Boris and Dave ‘Stood on Chairs’ at Harlem Restaurant

Twitter employee Joanna Geary was in the Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem last night when she bumped into the Foreign Secretary dining with an old friend. She says “I hadn’t seen David until Boris said “‘I suspect you’ll recognise my friend David’ and pointed in his direction”. Team Boris strongly deny allegations of dad dancing, though Reuters‘ Anjuli Davies alleges some standing on chairs:

UPDATE: A spokesman for Boris Johnson said: “The picture is of Boris trying to get out of a very tight seating area against the wall in the restaurant. Nearly all the other members of the group on that side had to do the same (step up and over) to get out.

Once a Bullingdon boy…

Cleverly Calls For Posthumous Honour For PC Keith Palmer

Tory MP James Cleverly, who had known PC Keith Palmer for 25 years and served with him in the Royal Artillery, calls for him to be awarded a posthumous honour for bravery. Theresa May appears to agree.

Tobias Ellwood ‘Gave CPR and Mouth-to-Mouth to Wounded Policeman’

Tory minister Tobias Ellwood gave CPR and mouth to mouth to the police officer who was attacked at parliament. Ellwood was photographed with blood on his face and hands.

Ellwood served in the British Army as a captain in the nineties and lost his brother in the 2002 Bali bombing. 

Leaked Tape: Trudy Harrison MP Rides Her Husband

The Sun have got hold of a wince-inducing video of new Tory MP for Copeland Trudy Harrison riding on the back of her husband at a Christmas party, before falling off and smashing her front teeth. Ouch!

First she smashed her face, then she smashed Labour…

Osborne Trolls Commons: “We’ve Missed Standard Deadline”

He says he will “listen to the views of colleagues” about whether he should stay as an MP. Get the feeling he’s loving this…

Peston: Can Guto Bebb Keep His Job?

Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns did not offer any defence of his minister Guto Bebb’s comments on Scotland, comically just saying a string of incomprehensible words. Theresa May will need a better line that that when she visits Wales tomorrow…

Minister: My “Gut Feeling” is Scotland Could Leave UK

Is Tory minister Guto Bebb trying to get sacked? Fresh from infuriating Downing Street by demanding they apologise for the Budget, Bebb has written a column in his local paper arguing that Scotland is “clearly another country” and that his “gut feeling” is Scottish voters no longer see themselves as British. Fair to say these comments from a serving government minister are not in line with Theresa May’s position that “at heart we are one people”. Bebb said:

“We have a huge amount in common with citizens of the Irish Republic, as we do Scotland. Similar TV programmes, popular music and in many ways a shared literature… But, and it’s a real but, read their papers, listen to talk shows and watch the news and it’s clearly another country

“My brief visit to Edinburgh left me somewhat despondent because I felt the same way as I do when I leave Dublin. For me Dublin is somewhere which is recognisable but very different. That is fine in the context of the capital of an independent country but it should be a warning when visiting a city which is a crucial part of the UK. The sense of nationhood in Edinburgh is palpable. For a long time it has been satisfied within the UK. Even in 2014 a majority saw themselves as British and Scottish. Is that changing though? My gut feeling is yes and that should be a cause for regret to all of us.”

Bebb, a former pro-Welsh independence Plaid Cymru activist, was due to speak at the Tory spring forum in Cardiff yesterday but didn’t show…

8 Huge Osborne Conflicts of Interest

New Evening Standard editor and sitting Tory MP George Osborne will now have to navigate a minefield of conflicted interests. Guido counts eight off the top of his head…

  • MP for Tatton: The Commons sits on four of the weekday mornings that Osborne will be in the Standard newsroom. He can’t be in two places at once. How can he properly represent his constituents? 
  • Northern Powerhouse: Osborne says he will continue to promote the Northern Powerhouse, while fighting for London at the Standard. Those two interests will surely collide at times…
  • Standard’s City pages: Osborne is being paid £650,000 by investment firm BlackRock. He will have a fiduciary duty to the firm. How can the Standard’s City pages now credibly cover BlackRock and its competitors?
  • Press regulation: The editor one of the country’s highest circulating newspapers will now have a parliamentary vote on any further issues relating to press regulation. Osborne voted for the full implementation of the Leveson Inquiry. The whole point of Leveson was to stop politicians and newspaper editors becoming too close…
  • 1922 Committee: Osborne remains a member of the influential 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers, whose meetings are held in private. Not with a newspaper editor in the room…
  • Privy Council: Osborne remains a member of the Privy Council, whose members swear an oath to “keep secret all matters treated of in council”. Journalists usually try to discover secrets for their readers.
  • Advertising: The commercial side will be hugely important for Osborne at the Standard. Editors have to keep advertisers sweet. Big business has him over a barrel…
  • Owner’s influences: Evgeny Lebedev’s dad was a KGB Putin crony. Evgeny is pro-Putin’s actions in Syria, Osborne could not be a bigger critic of Russia and Assad. And he is now in the pay of Russians…

And when will he find time for the wife and kids?

