So what will YOU tell the grandchildren in years to come when they ask where you were on the day Liz Truss ascended to the Tory leadership?
Your correspondent will be able to boast that he arrived in the tense pre-proclamation hours on Liz’s South London doorstep, half expecting to have to fight his way through jostling journalists and adoring, flag-waving crowds.
Alas, he found himself alone on the deserted boundary of Greenwich’s prestigious Ashburnham Triangle without even a watchful bobby for company.
Maybe the future PM had already left with her overnight bag for Balmoral (nice one, ma’am) or nipped down to the local IKEA to pick some wallpaper to cover the newly stripped walls at Downing Street.
Either way, there was no sign of the feverish excitement that had gripped the Tory gerentocracy for weeks as the leadership race staggered to its inevitable conclusion.
Or perhaps, as the forest of for sale signs suggests, the locals have already decamped, reeling from revelations that they’ve been sharing the neighbourhood with what the press has dubbed The Greenwich Set, a coven of top Tories who have made the triangle their home.
As The Spectator, once edited by Boris Johnson, drooled: “Liz Truss is just one of the Tories turning this south-east London borough blue”.
Kwasi Kwarteng, tipped for Chancellor, is Liz’s near neighbour, while unelected Hard Brexit cheerleader Lord Frost lives just round the corner. Truss loyalist James Cleverly is just up the hill in Blackheath. Locals say Jacob Rees-Mogg is among the frequent callers at Truss Mansion.
Frankly, her Regency-style pile may be a bit downmarket for the Moggster. There’s even a bus stop almost outside the front door, although there is always the chance cash-strapped Transport for London might have to add the route it serves to the list it has already been forced to cancel.
Despite the presence of the Truss-led Tory elite, Greenwich remains a solid segment of Labour’s inner London Red Wall. In local elections this year Labour trashed the Tories with 52 seats to three and, in Truss’s ward, even the Green candidate polled three votes for every one picked up by the nearest Conservative.
Perhaps that explains the absence of street celebrations when the Truss result came through. One morose Labour councillor, drowning her sorrows at the Greenwich waterfront, said she was “ashamed to live in the same borough”.
A former councillor who pipped Liz to the post in borough elections 20 years ago was more restrained, confiding last week that no one in those days would ever have tipped her for high office. She finally made it on to the council in 2006 for an unmemorable four-year term before entering national politics. And the rest is history.
Her rise is a mystery worthy of Edgar Wallace, the journalist-turned-crime writer born into poverty in the neglected Ashburnham Grove of the late 19th century.
By that time, the area developed by the wealthy Ashburnham family from 1755 was heading downhill, which is where it stayed until the pioneer gentrifiers of the sixties began to tart up its tattered terraces and push for its recognition as a conservation zone in 1980.
Although local estate agents are currently touting modest family homes at a shade under £1.7 mill, you can grab a cramped flat for barely a third of that. The local obsession at the moment appears to be car theft rather than politics. A Land Rover Discovery, ideal for taking the little angels on the school run, went awol only last week.
The triangle represents everything the modern Tory grandee affects to hate, populated as it is by affluent Labour-voting, Remoaning, latte-swigging metropolitan elitists. That begs the question why so many of them choose to live there and places like it.
Johnson himself migrated from the family home in fashionable Islington to cross the river to Carrie’s pad in up-and-coming Camberwell. Their shadow has now been lifted from the good people of SE5 as the couple contemplates a move to nearby Herne Hill.
I suppose they’d argued these London areas are handy for the House. Truss is a 15 minute train ride to Whitehall, the same time it takes to walk to the nearest food bank. She plans to hang on to Greenwich while she’s away in Downing Street. Perhaps she anticipates her stay at Number 10 will be a short one.
Footnote: after hearfelt entreaties from our extensive domestic and international (and non-paying!) readership, this column is being revived to help guide you through the latest tribulations facing this great city. It got you through the Brexit debacle and the Covid lockdown. It never claimed things wouldn’t get worse.
We’ll aim for an item a week. But don’t get stroppy if that falls short.
5 thoughts on “Lost in the Truss triangle”
Nice to see you back Harvey
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As one of your non-paying, International followers, I am delighted, on the day of our winter transhumance from the U.K, to once again read your refreshing summary of the current political situation there. Your column has been greatly missed Harvey.
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What delightful item in my emails! A welcome return to reality, so thank you Harvey for sharing your viewpoints that are always intimate and grounded. More please!
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Another enjoyable read.
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