for growth, Rishi claiming we had to control inflation before waving “the country’s credit card”. At the time, given how far ahead Liz was in the polls, and with a looming energy crisis, it seemed excessive to an entire month repeating the same routine over and over again. Especially since they both ended up getting the job anyway…

Nonetheless, Guido diligently churned out a daily campaign update every morning, rounding up the latest goings-on in each camp. Sometimes these would be pretty short, if the candidates were struggling to think of anything new to say after a CCHQ organised marathon campaign in the regions: at one point Rishi promised to “restore NHS dentistry”, and Liz said she’d “look at” speeding limits on motorways. Other times, however, the blue-on-blue attacks upped the ante. After Liz backed down on her plans for regional pay boards, Rishi’s campaign sprung to life, accusing Truss of U-turning under pressure. The Truss camp immediately shot back by compiling a list they claimed showed Rishi had performed “more u-turns than a DVLA test centre” – which as the DVLA’s Press Office pointed out to us, doesn’t make any sense since they don’t conduct driving tests. Meanwhile, in the real world, inflation continued to climb higher and higher…

Away from the travelling circus, Guido also published footage of Boris and Carrie enjoying a dance and a sing-song at their belated wedding celebrations. While Guido thought it was just a bit of fun, Downing Street weren’t happy and threatened legal action. The video is still online for co-conspirators’ viewing pleasure. Boris’s moves weren’t great, but they weren’t that bad…

August also saw the beginnings of the relentless strike action that still grinds the country to a halt as this post goes to pixel. Rail workers walked out throughout the month, with RMT chief Mick Lynch becoming the left’s favourite new poster boy. The strikes proved yet another head scratcher for Sir Keir, who was forced to drop his party’s picket line ban after multiple Labour MPs showed up anyway – including ex-shadow Transport Secretary Minister Sam Tarry, who had finally given Starmer an excuse to sack him at the end of July. Labour then promised Sir Keir would eventually come up with a new strike protocol for his MPs… as soon as he returned from holiday.

Honourable Mentions:

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July Review: “Them’s the Breaks…”

July was the month when it all fell apart. Having just about survived the confidence vote the previous month, Boris was already in choppy waters. All it took was Chris Pincher’s wandering hands to finally sink the ship. It’s no exaggeration to say the first week of July packed in a year’s worth of political chaos in just a week. “Pincher by name, pincher by nature…” 

The unedifying spectacle of the government meltdown (Wikipedia calls it the July 2022 United Kingdom government crisis” to distinguish it from the other disaster that happened three months later – more on that soon) is already a piece of political history: 62 ministers quitting, an emergency reshuffle, and Boris himself eventually resigning within the space of three days. Enough drama to fill a couple of books on the shelves already, let alone one blog post…

Downing Street’s initial spin operation heading into that fateful week was never going to cut the mustard: apparently Boris “forgot” about the 2019 FCDO investigation into Pincher’s behaviour when the scandal first broke. If it wasn’t clear things weren’t going to plan already, the Tuesday lobby briefing opening with “are you planning on telling truth today?” set the tempo for the hours that followed. Not to mention the morning Cabinet meeting which, for some reason, Number 10 actually decided to film

The resignations of Sajid Javid and Rishi Sunak inevitably burst the dam. Over the next day so many Ministers quit that Guido switched to a rolling live blog, rather than reporting each resignation individually – there were just too many. Boris soldiered on, insisting he’d stay. Michael Gove’s reward for quietly telling the PM to go was his own sacking as Levelling Up Secretary, a moment which later led to verbal bust-up between Gove’s SpAd Josh Grimstone and Guto Harri at the Spectator summer party.

Eventually, after the Cabinet’s men in grey suits showed up at Number 10 – Nadhim Zahawi among them, despite his appointment as Chancellor about 24 hours prior – Boris saw the writing on the wall. Despite efforts to rally the troops and cobble together a government, the farce was unsustainable. On July 7, Boris announced his resignation. “Them’s the breaks…”

On cue, Guido fired up the spreadsheet. With so many candidates immediately throwing their hat in the ring, Guido’s ongoing tally of supporters proved invaluable: who was up? Who was down? Who had the momentum? Who was Rehman Chishti? The site’s audience figures skyrocketed as thousands logged on to keep track of the race. 

Rishi took an early and consistent lead, with Penny Mordaunt and Liz Truss trading blows for second place, and membership darling Kemi Badenoch seeing off Tom Tugendhat, Suella Braverman, Nadhim Zahawi and Jeremy Hunt in the first three MP ballots. Sajid Javid also gave it a go, although after nearly roasting himself and half the lobby to death at his launch speech, his campaign flamed out before it ever started. In case anyone forgot, July was hot. Really hot. 

As the Tory leadership race hotted up – more on that later, too – temperatures cooled for Sir Keir. After months of investigation, Durham Constabulary cleared Starmer and Rayner of any wrongdoing over Beergate. They wouldn’t be fined, and they wouldn’t be resigning. If only it had been cake, not curry…

Honourable Mentions:

Headline of the month: BREAKING*: Jamie Wallis Guilty of Failing to Stop and Report Traffic Collision

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