Babe – the pig with the unerring snout for pigswill – returns for a satirical sojourn in the Sunlit Uplands and a political sketch.
As the year moves into its closing phase, there’s never been a better time to root through the fallen fruit and leaf litter of Anthony Mangnall’s autumnal tenure as Constituency MP for Totnes and South Devon, and to give the MP a much-needed mid-term appraisal against targets and outcomes. Let’s see what Babe unearths – will it be truffles or turds?
It seems extraordinary to think that Anthony Mangnall has been constituency MP for three years now and with so little achieved. The chaos and turbulence of his government has seemed never-ending so, now there’s a brief pause, it is only right to appraise his achievements as Totnes and South Devon’s highly-paid representative.
Being a ‘public servant’ can be a demanding job. For many of the underpaid and overworked people known as ‘public sector workers’, this time of year often involves appraisals.
Teachers, in particular, are overly familiar with twice-yearly appraisals in which their performance is analysed, their impact and actions measured and targets set. Appraisal can be linked to pay progression, and a poor appraisal can even lead to entering ‘capability’: a process in which the hapless individual will be given a set time to improve … or be sacked.
But whilst this high level of accountability is commonplace for public sector workers earning around £30,000 a year, it is less common for those earning an eye-watering £84,000 a year, plus expenses, plus allowances (all paid for by the public).
So, step forward young Anthony Mangnall, fresh from the private fee-paying ‘school of life’ with the permanently raised eyebrows of disbelief (Sewage? In this river? Moi?), and proud member of the woefully-underpowered ‘Conservative class of 2019’.
Let’s start with the context.
Anthony was new to his role in 2019. Supporting him is a Conservative party machine historically funded by Russian oligarchs. He runs a team of researchers who tirelessly cheapen engagement with his constituents through ‘copy and paste’ responses. Anthony was elected on the back of Brexit fever and some distasteful backroom elbowing-out of hardworking local medical professional Sarah Wollaston (complementing the broader current Conservative colour palette of chauvinistic and deeply-offensive conduct).
Being elected MP for a rural, coastal community, Anthony has a very simple job to do: stand up for the farmers, fishers, townsfolk and small businesses within a nature-loving, environmentally-aware community.
Our appraisal will focus on three key areas: leadership, integrity, vision & strategy. We will look at each one in turn, give him a score and see what £250,000 so far (plus expenses and allowances) for his public service has bought the people of Totnes and South Devon. We should expect great things for such a great expense – surely?
Welcome to Anthony Mangnall MP’s half term appraisal!
Anthony’s latest constituency newsletter opens with the sentence:
“Please forgive the radio silence. I felt that given the sad passing of Queen Elizabeth II, I would forgo blighting your inbox and carry on with my daily work.”
Written a full seven weeks after the death of the monarch, the statement requires a suspension of disbelief. His faux self-deprecation speaks volumes about the way he sees his role; as a ‘burdened’ public servant who would rather alleviate his electorate of any detail about what he’s doing, for fear of the lack of detail itself being revealed.
Anthony seems to like to ‘lead’ in a hands-off kind of way, preferably via social media, and with little in the way of contact with non-Conservative constituents. Anthony’s Facebook ‘selfies’ are legendary, purporting to be supporting local people, but in reality simply a form of abusive relationship: their real role is to give the constituency MP a platform for a photo op and the chance to proclaim (ad nauseam) ‘Something more needs to be done’. This is Anthony’s catch phrase and, to be fair, he’s right in every case. It does.
Those who have supported one of his fatuous photo visits can expect zilch in return. In fact, the ‘payoff’ is often worse than that: from disability charities to schools, his visits are a ghoulish reminder that these establishments are only in their parlous state because of the UK government he champions. Constituents were particularly horrified recently to see Anthony’s post about food banks, celebrating their role at a time of great need, whilst failing to acknowledge the sickening irony that a Conservative MP visiting a food bank is a sign of Governmental failure, not of policy success.
So, what kind of leader is Anthony? Well, he’s concerned mainly about himself, it seems,sharing a common concern with many ‘leaders’ in his Party. It was telling that (as reported by Chopper in the Telegraph) Anthony’s thoughts on sending his letter of No Confidence to Boris Johnson were for his own ‘career’.
Is he instinctive? Is he empathetic? Well, the evidence certainly seems to point to the opposite. Anthony sat there twiddling his thumbs through the repugnant Owen Paterson scandal, a scandal that had many of his constituents writing to him, aghast at his inaction and silence.
Leadership demands the ability to bring people along with you; unfortunately the evidence points to Anthony being a politician who’s incapable of doing this, andhis public appearances in front of ‘non-friendly’ audiences for debate are scant.
He did, to be fair, agree to participate in an event at Kingsbridge in July to discuss the Climate Crisis. He sat there grimacing, gurning his way through some unwelcome scientific facts and forthcoming Conservative policy with the sincerity of someone who’s just sold their own grandmother to Carbon Capture. Now, apparently, he’s too ‘busy’ to make the follow-up meeting he had originally promised the packed-out audience he would attend.
After the Conservative’s ‘Attack on Nature’ (which achieved quite a feat in managing to turn the RSPB, the National Trust and the Wildlife Trusts into Reds Under the Bed) one would have thought a leader in a rural community would have been extremely keen to explain current policy thinking and bring his constituents on side. Not Anthony.
