You’re reading Reaction. To get Iain Martin’s weekly newsletter, columnists including Tim Marshall, Maggie Pagano and Adam Boulton, full access to the site and invitations to member-exclusive events, become a member HERE.
What is Lord Frost of Brexit fame up to? First, the former diplomat resigned from the Cabinet in December expressing concerns over the “direction of travel” of Boris Johnson’s government, and in particular, Covid restrictions and plans for higher taxes. It was well-known that Frost was one of a handful of ministers who objected to the proposed rises in National Insurance Contributions and corporation tax. In his resignation letter, he claimed that the UK must go for a “lightly regulated, lowtax, entrepreneurial economy, at the cutting edge of modern science and economic change” if it is to succeed post-Brexit.
Then Frost turned his eye to the cabal of greenies within No 10, suggesting that Johnson has been captured by the net zero lobby without thinking through the consequences. From the outside, it rather looked as though Frost had turned into a one-man opposition party within the Tory party yet, so far, he has managed to do so without personally lambasting the Prime Minister himself. All those years in the diplomatic service have paid off, so far anyway.
Now he has been rewarded for his opposition: a stonking double-page spread in the Daily Telegraph, complete with the Conservative Party’s rather limp tree logo, announcing a new weekly column. (Remember who else used to have a weekly column in the paper?)
The double-pager announced to grand fanfare Frost’s three-point plan to “save Boris, the Conservative Party and the country”. Once again, Frost managed to throw his poisoned arrows against current government policy without personally incriminating his former boss at the Foreign Office.
As well as calling a halt to tax rises, he also criticises the bureaucratic civil service for reflecting “the views of an establishment elite not necessarily those of the people who elected the Government” and claimed that modern administrations “do too much.” Indeed, he added: “The Government takes on these ambitious tasks with machinery that is fundamentally ramshackle, Victorian and Edwardian in its underlying concepts.”
Sign up for our FREE Reaction Weekend Email
Read the week's best-read articles on politics, business and geopolitics
Receive offers and exclusive invites
Plus uplifting cultural commentary
So what’s Frost up to? Has his two and a half years in the Brexit hot seat given him a taste for greater power? And what is the Telegraph up to by hiring him as a columnist? The more suspicious Telegraph readers wonder whether Frost is after a safe seat before making a bid for the top job? Conservative Home’s November poll of the Cabinet put him behind another low-taxer, Liz Truss.
Frost’s new Telegraph colleague, Allison Pearson, was sceptical he could get a Commons seat. She tweeted: “Unlikely as he appears to be a Conservative.”
In the Telegraph universe that might be how it looks. Other Conservatives, and Brexiteers who voted for Brexit, unlike Frost who is understood to have voted Remain, may take a less generous view and be less keen on taking lessons from former diplomat David Frost on what it is to be a Conservative.