Tory MP Demands Cabinet Office Investigates Sir Craig’s Book

Following Guido’s story on a potential breach of the Special Advisers Code of Conduct in Sir Craig Oliver’s memoirs, a Tory MP has written to Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood demanding an investigation. Andrew Bridgen asks the two killer questions: why was Sir Craig permitted to publish information that the Cabinet Office admits could prejudice relations with the US? And did Sir Craig breach the SpAds Code of Conduct by failing to discuss his memoirs with the Cabinet Office prior to signing the book deal? This line of the letter is particularly interesting:

“If the rules were broken, there is precedent to confiscate the profits of the book sales. In 2000 the Government obtained a court order for it to be paid £90,000 of royalties owed by the publisher Jonathan Cape to George Blake for his unauthorised 1990 memoir “No Other Choice”. I hope you will investigate these serious issues promptly.”

If the government did confiscate Sir Craig’s profits that could mean an extra £350 to the NHS…

Davis: Brake Leaked His Own Letter

Last night Tom Brake complained to Bercow that he suspects DExEU leaked to this website a letter he wrote to David Davis. It’s clearly hurting Brake as he brought it up in the Commons again at DExEU questions this afternoon. DD comprehensively slapped him down, replying that the first DExEU heard about the letter was when a journalist called them up asking for comment. In other words, Brake leaked his own letter to the press first. A row entirely concocted by Brake, who is not only wasting everyone’s time to serve his own bitterness but also misleading the House…

Boris on Labour: “You Supine Protoplasmic Invertebrate Jellies!”

A repeat but the old ones are the best…

Hammond: EU “Silly” For Not Moving Talks On to Next Stage

Philip Hammond has given an interview to CNBC, where he demanded an end to “the infighting on our own side”, insisted “we’re gonna be prepared” for no deal and called the EU “silly” for refusing to move talks onto the next stage.

“The biggest sticking point of the moment is process. The European Union have decided on a process to follow. And it’s become apparent that that process isn’t going to facilitate the most effective negotiation… This seems like a rather silly thing for us to get hung up on. If we could just have a talk about this round the table I’m sure pretty sure we’ll unstick it.”

Guido agrees with Phil…

Alun Cairns’ Tippy-Toes Pose

It was always going to be a tall order for the pint-sized Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns to be photographed next to the statuesque Chris Grayling. The tippy toes made up the difference. Turns out Cairns is a regular on pointe:

Bless.

Sir Cover-Up, Sir Craig and the Curious Case of His Memoirs

The rules for a former Special Adviser wanting to write a book on their time in government are very clear: Sir Jeremy Heywood must give his personal approval. As the Code of Conduct for SpAds states: “The permission of the Cabinet Secretary must be sought before publishing, or entering into a contractual commitment to publish such memoirs”. Sir Craig Oliver’s memoirs, then, must have secured Heywood’s approval before the book deal was signed. Yet a year-long Freedom of Information campaign raises questions as to whether the rules were followed…

Sir Craig’s book is full of privileged information. It discusses the contents of a phone call between David Cameron and Barack Obama (pages 62-63). It discusses the contents of various Cabinet meetings (pages 95-96, pages 376-379). It discusses the contents of a meeting between Obama and the Cabinet (pages 196-197). Now, it has consistently been government policy, championed by Heywood, not to release details of conversations between the PM and US Presidents, or to release details of Cabinet discussions. A co-conspirator tested this by sending a very specific FoI request seeking the exact same information published in Sir Craig’s book. The Cabinet Office refused to disclose it on grounds of “prejudicing relations between the UK and any other State” and protecting Cabinet privacy.

So the Cabinet Office is on record that releasing this specific information could prejudice relations with the US. Why, then, was Sir Craig allowed to publish it?

Guido’s co-conspirator has spent the last year trying to find out. On 3 November 2016, in response to another FoI request, the Cabinet Office said Sir Craig “followed the process for publishing personal memoirs as set out in the Code of Conduct for Special Advisers”. In other words, nothing to see here.

Yet eight months later, in response to an internal review of the FoI response, on 27 July 2017 the Cabinet Office was forced to admit it “does not hold any recorded information to show there was a discussion prior to Mr Oliver signing a contract with a publisher”.

