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.

Continue reading

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. This is why over the weekend Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox all came out and made encouraging noises about the possibility of no deal. 

There are three reasons why Leavers want Number 10 to do more to make the WTO case. First, the chances of a Brexit along WTO lines are much higher than the government publicly admits. While the official line is that no deal is “unlikely“, behind the scenes senior figures in Number 10 have said they put the probability at around 30%. Most Leavers think this figure is optimistic. Another government source tells Guido they believe the likelihood of a WTO Brexit is 50-50.

Second, demonstrating that WTO terms are acceptable is vital for the negotiation. If Brussels believes Britain thinks WTO rules are a disaster, the threat to walk away is not credible. Going into the negotiation without being happy to accept WTO terms is obviously the worst possible negotiating hand. A Whitehall source says: “People are being told that WTO rules would be the end of the world. We need to explain to them why it isn’t”.

Third, Leavers want to learn the lesson from Cameron’s failure to make any contingency planning for Brexit. This is seen by the government as Cameron’s worst betrayal – Leavers are determined not to repeat the mistake. This means proper preparations for a WTO Brexit, both in terms of contingency planning in Whitehall and preparing the public for that outcome. Matt Ridley’s piece in today’s Times is the sort of narrative Number 10 should be pursuing…

Two New Top Government Hires

Jeremy Corbyn’s economic policy chief Mike Hatchett has defected to the government’s Department for Exiting the European Union. Yep, a senior Corbyn aide has just joined the Tory government apparatus…

Corbyn signed up Hatchett less than a year ago, now he will work for David Davis. A former Treasury mandarin, Hatchett brought a modicum of respectability and considerable experience to Corbyn’s team. Politico report:

“Asked about Hatchett’s departure, a spokesman for the Labour leader declined to comment. However Corbyn’s allies, speaking on condition of anonymity, rejected the accusation that Hatchett had become disillusioned.”

Meanwhile Number 10 has hired Mike Crowhurst as their new Education adviser. Crowhurst was formerly a history teacher in Birmingham and recently a director of Downing Street’s chief of staff Nick Timothy’s old organisation the New Schools Newtork, May tightening her control on new Number 10 hires…

Number 10 Blaming Number 11, Number 11 Blaming Number 10

Treasury sources tell Newsnight’s Nick Watt that “Number 10 just wants to spend money” and that “some of the senior political advisers around the Prime Minister have anti-Tory ideas about raising taxes”. They say Hammond had to fight against May and claim she wanted to raise Capital Gains Tax and NICs for higher-rate taxpayers. Meanwhile there is pushback from Number 10 in the Times, which quotes a source saying of Team Hammond: “They just forgot the manifesto”. Trouble…

James Slack New PM’s Spokesman

Daily Mail political editor James Slack has been appointed as the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesperson. You read it here first… 

Theresa May’s Number 10 SpAds Profiled

Excellent updated Daily Politics film on the Number 10 SpAds who run the country behind the scenes…

All Change in Number 10 Spin Team

Number 10 is dealing with wholesale departures from its civil service spin team. Last month it was revealed Theresa May’s highly-respected official spokesman Helen Bower is leaving to run comms for Boris at FCO. Today it emerges the deputy PMOS, the popular Greg Swift, is off to spin for David Davis at the Brexit department. There is fevered speculation tonight that Daily Mail political editor James Slack is being tapped up for the PMOS role, though there is nothing in the way of an official announcement yet. Sure the No. 10 comms team has been a joy to work in over the last couple of weeks…

Article 50 Party at Downing Street Next Week

The tabling of the Article 50 Bill was an historic moment that Eurosceptics have waited decades to witness, and Downing Street will be throwing a party next week for Tory MPs to celebrate. On Tuesday the Commons is sitting until midnight for the Bill’s second reading.[…] Read the rest

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Quote of the Day

A senior Leaver tells Guido:

“Remainers have been outgunned. They were telling us EEA was nailed on and Spreadsheet Phil was going to get a 5 year transition.”

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