Sayeeda Says We’re Mi-steak-en

Baroness Warsi’s people get in touch to point out that Guido was wrong to suggest that the Tory Chairman was full of it yesterday. When she said “I’m a vegetarian” what she apparently meant to say was that she actually eats meat. She keeps Halal, but this was seemingly too complicated to explain while being interviewed for a 2,500 word piece.

Glad that confusion is completely resolved then.

Tories Organise Huhne Blitz in Eastleigh

Requests have been sent to nearly 2,000 Tory activists to descend on the Chris Huhne’s Eastleigh constituency this Sunday, just two days after his next court appearance. Eastleigh has long been a tense subject in Tory circles after Conor Burns nearly took Huhne out in 2005, though a by-election would be a nightmare for the government, with a straight yellow on blue fight on the cards.

It doesn’t look like the Tories will be pulling their punches though…

Channel Four News Weighs In On Helmer Row

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It’s not every day you get to talk about druids on national television…

The Other Sayeeda of the Story

Today’s Mail has picked up on Guido’s scoops regarding the ongoing battle between CCHQ and Roger Helmer MEPs. Tory MPs are now bombarding the chairman’s office with letters demanding that Rupert Matthews is allowed to take over when Helmer resigns, in line with convention. One bit of shameless spin made Guido chuckle:

“However, if Mr Helmer stands down, the returning officer would ask Mr Matthews to become an MEP as the next in line Tory on the list. Party chiefs would have to approve his candidacy, however, and sources say they cannot do so because he has dropped off the list of candidates. A senior source denied Baroness Warsi was trying to manipulate the East Midlands list.”

A bit of dodgy briefing there. The only reason Matthews “has dropped off the list”, is because Warsi threw him off…

UPDATE: Guido understands Crick is doing a bit of a hatchet job on Rupert Matthews for Channel 4 News tonight.

Spin Wars

Yesterday’s capitalism bunfight sent the spin machines into overdrive. Guido was amused by these two…

Helmer Statement Confirms Guido’s Scoops Tory MEP Will Not Quit for “Protégée From St. John’s Wood”

In a statement given to ConservativeHome Tory MEP Roger Helmer has confirmed Guido’s many stories about the “mexican stand-off” he is in with Warsi and CCHQ:

I have made it clear that I will not sign the formal resignation papers until the position is clarified and Rupert is confirmed. I was happy to resign in favour of the next-in-line in the normal way, but I am not prepared to stand aside for some A-List Cameron protégée from St. John’s Wood. However the Party says it will not call the panel and make the decision until I do resign. So we have a Mexican stand-off.

I think that both I and Rupert (and our respective families) are entitled to some certainty and resolution on the issue. Accordingly I have indicated to the Party Chairman that if the situation is not resolved within a few weeks, I shall withdraw my offer to resign. 

I have also made it clear to the Party Chairman that I believe that my obligations on this point have been fully and finally discharged by my offer, made in good faith, to resign. Accordingly, if I am obliged to stay in place until 2014, I shall feel no further sense of obligation or responsibility to the Party.

You read about his resignation, and the ensuing battle here, here and here first.

Exclusive: Rupert Matthews Heads to Strasbourg


Regular readers will be aware of the final battle between outgoing Tory MEP Roger Helmer and CCHQ. Helmer was meant to resign at the beginning of the month, but has refused to budge until Rupert Matthews, the next person on the East Midlands Tory list, has been confirmed as his successor. Tory Chairman Sayeeda Warsi has been pushing for a woman to be parachuted in instead, but it seems she is losing the fight. Guido’s eyes and ears in Strasbourg report that Matthews will be out there this week for meetings with Martin Callanan the Tory group leader, the Whips and assorted allies. Guido understands that he will even be at the enthronement of the new EU Parliament President, for his sins. It’s looking increasingly tough for Warsi to halt this now…

CCHQ Welcome Helmer’s Replacement

The latest internal CCHQ newsletter for the Midlands welcomes Rupert Matthews as Roger Helmer MEP’s replacement. It even has a whole article about his preparations for taking over. It was sent out by the official Conservative’s Midlands ofice and, given the ongoing row over the succession, HQ might have something to say about it. It’s looking increasingly difficult for Sayeeda Warsi and Co. to block Matthews becoming an MEP, as they have  spent the last few months trying to do…

See also: Helmer’s Last CCHQ Battle, Helmer No Longer Resigning, Helmer’s Un-Resignation 

Conservative Arab Network is Back, Minus Some Players

In November Guido was digging around the Conservative Arab Network, an organisation not affiliated to the Tories, yet one that used their branding. The problem came when a lobbyist was using it on his business card. The CAN website quickly ditched the tree and Guido followed up with news that they had been struck off of Companies House, despite continuing to fundraise and hold events.

