Reckless Set to Quit UKIP

Yesterday Guido set the hare running on speculation that Mark Reckless is set to quit UKIP:

15 hours later, Reckless is still refusing to comment. UKIP HQ have not been able to get hold of him either. The Tories in Westminster say he won’t be defecting back to them, though it is understood Reckless is keen to join the Tory grouping on the Welsh assembly, sitting as an independent. He clearly wants out and is working out how he can leave and keep his lucrative committee chairmanship in Wales…

Soubry’s Manifesto Double Standard

Anna Soubry has repeatedly used the 2015 Tory manifesto commitment on the Single Market to support her own position that the UK should retain membership post-Brexit. This is really not as clever as she thinks it is. First, the referendum obviously gives the government a new mandate to leave the Single Market. Second, it turns out Soubry doesn’t actually care for manifesto promises when they don’t suit her. Her article for the Indy today calls for the government to drop its manifesto commitment to cutting immigration. Soubs has run on three straight Tory manifestos calling for immigration cuts. She is demanding the government sticks to the manifesto on the Single Market but breaks it on immigration – truly having her cake and eating it…

Dave Goes to Vegas

David Cameron is heading to Las Vegas next month to speak at an exclusive conference for hedge fund managers founded by a top ally of President Trump. Corporate delegates will pay up to $7,500-a-ticket to hear the former PM in conversation with the American financier David Rubenstein at the SALT hedge fund congress. Held over three days at the opulent Bellagio – of Ocean’s Eleven fame – Dave will speak for 35 minutes. His fee has not been disclosed…

SALT was founded by Anthony Scaramucci of investment firm SkyBridge Capital. Scaramucci was tipped for a senior Trump administration post after serving in the President’s transition team and donating during last year’s campaign. Dave “putting some hay in the barn“…

CCHQ Tell MPs to Say Labour Are Revolutionary Trots Soft on ISIS

Labour are revolutionary Trotskyists who are soft on ISIS and want to dismantle the army – that’s what CCHQ has told Tory MPs to say on the airwaves in coming weeks. A broadcast briefing note sent to MPs and passed to Guido orders Tories doing TV and radio to say that Corbyn “thinks Britain doesn’t need an army”, “would work with the SNP to scrap nuclear weapons”, “would abandon military action against Daesh” and opposes shoot-to-kill. Nothing we don’t know, but these are the four lines CCHQ think will kill Corbyn with voters…

Tory MPs have also been told to quote Tom Watson’s claim that Labour has been “infiltrated by Trotskyists” who see Labour “as a vehicle for revolutionary socialism”.

A taste of what’s to come if Corbyn were to lead Labour into an election…

Soubry Backs New Centrist Party

Anna Soubry suggests to the New Statesman that she would consider defecting from the Tories if a new centrist party was formed with Labour and LibDem Remainers:

“If it could somehow be the voice of a moderate, sensible, forward-thinking, visionary middle way, with open minds – actually things which I’ve believed in all my life – better get on with it.”

Soubry has done it before, she leaft the Tories in 1981 to join the Social Democrat Party (SDP) from 1981 until it was dissolved in 1988. Guido reckons she would do it again.

Penny for the thoughts of Broxtowe Tory association…

UPDATE: Good timing for Clegg to be sitting on the Labour frontbench:

How Maggie Would Have Dealt With Legs-It

Shortly after Margaret Thatcher became PM, her press office issued guidance on how to deal with media stories about her appearance. Her spinners would have said legs-it was “trivial and unconnected with her position as Prime Minister”.  

Today Theresa May’s spokesman would not comment on the Daily Mail front page. That would be her spokesman James Slack, just hired from the Daily Mail…

H/T @ralphbuckle / Thatcher Foundation

Tory MPs Meeting to Discuss Yellow Peril

Tory MPs in LibDem marginals are meeting with officials from CCHQ today to discuss the yellow peril. The feeling among backbenchers is that, as things stand, the LibDems would likely unseat a handful of Tory MPs in the event of an election. Those particularly under threat are obviously Tory MPs who won their seats off LibDems in the West Country and now have small majorities, and vocal Leave MPs in heavily Remain areas who could succumb to the Zac Goldsmith / Sarah Olney effect.

