Let me predict what will happen at the local government elections on Thursday.
The Conservatives. ‘Obviously this is a disappointing result for us and we want to thank all of our hardworking candidates for their hard work. Their seats are on loan. But it was not the wipe out predicted by our opponents. The gap with Labour has begun to narrow. Starmer has by no means sealed the deal with the public. We are still the only game in town.’
The Labour Party. ‘The Tories did not make the significant gains they need to at this stage of the electoral cycle. It shows that the public do not trust them and realise that super wealthy Sunak and his non dom wife are totally out of touch with the struggles of every day life’.
The Lib Dems. ‘This is a fantastic result for us. Both Labour and the Conservatives are on the run. This is the breakthrough that we have been working for. If this was a general election Ed Davey would be in Number 10’.
Reform. ‘Sadly, the fantastic support that we have on the doorstep did not translate into the votes that we wanted. But this is really a deferred success. Our membership grows day by day as does the feeling by decent, common sense people that we are the only party who will not betray Brexit and will secure control of our borders’.
Yes, everyone will be a winner. Although the old fashioned way of divining the result through the study of the entrails of chickens or the more modern tradition of suspending Ann Widdecombe over a vent of hallucinogenic vapours and putting her on GBN would be as accurate as anything else. The litmus test will be if the Tories lose over a thousand; panic. And if they lose less; relief. That’s about it.
But if I was a Labour supporter I would be expecting Starmer to look at least moderately confident or at least pretend to assure them that he is the leader in waiting. I genuinely haven’t a clue what his policy is on the NHS, nor immigration, nor the economy. His interview on Sophie Ridge was a car crash. He should have been bouncy, articulate and brimming with ideas. Instead he appeared to be running for cover rather than for office. He was on the defensive when he should have been setting out an exciting agenda. ‘We’re less shit than the Tories’, doesn’t raise the spirits nor make the heart sing.
There are some interesting sightings of tectonic shifts in the senior civil service of late. It appears that it has finally dawned on Number 10 that Simon Case is not the most loyal of Cabinet Secretaries. And it was realised back in the days of the Truss surrealist experiment when Tom Scholar was sacked that Case was not exactly on their side. They rightly felt betrayed when he didn’t resign over the matter. No doubt he would say that in times of national turmoil there had to be continuity. However, I have a gut feeling that his time is running out as it appears that Number 10 is briefing against him and that his ‘allies’ are briefing that he is going nowhere. I give it a couple of months. Normal service will resume. I had a drink a while back with an old chum who used to be Cabinet Secretary under Thatcher. When I expressed my fears for the future of the civil service he smiled and said that the system would rally round. He was right. But there has to be reform. The old permanent secretaries I meet up with have been warning for years that there are not enough specialists. They are right.
Now Sunak that has rid himself of Raab (not that he really wanted to) and Richard Sharp, which he probably didn’t want to do either. But politics is the art of perception. And the optics of keeping them both on board was terrible. I really don’t think that he ‘bowed’ to the mad right over ministers having the power to overrule the ECHR and the boat people. It’s totally mad, definitely unworkable, almost certainly illegal and will die a horrible death in the Lords. And that’s the point. ‘Guys I tried your idea, but sadly it’s back to the drawing board’.
And let us not forget the blinder played by Kemi Badenoch. Everyone with half a brain knew that the blanket abolition of all EU regulations as proposed by Moggy was bonkers, unworkable and sometimes down right dangerous. So KB went to the ERG and asked them to find the damaging laws which should go. The only ones that they came up with concerned safety which were kicked into touch with charm. If the Tories win the next election she deserves one of the great offices of state. If they lose I can’t think of a better leader of the party.