Honestly, you have to feel for our MP. Almost the definition of ‘left behind’. The man whose early resignation threw the switch for the final Johnson meltdown and one of the first to come out for Rishi in the leadership contest, he’s been silent on all platforms since before the ‘mini-budget’. The mini-budget that seems to have confirmed everything he and #TeamRishi said would happen if Truss won.
He and the other non-headbangers in the Parliamentary party must be grinding their teeth as Britain turns awkwardly, like a burning airship in a black and white film, and descends into a whole new economic category. Borrowing costs for the UK government are now higher than for the ‘PIIGS’, the nations stricken by the European debt crisis ten years ago. Larry Summers, former United States Treasury Secretary, calls this new category ‘submerging’, which you’ve got to admit is funny, but also captures the dark truth of Britain’s rapidly shifting status.
Historians tell us that Britain’s decline as an economic and geopolitical power can in part be attributed to the fact that the country was the first to industrialise, the first to marry capitalism with the modern nation-state. To simplify, with capitalism it’s first-in, first-out. Truss and Kwarteng seem to be almost desperate to confirm the theory, to accelerate Britain’s passage from economic Premier League titan to shabby Championship has-been.
So the question, for a Remainer Tory of the old school (or at least a school fairly closely associated with the old school) like Oliver Dowden, concerned with the ancient verities of fiscal probity and economic competence, is when to move, when to put your head above the parapet.
The risks are obviously enormous – if he goes public with criticism of the Truss-Kwarteng supply-side suicide-pact and, by some chance, the regime scrapes through and is still in office in the New Year, Dowden’s one-way ticket to outer darkness will be confirmed. But if he goes early, sets out his stall cleverly and Truss-Kwarteng are driven into retreat (or even out of office) he could be well-placed for a senior role in the clean-up team.
In the meantime, Dowden does have some things to be getting on with. The former Culture Secretary managed to get a pointless meeting with BBC boss Tim Davie about the proposed sale of BBC Elstree. According to his website, Dowden and the Hertsmere Councillor he took with him have secured a committment from the BBC to continue making Eastenders at the studio. As far as we know, the BBC’s plan has always been to sell the studio and lease back the Eastenders set. The BBC’s commercial arm has also just signed a lease for the use of other studios at the site. There was never any threat to take the soap elsewhere so the ‘commitment’ is essentially meaningless. Classic Dowden.
In party news, the antisemitism row in the Hertsmere Conservative party rumbles on, although we still don’t pretend to understand it. A councillor who was reprimanded has resigned from the party. Dowden’s role in the mess relates to the fact that he was Party Co-Chairman when the rules were retro-actively changed to allow the five members involved to appeal their reprimands.