Women and Equalities Chair Slams No.10 Gender Gap

Following Guido’s story that 85% of Number 10 SpAds are men – with just 6 female advisers working in Downing Street – Women and Equalities select committee chair Maria Miller tells the FT’s Laura Hughes:

“We need to make sure that there are strong women’s voices around the policy making table. Current situation is simply not good enough.”

There are 10 advisers in the Downing Street policy unit: James Marshall, Douglas McNeill, Giles Wilkes, James Kent, Nero Ughwujobo, Toby Lloyd, John Randall, Mike Crowhurst, Mat Ilic and Jean-Andre Prager. All blokes…


Tory Dilemma Over Scandal-Hit Pro-Putin Oligarch

With Theresa May considering new sanctions on Putin-associated oligarchs and Labour going hard on dodgy Tory money, it’ll be worth keeping an eye on what happens with Dmitry Firtash. The Kremlin-linked Ukrainian billionaire is wanted in America and battling attempts to extradite him to face corruption allegations in Chicago. A few months back Freedom House and Human Rights Watch said he should be placed on the Magnitsky List. He has been dragged into messy litigation in London between Raga, a Cyprus-based firm with links to Firtash, and Ukrainian finance company System Capital Management – Raga has been accused of conning SCM about the sale of a telecoms company in a £580 million lawsuit. This week Firtash’s premises in Ukraine were raided in a tax evasion probe. Given his association with Putin, you’d think he would be the sort of person to attract the interest of the British authorities…

Yet when sanctions were placed on various Putin-friendly individuals following the annexation of Crimea, the Tory government kept Firtash off the list. Definitely nothing to do with a company owned by Firtash’s UK pointman donating tens of thousands of pounds to senior Tories. And definitely nothing to do with New Century Media, a lobbying company which represents Firtash’s personal foundation, donating £143,000 to the Tories. Firtash famously lived it up in a vast home in Knightsbridge, keeping the Tories onside as he used London as a playground. Keep an eye on whether the Tories let him off the hook this time round…

Hammond a Rule-Taker on Instagram

Liz Truss’ Instagram is a thing of wonder – at the launch of Freer the other night she defended the rights of “young people to put pictures of themselves on the internet”. Alas it turns out not everyone is a fan. Liz recently snapped this selfie of the Treasury team sitting on the frontbench in the Commons. Guido hears Phil Hammond, a stickler for the rules which dictate photos cannot be taken on the parliamentary estate, did not expect it to appear online and made his feelings about the breach known to the photographer. Hammond takes Insta very seriously – a private account called ‘Terrier About Town’ follows the lives of the Chancellor’s two dogs Rex and Oscar. Any journalist who attempts to follow is immediately blocked. Who called the fun police?

Boys Jobs: 85% of Downing Street SpAds Are Men

Guido can reveal the latest updated version of our ever popular SpAd List. Our analysis of the data reveals there is an incredible gender gap in Number 10. Of the 39 Downing Street SpAds a mere 6 are women, a meagre 15%. This is a significantly worse figure than across the rest of government. Being a Downing Street SpAd is it seems 85% a boy’s job…

Overall Guido counts 95 SpAds, 23 of which are women, that’s 24%, better than in Number 10 though not that impressive. Back in October Theresa May announced a “new drive” on gender equality in the workplace, “calling on companies to take steps to improve workplace equality”. There are more Johns and James’ working in Number 10 than there are women…

Carry On Up the Commons: Pursglove’s Double Entendre

Pursglove: “Perhaps if she’s around later I might be able to give one to her.”

May: “Well, I’m very happy to say to my honourable friend that if he’d like to come and see me later…”

He was talking about coffee cups…

Vid via Alain Tolhurst

Mogg and 13 Other MPs Write to May Declaring Transition Deal “Completely Unacceptable”

As Tory MPs Ross Thomson and Craig Mackinlay prepare to fling these two buckets of fish into the Thames outside parliament shortly, 14 MPs including Jacob Rees-Mogg have written to the Prime Minister to declare the transition deal on fishing “completely unacceptable”. Read below…

Dear Prime Minister,

For the UK’s fishing industry, joining the EEC was a calamity. The resultant decline in the industry accelerated the economic and social decline in coastal communities and was disastrous for conservation and the marine environment. This cannot be compounded by compromise, as the UK leaves the EU.

