Prime minister

My revealing phone call from Ben Wallace

My phone buzzed and rang while I was doing the horses until I thought, fine, I’ll call the Defence Secretary back. I sat down on a picnic chair by the muck heap and dialled. He was extremely courteous. He just wanted to point out that he really didn’t want to be Prime Minister. The profile I had written of him was very good, he said, but the one thing he wanted to put me straight on was, well, the whole premise of the article. He didn’t want the top job, no matter what I had heard. I told him my sources were impeccable. He didn’t need to be so modest.

What happened to Cameron’s original retirement plan?

When David Cameron started contemplating life after Downing Street, he settled quite quickly on a model of what it should look like. He would stay on the backbenches, providing advice and wisdom to whoever came after him, earn a little bit of extra money while still working as an MP, and continue in public service with charities and others. In 2016, he outlined his approach to me as we sat in a cafe in Witney, and I wrote it up in my book, Why We Get The Wrong Politicians: He mourned the number of former ministers who had departed at the 2015 election, and suggested that you could do other

The delightful humiliation of David Cameron

Say what you like about David Cameron, the man never stops trying to exceed expectations. I once thought that he’d never do anything sadder than giving his wife’s stylist an honour then running away from parliament like a child. Then he proved me wrong by publishing his memoirs. And now, demonstrating his unstinting commitment to the cause of his own humiliation, he has reinvented himself as a shoddy lobbyist. When he naffed off after making a horlicks of the referendum, Cameron warbled the usual shiny words about duty to the nation. It turns out he meant it: in these dark times, we all need a laugh, so we should thank

How did an enigma like Theresa May become PM?

Theresa May is not the easiest person to speak to in Westminster. She is reluctant to get drawn into a conversation unless she knows what the outcome of it is going to be. But it is still surprising to find the lengths that her colleagues had to go to, to get an understanding of what she wanted to do as Prime Minister. In an interview with Britain in a Changing Europe, Gavin Barwell recalls going to see her after the 2017 election – which had seen May lose her majority and Barwell his seat. In an attempt to reset her premiership, May had invited him to be her chief of

After three centuries, we need a museum of British premiership

Thursday 3 April 1721 was an unremarkable day in political London. No fanfare or ceremony surrounded King George I’s appointment of Robert Walpole as First Lord of the Treasury (Prime Minister), merely a paragraph buried in the press: ‘We are informed that a Commiffion is preparing appointing Mr Walpole Firft Lord…’ Yet here was the start of what has become the longest-lasting head of government job in the democratic world — and its 300th anniversary falls on 3 April this year. Expect no fanfare or drone pyrotechnics in political London to mark the occasion. Our leaders will, inevitably, be attending to the pandemic and other pressing concerns. But that does

Boris’s PMQs performance was the perfect birthday present for Keir Starmer

It was woeful. It was ugly to behold. It was beyond gruesome. Even Boris’s most faithful supporters had to watch PMQs from behind the sofa. Sir Keir Starmer, who turns 58 today, got a fabulous birthday present – a stunningly inept performance from the Prime Minister. Sir Keir demanded a ‘straight answer to a straight question’: when did Boris know ‘there was a problem’ with the algorithm used to decide A-level grades? ‘May I congratulate him on his birthday,’ said Boris – making it clear he hadn’t the foggiest what to say. The Prime Minister then started firing off random phrases in the hope that a coherent sentence might accidentally

Boris Johnson: why we’re putting the brakes on

Two weeks ago, I updated you from this podium on the progress we had made as a country against coronavirus. And in many ways that progress continues: the number of patients admitted to hospitals is still falling, and now stands at just over 100 each day; in April there were more than 3,000 coronavirus patients in mechanical ventilation beds, but now the latest figure is 87; the number of deaths continues to fall. That is obviously encouraging But I have also consistently warned that this virus could come back and that we would not hesitate to take swift and decisive action as required. I am afraid that in parts of

PM responds to Mark Sedwill’s resignation

Boris Johnson has responded to the resignation of Mark Sedwill, the now former Cabinet Secretary. The full text of The Prime Minister’s handwritten note is below Dear Mark, Over the last few years I have had direct experience of the outstanding service that you have given to the government and to the country as a whole. You took over as Cabinet Secretary in tragic circumstances, and then skilfully navigated us politicians through some exceptionally choppy water: a change of premiership, an election, then Brexit, followed by the crisis of Covid-19, where you were instrumental in drawing up the plan the whole country has by now followed effectively to suppress the

Boris Johnson’s majority is not as big as it first appeared

The last week has shown that Boris Johnson’s majority of 80 isn’t as big as it first appeared, I say in the Times on Saturday. Despite Boris Johnson throwing his full political weight behind Dominic Cummings, forty plus Tories still called for the PM’s senior adviser to go. The problem for No. 10 is that a majority of 80 ain’t what it used to be. It is, roughly, equivalent to a majority of 20-odd a generation ago, which is what John Major had in 1992. That the Tory majority is smaller than it first appeared has profound implications for how Boris Johnson governs. Every policy will now need to be

Two big gaps in Boris Johnson’s lockdown statement

There were three messages in Boris Johnson’s address to the nation, and quite a lot of important gaps. The messages were: Because the Covid-19 epidemic has been tempered but not eliminated, lockdown continues – though will be modified very gradually; It would be a jolly good thing if a few more of us could return to work, especially on construction sites and in factories, so long as that can be done in a way that does not imperil health; The pace at which lockdown is modified, and whether it is modified at all, is in the collective hands of the British people, and will be wholly determined by whether we

Full Text: Prime Minister’s ‘roadmap’ to ease lockdown

Here is the full transcript of the Prime Minister’s address to the nation: ‘It is now almost two months since the people of this country began to put up with restrictions on their freedom – your freedom – of a kind that we have never seen before in peace or war. And you have shown the good sense to support those rules overwhelmingly. You have put up with all the hardships of that programme of social distancing. Because you understand that as things stand, and as the experience of every other country has shown, it’s the only way to defeat the coronavirus – the most vicious threat this country has

Is the PM an example of why those with Covid-19 should be hospitalised earlier?

There is so much to ponder in the prime minister’s interview about how Covid-19 almost killed him. But, in respect of the effort to protect us all, what stood out for me was how and when he was persuaded to move from Downing Street to St Thomas’s Hospital. ‘I wasn’t struggling to breathe but I just wasn’t in good shape and it wasn’t getting better,’ he told the Sun on Sunday. ‘Then the doctors got anxious because they thought that my readings were not where they wanted them to be. ‘Then I was told I had to go into St Thomas’s. I said I really didn’t want to go into

Boris Johnson’s submarine strategy is perfectly sensible

There is chatter in the Westminster village about Boris Johnson’s low-profile. Why isn’t he visiting flooded towns? Why isn’t he fronting efforts to reassure a country worried about pandemic coronavirus? Here, I think it is worth quoting at length a speech given before becoming prime minister: ‘If we win the election we will get our heads down and get on with implementing the big changes I’ve spoken about today. You will not see endless relaunches, initiatives, summits – politics and government as some demented branch of the entertainment industry. You will see a government that understands that there are times it needs to shut up, leave people alone and get