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Sensemaker: A shambles and a disgrace

Sensemaker: A shambles and a disgrace

What just happened

Long stories short

  • Russia’s Vladimir Putin declared martial law in four illegally annexed regions of Ukraine.  
  • Iranian climber Elnaz Rekabi landed in Tehran to a heroine’s greeting from crowds after competing without the hijab in South Korea.
  • New Zealand’s farmers drove tractors into city centres to protest the government’s “cow burp” tax.

A shambles and a disgrace

Yesterday, UK inflation hit a 40-year high, with millions facing soaring food bills and mortgage costs. But Liz Truss’s government was busy self-immolating. One of the most chaotic days in British politics resulted in

  • The resignation of Suella Braverman, making her the shortest-serving home secretary at 43 days; she was replaced by Grant Shapps;
  • The resignation, and then return, of the chief whip and deputy whip;
  • Accusations of MPs being “manhandled” and bullied into voting;
  • Truss’s premiership hanging on by its fingernails. 

What happened? Braverman resigned (her allies say she was sacked) for sending an official document on migration from her personal email account. In a none-too-subtle resignation letter, she stuck the knife into Liz Truss. “Pretending we haven’t made mistakes, carrying on as if everyone can’t see that we have made them, and hoping that things will magically come right is not serious politics,” she wrote. “I have made a mistake; I accept responsibility; I resign.”

Fracking fracas Braverman’s departure came just as the government was grappling with a Labour-led motion against Truss’s plans to overturn a fracking ban. Threats that Conservatives would be kicked out of the party unless they backed the government provoked chaos. 

  • A Tory MP said: “I saw the PM storm down the lobby… she then forcibly grabbed [chief whip Wendy Morton] by the arm and shoved her forward. They were both in the lobby, but neither voted. It was surreal.”
  • Labour MP Chris Bryant said MPs were “manhandled”, and bullied into voting.
  • Deputy chief whip Craig Whittaker reportedly said he was “absolutely f-ing furious, I just don’t f-ing care anymore”. Whittaker resigned, alongside Morton; Number 10 later issued a cryptic statement saying they both “remain in post”.

Conservative MP Charles Walker, summed up the situation as “a shambles and a disgrace”, telling Truss supporters: “I hope it was worth it.”

What next? The fracking debacle was spectacularly undignified, but Braverman’s resignation is more significant in terms of what happens next. Truss is finished; the only question now is where the coup comes from.

In the left corner: Jeremy Hunt and Grant Shapps both backed former chancellor Rishi Sunak’s leadership bid and could launch a takeover from within government to install their preferred choice. Both men have also been linked with the role, but it’s unlikely they could command sufficient support. Shapps, an infamous spreadsheet fan, has a handle on the numbers and the most likely victor. 

In the right corner: Braverman’s resignation letter has been interpreted as a call to arms for the right-wing of the party to rise up. Last night, Tory peer David Frost wrote a column for the Daily Telegraph, comparing Truss to Henry VI and saying: “Better to go now.”

Why Frost matters. Frost is Boris Johnson’s former Brexit negotiator and a key member of the Thatcherite group Conservative Way Forward. Braverman did not do well in the leadership contest this summer. But if she can scoop up those who backed Truss, and perhaps rising star Kemi Badenoch, she could become a lightning rod for those on the right who are angry about the demise of Johnson, the failure of Trussonomics and the threats posed to Brexit, immigration reform and deregulation. 

Here’s the breakdown of MP support from July:

Rishi Sunak – 101 

Penny Mordaunt – 83 

Liz Truss – 64 

Kemi Badenoch 49 

Tom Tugendhat 32 

Suella Braverman 27 

The elephant in the room Boris Johnson seems unlikely to stage a come-back at this stage. It’s too soon for the collective psyche, too soon for him to have maximised his earnings potential outside Number 10 and too much like hard work. 

With a majority of 7,210, his Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat is also looking far from safe – the optics of moving a prime minister to a safe seat in order to avoid a Michael Portillo moment are hardly reassuring. 

Time to choose By most estimates, Truss has just hours left in Number 10. The only thing keeping her in place is the inability of a deeply divided Conservative party to choose her successor. It’s an existential moment for the Tories: what kind of party do they want to be?


