Hancock: 4 Out of 14 Social Media Companies Turned Up to Meet Me

Not including Matt Hancock of the Matt Hancock App, presumably…

“Give Me Sexy” Matt Hancock

He can sing, he can dance, he can defend the freedom of the press, is there anything Matt Hancock can’t do?

WATCH: Moment Bercow Flipped Out at Leadsom

This is the moment John Bercow allegedly called Andrea Leadsom a “stupid woman” and “f***ing useless” on Wednesday. In an extraordinarily bad-tempered rant, even by the Speaker’s standards, Bercow eyeballs Leadsom and admonishes her in a particularly aggressive manner. Leadsom is so unimpressed at Bercow’s macho behaviour that she deliberately looks away and refuses to make eye contact. When you watch the video, you can see this visibly infuriates the pint-sized Commons ref, whose bluster builds into an almost deranged crescendo. When the Speaker finishes, the camera pans out. At this point Bercow turns to the left, clearly gesticulates towards Leadsom and appears to say something. An eye-witness tells Guido that Bercow said a number of words, one of which was definitely “outrageous”. Bercow does not deny that he also called her a “stupid woman” and “f***ing useless”. 

The Speaker has previously flat out denied all the recent bullying allegations against him. Guido understands he has not denied this one because he fears footage will emerge proving he did say it. Footage in the Commons is controlled by the Parliamentary Broadcasting Unit. There is always a camera on the Speaker, the PBU will have had the footage, as yet they are not being forthcoming about helping to clear up what was said. As with all parliamentary bodies, all roads lead to the Speaker, so the PBU will be under immense internal pressure to cover this up. This week MPs on the Standards Committee voted to block an investigation into Bercow. He is being protected by the system. Anyone who comes by the footage can leak it to Guido in confidence here

May Customs Union Gaffe

The PM’s spokesman quickly clarifies that she meant “future customs arrangement”, not “future customs union”. Phew!

Irish Border Camera Problem Solved

A lot of Remainers are agitating around the issue of cameras on the Irish border. Karen Bradley, one of the Remainers on the Brexit sub-committee, has insisted this morning that there will be no new Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras. Remainers don’t seem to realise that there already are high definition cameras at the Irish border with a high speed data link to police computers, which can easily be retasked to connect with customs and excise computers. The video above was taken at the border on the A1 motorway, the main route between Dublin and Belfast along which the vast majority of intra-Ireland trade happens. Problem solved!

Customs Decision Has Been Coming “Next Week” For Three Weeks

For three weeks in a row now, Number 10 has been putting off the decision on customs until “next week”.

Wednesday 2 May: Cabinet sub-committee meeting splits 6-5 in favour of Max Fac. Number 10 declines to hold an official vote. Decision delayed “until next week”.

Tuesday 8 May: Cabinet meeting. Customs is the elephant in the room, not discussed at all. Conversation put off until next Cabinet sub-committee.

Thursday 10 May: May cancels plan to discuss customs. Cabinet sub-committee instead told to go away into two groups and study proposals further. Still no decision.

Tuesday 15 May: Cabinet sub-committee meeting. Decision now expected “next week”. What will they tell us next week?

And this is without mentioning that Number 10 is considering delaying the Commons vote on the customs union until the autumn, which would wreck our negotiating hand. And appears to be considering extending the transition period for customs, which would further delay Brexit. C’mon Theresa, get on with it…

NiMo Previously Backed Leaving Single Market and Customs Union

On 3 July 2016, Nicky Morgan told Peston that she had “listened to party members” and decided that it was “important” that “somebody who wanted to leave the EU” became PM. NiMo said “it’s now up to the political class, the Westminster bubble, to realise just how people feel out in the country” as she endorsed Michael Gove for leader. This was Morgan backing leaving the single market and customs union. Gove as PM could have meant nothing else. Today she is joining Clegg and Miliband’s anti-Brexit alliance. How does that work? NiMo was fine with leaving the single market and customs union so long as she was getting a big Cabinet job…

Damian Green: We’ll End Up With Max Fac

Interesting that close May ally and former leading Cabinet Remainer Damian Green has told Westminster Hour he thinks we will end up with Max Fac:

“I think the most likely end point is some of what’s called Maximum Facilitation, some variant of that. I personally am not yet convinced that you could have that in place by the end of 2020, by the end of the implementation period, and therefore you might need to bolt onto that another period, a sort of transition period onto that.”

