PMQs: Who’s Asking the Questions?

Oral Questions to the Prime Minister

Q1 Dr Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) If she will list her official engagements for Wednesday 20 June.
Q2 Mr Gavin Shuker (Luton South)
Q3 Simon Hoare (North Dorset)
Q4 Fiona Bruce (Congleton)
Q5 Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde)
Q6 Gareth Thomas (Harrow West)
Q7 Mr Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi (Slough)
Q8 Lucy Allan (Telford)
Q9 Nigel Mills (Amber Valley)
Q10 Antoinette Sandbach (Eddisbury)
Q11 Bill Wiggin (North Herefordshire)
Q12 Lisa Nandy (Wigan)
Q13 Ian Paisley (North Antrim)
Q14 Bim Afolami (Hitchin and Harpenden)

Comments in the comments…

The refugee crisis has become the humanitarian challenge of our time

The refugee crisis has become the humanitarian challenge of our time according to new Legatum Institute report.

Today as we mark UN World Refugee Day, there are more people on the move than ever before. The worldwide number of registered refugees forcibly displaced by war, persecution and violence continues to climb. In total, at least 66 million people globally are experiencing forced displacement, and many more are exposed to high levels of socioeconomic vulnerability, facing insecurity and natural hazards.

The Legatum Institute’s Global People Movements report highlights that the factors that lie behind the hazardous journeys undertaken by refugees, migrants and victims of trafficking are both varied and complex. What is clear is that these are increasingly journeys of necessity, not opportunity. It is apparent that the challenge of accommodating the current levels of displacement has become too great for 20th Century approaches, with outmoded interventions seeing many refugees and migrants spending decades in accommodation that was originally designed for temporary relief.

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Alan Sugar Tries to Get Sacked From BBC

Remember when Alan Sugar sent that xenophobic tweet about Gisela Stuart during the referendum? He’s gone one worse this morning:

The next series of the Apprentice was due to air on the BBC this autumn. Was…

UPDATE: And like that, it was gone…

UPDATE II: BBC to Sugar: you’re not fired!

Labour Poll Lead as Grieve Threatens to Collapse Government

A well-timed reminder of the consequences for Tory rebels backing Dominic Grieve’s threat to “collapse the government”. BMG has Labour three points in front this morning:

Guido has averaged out the Tory poll lead over the last two months (via UK Polling Report) – it is around 2%, well within the margin of error. If Tory Remainers defeat May today that could mean the end of her premiership and possibly a general election. Which Tory MPs want to join Grieve and Soubry in risking Prime Minister Corbyn?

May Considers Asking to Stay in Single Market For Goods

The extremely well-connected Brexit wonk Charles Grant writes in the FT today that the government is considering asking to stay in the single market for goods. Guido also understands this is under active consideration in Number 10. Grant writes that this means de facto accepting ECJ rulings and EU rules and regulations, and potentially a compromise on free movement:

“The challenge, however, is that the EU would never agree to Britain being in the single market for goods unless it adopted all relevant rules, submitted to a punishment mechanism for any deviation, and accepted some oversight by the European Court of Justice… If the UK does request membership of the single market in goods, the EU’s initial reaction will be no. Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s chief negotiator, says the single market is “ binary” — you are either in all or none of it — and must involve free movement of labour.”

If we agree to become a rule-taker on goods and accept ECJ rulings, we are clearly not taking back control of laws. If we have full alignment with Brussels regulations on goods, that severely hampers our ability to strike trade deals with other countries – that is not taking back control of trade policy. If there is a compromise on free movement, that is not taking back control of borders. And it is unfathomable the EU would agree to all this without the UK making significant ongoing payments of vast sums to Brussels. That is not taking back control of money. Staying in the single market for goods crosses May’s own red lines, and goes miles beyond the red lines of Brexiters. 

Number 10 may have wagered that they can buy off Brexiters like Boris and Gove by agreeing to spend the Brexit dividend on the NHS (even though this is disingenuous and the NHS money is mostly tax rises). But surely there is no way Boris, Gove, Fox and Davis – or any Brexiter for that matter – could stay in the government if their red lines were rubbed out like this. This would be the softest of Brexits – Cabinet Leavers must stand up to Number 10 on this…

Grayling Faces Judicial Review Over New Airports Cock-Up

Guido hears the airports vote has been pencilled in for Monday 25 June – and Chris Grayling faces more trouble over yet another cock-up. DAC Beachcroft, legal advisers to the Heathrow Hub consortium proposing an extended runway at Heathrow, have today indicated that they will challenge the DfT’s National Policy Statement. They say it wrongly calculated the capacity of the extended runway option after a mistake by the Airports Commission (dating back before Grayling was Transport Secretary), thus erroneously finding the 3rd runway option had a higher capacity. This was one of the principal reasons why the extended runway was rejected.

