Inside The Spectator summer party: Liz Truss and Kemi Badenoch share teary embrace

Former prime minister Liz Truss has lost her Norfolk South West seat (Jacob King/PA) (PA Wire)
Former prime minister Liz Truss has lost her Norfolk South West seat (Jacob King/PA) (PA Wire)

Londoner’s Diary

Some braced for a funereal atmosphere as they arrived at the offices of The Spectator last night for the magazine’s summer party. But things were remarkably upbeat at 22 Old Queen Street despite the Tory electoral wipeout last week. We only saw tears from one guest, Kemi Badenoch, who seemed to have something in her eye when she hugged Liz Truss in the magazine’s garden.

Truss, who is both a former PM and a former MP after losing her seat last Thursday, told us that she was “feeling good” and thinking about her role in the future of the Conservative party. Namechecking Keith Joseph, the Tory MP who founded the Centre for Policy Studies think tank and laid the ideological groundwork for Thatcherism, Truss said: “Maybe I could be that figure.” She reminded us that she recently founded the Growth Commission think-tank. “I’m just trying to work out if this is 1970 or 1974,” she said.

A government delegation came along to the party, showing face at a place some Labour Lefties consider hostile turf. Health Secretary Wes Streeting, Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson, Media Minister Chris Bryant and a few other Labour MPs did the rounds.

Jonathan Ashworth, who was tipped for Cabinet before losing his seat to an Independent last week, was also there. He has just taken a consolation job as head of the influential Labour Together think tank. New Labour guru Peter Mandelson was also there. He told us his most important advice for freshly-minted ministers: “there is no such thing as off the record”.

When the Conservatives are in office the Prime Minister often attends The Spectator’s bash (the previous one did last year), but there was no chance of that this time with Sir Keir Starmer on his way to Washington DC for the NATO summit. There was an excitable rumour that Chancellor Rachel Reeves might turn up, but that turned out to be untrue.

Nigel Farage, the new fox in the House of Commons chicken pen, seemed gleeful as he chain-smoked cigarettes and held court.

While the Spectator’s party is known as a mingling spot for hacks and politicians, the guest list is eclectic. Some of the surprise arrivals last night included the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Sophie Winkleman (who played Big Suze in Peep Show) and Professor Jordan Peterson, the Canadian academic and best-selling author. Peterson sported a loud blazer featuring devotional images of Catholic saints. “Are you doing the God thing now?” The Londoner asked him. “Maybe, you’ll have to read my next book,” the professor said. The book, provisionally titled We Who Wrestle With God, is out in November.

Of the British election, Peterson said “a Labour government is always a terrible thing. They will be pulled far-Left, just like the Democrats.” When we asked for his diagnosis of the Tories’ problem, Peterson said “the Conservatives weren’t conservative” before pausing meaningfully and staring into the distance. When asked how exactly Labour would be “pulled far-Left” he cited the transgender issue.

The party had been scheduled for last Wednesday but was moved after Rishi Sunak’s election surprise. It was expected to be a staging ground for the start of the next Tory leadership race and didn’t disappoint. Most of the major names being tossed around were present: James Cleverly, Kemi Badenoch, Victoria Atkins, Tom Tugendhat and Priti Patel.