Exposing what the right have been up to this week...
Welcome to the first newsletter from our Right Watch project, where we will be recapping the developments in right wing politics over the past week. I’m going to try to keep it as entertaining as possible, so please excuse the frequent use of sarcasm and irony as a coping mechanism.
This week we were treated to Boris Johnson’s parliamentary apology for attending a party with 30 guests in the 10 Downing Street garden which he claimed he thought was a work event. Thankfully the Political Editor from the government’s in house ‘zine, the Telegraph, was there to back him up by saying that this was ‘technically’ true.
Of course the investigation into the Downing Street parties by Second Permanent Secretary in the Cabinet Office Sue Gray is not independent, as some have pointed out, since she’s investigating her own boss, Simon Case.
The credibility of Johnson’s buffoon impression seems to be wearing thin with the British public, with one poll suggesting that 66% of voters think he should resign. YouGov put the figure at 56%.
Unfortunately, the PM’s weakness means that vultures on the right of his party are also gathering to feed on the scraps. To buy them off and shore up his support, it seems that he may be giving in to pressure groups like Net Zero Watch (one of many Tufton Street groups) who are advocating cuts to green subsidies.
Another group funded by corporate interests which I looked at this week is a UK offshoot of Young Voices, a Charles Koch funded PR agency which supports ‘classical liberal’ talking heads in the mould of Tom Harwood or Darren Grimes. Read my report on them here.
Jacob Rees-Mogg was sent out to bat for the PM on Newsnight, where he called the leader of the Scottish Tories a ‘lightweight’, and said that politicians should not be subject to censure by civil servants like Sue Gray because they are “subject to elections”.
Earlier in the week I subjected myself to Conservative Home’s fortnightly ‘Moggcast’ to hear what insights he had for the faithful this week, which you can read about here. I also listened to London Calling, a podcast where James Delingpole and Toby Young ‘explain British and European politics and culture for their American audience’, and wooo boy, it was a wild ride.
The right wing press was so troubled by the constant bad press that they attempted to resurrect a story about a Chinese spy (so undercover that she worked as an official legal advisor to the Chinese embassy) who had donated lots of money to Barry Gardiner MP. The story had previously been reported by the Daily Mail in 2020, and by the Times five years ago.
By Thursday night however, with the Telegraph reporting another two lockdown garden parties hosted at Number 10, things were looking bad for Johnson. While some pundits started floating the idea that it might be wise to replace him with Rishi Sunak, others clung onto the dear leader, with GB News’ Mark Dolan rallying the pro-Boris faithful with the stirring cry, “Boris Johnson is a prize numpty, but he’s our numpty and we’ve got to get behind this guy”
By Thursday night however, with the Telegraph reporting another two lockdown garden parties hosted at Number 10, things were looking bad for Johnson. While some pundits started floating the idea that it might be wise to replace him with Rishi Sunak, others clung onto the dear leader, with GB News’ Mark Dolan rallying the pro-Boris faithful with the stirring cry, “Boris Johnson is a prize numpty, but he’s our numpty and we’ve got to get behind this guy’.
The Spectator, meanwhile, went with the most unhinged take, suggesting that ‘partygate’ was ‘a Remainer plot’.
Speaking of Brexit, this week the journalist Carole Cadwalladr (full disclosure, I have worked for The Citizens, an investigative journalism organisation she helped found) was back in court to defend herself against a libel claim by Brexit funder Arron Banks, who gave an £8 million loan to the Leave.EU campaign he helped set up.
According to OpenDemocracy, “If she loses, Cadwalladr faces legal costs of up to £1m plus damages. Reporters Without Borders have called the case an “abusive” attempt to “silence public interest reporting”.”
Once again, the right loves to whine about how free speech is under threat because you can’t call sweets ‘midget gems’ anymore or something asinine like that, while journalists who cover the influence of dark money in UK politics get taken to court in what sixteen media rights organisations have described as a ‘strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP)’.
2022 is certainly off to an interesting start, and things aren’t looking great for the government. It’s anyone’s guess whether Johnson will cling on, or whether MPs will decide to replace him with Chancellor Rishi Sunak or Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. I for one just can’t wait to find out!
John Lubbock leads on the Right-Watch project at Left Foot Forward