Debbie Abrahams’ Bullying Stitch Up Spin

Debbie Abrahams’ allies are doing a good job of convincing moderate Labour MPs and her friends in the media that she is the victim of a stitch up by the Leader’s Office. She is saying the bullying allegations against her are essentially a plot by Team Jezza to get rid of her after she publicly criticised him. The truth is that Abrahams’ behaviour towards staff has been the subject of much chatter among parliamentary bag-carriers for years. She has been looked at closely by broadcasters investigating bullying. Don’t believe the Labour moderates’ spin…

John vs Jez: Corbyn and McDonnell Split Three Times in One Week

At the best of times there’s not much love lost between Jeremy Corbyn’s inner circle and John McDonnell’s operation but the past week has seen an unusual number of public slap downs served on the Shadow Chancellor by the Leader’s Office. Is there trouble brewing in socialist paradise?

The ding-dong started last Sunday when McDonnell went on broadcast and sprung Jezza into announcing an investigation into Munroe Bergdorf. McDonnell swerved the controversy, squarely blaming the Leader’s Office for employing Munroe, and announcing an investigation on their behalf:

“That will be a matter obviously for her employer, she’s employed directly by the Leader’s Office… I’m not sure about this particular issue, it will obviously be investigated by the Leader’s Office.”

The Leader’s Office insisted Bergdorf was not employed by them…

Then, in the middle of last week, as the story broke about Jezza’s membership of an anti-Semitic Facebook group, McDonnell took his own line on the media round totally at odds with LOTO. McDonnell told Sky:

“[Corbyn] was added, and then participated in some of the debate, then when he discovered there were some people in it who were expressing anti-Semitic views he immediately came out of that.”

Team Corbyn briefed that this was “not right”, before increasing the slap down and publicly contradicting McDonnell. 

Yesterday, McDonnell went lone wolf by unilaterally proposing a Labour boycott on Russia Today that would ban all the party’s MPs from the channel. ‘Sources close to Jeremy Corbyn’ swiftly briefed that there would be no such boycott. Is everything alright lads?

Draft Starmer Press Release That Shows Labour Working With Brussels

Guido can reveal the existence of a draft Keir Starmer press release that shows Labour has been working with Brussels on Brexit policy. The draft press release, which was written after Corbyn’s speech last week, would have boasted how Labour had “secured EU backing” for their customs union proposal. The statement would have said “it is understood” that the European Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group was set to “adapt its resolution to reflect the wording of Jeremy Corbyn’s customs union policy”. The press release was never sent but it has been leaked to Guido…

Labour secure EU backing for customs union proposal

Brussels officials have given their backing to Labour’s proposal for a new UK-EU comprehensive customs union.

Keir Starmer, Labour’s Shadow Brexit spokesperson, visited Brussels this week following Jeremy Corbyn’s speech in Coventry in Monday.

On Wednesday, Michel Barnier told journalists Corbyn’s proposal to keep UK in a customs union “offers a significant part of the solution for Ireland.”

Later this month the European Parliament is expected to adopt a resolution setting out its demands for the next phase of Brexit negotiations.

It is understood that following the Labour’s leader’s speech the Brexit Steering Group will adapt its resolution to reflect the wording of Jeremy Corbyn’s customs union policy – particularly proposals for a “comprehensive” customs union.

The backing of Corbyn’s Brexit stance from the EU Commission and Parliament will heap pressure on the Prime Minister to provide a credible solution to the border in Northern Ireland.

