The five things you need to know on Friday May 13, 2016…
1) FOR FOX'S SAKE
The Tory infighting over Europe has reached such a pitch that it’s giving poor old Sir John Major headaches and blinding flashbacks. The Guardian reveals that in a speech tonight at the Oxford Union, the ex-PM will warn of long-term dangers as “some of the Brexit leaders morph into Ukip, and turn to their default position: immigration”.
Major says the dangers are of ‘long term divisions in our society’, though it’s clear he also means there’s a real risk to his party’s community cohesion too. No.10 is acutely aware of the problem of how to heal the Tory party after June 23. And the Sun has a story on plans by David Cameron to use a reshuffle to reunify his party, with Liam Fox tipped as the favourite Brexiteer due a comeback, possibly replacing Grayling as Leader of the House.
Foxy turned down a junior role in 2014 but may be tempted by a return to Cabinet in what Craig Woodhouse says would be a reshuffle pencilled in for June 30. The Sun piece includes one rumour doing the rounds this week among Tory MPs: that Jeremy Hunt could be shunted to Transport. That would clear the way for Boris to take on a big brief, or for Nicky Morgan to move from Education (where again Boris could be installed).
One reason Fox is said to be in line for a reward is his ‘measured tone’ so far in the Brexit debate. And he’s long been close to George Osborne. Yet the Vote Leave camp are not very measured in their fury with the Treasury and Mark Carney after the Governor’s warning of Brexit-inspired recession yesterday.
IDS pointed out just how dire the Bank’s forecasts had been. At a breakfast yesterday, he also vented years of frustration with the Treasury, calling it “the worst thing in Britain” and demanding it be broken up. “The average age in the Treasury is 27…They have no collective memory for any agreement or decision that had been taken before they arrived at their desks.”
Christine Lagarde of the IMF is at the Treasury this morning to deliver her regular review of the UK economy. Sometimes at these events, the Chancellor appears alongside her. Will he today? And will either of them be asked about this eye-catching Express headline today: “Meddling EU planning a BAN which could spell the end of sex toys and kinky underwear.”
2) TELLY WELLY
MPs are off to their constituencies for more jolly Euro campaigning. But the message coming back from both Outers and Inners this week has been that the Brexit vote is ‘hardening up’. Some MPs in the Remain camp say that although the polls are pretty close, they compare it to the general election and claim that the underlying story is very different, that lots of In voters are being missed.
For some in No.10, the only point of the TV debates is to get ‘soft Inners’ to finally commit to voting and voting Remain. The row over the ITV decision to invite Farage rumbled on yesterday, with John Whittingdale saying how he felt Downing Street had no right to dictate terms of who should represent the Vote Leave side. Boris says in his Spectator interview that “I’d look a bit of a wimp if I said no” to a debate with Cameron. But the Telegraph also reports how he's furious at the Vote Leave threat that 'people in No.10 won't be there long' after June 23.
Strangely, no one has asked why Jeremy Corbyn isn’t being included in the TV debates for the In camp. Today, the Labour leader hits the road again to target the youth vote in the referendum, and you can bet he likes the Eddie Izzard tour we revealed yesterday.
As for telly ‘bias’, some in team Corbyn were quietly (very quietly) pleased at Sir Michael Lyons’ line on Wato yesterday lunchtime: that “some of the most senior editorial voices in the BBC have lost their impartiality” about coverage of Corbyn. Without specifying what he meant, Lyons talked of “some quite extraordinary attacks on the elected leader of the Labour party”. Tony Hall called his allegations ‘extraordinary’ in turn. “That’s not the journalism I know,” he said.
3) EXES MARKS THE SPOT
The slow burn of the row over the Tory party’s 2015 election expenses continues. Yesterday the Electoral Commission went public with a High Court move to compel the party to hand over key documents in its probe into alleged breaches of local spending limits in a swath of key constituencies.
The Tories did hand over the documents soon after the EC put out a press release. Many Tory MPs, and a few hacks, roll their eyes at the Channel 4 News stories, which suggest that battlebus and accommodation costs were not declared locally in key marginals. The defence seems to be this was all an ‘admin’ error about not very much money. Yet it’s serious enough for several police forces across the land to be interested.
Today, the BBC’s Ross Hawkins has a new line that there are now calls for a separate investigation into David Cameron letters sent out in the marginals, which don’t name the candidate but do mention the constituency. Adrian Sanders, the defeated Lib Dem in Torbay, says ”that has to be a local cost not a national expense” and is referring it to the cops. Gavin Millar QC was on Today making the case too.
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR…
Watch the video of a mother and her mixed race daughter take on a racist in Bath.
4) I’LL GET YOU BUTLER
Speaking of racism, there’s more trouble for Trump, this time from his longtime former butler. Anthony Senecal, 84, had posted on Facebook calls for Barack Obama to be killed. “This character who I refer to as zero (0) should have been taken out by our military and shot as an enemy agent in his first term !!!!!”
For good measure, Senecal said: “Our current 'president' is a rotten filthy muzzle!!!” And in another post he added: “muzzie shits...are invading our country.” Something tells me he may be in favour of Trump’s travel ban.
My favourite detail in this MotherJones.com story is Senecal was Trump’s butler for 17 years - before Trump persuaded him to stay on as the “in-house historian” at the tycoon's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach. He no longer works there, but it’s all kinda embarrassing.
5) GOODWIN’S LAW
Is this why the criminal law needs tightening up on financial misconduct? After a five-year inquiry, Fred Goodwin and senior executives involved in the £45 billion collapse of Royal Bank of Scotland will avoid criminal charges. There is insufficient evidence to charge them over RBS’s 2008 rights issue, the Crown Office in Scotland concluded.
Fred famously lost his knighthood, but he’s not lost his liberty. But another knight, Sir Vince Cable, says the lack of action is a ‘serious injustice’, and Unite’s Rob MacGregor says: “It is staggering that eight years after the near implosion of RBS no one has faced criminal charges.”
Iain Martin, the CapX website editor who has written a fascinating book on RBS and the financial crisis, has yet more material for an update.
Listen to our latest Commons People podcast. Lots on the local elections, Brexit, Sadiq Khan and corruption summits. Plus our usual ace quiz.
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