The soft underbelly of British security isn't the fault of politicians
It would be nice to move on from Liz Truss, but it seems that we can’t. Over the weekend, the Mail on Sunday reported that, while she was Foreign Secretary, Truss’s mobile phone had been “hacked by agents suspected of working for the Kremlin.” Indeed, the device is said to be so “heavily compromised” that it is now “locked safe inside a secure Government location.”
The allegations have been neither confirmed nor denied by official sources, but if true this wouldn’t be the first ministerial security breach to emerge in recent times. Earlier this month Suella Braverman (temporarily) resigned as Home Secretary, after sending a sensitive official document from her personal email. Last year, it was discovered that Boris Johnson’s personal phone number had been freely available on the internet over a 15 year period — prompting MI5 to confiscate his mobile. ...
A new Senate report casts doubt on the virus's origin
While the fully-vaxxed nations of the West have decided to get on with life, China still lives under Xi Jinping’s draconian zero-Covid policy.
The latest Chinese city to go back into lockdown is Wuhan, especially noteworthy since this is where the pandemic started, likely around this time of year, in 2019.
But how did it start? Three years on we still don’t have a definitive answer, but the question won’t go away. Yesterday, a US Senate report was published addressing the issue. Though it doesn’t come to a final verdict, it was clearly written to cast doubt on the idea that the virus had a purely natural origin. ...
There is no need to dip into conspiracies to explain the return of Rishi Sunak
I bet he wishes he hadn’t bothered now. Over the weekend Boris Johnson flew back from the Caribbean to take part in a Tory leadership contest that had started without him. But having come all that way, he abruptly withdrew from the race — despite claims he had enough MP support to get through to the next stage.
His most fervent supporters are apoplectic. Nadine Dorries insists that “it will now be impossible to avoid a GE [general election]”. The logic here is that only Boris has a democratic mandate because only he was leader at the last election. But as Dorries knows very well, ours is not a presidential system — it is the MPs who make up the parliamentary majority who have the mandate. ...
They may deserve it, but a Tory wipeout is a dangerous prospect
I needn’t go over yesterday’s events in Westminster. All that need be said is that Liz Truss can’t go on. Britain needs a new Prime Minister and a new Cabinet; but do we also need a general election?
Various Labour MPs have called for one — as has the SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon, and the Lib Dem leader, Sir Ed Davey. But the calls aren’t just coming from the Left. On the Right, commentators like Calvin Robinson are also demanding that the Tories submit to the voters’ verdict. Andrew Lilico argues that unless Tory MPs can agree on a new leader without delay, then Sir Keir Starmer should be asked to form a new government — which would mean him going to the country within weeks. ...
The new chancellor has turned into an insolvency practitioner
If Jeremy Hunt needs a new career after the next election, he’d make an excellent insolvency practitioner. I don’t mean anything so crude as a cudgel-wielding debt collector, but rather a post in the Insolvency Service — the state agency that manages company liquidations and personal bankruptcies.
Arguably, Hunt had already made a start. He’s not so much the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but rather the official receiver for a bankrupt government. According to the GOV.UK website, official receivers (ORs) are appointed by the Insolvency Service to carry out three main tasks.
Firstly, they “collect and protect assets for creditors”. This was the primary purpose of the Chancellor’s financial statement today. The creditors of a government are the money markets — whose assets are bonds (i.e. a promise on the part of a government to repay a given amount, after a given number of years, at a given rate of interest). The value of those bonds rise and fall depending on various factors — the most important of which is the perceived sustainability of a government’s borrowing. ...
Oil workers have vowed to continue their strikes
Grand Est, France
Believe it or not, the UK isn’t the only economy on the rocks right now. For instance, Germany — with its enormous manufacturing sector — is more exposed to an energy crisis that we are. And then there’s France, whose prowess in nuclear power isn’t quite the shield it’s often assumed to be.
For a start, the country’s nuclear power stations are experiencing major technical problems and, even if normal service is restored, most cars and trucks still run on petrol and diesel, not electricity. It’s rather unfortunate, then, that workers at French oil refineries have chosen to go on strike — taking over 60% of capacity offline. ...
We have a new word to add to the political lexicon
Former minister Johnny Mercer was interviewed by Andrew Neil for Channel 4 last night, and it’s fair to say he isn’t exactly on good terms with the current government. When he described Liz Truss and her colleagues as “liberalists” it wasn’t meant as a compliment.
But what is a ‘liberalist’? Perhaps Mercer misspoke, meaning to say ‘neo-liberal’ or ‘libertarian’. On the other hand, he may have contributed a useful new word to the political lexicon.
Though I’m a conservative, I’m not so blinkered that I can’t recognise liberalism as a massively important — and deeply sophisticated — school of political thought. That’s why it so useful to have ‘liberalist’ as a way of describing the shallow, inconsistent, ersatz liberalism that’s made its way into Downing Street. ...
Her performance was visibly energised by the interruption
The most dynamic performance during Liz Truss’s speech to Tory conference came not from the podium, but the audience. “Out! Out! Out!” they bayed. To be clear, this wasn’t directed at the Tory leader, but to a small group of protesters who interrupted her.
I’m not sure who they were (Rishi Sunak has a solid alibi) but Truss owes them big time. Up until that moment she was floundering. Though she walked-on to the motivational strains of ‘Moving on Up’ by M People, Truss’s rhetoric was M-for-mediocre. The energy in the hall ebbed away as she paused for clap lines that didn’t deliver. ...