There are plenty of positives out there for the Tories which are currently being drowned out by the Dominic Cummings interventions and dying Labour’s daily chant of sleaze. The Prime Minister’s popularity ratings, the vaccine roll-out, EU infighting, trade deals getting signed left right and centre, the hits being taken by the SNP and Sir Keir Starmer’s all-round uselessness as Labour leader – just to mention a few.
The chat in the shires about Cummings is almost all negative. The blue rinses ask out loud, “whatever happened to loyalty? Imagine if Churchill’s advisers let the cat out of the bag? Cummings is from the dark side and personifies it … even in the way he looks.” Any dossier coming from Cummings seems survivable, frankly – even if it portrays the Prime Minister as a tofu-munching vegan.
More worrying is the impression – true or not – that Henry Newman and Carrie Symonds are ‘on the Gove payroll funded by the loopy Goldsmiths’. Very few people have heard of ‘chatty rat’ Newman – let alone his alleged boyfriend who plays a role in the imagined play – and so he’s effortlessly replaceable.
‘Carrie Antoinette’ is how the Prime Minister’s flame is being lampooned across social media – she’s much more of a problem and is widely disliked, whatever the justice of how the public feel for her. She’s certainly no Dennis Thatcher or Norma Major. She comes across as an unelected meddler – a Lady Macbeth character managed remotely by some dodgy cartel. This is probably very unfair on her but impressions matter in politics and her profile is a dud.
The lobbying issue is a growing problem and David Cameron’s Greensill error was a mighty one that exposed flaws in the system. There are questions still around Jenrick and Hancock. As John Major found out too late to prevent his own government’s demise, sleaze rumours need excising at source. Our own City Grump had some sound solutions for the lobbying problem offered here and here.
To lance the sleaze boil – a problem exaggerated of course by a desperate Starmer – the Tories should appoint a super cleaner. Watch Filthy House SOS back episodes from Channel 5 to get the gist. Get someone like Ann Widdicombe to take the Super Cleaner czar role – someone beyond reproach. Kate Hoey perhaps? Baroness Morrissey understands business. Make a popular choice.
Then it’s down to the Prime Minister. If there are backroom games, eliminate the puppeteers. If that necessary, come to rely on the currency of less meddling – and true conservative – funders. Introduce Carrie Symonds to Chequer’s brick-walled rose garden, as Dorothy Macmillan and Cherie Blair should have been. Have a few volumes of rose books commissioned.
Boris has the polls. Noone really trusts him but they cannot name a politician they trust. Scandals like Arcuri bounce off him in pairs overnight as if he were Lloyd George. But failing to get to grips with government sleaze issues now could bring him down, while an ongoing failure to live up to the soundness of the 100 or so of his colleagues who are actual conservatives is an ongoing shame. It’s mutterings more about that than Cummings that dominate Tory committees in the shires.
Cleaning house will be worth it. Sleaze is Starmer’s one trick. Deal with it and sit back to watch Starmer face a leadership challenge from one of his Citizen Smith MPs as Labour’s death spiral continues.