For this week only our two hosts turn to the only topic worth talking about: UK prime minister Theresa May’s plans to bless the British with yet another vote!
Image based on Theresa May speaking at the Girl Summit by DfID
The annual cache of old Whitehall documents provides much-need rations for the starving press over the quiet weeks around Christmas and New Year, and this year a memo from 1985 concerning race riots is proving particularly nourishing.
On the menu is Oliver Letwin, current chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (a trust fund for Lizzie Windsor) and former policy wonk in the Tory government of Margaret Thatcher, for penning a memo in November 1985 on the social malaise in inner cities that led to riots in Tottenham and Brixton.
In the wake of Labour’s humiliating summer it is tempting to think that the Tories have returned as the natural party of government, and are set to dominate politics for at least the next decade.
Few have profited from this perception more than the chancellor George Osborne, credited as one of the chief architects of the surprise Conservative general election victory, as well as the party’s success against New Labour more generally.
Heidi Allen, Tory MP for South Cambridgeshire, attacked the plans of her own party to slash tax credits in her maiden speech to the Commons on Tuesday.
Her first speech to parliament saw her challenging the government directly, joining many on the left and much of Fleet Street in questioning plans to cut tax credits, a kind of working benefit that subsidises someone’s income.
Not all of what she Allen made sense, with her incorrectly claiming that “debt has been falling consistently” when she presumably meant the deficit had been falling consistently (the deficit being, in rough terms, government income less government spending).
British national debt is still pretty high, though not out of keeping with the rest of the EU when calculated as a percentage of gross domestic product.
Where Allen was more convincing was when she made like Guardian columnist Owen Jones and began waxing about people who keep the country ticking over:
“A constituency does not function – a country and its economy do not function – if the people who run the engine cannot afford to operate it.
“To pull ourselves out of debt we should not be forcing working families into it.”
Some have speculated that Osborne and Cameron are getting the nastiest of the cuts out of the way so that by the time the next general election happens in 2020 the public will have forgotten what mischief occurred in this parliament’s early years.
But even so, it is hard not to disagree with Allen’s view that the Tories seem to be “sending a message to the poorest and most vulnerable in our society that we do not care”, and that the pace of reforms are “too hard and too fast.”
The MP previously attracted attention for saying that chancellor George Osborne is “too smooth” to succeed prime minister David Cameron as the next Conservative leader when he steps down later in this parliament.
It should be noted that none of her criticism above stopped her voting for tax credits.
She joins the Scottish Nationalist MP Mhairi Black in using a maiden speech to make a political statement, a departure from the previously dull format of maiden speeches, as explained by the BBC’s Norman Smith below:
Image Credit – Heidi Allen, via Twitter
However true the claim that prime minister David Cameron stuck his cock inside the gob of a dead pig, it has certainly defined the reception of Call Me Dave, the biography which publicised the rumour.
Yet Isabel Oakeshott, the former Sunday Times hack who co-wrote the book with Tory peer Michael Ashcroft, believes that the Conservative leader would have panned the book “whatever it said.”
Speaking at the book launch on Monday night, which Ashcroft could not attend due to health problems, Oakeshott said that she had discussed the book with DVD Dave prior to its being written:
“[Cameron] went on to say – quite politely – that he wouldn’t cooperate with our book and furthermore, he would trash it whatever it said. So I brush this off but it did show what we were up against and he did exactly what he said he would do and I must say I don’t really blame him, this is politics.”
Earlier in the evening Oakeshott also claimed that Cameron dismissed an earlier biography about him by journalists Francis Elliott and James Hanning, Cameron: Practically a Conservative:
“I asked Cameron that time if he liked the book. His reply was — and I’m sorry for the language but these were the exact words — ‘No, it’s a piece of shit.’ And that was a book that he had asked everyone around him to cooperate with.”
At the event it was revealed that Ashcroft had been diagnosed with septic shock and suffered multiple organ failure, as revealed by this video that some in the audience were said to have initially taken for a spoof.
Whilst the condition was life-threatening, Ashcroft is said to be recovering.
Despite the rather sycophantic end to the news report, the Tory peer’s influence in the country where he spent some of his earlier years has not always been popular among Belizeans.
Image Credit – Pig’s Head, January 2009 by Chareze Stamatelaky