May We Fist Bump, Prime Minister?

The Prime Minister had her most successful walkabout ever in Salisbury this morning. She even knew how to do a fistbump…

Seumas Sticks to Line, Refuses to Condemn Russia

Theresa May slammed Jeremy Corbyn for his lack of support over the Russian spy poisoning crisis. The Prime Minister told Jezza:

“There is a consensus across the backbenches of this House. I am only sorry that this consesnsus does not go as far as the Right Honourable Gentleman, who could have taken the opportunity as the UK government has done to condemn the cuplability of the Russian state.”

This will lead all the news bulletins tonight, the press will crucify Corbyn tomorrow, his own Labour MPs have disowned him and sided with the PM.

In this type situation Guido would normally expect the leader of the oppostion’s spin doctor to back pedal in the Lobby briefing huddle that follows, he would “clarify” and nuance the wording. Emphasise the more conventional parts of the argument to soften the inevitably hostile headlines coming tomorrow. When that spin-doctor is Seumas Milne however it seems there was to be no compromising on Putin’s line. Under intense questioning he refused to say that the Labour Party’s leader accepted the Russian state was at fault:

“The government has access to information and intelligence on this matter which others don‘t. However, also there is a history in relation to weapons of mass destruction and intelligence which is problematic, to put it mildly. So, I think the right approach is to seek the evidence to follow international treaties, particularly in relation to prohibitive chemical weapons.”

When Lobby hacks pressed Milne as to if Corbyn believed Russia was responsible for the attack, Milne said the PM continued to leave open the possibility that Russia had lost control of the nerve agent. Milne prefers to doubt MI6 and give the benefit of the doubt to the FSB….

PMQs: Who’s Asking the Questions?

Questions to the Prime Minister

Q1 Vicky Foxcroft (Lewisham, Deptford) If she will list her official engagements for Wednesday 14 March.

Q2 Jack Dromey (Birmingham, Erdington)

Q3 Mr Virendra Sharma (Ealing, Southall)

Q4 Alex Burghart (Brentwood and Ongar)

Q5 Bill Esterson (Sefton Central)

Q6 Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South)

Q7 Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North)

Q8 Richard Graham (Gloucester)

Q9 Jeremy Quin (Horsham)

Q10 Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire)

Q11 Vernon Coaker (Gedling)

Q12 Leo Docherty (Aldershot)

Q13 Jo Platt (Leigh)

Q14 Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton)

Comments in the comments…

Tillerson Sacked

President Trump has fired Rex Tillerson as US Secretary of State and replaced him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Less than 24 hours ago Tillerson backed to the hilt May’s position on Russia, a boon for the government. Uh oh..

May: “Highly Likely” Russia Poisoned Skripals

Theresa May has said it is “highly likely” that Russia was responsible for the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury. In a statement to the House of Commons the Prime Minister said:

“The government has concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible.”

The PM revealed:

  • The nerve agent used was a military grade agent from the Novichok family developed by Russia;
  • The Russian Ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Office today;
  • Boris told the Ambassador the Kremlin must provide full and complete disclosure of Novichok programme;
  • The UK is ready to take much more extensive measures against Russia;
  • The PM is ready to conclude that this action amounts to an unlawful use of force against the United Kingdom.

Here’s the statement in full:

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Marina Litvinenko Reads Letter From May Vowing Crime Would Never Be Repeated

From the then Home Secretary…

Happy #IWD2018

Maybe one day a woman will be elected leader of the Labour Party…

A Bloody Difficult Woman Hung The Absolute Boy Out To Dry

A bloody difficult woman just rinsed the absolute boy. Completely, stunningly, beautifully hung him out to dry. And there was no doubt in the Chamber of the House of Commons this was a girl’s job well done.

The true strength of Theresa May’s killer line – that Corbyn had “mansplained” to her about International Women’s Day – wasn’t just in the delivery (though to the Prime Minister’s credit she nailed it; the House loved the funniest, best-targeted and pithiest one-liner she has ever used at PMQs – and perhaps her single most memorable). Those leopard-print kitten heels would have roared if they could.

The great joy of Theresa May’s set-piece salvo on Jeremy Bernard Corbyn’s sexism was even more simple. It worked so well because it is true.

