Rory Stewart Jumps to Second Place With Tory Members

Looks like Rory Stewart’s ‘unique’ style of campaigning hasn’t done him too much harm, he’s managed an improbable jump into second place in the latest ConHome leadership survey. He’s still going to need at least another eight votes if the fun is going to continue. He tells The Sun he is still “one or two votes short”…

Raab and Gove have both been pushed down a place and fall under 10% for the first time in months, Hunt has closed the gap slightly while the Saj has managed to put a bit of distance between himself and the remaining candidates. Hancock looks to have cleared the 16-vote bar with George Freeman’s switch from Gove yesterday, the other three all have work to do. The membership won’t be too distraught either way, it’s just 2% for McVey and Leadsom while Hancock and Harper don’t even muster 1%…

It’s all a bit academic anyway, these are all molehills compared to Boris Johnson’s towering peak – breaking the 50% mark for the first time. His smooth launch yesterday failed to offer any kind of gamechanging gaffe his rivals need to dent his imposing lead. It’s increasingly starting to look like a race for second place…

McVey Calls for BBC to Reverse Licence Fee Hike

Former BBC employee Esther McVey has become the first Tory leadership candidate to wade into the BBC licence fee row, accusing the BBC of breaking a deal it made to increase the licence fee on the condition it kept them free for over-75s. Esther has pledged to force the BBC to reverse the decision…

The licence fee remains a deeply unpopular tax and Guido is surprised the other Tory leadership candidates are not trying to make more hay with it. Even Theresa May (remember her?) has got involved. Pledging to stop Gary Lineker cashing in at pensioners’ expense is hardly going to be an unpopular policy…

Lorraine Kelly Savages Esther

Tension was high on GMB this morning when Lorraine slipped out of character responding to Piers Morgan’s question of whether she remembers Esther from her GMTV days with a curt “yes I do.” Thirty seconds later she claimed to not remember Esther at all. If looks could kill…

UPDATE: Esther has shed a bit more light on her historic feud with Lorraine, telling Paul Brand they used to share a dressing room. Until Esther was promoted…

Esther Launches Campaign With ‘Public Service’ Video

There’s a twist in the latest Tory leadership launch video – there’s almost no sign of the candidate herself for the first minute of the video. Instead Esther McVey’s big pitch is being a “public servant” focused on you, the voter. However the voters she needs right now are MPs, can she get the three more she needs to stay in the race?

McVey: I Would Use Every Tool At My Disposal to Leave EU

Meet the Candidates: Team McVey

Esther McVey is positioning herself as the most ‘authentic’ Brexit candidate in the Tory leadership race, she’s gone even further than Dominic Raab in actively advocating a no deal Brexit as her preferred option. She’s also set out robust positions on spending aid cash on police and schools and scrapping HS2 in favour of investing in the North and the regions. Combined with her blue collar Tory credentials as a Barnado’s girl from Liverpool, could a different “blonde bombshell” wrongfoot the frontrunners?

Team McVey is a blue collar affair and a youthful one too. James Roberts, a former CTF operative and now Political Director at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, is doing strategy while Tory candidate Clark Vasey, who runs corporate affairs for Fujitsu, is working on policy. Brexiteer spinner Ed Barker is doing her comms, although McVey will be hoping his previous career as a saxophonist for George Michael doesn’t lead to any careless whispers on the campaign trail. Dan O’Neill, former aide to Richard Tice and Michael Fallon, is in charge of the digital side of the campaign. He’s also a saxophonist, will they be tempted to start a band?

McVey is also receiving informal advice from former senior journalist turned PR guru Ian Monk, as well as former Tory MP David Nuttall and of course her famous First Fiancé Philip Davies. Former Tory Vice Chair for youth Ben Bradley is leading her Parliamentary operation. She’s got five MPs publicly backing her at the moment including Remainer Gary Streeter – despite her Brexit position. Can her blue collar agenda reach out further beyond her Brexiteer base?

Social media support: MakeWay4McVey has a great name but only 284 followers and questionable proofreading skills, McVey herself has 34.3k followers on Twitter, she’s new to Instagram but has already got 164 followers in under 24 hours. No sign of a Facebook page…

Mainstream media support: The Telegraph has run a number of supportive op-eds although no major endorsements as of yet.

ConservativeHome members survey: 3.1% (7th)

YouGov public recognition: not yet included

William Hill odds: 50/1 (14th)

Esther McVey Goes for Clean Brexit

Esther McVey is not beating around the bush, she’s going for a full, no deal, clean Brexit:

“The EU elections were the worst national election results ever for the Conservative Party. The message from our voters is clear – we must leave the EU on 31st October with a clean break, nothing else will wash now. People saying we need a Brexit policy to bring people together are misreading the situation. That is clearly not possible. We need to deliver on the referendum result with a clean break and then we bring people together by how we govern the country outside the EU.”