The Planning Act – Section 13 to be specific – allows for a Judicial Review of an NPS in the six weeks after it has been designated, following a vote in parliament. If this was objectively an error of process then it does not look good for Grayling…

Julian Smith Must Hold Firm Against Isolated Grieve

Over the last 48 hours there has been speculation that the whips are going soft and considering a further compromise to Dominic Grieve ahead of tomorrow’s Commons vote.

Guido isn’t sure what else there is to concede on. Number 10 has given Remainers absolutely everything they want, short of the ability to stop Brexit entirely. We are heading towards a very ‘soft’ Brexit, closely aligned to Brussels. We are staying in a customs union for years after Brexiting, possibly longer. By the end of the negotiation, things might be even closer to the Hammond / Remainer vision of Brexit than that. Further concessions are not acceptable.

Remain MPs who Guido has spoken are increasingly unimpressed with the Grieve / Soubry / Hailsham attempt to block Brexit. Most Tory Remainers accept that Brexit has to happen, and that it would be a dangerous betrayal of democracy to allow Grieve and co to get their way. Indeed, Tory Remainers are privately accusing Grieve of dishonesty over his motives. His talk of blowing up the government went down spectacularly badly, too. At least Hailsham and the rebels in the Lords are honest about wanting to stop Brexit. 

How many Tory Remainers have come out to endorse Grieve’s plot to keep us in the EU this week? The likes of Nicky Morgan have been quiet for days. Julian Smith must hold firm, win round the majority of the more sensible Remain rebels, and see Grieve off tomorrow with no further concessions…

Eurotunnel: Don’t Buy Border Scaremongering

Eurotunnel bosses are confident on the arrangements for the Anglo-French border after Brexit. A presentation for shareholders reveals Eurotunnel’s internal analysis which concludes the likely outcome of negotiations is:

“An agreement with a time limited transition period for implementation of customs and animal and plant health controls. Technology will speed up border processing.”

Eurotunnel says in its report:

“Given Eurotunnel’ unique position, our key Government insights, and our track record in managing transition, we strongly believe that the Group will strengthen its competitive position after the Brexit.”

The firm is confident in part because it has managed bigger challenges, not least the 2015 migrant crisis. The firm’s conclusion counters a rash of stories placed by remainers raising artificial fears about the border. Total trade coming into UK via Eurotunnel is 26% – so their opinion counts. All aboard the Brexit express…

CCHQ Defaced With Anti-Heathrow Graffiti

Anyone seen Zac today?

Voters Don’t Mind If NI Leaves UK, Leavers and Tories Say Brexit More Important Than Union

A poll from Lord Ashcroft reveals that Leave voters would rather lose Northern Ireland than give up the benefits of Brexit. 63% of Leavers would rather leave the EU than keep the UK together. 73% of Tory Leavers agree, as well as half of Labour Leavers. Guido suspects that number would rise further among English Conservatives…

Ashcroft also asked GB voters what they would think if Northern Ireland left the UK. More than six in ten said they wouldn’t mind either way, including a clear majority of Tory and Labour voters. Theresa May has prioritised the union and no hard border over making the most of Brexit, and has been totally hamstrung in the negotiations as a result. It would appear the public don’t agree with that strategy…

Saj: Time to Review Scheduling of Cannabis

Sajid Javid announces review of the scheduling of cannabis, currently in the most tightly restricted category reserved for drugs that have “no currently accepted medical use”. The Home Secretary again getting his way over the PM…

Labour Parliamentary Candidate Distances Herself From Rothschilds, ‘Zion Scum’ and ‘Fake Jews’ Tweets

