Gravy Train Stops at No. 10 for Transport Super SalaryNo. 10's Head of News Heads to Siberia

Three weeks ago Guido reported:

“DfT are offering a budget-busting £770-a-day to their new Director of Communications, which, if he or she works 240 days a year, puts the successful applicant on £184,800. Making them considerably better paid than the Secretary of State. Talk about jumping on the high-speed gravy train…”

Well all aboard for Scot Marchbank, one time Deputy Spokesman to the PM and latterly N0. 10’s Head of News. It’s one heck of a promotion in cash terms and into the Whitehall wilderness in terms of power. Guido is suspicious of the timing. Jumped, or pushed? You choo-choose.

Scowling Dave Arrives Back at Downing Street

Someone does not look too pleased about being back at work unexpectedly.

You would never have thought someone just enjoyed ten days in sunny Portugal…

Tories Tipped That Ruffley Row Was About to Go Very PublicConservative Staff Threatened With Sack if They Joined Protest

It has been briefed that it was a ‘pincer movement’ from the Chief Whip and the Party Chairman that sealed the deal for Ruffley yesterday. They were kicked into action, finally, by the leak of this letter from the Dean of Bury St Edmunds, and tens of thousands of people signing an online petition. Crucially the Tories were also made aware yesterday morning of a letter planned for Wednesday’s Times from dozens of women affiliated with the Conservative Party. “Women problem” is an understatement.

Guido has obtained a copy:

We are writing to share our concerns about the behaviour of David Ruffley MP.

We consider it unacceptable that a man who has accepted a caution for assaulting his partner should continue in his position.

This Conservative-led government has a proud record of acting to prevent domestic violence.  On 2 July 2014 the Prime Minister asserted the importance of  Clare’s Law in relation to abusive partners, and on 8 March 2014 the Home Secretary said: “I am determined to see a society where violence against women and girls is not tolerated, where people speak out.” It is disappointing, therefore, that despite the Government’s strong moral stance on this issue, our own party has been slow to take any action against one of their own Members, who has accepted a police caution for assault of his partner, one of the crimes we are trying to prevent.

When Andrew Pelling MP was arrested under suspicion of assaulting his wife in 2007, the whip was immediately withdrawn, pending an investigation by the party’s ethics committee. We are pleased that the new Chief Whip, the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP decided last week to launch an investigation into this matter, however, given the serious nature of the offence for which Mr Ruffley has accepted a caution, which is an admission of guilt, we feel that the Conservative whip should be immediately withdrawn.

The public has the right to be served by representatives who abide by the legislation that they pass through Parliament.

We are proud to be members of the party who first gave women the vote, produced the first female Member of Parliament to take her seat in the House of Commons, as well electing the first female party Leader who went on to be the first female Prime Minister. For generations, the Conservative Party has lead the way in advancing equality of opportunity and equality under the rule of law.  Two people die every week at the hands of an abusive partner, and our party must demonstrate that no matter who you are, domestic violence is unacceptable

It was about to blow up, and blow up very publicly.

To those MPs who emotionally blackmailed and even threatened their female staff with disciplinary measures to stop them signing the above letter – and then grassed the plot to CCHQ – Guido says this. I know who you are, and you know what you have done. What I have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you…

Tory Women Problem: Kevin Hollinrake Selected in Thirsk

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The selection to replace Anne McIntosh took place last night in Thirsk and Malton. Former Corby by-election candidate Christine Emmett was lined up by the Tories as the newspaper-friendly female successor. In an act of defiance towards Cameron’s desire to stop people saying the party has a woman problem, Thirsk and Malton Tories instead chose a man, Kevin Hollinrake. He’s a local estage agent. Which will do plenty to restore trust in politics.

There were three rounds of balloting and Hollinrake won in the final round so it was close all the way, though this was a local party which was never going to be told what to do. Voluntary party 1, Dave nil.

UPDATE: Sharon Hodgson has sobered up enough to approve this quote from Labour HQ:

“This sorry episode speaks volumes about the Tories under David Cameron – their sole woman MP in Yorkshire has been deselected amid suggestions of sexism and replaced by a man. For all his claims to be different, David Cameron has done nothing while his party has kicked out one of his most senior MPs. No wonder people think the Tories have a problem with women.”

