Now Gove Floats EEA at Dinner With Remainer Tory MPs

It falls to Guido to gently prod Michael Gove and remind him of his commitments to 17.4 million Leave voters, and his own Brexit red lines from before he accepted a job in Theresa May’s Cabinet. Because the Michael Gove who the FT says has been floating the EEA model to ultra-Remain MPs isn’t the Michael Gove who fought the referendum. They report:

Michael Gove, the Eurosceptic UK environment minister, has privately discussed a backstop plan that would keep the UK in the EU single market if Theresa May’s Brexit strategy failed. At a recent dinner, Mr Gove talked with moderate Conservative MPs and peers about a scenario in which the UK would remain “parked” in the European Economic Area, like Norway, to avoid the chaos of a disorderly “no deal” exit… Mr Gove raised the possibility at a private dinner with about 20 Tory MPs and peers on June 25…

His dinner with members of the Green Chip dining group — a gathering of moderate Tories set up by Mr Gove and former minister Greg Barker to support David Cameron, the former prime minister — was part of that drive. One ministerial colleague has taken to jokily referring to the environment secretary as “St Michael of the EEA”…

“He was steering the conversation towards the EEA idea,” said one MP who attended the dinner. “There’s no doubt about that.”

Michael’s personal rating with Tory members was 73% last month, he is now on a dismal 39% post-Chequers. Guido would urge him to reassess his leadership strategy, because it clearly isn’t working.

Tory Members Want PM Boris as Gove’s Popularity Plummets

Boris Johnson has been catapulted into first place in the ConHome Tory leadership survey of members following his resignation over Chequers. His rating has quadrupled as members come to the conclusion he is the only leader who can deliver a real Brexit. He is now more than ten points ahead of anyone else, and you can effectively add Jacob Rees-Mogg’s numbers to Boris’ too. MPs in marginals will be looking at this thinking he is the only one who can keep them in their seats when an election comes. A reminder that those pundits who love to write Boris off are motivated by jealously rather than reason…

And just look at what has happened to the fortunes of those who backed Chequers. Last month, Michael Gove was in second place on 17%. After his Brexit sellout, he has plummeted to fifth on a meagre 9%, behind “other”. Guido cannot help but feel supporting Chequers will be fatal for the leadership ambitions of the remaining Cabinet Brexiters…

Gove’s East Coast Train Wine

Michael Gove was filmed generously sharing his wine with other passengers in the first class carriage of a newly nationalised LNER East Coast Main Line train yesterday.

Surprised he was sharing after a day with the Cabinet…

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

Gove: Deal Critics Guilty of “Fake Outrage”

Michael Gove gave a full-throated defence of Theresa May’s deal on Marr, blasting those criticising the proposal as being guilty of “fake and mock outrage”. Gove says the two people who most oppose the deal are Clegg and Farage. Err, what about multiple Cabinet members, dozens and dozens of Tory MPs, 60% of Tory members (according to a ConHome poll this morning). And no doubt a huge number of the 17.4 million people who voted to leave. Are they all faking it?

Guido understands that Gove fully backed the PM’s plan from the beginning of the Chequers meeting, to the astonishment of Brexiters in the room. Gove has carefully moderated his position on Brexit over the last year, calculating that his best shot of becoming leader is getting Remain MPs onside. Today he has written a joint op-ed with ultra-Remainer Greg Clark in the Mail on Sunday lavishing praise on the deal. Guido can’t help but wonder if Gove has misjudged this. What will Brexiteer MPs and voters make of his performance over the last 48 hours?

ConHome: Saj Would Beat Gove in Tory Leadership Contest

The conversation in Tory circles is very much centred around Theresa May going in the spring if she makes it through this year. ConHome’s survey of party members this morning calculates that Sajid Javid would currently beat Michael Gove as their choice for next leader. The run offs ConHome has surveyed over the last few days have been interesting: Boris beats Hunt, Saj beats Hunt (not much going for the Health Secretary) and Gove beats Boris. Saj has had a good couple of months and finds himself in a strong position…

Liz Truss on “Wood-Burning Gove”

Team Truss spinning hard that she didn’t break collective responsibility on the government’s plastic straws policy as that line was taken out of the speech. As you can see above though, she did make the crack at “wood-burning Gove”.