Since then they have officially applied for affiliate status with CCHQ, but a decision has not yet been made by the Party Board. CAN seem to  be launching a new website today, complete with Tory branding, despite the rules prohibiting this. Guido will be looking out to see whether Trey Barnes, the aforementioned defence lobbyist, will be featured on the new site. A little birdy tells him that he and his partner Sophie de Schwartzburg-Gunther, who was also a former CAN director, are out of the group…

Exclusive: Tory MEP Roger Helmer No Longer Resigning

Back in October, Guido broke the news that the Conservative MEP Roger Helmer had handed a letter of resignation to CCHQ. This blog was also first with the fact that CCHQ were doing their utmost to stop Rupert Matthews, the next candidate on the East Midlands party list and Helmer’s preferred successor, from being anointed. Well once again Guido is first with the news: Roger Helmer won’t be resigning after all.

Helmer’s resignation was supposed to be effective of today, but as party chairman Sayeeda Warsi is apparently insisting on someone other than Matthews, apparently “a less-geeky woman”, takes over, Helmer has decided to dig his boots in. A European co-conspiritor told Guido last night “Roger won’t be going anywhere unless Rupert is guaranteed.” CCHQ sources insist that they won’t be budging on this one, so it looks like Helmer will be staying. Once again, the Tory high-command’s gender-agenda has created an almighty mess…

Dead Ed: The Graph CCHQ Rein in the Hounds

Newsnight gave Ed a pasting last night, but sometimes a graph is all you need. Left Foot Forward have hit the spot:

Half the country thinks he possess absolutely no qualities worth noting. Guido hears that CCHQ strategists have scrapped an attack on Ed’s leadership pencilled in for Friday morning, post by-election defeat…

Tories Recruit Hundreds of Interns for Free Cabinet Level Exploitation

The blogger Ian Silvera has processed the data of how many interns are employed, for free, by politicians. Bad news for the Tories this morning as it emerges that the practice of exploiting slave labour goes to the very top of government. The worst offender by far is Jeremy Hunt, who has taken on seven unpaid interns in the last year. Mark Harper, Dominic Grieve and Andrew Mitchell have had three recreational bag-carriers a piece, while other members of the Cabinet, including Lansley, Gillan, and Greening have all recruited gratis support. Once CCHQ and the backbenchers are also scrutinised, the number of unpaid interns the Tories have used in the last year is at least 125. And they were the ones that were merely advertised rather than auctioned!

UPDATE:

Which reminds Guido of one of his favourite ever Guy News videos

UKIP Steal Tory Candidate and Helmer's Last CCHQ Battle

After Guido’s scoop this morning about CCHQ’s tactful start to the upcoming Heathrow By-Election, all sorts of other divisions have been emerging today. Many are asking what happened to the Tory love-in with open primaries, or even a basic selection meeting. The Commentator reports further embarrassment for Dave:  one former approved candidate did get a look in for selection, by UKIP:

 “…the UKIP candidate, highly likely to steal more than the 992 conservative votes that Jerry Shadbolt took in 2010, is none other than former Tory candidate for Edmonton, Andrew Charalambous. The businessman and barrister is also the founder of ‘Surya’, the world’s first eco-nightclub which hosted the official ‘Conservative Future’ party in November 2010. Activists may be confused as to whether to campaign for Cameron, who delivered them government, or for Charalambous, who delivered them… booze.”

With the Tories in a strong second place in the seat, the form set by the Oldham by-election should mean that we will be seeing the LibDems taking a sham role in this race. With the backdrop to this election, we could easily see UKIP coming third.