Grumbles at the Dave’s BBQ

“No10 summer barbecue last night – cross between a wake (sacked and overlooked) and a stag party (or hen party!) for newly promoted” tweeted Mark Pritchard this morning. While Dave has enjoyed a spectacular turn around in party unity over the last year, there are some jolly bruised members either still on the backbenches, or unwillingly back there. How was the PM’s small talk, Guido asked a few Tory MPs. “Sheepish” says one. “Haughty” said another. Happy holidays!

Crosby Keeps in Running With No 10

Lynton Crosby had a hand in telling several ministers to jog on in last week’s reshuffle, and it seems he certainly knows how to keep in the running with the party leadership. Guido hears the fifty-something campaign guru has, in an effort to be fighting fit for the election, taken on the same personal trainer employed by the Camerons. This one could run and run…

PM’s Aide Royally Embarrassed By Fashion Faux Pas

Guido will spare his blushes by not naming the PM’s key aide who turned up at a Buckingham Palace dinner straight from the office. He immediately realised he’d failed to read the invitation as he joined the other guests who were dressed for dinner in black-tie. To his relief he spotted someone else also in a suit, but at that very moment Prince Philip walked in and turned to the incorrectly dressed pair. The adviser tried to make light of his sartorial mistake, at which point Prince Philip boomed, “Who the bloody hell comes to dinner in a suit?” Before an aide diplomatically shuffled the Prince on…

This Is How You Do It, Mr Mitchell

The Downing Street ducklings are fast becoming Guido’s favourite addition to the catwalk. 

Pic via Political Pictures

Tories Set for Move to Pull Out of ECHR

David Cameron is to announce plans that threaten to pull Britain out of the European Court of Human Rights, Guido understands. Axed Home Office minister Damian Green wrote a paper preparing the government for a move towards withdrawal prior to him losing his job at this week’s reshuffle. Guido is told that the departure of Dominic Grieve as Attorney General paves the way for the government to toughen its stance on the ECHR. Nick Robinson was apparently the desired conduit…

The New Cabinet in Full

The Cabinet

David Cameron – Prime Minister

Nick Clegg – Deputy Prime Minister

William Hague – First Secretary of State, Leader of the House of Commons

George Osborne – Chancellor of the Exchequer

Danny Alexander – Chief Secretary to the Treasury

Theresa May – Secretary of State for the Home Department

Michael Fallon – Secretary of State for Defence

Vince Cable – Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

Iain Duncan Smith – Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Chris Grayling – Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

Nicky Morgan – Secretary of State for Education, Women & Equalities Min.

Eric Pickles – Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

Jeremy Hunt – Secretary of State for Health

Elizabeth Truss – Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Justine Greening – Secretary of State for International Development

Alistair Carmichael – Secretary of State for Scotland

Edward Davey – Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

Patrick McLoughlin – Secretary of State for Transport

Sajid Javid – Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Theresa Villiers – Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Stephen Crabb – Secretary of State for Wales

Philip Hammond – Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Also attending Cabinet

Michael Gove – Chief Whip and Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury

Francis Maude – Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General

Matt Hancock – Minister of State for BIS, DECC and Portsmouth

Esther McVey – Minister of State for Employment

Oliver Letwin – Minister for Government Policy, Lord Privy Seal

David Laws – Minister of State for Cabinet Office, Schools

Grant Shapps – Minister Without Portfolio

Baroness Warsi – Senior Minister of State, Faith and Communities

Greg Clark – Minister of State for Universities and Science

Jeremy Wright – Attorney General

Baroness Stowell – Leader of the House of Lords

Butler-Sloss Stands Down

Last week the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman insisted:

“The focus was on finding a person with the right expertise and integrity. That’s exactly what we have in Elizabeth Butler-Sloss.” 

Theresa May vowed:

 “Baroness Butler-Sloss brings with her many years of experience in the field of child protection and law, and I am confident that she will deliver the thorough, robust and independent review that I have promised.”

Today Butler-Sloss has stood down:

“I was honoured to be invited by the Home Secretary to chair the wide-ranging inquiry about child sexual abuse and hoped I could make a useful contribution.

It has become apparent over the last few days, however, that there is a widespread perception, particularly among victim and survivor groups, that I am not the right person to chair the inquiry. It has also become clear to me that I did not sufficiently consider whether my background and the fact my brother had been Attorney General would cause difficulties.

