Corbyn’s Backdoor Bid to Become ‘Temporary’ PM Bombs

Jeremy Corbyn has finally made a move of sorts on Brexit, in the form of a letter to various MPs which is less about stopping no deal and more about making himself Prime Minister. Corbyn says he will “seek the confidence of the House for a strictly time-limited temporary government with the aim of calling a general election, and securing the necessary extension of Article 50 to do so.” In the same way the dictatorship of the proletariat is only meant to be temporary…?

Funnily enough opposition MPs haven’t been buying it, most importantly including Jo Swinson, who now leads 14 MPs after serial defector Sarah Wollaston finally joined the Lib Dems last night. Swinson says Corbyn is “not the person who is going to be able to build an even temporary majority in the House of Commons for this task”. This is a serious electoral headache for the Lib Dems, back Corbyn and they’ll be seriously tainted by his toxic brand, fail to back him and they’ll be accused of allowing no deal to happen. Choices, choices…

The reaction from other non-Labour opposition MPs was even less positive:

Ultimately Corbyn’s letter changes nothing, we are still fundamentally stuck in the position where Corbyn will not back anyone else for ‘temporary’ Prime Minister while there isn’t even close to a Parliamentary majority of MPs who would back him. Pundits and commentators have got a whole two weeks left of August silly season to fight out amongst themselves who the best alternative would be, the bottom line is that it’s simply not going to happen…

Anna Soubry’s Chuka Heartbreak

Poor Anna Soubry. She’s lost influence, friends, and will probably lose her seat.

She has poured her heart out to ITV’s Paul Brand “we made some terrible mistakes over leadership and I can tell you now that the problem was was that Chuka wouldn’t step up to it. And if Chuka had stepped up to it he would have been our leader, it was certainly …well I always assumed it was absolutely going to happen. 

Paul Brand: Why do you think he didn’t?
Anna Soubry: You’d have to ask him that but he does have history of not stepping up. Very sad because he… to me he was absolutely the future for our country. I genuinely believe that, I wouldn’t have left my party if I hadn’t believed that.

PB: Were you trying to persuade him to stand as leader?
AS: Good God, yes. Goodness me yes. He should have been our leader and he wasn’t and then after the EU elections which were a terrific blow of course they were you don’t give up at the first hurdle, for God’s sakes.

PB: How did you feel when he joined the Lib Dems?
AS: I think he made a terrible mistake. I was genuinely really sad about that. For me it personally hurt, it really did hurt. I thought he was my big buddy. He was a major part of why I left the Tory party. To start something new with him as the leader, I don’t want to be the bloody leader I genuinely believe that Chuka Umunna should be prime minister of our country and had the – just what we were needing to be a great prime minister. I genuinely believe that. 

PB: Have you spoken to him since he joined the Lib Dems?
AS: Unfortunately, he has never called. He has never called me. Which I think is very sad. 

PB: The friendship’s sort of broken down then?
AS: Very sad. Very sad.
We have exchanged emails but you now, you sort of, well I won’t go into it all but …

Watch her heartbreaking ITV interview in full and hold back your tears…

Sour Soubry Sears Chuka

There’s evidently no love lost between former best buddies Anna Soubry and Chuka Umunna after their highly acrimonious Change UK breakup. Soubry’s kicked off the airing of the dirty laundry with a searing attack on her onetime comrade after he declared that he would be a Lib Dem “until the day I die”. Try not to shed a tear… of laughter.

Soubry’s hardly one for keeping promises herself but she’s got Chuka bang to rights here…

ChUKs and TIGs Now Fighting Over Data

The splitting of the ChUKs and the TIGs is not without pain whatever they spin to their media friends. A row is developing about “who owns the data?”

Legally The Independent Group (TIG) Limited controls the data. Gavin Shuker resigned as a director on 21 May, 2019. The company is registered as the data controller with the ICO. So far so clear…

Chris Leslie’s wife, Nicola Murphy, was appointed a director in his place, along with Anna Soubry’s other half, Neil Davidson. So the Leslie – Soubry axis of ChUK would appear to be in control of the political data of hundreds of thousands of people and, more importantly, the ability to tap them up for financing. Not quite.

