Tory MP: Brexit Rebels Betrayed Voters

Tory MP Henry Smith reflecting the feelings of the vast majority of his colleagues…

Anne Marie Morris Has Whip Restored

“I would like to take this opportunity to apologise again for using such inappropriate and offensive language. The whip has been returned to me today. I feel proud and privileged to be a Conservative Member of Parliament and I will continue to serve my community and my country to the best of my ability.”

After months of lecturing Labour about how they deal with race row MPs and candidates, the Tories restore the whip to Anne Marie Morris…

‘May Not Bringing Brexiteers With Her’

Pretty damning analysis from the Telegraph’s Juliet Samuel about the situation between Brexiteers and Number 10. Let’s hope this can all be resolved amicably when the Cabinet meets to discuss the end state later this month…

Osborne Doesn’t Rule Out Return To Parliament

George Osborne didn’t rule out a return to parliament at his press gallery lunch today. The Evening Standard editor gave a lively speech and when asked if he would return to parliament he said: “I don’t rule it out”. But he did rule out joining the NUJ…

Osborne had the following to say:

On Boris: “A pretty effective mayor of London.” 

On the Tory leadership: “It is the consensus party view that there will be a Conservative Leader contest this parliament.”

On Corbyn: “If the Labour movement was led by a social democrat of even middling ability they would now be 20 points ahead in the polls.”

On Freezergate: Taught him “a thing or two about editorial conference.”

On why Remain lost: “We looked like the establishment.”

On the importance of the metropolitan elite: If the Tories are “anti-modern and anti-metropolitan then people will be anti-us.”

Mayoral bid or return to the Commons? A George / Amber / Ruth Remoaner dream team…

H/T The Lobby

Boris: Whole of UK Must Take Back Control

Boris put it simply in the Q&A after his speech today:

“Whatever way we devise for getting onto the body of the talks, it’s got to be consistent with the whole of the United Kingdom taking back control of our laws, of our borders and of our cash.”

Close alignment does not sound like taking back control. Worrying this needs to be said 18 months on from the referendum…

‘One Week to Stop a Soft Brexit’, Barwell Failing to Hold it Together

Two columns today show just how serious things are between Number 10 and the Brexiteers. In the Speccie James Forsyth quotes a leading Vote Leave figure warning there is “a week to fight back” against a soft Brexit. His piece blames the whole clusterf**k on a “hopelessly understaffed” Downing Street, “a general lack of direction and grip” and the vacuum caused by Damian Green’s distractions. In the Times Iain Martin is even more damning, he says Number 10 “resembles a morgue” and names Gavin Barwell as “struggling to hold it all together”Yesterday Guido told how May is being bounced by Jeremy Heywood and Olly Robbins into a non-Brexit which prevents us from diverging from the EU – this is now the crunch issue.

Cabinet Brexiteers do not believe Theresa May wants to sell them out on Brexit. However they think May, Barwell and Number 10 do not understand the implications of the direction they are taking on regulatory alignment. Leavers are genuinely raging that there is no one in charge and the lack of leadership in Downing Street has allowed Heywood and Robbins to dictate the process and shift them towards a soft Brexit. Tories are even muttering wistfully that Nick Timothy would never have stood for this – it is a sign of how bad things are that some are almost longing for the days he was in charge. The Cabinet reckoning on the Brexit end state is promised before the end of the year. May has delayed it to hold her government together but in doing so her indecisiveness and caution has allowed the Remainers to walk her towards a non-Brexit.

The Vote Leave figure says there is a week to fight back against a soft Brexit. The other way of looking at it is May has a week to save herself from the consequences of taking the wrong path… 

Santa Bone Delivers Presents in Brussels

A lot of work has clearly gone into Peter Bone’s excellent Christmas card this year. Think we have an idea what he thinks we should give them in the Brexit bill…

Hammond: We’ll Pay Divorce Bill Even If There’s No Deal

Well done Phil, great negotiating tactic.

Hammond: We Don’t Know What We Want From Brexit End State

Philip Hammond has confirmed to the Treasury select committee that the Cabinet still hasn’t discussed what the Brexit end state will look like, i.e. whether it will be the convergence non-Brexit preferred by him, Jeremy Heywood and Olly Robbins, or a real Brexit in which we properly diverge from the EU. It has been 18 months since the referendum, it’s mad the Cabinet has not even discussed what Brexit Britain will look like. If the government has no idea on the end state, are they even ready to move onto the next stage of talks?

May Promises Mogg Red Lines Aren’t Turning Pink

May tells Brexiteer Tory MPs that the red lines set out in her Lancaster House speech remain…

“Technical Problems” With Hammond’s Plane

Today’s Times has a belter of a story about the MoD banning Philip Hammond from using RAF planes and helicopters until the Treasury settles his jet-setting bills. An epic tale of briefing and counter-briefing after Team Hammond dubbed Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson “Private Pike” in the Mail on Sunday.

