Tory Aide Charged With Rape

The Met Police say they have charged Tory MP Craig Mackinlay’s researcher Sam Armstrong (above right) with rape following an alleged assault on the parliamentary estate:

“Samuel Armstrong, 23, was charged on Thursday, 2 March with two counts of rape and one count of sexual assault by penetration. He has been bailed to appear at City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Friday, 31 March.”

More trouble in Thanet…

Nick Timothy Was ‘In Charge’ of Thanet Campaign

The Tories have consistently denied that Downing Street chief of staff Nick Timothy worked directly on the expenses scandal-hit South Thanet campaign. CCHQ’s line has been that Timothy only “provided assistance for the Conservative Party’s national team“. Tim Ross’ book ‘Why the Tories won‘ – the authoritative inside account of the 2015 general election – tells a very different story. By this account Timothy was drafted in by Lynton Crosby to “take charge” of the Thanet campaign:

Lynton Crosby called in Nick Timothy, Theresa May’s special adviser, who had experience of working on successful by-election campaigns before the 2010 election. He was sent to take charge of the party’s flagging campaign to stop Farage in Thanet, where Henry Macrory, the party’s former press chief, and Marion Little, from CCHQ’s campaign team, were already on the ground. The CCHQ reinforcements found a campaign in Thanet devoid of effective messages, with no strategy for turning the tide….

Ross also places Timothy at a restaurant in Thanet when one Nigel Farage walked in:

On one otherwise unexceptional evening, Farage, his election strategist, Chris Bruni-Lowe, and a number of other team members were enjoying a meal and relaxing over a few drinks – or maybe more than a few, after a long day, one of those present recalls. At a table across the room sat the rival Conservative team, including Henry Macrory and Nick Timothy. Farage spotted the table of Tories and, ever the bon viveur, picked up his glass and wandered over to engage them in conversation. ‘So this is what I’m up against, is it?’ the UKIP leader joked, in an attempt to break the ice. But there was no sign of a thaw. The table of Conservatives put down their forks and turned to Farage, fixing him with a hard stare. ‘We all just kind of looked at him and didn’t really say anything. After a while he went away,’ one of the Tories recalls. Another source says the Conservatives muttered abuse at Farage and told him he was ‘splitting the right’ and risked allowing Labour to win. Farage quickly concluded his attempt to socialise with the enemy would be fruitless and so he left. ‘Well, if they want to be rude, fuck ’em,’ he thought as he returned to his table and sat back down.

The original Tory line on this is in danger of blowing up…

Tories Troll Corbyn With Copeland Swearing In

The Tories rub salt into Corbyn’s wounds by swearing in Trudy Harrison immediately after PMQs. Jez is forced to watch Copeland’s new Tory MP take her seat…

Top May Aide Nick Timothy Gets Crick’d

The long legs of top Theresa May adviser Nick Timothy allow him to run away from Michael Crick’s Tory election expenses questions…

Hammond Blasted Labour’s “Shocking” Death Taxes as “Terrible Solution”

In today’s Times Rachel Sylvester reports that Philip Hammond is “raising the spectre of death taxes” to pay for social care. New death tax proposals on the table are said to include a compulsory social care levy on estates over a certain value. Sylvester says “the Tory taboo of taking money from someone after their death, along with the assumption that hard-working people should be able to hand their wealth down to their children, has been broken”. That is quite a shift from the famous Tory posters about Gordon Brown’s death tax.

When Labour proposed a levy to pay for social care in 2010 – a very similar policy to the one now reportedly being considered by the Treasury – the then Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Philip Hammond warned:

“The revelation that grieving families could be forced to stump up for a massive £4.5 billion a year death tax shows what a terrible solution this is to the problem of long term care. Labour should rule out a compulsory levy now so that we can get on with finding the right solutions for helping elderly people across the country.”

He also blasted Labour’s proposal as “shocking“:

“The more we see of Labour’s death tax plans, the more shocking they will appear to people. 

And he condemned Labour for taking money from those with savings when they die:

“When you die, a Labour Government would take £20,000 from what you leave to your children and family.”

Seven years later, could Hammond really be considering this for next week’s Budget?

Hancock Can’t Name Tory Stoke Candidate

Poor old Jack Brereton…

By-Election Scenarios and Permutations

It is wet and windy up in Stoke and Copeland and by 4 a.m. on Friday morning one of several possible scenarios will be playing out. Guido takes you through your by-election scenarios…

Stoke-on-Trent Central

Labour win, UKIP second, Tories third

If Gareth Snell holds Stoke for Labour then the man who once called Jeremy Corbyn an “IRA supporting friend of Hamas” will, ironically, have helped save Jez. He will have won a seat that has always been safely Labour. Defeat will see Paul Nuttall face criticism from UKIP’s Faragists – remember Farage last week piled on the pressure by saying Nuttall had to win. Jez will be safe…

Labour win, Tories second, UKIP third

If the Tories come ahead of UKIP then the Faragists will actively move against a humiliated Nuttall. Hillsborough, rightly or wrongly, will have damaged him beyond repair. UKIP could have their sixth change of leader in under two years.