This is a victim-orientated inquiry and those who wish to be heard must have confidence that the members of the panel will pay proper regard to their concerns and give appropriate advice to Government.

Nor should media attention be allowed to be diverted from the extremely important issues at stake, namely whether enough has been done to protect children from sexual abuse and hold to account those who commit these appalling crimes.

Having listened to the concerns of victim and survivor groups and the criticisms of MPs and the media, I have come to the conclusion that I should not chair this inquiry and have so informed the Home Secretary.

I should like to add that I have dedicated my life to public service, to the pursuit of justice and to protecting the rights of children and families and I wish the inquiry success in its important work.”

Where’s Brian Leveson when you need him?

UPDATE: 

Get Warsi Briefing Begins, Again

As ever, one big reshuffle headache is what to do about Warsi. The ‘Senior’ Minister of State at Communities and the Foreign Office is unlikely to go quietly, though that has not stopped others in government attempting to brief her out of the door. In fact, they appear to have formed an orderly queue over at Coffee House:

“Baroness Warsi is alleged by multiple sources in and out of government to have consistently resisted calls to develop a proper strategy on integration and tackling extremism at its roots, even though this is the Prime Minister’s policy…

One source says: ‘Sayeeda made clear when she got the job at CLG that she didn’t agree with the Prime Minister and that she simply wasn’t going to do this bit of her job.’”

While she’s clearly a drag, is it really worth the risk for No 10 of the famously tempestuous, former loyalist, going totally tonto pre-2015? Warsi’s well maintained diaries remain a source of concern in Tory circles… 

Old Etonian Who Brought Cam and Clegg Together Leaves No.10

When Nick Clegg went on Desert Island Discs after the election, he told the tale that when he was considering joining David Cameron in a coalition government, he texted a mutual friend and asked him, “Can I trust this guy?”

As Guido revealed for the first time in the Sun on Sunday yesterday, the friend who told him “yes” was Tim Luke. The Old Etonian who vouched for David Cameron is in a way responsible for bringing this coalition government together. Luke’s previous claim to fame was hitting the headlines for walking in front of the camera while James Corden was presenting the Brit Awards.

[jwplatform src=”http://content.jwplatform.com/players/cUmvhzNL-mCjhiWMJ.js”]

The PM later appointed him to No.10’s policy unit. Could Tim’s leaving party next week – he’s off back to Barclays investment bank – be a sign the coalition is beginning to prepare for the end?

Reshuffle Rumour Round UpDiaries Cleared for a Week Today

The reshuffle speculation level has been raised from ‘fevered’ to ‘panicked’. Guido hears that Downing Street have instructed departments not to schedule anything for a week today. This, however, could be anything from an elaborate bluff, to an unintentional display of competence. The latest chatter still says it’s going to be ladies night and whilst plenty of women MPs are expected to rise up the ranks, vivacious and pushy Esther McVey – tipped for the cabinet by many – is in fact still in the PM’s doghouse after her spectacularly unhelpful comments during the Maria Miller scandal. Penny Mordaunt, who has impressed recently, is tipped to replace Andrew Murrison at Defence. 

Whilst previously Cameron has preferred tinkering reshuffles, there are some whispers of a big upheaval that could even see a job swap between Iain Duncan-Smith at Defence and Phil Hammond at Work and Pensions. Hammond is not hugely popular with the top brass, and could deploy his famed safe pair of hands at DWP, while IDS, a former military man, would be unlikely to accept any other job. Speculation about the future of Grant Shapps at CCHQ has all but died out, while Ken Clarke seems resigned to his fate. This is all rumour mill though…

Any government reshuffle will indicate that the new EU commissioner has been decided, which would point to a delay. Andrew Lansley is said to be out, Willetts has let it be known he speaks French and German, while others say Michael Howard is still worth an outside bet. Lord Howard has certainly not ruled himself out of one last big job, and the PM owes him one after Dave’s then boss delayed the 2005 leadership election to let his favoured successor get their campaign in gear. It would also avoid a messy by-election.

Some in No. 10 are anticipating that in all likelihood No. 10’s first option for Commissioner will be ‘Junck-ed’ in petty retaliation. While in the past, Downing Street have allowed reshuffle rumours to last for months, cunningly keeping everyone on best behaviour, they’re running out of time to bed in new ministers in well before the election. It’s hardly like they’re going to be legislating much, mind.

