Our man in Westminster Keir Mudie awaits Sue Gray’s report, but it is not clear when it will be published. The Prime Minister will spend the weekend at his Checkers retreat
I can’t remember ever being so excited over waiting for something to be published.
Maybe when I was waiting for the last Rebus to come out (next one October in hardback, crime fiction fans). This Sue Gray report is having the same effect. Last thing I check before bed, first thing when I get up. Have you landed? Tragic way to live, really.
Westminster is a bit like those books at the moment. I love Ian Rankin but I find myself reading them not for the plots – like I did at the start – but more for what’s been going on with Rebus.
And that’s the way things are round here these days. There’s a cost of living crisis coming, war brewing, all sorts of problems, but the most fascinating thing is the psychodrama going on around the PM and Sue Gray.
It was due Thursday, then possibly Friday. Now they remember it’s due tomorrow. What’s in there, do you think? What’s the hold-up?
It seems pretty clear that it’s not going to be good news for the PM. People I speak to in Whitehall tell me they had to change their media lines because it went from “very bad” to “terrible” very quickly. The excitement.
Labor is in a slightly tricky position. The bind seems to be, do you want Mr Johnson to stay or keep the pressure on and kick him out?
There are two schools of thought. The first is that it would be beneficial to keep him around, kick him repeatedly until the next election and then let him limp into a defeat. The danger with that strategy is that if Mr Johnson rides this crisis out we will head into the summer, the Commonwealth Games, the Jubilee celebrations, the weather, and everyone’s mood picks up, and all this becomes a distant memory.
Mr Johnson becomes a good-time PM again. The other danger is that you would be letting a lame duck run the show during an exceptionally difficult time for the country.
The other school of thought is that taking a scalp at any time is good. Also, if Rishi Sunak is the favorite to take over, it might be quite nice to have him in place. A new billionaire PM – and former hedge fund boss – as we stagger into the cost of living crisis. That’s quite easy to frame for a Labor attack.
Anyways. We’ll see. Maybe Tuesday. We are in the hands of Sue Gray, who sounds like she knows what she’s doing and – as civil servants go – is an interesting character.
Thorough and no-nonsense are the words used to describe her. Fair is another. Ms Gray used to run a pub in Northern Ireland, which suggests she knows a party when she sees one.
And her husband is a country and western singer. Who could not have faith in someone married to a country and western singer?
I like that music, which is honest stuff and manages to be very serious while not taking itself too seriously at the same time.
I collect some of the funnier titles, like I Wouldn’t Take Her to a Dogfight (Not Even If She Had A Chance To Win) or You’re A Hard Dog To Keep Under The Porch. For Mr Johnson? I don’t know if Mrs Grey’s husband does requests but I’d go for Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks (1969): How Can I Miss You if You Won’t Go Away?