Angela Smith Selected for LibDems in Altrincham and Sale West

“The Liberal Democrats are delighted to announce that Angela Smith will stand in the key Conservative battleground, Altrincham and Sale West, against Sir Graham Brady in the next general election.”

Graham Brady won 51% of the vote in 2017. LibDems won 7%. Looks like Angela is retiring at the next election…

Graham Brady Returns as 1922 Chair

Following the leadership candidacy that never was, Graham Brady has been reappointed Chairman of the Tory Backbench 1922 Committee. He will remain in situ until a new executive is elected in the next parliamentary session.

Brady Resurfaces With Fresh Call to Bin the Backstop

Guido can shed some new light on the curious case of the disappearing 1922 Committee Chairman – Graham Brady has finally resurfaced several weeks after disappearing without trace following his bizarre decision to ‘recuse’ himself from the Committee to launch his own abortive leadership bid. Not a single MP came forward in his support, Guido can’t even remember him making the case for himself…

Now Brady has popped up in the foreword to the latest Policy Exchange paper by Lord Bew on the Irish backstop, calling for the next Tory leader to drop the backstop. As Brady points out, the only Brexit option to ever command a majority in the House of Commons was the deal with his amendment calling for alternative arrangements replacing the backstop. The EU are the ones chasing unicorns if they think a deal with the backstop is ever getting through…

No Backers Yet for Penny, Rory or Brady

With Guido’s co-conspirators having identified the given allegiances of some 82 Tory MPs, which is 25% of the parliamentary party, only three would-be candidates have no identified backers so far. Admittedly only one – Rory Stewart – has publicly declared he will run. The rumour going around a febrile Westminster, categorically and vehemently denied by her people, is that Penny Mordaunt will come out for Hunt…

View lists here: order-order.com/backers

Where the 1922 Executive Stand on the Tory Leadership Rules

Guido understands that this is how the so-called “men in grey suits” – the 1922 Executive Committee – have been divided over whether to change the Conservative Party’s rules to allow Theresa May to be challenged with a fresh no confidence vote before December. It’s on a knife edge:

  • Pro-change (8): Bob Blackman (Secretary), Nigel Evans (Secretary), Geoffrey Clifton Brown (Treasurer), Bernard Jenkin, Pauline Latham, Sheryll Murray, William Wragg, Bill Wiggin
  • Anti-change (9): Cheryl Gillan (Vice-Chair), Charles Walker (Vice-Chair), Kemi Badenoch (Tory Party Vice-Chair), John Lamont, Jeremy Lefroy, Mark Pawsey, Antoinette Sandbach, Alec Shelbrooke (Tory Party Vice-Chair), John Stevenson
  • Abstain (1): Graham Brady (Chair)

The split is largely Leave-Remain, although three Leavers, 1922 Vice-Chairmen Cheryl Gillan and Charles Walker, and Kemi Badenoch, are currently opposing the change. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown previously opposed removing May but has publicly switched since. Crucially, Chairman Graham Brady – a Brexiteer – is on the fence, while others like Gillan are thought to be wavering…

As Guido reported earlier, Brexiteers are weighing up different strategic options to maximise the chances of successfully changing the party leadership. May has been granted a week’s reprieve to have one more attempt at getting a deal through. The Committee can’t stay on the fence forever when she fails again…

UPDATE: Guido understands that Kemi Badenoch is actually opposing any change, not abstaining as originally reported.

1922 Committee Ultimatum Shifts to Next Week

Yesterday’s 1922 Executive Committee meeting was touted as significant but members failed to decide to initiate moves against the Prime Minister this week. Brexiteer sources close to the committee, scarred from their experience in December, tell Guido that they are hesitant to rush into a leadership challenge again until they are sure they could win it.

One said that they want to wait to “inflict maximum pain” so more of the Parliamentary Party wakes up to the urgency of dislodging the Prime Minister. With another WA vote now seemingly taking place within the next two weeks, the European Elections, and the Peterborough by election on the horizon, a source told Guido that “it’s only going to get worse”…

The Prime Minister will meet the committee next week, likely on Tuesday or Wednesday where they hope she will present a more comprehensive exit plan than her current refrain of seeing the first phase of negotiations through. Some are more optimistic than others that this will materialise…

Meanwhile the balance of power on the committee appears to be shifting against the Prime Minister, with previous waverer Sir Geoffrey Clifton Brown this morning definitively saying it’s time for May to go.

