Profundity of the Punditry: Boris Takes Centre Stage

Yesterday’s papers and broadcasters reported that Boris was to be sidelined during the election – Sky News said definitively that he “won’t take centre stage”, the Times said the same though added a source quote informing readers their story was “b*llocks”. Today’s Times says “Johnson to be Tory TV poster boy”, he gave a major speech last night, has an article in The Sun this morning, has just been on Good Morning Britain, LBC and the Today programme and is about to tour the TV studios. Boris is obviously one of the Tories’ main electoral assets, he reaches the places other Tories cannot and will be key to converting Labour Leave voters. You have to read anti-Boris stories through the jealous eyes of his former colleagues in journalism…

+ Selections Tonight +

  • Zac Goldsmith selected in Richmond Park by a landslide.
  • Esther McVey selected in Tatton.
  • Julia Dockerill selected in Hornchurch and Upminster, beating Shaun Bailey and Simon Jones.
  • Former MP Mary Macleod reselected in Brentford.
  • And former MP Lee Scott reselected in Ilford North.
  • 2015 candidate Simon Fell reselected in Barrow and Furness.
  • Ditto for Jane Hunt in Nottingham South.
  • Joy Morrissey from Centre for Social Justice selected in Ealing Central.

  • Corbynistas Sam Tarry and David Prescott beaten by Emma Hardy in Hull West.
  • Tom Watson’s ex Steph Peacock selected in Barnsley East.
  • Ellie Reeves, sister of Rachel and wife of PLP chair John Cryer, selected in Lewisham West.
  • Owen Smith-backing moderate Alex Norris selected in Nottingham North.

Zac Back? Guy News Tory Richmond Selection Special

All eyes on Zac Goldsmith at 7pm as he goes before his Tory association in Richmond to convince them he should be their candidate once more. There is a lot of support for Zac in certain Tory circles who believe he did the honourable thing in calling a by-election and deserves the chance to save Richmond from Sarah Olney. Other local Tories haven’t forgiven him for the events of the last year and want a new candidate. Guy News headed down to Richmond to gauge the feeling before tonight’s meeting. Many locals are distinctly unimpressed with Sarah Olney’s first few months as their MP and are susceptible to voting Zac this time round. Goldsmith certainly had better name recognition. Other locals were less obliging and dismissed their former MP as a “posh knob”…

Labour Peer Endorses Andy Street

Labour peer Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya has implictly endorsed Conservative Andy Street’s campaign to become West Midlands Mayor. Asked by the Coventry Telegraph who he was backing in the forthcoming mayoral election, Warwick Manufacturing Group chairman Bhattacharyya said:

“Well, you know, Andy is here. We have invited the others as well. The university is neutral. But the fact is Andy is here and the Secretary of State is here and my output is here. I think you will have to speculate for yourself.”

The slap in the face for Siôn Simon shows that even Labour-backing captains of industry want a Tory West Midlands mayor…

Tories Threaten to Sue Locals Trying to Deselect Lopresti

Things are getting nasty in Filton and Bradley Stoke, where Tory MP Jack Lopresti faces a deselection battle. Guido hears the all-powerful association executive is on Team Lopresti, yet the members want him gone and have organised a petition to the executive to let them have a vote. On Monday the anti-Lopresti faction sent a letter to members calling for him to go. In response the local party chairman Barbara Lewis has emailed all members claiming a data breach and threatening to sue whoever is organising against Lopresti. She says: “When the person who sent it is identified, appropriate legal action will be taken”.

Bit of a stretch calling it a data breach, there are only a few dozen members and they all know each other personally. The anti-Lopresti faction have dubbed the move “Soviet“. Love rats, legal threats and poison pen letters. To think Labour types used to moan about Momentum… This is far tastier!

Peter Lilley Standing Down

“With some sadness I have decided not to seek re-election for Hitchin and Harpenden.

It has been an immense privilege over the last 34 years to represent the people of Hitchin and Harpenden and, before the boundary changes, the people of St Albans.

It has been a particular pleasure to work with an association which has been so supportive. They have my gratitude for their unfailing support.

As a result of their hard work, we have seen the Conservative vote, share of vote and majority increase in every general election – first in St Albans and then in Hitchin and Harpenden.

Now we have in Theresa May an outstanding Prime Minister in whom I have great confidence.

I profoundly hope she will be returned with a strong mandate to complete the process of leaving the EU and to seize the opportunities which regaining control of our laws, border, money and trade will give our country.

She, and whoever the people of Hitchin and Harpenden elect to succeed me, will have my full support.”

The Tories have got a little list of people to replace him…

Tory Selections Hit Bump in the Road

Several Tory selections across the country have hit a bump in the road as CCHQ struggles to find suitable candidates and finds itself embroiled in punch-ups with local associations. North Norfolk, which is held by LibDem Norman Lamb on a much reduced majority of 4,000, should be target seat yet is struggling to find a candidate. 2015 candidate Ann Steward has so far not been fast-tracked. Leading to fears locally that CCHQ is going to impose an unwanted candidate on the seat…

In Norwich South Clive Lewis is facing a fight to keep hold of his seat amid a strong local LibDem challenge. The Tories came second there in 2015 yet are struggling to find a candidate to take on Clive this time round.

