Selected for greatness

Some men are born to greatness, others are parachuted into Tory safe seats

Artillery Row

Congratulations to Will Tanner, the PM’s Deputy Chief of Staff and brains behind Rishi’s National Service plan, who has won, “by a landslide”, the heavily curated “selection” to be the Conservative candidate for Bury St Edmunds & Stowmarket. Previously a safe seat, it’s predicted to suffer a 20 per cent swing towards Labour.

When Parliament Square asked a Tory parliamentary source if they’d ever had dealings with Will Tanner, I was told: “He doesn’t talk to scum like us”. Not put off, I asked the people he does talk to in government, and made a nice word cloud from my conversations which included “Rude” “Condescending” “Arrogant” and “Uninformed” to describe the former Director of the Onward think tank.

For some reason never convincingly explained, the particular object of Tanner’s obstructionism inside Number 10 was the former Home Secretary Suella Braverman. For her, outmanoeuvring the arch-liberal permanent secretary in Marsham Street, Sir Matthew Rycroft was never enough to get a policy enacted. Everything vaguely right-wing would ultimately be blocked by the nominally Conservative Tanner. Tanner, of course, was one the keenest to see Braverman sacked. A petulant act by Sunak which Tory poll ratings have never recovered from.

Why did losing the one unambiguously right wing figure in Sunak’s cabinet hurt the party so much? Parliament Square has looked into Will Tanner’s battles with the Home Office and the lost opportunities are painful.

If he fails to win his seat we could be looking at the next Nick Clegg

Braverman’s Marsham Street team proposed a global cap on migration voted on by parliament annually, suggesting a figure between 50-100,000 but pushing for the lower end. But even this small modicum of immigration control was blocked by Bury’s new Conservative candidate, who refused to suggest any number of immigrants as an upper limit.

I’m told he fought against increases in police pay and against increasing power for chief constables to sack rogue officers. On small boats he was “the biggest obstacle” to getting anything meaningful done, which suggests he’s a prime candidate for the failure of one of Rishi’s flagship promises. When he was told by one Home Office source that migrants would play the system with endless appeals he was “totally dismissive” and fought against any change to Britain’s relationship with the ECHR.

Tanner met his wife Lizzie Loudon working for Theresa May’s leadership campaign where the most memorable thing was May’s ridicule of Boris Johnson’s purchase of water cannons as London Mayor (which she’d blocked from being used). Loudon became Theresa May’s Director of Communications and Tanner became the head of her policy unit. Loudon left May’s team to work for Hanbury Strategy — a political consultancy firm set up by allies of Dominic Cummings. She later became the Director of Communications for Rory Stewart’s bizarre campaign to become London Mayor in which he asked Londoners to let him sleep in their homes. Of course, we can’t hold Tanner responsible for a campaign that sought to beat the official Conservative candidate — in these modern times we no longer expect men to take their political views from their wives. Loudon once told a Politico reporter that she doesn’t really talk about work with her husband.

Besides, Tanner certainly knows his own mind. I hear he was the brains behind the idea to release criminals early and spent a lot of political capital fighting off Cabinet Ministers who were appalled by the idea. Insiders say Tanner was very busy in government, and not quite knowing how things worked never put him off from making his strong views known. On education, he fought plans to stop teaching transgenderism as fact in schools, and was against proposals to tackle the epidemic of sexual abuse on the social media giants on the grounds that it might upset Mark Zuckerberg. He’s clearly not to everyone’s taste, but perhaps if he fails to win his seat we could be looking at the next Nick Clegg?

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