Despite both Lord Geidt’s resignation letter and the PM’s response being published, the specifics behind the ethics adviser’s decision to quit remain broadly unanswered by both documents. Boris’s letter goes the furthest, specifying Geidt had been asked to look into a “potential future decision related to the Trade Remedies Authority” (TRA), which while “in line with our domestic law… might be seen to conflict with our obligations under the [World Trade Organisation]. With further details emerging, it now looks like Geidt’s decision is not only confusing, it takes the wind out of Labour’s sails…
In 2021 the TRA issued advice to then-Trade Secretary Liz Truss to drop tariffs on certain types of steel. While Truss was initially in favour of complying with the TRA advice, opposition from Cabinet – spearheaded by Kwasi Kwarteng – eventually meant the government deciding to go against it.
As Boris said, while this would be uncontroversial at home, it may have clashed with WTO rules. As reported at the time, rolling over the EU safeguarding measures without an investigation, according to some respondents to the TRA’s review, would be “incompatible with World Trade Organisation rules”. The great irony here is that the minister in charge of TRA policy is none other than Boris’s chief ministerial dissenter Penny Mordaunt, who by extension has now unintentionally caused Geidt to quit.
The specifics behind Geidt’s resignation also create a headache for Labour, who have been revelling in the news since last night. In 2021 Labour responded to the TRA’s recommendation to withdraw steel safeguards by saying the government “must instead accept Labour’s offer to work together in the national interest and come forward with emergency legislation, which we will support, to amend the regulations and allow Britain’s steel safeguards to be maintained in full.”
Before these details emerged, it was speculated that Geidt had been asked to investigate an issue relating to a conflict of interest. Even following the publication of both letters, Robert Peston tweeted “the only conclusion to be drawn is that Geidt was asked to sanction tariffs being imposed to help companies with connections to the Conservative Party or ministers.”
The only conclusion to be drawn is that Geidt was asked to sanction tariffs being imposed to help companies with connections to the Conservative Party or ministers.— Robert Peston (@Peston) June 16, 2022
It now appears not only was this not the only conclusion one could draw, it was an incorrect one. Government sources tell Jim Pickard that Geidt “never” mentioned potential conflicts regarding Tory donors in his conversations and texts about this with the PM. A government source describes Peston’s flawed conclusion slightly more bluntly to Guido, as a “deranged falsehood”.
Conor Burns’s defence of the PM’s lockdown birthday party – that he was “ambushed with a cake” – may have received a Twitter ribbing, including from Nigella herself, though it’s hardly the most unbelievable claim. The PM himself was once caught on camera in exactly such a situation back on Peston’s show in 2016. At the time he’d been facing a barrage over his “have cake and eat it” quote regarding Brexit. Who ambushed the then-foreign secretary with the cake? None other than Robert Peston’s co-presenter, Allegra Stratton…
While yesterday may not have been great for Dominic Raab, at least he can take solace in the fact he had a better reshuffle than Robert Peston. ITV’s
senile senior political reporter spent all day tweeting every thought process, speculation and briefing with the acumen and insight of a first-year politics student. Some of the highlights included:
Early yesterday afternoon, Peston’s show account asked ordinary Twitter punters for their reshuffle predictions, the replies to which proved only slightly less accurate than Robert’s own dribbling…
Peston’s incessant tweeting hasn’t been limited to the reshuffle, however. Co-conspirators will no doubt remember the time he admitted confusion over the concept of mirrors:
Or the time he couldn’t be bothered to call a press office, so just admitted to scientific illiteracy:
Can a scientist explain to me how the Lancet can identify an "adverse event classified as possibly related to a vaccine" in a person who was in the "control group" and therefore was given a placebo rather than the Oxford vaccine. Seems logically impossible— Robert Peston (@Peston) December 8, 2020
Or the time he said DUP sectarianism would “drive unaligned voters to Sinn Fein”:
return NI’s biggest unionist party to religious sectarianism, and arguably thereby drive large numbers of unaligned voters to Sinn Fein, or will the new leader continue Foster’s drive to reposition the DUP as a centrist party of unionism? What happens matters not only to...— Robert Peston (@Peston) April 28, 2021
Or the time he caused outrage by saying we were “paying teachers for not very much teaching”
The other important way of looking at this is that output was surprisingly robust in the first three months of the year - since much of the so-called inflation was (eg) the phenomenon of the government paying teachers for not very much teaching, when lockdown closed schools— Robert Peston (@Peston) May 12, 2021
These are just the tip of the Twitter iceberg, into which ITV’s reputation crashes on an almost daily basis.
2012 Peston Twitter was more on the money…
Keir Starmer has joined the long line of dodgy prophets who have predicted the impending running-out of Boris’s luck. He told Peston’s podcast he things the “the road will run out for Johnson”, and that “integrity, honesty and accountability do matter”. Guido can’t count how many times he’s heard this exact same prediction over the last two decades. Every time it’s been proved wrong.
ITV’s Daniel Hewitt was quick to point out that “the problem here is you haven’t quite worked out why he [Boris] appeals to people” and that in spite of Labour’s criticisms Johnson has defied expectations by winning the London mayoral election and a stonking Tory majority in 2019.
Today marks exactly two years since Boris became Prime Minister. He remains 13 points ahead of Labour…
Cringeworthy scenes on ITV’s teatime news broadcast last night as Robert Peston froze and forgot the name of Tyrone Mings’s name live on air. Eventually Charlene White bailed the spluttering hack out. Turning to Twitter Peston apologised for the “brain freeze” and confirmed he felt “an utter moron”
While someone pointed out Peston’s track record of brain fades – including forgetting how mirrors work – the replies were mostly supportive. User Doogid tweeted, “It must be hard, your questions ramble on for about 5 minutes, so much to remember”…
The media’s gunning for Hancock ramped up another level last night as the fallout from Cummings’s committee appearance continued. In the government press conference, Matt Hancock dodged the question of whether he lied to the PM over care home shielding, as Cummings claimed. The Health Secretary said his “recollection” was that he’d committed to testing all those going from hospitals to care homes “when we could do it”.
Unfortunately for Matt, Peston’s claiming Cummings has documents showing that Matt Hancock was summoned by the PM’s office to No. 10 on the 3rd May, to explain whether he had misled the PM, Cummings and Sedwill on testing residents. Once again, Westminster waits with bated breath for this supposed evidence.
Despite the media leaping on the opportunity for a Cabinet scalp, according to a report by PHE yesterday just 1.6% of outbreaks in care homes were seeded from hospital patient transfers with confirmed Covid, and of these just 286 deaths resulted. The vast majority of deaths were seeded from care staff – not hospital transmission. It’s odd Hancock isn’t pointing this out at every opportunity…