May Told Brexiters Needed in No.10 Europe Unit

Tory MPs want Theresa May to add Brexit-supporting trade experts to her Number 10 team after concerns were raised that the current crop of policy aides are out of their depth and not signed up to the PM’s plan for leaving the customs union. The revelation that May’s senior aides “will not be crying into our beer” should the UK be forced to remain in a customs union has enraged Brexiters. As Guido reported yesterday, knives are out for the Number 10 Europe Unit, Denzil Davidson and Ed de Minckwitz, who are accused of attempting to “roll the pitch” ahead of caving on the customs union.

Davidson helped negotiate David Cameron’s failed pre-referendum deal with the EU, which hardly inspires confidence. There is consternation that de Minckwitz, who was one of Stronger In’s top advisers during the referendum and played the role of Boris in BSE’s debate prep, inexplicably holds the trade brief. When you add the Remainer-filled Europe Unit to May’s Remainer chief of staff Gavin Barwell – who blames Brexit for him losing his seat – and her Remainer chief EU adviser Olly Robbins – who came up with the disastrous ‘customs partnership’ fudge – it is clear that none of the PM’s top Brexit aides are true believers.

Some Leavers are lobbying for the role of DIT’s Crawford Falconer, someone who actually has trade expertise, to be beefed up. Others want Number 10 to listen more to the likes of the IEA’s Shanker Singham and the group Economists For Free Trade. There have been serious concerns for a while now that the calibre of May’s Brexit advisers is so low that “Heywood and Robbins run rings around them”. One of the key problems with Number 10’s approach to Brexit is that none of her Brexit aides believe in the cause. Pro-Brexit advisers, Nick Timothy even, would never have allowed their position on the customs union to become so vague. As Theresa May herself said, “You can only deliver Brexit if you believe in Brexit…”

Letters Going In If May Bottles Customs Union Confidence Vote

Brexiter Tory MPs are demanding that Theresa May makes next month’s customs union vote a confidence vote, and are making clear that letters will go in to Graham Brady if she attempts to further fudge the issue.

It is now the view of Leavers that the customs union has to be made an issue of confidence (though it can’t be a formal vote due to the Fixed Term Parliaments Act) and this has to happen next month. The government’s fudge so far has led the EU to reject the UK’s proposals and offer a binary choice between a customs union and no deal. May has to say once and for all that Brexit, and her premiership, means not staying in a customs union. This has to happen next month – if the crunch is delayed further the negotiation on customs will be doomed as Brussels and Remainers continue to work to undermine the UK position, and it will be too late to turn it around. Brexiter MPs know they cannot allow a situation where May is outplayed in the negotiation with Brussels, defeated by Remainers in the Commons and bounced into ‘reluctantly’ accepting membership of a customs union. 

Following yesterday’s Sunday Times story, Brexiter ministers let it be known that they could not stay in the government if May caved on the customs union. There was talk that David Davis would resign if Number 10 capitulates (though this would not be the first time he has threatened to quit). After Sajid Javid’s tweet yesterday it’s clear that it’s not just Brexiters for whom this is a red line. Certainly a raft of junior ministers would go. In the end Number 10’s Cabinet wargaming is a moot point. They know that if they surrender on the customs union, the letters would immediately go in and that would be that…

Boys Jobs: 85% of Downing Street SpAds Are Men

Guido can reveal the latest updated version of our ever popular SpAd List. Our analysis of the data reveals there is an incredible gender gap in Number 10. Of the 39 Downing Street SpAds a mere 6 are women, a meagre 15%. This is a significantly worse figure than across the rest of government. Being a Downing Street SpAd is it seems 85% a boy’s job…

Overall Guido counts 95 SpAds, 23 of which are women, that’s 24%, better than in Number 10 though not that impressive. Back in October Theresa May announced a “new drive” on gender equality in the workplace, “calling on companies to take steps to improve workplace equality”. There are more Johns and James’ working in Number 10 than there are women…

Last Day For May’s Head of Broadcast

Guido can reveal Theresa May’s head of broadcast Tom Swarbrick is leaving Number 10. Former LBC man Swarbrick, who was one of the brightest up-and-coming journalists around before he moved over to the dark side, has been with May for the long haul since summer 2016. The move has been in the works for a while and today is his last day – no pressure making sure the PM’s Brexit speech lands well. Good luck…

Trans-PMs

This by Ross Chmiel is fascinating. Entirely subjectively we think Cameron looks like a horsey girl, Blair looks mumsy, Callaghan and Heath like grannies, Wilson looks like a hot blonde, Eden like a girl in the Profumo scandal. May and Thatcher are mind boggling…

May’s Chief of Staff in Late Night “Twinkystar69” Porn Shocker

The late night activities of Gavin Barwell, Theresa May’s chief of staff in Number 10, are usually limited to tweeting from Nando’s. On Monday night however, it appears he was choking the chicken rather than eating it.

