Brandon: Labour Are Busy Fighting Amongst Themselves

Brandon Lewis has just emailed Tory party members telling them “Labour are busy fighting amongst themselves”.

You couldn’t make it up…

Tories Turn on “May’s Thug” Brandon Over Boris Stitch Up

Brandon Lewis’ attempted stitch up of Boris – launching an investigation and then farcically choosing the panel members himself – is not going well for him. Tory MPs are kicking off and turning their fire on Brandon. A top Tory has told the Sun their party chairman is:

“May’s thug” 

A Tory minister texts Guido:

“It will be Brandon Lewis who is out of a job by the end of the week if he keeps this up. The story was dying and all he’s done is reignite it. He needs to stop before he tears the party apart.”

And a former Cabinet minister says:

“What Boris said was true and he was taking a liberal, tolerant line. This is politically motivated right to the top.”

The consensus appears to be that Brandon has lost the plot…

Brandon Launches Boris Investigation

Brandon Lewis appears to have officially lost the plot, launching an investigation into Boris, putting the story on the front page of the Standard and deliberately keeping the Tory crisis going for another day. There can be no other conclusion than the Tory party chairman is trying to do Boris in…

Is Brandon going to investigate Remainers like Ken Clarke, who called the burka a “bag”, and Anna Soubry, who called it “peculiar”? Or is he just trying to take out the main Brexiteer leadership contender? Is he going to investigate Andrew Bridgen and Nadine Dorries over their comments yesterday? He is in danger of tearing the Tory party apart…

This is extraordinarily reckless behaviour from a Tory party chairman, who is deliberately fanning the flames rather than putting them out. Especially one who it could also be argued breached the Tory code of conduct with his dishonourable actions over pairing. Tories will be tearing up their membership cards over this…

UPDATE: Turns out Brandon Lewis appoints the panel that will investigate Boris. Given Brandon is actively trying to do Boris in, with a total joke process…

Latest Tory MP WhatsApp Group Mishap

This unfortunate typo from Mark Francois greatly amused Tory MPs on their WhatsApp group last night. Guido is reminded that “t” and “r” and next to each other on the keyboard…

Extremist-Linked Assad Fan Lord Sheikh and His Zionist-Bashing Group

Tory peer Lord Sheikh, who has called for the party to remove the whip from Boris, is being promoted far and wide by pro-Remain news organisations. Sheikh is the founder of the Conservative Muslim Forum. He is, as they say, problematic… 

Sheikh is on the record publicly praising the controversial group the Al Muntada Trust. The group faced scrutiny after fears were raised that its funds had ended up with Boko Haram extremists. It has been linked to a series of anti-Semitic, homophobic and extremist preachers. In the video above, Lord Sheikh calls the group “marvellous”…

Then there is Lord Sheikh’s praise for the East London Mosque. Sheikh said:

“I would certainly commend the Mosque and Centre: not only do you provide a place of worship, but you provide a holistic service and more importantly the empowerment for women.”

Once again, the East London Mosque has well-known and established links to a series of misogynistic and homophobic speakers.

It gets worse. Lord Sheikh has links to the hugely controversial Interal charity, which was investigated by the Charity Commission over its links to Hamas.

Sheikh is a fan of Assad, calling him “an extremely well-informed, intelligent and articulate person who cares about the plight of the Palestinian refugees”. Sheikh went on a trip to meet Assad alongside Jeremy Corbyn and Jenny Tonge. Shouldn’t alarm bells be ringing here?

Under Sheikh’s tenure, the Conservative Muslim Forum produced a series of extremely hostile statements towards Israel and Zionists. The group is quoted as saying:

“An incoming Conservative Administration must appreciate that a pro-zionist [sic] attitude will not bode well with many. Pro-zionist statements only damage relationships with Muslims nationally and internationally. Thus, statements like the one made by David Cameron on 12th June 2007 can be too easily interpreted as unbalanced and weighted towards only the zionist and Israeli positions.”

Some of Lord Sheikh’s links are more the sort of thing we could expect from Jeremy Corbyn back in the day. Not sure he is a serious voice in Tory circles by any stretch of Remainers’ imaginations. Given the above, perhaps it is him CCHQ should be having a word with about keeping the whip…

Pink Slip: Tories Photoshop Brandon as “Voice of Women”

Three weeks ago Brandon Lewis broke his pregnancy pair with new mum Jo Swinson. Today the Tories have photoshopped him pink and dubbed him “the voice of women in politics”. Well done, geniuses. Surprised they didn’t put him in a pink burka…

Raab, Gove, Fox, Leadsom Try to Sell Chequers to Tory Members

Guido is not sure Tory members are going to react well to these words from Raab, Gove, Fox and Leadsom trying to convince them to back Chequers, in a letter that arrived in the post this morning. Some of the stuff they are saying here is just flat out untrue. Do they think their own members are stupid?

