Gizza Job Bozza (Harper Edition)

As the leadership race draws to a close (less than a week to go now) MPs have started to follow in Amber Rudd’s footsteps and more openly pitch for Cabinet jobs. The most blatant of which being Mark Harper this morning…

After his brief leadership pitch, the former Chief Whip is clearly looking to get back into the Cabinet, clearly aiming for the low hanging fruit role of Northern Ireland Secretary. Few want it and the incumbent is sure to be one of the first out the door…

Harper is also following in the video footsteps of Liz Truss who made a slightly more subtle pitch at the start of the month focusing on business. She’s now widely tipped to lead a souped up Business department. #LizForBiz

We’ll start finding out if these pitches are successful in just a week’s time…

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…

Mark Harper Launches Corbyn Attack Video

Mark Harper has released a new campaign video employing the novel tactic of attacking the Tories’ opposition rather than his rival candidates. The back-to-back compilation of Corbyn snarling at journalists is reminiscent of punchy CCHQ attack ads of old. Guido hears former CCHQ and Vote Leave staffer Joseph Baum may have had a hand in it…

Team Harper are pleased with how his campaign has gone so far – Harper’s big pitch here is that he’s the only candidate to have actually won a seat off Labour. He’ll still need a big surge of support if he’s going to stay in the race for any significant length of time…

Harper-Leadsom Leadership Negotiations

Tory leadership watchers have been buried under an avalanche of leadership launches today. Gove is launching this afternoon, Hancock kicked off this morning, while Raab launched in the same building as Hancock but at the same time as Hunt. Hunt sportingly delayed by a few minutes but then ended up running into Esther McVey’s abruptly interrupted launch. Nightmare…

Guido can reveal that the Leadsom and Harper campaigns faced an even bigger problem – they managed to book their launches at exactly the same time in exactly the same building, just on different floors. Advisers from both teams clocked the clash over the weekend…

In a twist, Team Harper’s Emma Barr and Team Leadsom’s Lucia Hodgson managed to successfully negotiate with each other to move the events forward and back by half an hour each meaning journalists can go from one to the other without missing anything. Showing off their negotiating skills ahead of any clashes with Michel Barnier…

Mark Harper Launches Campaign Website

Underdog contender and former Chief Whip Mark Harper is pushing ahead with his leadership campaign. Despite Guido’s list of public declarations showing him still being two MPs away from securing a place in the race, his team are adamant in private that he has the numbers to secure the new higher threshold for nomination. Today he is launching his flashy new campaign website

The website accompanies the launch video Harper released last week. Currently in seventh place behind Matt Hancock, he’s not last but has quite a way to go…

Mark Harper Overtakes McVey, Cleverly and Rory Stewart

Mark Harper’s entry makes it a dozen Tory MPs entered in the race, he announced his bid with a Telegraph interview this morning. Tories are braced for further launches from Priti Patel and Penny Mordaunt, in a very crowded field…

Harper’s USP is a Shaggy-style “it wasn’t me” pitch – his angle is that he’s untainted by the chaos of the last three years as the only candidate not to have served in Theresa May’s Government. He was David Cameron’s final chief whip, generally winning respect from MPs for his even-handed treatment of both sides during the referendum. He’s one of the few former chief whips to actually be liked by his colleagues…

Harper backed Remain before the referendum but has been pro-Brexit since, he voted against MV1 and MV2, although he’s already opened the door to an extension beyond October. By Guido’s count Harper currently has six MP backers, three Leavers in Will Wragg, Steve Double and Scott Mann, and three Remainers in Luke Hall, David Evenett and Jackie Doyle-Price which jumps him ahead of several more high-profile candidates including James Cleverly, Esther McVey and Rory Stewart. Still he’s got a long way to go if he’s going to make it anywhere near the sharp end of the contest…

View the full list here: order-order.com/backers

Get in touch with any updates…

May’s “Hell Week” Hots Up

After a relatively quiet start, Theresa May’s “hell week” on Brexit is starting to hot up. ERG Vice-Chair Steve Baker has thrown down the gauntlet to the Government on Chequers, telling Today that “at least 40 MPs” would be prepared to vote against Chequers – after taking into account a major whipping operation from the Government. Baker is known for not exaggerating support, these numbers tally with Guido’s rolling spreadsheet of where MPs stand…

May’s Brexit position has come under further pressure following the intervention from former Chief Whip Mark Harper this morning. Harper, who backed Remain, dismisses the idea that the Government will be able to get Chequers through with Labour support and calls on May to pivot towards a Canada-style deal which he says she can “unite the party around”. Harper is the first Remain-supporting MP with Cabinet-level experience to back the ERG’s Brexit stance, Downing Street should be worried…

Meanwhile, DUP sources have rubbished suggestions that their position on a sea border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain has softened. Baker also turned his fire on May’s rumoured climbdown on the Irish backstop, which could see the UK agree to remain in the single market and customs union indefinitely until the EU decided that alternative arrangements were acceptable:

“If the backstop leaves the whole of the UK in the internal market of the EU together with the customs union indefinitely – because it seems like that the trigger to leave might be handed to the EU – if that were to be the backstop that would be so obviously unacceptable…”

Opposition is mounting from all sides and May hasn’t even made any further concessions yet. Where does she go from here?

Message From ‘The Chief’: ’22 Meeting in the Morning With Dave

Mark Harper has sent his first email to Conservative MPs as their new Chief Whip:

From: Chief Whip
To: xxx
20 May 2015 16:02
Subject: Message from the Chief

Congratulations to all colleagues and a warm welcome back to a Conservative majority government.

Special congratulations to newly-elected colleagues.

The PM will address the 1922 tomorrow at 11:00 in Committee Room 14 and all colleagues are invited to attend. 

We expect the Commons formally to return on Mon 18th May.

The Chief

Signed off, in bold, “The Chief”. Nothing says you means business like bold, eh?

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