Barwell’s Twitter account replied to a pornographic tweet featuring two ‘teen schoolgirls’ and their ‘mom’, as well as a second video from the niche website Blacked.com. Guido has analysed the tweets and determined it is impossible that Barwell was hacked or clicked on a funny link. The only way he could have tweeted a reply featuring these handles – which were tagged into the original porn tweet – is if he was viewing the tweet in question. The porn account’s name is “Twinkystar“, and Gavin was viewing it on his Android device at 9:21pm. At least he wasn’t doing it in the office, right Gavin? 

UPDATE: Barwell has now deleted the tweet, proving he does have access to his account.

UPDATE II: Told Barwell was not in Downing Street when he sent porn reply (phew!). No. 10 source: “Gavin Barwell replied to this tweet, which was in his timeline, in error. He has deleted the reply and regrets the embarrassment this has caused.”

10 Questions For Jeremy Heywood to Answer

Jeremy Heywood is feeling “heat” from Number 10 this morning according to Whitehall sources. Guido will believe it when he sees it, Theresa May’s aides usually allow the Cabinet Secretary to walk all over them. The Sun reveals Heywood “played a key role in coordinating” the Brexit doom document and was consulted on it last month. The Times reckons he was ultimately “responsible” and “timed the paper’s release to “soften up” Cabinet ministers before a crucial meeting next week to discuss the government’s objectives for a future economic relationship with the EU”. Which means Heywood has several questions to answer this morning:

  • What was his role in the genesis of the project?
  • When did he find out about it?
  • When did he tell ministers about it?
  • When did he tell the Prime Minister?
  • Why did his civil servants start the project off their own backs, without permission from ministers?
  • Which civil servants were involved, in which departments?
  • To whom was the work accountable?
  • What role did the cross-Whitehall Government Economic Service play?
  • Is it normal for departments to carry out work about which their ministers have no knowledge?
  • According to Tim Shipman’s “Fall Out”, Heywood thought the Treasury’s referendum predictions were wrong. How? Why? How are these figures different? What lessons have been learned since then?

A senior government source says this morning that Heywood has “exceeded his mandate”… Number 10 have plenty to be asking him…

Nick Timothy Dodges Question of Contact With May

Asked by the BBC’s Eleanor Garnier if he is still in contact with Theresa May, her former chief of staff Nick Timothy said he hadn’t seen her since the election. That’s a yes then…

Tale of Two Interventions

Tuesday: Boris Johnson calls for more NHS spending, Downing Street organise for him to take a punishment beating at Cabinet and then publicly rebuke him to the Lobby.

Thursday: Philip Hammond calls for a sell-out on Brexit, Downing Street decline to comment.

Concerning…

‘May Not Bringing Brexiteers With Her’

Pretty damning analysis from the Telegraph’s Juliet Samuel about the situation between Brexiteers and Number 10. Let’s hope this can all be resolved amicably when the Cabinet meets to discuss the end state later this month…

‘One Week to Stop a Soft Brexit’, Barwell Failing to Hold it Together

Two columns today show just how serious things are between Number 10 and the Brexiteers. In the Speccie James Forsyth quotes a leading Vote Leave figure warning there is “a week to fight back” against a soft Brexit. His piece blames the whole clusterf**k on a “hopelessly understaffed” Downing Street, “a general lack of direction and grip” and the vacuum caused by Damian Green’s distractions. In the Times Iain Martin is even more damning, he says Number 10 “resembles a morgue” and names Gavin Barwell as “struggling to hold it all together”Yesterday Guido told how May is being bounced by Jeremy Heywood and Olly Robbins into a non-Brexit which prevents us from diverging from the EU – this is now the crunch issue.

Cabinet Brexiteers do not believe Theresa May wants to sell them out on Brexit. However they think May, Barwell and Number 10 do not understand the implications of the direction they are taking on regulatory alignment. Leavers are genuinely raging that there is no one in charge and the lack of leadership in Downing Street has allowed Heywood and Robbins to dictate the process and shift them towards a soft Brexit. Tories are even muttering wistfully that Nick Timothy would never have stood for this – it is a sign of how bad things are that some are almost longing for the days he was in charge. The Cabinet reckoning on the Brexit end state is promised before the end of the year. May has delayed it to hold her government together but in doing so her indecisiveness and caution has allowed the Remainers to walk her towards a non-Brexit.

