PMQs: Who’s Asking the Questions?

Oral Questions to the Prime Minister

Q1 Tommy Sheppard (Edinburgh East) If she will list her official engagements for Wednesday 4 July.
Q2 Dr Roberta Blackman-Woods (City of Durham)
Q3 Rachel Maclean (Redditch)
Q4 Scott Mann (North Cornwall)
Q5 Gillian Keegan (Chichester)
Q6 Mr Simon Clarke (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland)
Q7 Marsha De Cordova (Battersea)
Q8 Alex Norris (Nottingham North)
Q9 Mr Robert Goodwill (Scarborough and Whitby)
Q10 Julie Cooper (Burnley)
Q11 Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central)
Q12 Kate Hoey (Vauxhall)
Q13 Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar)
Q14 Imran Hussain (Bradford East)
Q15 Andrew Lewer (Northampton South)

Comments in the comments…

Electoral Commission Ignored Evidence Disproving Central Claims Against Vote Leave

The Electoral Commission is facing difficult questions this morning after it emerged they are to find Vote Leave guilty of breaking electoral law despite refusing to hear evidence that would have disproved the central claims. BeLeave’s Darren Grimes, who was 22 at the time, is expecting to be fined £20,000 for filling in his forms wrongly. The Commission failed to interview a single senior Vote Leave staff member during its investigation, or at any point in the last two years. They heard evidence from the discredited whistleblowers making the allegations, yet didn’t allow Vote Leave figures to defend themselves against the claims, despite multiple attempts from Vote Leave officials to meet the Commission and provide evidence. This is a real breach of natural justice – whatever you think of Brexit and the merits of the case, is it justice if the Electoral Commission find someone guilty of a criminal offence without allowing them to give a defence? 

It gets worse, the Electoral Commission’s failure to discuss any of their accusations with Vote Leave means that many of them are just factually incorrect. The central finding was reached because the Commission wrongly claimed that a bombshell email from Dominic Cummings to donor Anthony Clake proved that Vote Leave were raising donations for BeLeave with the intention of obliging the latter to spend that money on AIQ. They missed evidence from other internal emails that BeLeave had in fact requested money to spend on AIQ weeks before. So the Electoral Commission’s bombshell email… isn’t.

The Commission claims that BeLeave’s messaging was controlled by Vote Leave, yet they again refused to speak to anyone from Vote Leave to challenge that assertion. They even ignored evidence from the whistleblowers themselves that the messaging was in fact controlled by BeLeave. This point just looks nakedly partisan from the Electoral Commission – even Carole Cadwalladr doesn’t make this claim.

There are basic factual errors, the Commission claimed BeLeave was established in May 2016, it was in fact established and was active for many months before. The Commission’s own former retained barrister, Tim Straker QC, has noted that their continual mistakes amount to “an error in law”.

This is all without mentioning the Electoral Commission’s refusal to investigate the wealth of evidence that the Remain campaign colluded on a much greater scale. Guido can understand why Remain campaigners want to do in Vote Leave and overturn Brexit, but this stitch up from the Electoral Commission is objectively not justice…

Lefties Disappointed as England Win

As readers nurse their hangovers this morning – yes, that really did happen – spare a thought for the lefties of Twitter who were supporting Colombia. Top Corbynista Ellie Mae O’Hagan, who to be fair is Welsh, was not a fan of yesterday’s Sun front page and accordingly called for England to be “thrashed”:

Kevin Maguire sent this premature tweet when it looked like it might not be coming home:

Guardian writer and fellow Welshwoman Dawn Foster, who is supporting England’s quarter final opponents Sweden, spent the evening at a Sinn Fein event and gave her backing to the Colombian fans:

Meanwhile the New Statesman published a piece by Rachel Cockerell, who “spent three months in Colombia last year”, headlined: “I hope England lose tonight”.

Sorry Ellie Mae, Dawn, Kev, Rachel, your boys took one hell of a beating…

‘SNP Plot’ Could Ruin England Match for MPs

It’s Estimates Day in the Commons, a dull procedure by which MPs formally consider estimates of future spending by government departments. This isn’t particularly controversial and most estimates are ‘rolled-up’ to minimise the number of votes – often there aren’t any votes at all. Tory MPs have been warned to expect multiple divisions tonight and there are rumours of an “SNP plot” to force votes which would mean MPs spend the match in the division lobbies rather than the bar. The SNP would not be so petty as to spoil England fans enjoyment of the game tonight, would they?