Note that earlier Michael Gove ruled out extending the transition. But is this a sign Max Fac is winning?

IDS: Remain Rebels Plunging Knife Into Heart of Government

IDS on Remainer customs union rebels:

“Leaving the customs union was in the manifesto – this is a very big issue if they’re deciding to break this because they plunge a knife into the heart of government, and particularly the Prime Minister.”

May should get on with it and face down the Tory Remainers threatening to put Corbyn in Number 10…

Gove Rules Out Extending Transition

Gove ruled out an extension to the transition period, telling Nick Robinson “I don’t believe in an extension… in delay there lies no plenty… we need to crack on” and must “meet the deadline”. That’s a thanks but no thanks to Nick Boles’ suggestion from last week…

Gove on “Flawed” Customs Partnership

Gove suggests the proposed customs partnership does not meet the tests set by Theresa May in her Sunday Times article today. Tough to see how the customs partnership can survive…

Working Class Voters Abandon Labour For Tories

The pollster Ian Warren has spotted some interesting movement in today’s YouGov poll: the Tories now lead Labour 43-40 among working class C2DE voters. As recently as January Labour had a lead among C2DE voters of 46-35. That’s a huge reversal in five months, and it echoes the trend from the local elections. A reminder for Theresa May what working class voters think of Corbyn’s customs union betrayal?

Tories Hiring New Head of Candidates

The Tories are advertising for one of the most powerful jobs in the country: a new CCHQ Head of Candidates. It is hard to overstate the significance of the vacancy – whoever gets the job will effectively choose the next generation of Tory MPs, control the Candidates List and run the Parliamentary Assessment Boards at which the fates of fledgling political careers are decided. It is an opportunity for CCHQ to end the culture of fixing the candidates process in favour of identikit politicians and against those who might actually think for themselves or represent their local associations. Potential Tory candidates will be hoping the role is given to someone fair-minded, who won’t bend and break the rules, and could actually improve a deeply flawed system. One to watch closely…

Nick Timothy Tells May to Back Max Fac

Another important intervention from Nick Timothy in the Telegraph today, who directly advises his old boss to drop her customs partnership and back the Brexiters’ Max Fac option. Last week Timothy savaged the NCP, today he makes the case for Max Fac and tells Number 10 to “get on with it”. Theresa May still listens to her former chief of staff, it is also significant that Max Fac is being pushed by someone in the PM’s trusted inner circle, not just Cabinet Brexiters and the ERG. Timothy says Max Fac:

“…can be made efficient by sensible policy and technology, and the costs can be offset by the opportunities provided by trade deals with the world’s fastest growing economies…

Downing Street’s reluctance to choose “max fac” is driven by concern about the Northern Irish border. But “max fac” does not demand a hard border. Checks do not need to be conducted along the border: the administration can be done in advance through pre-registration and trusted trader schemes, and monitoring can be conducted in each country. Small businesses can be exempted, more powers devolved to Belfast, and more all-Ireland governance arrangements can be agreed to facilitate trade.

The Commission says this is impossible, but their negotiating stance is hardly surprising when they believe Parliament might force the Government into a customs union. And whatever Barnier says, “max fac” would be no anomalous lacuna in the EU’s border. Two years ago, more than a million migrants simply walked into Europe. And as anybody who has driven into France from Switzerland knows, there are no checks along whole sections of the EU border.

The EU is ignoring its own negotiating guidelines. They say “the unique challenges of Ireland will require flexible and imaginative solutions”. The responsibility to find these solutions is not only British but European too.

If there is a compromise to be made, ministers might accept that “max fac” will take longer to be introduced than the current implementation timetable suggests. But to get its way with Brussels, and to convince Parliament that there is an alternative to a customs union, the Government needs to get on with it, choose “max fac” – and start making its case.”