Labour’s newly selected parliamentary candidate in the marginal seat of North Swindon has been forced to distance herself from a Twitter account which posted about the Rothschilds, Zion “scum” and “fake Jews”. In April, Kate Linnegar was selected to fight the next election in a seat that is seen as a must-win if Labour is to have any chance of forming a government. Linnegar, a Corbynista who has been involved in local left-wing activism for years, ran the Swindon People’s Assembly. Her face is the profile picture for the group’s Twitter account. Though she denies any involvement with the following tweets…

The account bearing Linnegar’s face has ranted about the Rothschilds:

It posted about “fake Jews”:

It described pop star Zayn Malik as “another Zion slave”:

Some other pleasantries:

A South West Labour party spokesperson said: “Kate Linnegar has no involvement with these tweets or the running of this twitter account. Her image has been used in the profile picture without her consent.” Seems a very serious case of identity fraud, hope they catch the culprit…

Political Prospects for Pot

William Hague coming out for legalising cannabis is a welcome new development, though he isn’t the first former Tory leader to do so. Back in his groovy WebCameron days David Cameron told Guido “If it can be proved that there are real benefits, medicinal benefits and scientific evidence for it, I would be relaxed about that… my decision would be to licence it if it could be proved to have benefits.” Home Secretary Sajid Javid was convinced by the scientific arguments to grant an exception for Billy Caldwell. What are the prospects for the exception becoming the rule?

The international context is important. With many US states decriminalising medical cannabis it is becoming more acceptable at government level. In Europe the experience of more liberal regimes can be shown to have improved rather than worsened matters. Countries are granting licences for medical cannabis more readily – Malta is introducing legislation to enable it to become the EU’s leading medical cannabis exporter. The spirit of the age is for liberalisation.

The normalising of cannabis use beyond dope smoking teenagers is becoming more widespread. Many people now have the personal experience of an auntie or granny who uses weed to deal with their arthritis pains, never mind those with more serious conditions like MS and cancer. This social development has made the perception of cannabis use less negative.

Domestically we now have a generation of politicians who have used and are familiar with the reality of cannabis use and don’t see it in the demonic terms that non-user politicians of the past might have. With the departure of Paul Dacre from the public stage they also no longer fear a monstering from the Daily Mail if they do speak out in favour of a more liberal, rational policy. Think tanks are now pointing to the tax raising potential of legalised cannabis. The stars are aligning for decriminalisation, though judging by the reported rows in cabinet, one Tory leader stands in the way…

IFS Forecasts About Brexit Consistently Wrong

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has been allowed a huge quantity of free airtime and column inches in the past few days to bash the Brexit dividend and talk down the economy. The Lobby takes Paul Johnson’s word as gospel. Which is odd, considering the IFS’s record on these matters…

The IFS made a substantial number of predictions about Brexit which turned out to be completely untrue, including:

  • That a vote to leave would be “seismic” and that “the economy would suffer… There’s no doubt we’d suffer in the short term”. There was no recession following the UK’s vote to leave; no abnormal change in inflation; no rise in unemployment; and no fall in wage growth…

  • The IFS said if the UK voted to leave “the stock market, would dive, making us all poorer”The stock market has risen to record highs…

  • The IFS also said that investment would dry up if the UK voted to leave: “Investment… would fall”. Net foreign direct investment flows from the EU into the UK in 2016 were the highest in 10 years…

The IFS’s forecasts are politically inflected:

  • In 2011, the IFS predicted that by 2014/15, absolute child poverty would have risen from 17.5% to 24%. In fact, it fell to 17%…

  • The IFS predicted that GDP growth in 2017 would fall to 1.6%. In fact it rose to 1.8%…

A cynic might point out that the IFS admits on its own website that it receives tens of thousands from the European Commission. But on his forecasts alone, Guido isn’t sure Paul Johnson really merits all this media veneration… 

Sally Bercow: We’re Not Packing Our Bags Yet

Welcome back to Twitter to Sally Bercow, whose return has been verified by her lawyer David Allen Green. Sally is picking up where she left off, starting with a vocal defence of Brexit-hating rebels Dominic Grieve and Lord Moat:

Plenty of tweets and retweets accusing Number 10 of lying about Brexit and Theresa May of “dangerous, anti-democratic nonsense”:

She is also clearly enjoying trolling Bercow critic James Duddridge and insists the Speaker isn’t going anywhere:

Good to have you back, Sally…

Shouty Crackers Lord Moat’s Mask Slips

Remainer rebel Douglas Hogg, asked in the Lords if his mission is to destroy Brexit, lets his mask slip and snaps that he is trying to stop us leaving the EU. The odd rant about the high court of parliament was rather grandiose too. Lord Moat insisted he is not a party hack:

Remainers really don’t help themselves…

Maugham’s Mystery £100,000 Donor

Twitter lawyer Jolyon Maugham is again trying to avoid being on the hook for his vanity legal proceedings. Court papers show that for the judicial review he launched against the Electoral Commission, Maugham has managed to persuade the judge to limit the costs he’d be liable for to £20,000, despite crowdfunding for the case and revealing that he had a secret donor who was willing to stump up £100,000 to guarantee any adverse costs.