Shuker quite properly argues the data was collected in the first instance on behalf of The Independent Group. Which is now back in business with the defecting MPs. Too bad say the ChUKs, we’re in control now…

Except the controlling shareholder is still one Gavin Shuker, with the legal power to hire and fire the directors. So the TIGs actually control the ChUK’s company legally and the ICO will probably side with Shuker if it goes to court. The ICO are unlikely to look kindly on two organisations sharing the same data…

See also ChUKs Infighting Kicks Off Blame Game

Tories Open Selections for Candidates to Replace TIG Defectors

Any possible routes, however unlikely, for the TIGger defectors to make shock returns to the Tories from their floundering party will soon be closed off: the Tories have just opened new candidate selections for all of their seats. CCHQ emailed the Tory candidates’ list calling for applications for nine seats including Broxtowe (Anna Soubry), South Cambridgeshire (Heidi Allen) and Totnes (Sarah Wollaston). Bye!

Grantham and Stanford is also being opened for applications, Nick Boles had already announced that he wouldn’t be contesting the seat again but there will still be many Tories sad to see him go. Candidates have until Monday 17th June to apply if they want to be the heir to Heidi…

ChUKs Infighting Kicks Off Blame Game

The obituaries are being written, perhaps prematurely, for the Tiggers before they have even fought their first election. Guido’s hears that ChUK’s infighting is getting worse as their polling flat-lines. Chris Leslie and his wife Nicola Murphy are copping a lot of the flak. As you would expect from a party opposed to democracy, she was appointed as chief executive of the party without any pretence of a vote and he demanded she got a generous salary as well. This immediately annoyed other staff and activists hoping for jobs – in the main ex-councillors and even some council leaders knocking around looking for work, who joined thinking they would get taken on. A lot of second-raters have been disappointed…

Leslie and Umunna’s relationship has become strained. Chuka feels Chris abandoned him and threw his lot in with Anna Soubry and Heidi Allen. Soubry’s other half is the party treasurer, Neil Davidson. Leslie did a deal with them to control the party machinery. Chuka, Luciana and their small gang of ex-Progress kids who helped with the launch have been completely outmanoeuvred according to an inside source. In comparison to the launch of the Brexit Party it has been a flop and even made centrist Remainers appreciate the LibDem’s merits.

One observer with Labour sympathies speculates: “I think part of problem is Luciana being on maternity leave. She was a big asset because her interventions reminded people of anti-Semitism and the dire state of the Labour Party. Which was powerful and emotional. Without her it’s just the uninspiring centrist managerial politics of Chris Leslie and Heidi Allen.” Quite.

Soubry: The Tory Party is the Brexit Party

Soubry Confused About Her Party’s Name

Soubry just told parliament she is in the “change dot org” party. Which is unfortunate because the Change.org petition site is lawyering up over the name use.

They say: “It’s said that imitation is a form of flattery… We are seeking guidance on the proposed use of our brand name by those reported to be setting up a new political party.”

Soubry getting it mixed up won’t help in court if Chuka’s party claims the name isn’t confusing…

Nigel Farage and Anna Soubry’s Bust-Up on Politics Live

Unsurprisingly sparks fly…

Blue on Former Blue

The Commons was treated to a patch of blue on former blue this afternoon as Michael Gove made a gentle poke at Anna Soubry’s lengthy questioning. She hit back at him taking aim at Tory cuts to the Legal Aid… which she voted for…

Soubry Accuses May of Having “Personal” Problem With Immigration

Anna Soubry has not held back with her personal criticisms of Theresa May since quitting the Tories and launched into another attack against May on Newsnight last night, accusing her of having a “problem with immigration”. Soubry insisted that it went beyond policy and was “personal”, and even claimed it was the only reason May hadn’t backed the UK staying in the single market. “She just has a thing about immigration”…

While it’s true that May has generally been holding out within Government against more flexible immigration policies favoured by many of her ministers, particularly on students, it’s a bit glib for Soubry to say “I don’t know where the hell it’s come from”. Has she already forgotten about the referendum three years ago?

Soubry’s old comrade-in-arms Dominic Grieve was also on Newsnight, confirming that he would “have to leave” the Tories if they were heading for a no-deal Brexit, although he is clearly not as enthusiastic about the prospect as the three defectors. Between Soubry’s personal attacks on May and Heidi Allen’s comments that there hopefully “won’t be a Tory Party to go back to”, wavering Tories will already be getting cold feet about whether they really want to throw their lot in with them…

Tory Defections: Then and Now

The defection of the three Tory MPs to The Independents Group today has seen an outpouring of comments ranging from sadness to… sadness from their former Tory colleagues. Theresa May is “saddened”, David Cameron is “sad”, Claire Perry is “extremely sad”. All get thanks for their “dedicated service”, with the door being left open for them to return if they change their mind…

So presumably it was the same outpouring of thanks, hugs and condolences all round when Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless left for UKIP in 2014? Don’t be silly…