Brexit trade
Brexit led to a “significant” decline in trade in both directions between the UK and the European Union, according to a report from Ireland’s Economic and Social Research Institute. Trade from the UK to the EU fell by 16 per cent compared to a no-Brexit scenario, while trade from the EU to the UK fell by 20 per cent. The analysis looked at goods trade flows for 2021, the first full year of the UK’s withdrawal from the bloc. “Across EU member states, we find that Brexit has led to a significant decline in trade with the UK in almost all cases although by varying magnitudes,” authors Janez Kren and Martina Lawless wrote. Ireland had a particularly large decline in imports from the UK, the report said, but there has been “no notable” impact on exports from Ireland to the UK, which may be due to increased trade between Ireland and Northern Ireland.


Adult content
Although TikTok is known for its addictive endless stream of short videos, its Live format has become an increasingly lucrative part of the business model – contributing 15 per cent of revenue in 2021. In a move the company says is part of its “continual work to help keep our community safe”, it is introducing an 18+ option for streamers. The pitch: adult streamers may want to put on a “comedic act” or talk about a “difficult life experience” that isn’t appropriate for younger viewers. The implication: it’s not about breaking into the explicit content market that has boomed on platforms like OnlyFans. What’s not being said: sexual content already exists on TikTok’s live feed – including minors – despite claims the app claiming they take down pornography and nudity. 

The 100-year life health, education AND GOVERNMENT

Ebola returns 
Ebola is back. Two districts in Uganda are currently in a three-week lockdown as President Yoweri Museveni tries to stop the deadly virus from spreading. This outbreak began in early September in Mubende, about 80km from the capital, Kampala. Since then, the WHO says there have been 60 confirmed and 20 probable cases, with 44 deaths. That’s likely to be an underestimation. Introducing a lockdown was a significant U-turn for Museveni, who initially ruled out restrictions because Ebola is not an airborne disease. Why the change? The outbreak is the Sudan strain of the virus, not the Zaire strain, which infected 28,000 and killed 11,000 people between 2013 and 2016. Currently, there is no proven vaccine or treatment for the Sudan strain, leaving few tools at the government’s disposal beyond untested anti-virals and social measures like contact tracing. 

Our planet CLIMATE AND geopolitics

A bright spot
Global CO2 emissions are set to grow by less than 1 per cent this year – one-sixth of the rise seen in 2021. The pinch of salt is that last year’s spike was driven by an economic rebound from Covid and growth this year has been impacted by the war in Ukraine. But IEA analysis shows emissions would have tripled this year if it weren’t for the mass rollout of renewable energy and electric vehicles across the world. Fatih Birol, the IEA’s director, said the slowdown was evidence that the US Inflation Reduction Act and other policy actions are driving “structural change” and referred to the uptick in coal, particularly in Asia, as “small and temporary”. In other good news, Gabon, the world’s second most forested country, has completed verification of more than 90 million tonnes of emissions reductions from its forests. The credits could fetch an estimated price “between US$25-35” and proceeds would go to Gabon’s sovereign wealth fund.


Lights off
“Charge everything”, Ukraine’s national energy company told citizens last night, as the country prepared to restrict electricity usage nationwide today for the first time since Russia’s invasion. Power supplies will be restricted from 7am and 11pm local time with outages lasting up to four hours, after missile and drone attacks destroyed 30 per cent of the country’s power stations as winter approaches. Ukraine’s energy system has suffered more attacks since 10 October than in the previous eight months of the war, said Ukrenergo, the national electricity operator. It shared a link to a list of forty games to play with children in the dark. 

And finally… Nasa’s James Webb telescope has captured the famous “Pillars of Creation,” huge structures of gas and dust teeming with newly-forming stars 6,500 light years from Earth.

Thanks for reading. Please share this round, send us ideas and tell us what you think. Email sensemaker@tortoisemedia.com.

Catherine Neilan

Additional reporting by Phoebe Davis, Barney Macintyre and Jessica Winch.

Photographs UK Parliament, Getty Images, Chris Bryant @RhonddaBryant/Twitter, NASA/ESA/CSA/STScI/Joseph DePasquale, Anton M. Koekemoer, Alyssa Pagan

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