Paul Wood, James Heale and Robin Ashenden

23 min listen

This week Paul Wood delves into the complex background of the Middle East and asks if Iran might have been behind the Hamas attacks on Israel, and what might come next (01:11), James Heale ponders the great Tory tax debate by asking what is the point of the Tories if they don’t lower taxes (13:04) and Robin Ashenden on how he plans to introduce his half Russian daughter to the delights of red buses, Beefeaters and a proper full English (18:36). Produced and presented by Linden Kemkaran

Katy Balls

Five ways the Liz Truss saga could end

How does this end? That’s the question being asked by Tory MPs as Liz Truss’s government finds itself in turmoil once again. The Prime Minister’s decision to axe her chancellor and U-turn on a plan to ditch the corporation tax has only added to nerves in the Conservative party as to how sustainable the current situation is in. It’s clear that different wings of the party are incredibly unhappy with the current leadership. Yet Truss is technically safe from challenge for another year. What’s more, it’s not clear who exactly the party could agree on. Earlier this month, I wrote for the magazine on the scenarios being war-gamed by ministers,

Why Kwarteng’s next fiscal event will have to be brought forward

In a tetchy performance on The Andrew Neil Show, Tory party chair Jake Berry repeatedly insisted that everyone would have to wait until the Chancellor’s unveiling of his fiscal plan on 23 November to find out whether or not there would be spending cuts and when the government believes it will hit its 2.5 per cent growth target. Berry’s performance, which involved repeatedly trying to answer a different question to the one he was asked, made it even harder to believe that this line can hold. If every minister interviewed for the next six weeks sounded like Berry did just now, then it would be a disaster for the government. The sensible

Labour surge to 33-point lead over Tories

Today Kwasi Kwarteng attempted to calm concerns in his party over the fallout from the not-so-mini Budget – telling MPs: ‘We are one team and need to remain focused’.  That message is likely to face some resistance after the latest polling. Tonight the Times has published a new YouGov poll which gives Labour a 33-point lead. Yes, you read that right. It is thought to be the largest poll lead enjoyed by a political party since the late 1990s. It comes after a poll earlier this week gave Labour a 17-point lead. According to the survey, just 37 per cent of 2019 Conservative voters would stick with the party were an election

Truss can’t hide from the crisis she created

For a politician who only a few days ago was bravely mocking Vladimir Putin as a ‘sabre-rattling’ loudmouth ‘desperately trying to justify his catastrophic failures,’ Liz Truss has turned out to be the greatest coward ever to be prime minister. At least Putin feels the need to justify the catastrophe he has inflicted. Truss and her Chancellor believe they can hide away like children putting pillows over their heads to escape a bad dream, and say nothing at all. The public may not understand the full ramifications of the crisis the Conservatives have unleashed in a moment of ideological delirium. The technical reasons why the Bank of England had to promise

The Conservative party is a void

Like the winter of discontent, the summer of 2022 is a season that will burn itself into the national consciousness. Predictions of a dark (in all senses of the word) future are daily occurrences. All but the wealthy wonder how they will cope with the hard times that are almost on us. The sense we’re in a runaway crisis is everywhere. Everywhere, that is, except among the leaders of our self-indulgent government. It has shirked its duty to lead the country and preferred to take a long, lazy holiday instead. For Boris Johnson, a redundant prime minister serving out his notice period, his life consists of Mediterranean jaunts. For Liz

The Tories abandon fiscal conservatism at their peril

And then there were two. Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss now go to the membership. There’s much talk today about how brutal this contest will be. Penny Mordaunt’s supporters were arguing this morning that people should vote for her to avoid pitting these two against each other. But that would be false comfort. The argument between Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak is one that the Tory party needs to have. Fiscal responsibility has been the Tories’ anchor for years On one side stands Sunak, who I have known for many years. He cleaves to the old Thatcherite position that the first thing to do is to get inflation under control. He believes