David Cameron branded Reckless’s decision “senseless and counter-productive” and accused Carswell of helping Labour. Carswell was accused of “betrayal”, “petulance” and “political vanity” by Tory MPs while Reckless was even sued by his former local party. All topped off with Claire “Brexit Jihadis” Perry’s ever classy “Don’t let the door hit your fat arse as you leave”…

Heidi Allen’s Desperate ‘We Haven’t Changed’ Fib To Avoid By-Elections

Earlier today, trying to wriggle out of holding people’s votes of their own constituents, Tory TIGger Heidi Allen said “We haven’t changed. What we stood on, our values, our own leaflets, our own campaigning when we stood in 2017, none of that has changed.” Except that doesn’t ring true with her campaigning in 2017…

  • Allen’s own leaflet said “we must respect the democratic outcome of the referendum and work positively together to ensure we make Brexit a success.” Even on the day of the election, Allen tweeted “I was a remainer, but the EU ref result is final and cannot be rerun.”
  • Her Tory TIGger colleague Anna Soubry also campaigned in 2017 saying she “will continue to honour the EU Referendum result. We are leaving the EU and must now get a good deal.”
  • The other Tory TIGger, Sarah Wollaston told one of her constituents in 2017 that “overall constituency voted leave 54%. I promised to respect the outcome.” Her own website informed her constituents that “Theresa May has confirmed that the Government will not seek to be in the single market. She has also been clear that no deal is better than a bad deal”

Day one and they’re already in full hypocrisy mode. Fibbing through their teeth all to avoid facing the people…

UPDATE: Guido brings you Sarah Wollaston’s 2017 election hustings highlights. This is what she told her leave voting constituents when they returned her to Parliament…

And here’s Honest Heidi…

No, There Isn’t a ‘Purple Momentum’

The Tory TIGs, Heidi Allen, Sarah Wollaston, and Anna Soubry, have claimed as a key reason for their defections was a “Purple Momentum” that is “subsuming the Conservative Party”. But is there any evidence of this or is it just an after-the event rationalisation?

Brandon Lewis today told the Conservative MPs WhatsApp group that a grand total of zero local associations have initiated deselections. The only association that comes close is Grantham and Stamford, who as far as Guido can make out are simply asking Nick Boles if he wishes to stand as a Conservative at the next election – as he has equivocated on that question in recent months. It’s not a deselection attempt if they’re actively asking you to stay on as a Conservative…

In March 2018 it was revealed that membership of the Conservative Party stands at 124,000 people. There is no evidence that this has changed significantly, despite a big membership drive from CCHQ itself. ConservativeHome did register a tiny bump in membership after Chequers was announced, of about ten new members per association. The 400,000 new Momentum flavoured members who have joined the Labour party it ain’t…

At the TIG press conference today, Sarah Wollaston referenced a “very aggressive and well funded social media campaign that is being waged against many of us, describing us as traitors, all sorts of language. The trouble is that that language has consequences, the deluge of really threatening calls that our staff have to deal with. It’s really horrible.”

No MP should receive threatening phone calls, nonetheless loopy phone calls do not amount to a ‘Purple Momentum’ deselection attempt. Sadly, all MPs receive threatening phone calls no matter what party they are in. There is no actual evidence that an infiltration has taken place beyond an entirely underwhelming Arron Banks social media campaign that was always more about self promotion than changing the Conservative Party.

The first iteration of Banks’ attempted ‘Blue Wave’ movement to infiltrate the Conservative Party has not been active since November. Now Leave.EU are trying it themselves, but to little success. Guido hears that the clickthrough rate from Leave.EU links to purchase Conservative Party membership are laughably low…

Don’t believe the ‘Purple Momentum’ bogeyman that these three Remain MPs have convinced themsleves exists. Don’t believe that Theresa May’s ‘Austerity is over’, high taxing, fiscal discipline abandoning, pro-tariff, ban-happy Conservative Party has somehow lurched to the right. It’s a convenient figment of their imaginations, all to justify their increasingly desperate quest to stop Brexit.

Tory Defectors Cross the Floor

The Tory defectors have crossed the floor to sit on the opposition benches with The Independent Group, following in the footsteps of Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler who crossed the floor to join the SDP in 1981. Auspicious…

Interestingly, the Independent Group’s press release claimed the trio had formally joined, while their own resignation letter only said they would sit “alongside” TIG and would still back the Tories in certain votes. Surely splits can’t be emerging already…

Theresa May “Saddened” by Tory Trio Breakaway

Theresa May has put out a statement in response to Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston choosing to quit the Tory Party, saying she is “saddened” by their decision. Many Tory MPs – including Brexiteers – share the same sentiments…

Three Tories ‘On the Verge of Defecting’ to Join Labour Splitters’ Group

Sarah Wollaston, Heidi Allen, and Anna Soubry are said to be on the verge of leaving the Conservative Party today. Rumours are swirling that the three could jump ship to join the Labour splitters’ ‘The Independent Group’ as early as in time for the start of Prime Minister’s Questions today.