Why was Labour so keen to “secure EU backing” for their customs union policy? How and when did they secure this backing? How was it “understood” that the European Parliament was set to back their policy? Why was the press release never sent? Was it ditched after media speculation about Labour colluding with the EU? This appears to be evidence that Labour has been working with Brussels to undermine the UK negotiating position…

Leaving Here: LibDem Press Office Exodus Causing Chaos

Whatever happened to the LibDem press office? Not long ago it was known for its punchy quotes, decent stories, occasionally funny tweets and ability to shoehorn the party into journalists’ copy even though they have little of any news value to offer. Lobby hacks are noting that these days they seem to have disappeared:

In recent months the LibDem press office has lost its three top spinners Phil Reilly, Jasper Gerard and Paul Haydon. The new LibDem head of media is Rosy Cobb, formerly a policy adviser with no experience in the press office. The word on Great George Street is that their other two senior spinners Christine Longworth and Dave Shaw are considering leaving for better jobs elsewhere. There is so much churn that the new faces are unknown even to HQ colleagues, let alone the Lobby. Essentially the LibDem press office has no one who can speak to journalists. Is there anyone left at LibDem HQ who can sort this mess out?

Gawain “Consciously Uncoupling” From UKIP

UKIP spin chief Gawain Towler is stepping down after 13 years at the party. It is no exaggeration to say Gawain is one of the press officers most respected by political journalists over the last decade. Just think what he has had to deal with down the years – from gay floods to Godfrey Bloom to donkey rape and Henry Bolton – the Lobby knew their phone calls would always be answered with honesty and good humour. At many times he single-handedly kept the party together.

Gawain is setting up a reputation management consultancy named CWC, which stands for “Crisis, What Crisis?”, and prospective clients will be making a canny choice. God knows what UKIP are going to do without him – in many ways Gawain leaving really does signal the end of the party. MoG this evening?

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.


Back to Work: “Sick” Jared Makes Miraculous Recovery as Media Pressure Mounts

Good news! Jared O’Mara has briefed the Mirror that he is feeling much better after his four months off and will be making a “phased return” to work. The timing of his miraculous recovery is surely just a coincidence and definitely, absolutely nothing to do with the Yorkshire Post turning on him yesterday. Guido is glad to hear Jared is fighting fit – this means Labour’s paused investigation into his conduct can resume and report back swiftly. Right?

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…’

Juncker: I Am Shocked By Leak

Juncker says the leak didn’t come from him, that he’s “shocked” by the reports in the German press and that it is “not true” he said May “begged for help”. So who was it?

Selmayr: It Wasn’t Me

Last time May had dinner with Juncker his hated aide Martin Selmayr leaked the whole thing to German newspaper FAZ, causing a minor diplomatic incident. Well, the same journalist at the same paper has had another well-informed briefing of Juncker’s view of last week’s dinner. Apparently May “begged”, looked “despondent”, “under her eyes she wears deep rings”, “like someone who does not sleep” and she is “tormented”. Nice.

Former May chief of staff Nick Timothy named Selmayr as the source. He responds:

Selmayr is known as “the monster” so sure we can believe his denial. Reminder that for all the talk of splits on the UK side, the EU is on another level when it comes to poisonous briefings and ideologues undermining the process…

Livid Boris Vents Fury at “Allies” Briefing Press

Today’s Telegraph and Sun run quotes from anonymous “allies” of Boris calling for Philip Hammond to be sacked and claiming BoJo will “just say no” if Theresa May attempts to demote him. Boris is livid about these stories and says they have not been sanctioned by him and do not represent his views. In a furious tirade on the Tory MPs’ WhatsApp group last night, Johnson said he is “fed up to the back teeth” with anonymous “allies” briefing the press purportedly on his behalf:

“I do not know who these people are. I do not know if they are really my friends and allies or if they represent some sinister band of imposters. I heartily disagree with the sense, tone and spirit of what they are quoted as saying. Whoever they are they do not speak for me”

MPs who aren’t in the room with Boris are often appearing in print as his “allies”, claiming to speak for him. More often than not recently they are landing him in hot water, hence his frustration vented on WhatsApp. His declaration that “they do not speak for me” is as much as anything a plea to the Lobby not to report the views of excitable backbenchers as his own. Boris needs to take back control of his supporters…

Team Hammond: Brexiters Are Stupid

Classic condescending quote from “an ally” of Philip Hammond on the front page of the Telegraph, the use of the phrase “simple-minded Brexiteers” is revealing:

“The bottom line is this is not going to be easy, something that’s overlooked by simple-minded Brexiteers like Boris. When it comes down to practicalities it may take longer.”