Eric Pickles surprised his association by stepping down. Eric said on April 18 he would stand again but sometime last week a deal was done – it is widely expected he will go to the Lords and is making way for a CCHQ anointed successor. Sure enough within 24 hours of his announcement three names had already come out of London, to the annoyance of the locals who had ambitions themselves…

Simon Burns is stepping down in Chelmsford – privately it is known that the three person list is already agreed and approved and selection will be on Saturday. Vicky Ford MEP is seen as a front runner. 

In Hornchurch and Upminster there is “outrage” at the CCHQ shortlist of Mark Field’s parliamentary researcher Julia Dorkerill, former Cameron adviser Shaun Bailey and Chris Grayling’s SpAd Simon Jones. Locals there want a Brexit candidate and are threatening to spoil their ballots. CCHQ is refusing to amend the list.

Some of these are getting very messy for CCHQ…

Tyrie Quits

Andrew Tyrie’s statement:

“After very careful thought, I have decided to stand down from Parliament. The hardest part of my decision has been that I have the most welcoming, generous and beautiful constituency in the country.

There have been many challenges, not least helping to rescue St Richard’s A&E from closure, getting the cash to improve sea defences, and helping to secure emergency funding for Chichester’s flood relief scheme.

It has been an exhilarating twenty years. I have done what I can to make a contribution, particularly in efforts to improve banking standards and to shape a more trusted and resilient financial sector after the crisis of 2008. I have also sought to play a part in reviving Parliament’s relevance, not least by making the case for Select Committee chairmen to be elected by their fellow MPs. Stronger Committees now demand better explanations for the decisions made by ministers, regulators, and quangos than hitherto.

I particularly want to thank my colleagues and the staff on the Treasury Committee who have worked with me to drive these changes forward.

I am confident that Theresa May will lead the Conservative Party to a decisive victory at the General Election, and will continue to give the country the strong and effective leadership that she has already shown as Prime Minister. “I remain deeply committed to public service. I am determined, and hopefully young enough, to contribute in other ways in the years ahead.”

Open Britain Falls Apart: Tory MPs Quit Group

This morning Guido reported that Tory MPs were under pressure to quit Open Britain over the group’s decision to target Tories in LibDem marginals. Well, Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan have just resigned from the group:

“As long standing Conservative Party members and MPs it is untenable for us to play any further role in an organisation, such as Open Britain, which is advocating campaigning against Conservative MPs or candidates, and we will not be doing so.”

Dominic Grieve and Neil Carmichael have also quit the group. Really stupid strategic error from Open Britain, what on earth were they thinking?

UPDATE: Change Britain, the Brexit-backing rival to Open Britain, sensibly says it will sit out the election:

“Change Britain will be standing aside during the election period. We are a genuine cross-party campaign and therefore do not believe it is our place to encourage the public to vote for certain candidates during a general election. We will work with whoever gets elected after June 8th to ensure the referendum result is respected.”

New Tory Attack Ad Hits Corbyn on Defence

Guido brings you the first Tory attack advert on Corbyn on defence this election. Short and sweet, it hits Jez hard on Nato, Trident, shoot-to-kill and his call to abolish the army. Turns out 23 seconds of footage is all you need to show he isn’t fit to lead. A taste of things to come…

Soubry and Morgan Under Pressure to Quit Open Britain

Open Britain, the zombie Remain campaign formerly known as BSE, has published a hit list of 20 MPs they are aiming to unseat in the name of fighting Brexit. You would have thought the 20 would all be Brexit backers. Nope, Open Britain are targeting Remain-voting Tory MPs Nicola Blackwood, James Berry, James Heappey and Luke Hall. It is no coincidence that all four of these MPs are in LibDem marginals. This is completely blatant from Open Britain, a supposed all party group which has exposed itself beyond all doubt as a LibDem front.

How can Open Britain’s Tory MPs stay in the group when they are so obviously campaigning against their Tory colleagues, even ones who voted Remain? Nicky Morgan has this morning clarified “To be clear I shall campaign for all Conservative MPs/PPCs to secure strong Conservative Govt”. Alistair Burt has joined her: “Tory Remain MPs support all Tory candidates regardless of last years vote”. As we go to pixel Anna Soubry hasn’t commented. This Open Britain hit list has gone down incredibly badly in Tory circles and the feeling is Tory MPs should no longer associate with the group. Seems a strategic error from Open Britain, the mask has slipped…

UPDATE: As Leave Means Leave’s Richard Tice puts it:

“I urge Alistair Burt, Dominic Grieve and Anna Soubry to clarify whether they are will be campaigning with the Conservative Party or with Open Britain, in which case they should resign and stand as an Open Britain candidate.”