The Vote Leave figure says there is a week to fight back against a soft Brexit. The other way of looking at it is May has a week to save herself from the consequences of taking the wrong path… 

Knives Out For Heywood and Robbins

Tory Brexiteers fear Theresa May is being bounced by her top civil servants Jeremy Heywood and Olly Robbins into a non-Brexit which prevents us from diverging from the EU after we leave. Leavers have been pragmatic, calm and willing to compromise throughout the Brexit process so far. This is really the first time things are in danger of seriously kicking off. This line in the draft text apparently agreed by Number 10 has caused genuine fears among all Brexiteers:

“In the absence of agreed solutions, the UK will maintain full alignment with the internal market, customs union…”

This is wholly unacceptable, it is almost unbelievable Number 10 would sign it off. Guido bumped into Lord Trimble last night and showed him this line, he stared at it for some time as if having difficulty believing it could be real before commenting: “This is surely not something the British government could sign up to”.

Brexiteers believe Heywood and Robbins are taking advantage of a weak Downing Street to force through a Brexit which keeps us too closely aligned to Brussels. Guido reported in September that Heywood and Robbins were seeking a softer EEA minus model, there are now genuine fears of a stitch up and Number 10 choosing a route closer to that than the real Brexit preferred by Boris, Gove and Fox, and demanded by the referendum result. A Whitehall source says May is “way too reliant” on Robbins. It is baffling that they appear to have conceded alignment on agriculture between the EU and the whole of the UK – could the Environment Secretary really live with that? There are also serious concerns that May could drop the ECJ red line from her Lancaster House speech. Leavers are seeing the situation as salami slices being given away until eventually there is no salami left. 

There is also disbelief that May did not consult Cabinet about what they were about to concede. A Whitehall source tells the Sun“Cabinet is in the dark about what the PM is doing now, which is a very strange state of affairs to be in”. A Cabinet source tells the Telegraph: “The Prime Minister is playing a risky game”. Brexiteers are asking who in is in charge: is it Heywood and Robbins bouncing a weak May into a softer Brexit, or is it May trying to bounce the Brexiteers? It is more likely to be the former. May knows she owes her position to keeping Leavers onside – if she sells out they won’t stand for it.

Man in the News

Daniel Korski always had a hands on attitude to the creative industries when he was a Downing Street adviser. He was made a Commander of the British Empire by David Cameron for his service from 2010 to 2016. That is all.

Number 10: Jewish Chronicle Report Untrue

After the Jewish Chronicle reported that Number 10 knew about Priti Patel’s meeting with Bibi before they previously admitted and also ordered Priti to cover up details of two further meetings with Israeli officials, a Downing Street spokesman says the JC is wrong:

“It is not true that the Prime Minister knew about the International Development Secretary’s meeting with PM Netanyahu before Friday 3rd November. It is equally untrue to say that No 10 asked DfID to remove any meetings from the list they published this week.”

Not looking good for Priti, who is currently somewhere over Greece and due to land at Heathrow just after 3pm…

UPDATE: Flight Radar live on Sky News: ‘As you can see she’s currently somewhere over Albania…’

Boris Locked Out of Number 10


Write your own jokes…

New Number 10 “Road to Brexit” Social Media Strategy

Number 10 is releasing a video titled “The Road to Brexit” on Facebook and Twitter this afternoon as it steps up its Brexit messaging – you can watch it on Guido first. It’s the first time Theresa May’s government has really tried to do anything like this – a 21st century social media strategy pumping positive Brexit news into the newsfeeds of young voters. Certainly a marked change in communications compared with the previous regime. The video strikes a realistic tone, noting these are “the most complex negotiations the country has ever faced”, stressing the tough talks ahead and the need for a transition period. It also reconfirms the Lancaster House principles of leaving the single market and customs union and taking back control of laws, borders and trade. Good to see civil servants previously tasked with talking up Project Fear doing something useful for a change…

+ Paul Harrison New Press Sec +
+ Kirsty Buchanan to No.10 +
+ Davis Hires Stewart Jackson +
+ Tim Smith to DexEU +

Guido can reveal a raft of new senior special adviser appointments. The new Number 10 press secretary is Paul Harrison, an experienced SpAd who moves from the Department of Health. He is well-respected and a grown up who knows the Lobby. Harrison will be joined in Downing Street by Kirsty Buchanan, formerly a SpAd at the Ministry of Justice and a former political editor of the Sunday Express. She will be working on Number 10’s political press team. A significant beefing up of Theresa May’s spin operation.