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May on Corbyn’s Mansplaining

One of May’s best ever slapdowns of Jezza…

No.10 Not Keen on Tina | Hancock Forced Through Controversial Charities Appointment

Penny Mourdant is getting tough on the charity sector today, telling a London summit “now is the time for action” in the wake of the sex abuse scandal. There’s talk of a creating new body to oversee the sector. Before splashing any more cash on a new watchdog, the government should take a look at the current regulator…

Last week former Tory minister Tina Stowell was unveiled as the new chair of the Charity Commission. Her appointment was controversial: MPs across the House voiced concern about her inexperience and lack of political neutrality. Tory MP Rebecca Pow asked “do you not think a little more experience would be more helpful?” The DCMS committee unanimously voted not to back the appointment, with chairman Damian Collins saying:

“This is the first time that this Committee has not supported the government’s candidate, and it is not a decision that we have taken lightly.”

Charity sources point to the timetable for selecting the chair. On December 5 last year the government said an announcement was “imminent”. Then the announcement was put back to January, before again being delayed until last week. What took so long?

Number 10 are publicly backing Stowell: “She has the full backing. We have no doubt she’s the right person for the job and nothing in the letter from the committee changes our view”. But Guido hears the delay was because her candidature met with reticence inside Number 10 – not least because Stowell has previously slagged off the PM, writing: “It’s safe to say that Theresa May will not be remembered as a brilliant politician”. Her appointment was pushed through by Matt Hancock. If Number 10, MPs and the DCMS committee don’t think Stowell is the best woman for the job, is she really the right person to overseeing a sector in crisis?

Bricking It: Theresa Gives Speech ‘Standing in Chimney’

The hi-tech lectern at Theresa May’s housing speech has created the illusion that she is standing inside a chimney. It has a touch of the Dick Van Dykes about it.

The government certainly has mortar do on housing…

May Can’t Say Brexit Is Worth It

Asked if she thinks Brexit is worth it, May couldn’t answer.

Remember when she once said “you can only deliver Brexit if you believe in Brexit…”



I am here today to set out my vision for the future economic partnership between the United Kingdom and the European Union.

There have been many different voices and views in the debate on what our new relationship with the EU should look like. I have listened carefully to them all.

But as we chart our way forward with the EU, I want to take a moment to look back.

Eighteen months ago I stood on Downing Street and addressed the nation for my first time as Prime Minister.

I made this pledge then, to the people that I serve:

I know you’re working around the clock, I know you’re doing your best, and I know that sometimes life can be a struggle.

The government I lead will be driven not by the interests of the privileged few, but by yours.

We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives.

When we take the big calls, we’ll think not of the powerful, but you.

When we pass new laws, we’ll listen not to the mighty but to you.

When it comes to taxes, we’ll prioritise not the wealthy, but you.

When it comes to opportunity, we won’t entrench the advantages of the fortunate few.

We will do everything we can to help anybody, whatever your background, to go as far as your talents will take you.

We are living through an important moment in our country’s history. As we leave the European Union, we will forge a bold new positive role for ourselves in the world, and we will make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few, but for every one of us.

That pledge, to the people of our United Kingdom is what guides me in our negotiations with the EU.

And for me that means five things:

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May Explains Why We Can’t Stay in Any Form of Customs Union

“The EU has also formed a customs union with some other countries. But those arrangements, if applied to the UK, would mean the EU setting the UK’s external tariffs, being able to let other countries sell more into the UK without making it any easier for us to sell more to them, or the UK signing up to the Common Commercial Policy. That would not be compatible with a meaningful independent trade policy. It would mean we had less control than we do now over our trade in the world. Neither Leave nor Remain voters would want that.”

Sorry Jez and Michel, shouldn’t be possible for her to backslide from this…

Time’s Up For Chorley

Last night’s Westminster Correspondents Dinner saw Matt Chorley finally able to showcase his wit to a larger audience. It was an opportunity he was never going to give up lightly – he certainly wasn’t going to let the fact that he’s no longer the Press Gallery chairman stand in the way. In the weeks running up to the bash, Chorley argued he should give the main journalist’s speech because he didn’t get to do it when last year’s event was cancelled. It was not lost on the female members of the Lobby that, in the centenary year of women getting the vote, a man was demanding all the glory despite two women – Kate McCann and Emily Ashton – now being the Press Gallery and Lobby chairmen. Chorley and outgoing Lobby chair Tom Newton Dunn then secured the two keynote speeches. Justice was served for the sisterhood by one Theresa May, who spent a good few minutes of her speech roasting Chorley:

“so self-effacing is Matt, that in this centenary year of female suffrage, the year of Time’s Up and Me Too, he has demonstrated just what a stalwart ally he is, by heroically forcing the female Chairman of the Press Gallery to sit in silence and listen to him speak.”

