MSP’s Saucy Shout-Out to His Aide, Chelsea Rocks in Her Bikini

Alexander Burnett has proposed an unusual motion of congratulations in the Scottish Parliament. The 45-year-old Tory MSP submitted a motion congratulating Chelsea Rocks for her success in the “Ladies Junior Bikini Tall” category at the recent Physical Culture Association British Finals. The under-23s bodybuilding champ is also a staffer in his parliamentary office. Congratulations…

Burnett proposed:

“That the Parliament congratulates MSP staffer, Chelsea Rocks, who placed 4th in the Ladies Junior Bikini Tall category at the Physical Culture Association (PCA) British Finals; commends Chelsea on now being invited to compete in the upcoming PCA World Finals of Birmingham, and wishes her all the best at these finals.”

Scotland is we are told suffering an obesity crisis. Chelsea is setting a great example which we should celebrate…

Fastest Wage Growth in a Decade Despite Brexit

In the three months from June to August UK workers saw their pay rise by the biggest amount since the financial crash. Average pay rose by 3.1% in the three months to August, outstripping the 2.5% inflation rate. More jobs, higher wages, all #DespiteBrexit…

House of Combots: MPs Interview Robot

MPs were subjected a technological treat this morning as a 4-foot tall robot named Pepper gave evidence to the Education Select Committee, arguably with more personality than many Parliamentarians. While the questions may have been more programmatic than usual, at least Pepper didn’t bot-tle out of answering them…

Cabinet’s Chuck Chequers Challenge

Ministers being forced to run a “bin the backstop” gauntlet on the way into Cabinet this morning…

h/t Joey D’Urso

Unemployment Down By 50,000 Despite Brexit

New unemployment figures released today show that unemployment fell by 47,000 in the three months to August, taking the UK unemployment down to just 4%, and youth unemployment down to its lowest level in history.

Overall, 338,000 new full-time jobs added were added to the UK economy last year – while the number of part-time jobs fell slightly. Guido is still waiting for that 500,000-800,000 unemployment spike that Remain promised us…

The Great Brexit Bluff-Off

Theresa May is set for a stormy Cabinet meeting this morning after one third of her Cabinet met last night to discuss their opposition to her Brexit plans. Eight ministers gathered in Andrea Leadsom’s office for pizza and plotting – Raab, Hunt, Gove, Mordaunt, Grayling, Truss, Cox and Leadsom – a higher turnout than expected with the includion of a number of former May loyalists.

While May looks to be safe from a pizza inspired putsch for now, the inescapable issue is that her backstop plan as it stands is fundamentally unacceptable to significant parts of her Cabinet and her party, as well as her allies in the DUP. Number 10 is banking on the hope that these factions are bluffing and will eventually back down and support her deal. Will they?

  • Cabinet: Most likely to fall into line. May’s evergreen strategy of kicking the can down the road avoids any imminent flashpoints for ministers to make principled resignations over. By putting off crunch decisions for as long as possible, Cabinet ministers may feel that it is too close to the deadline to rock the boat in a big way. But would Tory members forgive them for backing a deal they hate?
  • Tory Backbenchers: A question of how many. While the full ERG membership of around 80 MPs is unlikely to vote down the deal en masse, 40 rebel MPs is not unimaginable. ERG shop steward Steve Baker again made clear on Newsnight that he will vote down the deal unless May changes course. Even if she whittles down the rebels to a hard core of 10-20, this still presents major arithmetical challenges. Particularly if she also loses the support of…
  • The DUP: Anyone who has followed Northern Irish politics for any length of time knows that the DUP do not simply back down. May wouldn’t rule out additional checks being introduced between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain during her Commons grilling yesterday – a “blood red” line for the DUP. Nigel Dodds openly told Newsnight that the DUP will do what it can to disrupt the Government’s whole domestic agenda, short of triggering a General Election. They will never, never, never back down…
  • Labour: May’s hopes of a majority appear to be pinned on a sizeable Labour rebellion. A frontbench pivot seems out of the question. Blairites are unlikely to come to the rescue as they see no deal chaos as their best chance of securing a second referendum. Leave-y Labour MPs like Caroline Flint and Graham Stringer have been making the most supportive noises so far. But are there enough of them?