Hang on a minute. If there is no record in the Cabinet Office of any discussion prior to Sir Craig signing his book deal, how can he have possibly “followed the process” which requires “the permission of the Cabinet Secretary” before “entering into a contractual commitment”Uh oh…

The Cabinet Office say Sir Craig did submit his manuscript before publication, meaning Heywood could have prevented the release of restricted information but chose not to do so. This all raises several questions. First, Sir Craig could be in big trouble if the rules on securing permission before signing a book deal were not followed, as the Cabinet Office appeared to admit. Indeed the government has seized the profits of books which breached the rules before – an outcome which definitely wouldn’t be hilarious. Secondly, if Heywood did sign the book off prior to publication, why did he sanction the release of privileged information that the Cabinet Office says “prejudices relations” between the UK and US? It is hard to see how Sir Craig and Sir Cover-Up can both have kept to the rules. This could unleash some demons…

Tory MPs’ Two Nicknames For Hammond

Tory MPs have been texting each other using their two favourite nicknames for Philip Hammond this week (see the i for more). Remember when Nick Robinson accidentally called the Chancellor “Spread Sh*t Phil”? Tory Brexiters see it as an apt description of his downbeat Brexit assessments, though equally it could describe his “enemies” intervention this afternoon. More recently backbenchers have taken to calling Hammond “PH1”, since he is so sour about the referendum result. He has certainly left a bad taste this week…

Hammond Calls Brussels “The Enemy”

If Boris had said that Remainers would be calling for him to be sacked. This obviously won’t endear Hammond to Brexiters, it will just inflame tensions with Brussels. Is he trying to lose his job?

UPDATE: Hammond repents:

Steve Baker ‘Minister For No Deal’

The government has just announced publicly for the first time that DExEU minister Steve Baker has been given responsibility for “contingency planning”. DExEU sources say he has held the brief since the start of his appointment but this is the first time it has been confirmed.

He is essentially the ‘Minister for No Deal’ that Brexiters have been calling for. Baker is a true believer – positive news which the government clearly hopes will reassure Brexiteers after this week’s skirmishes…

Knighthood For Grumbling Ex-Minister

Mike Penning was sacked by Theresa May in June and was accused by colleagues of being one of the grumbling MPs on board with the move against the PM last week. Well, he’s just been given a knighthood. Suppose that’s one way to keep him happy…

Rudd Schmoozes Backbenchers Over Sushi and Sandwiches

You can usually spot which Tories are mounting leadership bids by seeing who has been hosting colleagues for evening drinkies. Amber Rudd has taken a more metropolitan approach – yesterday she schmoozed backbenchers over sushi and sandwiches at a lunch held in her office after PMQs. Rudd was working the room hard, one MP said: “It was obviously a thinly disguised leadership bid”. Others present say the get-together was more about getting colleagues on board with the immigration bill. Those huge donations are being well spent…

Lawson: Sack Saboteur Hammond

Nigel Lawson calls for Philip Hammond to go: “what he is doing is very close to sabotage”. Strong words summing up some of the Brexiteer feeling towards the Chancellor this week…

Mail Calls on May to Sack Hammond

The Daily Mail, which has remained steadfastly loyal to Theresa May and whose view she values highly, says “treacherous” Hammond must go:

“Dismal, defeatist, relentlessly negative, Philip ‘Eeyore’ Hammond might just as well run up the white flag to Jean-Claude Juncker and the Brussels bureaucracy. At every stage in the Brexit process, the inordinately self-satisfied Chancellor has struck a profoundly pessimistic note over the country’s prospects in the wider world outside the European Union. In defiance of Theresa May, he has called for a three-year transition period after withdrawal, while welcoming the doom-mongering CBI’s calls for an indefinite delay…

It is not as if the man is much of a threat to her. With all the charisma of a gloom-laden undertaker, he has no personal following at Westminster. Nor has he so far proved an effective Chancellor. On the contrary, his Budget was a disaster, with his hastily withdrawn plan to attack the self-employed. Meanwhile, there are capable replacements in the wings…

At the earliest opportunity, she needs a reshuffle to stamp her authority on the party and give new talent the chance to revive the Cabinet. What is absolutely clear is that this lack of grip cannot go on. At this crucial juncture in our history, we need a Government with vision and purpose — not half-hearted, lugubrious appeasers like Mr Hammond.”

Today’s Sun editorial meanwhile calls Hammond “grossly negligent”. May wanted to fire Hammond after the election but the result meant she was too weak to go through with it. The broadcasters and Remain media obsess about Boris’ perceived disloyalty, when there was nothing in his 4,000 word article which contradicted government policy. Hammond on the other hand has consistently argued with Number 10, whether on the customs union, length of the transition, budgeting for no deal or his general gloomy tone. May had to slap him down once again yesterday. Compare and contrast the broadcasters’ coverage of Hammond and Boris to see where their views lie…

“Grunter” Osborne Works Out at Beckham’s £295-a-Month Gym

Over on Instagram George Osborne has been spotted by a fellow fitness fanatic at Barry’s Bootcamp, the VIP gym to the stars which boasts David Beckham and Ellie Goulding among its clientele. Originally established in Hollywood, Barry’s London in Euston claims to offer “the best workout in the world”, and promises:

“Your loved ones will probably see a difference in 5 weeks, and your friends (the observant ones, and the ones who have a crush on you) will probably notice in 2-3 months.”