Truss is boldly attempting to spin her jibe as a good-natured joke about a “good mate”. Interesting way to treat your mates…

Ruth and Gove Blast ‘Dour, Joyless, Pessimistic, Unhappy, Authoritarian’ Tories

Some choice quotes from the keynote speakers at the launch of the Osbornite / Mayite / centrist think tank Onward last night. Ruth Davidson left the sweaty Churchill Room in parliament in no doubt as to who she was talking about here:

“Sometimes as Tories we just look a bit dour. We look a bit joyless, to be fair. A bit authoritarian, sometimes. We don’t get to win if we start hectoring the people that we need to vote for us… We’ve got to learn to be a bit more joyful… It’s not just what you say but it’s what you can show people… when you do it with a smile, they actually get behind you.”

Bet that went down well in Number 10.

Her attack on Labour was punchy too:

“If you look at Jeremy Corbyn, actually I feel sad. I feel sad at how far a once important, integral, sensible, solid party has fallen. And I then look at John McDonnell, and the shock troops, and the troll factories, and the conspiracy theories and their envy and their fake news and their Skwawkbox and their Canary and the rest of it, and I think that this Labour Party has about the same amount of moral authority as Sepp Blatter putting a fiver on Russia getting the World Cup. I genuinely think to myself, when I look at the Nationalists or the Corbynistas, what I see is a movement that works in its own way to break up our country. That’s what they want. They want to tear it apart.”

A woke Michael Gove said of Ruth: “In the future when think tanks ask, ‘Can we get the pregnant lesbian to speak?’, they will ask: ‘Which pregnant lesbian?’”. Less woke Gove made two comparisons between himself and Ruth, first as Ike and Tina Turner, the second between Sonny and Cher. Perhaps might have thought that through.

His musical call for the Tories to pursue a Fleetwood Mac / Pharrell Williams strategy was more successful: ‘Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow’ and ‘Happy’ would certainly be a change of tone. Gove echoed Ruth in calling for optimism, though his call could have easily applied to Remainers as well:

“Sometimes in the past the Tories have been pessimistic and unhappy, uncomfortable that we seem to be living in the 21st century, when the 1950s would be far more attractive, and what a pity that the 19th century isn’t an option. Indeed when I heard today that Club 18-30 was at last closing, I thought that must be a group of Conservative modernisers looking forward to that year as some glorious future to which they can aspire.”

The evening was also notable for Neil O’Brien’s Macron style speech, which several in the audience saw as the beginnings of a leadership bid. The theme of the night certainly that the Tories should be more bold, interesting, positive and happy than what is currently on offer…

Gove Rules Out Extending Transition

Gove ruled out an extension to the transition period, telling Nick Robinson “I don’t believe in an extension… in delay there lies no plenty… we need to crack on” and must “meet the deadline”. That’s a thanks but no thanks to Nick Boles’ suggestion from last week…

Gove on “Flawed” Customs Partnership

Gove suggests the proposed customs partnership does not meet the tests set by Theresa May in her Sunday Times article today. Tough to see how the customs partnership can survive…

Ministers Warn May: We Must Leave Customs Union

Following the Sunday Times story that Number 10 is once again considering surrendering on the customs union, two Cabinet ministers tell the PM she has to hold firm:

According to the Sunday Times, Number 10 think Gove wouldn’t resign if they cave on the customs union – and he does not address that point in his tweet. Gove is playing the long game and been carefully moderating his positions with his eyes on a bigger prize. But no self-respecting Brexiter can stay in the government if Number 10 capitulate on this. 

Yet again we are having to re-run the same old arguments as May fails to get a grip and tell her Remainer advisers that we are not staying in a customs union. This is going to be a big week for Brexit – more tomorrow… 

Onward to PX2

Invitations are going out this week for the launch party of Onward, the new Tory think tank promising to come up with ‘retail’ policies to win back under-45 voters. Onward was the brainchild of Tory MP and former Osborne SpAd and Policy Exchange director Neil O’Brien, with Nick Faith, the former PX comms chief who now runs WPI Strategy with Sean Worth. So is it just Policy Exchange Mark II?