UPDATE: Transparency International call for the appointment to be blocked:

“It is inconceivable that ACOBA, the advisory body for political business appointments, could approve this move, and therefore extraordinary that it should have been proposed. If ACOBA approve this they will be signing their own death-warrant , confirming they are not fit for purpose and unable to guard against conflicts of interest and consequences of the revolving door – two of the most prevalent corruption risks in UK politics.”

George Osborne New Evening Standard Editor

The BBC’s Amol Rajan reports George Osborne is the new editor of the Evening Standard. He will edit the paper in the morning and do his MP’s duties in the afternoon. Wow!

Evgeny Lebedev says:

“I am proud to have an editor of such substance, who reinforces The Standard’s standing and influence in London and whose political viewpoint – socially liberal and economically pragmatic – closely matches that of many of our readers. George is London through and through and I am confident he is the right person to build on the fantastic legacy of Sarah Sands.”

Osborne statement:

“I am proud to be a Conservative MP, but as editor and leader of a team of dedicated and independent journalists, our only interest will be to give a voice to all Londoners. We will be fearless as a paper fighting for their interests. We will judge what the government, London’s politicians and the political parties do against this simple test: is it good for our readers and good for London? If it is, we’ll support them. If it isn’t, we’ll be quick to say so.

So much is now at stake about the future of our country and its capital city. I will remain in Parliament, where that future is debated. I was elected by my constituents in Tatton to serve them and I intend to fulfil that promise. I remain passionate about the Northern Powerhouse and will continue to promote that cause. Right from the first speech I gave about the North of England, I’ve said that London needs a successful north and the north benefits from its links to a global city like London. It’s not a zero-sum game, but quite the opposite.”

Osborne says he will continue to promote the Northern Powerhouse and represent Tatton while editing a newspaper and advising BlackRock…

May Launches “Plan For Britain” After Another Day of Dire Headlines

What do you do when your Chancellor is fighting for his political life and 13 of your MPs are facing CPS charging decisions and the possibility of election re-runs? What about throwing down the gauntlet to Nicola Sturgeon at lunchtime by rejecting IndyRef2, and then at tea time launching your “Plan for Britain”. Here it is…

UPDATE: Plan For Britain site down. Unfortunate. 

Theresa Deploys Philip May

In the month running up to the Copeland by-election, veterans at Tory HQ were surprised by the almost daily presence of one unusual visitor. Philip May, the PM’s husband, turned up to phone bank for Trudy Harrison nearly every day between 6pm and 8pm. “He was there at least 90% of the days for the last few weeks,” says a source, noting that by contrast Samantha Cameron would attend phone banks once or twice per by-election, usually just as a photo opportunity. A sign of how the Tories threw the kitchen sink at Copeland? Possibly, though there is more to it than that…

Theresa May’s inner circle comprises of just four people: the PM, her chiefs of staff Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy, and her husband. She trusts few outside that group. So, Tory insiders say, Theresa has deployed Philip as her political secret weapon: her personal focus group, amateur pollster and party mole. Those in the room estimate Philip spoke on the phone to more than a thousand Copeland voters and believe the PM used him to gauge opinion, rather than rely on the professional pollsters who let down her predecessor. “He was her personal focus group for voters because she trusts no one else,” says a Tory source. He phone banked assiduously in the Sleaford by-election as well.

There was of course another benefit to having Philip in CCHQ – he could report back on which Cabinet ministers and MPs were pulling their weight. Tories say the proof that Philip is being used as a serious political operative is the fact that his phone banking exploits have not been briefed out to the media, as was the norm with SamCam. An insight into how few people the PM keeps close, and how important those few are…

McLoughlin v McCaffrey

Tory chairman Patrick McLoughlin not happy with Sky’s Darren McCaffrey asking questions about the Tory election fraud, grabbing his phone in a vain attempt to prevent him filming. McLoughlin is usually pretty amiable, tensions must be high in CCHQ…

How Mackinlay Gained Financial Advantage Over Farage

The Electoral Commission report is conservative in its conclusions on Tory overspending in South Thanet. The Commission say they “cannot determine precisely” whether Craig Mackinlay breached his spending limit because of the party’s failure to keep records. Look closely however and is clear that Mackinlay breached his limit. 

