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Good morning. Humza Yousaf will challenge the British government’s blocking of the SNP gender recognition reform proposals in court, while Liz Truss has some theories about her downfall. These are both unsurprising stories, but they tell us something important about the current balance of forces within Scotland’s and the UK’s governing parties.
Liz Truss’s big speech to the Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based conservative think-tank, was notable for two reasons. The first was what a non-event it was here in the UK.
Remember how less than a month ago Truss’s announcement that she would join Boris Johnson in voting against the Windsor framework sent half of the Westminster lobby into a tizzy, with people totting up spreadsheets of Conservative rebels and predicting all sorts of dire consequences for Sunak?
The main reason why no one is paying much attention to what Liz Truss is saying is that in the end, that rebellion was much ado about nothing. The anti-Sunak forces were totally routed. Now everyone at Westminster accepts that a) Rishi Sunak is far and away the best available candidate to lead the Tory party into the next election and b) he will do so.
As a result, dire warnings from past leaders are nothing to write home about — quite literally in this case.
The other thing that’s worth noting about Truss’s Margaret Thatcher Freedom lecture is the content. “We faced co-ordinated resistance,” said Truss, “not just from inside the Conservative party, or even inside the British corporate establishment. We faced it from the IMF and even President Biden. Last autumn, I had a major setback. But I care too much to give up on this agenda. I think it is too important.”
Her targets were leftwingers in control of various institutions and “woke” culture, neither of which have even the slightest thing to do with either a) the failures of Truss’s government or b) why, after 13 years in office, this Conservative government’s list of public policy successes is notably thin on anything particularly “rightwing”.
There was an apposite anecdote in Danny Finkelstein’s Times column last week about Nigel Lawson:
Lawson had lunch with George Osborne when the latter was shadow chancellor and was fighting a battle with the right over tax. “How do you explain to the Conservative party that they can’t always have tax cuts?” Osborne asked.
Lawson shook his head. “You don’t have to worry about Tories over tax cuts,” he explained. “What you have to worry about is their endless demands for more spending.”
And that’s essentially the story of the Truss implosion: sure, you can have a tax-cutting budget, but not if you aren’t willing to either bear much higher debt servicing or cut back on public spending.
Truss of course knows full well that her downfall, and what she sees as the disappointments of this Conservative government, are a result of the Conservatives, not the left or “woke culture”. It’s striking that even a politician with nothing to lose has little to say about her party’s real problems. That as much as anything else is why Rishi Sunak remains the party’s near-unassailable leader, at least at present.
You’ll never guess what bears do in the woods
The Scottish government will challenge the British government’s veto of its gender recognition reform proposals in court, to no one’s particular surprise.
Although the proposals are not popular among Scottish voters, they continue to be incredibly low salience, strikingly so given the amount of media coverage the bill has enjoyed in recent months. But even if they were politically toxic, Humza Yousaf would have little option but to go ahead with the court challenge.
Ultimately, Yousaf is a gradualist leader of a pro-independence party, and the big picture political consequence of the various stories surrounding the SNP’s departed leadership is that the SNP’s gradualist wing is in political trouble internally. There was never any realistic prospect that Yousaf, or any SNP leader, was going to be able to avoid pushing the challenge to Westminster’s authority as far as it could go.
The crises enveloping the SNP’s Sturgeonite wing mean a much more confrontational relationship with Westminster, whatever the issue, or the political risks of doing so.
Now try this
My partner’s away for work, so I went for a double-header of films that she would hate. Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman is a charming animated adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s magical realist short-story collection of the same name, while Leonor Will Never Die tells the story of a dying B-Movie director who is sucked into her own unfinished final film. They are both as gloriously self-indulgent as they sound.
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