Despite the reshuffle being formally paused until after the Queen’s funeral, Liz Truss has ploughed on with sacking Tory tree-hugger-in-chief Zac Goldsmith from his DEFRA ministerial post. While the government is still paying lip service to the Net Zero target, they’ve signalled climate and animal welfare issues could be de-prioritised over the coming months. The Guardian speculates that the Animal Welfare Bill could be first up for slaughter. The PM’s next royal audience should be interesting…
The news comes as The Guardian reports Liz is planning to follow through on her leadership election pledge and lift the ban on fracking as soon as possible, with first licences set to be issued as early as next week. This will no doubt come as welcome relief as energy bills continue to rise during winter. The decision comes despite the paper’s ominous quote from a forthcoming report that forecasting fracking-induced earthquakes “remains a significant challenge”. In August 2019 Caudrilla halted work after recording the UK’s “biggest fracking tremor”. The tremor in question was 1.55ML on the Richter scale, “which it likened to ‘a large bag of shopping dropping to the floor'”…
UPDATE: Read Zac’s letter to his former Defra colleagues below:
CCHQ will be relieved that the findings of the the long-expected independent investigation into alleged discrimination within the party. A number of key findings rejected critic charges and found in favour of the party on an institutional basis:
The report also says the Muslim Council of Britain, who questioned the impartiality of the investigation chair, failed to provide evidence despite being asked on multiple occasions.
The report does recommend points of improvement for the party, not least “clear evidence of a Party complaints system in need of overhaul”, with claims the party’s Complaints Team is under-resourced and inadequately trained. It also points to:
The most substantive criticism is of weak local party association systems for identifying discrimination, rather than at national level at CCHQ.
Hacks will no doubt focus on the section relating to Boris’s “letterboxes” column. The PM repeated his usual excuse of having written “millions of words as a journalist” and some things had been taken out of context, however he does say sorry:
“I am obviously sorry for any offence taken. Would I use some of the offending language from my past writings today? Now that I am PM, I would not.”
The report also notes that comments such as those by the PM, and Zac Goldsmith’s mayoral campaign, “give the impression to many that the Party and its leadership are insensitive to Muslim communities”. The report’s author, Professor Swaran Singh, says crucially: “I’m not saying that the party leadership IS insensitive to Muslim communities. I’m saying that the perception is very strong.” CCHQ says they’re considering the report and will respond later today, though the PM indicated to the chair he will implement many of the inquiry’s findings…
UPDATE: Guido learns a CCHQ meeting of all affiliate groups just took place. The party is now asking for feedback on the complaints process. The party were keen to highlight how “it’s good the report showed there was no political interference”
Yesterday Guido revealed Laura Pidcock was fined £3,835.32 for cheating in her re-election attempt. Today Guido can reveal three other Members of Parliament have been fined by the Standards Commissioner after using Parliamentary resources for party political campaigning.
All three politicians had, like Pidcock, sent constituents campaign letters using Parliamentary stationery and tax-funded second class stamps. After constituents complained the Standards Commissioner investigated the breaches and handed out fines, all of which have now been paid. Nothing more than a slap on the wrist…
When Zac Goldsmith first drew attention to the coordinated campaign of death threats being sent to Leavers this week, most responded with horror. Not everyone, though. If you look at the replies to the original tweet, hundreds and hundreds of nutty Remain supporters claimed Zac had fabricated the letter himself. Disturbingly, the worst offenders were three prominent journalists. The @hrtbps account, an anonymous lefty columnist with 66,000 followers, wrote a perverse article for the men’s website Joe.co.uk implying Goldsmith was responsible. He was joined by New European writer Mike Hind, who mocked the death threat and claimed there is “no evidence” it wasn’t a set up by Zac. Byline’s Peter Jukes suggested the death threat was “coordinated” by Steve Bannon. This morning Guido revealed that at least six Leave donors have been sent the chilling letters and the police are investigating. Don’t hold your breath for these embarrassed Remain cranks to apologise…
The BBC has sacked a radio presenter who told Tory MP Zac Goldsmith that a death threat sent to an 80 year-old Brexit-supporting constituent “should have been addressed to you”.
St.John Stephen, who had a fortnightly gardening slot on BBC Radio London, claimed he thought the letter telling Zac’s elderly constituent “We are going to kill you” was “some sort of set up”. A BBC spokesman tells Guido “This was clearly unacceptable” and Stephen will not be appearing on the Beeb again. What was he thinking?
Real anger in the Commons during the statement on John Worboys this afternoon. Zac Goldsmith told the new Justice Secretary that “until the Parole Board publicly explains the rationale behind the decision it took, people can’t possibly have confidence in our criminal justice system”. David Gauke replied that he will look at changing the rules to allow this to happen retrospectively for the Worboys case. It’s crucial that the Ministry of Justice get a move on here. The Parole Board must surely explain how they came to this decision before Worboys is released, otherwise how can the public possibly be safe?