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

Meet the Candidates: Team Hunt

Jeremy Hunt has been more overtly making himself known as a contender for the top job and today has finally signalled he’s running. Since leaving the Health Department that made him a hate figure for the left (in 2017 he received more social media abuse than Diane Abbott), he’s worked on establishing a reputation for competence, get better at connecting with the public, and beefing up his Brexit credentials. Even at the expense of foreign relations…

His ten months as Foreign Secretary got off to a bumpy start on a China trip when he memorably forget his wife’s nationality, but recent trips have proved more beneficial. His flashy tour of Africa last month landed him plenty of helmet-wearing, boat-riding action man photographs, even earning him accolades as “presidential”. Hunt’s SpAds including Ed Jones, Tim Smith and Christina Robinson have been running his campaign machine for the time being. Sue Beeby, an experienced ex-CCHQ staffer and Treasury SpAd currently at HS2, is helping out on the campaign. Former Hunt SpAd and May’s outgoing press secretary Paul Harrison was widely thought to be in the frame, campaign sources close to Hunt insist he is not…

On the Parliamentary front, former Health Minister (and fellow multi-millionaire) Philip Dunne has been working groups of MPs at dinners for Hunt. David Morris has recruited a decent number of supporters too. Andrew Mitchell has made himself close to the team. Much of the pitch has been proposing Hunt as a ‘stop Boris’ safe pair of hands, who sensibly voted Remain but is (now) committed to delivering on the referendum result. Where has Guido heard that pitch before…?

Hunt has been working hard to shore up his ‘re-Leaver’ credentials, Guido understands he’s managed to recruit Leave-voting Leo Docherty and Will Quince on board. He’s been showing skin to Leavers by talking up ‘No Deal’, earning him the nickname “windsock” from Lib Dem voting Tory ultra-Remainer Lord Cooper. Guido hears Hunt has even being trying to court hardcore ERGers like IDS…

Despite a slick campaign and making inroads within the Parliamentary party, Hunt only managed to clock 8% support in the most recent leadership poll of Tory members, behind Boris, Raab, Gove, and Sajid. As the preferred candidate of the Tory Party establishment, he’ll have to set out a bolder vision if he wants to truly shake off the ‘continuity May’ brand…

Social media support: Hunt has 162,000 Twitter followers, and 10,000 likes on his Facebook page. Sadly no ‘Pumped for Hunt’ campaign yet…

Mainstream media support: The Sunday Times has been consistently writing positive news stories. Other papers are biding their time but if Remain support coalesces around him expect the previously Mayite papers to come on board…

ConservativeHome members survey: 6.75% (4th)

Times/YouGov membership poll: 8% (5th)

YouGov public recognition: 37% (3rd)

William Hill odds: 12/1 (5th)

Boris Only Contender Winning Brexiteers Back to the Tories

With the Tory leadership race finally starting to hot up, a new Hanbury Strategy poll has looked at how the potential candidates fare with different sets of voters. Boris is the only contender to make 2017 Tory voters more likely to vote Tory next time round. Not a great result for the contenders Hanbury execs are (informally) advising, Raab places fourth while Hancock isn’t even included… 

The poll found Tory General Election voting intention had dropped to just 21%, well behind Labour on 30% and only just ahead of the Brexit Party on 19% (Change UK surged to 5th place with a whole 6%). Again, Boris was the only contender to make Brexit Party supporters more likely to vote Tory:

Interestingly, the poll also found that voters would be less likely to vote Labour if they backed a second referendum in all circumstances, 37% said they would be less likely to vote Labour if they did, compared to only 32% who said it was more likely. Bad luck Labour Remainers, Corbyn was right…

Boris Fends Off All Challengers in Latest Tory Run-Off Poll

ConservativeHome have done a fresh round of Tory leadership run-offs to see how different combinations of the final two candidates fare with the members in their survey. It’s bad news for Jeremy Hunt whose Brexiteer drag act has not fooled the membership – Hunt loses all four matchups. Sajid Javid doesn’t fare much better, only notching up one narrow 36%-35% win against Hunt…

Out of a maximum of 400 percentage points up for grabs the scorecard for and against was as above. Michael Gove gets a mixed reception among the members, he sees off Remainers Javid (44%-31%) and Hunt (43%-29%) but comfortably loses out to outspoken Brexiteers Dominic Raab (52%-36%) and Boris Johnson (57%-34%). Boris rules the roost, in the final run-off he holds off Raab by 7% (46%-39%). It’s a big change from the last set of run-offs when Boris was nowhere and it was a knife-edge result between Gove and Javid…

Hunt’s Shameless Brunei Spin

In a timely bit of virtue signalling spinners for Jeremy Hunt have managed to successfully plant a story in The Times making it look as if the Foreign Secretary cancelled a fundraising event at the Dorchester hotel last week because its owner, the Sultan of Brunei introduced a law that sets the punishment for homosexual activity as stoning to death. That’s not what attendees of the dinner were told…

