‘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. The replacement of fervent Brexiteer David Jones as Minister of State at the Department for Exiting the European Union was remarkable. Guido understands that Jones – who led the Welsh arm of the Vote Leave campaign – was replaced by Baroness Anelay without reference to his boss David Davis. That raised eyebrows…

Insiders grumble that the charming Barwell, an arch-Remainer, blames the loss of his Croydon seat on Brexit, London being a Remain stronghold. He is taking the opportunity of being restored to the centre of power to put pro-Remain allies into positions of influence. Barwell is also being blamed for the clumsy “end to austerity” spin. Hardly anyone on the Tory backbenches thinks that the loss of a 24 point lead in a 7 week election was due to voters changing their views on fiscal prudence. Britain was not suddenly converted to the merits of harvesting magic money trees…

May Statement on Manchester Attack

I have just chaired a meeting of the government’s emergency committee COBR, where we discussed the details of – and the response to – the appalling events in Manchester last night.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, and the families and friends of all those affected.

It is now beyond doubt that the people of Manchester, and of this country, have fallen victim to a callous terrorist attack – an attack that targeted some of the youngest people in our society with cold calculation.

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Katie Perrior Joins News UK

Guido hears Theresa May’s recently departed Director of Communications Katie Perrior is joining News UK. She will be working as an election pundit for talkRADIO, News’s burgeoning radio station, alongside journalists from the Times and Sun. It has been well-documented that the advisers who have recently left had a frustrating time working in May’s Downing Street. Will make for interesting listening…

Another No.10 Spinner Quits

Theresa May’s press secretary Lizzie Loudon (above right) is leaving government, the second departure from the PM’s spin team this week after she lost her Director of Communications Katie Perrior (above left) as well. Lizzie was on the Vote Leave campaign and widely respected in the Lobby. A lot of vacancies to be filled on June 9. Of Theresa May’s female aides featured in those “Here come the girls” newspaper profiles earlier this year, only Fi remains… 

Guido also understands Priti Patel’s SpAd Rob Oxley, also formerly of Vote Leave, has been appointed as CCHQ’s Head of News for the election. Vote Leave take control…

6 Things May Could Say in Her Surprise Statement (Or Not)

Westminster is going mad as we await Theresa May’s statement at 11:15 am. Here is our totally uniformed and feverish speculation as drawn from Lobby hacks tweeting on their return from Easter holidays:

  • Early election
  • Some sort of military operation in Syria or North Korea
  • She’s resigning. Health grounds?
  • Direct rule for Northern Ireland
  • Scottish referendum
  • Something to do with the local elections due in two weeks

Nobody knows. Stay tuned for more feverish speculation as we get it…

May Statement Imminent

Theresa May is to make a statement on the steps of Downing Street at 11:15 am. Number 10 won’t say what it’s about and the rumour mill among excitable Lobby hacks is going into overdrive. Standby…

UPDATE: In the last half hour Betfair’s odds on a snap election have narrowed from 4/1 to 5/2.

Number 10: No Early Election

Theresa May’s spokesman could not be clearer:

“There is not going to be one.”

Despite the chatter from excitable Lobby hacks this morning it was always highly unlikely. And now even less likely…

Downing Street: Article 50 Triggered at “End” of March

So much for all those newspaper stories guesstimating that Article 50 would be triggered tomorrow – a “government source” is briefing various political editors that it won’t happen this week or next. A Number 10 spokesman claims they always said it would be at the “END” of March, their capital letters. (They’ve actually previously said “by the end”). Was this the plan all along? Or bounced into it by Sturgeon this morning?

Number 10 Sidelines Baroness Scotland

Number 10 has brutally snubbed Baroness Scotland by failing to mention the Commonwealth Secretary General entirely in its announcement on the Commonwealth Summit today. Downing Street set out the schedule for the summit this morning, which will be attended by leaders from more than 50 countries in April 2018. The press release revealed the Prime Minister and Cabinet will “oversee preparations” and that Amber Rudd and Boris Johnson have been tasked with chairing an Inter-Ministerial Group on the summit. Number 10 adds that they have implemented a new “dedicated unit” led by diplomat Tim Hitchens to look after proceedings:

“A central team has also been established in the Cabinet Office to deliver the Summit, working closely with the Commonwealth Secretariat and member states. The dedicated unit will report directly to the Prime Minister, who has appointed Tim Hitchens as its CEO. Tim Hitchens was previously British Ambassador to Japan, and has served as Africa Director and Europe Director in the Foreign Office, and also as Assistant Private Secretary to The Queen.”
Name-checks for Theresa May, the Cabinet, Amber Rudd, Boris and Tim Hitchens – and no mention whatsoever of Baroness Scotland. Almost as if Number 10 is making clear that it has taken responsibility for the Commonwealth summit away from its scandal-hit Secretary-General. Sidelined…

Senior Leavers: No.10 Must Prepare Public For WTO Brexit

Senior Leave figures want the government to do much more to publicly prepare the public for a Brexit on WTO terms. Theresa May’s speech in January arguing that “no deal is better than a bad deal” pleased Tory Leavers, but they fear not enough has been done by Downing Street to prevent continuity Remainers seizing the narrative and convincing the public that WTO terms would be a disaster.[…] Read the rest

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Quote of the Day

Tory MP Nick Boles says what everyone thinks…

“There is a timidity and lack of ambition about Mrs May’s Government which means it constantly disappoints. Time to raise your game, Prime Minister.”

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