Other executive members Cheryl Gillan and Kemi Badenoch (who is also a party vice chair) are thought to still be on the fence. Guido looks forward to next week’s showdown…

May To Face Brady Ultimatum Today

It’s not just Labour-Tory talks that kick off again today. Guido hears that Graham Brady will meet with the Prime Minister today to in effect offer her an ultimatum, announce a timetable for her departure or his 1922 Executive Committee will change the rules to allow another confidence vote for the parliamentary party.

The 1922 Executive were finely balanced in terms of those who want to change the rules and those who don’t. Guido understands that two crucial MPs who were against a change in the rules two weeks ago could now swing the vote in favour of change: Cheryl Gillan, and Geoffrey Clifton-Brown. Sources close to the committee are adamant that their patience with May is running out…

Meanwhile grassroots Tory members will hold a non-binding no confidence vote in the Prime Minister on Saturday June 15, which is likely to go against her. ConservativeHome found that 82% of members want her gone as soon as possible. Tick tock…

Mark Francois Calls for Second Vote

ERG refusenik Mark Francois has written to Graham Brady, Chairman of the 1922 Committee, calling for an “informal ‘Indicative Vote'” on Theresa May’s leadership of the Conservative Party. The rules say that formal votes initiated by letters to the 1922 Committee chairman can only take place once a year…

The letter, first published by BrexitCentral, doesn’t hold back, beginning with “Enough is enough! If she goes by Wednesday we can Leave on Friday.” It ends with “she said ‘I will continue to serve fior as long as you wish me to’, it is now time to test that wish.” Punchy…

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…

Graham Brady’s Backstop Amendment Passes 317 to 301

After 24 hours of drama, Graham Brady’s amendment calling for the backstop to be replaced has been approved by the Commons by 317 to 301. Majority of 16…

It is a fair majority of MPs on an amendment which expresses conditional approval for a deal, providing legally binding changes are made to the backstop. The EU’s photocopiers are already going into overdrive recycling old statements about the deal being non-negotiable, the reality is that they cannot ignore this vote. MPs have given May a powerful mandate, it’s time she used it and stood up to the EU…

Bercow Selects Graham Brady’s Amendment

After much speculation as to whether he would choose to deliberately ignore it, John Bercow has decided to call Graham Brady’s amendment on modifying the Irish backstop, as well as all the other major amendments that were expected including Yvette Cooper’s Brexit blocker. Even Bercow didn’t have the temerity not to call such a pivotal amendment – and one with Government support…

This is the order the amendments will be voted on, starting at 7pm:

  • (a) Jeremy Corbyn – calls on the PM to rule out no deal while, predictably, keeping all options on the table
  • (o) Ian Blackford – notes that the SNP don’t like Brexit, calls for no deal to be ruled out and Article 50 extended
  • (g) Dominic Grieve – suspends normal Parliamentary procedure on six dates in February and March allowing MPs to hijack Brexit
  • (b) Yvette Cooper – suspends normal Parliamentary procedure on 5th February to allow MPs to bring a Brexit-blocking Bill in
  • (j) Rachel Reeves – calls on the PM to seek an extension to Article 50
  • (i) Caroline Spelman – notes that Parliament rejects leaving without a deal
  • (n) Graham Brady – calls for the Northern Ireland backstop to be replaced with alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border

Labour have so far indicated that they will back Grieve, Reeves and Spelman as well as Cooper. All of which are aimed at delaying and frustrating Brexit, the People’s Vote are even running sponsored ads on Twitter promoting them…

However, of all the amendments, only Grieve and Cooper have any legal effect as they would actively change the Standing Orders of the House, upending centuries of precedent. All the others, including Brady, are only statements of the Commons’ preferences. Brexiteers are not committing to back May’s deal by voting for Brady, but they will be bolstering the country’s negotiating position…

Brady “Hopeful” of Getting Backstop Amendment Through

Sir Graham Brady is spending today pitching his backstop amendment to MPs, telling Sky News that while he has not yet been told whether the Government will formally support the amendment, he is “hopeful” of getting “nearly all if not all” Tory MPs on board as well as some Labour moderates. He also warns against the Cooper/Boles and Grieve amendments designed to kick Brexit into the long grass. “Delay is the enemy of decision”…

Major Industry Group Preparing to Call for Backstop to be Time Limited or Scrapped

Guido can reveal that at least one major industry group is planning to come out early next week and call for the backstop to be scrapped or substantially amended to include a short time limit. The industry is closely linked to Brexit issues and the business group which represents it is intending to call for negotiations on the backstop to be reopened in order to get a “sensible resolution” to the Brexit process.

