The five things you need to know on Wednesday July 6, 2016…
Today's Waugh Zone is from Ned Simons. Paul is locked in a room
1) MISSION ACCOMPLISHED
That is that, the end. Seven years after it was commissioned, the Chilcot report will finally be published today. Political reporters are currently locked away studying its 2.6 million words (furiously tapping Ctrl-F and ‘Tony Blair’). The Inquiry's conclusions will be released around 11.30am.
Sir John will not be taking questions when he unveils the 12-volume report. But in an interview ahead of its release, he said the Inquiry “wouldn’t shy away” from criticising the leading players in the war.
Whatever today’s outcome, it is likely the report will confirm what people already think. Prepare for Twitter spats. But what happens next? The legacy of Iraq is the thread that runs through British politics and the UK’s foreign policy approach to this day. Closure seems unlikely. More than 200 people were killed by an Isis suicide bombing in Baghdad on Sunday.
Andrew Murrison, a former Tory defense minister, tells me he is worried the report will be used against British soldiers while those “higher up the food chain to get off criticism which is their due”. Murrison, who voted against the war only to then serve in it as a Royal Navy reserve officer, says “it seems to me that Tony Blair is in the dock” and it would be “simply not right, instinctively, if after all this pain and grief the country has gone through, the man who made key decisions at that time was not to come in for some extremely severe criticism”.
Some want more than severe criticism. They are prepared to use the report to call for Blair to be tried for war crimes. All eyes will be on Jeremy Corbyn this afternoon when he stands up in the Commons to deliver his verdict on the report, Blair and Labour MPs who voted for the war in 2003.
Here are some seismic things that have happened since Gordon Brown set up the Inquiry in 2009: a coalition government, the Leveson Inquiry, a Scottish independence referendum, a Tory majority, Brexit, two Labour leadership contests, a Tory leadership contest, the Juno probe travelled 1.8 billion miles from Earth to Jupiter. Snapchat.
2) FOX HUNTED, CRABB CAVES
Ken Clarke sat in front of a giant Sky News TV camera in the broadcaster’s Westminster studio yesterday and the dastardly thing recorded everything he said. The veteran Tory delivered his verdict on his party’s leadership candidates. Theresa May is “bloody difficult”. Michael Gove would go to “war with at least three countries”. Andrea Leadsom is not “actually in favour” of Brexit.
He also had views on Liam Fox and Stephen Crabb. But they don’t matter now as both men are out of the race. Fox was eliminated after winning just 16 votes in the first ballot of Tory MPs yesterday evening. Crabb dropped out of the contest shortly afterwards having come in fourth place with 34 votes. Both men have thrown their support behind May. As a committed Brexiteer, Fox’s support will come in use to May the Remainer.
Having won 165 votes, the home secretary looks to be walking away with the race. But Leadsom, who was backed by 66 colleagues, just needs to beat Gove (who came third with 48) to second place in the final ballot of MPs to secure her slot as one of the two candidates presented to Tory party members.
It is said May would prefer to face Gove in the head-to-head. And speaking to BBC Newsnight, Leadsom’s campaigner manager Tim Loughton said there would be a “stewards inquiry” into the contest if Gove pipped Leadsom to second. The implication being that MPs supporting May could lend their votes to the justice secretary in order to keep the energy minister off the final ballot. Party members, Loughton said, would “feel cheated if they didn’t have Theresa and Andrea” to choose from. There would be, he added, a “neatness”, to presenting the Tory membership with two women – one Remainer and one Brexiter. This morning on the Today programme, Penny Mordaunt said the "membership wild like a run-off between the two ladies".
As the two frontrunners, both May and Leadsom have been subject to incoming fire. Leadsom, who has thrust herself into the frontline of politics with her leadership bid, was hit by a wave of stories as journalists got around to ‘re-emerging’ some of the things she has previously said or written. She once advocated abolishing workers’ rights, was not too keen on gay couples adopting, linked unmarried couples to the abuse of children and floated the idea that every single website be "rated" before being accessible online. Also, as The Times reports this morning, Leadsom has "no experience" as an investment banker - despite her supporters giving the impression she did. Mordaunt dismissed it as a "totally bogus article" that was an attempt to rubbish Leadsom's "stella career".
May is far from unknown. And has inexplicably survived the Home Office for longer than this - as yet unrated - website has existed. But her decision to not guarantee the future of EU nationals in the UK will be attacked from all sides today.
As my colleague Owen Bennett reports, a cross-party group of politicians have signed a statement published on The Huffington Post UK demanding the government protect the right of EU citizens to live and work in this country. The cause unites Labour’s Sadiq Khan with Lib Dem Tim Farron, the SNP’s Angus Robertson, Tory Peter Bone, Ukip’s Suzanne Evans, the Green’s Caroline Lucas and Momentum’s James Schneider. Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham will force a vote in Parliament on the issue.
And Gove's bid is far from over. The Sun today says the final vote must be between the home secretary and the justice secretary because Leadsom is "untested at the highest level". The paper adds: "No one else will do." Remember, in the 2005 Tory leadership election David Davis won the first ballot of MPs. In 2001 Michael Portillo won the first round. And in 1997, Ken Clarke topped the first vote of MPs. Nevertheless, the Conservative Party appears to be heading towards electing its second female leader and prime minister. The Labour Party meanwhile...
3) YOU WAIT 81-YEARS FOR A SHADOW CABINET JOB AND TWO COME ALONG AT ONCE
The Huffington Post UK is five years old today. Which means we have been underway only marginally longer than the ongoing Labour coup.
With Angela Eagle hovering waiting to strike – HuffPost can reveal at least 100,000 people applied to join Labour since the EU referendum. It is understood that on one day alone last week, 30,000 people signed up. Tom Watson is due to meet Unite's Len McCluskey today for further talks over Corbyn's future.
Corbyn appointed his new shadow cabinet last night. And there is a lot of double-jobbing going on. Given the collapse in support for Corbyn in the PLP, the Labour leader has handed some members of his frontbench duel roles. Backbench veteran Paul Flynn is Shadow Leader of the Commons and Shadow Welsh Secretary. Dave Anderson is Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary and Shadow Scottish Secretary.
His reshuffle has not been without its, controversies. Corbyn’s pledge to achieve a 50/50 shadow cabinet gender balance has not been achieved. And as BuzzFeed notes, the reshuffle has also seen the demise of the mental health shadow cabinet position. The role has been rolled into Diane Abbott’s shadow health secretary portfiolo.
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR… John Oliver shows America what it missed out on by not being British.
4) DEATH THREAT TO LABOUR CANDIDATE
We are given a reminder, if one was needed on the day the Chilcot report is published, that politics is a serious business. The much-mocked theory that Portman Communications was behind the plot to oust Corbyn has taken a sinister turn. Kevin McKeever, a Labour candidate in last year’s general election who works for the PR firm, as been sent a death threat alluding to the killing of Jo Cox.
5) SHOULD HAVE USED WHATSAPP
WASHINGTON — FBI Director James Comey announced Tuesday that he was not recommending criminal charges be brought against Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server. But the FBI did find that 110 emails in 52 email chains contained classified material. “Eight of those chains contained information that was top secret at the time they were sent; 36 chains contained secret information at the time; and eight contained confidential information, which is the lowest level of classification,” Comey said. It is a narrow escape for the Democratic nominee.
Clinton and President Barack Obama teamed up for the first time during the 2016 presidential campaign to rally against Donald Trump, lauding each other’s accomplishments and warning voters about the presumptive GOP nominee’s temperament and lack of qualifications for the White House
Trump, meanwhile, has praised Saddam Hussein. Naturally.
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