Our Cabinet League Table. Wallace top again, Patel up, Johnson down – and Sunak in the red

25 Apr
  • This is Ben Wallace’s third table-topping month (with 85 points his rating has barely moved), and a pattern is beginning to form below him – as Liz Truss, Nadhim Zahawi and Anne-Marie Trevelyan come in variously at second, third and fourth (with scores in the mid to low sixties).  Both the first of those and now the second are being written up as potential leadership candidates.
  • Priti Patel was bottom of the table last month on -17 points, having languished at the lower end of it for some time – not least because of the small boats issue.  The Government now has a policy to deal with it, and her rating consequently jumps to 31 points, near the middle of the table.
  • Boris Johnson was in the same zone last month, having been in negative ratings for the previous three, and is now back down again – third from bottom.  Ukraine will have pushed him up last month; partygate will have pulled him down this. But the driver of his low scores is that the Government is too left-wing, at least in the view of many activists.
  • Rishi Sunak plunged last month to third from bottom in the wake of the Spring Statement (on plus eight points).  He drops to last place this month, coming in at minus five points, in the wake of the furore about his wife’s tax affairs and former non-dom status.  It is perhaps surprising that his fall isn’t larger; it may even be that the worst is behind him – in this table at least.

Prepare for attacks on Johnson’s authority to pronounce on law and order

14 Apr

Two days ago, we discovered that the Metropolitan Police are tough on parties and tough on the causes of parties. Today, we have the Government announcing the most eye-catching change to immigration policy in living memory. Flying asylum seekers 4,500 miles to Rwanda to be processed may not be cheap or simple. But it is a way of changing the headlines.

Or is it? Downing Street weren’t expecting to receive fines on Tuesday, and this announcement has long been planned (even if it may have been a surprise to Richard Harrington, Minister for Refugees). It is a prime opportunity for Priti Patel to join Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak, in the spotlight. And she hasn’t even had to break the law to do so.

Talking of fines, it has not failed to catch our attention here at ConHome that Ms Patel has been noticeably quiet in supporting the Prime Minister compared to the rest of the Cabinet. Whilst Home Office sources have suggested she “stands fully behind” Johnson, she has not Tweeted that statement out.

Meanwhile, neither Kit Malthouse, Minister for Policing, nor Suella Braverman, the Attorney General, have given the Prime Minister their public backing. The suspicion one has is that the ministers responsible for upholding the law are somewhat uncomfortable in defending their two colleagues being fined for breaking it.

Then again, Dominic Raab has given Johnson his backing – even if Lord Wolfson, a fellow Minister in the Department for Justice, resigned. Perhaps Raab’s double hatting as the Prime Minister’s Deputy gives him some more leeway, but the point still stands. Can those enforcing the law be seen to be defending those breaking it? Has Johnson lost the authority to pronounce on law and order?

This is not an existential issue. Sir Kier Starmer has already suggested this announcement is an attempt by the Prime Minister to “distract from his own lawbreaking”. Lucy Powell, the Shadow Secretary for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, has said this is more to do with Johnson “dealing with [his] own sinking boat”. Mark Drakeford, First Minister for Wales, has more plainly called it a “cynical distraction.”

Certainly, the Prime Minister’s opponents are wrong to suggest this is a policy that has come from nowhere to distract from the recent headlines.  But with the Opposition already wanting to boost their credentials in the tough on crime stakes, attacks on Johnson’s credibility will not go away.

That is especially the case if, a appears almost certain, the Prime Minister and others in Number 10 receive more fines in the coming days and weeks. If Patel, Malthouse, and Braverman are already uncomfortable with defending him over the singing of ‘Happy Birthday’ and the consuming of a salad in company, then they will only be more so if worse incidents emerge.

With Labour already holding a nine-point lead on law and order (according to one recent poll), and with Starmer keen to make this an issue on which the next election is fought, questions over the Government’s authority on crime and security are going to become more urgent. And that will be the case whatever the Metropolitan Police and Sue Gray decide.

Our Cabinet League Table. Sunak plunges to third from bottom.

