Boris Serves Tory MPs Self-Interest

Matthew D’Ancona’s back handed compliment to Boris…

“There is any number of reasons for MPs to exclude Johnson from the final pair that will go to the Tory membership. But, at a level most of them do not care to explore too deeply, a great many of them sense that – in this extraordinary new era – he may be the candidate that serves their self-interest best.”

Tory Leadership Hopefuls: Who Are You?

We could be days away from a Tory leadership race if Theresa May loses a no confidence vote. The jostling for position on the Tory benches is becoming blatant. Leadership hopefuls are tapping up donors for support, assembling campaign teams and beaming as they glad-hand fellow MPs. With that in mind WPI Strategy commissioned a 2,000 head poll from Deltapoll with fieldwork done last week (25/26 March). They asked the public “Who would you recognise in the street?”

David Lidington would be recognised by 1 in 20 people – which seems on the high side. Liz Truss would be recognised by 1 in 14 people proving that not everyone is on Instagram. Dominic Raab will be disappointed that his brief profile raising period as Brexit Secretary means that 1 in 9 people claim they know his face. Then we get into potential leaders who do have some recognition with voters. Amber, Saj and Hunt are recognised by a quarter to a third of voters, Mogg (who is not running) and Gove are recognised by two fifths of voters. There is only one candidate who stands out with over three quarters of the public recognising him – Boris.

Blair: Boris Would Beat Corbyn

Tony Blair told the Huffington Post yesterday that he has “absolutely no doubt” that the “formidable campaigner” Boris would defeat a Corbyn-led Labour Party. Meanwhile Theresa May’s Conservatives have slipped five points behind Corbyn’s Labour…

Boris: A Bad Deal is Better Than Losing Brexit Altogether

Boris Johnson has publicly confirmed that he will be taking the “very painful” step of voting for the Withdrawal Agreement today. As Boris says, MPs have to choose between options that actually exist:

Today is the day we promised the country we would leave the European Union. I bitterly regret that we have failed to keep that promise.

Instead we will today vote on the Withdrawal Agreement. I have been and remain intensely critical of the deal. But we have a choice to make now, and that means choosing between options that actually exist. I have come to the sad conclusion that neither this government nor this parliament is willing to leave with no deal.

We therefore run the risk of being forced to accept an even worse version of Brexit or losing Brexit altogether. A bad deal that we have a chance to improve in the next stage of negotiations must be better than those alternatives.

It is very painful to vote for this deal. But I hope we can now work together to remedy its defects, avoid the backstop trap and strive to deliver the Brexit people voted for.

The deal is a bad deal but there is an even worse deal looming into view – full EU membership. May’s promise to leave with no deal is ancient history. The UK can fight to improve a bad deal, if we fail to leave at all there will be no Brexit left to fight for…

Boris Seen As ‘Best Placed To Unite Country’

A new Deltapoll poll taken the day before May announced her possible departure has found that Boris Johnson is the potential Tory leader seen by the public as “best placed to unite the country after we have left the EU.” Remainers score lowest with just 1% of the country viewing David Lidington or Amber Rudd as uniting candidates. There’s still all to play for. The majority of people (55%) responded with ‘Don’t know’…

This news comes as a new Sky Data poll shows Boris is the public’s favourite contender for the top job, with 20%, ahead of Amber Rudd, Michael Gove and Sajid Javid, all of whom sit at 8%. Although 49% of the public responded with ‘none of these’…

Boris: I Will Back the Deal if Phase Two is Different

Last night at a Telegraph event, Boris set out the conditions he would need the Government to meet in order to win over his crucial vote. He said that he needed to “see the proof” that phase two of the negotiations will be different. New negotiating team, new Prime Minister…

“I think there is now an appreciable risk, an appreciable and growing risk that we will not leave at all, and that we will fail to achieve escape velocity.

If people like me are to support this deal, which is a terrible deal and something that I have bitterly opposed, then we need to see the proof that the second phase of negotiations will be different from the first.”

Boris is right. The risk of no Brexit is higher than ever…

ERG Splits On Latest Brexit Vote Overblown

Last night’s Brexit votes were notable less for what they were than the way Tory MPs voted on them. The Government ultimately accepted the new Cooper Amendment F which recommitted them to the timetable for a vote on delaying Brexit that May first offered on Tuesday, imposing a poorly organised three-line whip in favour of the amendment which led to chaos in the voting lobbies. Chris Grayling was spotted in the wrong lobby and the Prime Minister reportedly even had to ask a whip which way to vote…

Despite the confusion, over 100 Tory MPs directly defied the three-line whip to abstain or even vote against the amendment, not a remotely trivial number in itself. However the most interesting subplot that emerged was the split between the 88 MPs who abstained, and the 20 MPs who directly voted against it, including Esther McVey and Bill Cash. Could this be the start of the split between the hard core who will never vote for May’s deal under any circumstances and the group who could come round to it if enough concessions are secured by Geoffrey Cox? Even more significantly, does this signify the minimum number of Tory MPs who would vote for May’s removal in a vote of no confidence if she were to extend Article 50?