Tories: It’s Wrong to Say Burka is Oppressive

The Tories appear to be having a total mental breakdown about the burka / niqab. The new line, delivered by Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright this morning, is that it is wrong to describe it as “oppressive”. This is a very strange position for the Tory party to be taking – you have to wonder what on earth is going on. Guido is assured that Wright’s words are not the CCHQ line to take…

Prominent Muslim and feminist politicians on the left have long criticised face coverings. In 2016, Sadiq Khan said he believed the niqab could be “insidious” and asked “what is going on in those homes” where it is worn:

“When I was younger you didn’t see people in hijabs and niqabs, not even in Pakistan when I visited my family. In London we got on. People dressed the same. What you see now are people born and raised here who are choosing to wear the jilbab or niqab. There is a question to be asked about what is going on in those homes. What’s insidious is if people are starting to think it is appropriate to treat women differently or that it has been forced on them. What worries me is children being forced to adopt a lifestyle. Should women be permitted to cover their faces in London? It’s not for me to tell women what to wear. But I do think that in public service we should be able to see each other’s faces. Eye contact matters. You should be able to see the face.”

And this was Harriet Harman speaking in 2013, outlining her principled feminist opposition to the face veil as discriminatory towards women:

Yet senior Tories are now pushing the line that you can’t say the burka is oppressive. What do Tory MPs think about that? 

Soubry: Burka is a “Peculiar Concept”

This was Anna Soubry on Question Time in 2013 after Ken Clarke called the burka a “bag”. She had no words of criticism for Clarke. Indeed, she backed him and said the burka is a “peculiar concept”. The Boris outrage is rank hypocrisy from Remainers who have said similar about the burka themselves in the past…

Ken Clarke: Burka is a “Peculiar Costume”, “A Kind of Bag”

This was Ken Clarke speaking about the burka on the BBC in 2013. He criticised it as a “peculiar costume” and a “kind of bag“, said it should not be worn while giving evidence in court, but opposed a ban in public.

 “I do think it’s a most peculiar costume for people to adopt in the 21st century, but that’s not to me for decide, when they’re not engaged in some serious issue such as giving evidence. That’s the bit that I think it’s almost impossible to have a proper trial if one of the persons is in a kind of bag.”

Clarke’s language did not cause any reaction from Tory MPs at the time. Do Anna Soubry and Heidi Allen think their Remainer hero should apologise calling the burka a “bag”? Why didn’t the then Home Secretary Theresa May say Clarke should apologise? Almost as if the whole Boris row is about Brexit and the Tory leadership…

UPDATE: A few weeks back Clarke slapped down Sayeeda Warsi and said she was being “sensitive” about Tory Islamophobia. Where was the Remainer outrage then?

Remainers Twist Knife Into Boris

When you cut through the faux outrage and hand-wringing about Boris and the burka, it is obvious that this row is entirely about Brexit and the Tory leadership. The Tories criticising Boris are ultra-Remainers: Sayeeda Warsi, Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen, Jonathan Djanogly, Alistair Burt. Theresa May, in a carefully prepared knifing on the news last night, attempted to do in the one person she fears could deliver a proper Brexit. Mrs Go Home Vans, Windrush and “hostile environment” trying to take the moral high ground is rich.

Brandon Lewis, who is responsible for this story rumbling on with his calculated tweet attacking Boris yesterday, sees himself as the great Remain hope. Number 10, CCHQ and Remainer Tory MPs know Boris is the main threat to their soft Brexit. That is what this is about.

Times Brexit Warning is From Politicians Not Police

Remainers have been making plenty of this front page story in the Times this morning which claimed that the police have warned Sajid Javid that a no-deal Brexit would “pose a risk to public safety.” However, any super-sleuth detectives who investigated the story themselves will have pieced together the clues that this was not in fact a letter from the Old Bill themselves but from a small group of Police and Crime Commissioners – politicians, not police. ‘Ello ‘ello…

There are 40 PCCs altogether – 20 of whom are Conservative – but the letter itself is from the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, which in fact counts only 2 Conservative PCCs out of its 7 board members. It’s chaired by Labour’s Mark Burns-Williamson, while one of the Independent PCCs on its board, Martin Surl, is a former EU advisor. Wot’s going on ‘ere then?