4 Apr
  • Last September, I reported that Dominic Raab had plummeted third from top in July to fourth from bottom in our Cabinet League Table.  Today, he is back to sixth from top, having worked his way out of the relegation zone.
  • I write this to offer comfort to enthusiasts for Rishi Sunak, who was eleventh last month, but now finds himself plunged to third from bottom, in the wake of a Spring Statement with which the majority of our panel is dissatisfied.
  • Having managed the table for a long time, I know that what goes down can come up again – and vice-versa.  Our respondents are very knowing, and many use the table as a form of running commentary rather than a means of permanent judgement.
  • At the top, the changes are very marginal, with Steve Barclay’s fall of nine points from 64 to 55, and drop from second to fifth, being the largest movement in the top ten – and it’s not a very large one in the great scheme of events.
  • At the bottom, Priti Patel falls into negative ratings after a month’s bad headlines over Ukrainian refugees.  The Home Office is so permanently troubled that it’s hard to see her moving up towards the comfort of mid-table in the near future.
  • Meanwhile, Boris Johnson is out of negative ratings, where he had been for three months running, and into the middle of the table.  This is at once an impressive recovery from where he was and a lacklustre rating given his position as Prime Minister.
  • Johnson will undoubtedly have gained from his handling of the Ukraine, which received an overwhelming thumbs up from our panel.  Ninety-three per cent took a positive view of it and 58 per cent a negative one of Sunak’s Spring Statement.

Kit Malthouse: The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill deserves every MP’s support

28 Feb

Kit Malthouse MP is Minister of State for Crime and Policing.

Just over two years ago, Boris Johnson and I began a mission to reenergise our confrontation with crime and contribute to levelling up the country. This was a cause important to both of us from our time together at City Hall, the Prime Minister as Mayor and me as his Deputy Mayor for Crime and Policing.

We have both come a long way since those days, but once again we find ourselves in the fight to secure our streets.

Public safety is always at the forefront of the minds of people from all backgrounds, up and down the country. They want to know their families are safe, that their children will not be drawn into a life of crime, their homes won’t be burgled and that villains are being sorted.

We have seen progress. The risk of having one’s house broken into or becoming a victim of violent crime has fallen and police numbers are up, so far by more than 11,000, with many more to come. But the fight against crime is never ending, and there are still too many people who don’t feel safe in their homes or streets. We have a lot more work to do.

This feeling of insecurity, particularly in the public realm, must be addressed, not least since it is felt particularly sharply by women and girls, who are too often subjected to abuse and harassment by men.

The outpouring of grief and anger following the horrific murder of Sarah Everard demanded a redoubling of our work to combat violence against women and girls. Through our Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy, our Safer Streets Fund, and our hotspot Grip programme, we are delivering on our commitment to make the streets safer.

Today, we take another forward step with our Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill returning to the Commons. This legislation is filled with proposals to better protect victims, including toughening up sentences for the perpetrators of horrific crimes such as rape and creating a new serious violence duty on public bodies, which will specifically include domestic abuse and sexual violence.

One of the amendments the House will consider today is looking at the movement in recent months calling for us to make misogyny a hate crime, which has been given a place in the Bill with an amendment from Baroness Newlove, supported by Labour.

I completely understand the concern and good intention behind these calls. All right thinking people should abhor any kind of harassment or violence, especially based on sex and gender.

But expert opinion tells us that the amendment before the House, and indeed the proposal to make misogyny a hate crime generally, could actually make the cause of women’s safety worse, and make prosecutions more difficult.

The independent Law Commission, who consulted on this issue over three years, has been clear that it could be damaging to the prosecution of sexual offences and hinder efforts to tackle hate crime more broadly. This is because prosecutors would need to prove a ‘hate crime’ occurred as part of another offence, such as rape, making it harder to prosecute sexual offences and domestic abuse, adding a layer of unnecessary complexity.

Rape Crisis England and Wales have echoed this position saying that “rape prosecutions are already at an all-time low, and we believe adding sex/gender as a protected characteristic would further complicate the judicial process and make it even harder to secure convictions” and that they “don’t believe hate crime is the way to address this, at least until more work is done to prevent the potential issues”.

