So this is what the early 1920s in UK politics must have been like!

In the early 1920s we had three general elections in three years. Is something similar looming after a disastrous performance by the Prime Minister at PMQs today? (See also Held in Contempt by Hannah White)

In GCSE history in the 1990s we learnt more about interwar Germany than we did about interwar UK. So I became more aware of hyperinflation in Germany and the work of Gustav Stresemann than the three general elections in rapid succession in the UK. One of the themes for Labour in those interwar years was ‘what if…?’ they were able to govern with a parliamentary majority. Which is why their Speaker’s Handbook for MP candidates from 1923 (digitised here) makes for fascinating reading. How different things might have been.

Fast forward to today and we had an excruciating Prime Minister’s Questions

Have a watch.

…because earlier that morning a series of academics were giving evidence to the powerful House of Commons Treasury Select Committee on Autumn 2022 Fiscal Events. Or rather, the Budget without the evidence base to back up the policies. You can watch it all here. Bits I picked out earlier today included:

Above – The Dr Gemma Tetlow of The Institute for Government pointing out major policies going in opposite directions, rather than supporting one another.

Above – Prof Jagjit S Chanda of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research listing the things he’d expect to see published with a major financial statement – that were missing, and the things that did happen that should not have – such as media leaks.

The mood was grim when the Prime Minister met with her back benchers earlier this evening.

Above – ‘heads in hands

Above – ‘ worse than Theresa May’ – and remember that Liz Truss inherited Boris Johnson’s majority of around 70 MPs (due to by-election losses)

And Business Secretary Jacob Rees Mogg got a rinsing from Gillian Tett of the Financial Times when his statements to the media today were referred to as ‘castrated cattle testicles’ – in the colloquial form.

Above: “That’s pretty much bollocks”

“Isn’t this Ben Elton vs Margaret Thatcher 1990 style?”

Above – “How stands the team today?!?” (with the follow-on video here)

Ask me next week/month/year

Even The King is in a state of despair!

It gets worse.

Above: “Dear oh dear!” Charles III


The final set of departmental questions for this week is… The Department for Transport. You can read the tabled ones here. It’s also the first outing for South East Cambridgeshire MP Lucy Frazer QC as a Minister of State for Transport.

***And they have already had to rewrite her policy portfolio***

I spent ***ages*** waiting for this to be published.

…but then people started picking up on the Kent item.

…which I said ‘spoke volumes’ about the Government’s Brexit policies.

So they changed it again.

Freight aside, there isn’t a specific mode of transport that the Minister is responsible for. Normally a minister of state would have had a major executive agency reporting to them – such as Highways England [motorways and major roads], Network Rail [trains], the Civil Aviation Authority [Airports]. Given her legal background, I can understand why the legislative issues have been allocated to her, but it will be interesting to see how she works with other ministers who are responsible for transport as is, rather than transport as it might be. It also means she does not have to deal with Stagecoach as a minister (although she has spoken out as a local MP) – that policy area stays with Baroness Vere, who has at one end of the spectrum local transport, walking and cycling, and at the other end of the spectrum, space travel.

Make of that set up what you will – though given how volatile things are… Exactly.

If you are interested in the longer term future of Cambridge, and on what happens at the local democracy meetings where decisions are made, feel free to:

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