Continue reading

Gloria De Piero’s Office Manager Still In Job Despite Defecting to Tories

Gloria de Piero’s office manager has defected to the Tories but remains employed by the Labour MP tonight, Guido can reveal. Lee Anderson defected to the Tories this morning and posed for pictures with local Tory MP Ben Bradley. Yet sources familiar with the situation confirm Anderson remains employed by de Piero this evening. He has not resigned his job or been sacked. A source close to de Piero and Anderson says: “It’s a bit of a headache. It is a conversation that will have to happen”. Pretty sharpish, you’d think.

A second Labour councillor in Ashfield, Chris Baron, a former Labour council leader, has also defected to the Tories today alongside Anderson. Guido understands the pair were fed up with Momentum bullying and intimidation and the last straw was an Owen Jones event in their patch a few weeks ago. The hard-left is always asking Labour moderates “why don’t you just go and join the Tories?”. Well it seems these two have taken their advice…

Tories Show Signs of Life at Freer Launch

Liz Truss labelled Labour “humourless po-faced hat-wearing socialists” who would threaten freedom of speech as she launched the new Tory think tank Freer at the Conrad hotel last night. In a wide-ranging speech in which she told the story of rebelling against her socialist family as a child, Truss called for a “Tory revolution” led in industrial towns and port cities by a new generation of “Uber-riding, Airbnb-ing, Deliveroo-eating freedom-fighters” she dubbed “Tories with attitude”. At a time when the government is dominated by the anti-libertarian, anti-free market, statist dogma of Theresa May and Nick Timothy, this was refreshing to hear. It certainly won’t do Liz any harm with the Tory grassroots…

The Freer bash exceeded expectations – MPs present seemed genuinely buoyed to see some actual signs of life in the Tory party. It piqued the interest of senior ministers including Michael Gove and Dom Raab and Brexit brain Shanker Singham. And unlike some other Tory “initiatives“, this appears to be a real thing that will back up the chat – Freer have committed eight MPs from the 2017 intake to publishing a paper a month for the next eight months. Pro-freedom domestic policies have been shunned by this government so it is encouraging that a new generation, the likes of Lee Rowley, Luke Graham, Rachel Maclean and Kemi Badenoch, make the case for individualism and a smaller state. Even if “Tories with attitude” comes with a slightly unfortunate abbreviation…

Scottish Tories and Brexiteers Kick Off Over Fishing Concession

They’ve had time to mullet over and the verdict from Tory MPs on the fishing section of the transition deal is in: cod do better. The rebellion is already on a significant scale – Number 10 will be reeling from these quotes (via David Scullion):

Douglas Ross MP: “The UK Government has delivered far less than I hoped and expected… it would be easier to get someone to drink a pint of cold sick than to try to sell this as a success.”

Ross Thomson MP: “Be clear that UK national fisheries resources are not negotiable and that we will therefore be setting our own fisheries policy from 29 March 2019. We cannot remain party to the OFF during the proposed implementation period.”

Ruth Davidson: “Having spoken to fishing leaders today, I know they’re deeply frustrated with this outcome. There is no ignoring the fact that this falls short of what they had hoped for in the short-term.”

Iain Duncan Smith: “There does seem to be a real concern… it appears that at least through the implementation period nothing will change, and I think that will be a concern and the government clearly has to deal with that because a lot of MPs are very uneasy about that right now.”

Richard Tice, Leave Means Leave: “Under the current plans, we will not be taking back control of our fisheries when we leave the EU – something which the Government had previously promised. Ruth Davidson is absolutely right on this – our fishermen must have absolute control of our waters and fish from the end of March 2019 and anything less is totally unacceptable.”

Fishing for Leave: “[David Davis] should stay in Brussels as his allegiance is obviously to the EU ring of stars not Her Majesty the Queen or the British people.”

Scottish Fishermen’s Federation: “It’s far short of an acceptable deal – we leave the OFF and hand back sovereignty over our seas a few seconds later.”