The crunch meeting is now on Tuesday next week. If Timothy was still in Downing Street May would be backing Max Fac, instead she has been captured by Remainers. Five days to see sense…

Tower Hamlets Tories Raise “Serious Concerns” Over Count

Tory councillors and activists are preparing a report for the Electoral Commission after becoming concerned about at last Friday’s “chaotic” Tower Hamlets count. Multiple sources at the heavily policed count described alleged failings including:

  • Failure to replace all teams of counters between the mayoral count (Thursday night) and the council count (Friday afternoon);
  • Both the council ballot verification process (Thursday night) and the count itself being “very disorganised”. Observers said staff seemed unsure how to verify and count split votes, so political counting agents and candidates had to explain to them how to do it…

Suspicions intensified when the result for the Island Gardens was announced: it put Conservative group leader Peter Golds in 4th place. The Tories asked for a recheck because this didn’t match up with their tallies. Golds went from fourth place to second place after the recheck…

On polling day numerous issues had been reported including EU citizens being turned away at polling stations. Golds told Guido:

“Anyone who tries to describe what happened on Friday as a count should reconsider their opinion. The whole thing was a complete and utter shambles. From start to finish the count was totally disorganised, staff didn’t know what they were doing, with ballot papers being misplaced and counting procedures made up on the spot. Following government directions the council have had years to prepare for this election. We were still the last authority in the country to declare a result and there are still concerns that several results may not be correct.”

“The Electoral Commission have serious questions to answer, they need to look carefully at what happened here and sort out the legitimate concerns that people have for over elections once and for all.”

An Electoral Commission spokesman said:

“While it took time for Tower Hamlets to complete its count and declare results for all 20 wards, the processes and procedures that were put in place to address past issues were well managed. Representatives from the Electoral Commission were present throughout the Tower Hamlets count, no issues were raised with them Anyone who does have concerns should contact the Returning Officer for Tower Hamlets.”

Meanwhile, Labour’s re-elected mayor in Tower Hamlets proclaimed the borough has “moved on” from its history of corruption issues. Not quite…

Oxford University Removes May Portrait From ‘Wall of Women’

Last week Oxford University’s Geography department unveiled its ‘Wall of Women’, a new collection of portraits celebrating female graduates who went onto become leaders in their fields, including one Theresa May.

“We’re keen to celebrate the successes of our women students and staff as much as those of men. From a medal-winning Olympian to a Prime Minister, the portraits aim to inspire the next generation of women geographers to aim high in their future careers,” the university said.

Not for long. Following a protest by left-wing students – they even set up a Twitter account to campaign against the PM’s inclusion – the portrait of May has now been removed. Sad.

UPDATE: Eagle-eyed Gabriel Pogrund notes that on the left of the photo, and not the subject of any protest, is the Marxist geographer Doreen Massey, who was an adviser to the Chavez regime in Venezuela (and a friend of Jeremy Corbyn).

UPDATE II: Via Cherwell, this was the students’ protest against the May portrait before it was taken down: “Let in every refugee, throw the Tories in the sea”. They report the protesters said of May: “She is a contentious figure in a department with many EU citizens and decolonial scholars”.

UPDATE III: Victory!

Mail Warns May

Theresa May values the Daily Mail more than any other news outlet, it is said, and she can be left in no doubt as to what the paper thinks of her customs fudge this morning. Today’s Mail editorial directly backs Boris and warns the PM:

“Let’s be clear what this new ‘partnership’ means. British customs officers would act as tax collectors for Brussels, continuing to charge EU tariffs on imports entering the UK from outside the bloc, then giving rebates to traders whose goods were sold exclusively in Britain… it would be a logistical nightmare and an invitation to fraud, as British officials struggled to track the final destination of every imported widget and foodstuff so the correct tariffs could be charged. The infrastructure required would take years to install, delaying Brexit indefinitely. Needless to say, this bureaucratic fudge was devised in Whitehall, by Mrs May’s Europhile Brexit adviser Olly Robbins. Only a civil servant could believe the answer to freeing up cross-border trade is even more red tape. This paper has had its differences with Mr Johnson but on this issue he is absolutely right. The customs partnership makes a mockery of taking back control and risks the worst of all options – staying tied to Brussels but unable to make our own trade deals…

Theresa May – must stand firm. Last week’s local election successes in Leave-voting areas showed the public still trust the Tories to deliver a clean Brexit. Yes, Labour wreckers, misguided Tory rebels, Europhile civil servants and Remainer Lords (many of whom receive EU pensions) will use every weapon they have to frustrate the will of the people. But even if Mrs May did concede to staying in some form of customs union, they would simply demand more and more concessions until the referendum vote was effectively overturned. Facing down this unholy anti-Brexit alliance will be a strong test of the Prime Minister’s nerve. If British democracy is to be upheld, it’s a test she must not fail.”