UPDATE:

 

Senior Gov Source: Lansley Out of EU Race

Andrew Lansley was working the terrace hard yesterday evening, hobnobbing with Tory backbenchers and cabinet ministers alike at the IoD summer party, and really pressing the flesh. Observing the situation from the sidelines a senior government source whispered to Guido that the Leader of the House “doesn’t have a cat in hells chance” of being the UK’s next EU Commissioner. When Guido questioned the veracity of such a claim, the confident reply came “trust me, it’s never going to happen. He thinks it will, but I can assure you it won’t.” Could it be Whitehall bluster, or a diversionary tactic? Or is Lanners really out of the race? We report, you decide…

WATCH: Forgot About Dre

Poor Craig Oliver. Arriving at the Brussels summit with the PM and his entourage earlier today, Downing Street’s Director of Communications was hauled aside by security and stopped from going in, leaving him stranded at the door as Dave and the rest of his team strolled on through:

[jwplatform src=”http://content.jwplatform.com/players/XnuvVg1E-mCjhiWMJ.js”]

“Motherf**kers act like they forgot about Dre…”

Via Sky.

Patrick Rock Charged

Statement from the National Crime Agency:

On the authority of the CPS, the National Crime Agency has today charged Patrick Rock, 63, a former Whitehall adviser, with making indecent images of children and possession of 59 indecent images of children. He has been bailed to appear at Westminster Magistrates Court on 3 July.

The charges are:

– Three counts of making an indecent photograph of a child contrary to section 1(a) of the Protection of Children Act 1978, between 31 July 2013 and 31 August 2013

– One count of possession of indecent photographs of children contrary to Section 160 Criminal Justice Act 1988, between 31 July 2013 and 31 August 2013

The images have been assessed by NCA CEOP officers and CPS lawyers as meeting the definition of Level C.*

No.10’s bad day gets worse…

*Possession of images of erotic posing. Lower range of sentencing, likely non-custodial.

Cameron Says Judge Only Him For His “Friend” Coulson

In July 2011 David Cameron said:

“I decided to give him a second chance and no one has raised serious concerns about how he did his job for me … But the second chance didn’t work out. The decision to hire him was mine and mine alone and I take full responsibility for it. People will decide whether it is right to give someone a second chance or not. I do think it is right to judge an individual by the work he did for me. I accept he was an editor of a newspaper where some very bad things happened. Because he’d resigned … it was reasonable to offer him a second chance … People will judge me on that, and I fully understand that. When you work with someone for four years as I did and you work closely, you do build a friendship and I became friends with him … so, yes, he became a friend and is a friend.

Guido imagines they’re now preparing to drop Coulson from a very great height.

But Cameron cannot undo those words.

Although he tried at the Leveson Inquiry, a year later:

“I was reliant on his word but I was also reliant on the fact that the Press Complaints Commission had accepted his word, the select committee had accepted his word, the police had accepted his word, the Crown Prosecution Service had accepted his word.”

Guido imagines that will be the line today…

Ex-Cameron SpAd: Cummings is Right

20140617-084713-31633236.jpg

Following Dominic Cummings’ latest grenade/intervention yesterday, a former Special Adviser to the Prime Minister has added his voice to criticism of the No. 10 operation. Sean Worth, who spent two years advising Dave, writes this morning that “Downing Street lacks grip, direction and calibre” and that “beneath the theatre” of Cummings’ attack “is a kernel of truth”.

“It’s certainly the case that Number 10 hasn’t given the machinery of government anything like the political steer of either the Blair or Thatcher administrations, for example.”

Dr. Worth adds that the current model of coalition is to blame, arguing it has been “tested to absolute bankruptcy“. He concludes:

“Forming a coalition in 2010 that would share power on every front of decision-making will, I believe, come to be viewed as a serious mistake – one not to be repeated if we end up with another coalition next May.”

This is becoming a theme…

Tory Tension Reaches the Heart of Downing Street

Tory division has surfaced yet again, with the Conservative MEP group denying Cameron’s explicit orders not to side with Merkel’s rival Alternative For Germany in the European Parliament. The real Osborne/Cameron power struggle has spilled into the street though…

Watch your back, Lola.[…] Read the rest

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Via the FT’s Jim Pickard: Seumas Milne’s idea for Labour election catchphrase:

“The Tories are the real extremists.”

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