One of the signatories to the letter itself is Lord (Willy) Bach, a former Labour Shadow Attorney General who made exactly the same claims about Brexit before the referendum. It’s a political intervention through and through. Turns out the Times scoop was not much cop…

Brandon Knifes Boris

Just when the Boris / burka story was dying down, Brandon Lewis appears to have deliberately fanned the flames by sending this tweet, creating another round of headlines against the Tories. It is hard to see Lewis’ tweet as anything other than virtue signalling as he continues to court Remainers to further his own ambitions. Given Lewis is lucky to still be in post following pair-gate, Tory colleagues might expect a little more loyalty from their chairman.

Once again it falls to Guido to point out that the Boris row is largely confected outrage from his enemies. Boris’ article explicitly called for the burka not to be banned, yet Corbynistas and Remainers are deliberately ignoring this and smearing him as some far right puppet of Steve Bannon. Other than Lewis, the only Tories to have criticised him are ultra-Remainers Heidi Allen and Jonathan Djanogly. Why? Because the vast majority of Tory MPs agree with Boris that they don’t like the burka, but also oppose a ban. The vast majority of Labour MPs haven’t publicly criticised him. Why? Because they don’t like the burka, but oppose a ban as well. Boris’ view, critical of the burka, but opposing a ban, is shared by pretty much all liberal, moderate people in Westminster.

You don’t need to be a pollster to know that Boris’ position is – obviously – far more liberal than the view of the country, which wants to follow EU countries like France, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands and Italy in taking legislative action against face veils. The media / leftie virtue signalling against Boris is only going to stoke illiberal sentiment among the population, who will consider the hand-wringing to be typical out of touch faux outrage. You’d expect this from the likes of Owen Jones, but perhaps the Tory party chairman should know better.

Brandon Taps Remainer Ally For CCHQ Comms Role

This morning Politico Playbook had this on the Tory party’s search for a new Director of Communications, after the CCHQ press office was left severely depleted by a raft of departures:

“Party Chairman Brandon Lewis has already tried to lure one prominent female lobby hack with the promise of a whopping salary and a deputy of her choice … but the offer was turned down. The hunt goes on.”

Guido hears attention has now turned to the PR world to find a new Tory spin chief. Brandon Lewis wants Caroline Preston from comms agency Stonehaven to take over as he seeks to install key allies ahead of a coming leadership contest. Preston was a former head of broadcasting for David Cameron at Number 10, who then worked at the heart of the Remain campaign. Preston features regularly in Craig Oliver’s book, where Sir Craig talks about working with her to keep Theresa May off the screens on referendum night, and gives her a special acknowledgement at the end alongside other prominent Stronger In staff. Guido hears the Tories are keen to ensure the job is taken by a woman as they do not have many in key roles at the CCHQ boys’ club.

Brandon is trying to build a power base at Matthew Parker Street – the word is he genuinely considers himself a leadership contender and wants to stuff CCHQ with his allies in time for any contest. Party chairman is theoretically a formidable platform for a leadership candidate thanks to the face time you get with members, and it seems Brandon seriously sees himself as the Remain candidate. Good luck to Caroline if she gets the gig, Brandon certainly needs all the spin help he can get after pair-gate…

UPDATE: Re that Politico gossip above, Guido is told Preston is the only person to which CCHQ has given a formal offer.

Dave in the Wilderness

DC not worrying about Brexit…

SpAd Moves: Major Departures From CCHQ and Number 10

Guido can reveal a raft of major departures from CCHQ and Number 10. Tory party Director of Communications Carrie Symonds is leaving CCHQ after 8 years working for the party and in government. A true green Tory, as anyone who follows her on Twitter has no doubt gathered, she is off to work in ocean conservation. Guido hears Symonds has been snapped up by Bloomberg to lead on their Vibrant Oceans Initiative at the Commonwealth Secretariat. Symonds will be a significant loss for CCHQ, popular with MPs and the Lobby, she has massively improved the place since coming back after the election. Congratulations… 

She is not the only Brexiter leaving CCHQ. The Tories’ Head of Broadcast, Josh Grimstone, leaves after five years to become a SpAd at Defra. Grimstone worked on Vote Leave, is well-liked by MPs and has good contacts in parliament and the media from his time at Matthew Parker Street. Top hire by Michael Gove.

CCHQ stalwart and Head of Operations Richard N. Jackson is off after conference. He’s heading to Downing Street to cover for 10 months. “N”, as he is known affectionately by colleagues, is a former Tory head of press and has been at CCHQ for over a decade. Another major loss.