ERG sources have played down the significance of the split, the ERG were naturally opposed to the amendment but beyond that were not particularly fussed about whether to vote against it or simply to abstain, given its ultimate lack of significance. Guido also understands that reports of splits emerging between Boris and Rees-Mogg on the one hand and Steve Baker on the other have been much overblown – while Jacob did hint at a slight softening of his position on full-on treaty change to the backstop yesterday, sources close to the three have categorically dismissed reports of any splits emerging between them. Everything still hinges on what, if anything, Cox can bring back from Brussels…

The 20 MPs who voted against the Cooper amendment outright were:

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Boris Licked on Camera

Boris Johnson has had an interesting weekend, spending part of it getting licked on camera by a large cheetah. A friendlier reception than he is getting from some of his fellow Tory MPs at the moment…

Boris Still Miles Ahead of Tory Leadership Rivals

The latest ConHome Tory leadership survey results are out, with Boris Johnson maintaining his commanding lead at the head of the pack. Boris sits comfortably on 26%, more than double his closest rival in Dominic Raab with 12%. Gove comes back in from the cold into third place after his barnstorming anti-Corbyn speech in Parliament last month.

The biggest surprise is much-vaunted contender Sajid Javid sliding down to fifth with only 7%. Outspoken Tory Remainers are even further behind, with Amber Rudd the highest ranked in 8th with just 4%. May is safe from a formal Tory challenge until December, but pressure for a more pro-Brexit leader will inevitably mount once the Article 50 process is finally over…

Rent Boris Johnson’s Home For £2,000 a Week: Picture Special

Guido brings you an extra-special edition of Through the Keyhole – taking you inside the former home of Boris Johnson where he fought and won the EU referendum. The historic £3 million end-of-terrace perched next to Regent’s Canal in Islington can be yours to rent for just £2,000 a week. Less than half the eye-watering £4,500 a week Remainers are stumping up for Stop Brexit Man’s Westminster palace…

Plenty of space to entertain your friends in this elegant living room, there’s even a piano if you fancy giving a little rendition. Just don’t play Ode to Joy…

Cook your meals in the open plan kitchen where Michael Gove reportedly convinced Boris to back Brexit. A little taste of history…

The spacious master bedroom has a nice oriental tinge as well as its own private roof terrace and adjoining dressing room. That sofa might come in handy for when you’ve fallen out with your other half…

Take your pick from the three stylishly decorated bathrooms spread over the house’s five floors. Very nice…

The large garden out the back is perfect for having friends round for a barbeque on those hot summer weekends. Just don’t forget to organise your leadership bid too…

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.

Liz Truss added that yesterday’s results were a “significant way forward” that showed that “there is a majority for the PM’s deal plus some changes to the backstop.” The EU have already launched a media blitz to insist it’s not possible but behind the scenes they have no choice but to digest the significance of the result…

Meanwhile on Planet Anna Soubry, it was all “deeply concerning” as she saw her party “drifting over to the right”. Cheer up…

Rees-Mogg Hints at Brexit Compromise if Backstop Goes

Jacob Rees-Mogg has dropped some strong hints that he may be prepared to soften his stance on Theresa May’s Brexit deal if the backstop is taken out. The ERG Chairman told a packed Bruges Group event that “as long as the backstop is there, I will not vote for the deal,” but added that “there is hope that there could be reformation of this deal to make it more acceptable.” The Moggster added that he felt things were “going our way” with EU splits beginning to open up with Poland and, significantly, Ireland, while insisting that he was not going soft:

“I like reading the papers that I’ve become a soft touch. I do whatever my children tell me. And they’re all staunch Eurosceptics.”

This could prove to be a smart move from the ERG, by flat-out opposing any form of the deal they risked condemning themselves to irrelevance, particularly if Yvette Cooper succeeds in ramming a juggernaut through the constitution next week. By focusing their demands on the more realistic target of the backstop they could see momentum swing back their way – even if the backstop is not removed altogether, legally binding changes are looking more feasible than before. As Rees-Mogg wrote himself on Sunday, “Even Mrs May’s deal would be better than not leaving at all”…

UPDATE: Boris has also hinted at a possible compromise if the deal changes, saying on the way past out of Number 10 that “if we negotiate with conviction… we can secure the changes that we need”…

May Ducks Boris and Nigel’s Questions

Theresa May ducked the opportunity to respond to both Boris Johnson and Nigel Dodds’ questions, as to whether there will be changes to the legal text of the Withdrawal Agreement. May’s responses are typically non-committal… 

“There are a number of options”

If there are no legal changes, May can expect a similar result second time round…

Boris: We Need to Escape the Backstop Trap

Boris was at the JCB factory in Staffordshire this morning to deliver a big set-piece speech on Brexit. His fundamental message was for British politicians to “stop fighting each other” and turn around to “face the real obstacle” – the trap of the backstop:

“We need to escape the trap of the Irish backstop and it’s frankly more than disappointing that in the five weeks since the deal was whisked off the table before Parliament could vote it down, we haven’t even tried to get rid of it. We haven’t even asked!”