Attendees received an email from the Conservative Party’s Treasurers’ Team saying that the dinner had only been postponed, as “the current Parliamentary timetable” meant that MPs could have to be in Parliament that evening. Hunt still tried to take credit…

The dinner was due to take place on the evening of Tuesday 2nd April, before widespread attention was drawn to Brunei’s new penal code. It was postponed before Ellen DeGeneres posted her viral tweet calling for the Dorchester Hotel to be boycotted. The Government took until 4th April to make a statement. Protests outside the Hotel did not begin until 6th April. Either Jeremy Hunt was incredibly prescient in predicting the boycott movement, or he is happy to jump on any passing bandwagon for political gain…

Government Wants to Give State Power to Ban Websites

 

Last week Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced he was appointing Amal Clooney as the UK’s envoy on media freedom. Today Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright has put out a government White Paper on ‘Online Harms’ which includes proposals for a regulator which will have the power to ban the websites of non-compliant companies from being accessed in the UK at all. Someone tell Amal quick!

You would think that the likes of Facebook and Twitter would be up in arms – they are not because as Dom Hallas, Executive Director of The Coalition for a Digital Economy (Coadec), says

“Everyone, including British startups, shares the goal of a safer internet – but these plans will entrench the tech giants, not punish them. The vast scope of the proposals means they cover not just social media but virtually the entire internet – from file sharing to newspaper comment sections. Those most impacted will not be the tech giants the Government claims they are targeting, but everyone else. It will benefit the largest platforms with the resources and legal might to comply – and restrict the ability of Britissh startups to compete fairly. There is a reason that Mark Zuckerberg has called for more regulation. It is in Facebook’s business interest.”

86% of UK investors surveyed by Coadec say that proposals claiming to tackle tech giants could lead to poor outcomes that inadvertently damage tech startups and hamper competition. As with the GDPR and we are likely to see with the Copyright Directive, the tech giants are in fact best placed to absorb wide-ranging regulation. There is a real risk of the global platforms getting bigger and British startups suffering.

There is also a risk that a future Corbyn govenment will use the legislation against political opponents. When you see the likes of Owen Jones being applauded for describing the Spectator, Sun, Mail, Telegraph, Express and of course Guido, as “spreading hate”, you can easily imagine the legislation being used by a Corbyn government to close down dissident media. This is a dangerous path being foolishly and short-sightedly cheered on by newspapers who think it will scupper the global platforms who are eating into their advertising revenue.

See: Coadec report with the survey data referred to can be found in full here.

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.

Hunt Piles Woes on May After Torrid Speech

Jeremy Hunt has done nothing to dig Theresa May out of the hole she dug herself with her tin-eared speech last night. Hunt’s suggestion on Today that MPs had a “special responsibility” to make decisions in a Hung Parliament has gone down almost as badly as May’s actual speech last night. Hunt’s defence of May was that she was under “extreme pressure” and “expressing her frustration”…

May’s speech last night was transparently aimed at the public watching the 10 O’Clock News, it succeeded in entirely alienating the one constituency that will actually determine her future in the next nine days: MPs. This looks like a tactical blunder of the highest order given the incredibly slim chances of May ever facing the voting public again. Guido hears that there was actually one extra page of the speech that May removed after a last-minute meeting with a group of MPs – could it originally have been worse?

The sight of Lisa Nandy – one of the key Brexit-sympathetic Labour MPs that May absolutely needs to win over to get her deal through – tearing into the speech as “disgraceful” is about the worst possible outcome May could have hoped for. The only remotely rational explanation is that May has abandoned any hope of getting her deal through and is preparing the ground for a General Election…

Hunt ruled more or less everything in on Today – no deal, a second referendum or even revocation of Article 50 – before claiming that May had been “absolutely clear” yesterday in ruling out a longer extension, which was news to more or less everyone listening, while also undermining her warning to Brexiteers that they’ll get ‘No Brexit’ if they don’t back her deal. If May actually has a strategy at all, now would be the time to deploy it and stick to it…

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…

Jeremy Hunt Admits Government is Considering Delaying Brexit

Jeremy Hunt has become the first senior Cabinet Minister to openly admit that the Government is considering delaying Brexit beyond the 29th March. Hunt was asked on the Today Programme:

“It is likely, isn’t it, that there will need to be a technical delay in leaving the European Union?”