UKIP win

Should Labour lose to UKIP, the PLP will be mutinous. Corbyn’s office will blame Tony Blair’s Brexit speech, accusing him of a deliberate act of sabotage. Corbyn will face huge pressure from the left to hand over to Rebecca Long-Bailey or Clive Lewis. Moderates will demand his resignation and discuss another leadership challenge. UKIP will have its second MP, Nuttall becoming a loud Brexiter in the Commons and a credible new voice for working class voters. UKIP will be on the verge of a mainstream tipping point…

Tories win

Should the Tories come from nowhere to win, Corbyn could be toast. The realisation of a Tory one party state and a Scotland-style wipeout of Labour across England will dawn on the Corbynistas. Even Jezza’s closest allies will tell him his time is up. 25 year-old Jack Brereton will be the youngest Tory MP.

Copeland

Tories win

Tory victory in Copeland means Corbyn will face renewed calls to quit from Labour moderates. Owen Jones types will air further doubts about the Corbyn project. Eyes will be on Long-Bailey and Lewis. There will be talk of a summer leadership challenge. Corbyn’s views on the nuclear industry will have been key. Theresa May’s approach to Brexit will be emboldened. A Tory win is already priced in, this will not be a shock to SW1…

Labour win

Labour victory against the odds means Corbyn is safe, or safer if Labour has lost Stoke. Fighting dirty on the NHS will have worked. Talk of a Tory takeover of Northern seats will be deemed premature. An ardent Remainer will have won in a big Leave constituency. May’s awkward visit, in which she failed to answer questions on local NHS services, will be a major embarrassment for Number 10.

UKIP win

You are kidding.

Stay with Guido for coverage during the day and through the night…

Maggie’s Flat For Sale For £1.2 Million

112 Swan Court, once the marital home of Margaret and Denis Thatcher, is for sale. The sixth floor apartment just off the King’s Road in Chelsea has far reaching views over the City of London. Very light and airy with two bedrooms and two bathrooms, though fair to say it is in need of a little refurbishment.

Estate agents say: “It was whilst living in the property that Margaret Thatcher made the momentous decision to return her attention to a career in politics”.

Yours for £1.2 million…

May in the Lords

Theresa May and Commons leader David Lidington are sitting on the steps of the throne in the House of Lords as they begin their Brexit debate this afternoon, to remind peers of the democratic mandate issued by the elected chamber. Sound.

UPDATE: Another angle:

READ: Business Rates Changes By Constituency

On Saturday night Sajid Javid and David Gauke emailed Tory MPs to insist there would be no u-turn on the government’s controversial business rates changes, and that negative news stories about some eye-watering rises were “half-truths”, “misinformation”, “myths” and “made up”. So it was bold of the ministers to attach a spreadsheet outlining the changes in each constituency. Some of the rises will be tough to stomach: businesses in Philip Hammond’s Runnymede will face a 13% increase, Dominic Raab’s Esher and Walton and Chris Grayling’s Epsom and Ewell face 10% rises, Greg Hands’ Chelsea and Fulham by 22% and Ian Liddell-Grainger’s West Somerset a staggering 65% rise.

Tory MPs are angry that ministers are taking such a bold stance decrying media “misinformation” when the numbers show concerns about rises are real. It is also notable how the rises mainly affect Tory areas – backbenchers and indeed some ministers are highly unimpressed that businesses in their seats are facing huge bills while Labour colleagues enjoy slashed rates. The government says there will be no u-turn, will this line hold?

New Tory Attack Ad on Nuttall

The Tories are releasing this attack video on Paul Nuttall this afternoon. Giving Labour a helping hand in Stoke to save Jez?

Tory Education Committee Chair’s Grammars Hypocrisy

Julia Hartley-Brewer gives Tory Education select committee chair Neil Carmichael a pasting on TalkRadio for opposing grammar school expansion yet sending all three of his own children to grammars. The Corbynistas have double standards too, but this from Carmichael takes the biscuit…

Bercow Plot Underway Tonight

Here we go: Tory MP James Duddridge writes to Theresa May tonight to ask if she will stand in the way of MPs who want to unseat the Speaker:

8th February 2017

Dear Prime Minister,

Could you confirm that if there is a vote of no confidence in The Speaker of The House of Commons, the Government will not intervene and give Ministers a free vote.

James Duddridge MP

Odds against it succeeding, but the move is on…

H/T Paul Waugh

READ: The Leaked Surrey Text Messages in Full

Guido has got hold of the leaked texts from David Hodge, the leader of Surrey council, revealing a deal with DCLG about the council tax referendum. They are addressed to a “Nick” at DCLG but appear to have been sent to the wrong Nick.* The intended recipient could have been Sajid Javid’s special adviser Nick King, or Nick Burkitt, DCLG’s deputy director for local government finance…

Great hit from Corbyn. 