May’s only other option is to take heed of the concerns of her own MPs and the DUP and go back to the EU with a proposal that Parliament is behind, rather than one her ‘sherpas’ have told her will fly in Europe. Of all the many sides in this multi-dimensional negotiation, the EU seems to be the only one she is unwilling to bluff…

BBC Universal Credit “Exclusive” Was Announced Yesterday in Parliament

This morning the Today programme is, as we go to pixel, leading with an exclusive “The BBC understands… seen leaked documents… Universal Credit roll out delayed…” It is also leading news bulletins and on the BBC News website. In Guido’s half-awake decaffeinated state he thought he was dreaming that actually this was all announced yesterday, in parliament by Esther McVey. A quick Google of Hansard confirms that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions did indeed say:

Under the process of managed migration, the roll-out will be slow and measured. It will start not in January 2019, but later in the year. For a further year we will be learning as we go with a small amount of people—maybe 10,000—to ensure that the system is right. The roll-out will then increase from 2020 onwards. It will be slow and measured, and we will adapt and change as we go.

The old saying that the best place to keep a secret is on the floor of the House of Commons appears to still hold true as far as the BBC is concerned. Their exclusive was announced yesterday in parliament and Hansard is hardly a “leaked document”. Why are they hyping it up as a leak?

Sports and Social Rebrand Row

An FOI request by the Yorkshire Post has revealed significant internal strife over the re-branding of Parliament’s unjustly maligned Sports and Social Bar over the summer. Commons Clerk David Natzler was concerned that the new name “The Woolsack” risked associating the “reputation of the bar [not a thing I would want to be tied to]” with the “dignity and position” of the House of Lords. In one rather sarcastic email Natzler wrote: “if Benet etc are happy with the risk I look forward to headlines ‘Woolsack closed after sexual assault claims’. Don’t you have a heraldic animal or something…”

Interestingly, seemingly no one picked up on the anatomical nickname the Woolsack has quickly earned among the researchers who frequent it. At the time officials advised against a naming competition due to the risk of it “being mocked in the press.” Spoil Sports…

May Swerves Boris on Backstop

Brexiteers are not coming away particularly reassured on the backstop by May’s Commons statement. A number of times May was asked directly to confirm that the backstop would be time-limited. May insisted the backstop would be temporary but refused to give a firm answer on when it would end or how the UK could escape from it. Her answer to Boris is best described as aspirational…

“As I said when we published the temporary customs arrangement proposal back in June, we set that point of the expectation that that would be completed by December 2021. One of the issues as I indicated in my statement that we are discussing with the EU is how we can ensure that we do reflect the temporary nature of the backstop… I continue to believe that what we should all be doing is working to ensure that the backstop never comes into place…”

May’s response to a question on no deal being agreed has also raised a few eyebrows:

“If it were the case that at the end of the negotiation process actually it was a no deal… then actually that would come back to this House and then we would see what position this House would take in the circumstances.”

Is she going to shift her position on no deal too?

Watch Live: PM’s Brexit Statement in the Commons

May makes her statement, wearing white…

Ian Lavery Resigns

Labour Party Chairman Ian Lavery has resigned his position as Chairman of his beloved Ashington Football Club. The club are in a financial mess and are expected to be declared bankrupt next week. This is despite over £1m of taxpayers’ money being spent on the club by a controversial firm with links to Lavery. Lavery is no stranger to financial misadventures – he is still facing questions over the £165,000 he received from a trade union he ran before becoming an MP…

It is unclear at the moment if Lavery will remain a director of the club along with his political aide Mark Fitton. If evidence of ‘unfit conduct’ is found, the national chairman of the Labour Party could potentially be disqualified from being a director of companies in the future. It wouldn’t be the first company to go under as a result of Labour’s stewardship…

Petition: Put Maggie on the New £50

Ministers ditched plans to scrap the £50 note this weekend and revealed that a brand new shiny redesigned £50 note will be introduced in 2020. There are plans to hold a competition to design the new note, and with only one woman apart from the Queen featured on any of the new polymer notes so far, Guido has made a helpful suggestion in the interests of gender equality. Add your voice to the calls to put the UK’s greatest Prime Minister on the new note by signing the petition here…

British Jews Leaving UK for Israel up by 7%

Despite a decrease in immigration to Israel from most western countries, including France and the United States, immigration to Israel from the United Kingdom has risen by 7 percent in just the first eight months of 2018. The Jerusalem Post writes that “many Jews are contemplating leaving there in light of the prospect of the Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party, with its antisemitism problem, reaching power.”

