Whitehall: here be Remainers
It’s amazing – it’s stunning – it’s suspicious: the speed with which Johnson named a successor to Lord Frost who officially resigned on Saturday evening. We’ve written about it here yesterday. The successor to Lord Frost is the current Foreign Secretary, Ms Liz Truss. The news of her ‘instalment’ came out yesterday evening and the MSM reported it here and paywalled here and here.
This announcement is amazing because Ms Truss has already got other portfolios in addition to being the Foreign Secretary, such as International development and Women and Equality. And now Brexit … ‘workaholic’ doesn’t even begin to describe it. I wonder if her predecessor, Mr Dominic Raab, would have been given the Brexit portfolio had he still been Foreign Secretary. I doubt it. Someone else who was involved in Brexit negotiations when Lord Frost was still in office was Mr Gove. I wonder if he was offered that portfolio and declined or if he was offered it at all.
Now the amazing Ms Truss who has topped the popularity poll of Tory party members is taking on the ‘get Brexit done’ mantle of Johnson. Did she take this on in order to consolidate her Tory Party leadership position? Or did clever Johnson hand her this portfolio as a poisoned chalice, as Paul Goodman argues in ConHome (link)? Remember that Goodman has regarded Frosty’s resignation as an attempt to knife Johnson in the back.
This announcement is stunning because of the apparent speed with which it happened. Anyone who isn’t currently living in a cave “because:Omicron”, bereft of access to the MSM, knows that Johnson and his current covid tsar Javid are ‘thinking day and night’ about Omicron, the NHS, and implementing or not their ‘Plan C’. The SAGEs are doing their best to make it so and the covid MSM are in full-on ‘Fear Porn’ mode.
So how come Johnson found the time to make such an important decision? On the weekend even, a weekend where Parliament is in recess, where ministers are presumably enjoying life in their grace-and-favour homes! Of course, with modern technology, all things are possible, even an incredibly fast appointment. However, the speed with which this was done raises a few questions.
For example: No 10 knew well before Lord Frost’s letter was made public that he was going to resign. Javid actually said so yesterday on TV – here’s the clip if you must. So Johnson had ample time to canvas his ministers to find out who’d want to step into Frosty’s shoes. That means we’ve been treated to a No 10 propaganda coup this weekend, to another dead cat, to divert MSM attention away from Lockdown restrictions and from that ongoing scandal of ‘Partygate’. The utterly astounding fact that there were no leaks from the sieve-like government, full of babbling ‘sources’, would tend to indicate this.
The other question is: has Johnson now washed his hands off Brexit, given that he’s handed the Brexit negotiation back to the Foreign Office and the Remain Mandarins dwelling therein? Does he now see his proper role as emperor of both covid and net zero? Is that how his bedroom PM wishes him to proceed? Or has something else, something suspicious, been going on?
This announcement is suspicious because it confirms to me that the Whitehall mandarins are taking back control over the whole Johnson government. They have domesticated Sunak whose tax policies were one of the reasons why Lord Frost resigned. He listed the NI rise in his resignation letter. They have domesticated Javid at the DHSC, pushing for Omicron panic and lockdowns. That’s another reason Lord Frost gave in his resignation letter. I don’t need to name the Home Office and Ms Patel – Lord Frost didn’t – but it has been obvious that Ms Patel’s mandarins are hugely successful in blocking any attempt to get to grips with the invasion flooding ehre across the Channel.
Yesterday morning I already voiced my suspicions that the fine hands of Foreign Office mandarins were behind Frosty’s resignation, that his Brexit team had already been subverted (link). Elsewhere I surmised that Ms Truss had a good chance of supplanting Johnson in a leadership contest because her mandarins were ‘working’ with her, that she was and is a highly domesticated mandarin puppet. Her success at Trade was due not least to the fact that the trade deals she negotiated were all following the lines of our pre-Brexit deals, based on EU treaties.
Confirmation of my suspicion comes in this piece by Paul Goodman, explaining that the FO has now finally got back the Brexit portfolio. However, he also points out, carefully, that Johnson could have kept that portfolio out of the FO, but:
“That he didn’t takes us to another view of the appointment. That he is now weak, Truss is strong, she wanted European policy back at the Foreign Office…and has duly got her way. We will find out soon enough how energetically she pushed for this outcome – if at all.” (link)
Ms Truss has now got a power base in Whitehall, supported by her mandarins. Without their support she’d not have been able to grab this Brexit portfolio. The DT points out that she is working on her leadership campaign, that she may spend more effort on this than on Brexit, that it raises
“[…] questions about how much time she will have to dedicate to negotiations, or to plotting a leadership challenge. She is understood to have dined with potentially supportive backbenchers at her Mayfair club, 5 Hertford Street, in recent months, while her acolytes have established a “Liz for Leader” WhatsApp group.” (paywalled link)
These machinations have been going on for some time now. Remember that Ms Truss got her new job in September – sufficient time, methinks, for her mandarins to implement their Remain plans, with the quid-pro-quo of their support for her leadership campaign. I wonder if the FO mandarins would have been so eager to work against Lord Frost had Dominic Raab still been the Foreign Secretary. He was made to go because of the Afghanistan scandal. Being a very suspicious and cynical old cow I now wonder if his string-pullers, the mandarins, had given him insufficient information ‘on purpose’, not that one would ever find their fingerprints …
It goes without saying that the EU ‘diplomats’ are jubilant about this development. RemainCentral’s Brussels correspondent penned a report which throws a nasty light on the anti-Brexit forces Frosty had to battle with. I leave you with this quote which doesn’t bode well for the ongoing NI and Brexit negotiations:
“The departure of “Frosty, the No-man” has been warmly welcomed in Brussels as an early Christmas present. Lord Frost’s “mad man” tactics and regularly avowed undiplomatic views on the European Union were not liked — and nor was he. His nickname, a bitter play on the Christmas song, was far from affectionate. “This is a great present, Frosty has melted at last. Is there a Brexit thaw in Downing Street at last? We hope so,” said one joyful European official with scars on his back from the Brexit minister’s negotiating tactics.” (link, paywalled)
Brexit has now returned to the Remain FO mandarins’ hands. It has become a playball in the leadership machinations of the ambitious Ms Truss. Johnson has given up, else he’d have done his utmost to keep Lord Frost on board. Is Johnson even fighting to remain as PM or is he already washing his hands of the whole package? And will our victory in June 2016 turn to bitter ashes thanks to the long breath of Remain, ensconced in the Westminster swamp, from Whitehall to Parliament and the Labour Party?
There might be a Merry Christmas for some. For us, the outlook is grim and is becoming more grim for the New Year. Meanwhile, let’s enjoy the Christmas Holidays as best we can and remember: the days will get longer after the winter solstice tomorrow.