Tim Smith, currently a Number 10 press aide, is moving to the Brexit Department to be David Davis’ new media SpAd. A very important job for the next few years and an appointment which shows the close relationship between DexEU and Number 10. Guido is happy to confirm Stewart Jackson is also joining DexEU as DD’s chief of staff – you read it here first. A true Brexit believer and a very encouraging appointment for any Leavers worried the department is going soft – sorry Remainers.

The new Downing Street regime is quickly getting on the front foot. As well as the new personnel, there has been a steady stream of positive government announcements and news stories over the last couple of weeks –  the ban on petrol and diesel cars today the latest example. It’s as if Number 10 has a proper grid for the first time in a long time. The Tories and CCHQ also successfully weaponised the Corbyn student debt shambles – this has been one of their best weeks in ages, a few more weeks like this during the election campaign and the result might have been very different. Punchy, aggressive… a welcome, much-needed change of tempo…

Landale Out of No.10 Running

Big news for Downing Street. Leaves the BBC’s Westminster chief Robbie Gibb as the strong favourite…

Number 10 Director of Communications Runners & Riders

Theresa May still does not have a Director of Communications following the departure of Katie Perrior at the election. There is a feeling in the government that she needs a star hire to communicate with the media and bring some gravitas to Number 10. As ever Guido brings you your runners and riders…

  • Chris Wilkins: May’s strategy chief was lined up for the role and has been filling in over the last few weeks. Highly regarded in Number 10. But it looks like they’re going for someone else…
  • Robbie Gibb: Head of BBC Westminster and boss of the Beeb’s main political programmes. Would bring much-needed broadcast news judgement and experience. Being tipped by government figures. [UPDATE: And The Sun.]
  • James Landale: Tipped by the Spectator as the celeb signing. His name has been doing the rounds among excitable Tories. Old Etonian…
  • James Slack: May’s civil service spokesman was linked to the job. Gets on well with the Lobby and has been holding things together in Number 10 at times. But he is said to be staying put as PMOS.
  • Joey Jones: Has been more nuanced in his criticisms of the May regime compared to other former colleagues. A pro with important broadcast experience. Doubt they can afford him.
  • Iain Dale: Experienced, former chief of staff for David Davis, could ease the transition of power? Very pro-Theresa May… 
  • Laura Kuenssberg: If you believe the Corbynistas…

Good luck…

Barwell Blamed for Piling Remainers into Government

The latest round of reshuffle appointments has seen Alistair Burt, Alok Sharma, Mark Field and Mark Lancaster promoted to Minister of State level. All of them Remainers…

The penny has dropped this afternoon that the PM’s new chief of staff Gavin Barwell has been slotting in Remainers where ever he can.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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Quote of the Day

Jeremy Corbyn in the Evening Standard

“… we must also face the uncomfortable fact that a small number of our members and supporters hold anti-Semitic views and attitudes, which need to be confronted and dealt with more rapidly and effectively.

The evidence is clear enough. Labour staff have seen examples of Holocaust denial, crude stereotypes of Jewish bankers, conspiracy theories blaming 9/11 on Israel, and even one member who appeared to believe that Hitler had been misunderstood.

So let me be clear. People holding those views have no place in the Labour Party.

… we have not done enough to get to grips with the problem, and the Jewish community and our Jewish members deserve an apology. My party and I are sorry for the hurt and distress caused. … We must strive to understand why anti-Semitism has surfaced in our party…

… when criticism of or opposition to the Israeli government uses anti-Semitic ideas — attributing its injustices to Jewish identity, demanding that Jews in Britain or elsewhere answer for its conduct, or comparing Israel to the Nazis — then a line must be drawn.  Anti-Zionism is not in itself anti-Semitic and many Jews themselves are not Zionists. But there are also a very few who are drawn to the Palestinian question precisely because it affords an opportunity to express hostility to Jewish people in a “respectable” setting. Our movement must not be a home for such individuals.

Second, there are people who have come to see capitalism and imperialism as the product of conspiracy by a small shadowy elite rather than a political, economic, legal and social system. That is only a step from hoary myths about “Jewish bankers” and “sinister global forces”.

These views do no service to the struggle for a just society.”

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