The Downing Street ducklings are fast becoming Guido’s favourite addition to the catwalk.
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…
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
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?
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…
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.
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?
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.
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…
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:
“Motherf**kers act like they forgot about Dre…”
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.
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…
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 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.
It’s increasingly rare that Craig Oliver has anything to smile about, but he’ll be happy with the exit of Fi Cunningham, who vocalised what most of the SpAds think about the Downing Street Director of Comms. One ‘pal’ told this morning’s Sun: “She thought he was an idiot.” Another described Mr Oliver as “a Grade A ****”.’ As someone with all the authority of a boy scout, who struggles to command respect at the best of times, Cunningham’s attitude drove poor Craig round the bend.
In Sunday’s Sun Guido recounted his favourite tale involving Cunningham repeatedly fobbing off his orders to report to Downing Street for a bollocking. Seeing the No. 10 switchboard number when her phone rang again, she answered: “Sorry, Craig, I’m really busy.” “Get… here… now!” said a voice. She replied: “Right away, Prime Minister.”
Craig Oliver learnt one thing from Andy Coulson, keeping a diary:
By Guido’s count there are at least seven diaries/books about Cameron being worked on at the moment:
They would all be worthless if published after the election if the Tories have lost…
Guido would like to wish all his English readers a happy St George’s Day. If a man of Turkish origin can become patron saint of England, there is no stopping that other English hero of Turkish origin, Boris…
New City minister Andrea Leadsom achieves fame at last on the front page of the Indy today over her Margaret Hodge-style inheritance tax reducing trusts. Which reminds Guido that now she’s has been promoted to the Treasury that leaves a vacancy on the Downing Street Policy Board. Headed by Jo Johnson, the Policy Board is a Conservative party body, not to be confused with the No. 10 Policy and Implementation Unit. Whereas the Policy Unit shapes government policy, the Policy Board is a party instrument set up specifically to take views from backbench MPs. Some say it is merely a tool for backbench party management and a bauble for ambitious MPs. That may be.
Downing Street need someone who is not a yes-man, someone who is respected by his colleagues and someone who can bring radical, reforming ideas to the table.
They should look no further than Douglas Carswell… would he take the job?
In a Survation poll for the Mail on Sunday voters strongly backed Carswell’s ideas. Carswell should surely have a hand in writing the Tory manifesto…
The Times has got hold of some polling slides presented by Nick Clegg’s taxpayer-funded strategist Ryan Coetzee, which give the LibDem leader suspiciously sky high approval ratings:
Compare Coetzee’s polling with that of independent companies however and the result is quite different. Back in October Ipsos Mori had 57% of the public saying they were dissatisfied with Clegg. In June they had his net approval rating at -37. YouGov meanwhile said he was the least popular party leader since Michael Foot.
Ed gets clapped by his brainwashed staff. Nick gets fantasy data. And Dave is surrounded by tits…
UPDATE: Stephen Tall says he thinks this poll data is of “switchers” in target marginal seats. It still doesn’t explain why these people give a some 20% higher approval rating to Clegg than YouGov attributes to actual LibDem voters. Given these were produced by a civil servant, Coetzee, and the LibDem defence is that it is entirely legitimate and compatible with his role as a civil servant, we’ve FoI’d the presentation. Smells wrong…