This morning none of the three are responding to requests for comment about joining The Independent Group. Soubry, normally a prolific Twitter user, hasn’t tweeted since Monday morning. Tory whips last night told Newsnight’s Nicholas Watt that the three had gone “very, very silent” and yesterday Soubry failed to vote in three Commons votes, without telling her whips and despite not seeking a pair.

Wollaston and Allen have never fitted in to the Conservative Party, rebelling against the leadership since they got in to Parliament on a wide array of issues. Wollaston opposed tax cuts that even John McDonnell supported. Soubry on the other hand is aligned with the Tory Party on everything bar Brexit. Her leaving would not be something to celebrate…

Labour MP Joan Ryan’s defection last night took The Independent Group’s numbers up to eight. Three more MPs joining would make their Parliamentary group as large the Liberal Democrats…

Bercow Selects Soubry Amendment for Debate

Bercow has called just three amendments to be debated and voted on today. Which will come as a small relief to everyone with Valentine’s plans tonight…

The specific wording of the Government’s motion itself has drawn the ire of the ERG and Remainers alike, as it means MPs would in effect be endorsing the Spelman amendment against no deal as well as the Brady amendment calling for an alternative to the backstop, although it would be purely symbolic. The ERG are likely to abstain although Guido understands that various reports that they have already come to a firm decision are slightly “premature”…

Guido gives you a quick rundown of what today’s amendments are:

  • A (Jeremy Corbyn): Fairly pointless Labour frontbench amendment calling for the Government to move another motion by 27 February. Which they have already committed to…
  • I (Ian Blackford): SNP amendment with Lib Dem support calling for the Government to immediately begin negotiations with the EU to extend Article 50. Looks like they already have been
  • E (Anna Soubry): Cross-party amendment from the usual Remainer suspects – calls on the Government to publish the most recent official Cabinet briefing document on the implications of a no-deal Brexit. Will be the closest vote but it won’t be legally binding…

Bercow sparing the People’s Vote campaign’s blushes for today by not selecting any of the no-hoper second referendum amendments…

Tory People’s Vote Campaign Loses Most of its MPs Despite Burning Through £40,000 of Dark Money

The Tory awkward squad launched their own “distinctive” People’s Vote campaign last month under the excruciatingly bad name-pun of ‘Right to Vote’. At the time of their launch Right to Vote widely claimed to have 10 Tory MPs on board, although Phillip Lee only counted eight at the launch event – Sam Gyimah, Heidi Allen, Dominic Grieve, Justine Greening, Guto Bebb, Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and himself.

That number appears to have shrunk even further by the time of their latest ‘intervention’ this week, with just four MPs putting their name to their letter calling for Brexit to be delayed – Gyimah, Lee, Grieve and Bebb along with two hardline Remainer Lords. They seemed so desperate for MP support that the letter even originally listed “Baroness Altmann MP” as a signatory before the amusing mishap was corrected…

Incredibly, Right to Vote have reportedly spent a whopping £40,000 so far, despite not even having a website or a Twitter account at the time they launched, and their woeful lack of impact generally. As a campaigning organisation specifically made up of members from only one party they also clearly satisfy the Electoral Commission’s definition of a ‘members association’, which means they have should have registered with the Electoral Commission and declared every donation they have received over £7,500 by now – they haven’t. By law, the public have a right to know exactly whose dark money they’ve been fruitlessly burning through…

How Top Tories Responded to Brady’s Victory

Top Tories gave their reaction to last night’s votes on Newsnight – Graham Brady insisted that it was the Commons that had given May a mandate, not himself. A forceful Steve Baker told people to “wake up to the reality” that “that backstop is not getting through the House of Commons, not ever.” Boris reiterated that his support for May’s deal was conditional on the backstop being removed and replaced with alternative arrangements.[…] Read the rest

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Quote of the Day

Boris responds to Tusk…

“I don’t want a No Deal Brexit but I say to our EU friends if they don’t want No Deal they have got to get rid of the backstop from treaty. If Donald Tusk doesn’t want to go down in history as Mr No Deal Brexit then I hope this point will be borne in mind by him too.”

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