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Text bomb, text bomb, we love a text bomb. Yes, it was a case of another day, another series of headlines. Newly released emails between David Cameron and the Bank of England have made him look increasingly desperate in his lobbying work for Greensill Capital. Meanwhile, senior finance officials sounded quite uncomfortable as they explained how the former prime minister called them to track progress its stock options of £ 60 million Greensills Utility Funding Plan. Heavily edited emails aroused even more suspicion thanks to darkened sections.
But while Cameron’s reputation is already quite ruined, the real problem for Labor is whether ministers, indeed the Prime Minister, have found promising (or indeed) favors for friends. Boris Johnson has vigorously defended his WhatsApps to James Dyson, but the tone of the messages indicated that he just loves to blow the breeze on matters as important as changing tax rates.
Some of the public will find this refreshingly straightforward, but the danger is one that those close to the prime minister recognize all too well: he’s gotten so used to texting and messaging over the years (he’s an avid copywriter for other MPs and friends) outside the government that he has not changed even after joining No. 10 (and probably the Foreign Office before that). And there are thousands upon thousands of letters he has sent, some of which may show exactly how he works. It’s a treasure trove just waiting to be found.
The security risk of PM texting like that of a teenager is also evident. In a quick U-turn on yesterday’s curious attitude that no leak investigation of Dyson exchanges is required, No. 10 said today that an investigation by the cabinet office has begun. Oddly enough, there was no such investigation into the leakage of Johnson’s texts to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, where he promised an aide would oversee the progress of a deal to take over Newcastle United football club. In both cases, to add to the chaos, it appears that Dominic Cummings is now being accused.
The Prime Minister’s loose approach to his SMS was complemented by a similarly loose approach to his transparency pledges. Yesterday he was put under pressure by Ian Blackford of the SNP to publish “all personal exchanges” on Covid contracts by the end of Wednesday. Johnson replied, “I’m delighted to share all the details with the house as I actually shared them with my officers right away.” Well, now clearly does not mean immediately, as they are not yet public (his spokesman said he would keep the promise “very soon”).
Economic Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng dug the political hole a little deeper when defending WhatsApp’s government, stating, “One of the things in a democracy that we have to be is very accessible.” That just begged the question of why the prime minister was for Was more accessible to friends and donors than to a needy public.
With multiple inquiries, we’re guaranteed to be guaranteed more revelations and confrontations that will bring this pot to a boil for Labor. The party has already put “Tory Sleaze” in its doorstep script for the May 6th elections, and there is a big reason for the sense of urgency. Since requests for postal votes have increased significantly compared to previous years, the elections could effectively be over this weekend if many ballot papers fall through mailboxes.
The Hartlepool by-election is, of course, an additional test for Keir Starmer, and on our CommonsPeople podcast this week, Peter Mandelson was particularly cautious, warning that Labor will not be enough to win back lost voters. The former cabinet minister was, let’s say, very relaxed about the sofa government (“Who takes care of the furniture?”), But withered about the WhatsApp government: “We live in a democracy, we don’t live in private ones Members. “Association.”
Mandelson (“I’m not really a lobbyist, but Boris was always a stranger to the truth …”) said his recent trips to his previous constituency confirmed that voters had little opinion of Johnson’s behavior, but they still were dissatisfied with Labor. “The memory of Jeremy Corbyn is still strong on the doorstep among Labor voters here, it is yet to come and I fear we have a long way to go before we rebuild the confidence we have just thrown away. ” Although voters liked local NHS doctor Paul Williams, the former leader cast a long shadow.
Now, of course, he’s not known as the Sultan of Spin for nothing. Mandelson said Labor’s Hartlepool vote in 2019 was “surpassed” by the combined Tory and Brexit party vote, and its 37% share was “the fourth lowest of all Labor seats in the country.” He even floated the idea of losing. “We have a real fight on our hands … overall I think we will win … but if we lose it will not be due to national factors and past factors affecting Labor in the city on the state of the Labor Party now. “
This can be classic expectation management, or it can be an early attempt to circle the car around Starmer in the event of a disaster by blaming Corbyn. But what felt really authentic was Mandelson’s palpable frustration that his party had come under so much pressure after such a long opposition. “You also have to go for your opponents, tear them inside out, undress them, expose them and see what they stand for and what they don’t do for this country … I want my party to win I’m sick of it I’m sick of losing my back teeth “
The former Hartlepool MP is known to be a fighter, not a quitter. If the vaccine surge continues, if the public really likes Johnson’s win over the Super-6 football giants, if they believe all politicians have something to do, Keir Starmer may have to show a similar determination this summer. And, as Mandelson told us, the big lesson from Tory Sleaze in the 1990s was that the only real bite of the indictment was if voters had a “credible alternative” to clean things up.