Mackinlay reported short campaign expenses of £14,837.77. His short campaign limit was £15,016.38, meaning he was £178.61 below the spending threshold. The Electoral Commission says Mackinlay did not declare expenses for his South Thanet team to stay at the Royal Harbour hotel in the short campaign between 20 April and 7 May 2015. Given Mackinlay was just £178.61 away from busting his limit, this alone puts him over. And that’s before going anywhere near the pro-rata salary costs of CCHQ officials being added to the bill.

More generally, the Electoral Commission concludes:

“the inclusion in the Party return of what in the Commission’s view should have been reported as candidate spending meant that there was a realistic prospect that this enabled its candidates to gain a financial advantage over opponents”

Apply this specifically to South Thanet, and it is clear that because Mackinlay breached his spending limit he “gained a financial advantage” over Nigel Farage. UKIP will say, with some justification, that this is grounds to re-run the Thanet election…

Hammond Battered By All Sides

As the Tories reel from this morning’s Electoral Commission report, the Chancellor is fighting to salvage his reputation. We are not at the stage where Philip Hammond is about to lose his job, but figures across the Tory party and government are wondering how he can recover from yesterday’s humiliation. He is getting it from all sides this morning:

  • The Telegraph says May told Hammond “I don’t care how bad it is for you”, they report he is now “on probation”
  • The Times says Theresa May’s aides “strong-armed” him into the u-turn and “punished him” for briefing against them last week, Number 10 told him the NI rise was a bad idea “but Philip wouldn’t listen”
  • The Spectator says Hammond’s credibility is “in tatters”, that he has “endangered wider credibility”, and accuses him of a “staggering lack of basic political competence”
  • The Sun says he has been forced to “grovel” to its readers
  • Peston says he wouldn’t bet on Hammond still being Chancellor beyond the summer
  • William Hill slashed the odds on him going before the election, first to 7/2, then to 5/2

Publicly Tory MPs are saying Hammond’s ability to admit he was wrong and change his mind shows he is the right man to be Chancellor. In reality it was not his choice – May made the decision – and it was not even her choice, Tory backbenchers have proved the government is so weak that just a handful of rebels can hold them to ransom. Backbenchers are emboldened, Downing Street is chastened. If May were to call an early election of course all these problems would go away…

Tories Fined £70,000 | Treasurer Faces Charges | Thanet Could Be Re-Run

The Electoral Commission report into Tory election spending is out. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Tories fined £70,000
  • £104,765 missing from 2015 election return
  • Another £118,124 not reported or reported incorrectly
  • A further 81 payments to the value of £52,924 missing
  • Registered Tory treasurer and former Tory party CEO, now CFO, Simon Day committed three contraventions under section 41 and two offences under section 82(4)(b) of PPERA
  • Day committed an offence in relation to spending in South Thanet in 2015
  • Tories overspent in Newark, Rochester & Strood and Clacton by-elections in 2014

The Tories admit fault: “This is the first time the Conservative Party has been fined for a reporting error.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +

Hammond: Laura K First to Say NI Rise Broke Manifesto Pledge

Philip Hammond tells Alex Salmond the first person outside the chamber to say he had broken the Tory manifesto pledge on National Insurance was the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg. An extraordinary statement – and one which Hammond is defending by arguing disingenuously that the NI didn’t breach the manifesto.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +

Hammond U-Turns on National Insurance Rise

Philip Hammond has u-turned on his Budget National Insurance rise, telling MPs that it was against the spirit of the Tory manifesto. He confirms there will be no NI rise this parliament. The letter:

A sign of how weak the government is that it is forced to u-turn on its Budget after complaints from a few MPs, and also what a disastrous error it was to forget the Tory manifesto.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +

Davis Dismisses Major’s Claim That No Deal is Worst Outcome

Speaking to the Brexit select committee this morning, David Davis has dismissed John Major’s claim that no deal is the worst possible outcome.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +

Mackinlay Interviewed Under Caution

Tory MP Craig Mackinlay was interviewed by police under caution for six hours last week over his election expenses in South Thanet, the Sun and Telegraph are reporting tonight. Kent Police are meeting with the CPS on Tuesday 21 March to discuss a possible prosecution.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +

Tory MP Recovering From Coma Makes Brexit Vote

Tory MP Mike Wood was in a coma on life support for the second reading of the Brexit bill and still in intensive care for the third reading, after surviving a septic shock.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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