Women’s Aid have also said that “including Violence Against Women and Girls crimes within the hate crime framework could undermine the understanding of Violence Against Women and Girls as inherently misogynistic”.

Given these expert views, I cannot see how anyone could in all conscience proceed with the Newlove amendment. But we must recognise that the horrific killings of Everard, Sabina Nessa and others, started a much-needed national conversation about the dangers women face. That is why the Government has committed to consider creating a specific new offence of public sexual harassment.

We owe it to women and girls to ensure the law protects them and not, inadvertently, their abusers, and I urge my colleagues to support the Government’s approach.

Another issue which has, in my view, been misinterpreted and inflamed by our opponents, causing natural concern in parts of the public, is in relation to the new powers for policing of protests. We’ve seen some wild and truly ridiculous claims about this legislation, even that the Bill bans “people singing in the street”, which is just nonsense.

Our current public order legislation out of date and has been highlighted by police chiefs as one of the most challenging aspects of modern-day policing.

In particular, we have all seen the rise in incidents recently where protesters use excessive noise as a weapon. This can cause significant psychological damage and intrude disproportionately on the rights of others. So, on the admittedly rare occasions where such noise intimidates people, prevents an organisation from functioning, or results in serious distress, these powers would allow the police to impose conditions on the protest.

This is rightly a very high threshold, and the vast majority of protests won’t reach it. But I believe people targeted by protestors would expect protection from the police in those more extreme situations. We are clear that this measure will only be used in the most exceptional of circumstances, where police chiefs consider the volume unjustifiable and damaging. The Police will remain legally bound to assess this balance between competing rights, much as they are now.

It is perhaps worth pointing out that in a domestic situation, local authorities already have noise enforcement powers, recognising the significant harm that noise can cause, so it should not be too great a step to give the police similar powers in exceptional protest situations.

Energetic, democratic self-expression is a wonderful thing, but no one has unlimited rights to cause harm or disruption to others. And we have a duty to balance the rights of protesters with the rights of others to go about their lives.

This is a wide-ranging Bill, but the common thread running throughout is giving the police, courts and prosecutors the necessary tools to protect the public from a broad range of harms and deliver justice for victims. It is crucial this legislation is approved so that we can all do exactly that.

Our Cabinet League Table. Truss’s year-long reign is ended as Wallace goes top.

1 Feb

Our monthly panel of Party members has become very knowing.  It seems to me increasingly to use the Cabinet League Table to upscore and downscore Ministers on the basis of the month’s events. And so –

  • Ben Wallace’s vigorous response to the crisis in eastern Europe, coming relatively soon after his mature conduct during the Afghanistan debacle, propels him upwards from 62 points to 80 points – and he displaces Liz Truss after her year-long reign at the top of the table.  The Defence Secretary’s name has crept into the margins of future Party leadership speculation. It will now advance further.
  • Truss herself is down from 74 points to 67 points.  That’s a small drop and of almost no significance, but it may indicate that the Foreign Office, with its multilayered challenges, is a tougher proposition for the occupant than International Trade in the wake of Brexit, in which she was able to roll over a series of deals.
  • Boris Johnson is still in negative ratings, but his score must be seen in the context of a positive total on Covid handling, and a change of mood about the toxicity of “partygate”.  Last month, his rating was -34 points, a record low for him.  This month, it is heading in the right direction.
  • Another interesting Johnson indicator is the fall in support for his most vocal critic in this table – Douglas Ross.  Last month, the latter was on 30 points.  This month, he is in the black by a slender margin of six.  The Prime Minister has his supporters as well as his critics. And they have marked the Scottish Tory leader down.
  • Elsewhere, the movements tend to follow publicity, good and bad.  So it is that Mark Spencer plunges even deeper into the red.  That Jacob Rees-Mogg, ninth last month, plunges to fifth from bottom.  That Sajid Javid gets a Covid bounce from twelfth to sixth.   And that Michael Gove, who has had a quieter month, recovers to mid-table.
  • Rishi Sunak’s score at 39 points is his lowest as Chancellor.  One can cite individual reasons for this, such as the coming National Insurance rise.  But it’s the big picture that matters.  Many panel members clearly believe that the Government is taxing and spending too much, and pin at least some of the blame at the Chancellor’s door.