Over at Number 10, Guido can reveal Theresa May’s SpAd Ben Mascall is departing. Mascall, who has been at the heart of the Number 10 spin operation in charge of the grid for the last two years, previously worked at the MoD with Michael Fallon, and the CCHQ press office. He is off to make a small fortune in the private sector and will be missed in Downing Street. He is replaced by Rupert Yorke, who is currently David Lidington’s SpAd and used to work for Ben Gummer. Drinks on Mascall.

Richard Chew, a senior adviser in Theresa May’s political team, is also out. He’s leaving to work in America.

Jonathan Stock, a key aide on the PM’s events and visits team, is off to work at Portland Communications.

Raoul Ruparel, who was a SpAd to David Davis at Dexeu, is moving to Number 10 to advise on Brexit. DD’s other SpAd Tim Smith is moving to work for Jeremy Hunt at the Foreign Office. Final confirmation, not that it were needed, that Dexeu has been gutted of all responsibility for Brexit. Dom Raab, having hired Nick de Bois, is now searching for two more SpAds…

Ed Jones is following Hunt to the FCO, Lottie Dominiczak and Jamie Njoku-Goodwin will be moving to the Department of Health with Matt Hancock. God knows who’s going to be working for minister of fun Jeremy Wright.

Localis chief executive Liam BoothSmith has turned down a job as Director of Policy at Policy Exchange to SpAd for James Brokenshire.

Let us know any more moves…

Now Gove Floats EEA at Dinner With Remainer Tory MPs

It falls to Guido to gently prod Michael Gove and remind him of his commitments to 17.4 million Leave voters, and his own Brexit red lines from before he accepted a job in Theresa May’s Cabinet. Because the Michael Gove who the FT says has been floating the EEA model to ultra-Remain MPs isn’t the Michael Gove who fought the referendum. They report:

Michael Gove, the Eurosceptic UK environment minister, has privately discussed a backstop plan that would keep the UK in the EU single market if Theresa May’s Brexit strategy failed. At a recent dinner, Mr Gove talked with moderate Conservative MPs and peers about a scenario in which the UK would remain “parked” in the European Economic Area, like Norway, to avoid the chaos of a disorderly “no deal” exit… Mr Gove raised the possibility at a private dinner with about 20 Tory MPs and peers on June 25…

His dinner with members of the Green Chip dining group — a gathering of moderate Tories set up by Mr Gove and former minister Greg Barker to support David Cameron, the former prime minister — was part of that drive. One ministerial colleague has taken to jokily referring to the environment secretary as “St Michael of the EEA”…

“He was steering the conversation towards the EEA idea,” said one MP who attended the dinner. “There’s no doubt about that.”

Michael’s personal rating with Tory members was 73% last month, he is now on a dismal 39% post-Chequers. Guido would urge him to reassess his leadership strategy, because it clearly isn’t working.

Entire Cabinet’s Ratings Plummet As Leadership Hopefuls Pay Price For Chequers

Every single Cabinet minister’s personal rating has fallen in the first ConservativeHome members’ survey since Chequers. Michael Gove was on 73% last month, he is now on a dismal 39%. Julian Smith and Brandon Lewis deservedly plunge into negative figures following their pairing porkies. Theresa May has her lowest rating ever. ConHome say the fall in the whole Cabinet’s ratings is unprecedented: “In over ten years of surveying the top Conservative team, we have never seen anything like it.” Evidence, if it were needed, that Chequers is toxic for any Tory leadership hopeful. Surely Gove, Mordaunt, McVey and Leadsom must be reassessing their decisions to sellout…

Tory Members Want PM Boris as Gove’s Popularity Plummets

Boris Johnson has been catapulted into first place in the ConHome Tory leadership survey of members following his resignation over Chequers. His rating has quadrupled as members come to the conclusion he is the only leader who can deliver a real Brexit. He is now more than ten points ahead of anyone else, and you can effectively add Jacob Rees-Mogg’s numbers to Boris’ too. MPs in marginals will be looking at this thinking he is the only one who can keep them in their seats when an election comes. A reminder that those pundits who love to write Boris off are motivated by jealously rather than reason…

And just look at what has happened to the fortunes of those who backed Chequers. Last month, Michael Gove was in second place on 17%. After his Brexit sellout, he has plummeted to fifth on a meagre 9%, behind “other”. Guido cannot help but feel supporting Chequers will be fatal for the leadership ambitions of the remaining Cabinet Brexiters…

Soubry Defeats Deselection Plot as Association Chairman Resigns

Anna Soubry has defeated an attempt to deselect her – as the association chairman behind the plot resigned his post. Guido has previously reported how John Doddy, chairman of Broxtowe Conservatives, was on manoeuvres to remove Soubry as the Tory candidate for the next election.[…] Read the rest

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