Talking of Euro-sceptics. Word reaches Guido from his Brusselois co-conspirator that all is not well with the outgoing Roger Helmer MEP. Normally the rules state that whoever is the next down the party list, automatically replaces a resigning MEP. However not everyone in CCHQ is enamoured with the equally Euro-sceptic replacement Rupert Matthews. He is a little eccentric and likes UFOs, but that can hardly render you unfit for selection when Norman Baker is in the government.

Some obscure quirk of the party constitution is being cited as a way of over-ruling the convention, but Helmer is having none of it. He has declared that unless Matthews is anointed his successor he won’t be resigning after all…

Turbulent Tory Take-Off at Heathrow By-Election

As the Tories announce their candidate for the upcoming Heathrow Airport by-election, there was some rather loud grumbling in the ranks last night. CCHQ have gone with the seat’s two-time general election veteran Mark Bowen. He’s the head of the Tory group on Hounslow Council and is looking to over turn the late Alan Keen’s 4,658 majority.

Given that the local press declared Bowen had “virtually accepted defeat” before polling day in May 2010, many boys and girls on the CCHQ approved list feel there should have been some semblance of an open contest, but it was all quiet from HQ. So imagine how well this email was received, hot from the Candidates Office, hours before last night’s announcement was made:

“I am expecting every candidate on the Approved List to rise to the challenge and take part in the campaign and polling day. If you are unable to visit Feltham & Heston, you can help out in other ways by joining our call centre in Millbank or at CCHQ Midlands based in Coleshill.

I am enclosing your Campaign Support Record Sheet. Therefore it is vitally important to print a copy and take it with you whenever you go to Feltham & Heston. This sheet will be signed by one of our Sector Agents each time you go. At the end of the campaign the completed sheet should be returned to the Candidates Department at CCHQ”

It’s not the request that is causing feathers to be spat, rather the patronising handholding and school trip worksheets, handed out in silence about how the decision was being made. So unity and vigour for December 15. It’s going to be a frosty winter on the stump..

Spot the Difference?

Strangely the Conservative Arab Network (C.A.N.) website has undergone a design change this afternoon. Above is their logo before and after Guido’s article from earlier today. Can you spot the difference?

Did Guido mention the Conservative Arab Network Limited was struck off the Company register earlier this year for not filing financial returns despite the directors getting three months warning? Will that be a problem for it becoming officially affiliated to CCHQ? 

Scotland's Top Tory Spinner in a Spot of Bother Tension Added to Tomorrow's Leadership Face Off

Another Sunday and another hit on “Dave’s candidate” for the Scottish Conservative Party leadership – Ruth Davidson. The Herald team report:

“The Conservatives’ top spin doctor in Scotland is under intense pressure over claims he has been advising a candidate in the party’s leadership election. Ramsay Jones, who as head of media has to be neutral in the contest, recently attended a meeting at Ruth Davidson’s home with her campaign strategists.”

The controversy focuses around a meeting on Sunday September 18 at the Cameroon former BBC journo’s Glasgow home. Jones, a party official paid for on short money, did a 150 mile round trip to attend. Officially, it’s  no comment all round, but Guido has spoken to other Scottish Tory figures who are fuming…

With one candidate ready to start all over again with a new party, and presumably new staff, the phrase “self-preservation society” is being thrown around an awful lot up north. Murdo Fraser’s plans have defined the entire debate to find a new Tory leader, and Davidson immediately became the “stop Murdo” candidate for those looking to save their own jobs. This meeting isn’t the first sign that the Tory establishment is backing Ruth, but it is the proof of the pudding.

While Cameron wants to keep out of this race, the timing of this story couldn’t be worse for him given that the candidates are going to come face to face at a conference hustings tomorrow afternoon in their first high-profile ding-dong. Given the temperature of the briefing going on this weekend it could get very messy…

UPDATE: Tory Party Chairman Baroness Warsi just told the Politics Show that she though Davidson was “fantastic”. There was no such praise for any other candidate. Seems the impartiality of the Party is well and truly out of the window…

Gove-Mail G-Mail

The full extent of the havoc that the Department of Education mole has caused is beginning to emerge. Today’s FT reveals another internal email that Gove’s people would probably rather not see the light of day.