These results came in over the weekend, and so don’t take into account the Sue Gray report and yesterday’s Parliamentary statement.  My best guess is that neither will help to improve the Prime Minister’s rating.

Our Cabinet League Table: Johnson falls to his lowest ever negative rating.

28 Dec
  • Perhaps the only good news for Boris Johnson is that his score, woeful as it is, is nowhere near as dire as that of Theresa May in the spring of 2019 – when she broke the survey’s unpopularity record, coming in at a catastophic -75 points.
  • Nonetheless, this is the Prime Minister’s second consecutive month in negative ratings, his third altogether, and his lowest total of the lot.  The explanation? Parties, competence, Covid restrictions, Paterson, taxes and Net Zero, not necessarily in that order.
  • Nadine Dorries is down from fourth (plus 61) to mid-table sixteenth (plus 25), Michael Gove from twelfth to sixth from bottom (plus 43 to plus 16) , and Sajid Javid from eighth to twelfth (plus 54 to plus 29). All are associated with support for Covid restrictions.
  • Mark Spencer stays in the red and Priti Patel inches into it: in her case, the explanation is “small boats”. Liz Truss is top again, Ben Wallace is up from second to fifth, and Anne-Marie Trevelyan and Nadhim Zahawi are scoring well. Generally, there’s a drift down.

Tony Devenish: Khan’s focus has switched from London to his Labour leadership ambitions

22 Nov

Tony Devenish is a member of the London Assembly for West Central.

Almost every month (April and August are the exceptions), the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, faces the 25 London Assembly Members at Mayor’s Question Time. What is often so depressing at Question Time is Khan’s undeniable obsession with media trivia rather than keeping London’s people safe, its transport moving, and getting the homes we need built. Despite his frequent pretence that all his failings are down to the Government, the reality is that the Mayor of London has a hell of a lot of levers to pull, and a £19 Billion annual budget to spend – a fact that his predecessors Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson understood far better.

Time and again the “froth” of politics seems to interest Khan, far more than the substance. He’s a Mayor who is far more interested in bashing the Government than delivering for Londoners. One recent case in point was a quiet briefing from his office that, despite the country opening up post-Covid last July, the Pessimist-in-Chief had decided to cancel London’s World-famous New Year’s Eve fireworks. New Year’s Eve is a major occasion that drives footfall for visitors to enjoy London over the festive season, where they spend money in London’s bars, restaurants, museums, and shops. Over a million London jobs are dependent on such footfall, so I stand by my description of Khan as “The Grinch” on LBC Radio. Despite Health Secretary, Sajid Javid MP, also telling him to think again, the self-described “most pro-business Mayor ever” failed to perform the swift U-turn that the situation clearly merited.

The Mayor and Greater London Authority are meant to provide strategic London Government. But there is little strategic thinking by the Mayor unless you count the time he spends working out the internal Kremlinology of the Labour Party. After five and a half years as Mayor – time where his sole focus should have been on making London an even better place to live, work and play – Khan’s main claim to fame is that he ran Ed Miliband’s leadership campaign to stab his own brother in the front. London is now suffering from being led by a man who lacked the strategic nous to recognise that making Ed Miliband Labour Leader would not end well. Many Con Home readers will have come across a colleague during their careers, more obsessed by plotting their path to a promotion than doing their job well enough to deserve one. Khan is a warning to all of us of what happens when one of those colleagues succeeds.

Khan should be addressing how London will change over the next decade. Because change it will. Business understands that we are facing a transformation every bit as profound as those caused by coal, iron and steel, the steam locomotive, and the car in past centuries. Khan is stuck in the weeds. Crossrail is now over a thousand days late on his watch. Police culture is at the top of Home Secretary, Priti Patel’s, inbox because the Mayor of London is asleep at City Hall.