Meanwhile Open Europe’s Henry Newman is reporting that Whitehall officials are advocating that the UK should give up fishing rights and that Hammond is not interested in defending the fishing industry. Hyped up rows over the transition have traditionally been a bit of a red herring. But this is not going swimmingly.

UPDATE: Scottish Tory MPs have been called in to see chief whip Julian Smith over the rebellion.

UPDATE II: Worth remembering that this row is largely over what will happen during one year of the transition. The annual catch is decided in December of each year, so in December 2018 the UK will be involved as we are now in determining catch and distribution for 2019 – year one of the transition. It’s year two of the transition, 2020, that is causing concern. The upside is that, even though the UK will only be “consulted“, Brussels has agreed the catch size will be exactly the same so at least we do not lose out, even if we are not taking back control that year. By 2021 the UK will be negotiating fishing rights as an independent coastal state and fully taking back control of our waters. The end state sounds acceptable, Number 10 will be hoping MPs can live with that one year of compromise in the meantime… 

Boris: Russia Has Been Stockpiling Novichok

“We actually have evidence, within the last ten years, that not only has Russia been investigating the delivery of nerve agents for the purposes of assassination, but has also been creating and stockpiling Novichok itself.”

The major news from Boris this morning…

Boris: Putin Made Decision

“We think it overwhelmingly likely that it was his decision to direct the use of a nerve agent on the streets of the UK.”

Over to you Seumas…

Young Conservatives Relaunch

The Tories haven’t had a youth wing since the Elliott Johnson scandal. Today Guido can reveal the party is relaunching an official youth operation under the name Young Conservatives. Activists were told at the party’s Spring Forum that Conservative Future will change its name. Here’s the structure:

  • “YC branches will be integrated with local Associations and into the wider voluntary party. officers will only be elected by members of the association and be aged 25 and under”;
  • “University student societies will operate outside the party”;
  • “Increased youth ownership and engagement in local associations in order to strengthen them”;
  • “Focus on activity that is tangible for party success”.

What could possibly go wrong…

May We Fist Bump, Prime Minister?

The Prime Minister had her most successful walkabout ever in Salisbury this morning. She even knew how to do a fistbump…

Williamson: Russia Should ‘Shut Up and Go Away’

That’s one way of putting it… 

Spreadsheet Phil’s Red Book Banter

This one-liner from Hammo at McDonnell’s expense was a cracker, but thankfully not as many jokes as last time round. So far…

Mogg Tough on Russia

Peston made a curious attempt to suggest Rees-Mogg is backed by Russian bots – even though the whole Russian bots thing has been comprehensively debunked. The Mogg was having none of it…

Hammond Corrects Himself After Accidentally Saying Brexit Is Worth It

Marr: “Is it worth it?”

Hammond: “Yes. Financial services is a very important part of our economy…”

Marr: “Not the financial services negotiation – is Brexit worth it?”

Hammond: “Oh the whole thing?”

Marr: “Yeah, the whole thing.”

Hammond: “Look, the British people have decided that we are leaving the European Union and that’s what we’re doing.”

Asked if Brexit is worth it, Hammond misunderstands the question and replies: “Yes”. Then quickly corrects himself…

Marina Litvinenko Reads Letter From May Vowing Crime Would Never Be Repeated

From the then Home Secretary…

Tories Optimistic They Have Numbers For Boundaries Vote

Guido hears Number 10 are increasingly optimistic that they have the numbers to proceed with boundary reforms which would cut the number of MPs to 600 and reduce the electoral bias towards Labour. The DUP have softened their opposition to the proposals, with their MPs apparently convinced they won’t lose their seats and may even be able to remove independent Sylvia Hermon. Nigel Dodds is less keen and still fears the reforms could reduce unionist representation. The DUP’s dilemma has been whether to back boundary reform, reduce Corbyn’s chances of becoming PM but risk weakening their position in Northern Ireland, or oppose it and risk handing two Irish republicans the keys to Number 10 and 11. The Tories think a new map presented in January should be enough to convince the DUP to get onside. As one minister puts it: “The fate of the next Prime Minister relies on Nigel Dodds’ vanity…”

Happy #IWD2018

Maybe one day a woman will be elected leader of the Labour Party…[…] Read the rest


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