The Hound

Helena Morrissey, head of personal investing at Legal & General Investment Management Ltd., pauses during a Bloomberg Television interview in London, U.K.

Tory MPs threaten to boycott their own conference over vaccine passports

Five Tory MPs – and one Baronness in the Lords – have declared that they will not be attending the Conservative Party Conference in October if vaccine passports are a condition for entry.

Mark Jenkinson, Steve Baker, Chris Green, Peter Bone, Andrew Bridgen and Baronness Morrissey – have joined together in raising the possibility of a boycott if passports go ahead. Jenkinson tweeted that he is double jabbed – as, presumably, are the other rebels. They would be able to attend, but are opposing on principle. Baker also said he was booked to go to conference but, with a ‘heavy heart, and apologies to event organisers’ also said he would give conference a pass. So did Helena Morrissey, City financier and mother of nine, who tweeted that the same applied to her. 

The Tory threat comes after the latest news from Nadhim Zahawi, vaccines minister, who told the House of Commons today that it is more than likely that vaccine passports showing immunisation status will be needed for all large gatherings: from church services to football matches.

It’s interesting to note that Zahawi chose to make the statement on the day before parliament rises for the summer recess. Can’t think why. While it’s good to see Tory MPs taking a principled stand over the government’s latest madness,  one wonders why they felt compelled to do so when the passport plans were extended beyond nightclubs. Did none of them fancy a mid-conference night out on the town? Perhaps that’s one boycott that has already long been in place …

CARBIS BAY, CORNWALL - JUNE 11: Prime Minister of United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, and wife Carrie Johnson, arrive for the Leaders official welcome and family photo during the G7 Summit In Carbis Bay, on June 11, 2021 in Carbis Bay, Cornwall. UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, hosts leaders from the USA, Japan, Germany, France, Italy and Canada at the G7 Summit. This year the UK has invited India, South Africa, and South Korea to attend the Leaders' Summit as guest countries as well as the EU.

God-complex Cummings spills the beans

Dramatic music. A serious voice-over describing a “trouble maker” and a man who is “no stranger to chaos”; “everyone knows his name”. The opening of the Laura Kuenssberg interview with Dominic Cummings broadcast on the BBC last night felt like the over-dramatic introduction to a movie villain.

And there is something of the villain about Cummings. In the hour-long segment he revealed a near-terrifying dismissal of democracy, an unwavering belief in his own superiority to those elected officials who surrounded him, and a capacity to see the most underhand political machinations as nothing more than smirk-inducingly amusing.

Much of the interview was taken up with Kuenssberg feigning shock at the sheer audacity of Cummings and re-hashed explanations of the necessity of the drive to Barnard Castle, but his revelations about the confusion and disorder at the heart of Number 10 deserve attention.

Cummings made much of Boris’s early approach to the pandemic last spring: apparently it was Cummings who had to tell Johnson to stop seeing the Queen in person (something Number 10 denies), and Cummings who realised that the herd immunity plan was not viable. The former advisor is damning of Boris’s professionalism and approach to the whole affair, arguing that he just “hadn’t thought it through”.

Cummings also dwelt on the period after the first wave had passed. According to him, Boris quickly started stating that the first lockdown never should have happened. Apparently it was this belief – and his reluctance to put in place a policy which Keir Starmer had publicly called for – that saw the second lockdown introduced so late. When talking about anti-lockdown Tory MPs and pundits, Cummings claims that Boris used to refer to The Telegraph as his “real boss”. Kuenssberg appears to find this statement shocking, but is there anything truly surprising that a man who has built his public persona off likeable, affable buffoonery prizes the opinion of his fellow right-wing journalists and public figures?

The other major revelation of the interview is that, mere days after the 2019 general election, Cummings was contemplating “getting rid” of the Prime Minister. Boris is, according to Cummings, useless, “terrible for the country”, and a “ludicrous” choice of leader. It’s hard to prove Cummings wrong, but his sheer disdain for democracy – and his comfort in revealing it – is disconcerting. One wonders if Cummings would have had the power for such a coup, or if we are simply watching an alternative history as imagined by a man with a God complex.

Cummings made much of the power of Carrie Johnson in Number 10 – crediting her with the appointment of Allegra Stratton as Boris Johnson’s spokesperson. Evidently the concerns over Carrie’s power are valid, but Cummings’ insistence on only ever referring to her as “the Prime Minister’s girlfriend” (he never once uses her name, or calls her Boris’s fiancé or wife) is rather distasteful. It taints a valid criticism of Number 10 with unmistakable overtones of sexism. 

The interview ends with Cummings expressing his anger at the current state of politics. He posits that we need an end to the two-party system, and suggests starting a new party. For better or worse, British politics’ most slippery character is not leaving the scene any time soon.

Carrie Johnson campaigning with Tory Minister Paul Scully

Carrie Johnson said to be getting her way at No 10 briefings again

Questions are being asked again over Carrie Johnson’s role in the affairs of the nation after another mess-up over mixed messaging.

On Times Radio at 7.27 this morning Paul Scully, Tory MP and small business minister, said people could ignore the ping when it comes on your phone to self-isolate. Scully was then asked what he meant by that, he replied the app is to allow people to make their own ‘informed decisions’ and not a legal requirement. (The app has always been voluntary to download and any alerts are advisory.) 

Hours later Downing Street pinged back, insisting that it is “crucial” for people to self-isolate when sent an alert by the Covid app – and businesses should help employees to do so.

By No 10 standards, that was some slap down. It’s being suggested that Downing Street’s press people acted swiftly to put the MP back in his box before his mate, Carrie, had a chance to step in and save his scalp. 

They will no doubt have spotted this sweet picture of Carrie, with Dilyn, and Paul out campaigning ahead of last year’s election. This is what she tweeted:  “Out campaigning today for @scullyp in Sutton, Cheam and Worcester Park and @ElliotColburn in Carshalton and Wallington. Dilyn very much enjoyed meeting Willow the dog.”

Insiders say once again tensions between No 10’s press team and Carrie are at fever pitch because the first lady tries to intervene at every twist and turn. Has the fightback started ? 

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