An industry insider told Guido:

“The withdrawal agreement without the backstop would be a good negotiating result for the U.K. It delivers the Brexit that many Leavers want, and is the only way to guarantee No Deal is taken off the table. So the removal of the backstop could be the cause that finally unites Parliament. Barnier and the Commission have accidentally shown they agreed with David Davis all along. There does not have to be a hard physical border with Ireland, and Max Fac is not ‘wishful thinking’ but a common sense approach. This is the best chance all sides have to a sensible resolution.”

After the EU’s torrid week where they fatally undermined their own rationale for needing the backstop at all, this is looking like an increasingly viable path to a workable deal. Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris have hinted that they might be prepared to come round to the deal if the backstop was substantially altered or removed, and it has been the DUP’s main demand for months.

Significantly, Tory backbench chief Sir Graham Brady tabled a new amendment last night with the backing of Remainer May ally Damian Green, Andrew Murrison and all the officers of the 1922 Committee, which:

“requires the Northern Ireland backstop to be replaced with alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border; supports leaving the European Union with a deal and would therefore support the Withdrawal Agreement subject to this change.”

There will no doubt be plenty of huffing and puffing from the EU side about how changes aren’t possible, but if this amended deal is approved by the House of Commons, the EU will inevitably come under serious pressure to modify its own position. This could finally be the route that gets the UK out of the exit door on time…

Tonight’s No Confidence Timetable

Graham Brady has briefed reporters on the timetable for this evening’s confidence vote in the Prime Minister:

  • 5pm Theresa May addresses the 1922 Committee
  • 6pm Leadership ballot opens
  • 8pm Leadership ballot closes
  • 9pm Graham Brady will first inform the Prime Minister of the result, and then announce it to MPs and the press. He will then read out the numbers of votes on either side.

We’ll know whether Theresa May secures her position as Prime Minister for another twelve months shortly after 9 pm this evening…

Brady: Leadership Contest Can Take Place “Very Quickly”

Sir Graham Brady has been explaining the rules of any potential leadership contest which would follow a successful vote of no confidence. As Brady says, the timetable and the rules would be decided by the 1922 Executive Committee and approved by the Party Board “as quickly as possible”. The stages of whittling it down to the final 2 MPs could happen “very quickly” even though the postal ballot of the Tory membership would “inevitably take a little longer”. There is no need to delay Brexit, as David Gauke is trying to suggest…

Letters Are Going In…

The BBC’s Laura K is reporting that Brexiteer anger is so high this evening that more letters are going in to Graham Brady, despite the ERG not having made a decision on whether to back a letters campaign. The ERG are leaning towards backing letter writing, but the word is if they do this will not kick off until tomorrow. Lots are waiting for the conclusions of the cabinet meeting and the PM’s statement this evening…

Rumours are swirling Westminster as to how many letters have gone in now. It’s said to be very close… 

Rich’s Monday Morning View

Whips Ask MPs to Withdraw Letters as No.10 Fear They’re Approaching 48

There is a lot of talk among Tory MPs that Number 10 now fears the number of letters of no confidence in Theresa May is close to reaching the 48 threshold. Several MPs have told Guido this morning that Downing Street has signalled it believes the number is approaching 48. Over the last 24 hours whips have asked MPs who they believe may have submitted letters to Graham Brady to withdraw them or risk putting Corbyn in Number 10. Some Tory Brexiteers are cautioning colleagues against putting letters in now, telling them to wait until after the summer recess as they believe they have a better chance of removing May then, when it becomes clear further concessions to the EU are being planned. A senior ERG MP tells Guido:

“While this is about change of policy, it’s obvious now that this won’t happen unless we have a change of leader. The PM and No10 appear completely tone deaf and on too many occasions have treated Brexiteers with utter contempt. 

But if 48 letters go in now, Theresa may well win a vote of confidence. What most sensible Tory MPs are doing is waiting until we get back from recess after summer.

“If Theresa hasn’t dramatically changed this dismal excuse for an offer by then, and worse still, concedes even further to the EU, then the letters go in and she is finished. MPs in Brexit-voting seats know they will have seriously let their constituents down if they deliver BRINO while pretending it’s what people voted for. It’s shameful.”

May is in the danger zone…

Andrea Jenkyns: “100% Ready” to Trigger Tory Leadership Contest

As Andrea says, she is a blunt Northerner, Tory MP Andrea Jenkyns is ready to put her letter into Graham Brady if Theresa May crosses the Brexit red lines. She’s not the only one…

Brady: Tory MPs Back May “At the Moment”

Graham Brady: “I think Theresa did a good thing last week in making it clear that she’s around for the long term and that she’s not about to cut and run.

[…] Read the rest

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Peter Mandelson tells Emma Barnett…

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