*Nick Forbes Labour’s senior chair at the Local Government Association is the likely lucky recipient.

UPDATE: Statement from Surrey council leader David Hodge, who sent the texts:

“Surrey’s decision not to proceed with a 15% council tax increase was ours alone and there has been no deal between Surrey County Council and the Government. However, I am confident that the Government now understands the real pressures in adult social care and the need for a lasting solution.”

4 Tory Brexit Rebels Represent Leave Constituencies

Only seven Tory MPs rebelled against the government last night and voted for Labour’s amendment. Four of those seven rebels represent Leave constituencies:

Claire Perry: Devizes voted Leave

Antoinette Sandbach: Eddisbury voted Leave

Anna Soubry: Broxtowe voted Leave

Andrew Tyrie: Chichester voted Leave

Of the three other rebels, Heidi Allen and Ken Clarke represent Remain seats, while Bob Neill’s Bromley and Chislehurst voted 50-50. There were six Tory abstainers: George Osborne was giving a speech in Antwerp, Nicky Morgan flipped out at chief whip Gavin Williamson and refused to vote, Nick Herbert and Ben Howlett are dripping Europhiles, and Helen Grant. In reality the much hyped rebellion was far smaller than trailed…

Constituency data via Chris Hanretty.

Claire Perry: Leave MPs Are “Like Jihadis”

Tory Remainer Claire Perry calls for calm and then describes her Leave colleagues as “jihadis“.

“I have to say that the tone of this debate… sometimes borders on the hysterical. I feel sometimes I’m sitting along with colleagues who are like jihadis in their support for a hard Brexit. No Brexit is hard enough, be gone you evil Europeans, we never want you to darken our doors again.”

Perry’s Devizes constituency voted Leave“Hysterical.”

Black and White Ball “Just About Managings” Include Supercar Tycoon

Last night’s Black and White Ball – sorry, “Party” – was supposed to be a modest affair. Tory organisers promised the event would be open to the “just about managing”, offering cheapo £75 tickets to move the guest list away from the opulence of international playboy millionaires of past years. Among the humble ordinary folk to grace Battersea Evolution last night was Anthony Keating, “representing” just-about-managing Bolton. By which meek means does Anthony make a living? As you can see from the photos on his Twitter feed, he’s the founder of Keating Supercars, which “takes sports car driving to a new level” with cars costing £750,000:

Tory spinners earned their wages convincing the papers that this year’s event would not be about “the privileged few”…

Nick Boles Leaves Hospital to Make Article 50 Vote

Nick Boles, who is currently fighting cancer, leaves hospital today to vote on the Article 50 bill:

“Today, on my own initiative, I am coming out of hospital to support the government on the Article 50 bill. I have spent the last week receiving my third round of chemotherapy for the cancer that was discovered last October. I feel pretty grim and will have to go back to hospital after I have voted. But I want to come to Parliament to represent my constituents on this important bill and do my bit to ensure that it is passed without amendment.”

Puts last week’s “headache” into perspective.

Tories Start Candidate Selection Process Early

The Tories have started the first stage of their candidate selection process early, Guido can reveal. CCHQ has told its parliamentary candidates list that the Team Seats programme in 44 seats will be beginning “early”. Team Seats, formerly known as City Seats, is the preliminary stage of the selection process in urban constituencies and Labour strongholds. It allows potential candidates to put their names forward and establish themselves locally before the formal selection process takes place. Candidates have been set a deadline of February 20 to apply – Tories on the list tell Guido the programme is usually launched much closer to a general election. Those who received the email yesterday were surprised to say the least – it has set a cat among the pigeons.

The email from CCHQ Head of Candidates Gareth Fox acknowledged that the party had brought forward the process:

We recognise that the early appointment of teams are essential to build trust with the Associations and for the candidates to establish themselves locally.”

Formal selection will take place “later in the parliament”. The 44 seats are in Doncaster, Rotherham, Durham, Manchester, Merseyside, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, North Tyne and South Tyne. These safe Labour seats are usually selected close to an election. A fascinating move that will help prepare the Tories either for a snap election or for an unprecedented assault on Labour seats in 2020…

All Change in Number 10 Spin Team

Number 10 is dealing with wholesale departures from its civil service spin team. Last month it was revealed Theresa May’s highly-respected official spokesman Helen Bower is leaving to run comms for Boris at FCO. Today it emerges the deputy PMOS, the popular Greg Swift, is off to spin for David Davis at the Brexit department.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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Quote of the Day

Michael Crick on Safe Seats:

“In effect, new MPs are being elected day by day now, as, amid huge secrecy, small cabals of party bigwigs pick candidates for safe seats.”

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