Onward’s main aim seems to be to bring the Cameroon and May brands of Tory party politics together. Last summer O’Brien and Faith organised a dinner at the home of Tory donor David Meller (don’t mention the President’s Club), who hosted Nick Timothy and JoJo Penn from May’s inner circle, top Cameroon Nick Boles (a former PX director) and a number of younger ambitious MPs. Onward’s director will be former May adviser Will Tanner, its chair is Osborne confidant Danny Finkelstein (former PX chairman), and its board members include former Cameron advisers Kate Rock and Kate Fall, ex-Osborne aide Eleanor Wolfson, and Craig Elder, who co-ran Cameron’s digital campaigns in 2015 and the referendum. Their main financial backer is Martyn Rose, who ran Cameron’s National Citizens Service.

The plan is to create a party-oriented think tank for MPs rather than wonks, which combines Timothy’s statist agenda with the more liberal politics of the Cameroons, and has both Remainers and Brexiters on board. They have signed up MPs from the left and centre-right of the party, from Ruth Davidson and Tom Tugendhat to Michael Gove and Kemi Badenoch. It will have some external authors but most of the reports will be written by MPs.

The danger for Onward is it goes down the road of expensive, interventionist, big-state policies which mean higher taxes, more spending and more borrowing – social democracy with a blue-wash. A May-Osborne fusion could mean more cumbersome policies like the energy price cap, HS2 and ever-creeping vice taxes. Guido also fears the instinctively more liberal, small-state, low tax MPs may fail to resist the temptation to drift leftwards as they seek wider support ahead of the next leadership contest. Number 10’s hopeless lack of a domestic agenda means the Tories are crying out for post-Brexit polices, or, perish the thought, policies that could actually be implemented while Brexit is taking place. They won’t beat Corbyn with lite versions of his policies…

Chequers Security Lapse

Smart watches were banned from Cabinet meetings years ago for fears the Russians could hack them and listen in. In 2016 the Telegraph reported: “Under Theresa May ministers have been barred from wearing them amid concerns that they could be used by hackers as listening devices. One source said: ‘The Russians are trying to hack everything'”. Not sure Vlad will have learned much about the end state…

Friday Caption Contest (Twitching Edition)

Entries in the comments…

Senior Brexiteers Back Deal

Senior Tory Brexiteers are cautiously backing the deal and think this still means we are heading towards a proper Brexit. But they are under no illusions it’s a fudge and the real battle on the end state is yet to come…

Anti-Putin Record of Gove, Boris and Legatum

The Mail on Sunday and the Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr seem to believe Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and the Legatum Institute conspired with Putin and the Russian state to deliver Brexit. There are more than a few problems with this theory, though Guido is going to focus on the most obvious: Boris, Gove and Legatum are all staunch critics of Putin and Russia. Anyone who listens to these Gove comments from 2015, in which he rails against Putin and Russian money “subverting” the West, can be in no doubt as to his view.

“You see the influence of Russian agency and Russian money. We should not underestimate the extent to which Putin and those behind him are seeking to throw off balance and to subvert everything that we’re doing… His aim is to divide, to destabilise, and if not necessarily to conquer, at least to consolidate and advance. And inside Russia the widespread view of the Russian people is that Putin is right and the West is seeking to keep Russia down and to divide and to weaken. And for that reason we need to be sensitive to where Russian public opinion is but also vigilant about the threat. Now what does that mean we need to do in terms of our security and defence profile? The answer to that is several steps above my pay grade. But I don’t believe that any of us for a moment should be naive about what Putin is interested in or fall for some of the interpretations we might get on Russia Today or elsewhere about what his real intentions are.”

Boris meanwhile is on the record condemning Putin as a “ruthless and manipulative tyrant” who has been “illegally occupying parts of Ukraine”, adding “Putin’s proxy army was almost certainly guilty of killing the passengers on the Malaysia Airlines jet that came down in eastern Ukraine” and “he has questions to answer about the death of Alexander Litvinenko”.

As for the Legatum Institute, the focus of the latest Remainer conspiracies, as Mark Wallace notes they have a long record of opposing Putin and employed Anne Applebaum, one of the leading anti-Putin voices around. Legatum was even condemned by Russia Today for anti-Kremlin bias. Which kind of ruins the story.