Tory Association Trolls Deselection Fight MP

Last week Guido reported that Tory MP David Mackintosh is facing a deselection battle in Northampton. Members of his local association have had enough of Mackintosh after he was embroiled in a hugely dodgy loans scandal involving missing money and the local football team, Northampton Town FC. Just how bad are things looking for Mackintosh? Well, his local association have just changed the venue of the Special General Meeting where they will attempt to deselect him. It will now be held at Suite 1897, Sixfields Stadium, home to Northampton Town FC. Local Tory politics can be absolutely brutal…

Another Top SpAd Leaving

Since the election was called Theresa May has lost her spinners Katie Perrior and Lizzie Loudon, and now Philip Hammond has lost his SpAd, the experienced Hayden Allan:

“After working on three General Election campaigns, I always said I wouldn’t stay for a fourth campaign, and after nearly seven years, in three different Government departments, I’ve decided it is time to leave Government to explore new opportunities. It’s been a huge privilege and honour to work in the MoD, FCO and HM Treasury, under two different Prime Ministers and during a period of considerable change, globally and domestically. I wish the Prime Minister and the Chancellor well for the campaign ahead and look forward to the return of a strong Conservative Government on 9 June.”

Apply if you’re happy to take a bucket of negative briefings from Number 10 when the next Budget unravels…

Move to Deselect Love Rat Tory Lopresti

A move is on to deselect Tory MP Jack Lopresti in Filton and Bradley Stoke. This letter is circulating among association members who want rid:

“This is an opportunity for you to decide whether you wish Mr Lopresti to continue to be our candidate… 

“There are many of us who feel very strongly that Mr Lopresti is not representing our constituency in a very good way.

“Locally there are several excellent people who are already on the CCHQ approved candidate list and would love to have this opportunity to represent us. We feel that one of these people should be given a chance.”

In 2015 Lopresti found himself on the front page of The Sun when he was exposed for having an affair with fellow Tory MP Andrea Jenkyns. Many members of Lopresti’s local association strongly sided with his jilted ex-wife…

Zac Back?

Last week Guido asked Zac Goldsmith if he was tempted to try to unseat Sarah Olney in Richmond. Unusually he did not reply. Guido hears Zac is being considered “very seriously” as one of the three CCHQ-shortlisted candidates for the Tory nomination. Some local Tories are ready to forgive and remember the work Zac did for them in Richmond. Others are shall we say less keen. One to watch…

UPDATE: Zac tells the Sun “I don’t know if I’ll stand”. Seems a judgement will be made on the feeling among local Tories…

McVey For Tatton

ConHome reports Esther McVey has been shortlisted by CCHQ to be the Tory candidate in George Osborne’s Tatton seat. The Tories had looked at Hornchurch and Upminster for McVey but decided against after the local association expressed its desire for a local candidate. Not exactly the jackpot for Esther – Tatton is set to be abolished in the boundary review (if it goes ahead). Which means she’d end up having to find another seat all over again…

Tories on 50%

Tories Accidentally Send Conference Call Details to Labour and LibDems

Yesterday afternoon a Google Calendar invite pinged into Tory inboxes from CCHQ’s Stephen Gilbert, outlining details of their election campaign conference calls so staff can dial in and be briefed on the plan for the day. One problem. The email arrived in the inboxes of Gilbert’s old referendum contacts book, rather than his Tory HQ contacts book. Which means the private dial in details were received by top LibDems James McGrory, James Holt, Harriet Shone, Sam Barratt and Ryan Coetzee, and Labour’s Joe Carberry, Will Straw, David Chaplin, Brian Duggan and Amy Richards. Ooooops…

From: Stephen Gilbert
Sent: 21 April 2017 14:33
To: Ameet Gill; James McGrory; Ameetpal Gill; Brian Duggan; James Holt; Craig Oliver; Harriet Shone; Craig Oliver; Stuart Hand; Olivia Jensen; Charlotte Todman; Lucy Thomas; Guillaume Amigues; Iain Gill; Joe Carberry; Charlotte Vere; Will Straw; Kamala Mackinnon; Amy Richards; Tom Edmonds; David Chaplin; Sam Barratt; Ryan Coetzee
When: Occurs every day effective 20/04/2017 from 06:00 to 06:45

Morning Campaign meeting

Hi All, please note that the daily Morning Campaign meetings will now take place at 09.30 am every weekday…

HQ conference line

Dial-in: 020 XXXX XXXX

Participant pin: XXXXXX

The calendar invite was then cancelled. Loose lips (and email cock-ups) sink ships…

UPDATE: A Tory source gets in touch to clarify that the pin revealed in the email was an old Stronger In pin, so the CCHQ conference calls were not compromised.

Hammond’s Tax Bombshell

No surprise: Hammond tells the BBC he needs “flexibility” in the manifesto, so the 2015 pledge not to raise income tax, NI or VAT looks like it’s going out of the window. Hilariously John McDonnell is now attacking the Tory tax bombshell: “You can’t trust the Tories on tax – we can expect a tax bombshell if they get re-elected.” McDonnell is attacking the Tories for raising taxes, threatening pensions and not closing the deficit quickly enough. Funny old world…

Another No.10 Spinner Quits

Theresa May’s press secretary Lizzie Loudon (above right) is leaving government, the second departure from the PM’s spin team this week after she lost her Director of Communications Katie Perrior (above left) as well. Lizzie was on the Vote Leave campaign and widely respected in the Lobby.[…] Read the rest

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John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, says….

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