So anyone who doesn’t agree with Hammond and Amber Rudd that the transition must be longer than two years is a “simple-minded” Brexiter. Remember Hammond and Cabinet Remainers had until last week been living in a fantasy land of a five year transition. A senior government Leaver tells Guido in response:

“Hammond has been revealed as duplicitous and calculating and the mouthpiece of the City. He’s also been done up like a kipper by Boris and Davis. There’s a reason the PM was going to chop him.”

Of all the briefing at the moment, not sure sneering at Leavers is the best look for the Chancellor…

Vince Bottles “Slicing Up Corbyn” Line

The pre-briefed version of Vince Cable’s LibDem conference speech included the line:

“If Jeremy Corbyn sits on the fence any longer, he is in danger of being sliced up the middle by the serrated edge.”

The line was cut from the speech on delivery, perhaps after they saw how it went for Osborne talking about chopping up his opponents.

This is the most interesting thing to come from this week’s LibDem dross. Sky News cut away from Vince’s speech after a few minutes to hear from the President

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…

Boris SpAd Liam Parker Leaving

Guido can reveal Boris Johnson’s special adviser Liam Parker is leaving for the private sector, he’s joining top PR firm Pagefield as a partner after conference. Parker has been Boris’ spinner for the last year, before which he was Mark Carney’s head of press at the Bank of England. No doubt at Pagefield he will earn more for a slightly quieter life – flying around the world with the Foreign Secretary is one of the more demanding SpAd jobs. Good luck to him.

Expect this to be used by Boris’ enemies in the media as another sign of his apparently waning position. Yet senior Tories Guido has spoken to are perplexed by the determination of some to write BoJo off completely. He remains the man Tory associations want their MP to invite for dinner, he is box office, was instrumental in winning the referendum, is highly unlikely to be sacked in a reshuffle despite reports and his career is certainly not over as some would have you believe. Indeed he is the man most Tory MPs still believe will be next leader. Be interesting to see who he hires…

Chairman Boris?

Speculation that Theresa May could demote Boris Johnson to party chairman is again doing the rounds, weeks after BoJo’s enemies first punted the idea around. Does it make sense? Sacking Boris would create the highest possible profile enemy at a time when the PM is hardly in a position of overwhelming strength. Giving him the party chairman job would then arguably increase his power. Chairman Boris would be able to reconnect with members and activists, effectively given free reign to tour associations and win the membership’s support. He could actually be political, which is what he does best and would only help his popularity in the party. Rather than being sent around the world and restricted to 20 second pooled clips he could do all the broadcast and press he liked. If May really were to do something with Boris in a future reshuffle, making him party chairman would be a particularly brave move…

Bell Pottinger CEO Resigns

August 23: Bell Pottinger chief executive James Henderson denies to Guido that he has resigned.

September 3: James Henderson resigns.

The PRCA ruling on the Bell Pottinger South Africa scandal is due this week…

Guardian Brexit Coverage Bewildering Remainers

Guido has spoken to several Remainers recently who have expressed bewilderment at the Guardian’s Brexit coverage. Their view is that among the Remain media, the Times, FT and online publications are streets ahead because the Guardian keeps getting basic facts wrong. Look at these examples from the last few days…

Today they have the headline: “Boris concedes UK will have to pay for Brexit”. Eh? Every sensible Leaver including Boris accepted from the outset that Britain needs to meet its financial obligations. When Boris said “go whistle” he was talking about the €100 billion figure being bandied about by the EU. You can reads his quotes – “go whistle” referred to “the sums that I have seen that they propose to demand from this country seem to me to be extortionate”. He never said we wouldn’t pay anything. This is basic stuff, the Guardian is misleading its readers to wrongly make it look like Boris is u-turning.