MEPs Vote to Reject Transparency for Expenses ‘Second Salary’

MEPs last night voted down a long-awaited proposal to make their controversial General Expenditure Allowance (GEA) transparent to the public. The GEA is a tax-free, lump-sum monthly payment of €4,416 deposited directly into the private bank account of each MEP. This equates to €200 million of taxpayers’ money per term…

The shameful GEA is supposed to be used mainly for covering office rent and related costs in each MEP’s constituency. Politico found a third of MEPs do not maintain such an office or refused to disclose if they have one…

There have been multiple examples of MEPs using the GEA improperly – many privately regard it as a salary top-up. Former Labour MEP Peter Skinner clocked up £500,000 on expenses – splurged on holidays, hotels and jewelry – before being jailed for four years. UK MEPs voluntarily disclose their spending – most foreign MEPs are not required to do so or even keep records. Roll on Brexit…

Williamson Heckled By Siri

Gavin Williamson’s phone goes off as he speaks at the despatch box. Was he heckled by the sound of his own voice? One of his Insta stories from the Commons chamber? With the audio turned up, it turns out it was actually Siri: “I’ve found something on the web for Syrian Democratic Forces”

Perhaps soon AI will be able to replace MPs as lobby fodder. Dread to think what else Siri has overheard the Defence Secretary say…

Labour Reinstate Jared

The Guardian reports Jared O’Mara’s case is finally being heard by Labour’s disputes panel today, and that they are likely to give him just a formal warning rather than recommend him for expulsion. His journey continues…

UPDATE: Jess Elgot with the scoop – she reports Jared WILL be reinstated. Does this mean we’ll finally get to hear his maiden speech?

UPDATE II: A Labour spokesman said: “The Disputes Panel has ruled on the balance of the evidence that a formal warning should be issued and a mandatory requirement to attend training.”

Cleverly Rules Out Mayoral Bid

James Cleverly joins Justine Greening, George Osborne and Ed Vaizey in ruling himself out of the Tory mayoral nomination:

Which leaves the remaining runners and riders:

  • Shaun Bailey: London Assembly Member who is one of the few candidates with a backstory to rival Khan’s. Has been effective in his criticism of the mayor over knife crime. 
  • Syed Kamall: Time for a Brexiter mayor of London? Came second to Zac in the Tory nomination stakes last time round. Popular with true believers.
  • Kulveer Ranger: Another former Boris adviser who was very effective in City Hall.
  • Duwayne Brooks: Friend of Stephen Lawrence who was with him when he was murdered. Joined the Tories a couple of weeks ago and is being talked up by insiders. Has branded Sadiq “the worst mayor ever”One to watch.
  • Andrew Boff: Perennial candidate. Ladbrokes favourite…
  • Richard Tice: The businessman who co-founded Leave.EU is an accomplished media performer – readers will remember his punchy Question Time appearance. Would be bold to choose a Brexiter in London, though.
  • Rohan Silva: Former blue sky digital tech guru to Cameron and Osborne, Silva went on to found the Second Home workspace in Spitalfields. His name has been doing the rounds, he’s a Remainer but would be good for the youth vote and a more interesting candidate than some of those below. 
  • Munira Mirza: Former deputy mayor to Boris, she wrote compellingly for the Speccie a couple of months back about how stop and search is the best weapon in the fight against knife crime. The Tories have a real shortage of strong female candidates – indeed Mirza might be the only one.
  • Gavin Barwell: Was sniffing around last year when he thought things were falling apart in Number 10. Would someone who couldn’t hold Croydon be able to win London? There are local whispers that Barwell now has his eye on Bob Stewart’s 15,000 majority Beckenham seat instead…
  • Nick de Bois: Former Enfield MP. CCHQ took his advice on bringing the selection forwards. Has outlined how he would beat Sadiq here.

The big names shunning a doomed campaign…

UPDATE: Syed Kamall rules himself out too, “The announcement of hustings so soon means I cannot take part and still fulfil my role in helping to get the best possible deal between the UK and EU.”