As Guido reported a couple of weeks ago, the department SpAd’s assistant, Matt Gillespie, loyal to Gove’s predecessor Ed Balls, had sight of the Gove team’s emails and computers and has clearly made the most of it. They must be wondering what else he walked out with before he went to work for John Denham. No wonder the Tories are on the hunt

Chris Cook at the FT has taken the juiciest bits of an email sent by Gove’s loyal sidekick Dominic Cummings to other advisers suggesting that he would not be using his official email account anymore. What Cook fails to point out is that the full email, which Guido has put online here,  is about party political activity and sent to Conservative operational staff and spinners – something that arguably should not be done on government accounts. What does look a bit odd is the fact that he refuses to use his official party address either, opting instead for Gmail.

Chris Cook suggests that FoI  requests failed to turn up emails he has seen, thus breaking the law, however FoI does not apply to private party politics, only government business. While team Gove may be on the right side of the law here, it is muddy and hard to know where the line is drawn, eyebrows will be raised that Gove is allegedly using an email account in his wife’s name. If Labour have more from Gillespie to feed to Cook, this could get very messy…

Red Ed's Cuts are Dead

CCHQ are cock-a-hoop pushing the line that Miliband now opposes every single spending cut. Not sparing any dramatics, they are hammering home by withdrawing his support for the police budget reductions, Miliband has now u-turned on supporting any named cut:

  • Ed Miliband once said he would make a 12 per cent real-terms cut to central government’s contribution to the police budget. Now he wouldn’t make any cuts at all.
  • Ed Miliband once said he agreed with time-limiting Employment and Support Allowance. Now Labour oppose it.
  • Ed Miliband once said he agreed with reforming the Disability Living Allowance gateway. Now Labour oppose it.
  • Ed Miliband once said he agreed with making savings in the roads maintenance programme. Now Labour oppose it.
  • Ed Miliband once said he agreed with making reductions to the Legal Aid budget. Now Labour oppose it.

Sounds more like a conference speech than a press release…

Mini-Reshuffle Runners and Riders

As reported yesterday, Downing Street have signed off the plans for a mini-shuffle should the CPS press the big-red Huhne button. All talk of the one time leader in waiting being able to cling on, despite a charge, has withered away, even amongst his most loyal Praetorians online. As Guido told you back in May, the two LibDem front-runners for the Energy and Climate Change brief are Ed Davey and Jeremey Browne:

“Both are Orange Bookers, though Browne is seen as more right-wing which will likely dent his chances for the soppy climate change brief. Obviously Laws is toxic and Guido understands that Sarah Teather has little chance of a promotion.”

Huhne has managed to convince everyone he’s a bit left-wing, which makes Davey seem a likelier option. Though given he held the LibDems Foreign affairs brief before the election, it would make sense to pop him in the Foreign Office and promote the telegenic Browne to the Cabinet.

After she lost control of her backbenchers, leaving the Prime Minister floundering at the height of the phone hacking crisis, the speculation that Warsi is for the chop is growing. Grant Shapps is much tipped to replace her as Tory chairman. Newsnight’s permanent fixture Michael Fallon wouldn’t be too happy though. The current Deputy Chairman has been pressing the flesh recently…

Guido reckons two birds could be killed with one stone here. Shapps, the uber-loyal Cameroon Housing Minister could go and beef up the CCHQ operation, Warsi could stay out of trouble sticking little windmills on a map in Huhne’s old job, and a LibDem could replace Shapps. However it is unlikely that the yellows would be willing to swap a Cabinet job for a mere Minister. Though given the fact that Huhne walking would be their third Cabinet cock-up in a row, perhaps Dave should put his foot down.

Huntsman Throws Spanner in Romney's London Visit

Given the Yanks are in town to write about British politics, Guido thought he would turn his hand to the American presidential bid. Coincidently Republican front-runner Mitt Romney is also in London today to raise some cash from expats. He is trying to keep a low profile and avoid the media, though apparently he’s a little put out Dave is too busy to see him.[…] Read the rest

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Quote of the Day

Alan Sugar on Jeremy Corbyn:

“It’s clear you alluded to students refunds to get votes from young impressionable people. You are a cheat and should resign.”

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