Nothing else will wash she says…

McVey: No Hard Irish Border if There’s No Deal

As Barnier, Juncker, Varadkar, Coveney and the EU have all admitted on countless occasions…

Esther McVey’s Leadership Pitch

A tough Brexit stance mixed with “blue collar Conservatism”…

Guido Victory: Esther Ringed

Guido spoke with Philip Davies this afternoon following the commencement of our campaign to get him to get a ring for Esther McVey following their engagement. Davies assures Guido that he has bought a ring, “three or four weeks ago from Hatton Garden”, it is just taking an unusually long time to be custom fitted. Guido got Mrs Fawkes’ ring made from scratch in less time. Esther must have a very busy schedule. Guido is looking forward to the photo shoot…

Esther’s Campaign Proposal

Guido is a big fan of Esther McVey, who is embarking on a pub-tour leadership campaign, flying the flag for “Blue Collar Conservativism”, something that has been missing from the Tory offer since Thatcher won over the aspiring classes with council house sales, union busting, and national pride. Important issues.

The more pressing immediate issue for Guido follows on from her revelation that Phil Davies, her MP flat-mate, ‘has popped the question and I have said yes. I haven’t got a date and I haven’t got a ring, but we hope to marry sometime next year.’ Guido has seen Esther and Phil around at events, they are a lovely well-matched couple. So Phil, this is said in friendly way…

In the words of Beyoncé, “you shoulda put a ring on it”. You are not an impoverished teenager. Pull your finger out Phil, you are punching well above your weight, stop messing about and pop down to Hatton Garden. It will also provide some great campaign narrative and photos… we are such romantics…

Readers will remember that Guido’s campaign support for the institution of marriage succeeded in getting Ed Miliband and Justine to do the right thing in the end. We can do it again…

McVey: Rules Have Changed, It’s This Deal or No Brexit

Esther McVey, who resigned from the cabinet in protest at Theresa May’s Brexit deal, has said she will now “hold her nose” and back the deal in the third ‘Meaningful Vote’ this week because “the rules have all changed”.

Brexit Big Beasts Going Wobbly

Brexiteers are getting seriously nervous after Parliament voted this week first to block no deal, and then in favour of an Article 50 extension – with Theresa May’s support – with another load of egregious antics from Bercow thrown in. The Benn/Cooper/Letwin coup was seen off by just two votes. While neither of the main votes was legally binding, the fact that an extension was proposed by the Government and carried with a majority of over 200 has alarmed many committed Leavers…

Numerous Brexiteer MPs have been dropping hints over the past few days that they are starting to feel that voting for May’s dire deal may be the lesser of two evils, given the risks of losing Brexit altogether once lengthy delays start being put into law. The price is that May herself agrees to quit

Resolute Leaver Lucy Allan told the FT: “I have to seriously consider supporting the prime minister’s deal, although in my view it is a worse option than remain”. Conor Burns added: “I’m actively looking for reasons to support the withdrawal agreement. That’s why the attorney-general’s advice was so important, critical to many of us to see whether we could be persuaded to support it.” Burns is one of Boris’s closest allies…

Even Esther McVey dropped a very strong hint today, saying “people are going to have to think a different way next week”. Her diehard Eurosceptic other half Philip Davies already raised eyebrows by voting for the deal at MV2…

Other leading Brexit supporters are also coming round to this view, Fraser Nelson wrote in The Telegraph yesterday that May’s deal is:

“a pale imitation of the Brexit that could have been, the Brexit a different leader might have been able to negotiate. It’s half a Brexit – but it’s better than no Brexit.”

Matt Ridley tweeted out Fraser’s article this morning, adding: “I am fairly sure now, after yesterday’s votes, that this is right.” Even deeply committed Brexiteer economist Professor Patrick Minford wrote yesterday: “Let not the best with little chance be the enemy of the good with a reasonable chance”…

The DUP will be in London all weekend to try to hammer out further reassurances from the Government over the backstop, after Nigel Dodds told the press “we want to leave with a deal” this afternoon. Ultimately they still hold the key, if the DUP come over then many MPs will follow, if they don’t budge then MV3 is going the way of MV1 and 2…

Brexiteers To March from Sunderland to Westminster

Leave Means Leave have announced the ‘March to Leave’ where over the course of thirteen days, Brexiteers will be marching the length of Enlgand from Sunderland down to Westminster, in time for our scheduled departure from the European Union on March 29th. The route pays homage to the working class Jarrow March of 1936…

The campaign was launched this afternoon by Nigel Farage, John Longworth, Esther McVey, and Richard Tice. Each day the marchers will travel between two locations with Leave Means Leave inviting Brexiteers from up and down the country to join them for some (or all!) of the way. Each day they’ll be walking for an average of five hours. Guido wonders how much time they’ll be spending in pubs along the way…

There are two categories of people who want to join in on the march; cheerleaders who join the core marchers at the start and finish of each leg, cheering them on, and the core marchers who pay a one off fee of £50 and receive fully paid accommodation, official kit, and breakfast and dinner for all the days they are able to join the march. They will be releasing more details on how to become a ‘cheerleader’ closer to the march…

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

McVey Would Run For Leader If People Asked Her

“If people asked me, then of course you’d say… of course you’d give it serious concern and do it…”

Esther McVey: I Did Not Cry

 

Esther McVey Asks If We Will Leave The EU on 29th March

Theresa May went some way to undermine her “my deal or no Brexit” strategy by confirming to Esther McVey that we will leave the EU on 29th March 2019. Come what may…

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.[…] Read the rest

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Quote of the Day

In response to the news that Emily Thornberry described the Lib Dems as “like the Taliban” over their new revoke Article 50 Brexit policy, the former Lib Dem leader responded:

“Come on Emily, if we really were like a Middle East terrorist group, don’t you think Jeremy would’ve invited us to a conference fringe meeting before now?”

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