Earlier this week the Guardian reported the government’s proposal for a system of civil judicial cooperation is a “climbdown from its promise of judicial independence”. As pro-Remain experts pointed out, this was wrong. The Guardian had misinterpreted the position paper – it was about child custody, divorce and small business disputes, a separate issue from judicial independence and the ECJ. This is either embarrassing incompetence or deliberate spinning just to blindly attack the government. Not sure which is worse.

Then there was the Guardian’s Brussels correspondent Jennifer Rankin, who snarked in response to Emmanuel Macron’s attempts to reform posted worker rules: “Imagine if David Cameron had tried to change EU free movement rules with other EU countries instead of alone”. As pro-Remain journalists pointed out to Rankin, freedom of movement and posted worker rules are not the same thing. And say what you like about Cameron’s renegotiation, the idea he didn’t try to win support from other EU countries is just factually incorrect.

Best of the lot is Martin Kettle’s analysis in today’s paper. He reckons the government’s position papers make the case for staying in the single market and customs union and u-turn on the ECJ. Then Martin hilariously writes: “None of them quite say this, of course.” Correct, in real life the position papers make clear we are leaving the single market, customs union and ECJ. This is just wishful thinking from Kettle, it isn’t based in reality. Not sure how it got past the editing process.

Guido has noticed pro-Remain journalists falling into two camps recently. Some are becoming more practical, more pragmatic, sensibly and accurately reporting the Brexit process having accepted we are leaving. Others, the Guardian and Open Britain crowd, are in denial. They are embarrassing other Remainers and doing a disservice to their readers…

UPDATE: Craig Oliver on the renegotiation point:

#Traingate II: Director’s Cut

For some inexplicable reason the usual suspects for Corbyn are trying to rehash the whole #Traingate saga. Why? Why now? The New Statesman’s Jasper Jackson has taken a fair minded look at the “new never before seen footage”, that we’ve all seen before, from agit-prop video jockeys Double Down. According to Jackson, Double Down’s director is Yannis Mendez…

“… the video maker who was being paid by Corbyn’s team to film footage on the train, and who pitched the Guardian the article. Mendez insisted that his friend, Anthony Casey, be given a joint byline under a pseudonym. (He was billed as “Charles B Anthony”.) This is what the Guardian’s readers’ editor found most objectionable about the story: a paid partisan activist operating as a journalist, without his affiliation being made clear to readers.”

This is what led the Guardian to distance themselves from the original bit of bylined agit-prop. The new video is basically a reinterpretation of the original claims.

Let Guido rehash the facts which are not in dispute;

  • Team Corbyn didn’t reserve a seat.
  • Corbyn himself said he found an empty single seat, but he wanted two adjacent.
  • Virgin staff offered Corbyn first class seats – which he declined.
  • The Virgin conductor later found Team Corbyn seats.
  • During the time between other seats being found (by upgrading other passengers) they filmed the now infamous agit-prop video.

If Team Corbyn wasn’t so chaotic they would have organised booking seats in the first place. If they weren’t so prissy they would have taken the upgrade offered. Instead they made a less than honest campaign video out of the affair. They got a well deserved mauling and it still stings. Hence Yannis Mendez coming back to the issue long after anyone who might have cared has forgotten the details.

Remain Media Coverage Criticised By Experts

Some pro-Remain pundits and publications are single-minded in their desire to blindly attack the government, even if it means getting the story wrong. Take today’s Guardian article claiming HMG’s proposal for a system of civil judicial cooperation is a “climbdown from its promise of judicial independence”.[…] Read the rest


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Quote of the Day

Chuka Umunna on Seumas Milne re Russia:

“Have read the comments of the Leader of the Opposition’s spokesperson. Mr Milne’s comments do not represent the views of the majority of our voters, members or MPs. We’ll get abuse for saying so but where British lives have been put at risk it is important to be clear about this.”


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