Yesterday Hammond was late for his meeting with EU finance ministers – journalists were told “because of technical problems with his plane”. Were the technical problems that the RAF wouldn’t let him on board?

Knives Out For Heywood and Robbins

Tory Brexiteers fear Theresa May is being bounced by her top civil servants Jeremy Heywood and Olly Robbins into a non-Brexit which prevents us from diverging from the EU after we leave. Leavers have been pragmatic, calm and willing to compromise throughout the Brexit process so far. This is really the first time things are in danger of seriously kicking off. This line in the draft text apparently agreed by Number 10 has caused genuine fears among all Brexiteers:

“In the absence of agreed solutions, the UK will maintain full alignment with the internal market, customs union…”

This is wholly unacceptable, it is almost unbelievable Number 10 would sign it off. Guido bumped into Lord Trimble last night and showed him this line, he stared at it for some time as if having difficulty believing it could be real before commenting: “This is surely not something the British government could sign up to”.

Brexiteers believe Heywood and Robbins are taking advantage of a weak Downing Street to force through a Brexit which keeps us too closely aligned to Brussels. Guido reported in September that Heywood and Robbins were seeking a softer EEA minus model, there are now genuine fears of a stitch up and Number 10 choosing a route closer to that than the real Brexit preferred by Boris, Gove and Fox, and demanded by the referendum result. A Whitehall source says May is “way too reliant” on Robbins. It is baffling that they appear to have conceded alignment on agriculture between the EU and the whole of the UK – could the Environment Secretary really live with that? There are also serious concerns that May could drop the ECJ red line from her Lancaster House speech. Leavers are seeing the situation as salami slices being given away until eventually there is no salami left. 

There is also disbelief that May did not consult Cabinet about what they were about to concede. A Whitehall source tells the Sun“Cabinet is in the dark about what the PM is doing now, which is a very strange state of affairs to be in”. A Cabinet source tells the Telegraph: “The Prime Minister is playing a risky game”. Brexiteers are asking who in is in charge: is it Heywood and Robbins bouncing a weak May into a softer Brexit, or is it May trying to bounce the Brexiteers? It is more likely to be the former. May knows she owes her position to keeping Leavers onside – if she sells out they won’t stand for it.

Nigel Evans Wishes You a May-ry Christmas

Nigel Evans first out of the Christmas postbag this year with a double picture greetings card showing the PM holding a mug emblazoned with his face. Not a patch on last year’s

H/T Marie Le Conte

Where Are the Dirty Dozen’s Promised Reports, Investigations and Decisions?

The Brexit noise is helpfully letting both the government and the Labour Party sit on the promised reports, investigations and decisions which followed the recent string of Westminster scandals. Here’s Guido’s run-down of the unfinished business from the past few weeks (and earlier)…

Jared O’Mara: Jared hasn’t been seen in Westminster since the scandal around him erupted in October and he hasn’t voted in the months since. He – or more likely, his whip – is submitting a number of very general written questions and signing the odd EDM to give the impression things are still ticking over. Jared is still under investigation after losing the Labour whip. He’s been off for weeks…

Keith Vaz: An investigation into Vaz by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner is somehow still ongoing after a complaint was made about his rent boys and coke binge in September 2016 (Kathryn Hudson better hurry-up, she’s due to step-down by the end of this year). Vaz hasn’t voted since 18 October, though he did speak in the House last week. He is currently rumoured to be on a trip to the Middle East…

Damian Green: Westminster was on tenterhooks awaiting the release of Sue Gray’s report last week, but it didn’t materialise. It was rumoured to be on the agenda again yesterday but failed to appear. Putting off the inevitable seems to be distracting Damian from his job liaising with the DUP…

Mark Garnier: Remains under Cabinet Office investigation after the Mail on Sunday reported allegations in October that he sent an aide to buy sex toys and called her “sugar tits“. What on earth are they doing, interrogating the sex shop owner?

Kelvin Hopkins: Former Shadow Culture Secretary Kelvin Hopkins lost the Labour whip in November. The party is still investigating a complaint that Hopkins sent inappropriate text messages and made inappropriate physical contact at a student event in 2014. He is voting in line with Labour but hasn’t spoken since 25 October. No update from Labour…

Ivan LewisLabour is still investigating a complaint against Lewis, who denied allegations of sexual harassment after a woman said he touched her leg and invited her to his house when she was 19. He hasn’t voted since 31 October or spoken in the chamber since 25 October. No update…

Dan Poulter: MPs say they haven’t seen Dr Dan around Westminster since the Sunday Times reported allegations against him on 5 November. His office told the BBC he’s “on sick leave”. He last voted on 31 October and hasn’t spoken in the chamber since 11 July. The new Conservative Party disciplinary committee is yet to report its findings… 