If Number 10 hadn’t got the message, Quentin Letts is explicit:

“The Prime Minister, while publicly reiterating her determination to leave the single market and the customs union, is prevaricating in private. She allows her Downing Street team, who for the main part were Remain supporters, to continue with their crazy appeasement of Brussels with this customs partnership proposal… Under Conservative party rules, it needs only 48 MPs to trigger a vote of confidence in Theresa May’s leadership. If she green-lights customs partnership, that will happen within hours. I fear she simply has no idea how angry Brexiteers are about this plan, or about the Whitehall establishment’s continuing attempts to stymie Brexit. The mood is one of tranquil resolve: if the Prime Minister tries this outrageous anti-democratic move, it’s off-with-her-head.”

There is also a warning for Gavin Williamson, the Brexit sub-committee ‘Brexiter’ most likely to waver and switch sides – he is dubbed “wobbly” Williamson – and Sajid Javid. Quentin notes they would be “slaughtered” and “could immediately forget any dreams of being leader” if they rat on this.

Number 10 are mad if they think this is just Boris sounding off. It is also a majority of the Brexit sub-committee, Nick Timothy, the ERG, seemingly every Brexiter, and the Daily Mail, the paper May has relied on for support for years. If they can’t see that…

684 Days Since the Referendum, the Government Doesn’t Have a Policy on Customs

684 days have passed since Britain voted for Brexit. Theresa May has been Prime Minister for 664 days. There are just 325 days – ten months – until we are supposed to be leaving the EU. Still, the UK government does not have a policy on customs. 

Boris has given an interview to the Mail today in which he brands Number 10’s customs partnership proposal “crazy”. Guido has outlined the problems with it here. The customs partnership is dead in its current form, but the papers are full of speculation Downing Street is going to plough ahead with a rehashed version of the model rejected by the Brexit sub-committee last week.

Just as worryingly, Number 10 is putting off the decision yet again. Customs won’t be discussed at Cabinet today, we are told, nor at the next meeting of the sub-committee on Thursday. There are reports that the Commons vote on customs may even be delayed until the autumn, as May desperately tries to fudge what is already a fudge. Continually delaying the decision on customs is becoming a dereliction of duty. The uncertainty is harming the economy. The vague UK position is encouraging Brussels to wind down the clock and keep us in a full customs union. If Number 10 delay any further, the choice will be between a customs union and no deal, outcomes no one wants. Get on with it…

Tories Won’t Kick Out Pendle Racist Joke Councillor

Confusing message from the Tories this morning over the Pendle councillor who was re-instated therefore securing a majority despite having been suspended for posting a racist joke online. On Sky Party Chairman Brandon Lewis said he would look at the case again, noting the councillor had been through “diversity training” and served her punishment. But Greg Clark, over on BBC One, said she had no place in the party “if those are her views.” Accusing Labour of racism has been the Tories’ main attack recently. Trust them to throw it away…

UPDATE: Pendle Tories said:

“In June last year Rosemary Carroll was suspended from the Conservative Party for three months over a post made on social media. The post was shared in error but Rosemary fully accepted the potential upset caused and sincerely apologized. Having served her suspension period she re-joined the party and completed additional diversity training.”

Tories Take Pendle By Reinstating Suspended Councillor

The Tories have secured a majority on Pendle council by re-instating a candidate who was previously suspended for posting a racist joke on social media. According to the BBC, Rosemary Carroll was suspended over Facebook comments but the ban was lifted this morning as the result became clear.[…] Read the rest

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Emma Barnett asks Barry Gardiner:

“Which Barry Gardiner is telling the truth? The one who speaks in private or the one who’s on TV now?”

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