Perhaps all this was an elaborate double bluff. Or it could be, as the FT’s ultra-Remainer editor Lionel Barber concludes, “a stretch”…

UPDATE: Eurosceptic source: “The idea of Gove and Boris as agents of Putin is about as believable as Geordie Greig’s claim to be an impartial editor offering a clear eyed view of Brexit.”

Viral Animal Sentience Fake News Story Seen By 2 Million People

This week a number of stories claiming the Tories had voted that animals are not sentient beings went mega-viral. An article on the Independent website – shared thousands of times on social media – reported “The Tories have rejected all scientists and voted that animals don’t feel pain”. The Evening Standard claimed they “just voted that animals cannot feel pain or emotions”. The Indy, which has truly become one of the most downmarket trash clickbait websites around, even named and shamed the Tory MPs “who voted legislation on animals feeling pain and emotion”. These attacks were tweeted out by celebrities like Ben Fogle and Sue Perkins, politicians including Caroline Lucas and failed LibDem MP Sarah Olney, and petitions were signed by hundreds of thousands of unwitting animal lovers. The stats are huge:

  • Analysis shows 2 million people have seen articles and tweets about the Tories voting against animal sentience
  • 155,157 signed a Change.org petition repeating the claim
  • 263,476 signed another petition on 38 Degrees
  • 43,081 signed a third petition on ThePetitionSite
  • Nearly 30,000 have signed smaller petitions (that’s almost 500,000 overall)
  • Sue Perkins shared it with her 1 million followers
  • Rachel Riley shared it with her 510,000 followers
  • Ben Fogle shared it with his 336,000 followers
  • Caroline Lucas shared it with her 276,000 followers
  • The RSPCA tweeted it out to their 248,000 followers

Just one problem. It is fake news…

During last Wednesday’s debate, Tory MPs repeatedly explained that the government already recognised animal sentience and that the amendment was flawed. Read it here in Hansard – Tory MP after Tory MP stood up and agreed that animals are sentient. No MPs argued against animal sentience. It is just not true to say, as the Indy did, that “The Tories have rejected all scientists and voted that animals don’t feel pain”. Anyone who has seen the Environment Secretary with his Bichon Frise Snowy, or indeed the hedgehog above, knows these viral articles are fake news. This made up story, circulated by the Tories’ opponents for solely cynical reasons, is cutting through to animal lovers who think they can trust things they believe on the Independent website. This morning Michael Gove categorically committed the government to animal sentience once and for all. He couldn’t be clearer:

“This government will ensure that any necessary changes required to UK law are made in a rigorous and comprehensive way to ensure animal sentience is recognised after we leave the EU.”

Will that go as viral as the fake news BS that hoodwinked thousands in the last week?

Gove: Iran is Responsible, Boris Critics Playing Into Their Hands

Bang on from Gove, who gave Marr a passionate defence of Boris in the wake of increasingly hysterical point-scoring by his enemies. Gove argued:

“It’s plain wrong for us to try to find fault with democrats when the real responsibility is to say to the Iranian regime: you are a serial abuser of human rights, you are the principal sponsor of terrorism, you have blood on your hands in Syria, your responsibility is to insist that this British citizen is at liberty. We play their game, we play into the extremists’ hands if we do anything other than show solidarity in the face of their abuse of human rights.”

Look at those losing their minds about Boris this week: George Osborne’s Evening Standard, the Guardian, the Mirror, the Times, Jeremy Corbyn, Sadiq Khan, ultra Remain MPs and journalists. They are ignoring that Richard Ratcliffe, Nazanin’s husband, has said: “It’s not in Nazanin’s interests to have the Foreign Secretary battling for his job”. And yet Boris’ political enemies are cynically trying to make the whole story about his career rather than Nazanin. They are more interested in attacking Boris than getting her home…

Amber Rudd Claims Whips Have No “Black Book”

In happier days when he was the Chief Whip Michael Gove actually showed us the black book:

Maybe Rudd had a spreadsheet?

Boris and Gove Back PM Statement

Boris and Gove on board at the moment but expect Brexiter backbenchers to oppose the ECJ and new EU rules during the transition.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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