It’s diverse, but will it work?

Jim presents his comprehensive view on the new government appointments. He believes Liz Truss must be given a chance, but worries that levelling up the North is going to be overwhelmed by the energy crisis.

Jim Hancock

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A woman Prime Minister and the three main offices of state held by people of colour is a powerful statement of the Conservative Party’s commitment to diversity.

Now let’s get down to the politics. As the campaign developed it became increasingly clear that Liz Truss was blatantly courting the Tory faithful. Meanwhile Rishi Sunak was trying to tell them the truth. The Conservative Party have taken a gamble with a woman who was a Lib Dem and is now a Tory. A Remainer who is now such a passionate leaver that she could risk a trade war with the EU, and someone who four weeks ago was against “handouts” and who has now undertaken a massive, big state intervention to deal with the energy crisis.

But at least she is not Boris Johnson and must be given a chance in the most difficult circumstances a Prime Minister has taken office since Margaret Thatcher in 1979. Showing the door to Priti Patel was an excellent move. The ex-Home Secretary was a prime example of a politician talking a good game and delivering little. She was tasked with delivering on the key issue that led to the Brexit vote, immigration. The rapidly increasing flow of boat people across the channel shows her total ineffectiveness. We are also well rid of Nadine Dorries with her threats against the BBC and Channel Four, however it remains to be seen whether her successor will continue to shoot the messengers.

The retention of Preston North MP, Ben Wallace, as Defence Secretary is good. It is a shame he didn’t run for the top job. Two of our MPs have been involved in a curious shuffle. Andrew Stephenson, the highly capable MP for Pendle has been sacked as Conservative Party Chairman and replaced by the equally capable Rossendale MP Jake Berry.

It is good to see Kit Malthouse in the Cabinet as Education Secretary. When Boris Johnson was Mayor of London, it was often left to Malthouse to put some coherence into the mayor’s chaotic policy making. Less welcome is the retention of Jacob Rees-Mogg in the government, now as Business Secretary. His hostile attitude to the European Union and aspects of climate change policy will not be good for business.

I fear for the future of levelling up and devolution, so essential to the North. The new Secretary of State for this department, Simon Clarke was an impressive Treasury Minister. The question is what is Liz Truss’s attitude to ending the north-south divide? And even if she is in favour, the enormous challenge of the energy crisis is surely going to side-line any serious development of a policy that seems to have stalled.

From the first Prime Minister’s questions under the new government, it seems as if a semblance of calm and rationality has returned. At the moment the government and opposition need to behave in that way as people and business are worried sick about the future.

Whether they eventually want a fifth term of Conservative government looks to be a decision for 2024 according to Liz Truss, who appears unwilling to seek an immediate endorsement from the voters for understandable reasons.

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