This sums up many Brexiteers’ frustrations about Theresa May’s apparent refusal to even ask the EU to make significant changes to what is manifestly the single greatest obstacle to a deal being done. The perception of Downing Street is that they are scared to even suggest serious alterations for fear of offending the EU, on the advice of their so-called EU “sherpas”. The only place the “sherpas” have led the UK is to this pitiful deal…

Meanwhile Guido hears that one senior Remainer has even been receiving calls from his EU buddies in a panic about the backstop derailing the deal altogether. If May wants to get her own MPs and the DUP back on board, her best chance is by finally showing some backbone on the backstop…

Boris: Let Us Not Continue to Flog this Dead Horse

When this deal is voted down, let us not continue to flog this dead horse. Instead we must get Brexit right and seize the opportunities before us…

BurkaGate: Boris Unanimously Cleared by Tory Party

An independent expert panel chaired by Naomi Ellenbogen QC have unanimously cleared Boris Johnson of any wrongdoing for his Telegraph column which infamously criticised Denmark’s Burka ban over the summer. An extraordinary row ensued, egged on by the left of the Conservative party who called for Boris to be disciplined as a result of his resoundingly liberal column, which argued that the Burka can be criticised without the need for the sort of government ban that many continental European countries have imposed.

The expert panel found him “respectful and tolerant” and defended his writing style saying he had a right to use satire to make his point. It firther stated that censorship was “unwise” and that It said that the Conservative Party’s Code of Conduct did not “override an individual’s right to freedom of expression”. Polls at the time show the public agree, with a clear majority saying Boris should not be disciplined…

A friend of the former two term Mayor of London told Guido that it is “welcome news that Boris has rightly been cleared” and the panel’s ruling completely supported what Boris said from the very beginning” that “his article did foster respect and tolerance for the wearing of the burka.” The friend added that Party Chairman Brandon Lewis should “do the honourable thing and apologise to Boris with the same zeal he shamelessly used to smear his name during the summer.” Punchy…

Sajid is the Top Choice of Tory Councillors

Survation have done something interesting, they have polled 862 Tory councillors on their preference for the next Tory leader. Using a run-off single transferable vote method they looked into who would win. First preferences gave a close lead for Sajid Javid of 150 to 142.

After transferring votes Sajid sucks up the majority of third-placed Hunt’s votes and wins decisively. This is an interesting exercise that doesn’t exactly mirror the actual Tory election process which has MPs select two candidates to put before the wider Tory membership. What it does show is that in an open field the race would likely be between Johnson & Javid. The survey reinforces the findings of the ConservativeHome surveys that it should be a two-horse race. Whether Tory MPs agree is another matter…

Watch Survation’s explainer video here.

Steve Baker Sets Out Tory Leadership Shortlist

Former Brexit minister Steve Baker has renewed his call for MPs to submit letters of no confidence in the PM, telling Today that Conservative MPs need to realise that we “cannot go staggering forward any longer like this” and that it is Theresa May’s “duty now to go”. More letters have reportedly gone in since yesterday’s debacle but somehow they’re always around “5 letters short” of 48…

When pressed on who should replace her, Baker gave a shortlist of four Brexiteers – Esther McVey, Dominic Raab, David Davis and Boris Johnson – and called on them to decide between themselves who would be the chosen candidate. Good luck with that…

“There are four people who have resigned from the Cabinet – Esther McVey, Dominic Raab, David Davis and Boris Johnson – the four of them need to work out between them which one of them is going to be our candidate to unite the country, unite the party, and take us out of the EU successfully.”

Boris is certainly back in the frame after his weighty appearance setting out a clear plan for how to proceed on Marr on Sunday, while Tory MPs are the one constituency he has consistently struggled to win over, his enduring popularity with Tory members and the country as a whole is not something MPs can ignore. Raab is Boris’s most likely challenger – he has burnished his credentials with his principled resignation although he does not have the public recognition factor of Boris or DD. DD has been out of the spotlight of late, while McVey’s support may end up being crucial to one of the other candidates if she does not go for leader herself.

Baker is right that Brexiteers should unite around a candidate when the inevitable leadership contest comes – Remainer Cabinet ministers including Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt are also on manoeuvres and the risk is real that Brexiteer infighting could lead to a repeat of the situation where a Remainer PM simply wins the race by default. Whether politicians are willing to put their egos to one side and back one of their main rivals is another matter…

Rich’s Monday Morning View

Boris: Do Not Underestimate the Deep Sense of Personal Responsibility I Feel for Brexit

Punchy stuff…[…] 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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