The third Tory leadership ballot – as it happened

The results of the third round of MPs voting to be the next Tory leader are in.  8.55 p.m. Has the Penny dropped? James Forsyth writes… Penny Mordaunt had a mixed night this evening. Her lead over Liz Truss is still in double figures, but she actually polled one fewer vote than she had on Thursday. In her statement tonight she heaps praise on Tom Tugendhat, saying they ‘are both committed to a clean start for the party’ and lauding him as ‘one of the strongest assets on the Conservative green benches.’ It also contains an implicit dig at the Truss campaign, with a declaration that she is ‘running a

Sam Leith

The latest Tory leadership debate was a grim spectacle

The eyes had it, in last night’s leadership debate. Penny Mordaunt and Rishi Sunak took turns directing to the camera a puppy-eyed gaze. Tom Tugendhat blinked manfully, as if overcome from time to time with a sense of his humble desire to serve. Kemi Badenoch blinked, too – but more in the way of someone regretting the decision to switch her specs out for contact lenses. And if Liz Truss – an apprentice of Mrs Thatcher’s gimlet-eyed stare – blinked at all, I confess I didn’t notice it. I was distracted by the fact that she seemed to have four eyebrows rather than the usual human ration of two. I

Labour won the Tory leadership debate

That was quite a debate. I’ve never seen senior Tory ministers and MPs lay into each other so publicly.  Rishi Sunak accused Liz Truss and Penny Mordaunt of being socialists – not a compliment in the Tory lexicon – for being reckless with the public finances. Truss attacked Sunak for raising taxes to record levels. Kemi Badenoch called for unity while attacking more or less everyone for everything. Mordaunt seethed at what she saw as the cheap personal attacks she’s faced in recent days, especially over the trans debate. Tom Tugendhat attacked everyone else for being current or recent members of Boris Johnson’s government. This debate – and this contest – is a disaster

Sunday shows round-up: Penny under the spotlight

Penny Mordaunt – I’m being smeared over self-ID claims No Conservative party leadership race is ever without drama. With the first TV debate now under their belt, the five candidates are fending off scrutiny not just from the opposition and the media, but from each other. One of the biggest rifts from Friday’s debate was when Penny Mordaunt denied that she had ever been in favour of self-identification for transgender people while she was equalities minister. Her rivals, Kemi Badenoch and Liz Truss, suggested this was not true, and leaked documents reported in the Sunday Times today appear to back this up. Speaking to the BBC’s Sophie Raworth, Mordaunt sought to

Penny Mordaunt is more like Boris than you think

As the Tory leadership candidates prepare for tonight’s debate on Channel 4, I find my mind turning back to the Cleggmania that followed Britain’s first televised election debate. As I say in the Times today, Penny Mordaunt’s current momentum feels a bit like things did in 2010: a previously little known politician is shooting to prominence. Only 16 per cent of Tory voters can recognise Mordaunt but she is now in with a serious shot of becoming PM. Mordaunt’s rise is a product of the unique circumstances in today’s Conservative party. She is managing to have her cake and eat it. She has served in the cabinet, but not Boris Johnson’s cabinet. She made clear for

Why the Tories are more diverse than Labour

‘The candidates fighting to replace Boris Johnson as Conservative party leader and Britain’s prime minister reflect the country’s rich diversity,’ the England-hating New York Times put it earlier this week, through gritted teeth, ‘with six having recent ancestors hailing from outside Europe.’  It might seem initially curious that it’s the Conservatives who are so ethnically diverse. In British politics the realignment over Brexit caused identity to replace economics as the crunch issue, so that the gap between Labour and Tory voters on the issues of immigration and diversity has significantly grown, even if immigration’s salience has declined and remains low. Yet despite this, the British right has become in some ways more diverse

What the Tory candidates’ logos say about them

There’s a particularly amusing picture from the 1997 Tory leadership contest of Ken Clarke and John Redwood awkwardly paired up under a blue sign with the words ‘Uniting to Win’ on it. Though their campaign for power was forgettable, uniting to lose against William Hague of all people, they can take solace in being an unlikely pair of trend-setters. Theirs was the first use of a logo and slogan in an internal party contest, the start of a succession of design shockers on the British public ever since. The standard of this year’s leaders’ logos shows a slow decline. Back to basics would be a fine thing. Most slogans have