Those male Lobby egos brought back down to earth…

May’s Best Gags From Correspondents Dinner

Some actually not bad jokes from Theresa May at the Westminster Correspondents Dinner last night – she’s surprisingly good at this sort of thing and Guido gives you the highlights below. The Hammond crack is a zinger and she even told a sex joke…

“I was able to catch up with David Cameron over the phone and as ever he had some excellent advice. Don’t worry about Boris. Don’t worry about the Chancellor. Worry about ambitious female Home Secretaries. Lovely to see you here tonight, Amber…” Cue awkward OTT laugh from Amber…

“I remember one canvassing trip that sticks in my memory. I was at the open door of a caravan and there was clearly some activity within, so I knocked and there was no answer. But the activity persisted. I could see somebody lying down on the bed so I knocked again. There was no reply so I looked round the door and there was indeed somebody lying down. It was not one person but two, and it was not the best time to ask them if they’re going to vote Conservative. I have to say they were giving a whole new meaning to the phrase deep and special.”

“Matt Hancock has transcended into a higher state of existence. He’s thrown off the surly bonds of flesh and blood. Matt Hancock actually is now an app. He communicates with me by way of alarming phone notifications. Matt Hancock would like to track your location. Matt Hancock would like to access your photos. But perhaps most worryingly of all, there is a fault with Matt Hancock. Other ministers are following his lead. The Boris Johnson app is great for extending your vocabulary, but it does contain some adult content. The Philip Hammond app is like a drier, less frivolous version of LinkedIn. I’m told one minister is even developing a labour-saving app which converts every Cabinet discussion directly into a James Forsyth column, thus cutting out the hassle of briefing him each week. Tonight I can reveal I’m even working on my own app. It does provide GPS directions to your nearest wheat field, real time tracking of Priti Patel’s air travel, and an instant allocation of all household chores into boy jobs and girl jobs.” 

On Lobby hacks’ early careers… “In 1997 we read how one Tom Newton Dunn reported on how plastic surgery to create the body beautiful is no longer just a female prerogative. I have to say Tom if I were you I’d ask for your money back.”

Boom boom…

Give Jezza the (High Tariff) Boot

Two centimetres of snow in Westminster provided excuse enough for Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Her Majesty’s loyal opposition, to arrive at the set piece event of the political week (watched by millions around the globe, the premium export of British democracy) in hiking boots. Yes, he actually wore a pair of grey, rubber soled hiking boots on the frontbench. Ugg boots and an ‘El Gato’ onesie next week? Spats? Clown shoes? Bowling sneakers? Summer’s on its way: sombrero? Why not get into the spirit of the upcoming World Cup and pitch up in full Venezuela strip? Or how about a mackintosh, trilby hat, sunglasses and a newspaper with eye-holes cut out? 

Your correspondent retraced the route from Corbyn’s office on the Parliamentary Estate to the Chamber of the House of Commons. 99% of that route is inside, under cover, in halls carpeted and heated at your expense. Snow-booted Jez took around five steps exposed to the elements in the course of passing from one palatial building to another – but it’s a path, not a Himalayan pass strewn with the fallen corpses and discarded oxygen bottles of weather-beaten climbers. And unlike the glacial pavements the rest of us have to contend with (despite ever rising council tax), Parliament’s outdoor walkways are cleared of snow by a gang of lackeys (also at your expense). We wouldn’t want any of our beloved politicians to slip over, God forbid! Moreover, it is worth pointing out – not to labour the obvious – that even the most apocalyptic of snowmageddons is yet to bring that white stuff actually inside House of Commons chamber. Why? The place has a roof. As a certain former Prime Minister almost put it, put some proper shoes on, you absolute scruff-bag, the way you dress is now nothing less than a matter of national disgrace. 

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May: No UK PM Could Accept EU Draft Text on Northern Ireland

Try again, Michel…

May: Conceding Control of Laws, Borders and Money Would Be a “Betrayal”

Leavers will be filing this clip away for the future… very difficult for May to backslide now she’s said doing so would be a “betrayal”…

Labour Raising More Money Than Tories

The Tories invariably raise more money than Labour, not last quarter. Donors are clearly not inspired by May’s leadership, preferring not to cough up to prop her up.

Labour raised a million quid more than the Tories…[…] Read the rest


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Quote of the Day

Tory MP Douglas Ross on the fishing section of the transition deal:

“it would be easier to get someone to drink a pint of cold sick than to try to sell this as a success”


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