mark spencer, the leader of the Commons, was doing an interview round this morning. He was asked on LBC if energy company bosses were paid too much, in the light of crisis caused by high energy bills, but he implied it was not an issue. When he was told one energy executive earned £11.5m, Spencer replied:
That seems like a very large figure to me and certainly on my salary and to my constituents that feels like a large figure. In the context of things, actually, when there’s 65 million people in the country, it’s 30p, 20p, a person, so I think actually there are bigger fish to fry here, which we can try and solve the challenges than to have a pop at the chief exec’s salary.
I think whilst it sometimes makes great politics, it actually doesn’t affect people’s bills, which we need to be focused on, in the autumn.
Buenos dias. It may feel as if the Tory leadership contest has been going on forever but, in terms of official Conservative party hustings, we have not even reached a half-way point. Tonight, at 7pm, the sixth hustings event will take place in Cheltenham. After that there will be another six to go.
Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, remains the frontrunner and this morning her camp is launching a fresh line of attack against her rival Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor. In an article for the Daily Telegraph two leading Truss supporters, simon clarkethe chief secretary to the Treasury, and Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, accused him of frustrating government attempts to realize the benefits of Brexit. They write:
[Sunak] talks abopt cutting EU regulations, yet dug his heels in as chancellor against efforts to do exactly that and realize the benefits of Brexit. We both saw it in cabinet, including resisting reforms to the EU’s Solvency II regulation – making it harder for pension funds and investors to invest in British business and infrastructure – and being backward-leaning on moving ahead with legislation to fix issues with the Northern Ireland protocol.
Sunak, of course, voted for Brexit in 2016, when Truss was supporting remain. But part of the reason why she appears to be so much more popular with Tory members (who are overwhelmingly pro-Brexit) is that she has managed to herself as a Brexit evangelist, while depicting Sunak as someone portraying who has been captured by Remainer, Treasury orthodoxy.
In their article Clarke and Kwarteng talk about the importance of exploiting “the huge economic opportunities of Brexit”. There is not much evidence yet that these huge opportunities actually exist, but one common idea in the Brexitverse is that, if Brexit is not working yet, it is because it has not been implemented properly, and the Clarke/Kwarteng article reflects this thinking. In this scenario Sunak plays the role of Snowball from Animal Farm.
Sunak himself does believe that Brexit offers economic opportunities and, in response to the article, a campaign spokesperson said:
Rishi was one of the few ministers who delivered real Brexit reforms as chancellor. From establishing eight freeports to ripping up the EU rulebook when it came to financial services, he delivered a proper plan for reform and change.
Sunak campaign sources have also said it is “categorically wrong” to say Sunak opposed reforming the Solvency II rule, and that he supported standing up to Brussels over the Northern Ireland protocol.
(Clarke and Kwarteng accuse Sunak of being “backward-leaning” on the Northern Ireland protocol bill, which may be a new piece of political terminology. It seems to mean that he pointed out some of the disadvantages. Sunak is know to have expressed worries that unilaterally abandoning the protocol could lead to a trade war with the EU.)
Both candidates are meeting Conservative members before the hustings tonight. And this morning Kwarteng will be meeting energy firm bosses alongside Nadhim Zahawi, the chancellor. At one point there were suggestions they might use the meeting to propose expanding the scope of the windfall tax on energy companies. But that proposal has now been downgraded (Truss, the probable next PM, is not keen), and now it is not clear what outcome we should expect from the meeting. There will be no substantial change on energy policy until the new Tory leader is elected. But my colleagues Rowena Mason and peter walker have a preview here.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism