Meet the Candidates: Team Hancock

Guido introduces you to another of the Tory leadership hopefuls – today it’s young upstart Matt Hancock who is hoping to upset the older favourites. He is publicly careful to avoid leadership challenge questions, though the youngest contender (40) did tell an Onward meeting “we need to make a generational shift in the Conservative Party”. Can the first MP to get their own app jump the generational divide?

Hancock has remained loyal to the Prime Minister throughout, although that hasn’t stopped a number of people from getting behind him already. Hancock is yet to take on any full-time campaign staff at this stage. Fortunately he already has three SpAds behind him – popular media SpAd and former CCHQ / CTF staffer Jamie Njoku-Goodwin is his main spinner, his parliamentary liaison SpAd is Allan Nixon. Nixon is also a Scot – could this be an advantage in trying to bring over the caucus of 13 Scottish Tory MPs to Team Hancock?

Hancock is receiving informal advice from Ameet Gill, David Cameron’s former Director of Strategy and the co-founder of Hanbury Strategy, where the other co-founder Paul Stephenson is advising rival contender Dominic Raab. This must make for some interesting water cooler conversations…

Hancock has also been receiving advice from Gina Coladangelo, a director at Luther Pendragon and the PR guru behind the recent surge of fashion brand Oliver Bonas. She’s been helping Hancock sharpen up his own branding and broadcast appearances…

Two MPs have publicly come out for Team Hancock – Stephen Hammond and Tracey Crouch. Hancock’s main support base is likely to be more TRG than ERG, so if Brexit is a less prominent issue he will be hoping that his reputation as a competent, energetic minister can win him broader support from MPs of all factions looking to the future. The way Hancock has neutralised the NHS as a Labour attack line in his 9 months as Health Secretary is in stark contrast to his predecessor Jeremy Hunt, it remains to be seen if the membership can be convinced…

Social media support: Hancock has 78.7k Twitter followers and his Facebook has 2.4k. Sadly no-one appears to have created a “Happy for Hancock” fan account yet, his app however has had thousands of downloads…

Mainstream media support: Hancock’s been receiving plenty of favourable coverage from the Evening Standard – the editor just happens to be his former boss. Although Hancock is keen to avoid getting pigeon-holed as Osborne 2.0, particularly on Brexit…

ConservativeHome members survey: 1.7% (13th)

YouGov public recognition: not yet included.

William Hill odds: 10/1 (6th)

Government Minister Backs Customs Union

Today Wimbledon MP and Government Health Minister Stephen Hammond has written to constituents expressing his support for “a Single Market and Customs Union style solution.” Stating that he believes that a “Hard Brexit and no deal are not acceptable outcomes”, Hammond is playing fast and loose with collective responsibility. The manifesto he was elected on, and the referendum result he purports to respect directly contradict him…

Hammond hinted yesterday that he would resign to try and prevent a No Deal Brexit. Today he has broken another manifesto commitment…

This is a big change of tune from last week when he was reportedly one of the linchpin backers of the Malthouse Compromise. The Government can’t allow Ministers of the Crown to go around freestyling like this if they are serious about getting the whole party on board…

‘The Malthouse Compromise’: Leavers and Remainers Unite Behind Brexit ‘Plan C’

In an unexpected development late last night, reports began to leak out of a secret compromise hammered out between Brexiteers including Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker and Remainers including Nicky Morgan and Stephen Hammond. Even Remain-leaning Government ministers Robert Buckland and Kit Malthouse are on board, with Baker crediting Malthouse for bringing the warring factions together as he confirmed the reports which somehow managed to remain secret until last night. Remarkable given the range of people involved…

According to the messages sent to Tory MPs by Nicky Morgan last night, The ‘Malthouse Compromise’ would’:

  • Replace the backstop with the alternative protocol from the ‘Better Deal’ report launched last month, which would be “acceptable indefinitely”.
  • Extend the transition period for up to a year until the end of 2021 to give time for a smooth transition to a new relationship (Plan A).
  • Include a “triple safety net” around exiting with no Withdrawal Agreement:
    • Continue to offer ‘Plan A’
    • Agree a standstill transition period with the UK paying its financial commitments
    • Offer a GATT 24 WTO-compliant standstill on trade with no tariffs, no quantitative restrictions and no new barriers for execution” to come into force at the end of 2021 if the future relationship has not been agreed by then

Morgan says that “this would allow time for both parties to prepare properly for WTO terms, but also provide a period in which the parties could obviate this outcome by negotiating a mutually beneficial future relationship”. EU citizens’ rights would be guaranteed in all circumstances.

The big question is how this plan relates to today’s Parliamentary action. There are no amendments specifically related to it for MPs or even the Government to get behind, but the broad coalition of support behind it makes it impossible to ignore. Guido understands that Downing Street is interested in the proposals but has concerns about technical aspects around SPS checks…

Brexiteers remain divided over whether to support Sir Graham Brady’s amendment on renegotiating the Irish backstop, despite Theresa May giving it her official backing last night. Liam Fox confirmed on Today that the Government would be seeking to reopen the legal text of the deal if the amendment passed, potentially reassuring Brexiteers that it is not simply going to be ‘Operation Figleaf Mk II’. Guido cannot see any good reason for Brexiteers not to support Brady’s amendment, it is compatible with the ‘Malthouse Compromise’ and the best chance of changing the worst aspect of May’s deal…

New Ministerial Appointments In Full

Following the appointment of potentially troublesome Amber Rudd as DWP Secretary, Remainer rebel Stephen Hammond has replaced new Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay as Health Minister.

John Penrose who backed Remain but has become an ERG stalwart since the refendum has been appointed as Minister of State for the Northern Ireland Office. Leave-voting Kwasi Kwarteng has been appointed as new junior Brexit minister after serving for 18 months as Philip Hammond’s PPS. The Cabinet’s balance has shifted further in favour of remain, and some potentially troublesome backbenchers have been bought off…

Tight Tory’s £4.50 Remembrance Expenses Shocker

Earlier this year, Guido revealed Labour MP Sarah Champion’s £17 expenses claim for a poppy wreath.

Then top Miliband aide John Cruddas was caught putting funeral flowers on the taxpayers’ tab.

Now the Tories are at it too.

Wealthy Stephen Hammond rakes in £67,000 a year as the MP for Wimbledon. He also owns a luxury £500,000 second home in Portugal, complete with a swimming pool.

That didn’t stop the rotund miser from filing a £4.50 expenses claim on Remembrance Sunday last year for “mileage” to drive, in his own car, to “two Remembrance services” within his constituency.

This is what greedy Hammond said about MPs’ pay in the last parliament:

“An MP salary should be linked to a public sector job of similar responsibility such as a GP. Official figures I have been shown put the average salary for a GP at over £105,000.”

At least then maybe he’d be able to find the cash to honour our heroes from his own pocket.

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