Boris Johnson appointed Kit Malthouse, my predecessor as West Central Assembly Member, as the Policing Minister to Cabinet in part so Malthouse could do the job Khan should be doing as London’s Police and Crime Commissioner. Khan’s decision to move City Hall from London Bridge to a DLR Station in East London is so late that the Greater London Authority is about to become homeless, kicked out of its home of the last 18 years, without the new building being ready to occupy. Not a penny of the promised cost savings in moving office has been delivered.

The overwhelming message from business is the next industrial revolution is here and Covid is merely accelerating existing trends. People will continue to work more flexibly and the online world will be central to this revolution. So why have we had to drag Khan kicking and screaming to re-open the Night tube? At last month’s Mayor’s Question Time, my colleague Emma Best AM spoke movingly about the safety of women and girls in the light of the tragic murder of Sarah Everard. Khan replied to Emma like a bureaucrat, devoid of emotional intelligence, a prisoner of the most militant rail unions in the western world. Over the last five years, the Mayor of London has done nothing to bring in 21st century working practices. Forcing the taxpayer to bail out Transport for London to the tune of over £4 billion and there’s clearly more to come. Only two of the five Night Tube lines will re-open. So much for prioritising public safety and kickstarting London’s night-time economy.

If you watched any of the Labour Party Conference – and for those who suffer from insomnia, may I recommend the 90 minute cure that was Keir Starmer’s speech – you might have noticed Khan come ever more alive, the more wooden Sir Keir became. Standing close to his rival Andy Burnham, the Mayor of London looked genuinely happy, clapping and smiling, as Sir Keir droned on and on (and on). For a man who habitually claims he has no political ambition because his current job is so great, its noteworthy that Khan rarely looks as happy when back in London. With the house price growth driving many Londoners to move out of town, London needs a Mayor with laser-like focus on the biggest question of our time – not scowling and repeating the Brexit battles of five years ago.

The next Mayoral Election will be in less than 30 months time on May 2nd 2024 and London deserves better than an Andy Burnham wannabe, who is desperate to beat his rival to the throne. Those who have paid attention to the mess Khan has made of running London, might be surprised to learn that he’s still (just about) a contender to be the next Labour Leader. They might not be surprised to discover that it’s pretty much his sole focus.

Truss top, Wallace second, Sunak down, Gove up – and Johnson sixth from bottom in our post-shuffle Cabinet League Table

4 Oct
  • Our first post-reshuffle Cabinet League Table suggests that the pieces are still settling on the board – at least as far as our members’ panel is concerned.
  • The general pattern seems to be that those who did well out of the shuffle have done well in the ratings, that there’s concern about the uncertain economic future and the growing state…that activists are willing to make Ministers down if necessary, but that they’re mostly suspending judgement.
  • Liz Truss’s rating remains broadly stable, but she opens up a 15 point gap at the top. That’s because Rishi Sunak is down by about ten points from second to fifth.  That’s not a big drop – but we read it as a reflection of that nervousness about living standards and squeezed incomes.
  • Elsewhere, Ben Wallace is up marginally, but enough to put him second in the table for the first time.  David Frost is third.  Nadhim Zahawi bounces straight in at fifth, Nadine Dorries at seventh, and Anne-Marie Trevelyan at ninth.  Elsewhere, there’s not much movement in terms of scores…
  • …Though Michael Gove is up by 15 points and Dominic Raab by 17, perhaps reflecting a post-reshuffle willingness to wipe the slate relatively clean…
  • …But though no-one is in negative ratings, Priti Patel is now very exposed at third from bottom in the table.  Much of that will be boats; some Insulate Britain and public disorder; some, police failings.
  • Grant Shapps brings up the rear, doubtless drawing fire because of frustration about restrictions on travel abroad.
  • The Prime Minister’s pre-conference position really is very poor: the best explanation we have is that he is the lightning conductor for activists’ unease over economic prospects and strategic direction.
  • We’ve now put all Ministers who attend Cabinet in the table, as well as Ben Elliot, the co-party Chairman.  Oliver Dowden is some 30 points ahead of him.