It comes after the Jewish Chronicle found that two in five Jews living in Britain would seriously consider emigrating if Jeremy Corbyn became Prime Minister. Some are not willing to wait…

David Davis Cashing in on Speech Circuit

David Davis famously lost the Tory leadership to David Cameron on the back of a comparatively poor speech. Nevertheless he has now got permission to sell his public speaking services – so long as he doesn’t tell any Brexit negotiating secrets. Guido thinks we have already got the benefit of his views on the Brexit negotiations for free. DExEU have also banned him from lobbying. Presumably his unpaid lobbying against Chequers is permitted…

CPS Claim ‘Cost-Neutral’ Policy Will Create One Million Homeowners

The Centre for Policy Studies has come up with a novel proposal which they say could see one million more people become homeowners in one year. ‘Help to Own’ aims to make it easier for ‘Generation Rent’ to buy while also incentivising landlords to sell to their tenants by introducing a scheme for a single year that would pool capital gains tax receipts on the sale of rented homes in order to then grant them back as rebates to landlords and tenants.

33% of each rebate would go to the landlord while 66% would go towards the deposit of the purchasing tenant. The CPS have crunched the numbers and say the net effect would be to increase revenue to the Treasury, while the tenant would only need to stump up the cash for 3.33% of the property upfront, with the capital gains rebate making up the rest of the 10% deposit they need to get on the property ladder. Like ‘Right to Buy’, ‘Help to Own’ could be a game changer in granting people a tangible stake in the economy, all at no extra cost to taxpayers…

Bercow Bullying Blasted by Parliamentary Inquiry

The Cox Inquiry into the bullying of staff in the House of Commons has excoriated the senior Commons administration, finding “a culture, cascading from the top down, of deference, subservience, acquiescence and silence, in which bullying, harassment and sexual harassment have been able to thrive and have long been tolerated and concealed.”

Dame Laura Cox explicitly names the Speaker’s Office as part of the “senior House administration” which must replaced in order for the bullying culture to be addressed, concluding:

“I find it difficult to envisage how the necessary changes can be successfully delivered, and the confidence of the staff restored, under the current senior House administration.”

Bercow will carry on regardless unless and until Labour MPs decide otherwise

What’s Going On This Week

  • Monday
    • Nicola Sturgeon is down in London to give a speech on Brexit.
  • Tuesday
    • Monthly unemployment figures to be released by the ONS.
    • Education Committee a robot called Pepper.
    • Theresa May to chair Cabinet ahead of the EU summit meeting on Thursday.
  • Wednesday
    • PMQs.
    • The European Council is meeting over dinner for the EU 27 to discuss Brexit ahead of Thursday’s summit.
    • Marijuana to become legal in Canada.
    • World Economic Forum to launch its annual Global Competitiveness Report. Last year the UK was in eighth position.
  • Thursday
    • Question Time from Guildford on BBC One.
    • European Council summit in Brussels.
  • Friday
    • Government consultation on reforming the Gender Recognition Act closes.

No Big Impact From No Deal

With the Brexit negotiations in an absolute mess, the wonks at Open Europe have helpfully modelled the potential impact of a no deal scenario in a new report and found that the medium-term impact of no deal on the UK’s economic growth would be small and could largely be mitigated by unilateral action. Their modelling finds a drag on growth of only 0.17% per annum up to 2030, which could be reduced to a mere 0.04% p.a. if the UK adopted unilateral trade liberalisation measures. GDP will still be over 30% higher than today. Not the doomsday scenario Remainers like to talk about…

The bottom line is that the terms of Brexit are “very unlikely to be the determining factor for the UK economy’s medium-term and long-term growth prospects” – there are many other economic and political factors that are likely to have a far bigger impact over the next few years. Like the introduction of Venezuelan-style socialism…

If the UK wants no deal to be a credible negotiating position it needs a plan to turbocharge the economy, not simply to talk about averting catastrophe. That is what the EU really fears…

Rich’s Monday Morning View

Sarah Vine: Men Should Stop Waving Their Willies Around

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Quote of the Day

Dame Laura Cox report into Pestminster slams Bercow and his team…

“I find it difficult to envisage how the necessary changes can be successfully delivered, and the confidence of the staff restored, under the current senior House administration.”

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