Hunt: “I think that depends on how long this process takes, it is true that if we ended up approving a deal in the days before the 29th of March then we might need some extra time to pass critical legislation, but if we’re able to make progress sooner then that might not be necessary…”

For weeks now Theresa May has been refusing to explicitly rule out extending Article 50 when pushed on it – this intervention confirms mounting suspicions that May’s preference is to extend Article 50 rather than leave with no deal. Whatever the Government’s private intentions, it won’t help their renegotiation efforts in Brussels one bit if they start publicly taking the time pressure off the EU side. It’s a slippery slope from a few days’ “technical delay” to a full-blown rolling extension of Article 50…

Hunt: This Isn’t a Perfect Deal

Hunt for Hunt

CLICK TO ENLARGE

The Guy newsroom has wasted an hour trying to work out which of these Charterhouse schoolboys is the Foreign Secretary. Guido thinks he knows which it is, but what do co-conspirators think?

Suggestions in the comments…

Tory Members Overwhelmingly Back Boris

Tory members still overwhelmingly back Boris for leader, the latest ConHome members survey has found, with the former Foreign Secretary and Brexit winner more than ten points ahead of his nearest rival, Sajid Javid.

After a muted Telegraph column from Boris today, all eyes will be on his big ‘Chuck Chequers’ speech to Tory conference, 1pm tomorrow…

Hunt Compares EU to USSR

The new Foreign Secretary has launched into a spirited defence of Brexiteers at the start of Tory Conference and even compared the EU to the USSR:

“At the moment you, European friends, seem to think the way to keep the club together is to punish a member who leaves, not just with economic disruption, but even by breaking up the United Kingdom with a border down the Irish Sea…

“The EU was set up to protect freedom – it was the Soviet Union that stopped people leaving. The lesson from history is clear – if you turn the EU club into a prison, the desire to get out of it won’t diminish, it will grow, and we won’t be the only prisoner that wants to escape…”

This is remarkably punchy rhetoric, particularly given that Hunt was calling for a second referendum after the vote in 2016. It’s impossible not to see this through the prism of leadership – it looks a clear bid to win over the party’s pro-Brexit base. Probably isn’t going to go down so well in Brussels and Berlin…

Jeremy Hunt Trolled by his Wife

Jeremy Hunt has revealed the moment when he first spoke to his wife after mistakenly calling telling a group of Chinese dignitaries that she was Japanese rather than Chinese:

“I was incredibly nervous. I picked up the phone to apologise to her – and the first word she said to me was “konnichiwa”, which is “hello” in Japanese. She has a great Chinese sense of humour, but sushi is banned from the Hunt household for a while.”

Top trolling from Mrs Hunt – although Jeremy might have some more explaining to do when the Japanese find out that the British Foreign Secretary is boycotting their national dish. At least he’ll be able to do it in the right language

Hunt’s Asian Persuasion Skills

Jeremy Hunt has put in a strong bid to redeem himself on the Asian diplomacy front after that awkward gaffe, delivering a speech in Japan in fluent Japanese. After all, his wife is Japanese Chinese. Hmmm…

Hunt in China

Jeremy Hunt in a meeting with the Chinese state councillor:

“My wife is Japanese. My wife is Chinese, sorry. That’s a terrible mistake to make.”

Jeremy Hunt’s Spectacular Chinese Gaffe

Incredible stuff from Jeremy Hunt in a meeting with the Chinese state councillor:

“My wife is Japanese. My wife is Chinese, sorry. That’s a terrible mistake to make.”

Japan is widely despised in China for the atrocities it committed and Guido doubts Mrs Hunt will be too impressed either. The verbal equivalent of the time he threw a bell at a woman.

Tory MPs to Reflect Over Recess on Who Can Beat Corbyn

The YouGov/Sunday Times polling this weekend which put various potential Tory leaders against Corbyn to voters has given much food for thought for Tory MPs as they head off for recess. With Labour now pulling ahead (41% against 36%) in polling since the Chequers Plan sell-out, the question of who can beat Corbyn post-May is becoming urgent…

Despite a continuous monstering in many of the pro-Remain papers by green-eyed hacks, Boris remains the Tories’ best hope according to YouGov. With Boris as leader the Tories would now be tied (38% to 38%) with Corbyn’s Labour. With Mogg they trail Labour by 5%, with Gove, Saj and Hunt they would be double digits behind. Something for Tory MPs in marginal seats to reflect on over the holidays.

Boris still has the ability to reach parts of the electorate that no other Tory can, he is the reason the Leave campaign won the referendum. When Tory MPs return to their constituencies, this polling will focus minds in the coming months…

Source: YouGov

Remainer Hunt Wants Single Market Membership and Second Referendum

Jeremy Hunt has spent the last two years attempting to position himself as the next leader of the Conservative Party. Today he has declared war on Brexiteers, and indeed his government’s own official policy, by ridiculously claiming that Putin is the only winner in the event of a WTO Brexit:

[…] Read the rest

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Quote of the Day

Ruth Davidson on working with PM Boris

“I have worked with him when he was Foreign Secretary. I will work with whoever the Prime Minister is. I haven’t had a phone call yet to ask me to run his campaign in Scotland. I am not expecting the call. But I will genuinely judge him on the same criteria as I judge any of the candidates.”

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