Just 7% of MPs Complete Fire Safety Training Despite “Another Grenfell” Warning

Just 7% of MPs have completed fire safety training despite Parliament being identified as a ‘red risk’ fire hazard which has the potential to be “another Grenfell”, Guido can reveal. Around 46 out of 650 have completed Parliament’s online fire safety course which contains vital information on how to evacuate their staff. MPs were asked to undertake the training by House authorities. Sir David Amess, MP’s representative on the Fire Safety Committee, said in an email to colleagues:

“Regardless of how you voted on the restoration and renewal motion, whilst we remain in the Palace it is beholden on all of us to do all we can to make ourselves familiar with evacuation procedures if a fire broke out.”

Former Black Rod David Leakey compared Parliament to “another Grenfell” waiting to happen. Fire experts have rated the collapsing building in the highest possible category of fire risk. Even if MPs don’t care for their own safety they have a duty to their staff…

Vaizey Attempts Flossing

Attempts being the operative word…

Jared Victim Vows: I Won’t Rest Until He Says Sorry

The woman who accused Labour’s Jared O’Mara of calling her an “ugly bitch” today vowed to challenge him at public events until he issues a personal apology to her. Sophie Evans went to Jared’s first unrestricted access event since the scandal erupted around his conduct. She went along to a public meeting at Sheffield library this week alongside other critics of the MP’s conduct. She told Guido:

“When Jared saw us I’ve never seen fear in a man’s eyes like that, he was like a rabbit caught in the headlights… he was trying to avoid eye contact. He suddenly announced he had to leave 15 minutes early… then he left. We talked to some really nice people from the Womens’ Equality Party… he’s clearly trying to avoid us… I want him to admit what happened and I want him to apologise, and be a real MP and stop running away… we aren’t going to let it go… we’ll be there if he does another public meeting, and we’ll get thrown out again, but we’ll be there.”

Labour’s investigation into Jared remains unresolved – and there’s no sign of progress. (UPDATE: He has today been reinstated). Victims taking the matter into their own hands…

Tory Lead Grows to Five Points

Latest Westminster voting intention from YouGov (25-26 June):

CON 42%
LAB 37%
LD 9%
OTH 12%

Public not bothered about Brexit infighting…

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…

Hancock Jumps on a Wall

Matt Hancock has tweeted a video of himself jumping onto a 2 foot high wall and claimed it shows him demonstrating the military training discipline of parkour:

This follows him attempting to moonwalk last week:

Is he worried about Liz Truss?

Red Len’s Mixed Messages

Awkward listening for Jezza at Unite Policy Conference which is meeting today in Brighton. Red Len told delegates:

“My message is to Jeremy and our comrades in the party leadership. We all know that the next election is far from in the bag. We know that we need to do more to expand our support, including among those who should have voted Labour last year. And it is plain that one problem is a weakness in some industrial areas outside the big cities, among older working-class voters in particular…Test every policy against how it is going to play in Walsall and Wakefield, Mansfield and Middlesbrough, Glasgow and Gateshead”

Better to address that message to Shadow Cabinet remainers…

Not sure how that squares with Len’s other intervention today: he said Unite would back a Second Referendum if its members demand one. Corbyn has set his face against the idea. Unite’s out-of-touch officer class sending mixed messages to the rank and file…

PM Runners and Riders

Radio 4’s closest thing to drive time, PM, is without a presenter with stalwart Eddie Mair departing for the bright lights of commercial radio at LBC, where he will displace Iain Dale in the drive time prime slot. The BBC’s bitter ongoing gender pay row is said to be a factor in Mair, who was said to be unwilling to take a gender based pay-cut, going. Additional controversy over gender balance among the top presenting slots is an additional headache for the Beeb. Guido takes a look at the names doing the rounds at Broadcasting House…

Emma Barnett – Headline maker fast becoming a household name thanks to her fearless Brillo-style grilling of politicians. There would be push back from 5Live who want to keep her. Strong contender…

Carolyn Quinn – Already Mair’s deputy at PM with lots of relief presenting experience on the show. A move could perhaps free up the Westminster Hour for one of the other political correspondents. Would be a direct and predictable step up the ladder. Safe option…

Mishal Husain – Established presenter with internal reputation for even-handedness. With the Today programme said to be in turmoil, it is rumored numerous presenters are open to jumping ship. Logical move…

