May Insists Pairing Scandal “An Honest Mistake”

Not sure fibbing that you didn’t tell MPs to break their pairs, and then admitting you did when caught red-handed, can be described as either “honest” or a “mistake”. Ministers and Tory MPs requiring pairs in future will have grave fears about how things are going to play out under the current chief whip…

UPDATE: Tom Watson:

“It is unbelievable that the Prime Minister has repeated the desperate and blatantly untrue excuses made by her Party Chair and Chief Whip. This is a serious issue that goes beyond efficient administration in the House of Commons. This is about public trust in politics. At such a crucial time for our country, people expect candour and decency, not cowardice and dishonesty.”

Tory MP Accuses Chief Whip and Government of Lying

This is the government line via Laura K:

“Tory sources say chief whip considered but did not go through with telling any MPs on short term pairs to vote even though they weren’t meant to”

But one of those paired Tory MPs tells The Sun:

“Julian told me I was needed and told me to come in and vote. Of course he knew I was paired. I didn’t vote and honoured my pair, and he demanded to know why not afterwards.”

Either that Tory MP or Julian Smith and the government are lying…

Labour Slipped Out Jared Statement on Day of Two Cabinet Resignations

No coincidence that Labour chose yesterday, the day of two Cabinet resignations and total Tory chaos, to slip out Jared O’Mara’s mea culpa for his online comments. Jared would probably not be getting away with this excuse on a less busy day:

“I grew up in an environment where lad culture and prejudicial language were normalised. I was in a bad place back then, and after being bullied and called many of those abusive slurs myself, I repeated them as a way of deflecting from my own low self-esteem…”

Labour spin operation getting better at this… will he actually say anything in Parliament now?

Baker: No.10 Blindsided Brexiters and Then Briefed Against Us

An excellent, must-watch interview with Steve Baker in which he explains why Theresa May must change her Brexit policy, reveals how Downing Street blindsided Dexeu and expresses righteous anger at Number 10 briefing against Brexiters. Leave Tory MPs – especially those being offered career advancement – should watch and listen…

May Interviewed By Her Former Aide on LBC

Have to say the Number 10 press team have played a blinder this morning. First they got Marr to agree to an easy pre-record interview rather than a live. Then they got the BBC to lead all morning on the Brexit dividend rather than the fact that the money is actually coming from tax rises. And to complete the hat-trick they had May interviewed by her former head of broadcast Tom Swarbrick on LBC. He was working in Number 10 three months ago. Good day for British journalism… 

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Quebec

All the above photos are taken from Theresa May’s official Facebook page uploaded a few hours ago. Her and Phil apparently in the back of a Hercules flying to Quebec across the Atlantic, the Red Box strapped into the military transport, her thanking the pilot after arriving safely in Quebec. And then getting off an Airbus 330 Voyager kitted out for VIPs at a cost of many millions…

Hold on, the pictures above released on her official Facebook page show her roughing it in the back of a Hercules military transport. Yet Guido also has these pictures, showing Her Majesty’s Lobby holding power to account over some G&Ts in the luxurious surrounds of a VIP Airbus Voyager…

Are we being played? What is really going on?

UPDATE: Explanation from Number 10: She travelled to Canada on the Voyager, and then across Canada on a C130.

Number 10 Call DD Stupid: “He Has Nothing”

An extraordinary briefing from Number 10 to The Sun, essentially calling David Davis stupid and claiming he has been completely outplayed by May and Robbins. The “senior government source” told Tom Newton Dunn that DD had been “bamboozled by drafting again”.

 “The language about the time limit is all expectations and aspirational. DD hasn’t got anything concrete.Remember, a few weeks ago DD agreed to the backstop because it was time-limited and would go alongside agreement of a preferred long-term end state for customs. As of now, he has nothing on long-term end state, and a highly dubious expectation of a time limit that has to be agreed by the EU Commission. I like DD, but she’s done him like a kipper again.”

Why is DD taking this?

Toxic Baldwin Returns

Tom Baldwin, the former Ed Miliband spinner notorious for his toxic press briefings, is set to take a role with the Remaoner People’s Vote campaign, Guido hears. Baldwin is in talks to join the campaign for a second referendum based in Millbank Tower. Let’s hope Tom has calmed down from the days when he compared a tax row to the death of Milly Dowler, made a sick jibe about cancer to a journalist, used the term ‘weaponise’ about the NHS and blamed Cameron for deaths in the Med. The Lobby will be just delighted to hear from him again.

He Who Must Not Be Named

Seumas Milne has refused to conduct Labour’s post-PMQs Lobby huddles for the last month after getting into a strop about being named – in breach of Lobby convention – by the Press Association and Guido, among others. Today he ended his sulk and gave the briefing, after instructing journalists they must refer to him only as “a Labour spokesman” and not by name. The anonymity traditionally afforded by the Lobby to spokesmen is a means of avoiding accountability – if spinners are safe from ever being named what incentive do they have to be honest? They can lie with impunity. In Seumas’ case, his views on Russia and Syria and his reputation among Labour MPs meant he became the story himself. Ordering journalists to never refer to him by his name is a curious look. Who does he think he is, Voldemort?

Bad Al Lied About Not Lying to the Media

Alastair Campbell’s claim on Newsnight that he never lied to the media brought loud guffaws from many journalists. A co-conspirator sent this from Adam Boulton’s Tony’s Ten Years: Memories of the Blair Administration. In it Campbell is reported apologising to Boulton for lying to him. Campbell lied to Evan Davies on live television about never lying to the media…

Cable Embarrassed as EU Leaders Deny Signing LibDem 2nd Referendum Statement

Oh dear. This morning the LibDems press released that eight EU prime ministers had agreed to back Vince Cable’s call for a second referendum:

Except they hadn’t:


The LibDems need some new hires quick.

Malaysian Government Denies Using Cambridge Analytica

In the Channel 4 News sting Cambridge Analytica’s Alexander Nix claimed to have worked for the Malaysians. The Malaysians say he is bullshitting. Guido knows who actually works for the Malaysians…

Labour Head of Broadcast Now Working For BBC News

Lobby hacks often move over to the dark side of spin, but travelling the other way is generally a bit of a no-no – especially if it’s a paid-up party hand heading to the BBC. Katy Dillon was Labour’s head of broadcast for three years until October and worked for the party since 2010. Guido hears she is now working on the BBC newsdesk at their Millbank politics base. It’s not like Katy is recusing herself from reporting on Labour – she has bylines on pieces about Jeremy Corbyn and has been sending out copy about internal Labour politics. Fair to say this is causing concern among her new colleagues. It may be that the Leader’s Office has more to worry about though – Dillon is certainly not a Corbynista…

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.

Concerning…

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.[…] Read the rest

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Quote of the Day

Jeremy Corbyn told by veteran Jewish MP Margaret Hodge…

“You’re a f***ing anti-aemite and a racist”

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