Maugham has a history of using other people’s money to satisfy his own political agendas:

  • He raised £107,650 in an effort to sue Uber over a VAT receipt (which he suspended when he realised he might have to cover Uber’s costs personally)
  • £59,275 for a judicial review against David Davis (which he lost)
  • £70,000 when he went to the High Court in Ireland to reverse the Article 50 process (which he lost)
  • £76,925 to try to get the Scottish Court to ask the ECJ whether Parliament could unilaterally withdraw the Article 50 notification (which he lost)

In submissions to the High Court, Maugham claimed that the cost of the case would be £80,000, and the judge duly ordered that the Electoral Commission should be liable for £40,000 if they lose. This is despite Maugham admitting that he’d raised £62,492 by mid-May and had £27,290 left over from the Davis case which could be used, and revealing he had “received an email from an individual who will agree to guarantee any adverse costs up to the sum of £100,000, and her partner agreed a further indemnity of £2,000”. Tens of thousands of pounds worth of public money is going to wealthy middle class Remoaners to pursue a politically-motivated case…

Maugham has refused to make public the identities of his mystery wealthy backers. Jolyon revealed that a ‘private charitable trust’ has donated £5,000 to the Good Law Project, but guess what, these funders aren’t named either. Yet following the Charity Commission’s ruling that the Legatum Institute breached charity regulations, Maugham said that charities must “deliver the public good – not the ideological agenda of wealthy private donors”. If Maugham is such a bastion of transparency, why won’t he reveal the donors who are bankrolling his case against the Electoral Commission? What happened to his opposition to furthering the “ideological agenda of wealthy private donors”…

Sandbach: I’ll Report Non-Constituents Who Email Me to the Police

Ultra-Remoaner Tory MP Anotinette Sandbach recently got into trouble for reporting an OAP to the police for sending her a polite email criticising her views on Brexit. Pretty bonkers even by Sandbach’s standards. Well, now Antoinette has updated her standard email auto-reply, threatening non-constituents who email her that she might report them to the cops:

“Please note that due to strict Parliamentary protocols, I will be unable to take up concerns of non-constituents.  If you are not a constituent and you have sent me a campaign email please note that your email will be retained in accordance with my data policy and may be disclosed to third parties in accordance with my data policy.  Emails which are abusive, threatening distressing or which may or could amount to harrassment will be disclosed to the police and relevant regulators.  For the avoidance of doubt any further contact from non constituents, who have received this bounceback and are therefore aware that I can not deal with their query may be classed as harrasment may be reported to the police and other relevant authorities including the House of Commons authorities and the Member of Parliament for the non constituent.”

Totally normal behaviour.

Onward to Higher Taxes

The government currently has no idea how it wants to raise taxes to pay for the £20 billion-a-year funding increase for the NHS. Step forward Tory MP Neil O’Brien, the former Osborne SpAd who recently co-founded the Onward think tank, with a proposal: freezing the personal allowance for two years. His plan to effectively hike taxes for all voters will raise £4 billion a year, which still leaves a huge black hole.

Labour’s policy is to whack the super-rich with new taxes. This Tory plan proposes to stop low earners, middle class voters and everyone else from keeping more of the money they earn. Which one do they think the public are going to vote for? The Tories are shifting the Overton window way to the left, fighting on Corbyn’s territory, and leaving people with no reason to vote Conservative. This madness is only going to make it more likely Corbyn gets into Number 10…

Is it Time up for Question Time?


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Boris on Osborne and Project Fear:

Unemployment has fallen by 250,000 to a new low of 4.2 per cent while record numbers of jobs have been created – including no fewer than 8 for the former chancellor and chief architect of project fear who has become a glorious living rebuttal of his own preposterous warnings.”

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