Dear Colleague,

As part of our series of briefings on campaigning in seats previously held by the Liberal Democrats, I have arranged for CCHQ to provide some materials that may be of use. A CCHQ representative will be present for our discussion and I hope you can join us.

The session will now take place on Tuesday 28th March in XXX from 1300-1400.

Best wishes,

Anne Milton
Deputy Chief Whip

If Sarah Olney can make it to parliament…

UPDATE: A LibDem source responds:

“They saw what we did to Zac Goldsmith. The Tories know the only seats at risk are ones that are being targeted by the Liberal Democrats.”

Davis: Encryption Ban Devastating, May “Laughable”

As Amber Rudd ramps up the government’s draconian rhetoric on encryption, it could fall upon one of Theresa May’s close Cabinet allies to stand up for civil liberties. In November 2015 David Davis, then a humble backbencher, wrote this article for the FT blasting the Cameron government’s proposal to ban end-to-end encryption:

“The government’s approach to encryption also leaves much to be desired. At least it did not go ahead with Prime Minister David Cameron’s unwise proposal this year to ban end-to-end encryption — the unbreakable code that makes it impossible to read our online messages and transactions even if they are intercepted. Such a move would have had devastating consequences for all financial transactions and online commerce, not to mention the security of all personal data. Its consequences for the City do not bear thinking about.”

Davis pointed out that ending encryption would be

“likely to strangle UK tech businesses, by prohibiting the spread of encryption to those services that do not already use it. This will put our communications companies at a severe disadvantage, as their overseas competitors are permitted to offer fully secure services forbidden to UK companies.”

And he had these choice words for the then Home Secretary Theresa May:

“The proposed authorisation and oversight are nowhere near as intelligent as the American, Canadian, German or Dutch systems. The claim by Theresa May, home secretary, that ours will be one of the strongest systems in the world is laughable. It will arguably still be the worst.”

Surely DD will not waver from his admirable stance just a year and a half ago…

Amber Rudd and Fleet Street Don’t Understand Encryption

Following Amber Rudd’s talk of “necessary hashtags” and how “we don’t want to go into the cloud”, you’d be forgiven for thinking she is something of a digital immigrant. The Home Secretary has her sights trained on the messaging service WhatsApp and end-to-end encryption, the system which means a conversation can be read only by the sender and recipient and not intercepted by a middle man. Here’s why that’s a red herring…

1. A backdoor to end-to-end encryption would not have stopped the Westminster attack

Khalid Masood was not on the security services’ radar. So even if MI5 and GCHQ were able to intercept his WhatsApp messages before the attack, they would not have done so. The attack would have proceeded all the same. Any change in law or policy would have made no difference.

2. End-to-end encryption is not preventing MI5 read Masood’s messages

Rudd says detectives cannot access Masood’s final messages and that WhatsApp’s complicity in this is “unacceptable“. Today’s Telegraph front page says “Internet giants hide terrorist’s final note”. This is just wrong. WhatsApp do not have access to the unencrypted messages – the messages can only be read on the phones of the sender and recipient. The police presumably have Masood’s phone, it is highly likely they are now inside and able to read the messages. The only thing stopping them get in would be the phone’s passcode. Which is nothing to do with WhatsApp.

3. Encryption is binary

Either you have end-to-end encryption or you don’t. Giving MI5 and GCHQ a backdoor into WhatsApp means the service is no longer secure and any hacker can break in to any user’s messages. As Open Rights Group say, “compelling companies to put backdoors into encrypted services would make millions of ordinary people less secure online. We all rely on encryption to protect our ability to communicate, shop and bank safely”Rudd is asking WhatsApp to open up all their users to attacks by cyber criminals and foreign regimes. 

The Home Secretary is using encryption as a scapegoat when it is completely irrelevant to the Westminster attack. She is being aided by establishment journalists who do not understand technology – Andrew Marr’s interview was pathetic in its amateurism and today’s Telegraph front page is factually incorrect. As a side note, newspapers have splashed on attacks on Facebook, Google, YouTube, Uber and WhatsApp in the last week, today’s Mail bizarrely claims WordPress is helping terrorists. Almost as if Fleet Street has an advertising revenue-shaped ulterior motive for going after tech companies…

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.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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