Why I should become prime minister

This is an edited transcript of Kemi Badenoch’s speech announcing her candidacy for the Conservative party leadership. It’s time to tell the truth. For too long, politicians have been telling us that we can have it all: have your cake and eat it. And I’m here to tell you that is not true. It never has been. There are always tough choices in life and in politics. No free lunches, no tax cuts without limits on government spending, and a stronger defence without a slimmer state. Governing involves trade-offs, and we need to start being honest about that.  Unlike others, I’m not going to promise you things without a plan to deliver

Gove backs Kemi Badenoch for prime minister

Michael Gove has endorsed Kemi Badenoch for Tory leader. Badenoch, who was one of his junior ministers at the Department for Levelling Up, is described by Gove as ‘Keir Starmer’s worst nightmare’ and she has a ‘focus intellect and no-bulls**t drive’. Gove’s support is a coup for Badenoch. It is not every day that someone throws their weight behind someone who was their junior minister until a few days ago. Gove makes a typically eloquent case. But the jump for Badenoch from being a minister of state to being prime minister would be immense. The challenge for her is persuading 120 MPs – the final-two threshold – that she can make that

Katy Balls

Penny Mordaunt’s trans problem

The Tory leadership contest is yet to officially begin, but things are already turning nasty. As well as reports in the papers of dirty dossiers on candidates, Tory grandees have come out to call for a ceasefire in which Boris Johnson loyalists stop attacking Rishi Sunak. Now a row has broken out over Penny Mordaunt’s candidacy. The former defence secretary announced this weekend that she will be running for leader – storming into second place on MP support. On announcing the news, Mordaunt took to social media to try to address one of the biggest criticisms facing her when it comes to the contest: that she is too ‘woke’. The

The 57 Tory ministers who resigned – forcing Boris to go

Boris Johnson has announced that he is resigning as Prime Minister after facing a tide of ministerial resignations. Below is the full list of cabinet ministers, junior ministers and other government employees who resigned, forcing the Prime Minister to act. Cabinet ministers who have resigned from Boris Johnson’s government: 1. Oliver Dowden, party chairman (5.35 a.m. 24 June) 2. Sajid Javid, health secretary (6.02 p.m. 5 July) 3. Rishi Sunak, chancellor (6.10 p.m. 5 July) 4. Simon Hart, Wales Secretary (10.30 p.m. 6 July) 5. Brandon Lewis, Northern Ireland Secretary (6.49 a.m. 7 July) 6. Michelle Donelan, Education Secretary, (8.53 a.m. 7 July) Junior ministers, trade envoys and party officials who have

Boris skewered – for one last time?

A brutal encounter at the Liaison Committee this afternoon. Boris was grilled for two hours by a gang of aggressive MPs, (many of them Tories), who were drooling and panting for him to quit. But it wasn’t until the final moments that the session caught fire. Darren Jones took the first chunk out of the PM.  ‘How’s your week going?’ asked the Labour MP mildly. ‘Terrific, like many other weeks.’ ‘Did Michael Gove come in and tell you to resign today?’ ‘I’m here to talk about what the government is doing.’ Boris brushed off a similar attack from the SNP’s Angus MacNeil. ‘The game’s up. Will you still be prime

Isabel Hardman

Boris isn’t ready to go

Boris Johnson’s final hours as Prime Minister have been undignified. We do not yet know quite how this will end, but we know he will eventually have to quit. There is a delegation of cabinet ministers in Downing Street waiting for him – more here. Johnson found out about this group while he was in the liaison committee hearing, and was confronted about it by Darren Jones. His response shows that he is not going to accept the first plea from this cabinet delegation. He burbled on about the cost of living and how he wasn’t going to ‘give you a running commentary’ on political issues. This underlines the point