Martha Kearney – Huge experience of Radio 4‘s daytime news output over 11 years on The World At One. Top flight political experience at Newsnight, too. The WATO production team is shared with PM. Another who might be looking for a way out of the troubled Today programme…

Laura Kuenssberg – A huge boon for Radio 4 if Laura K were to spend more time on the station; would be an opportunity to walk straight onto a big show as the main presenter if the BBC’s Political Editor wanted to move from reporting to presenting. No sign of that yet though…

Robert Peston – Famous for his on air ‘banter’ clashes with Mair, Peston was a longtime contributor to PM before he defected to ITV and is said to love the programme. His Peston on Sunday show has been bumped to Wedenesday nights after ITV News at Ten. Time for a return to Auntie? 

Vicky Young – Chief Political Correspondent who could move from reporting to full time presenting. Lots of experience on the BBC News channel.

– the ubiquitous media editor can never be ruled out of any BBC presenter role.

The pressure is on to make the optics right around the appointment – remember the Question Time gig is also up for grabs, which may dissuade some.

EU Shipping Plastic Waste to Asia for Marine Disposal

Supposedly ‘recycled’ waste from the EU is being sent to Asia to take advantage of poorly enforced environmental regulations resulting in large amounts of plastic being dumped in the ocean. The practice causes severe harm to local marine life. Around 20% of the 85 million tons of waste sent to Asian countries ends up in the sea…

Since the Chinese banned waste imports, the shipments are being diverted to other Asian countries. Dr Mikko Paunio of the GWPF said:

“The effects look as though they will be appalling. We can expect a great deal more plastic to end up in the environment, and in the oceans in particular. If the EU was serious about its war against marine pollution it should consider banning the export of plastic recyclate rather than banning plastic straws or taxing incineration.”

This large quantity of waste being exported is mainly caused by High Landfill Taxes set by the EU which force European countries to send their waste to countries where environmental standards are poorly enforced. EU waste isn’t only financial…

Financial Services Hiring and Investment Up

The remain campaigning CBI has revealed 70% of financial services firms are increasing spending in the coming years, with the same number saying that they are ‘confident’ they will have plans in place by the end of March 2019. Pre-tax profits in the financial services sector have also risen by 118% to reach £28 billion, a growth of more than £15 billion, credited largely to a strong performance by HSBC. CBI chief economist Rain Newton-Smith said:

“It’s good to see financial firms stepping up hiring and investment, with digital technologies and new services seen as the best way to grow in a fiercely competitive environment.”

Contrary to the CBI’s own previous predictions, banks have ignored Project Fear, and instead focused on increased spending, employment and investment. In 2016, Newton-Smith said in a CBI report:

“The challenges facing the sector have not gone away – they’ve actually grown. Add the uncertainty caused by Brexit to low interest rates, technological change and strong competition, and it’s plain to see why optimism is falling and pressure on margins remains intense.”

More CBI nonsense debunked…

Bang to Rights: Craig Oliver Claimed No.10 Didn’t Write Obama’s ‘Back of Queue’ Line

This morning ex-White House staffer Ben Rhodes told the Today programme that David Cameron and his aides asked Obama to say the infamous “back of the queue” line. A flick back through Craig Oliver’s Unleashing Demons (via @mrharrycole) shows that at the time Sir Craig claimed the opposite was true and briefed the press accordingly. He recalled:

“There’s some weird whingeing from the Leavers that the fact he said ‘queue’ instead of ‘line’ proves it was written by No 10. I slap it down. ‘Nonsense. The President can speak for himself’. 

Who’s lying? Will enjoy hearing Sir Craig spin this one…

Cabinet Brexiters Silent as Robbins Rubs Out Red Lines

As Downing Street’s Remainer Brexit supremo Olly Robbins further blurs the Prime Minister’s red lines, Guido cannot help but ask where are the Cabinet Brexiters?

  • Single market: According to the front page of today’s Times, Robbins is now saying there is no chance of the UK striking a bespoke deal with Brussels and that Downing Street is now favouring a Norway-style Brexit inside the single market.
[…] Read the rest

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Quote of the Day

Jeremy Corbyn told by veteran Jewish MP Margaret Hodge…

“You’re a f***ing anti-aemite and a racist”

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