Charlie Elphicke: Elphicke’s friends say is still unaware of what allegations have been made against him. He was told in November that allegations had been passed to the police, but there has been no news of any action. In the meantime, Elphicke is still without the whip. The chairman of his association recently backed him…

Stephen CrabbThe former Welsh Secretary is still under investigation by the Conservative Party for allegedly sexting a 19-year-old who applied for a job in his office in 2013. No update…

Chris Pincher: He resigned as a government whip after allegations in the Mail on Sunday that he had un-tucked the shirt of a male Tory. Pincher referred himself to the police. No news as to the outcome…

Daniel KawczynskiReferred to the Tories new disciplinary committee in November following allegations that he pressured a young researcher to go on a date with a businessman ‘older than her father’. Nothing heard yet…

Jack LoprestiA former staff member complained about Lopresti’s behaviour and a probe was launched last week. The complaint came via the Tories’ new code of conduct hotline…

What do Sue Gray, Kathryn Hudson and the Tory and Labour party internal inquiries get up to all day?

Regulatory Convergence Between UK & EU Denied

Last night Robert Peston set the hares running reporting that “permanent regulatory convergence between the UK and EU” is Theresa May’s “preferred route”. This would essentially be the EEA minus option preferred by Hammond and the Remainers, meaning the UK would have to follow EU rules permanently, denying the opportunities of Brexit that the country voted for. Fortunately government sources are strongly kicking back at the Peston report and denying there will be regulatory convergence between the UK and the EU. The Sun’s Tom Newton Dunn says alignment – which is different to convergence – would only be in limited areas of the Good Friday agreement.

It certainly would be brave for May to suddenly back the convergence model – that would go completely against the spirit of her Lancaster House speech, it would not be a real Brexit and it would mean the end of Brexiteer support for her premiership, which she has worked very hard to maintain over the last year. This episode again stresses the need for the Cabinet to thrash out once and for all what type of Brexit they actually want…

Cop: Porn Wasn’t Extreme But It Was Green Who Watched It

The police forensics officer who examined a computer seized from Damian Green’s parliamentary office has given an interview to the BBC. Neil Lewis says the First Secretary’s claim that it wasn’t him who watched the porn is implausible, and there is “no doubt whatsoever” in his mind that porn was accessed by Green:

“The computer was in Mr Green’s office, on his desk, logged in, his account, his name. In between browsing pornography, he was sending emails from his account, his personal account, reading documents… it was ridiculous to suggest anybody else could have done it.”

Green still denies the claims. Worth noting Lewis also says the material was not extreme – it could be a case of the coverup being worse than the crime here. Could Sue Gray’s inquiry finally release its findings today?

Peter Bone Tells Trump to Delete His Account

Amber Rudd says many colleagues would agree…

Green Doesn’t Take Chance to Apologise

John Mann gave Damian Green the chance to apologise at PMQs, he did not take him up on it. Answer heard in silence…

Priti Unleashed: Government “Failing” on Brexit, Must Decide End State

Priti Patel said what she really thinks at the Spectator’s event on the future of the Tory party tonight, blasting the government for its “failings” on Brexit, claiming it is “ill-equipped” to handle the negotiation and criticising Theresa May for refusing to hold a Cabinet discussion on the end state.

Leading Brexiteers have been telling Number 10 for months that a Cabinet meeting must be held where the two factions of the government can thrash out whether Brexit Britain is going to look like Hammond’s desired future convergence with the EU or the Leavers’ preferred divergence from Brussels. Priti aired their demands for “conviction and clarity in terms of our end state”.  As James Forysth pointed out, it’s extraordinary that this discussion hasn’t been had yet. 

The ousted former International Development Secretary also warned the government “has been ill-equipped in terms of preparations for the negotiations” and said on the financial settlement: “I don’t like spending money. I would have told the EU to sod off with their excessive financial demands”.

No prizes for guessing why the still ambitious Priti was laying it on thick with Tory members, talking about giving power back the grassroots and “starting from scratch” with the party hierarchy. On Brexit she is saying publicly what a lot of Leavers have been saying privately for months…

Pic via @maxlburnett

Anti-Putin Record of Gove, Boris and Legatum

The Mail on Sunday and the Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr seem to believe Michael Gove, Boris Johnson and the Legatum Institute conspired with Putin and the Russian state to deliver Brexit. There are more than a few problems with this theory, though Guido is going to focus on the most obvious: Boris, Gove and Legatum are all staunch critics of Putin and Russia.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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Quote of the Day

Former public schoolboy Chuka Umunna told the  ‘Exit From Brexit Dinner’…

“Remainians, Remoaners, I don’t care what the label is, I’m proud. It’s fashionable to label everyone in this room as the liberal metropolitan elite . . . This caricature is promoted by a bunch of former public schoolboys!” 

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