Another way Anthony likes to ‘lead’ is via letter; he’s no stranger to mansplaining in curt, patronising missives. Constituents report that his replies routinely belittle their concerns and convey all the sincerity of Michael Winner telling them to ‘calm down, dear’.
Anthony’s statement to his constituents on the demise of Liz Truss was also eye-wateringly crass; a luxurious wallow in self-pity with no mention of contrition or true empathy, it was a sob story of ‘hard-working constituency MPs’. His statement simply tried to make a case for why he didn’t deserve to be served his P45 (which the majority of his constituents would now welcome). His signature was writ larger than his sincerity.
In terms of Anthony’s leadership skills, perhaps the best that can be said is they are noticeable by their absence and, because it would be churlish to give a negative figure so early in the appraisal process, let’s be generous and give Anthony a ‘headroom-enabling zero’.
Ah – the much-used word that has dominated (Conservative) political discourse for the past three years.
‘Integrity’ means that we should expect our Constituency MP to do what he says, to practice what he preaches. So, let’s have a look at Anthony’s voting record.
First off, for a rural, coastal, environmentally-aware constituency we should expect Anthony to have voted to support what is unique and valuable to our area. Sadly that expectation has not so far been met: Anthony has voted to allow sewage to be dumped in our rivers by resisting measures to tighten regulation for the water companies; he voted pro-Fracking; he supports ‘Brexit benefits’ such as increased ‘de-regulation’ of environmental standards and monitoring (pernicious double-speak for ripping up protections).
In the case of Brixham, Anthony supports the plan to trash Brixham Harbour’s heritage and replace it with a fish processing factory and lorry park. Is there a connection between his acceptance of thousands of pounds of donations from the industrial fishing lobby and his unwavering support for such a damaging project to bring endless lorries through congested South Hams lanes and into the ancient heritage harbour of Brixham?
Anthony speaks of creating a ‘high wage, high skill’ economy. That is a noble aspiration. But he’s hoodwinking his constituents. In the case of Brixham, the reality is that these fish processing jobs will be zero-hours contracts, just above minimum wage low-skilled factory jobs, processing fish trucked in from other UK ports such as Lowestoft and Hastings, thereby trashing other regional economies too. Is this what ‘integrity’ really looks like?
Last November Anthony appeared on a community Zoom discussion to discuss ‘sustainability in fishing’. He happily delivered his lines for over one-and-a-half hours whilst neglecting to disclose to his audience that he had received campaign donations of £2,500 from one of the fishing companies also on the panel. That made it a dishonest performance.
Most recently Anthony has voted against removing the stamp duty cut on second homes. One of the most common concerns amongst his constituents is the pricing-out of families by second-home owners across the area. Anthony, of course, claims to be fighting valiantly on local people’s behalf. So valiantly, in fact, he’s voting the opposite way. Integrity, it seems, has left the building and bought a second home in Hope Cove (his £250,000 earnings from taxpayers so far would make a good deposit).
Sadly – with even the best intentions – on the basis of appraisal evidence for ‘integrity’ here, Anthony merits ‘nil points’.
Vision and Strategy:
Anthony likes to look serious in photos, never more so than when pumping the hand of a local. Surely this dynamic politician has a vision? Let’s look at the evidence.
When Kwasi Kwarteng announced his mini-budget, Anthony was swift to support it. In fact, more than support! To be fair, it was a no-holds barred full-throated endorsement! Plus, he added – for any ‘thickos’ out there – that it would be a roaring success for all – ‘simple as’.
Having witnessed the inevitable Kamikwasi disaster, Anthony then set Twitter aflame with his barefaced reverse-ferret, giving the impression his vision and strategy for the budget and its 100 per cent positive effects were, in fact, not what he meant at all. It seems this ‘vision’ he shared with Kwarteng and the UK’s shortest-lived Prime Minister was not quite so ‘simple as’ as he had made out. It makes one wonder who the ‘thickos’ really are.
In Anthony’s latest newsletter to constituents, he murmurs. in a Trumpian aside how ‘It is readily apparent that there are many who wish to talk down our economy and the opportunities available’. A constituent has picked him up on this on his Facebook page, pointing out that those who have done most to talk the economy down – quite literally – were actually those vociferous supporters of Kwarteng’s now infamous mini budget that tanked the economy!
And who might one of these ‘economy destroyers’ have been? Stand up Mr Mangnall – who managed to talk the economy down himself in all media and platforms from Twitter to the Dartmouth Chronicle. No irony wasted.
On this evidence it’s going to be hard to award Anthony any kind of appraisal points here. ‘Not Applicable’ might be kinder.
And so, our half-term appraisal draws to a close.
We are now onto our third Conservative prime minister in a matter of weeks. It has been an unmitigated disaster – from Johnson to Truss and now to Sunak. And as to our own piece of Conservative glory – how has Anthony Mangnall MP fared? The appraisal scores, mid-term, are low: leadership – zero, integrity- nil points, vision and strategy – not applicable.
Sadly, for the moment at least, it looks like we continue to be stuck with a special-measures MP, one whom many constituents are formally placing on ‘capability’ notice. With Anthony Mangnall MP we not only have a waste of money but also a waste of opportunity.
Anthony Mangnall MP, £84,000 a year plus expenses and allowances – your appraisal is complete. Let your constituents show you the door.