Apparently “You’ll feel better about yourself, you’ll be more motivated to work out, and seeing the heads whipping around as you stroll by doesn’t exactly hurt your ego”. Disturbingly the Instagram gym bunny who spotted Osborne writes: “I can confirm he’s a grunter”. Membership can cost up to £295-a-month. 5:2 diet not cutting it?

High Tax Tories

The budget is a month away and Guido expects little relief from the Chancellor. The Tories like to say they are “the party of low taxes”. Which rings a little hollow when the tax burden is now higher than it was under the dead hand of Gordon Brown in 2009 and it will, if the OBR is correct, hit a level not seen for two generations. It is as if Nigel Lawson never happened…

Britain now has a higher tax burden than Spain, the share of GDP taken in tax is a full 10 points higher than it is in Ireland and 8 points higher than the traditionally low tax USA. Governments will never be able to cut taxes as long as people look to the state to solve all their problems. The welfare state is a constant in most households, not just a safety net when you are sick or unemployed. In work benefits subsidise low pay. Having children – even if you can’t afford them – is financially incentivised. Labour bleat on about welfare cuts yet more than half of households receive more in benefits than they pay in taxes. This is not sustainable. If tax evasion is anything like the problem the left claim it is baffling that more tax is being collected nowadays than in the 70s…

Gordon Brown used to talk about prudence when he was squandering money. George Osborne claimed he would fix the roof and balance the budget in 5 years. The deficit lasted longer than Osborne’s political career…

The only way to cut taxes is to grow the economy. The way to turbo-charge the economy is to cut taxes on individuals and enterprises. The Tories seem to have forgotten that their purpose is not to just manage the welfare state. What is the point of the Tories if they don’t cut taxes?

Truss: I Would Now Vote Leave

Former Remainer Liz Truss says she would now back Brexit if there was another referendum:

“The facts have changed and I’ve changed my mind… What we have seen since the Brexit vote is our economy has done well, we haven’t seen the dire predictions come to pass.”

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury admits her department’s forecasts were fantasy…

Hammond: No Cash For No Deal “Until the Very Last Moment”

Only a few bombs dropped by Hammond at the Treasury select committee this morning. The Chancellor said he wouldn’t spend cash on preparing for no deal “until the very last moment”, which is winding up Brexiters no end.

“I don’t believe we should be in the business of making potentially nugatory expenditure until the very last moment when we need to do so.”

He raised the issue of air traffic unprompted, saying it was unlikely flights would be grounded in the event of no deal but admitting it is “theoretically possible”, which he knows will grab headlines. And he said the lack of progress during the negotiation was causing a “cloud of uncertainty” over the economy. Carefully and cleverly worded by Hammond to both slap down Brexiters and get anti-no deal headlines in Remain papers…

Hammond Refuses to Budget For No Deal

For months Brexiters have warned the Treasury and civil service are not preparing properly for the possibility of no deal. Despite May and Davis starting to make more encouraging noises on no deal preparations, Philip Hammond writes in the Times that he won’t spend any money now to prepare for that outcome. In March Number 10 sources told Guido the likelihood of no deal was 50-50, those same odds were offered by a Cabinet minister to the Sun this week. Why would the Chancellor rule out budgeting for something which the government says could easily happen? That is just irresponsible. 

If Hammond won’t fund plans for no deal it simply doesn’t look like a credible option. It’s not hard to see that this clearly weakens our negotiating position with the EU. Also curious for Hammond to come out and say this given it is a direct provocation to Leave Cabinet ministers who asked for the money this week. Arguably a greater undermining of the PM’s position than anything in Boris’ article…

Green: It Would Have Been Better If Remain Had Won

On Channel 4 News First Secretary of State Damian Green made clear he would vote Remain in another referendum and then on Newsnight he said “it would have been” better if Remain had won. You can only deliver Brexit if you believe in Brexit” said the PM in June, though her deputy obviously doesn’t…

Green Would Vote Remain Again

Theresa May’s deputy Damian Green has implied he would vote Remain again if there was another referendum:

“I was on the board of the Stronger In campaign so my views on Europe are well known and I don’t resile from anything I said”

Hardly a surprise given he has always been a huge Remainer, but it is somewhat odd for the top two people in the government to not be proponents of their own main policy.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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Quote of the Day

IDS responds to Juncker’s pints analogy earlier:

“Mr Juncker knows a little bit more about the bar than perhaps many of us do.”

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