The five things you need to know on Monday July 11, 2016…
1) REGRET MOTION
“An impossible job…” Those were the words David Cameron mouthed to his mother at Wimbledon yesterday, as she asked him just what Andy Murray had said about being Prime Minister. Murray, ever the gent, was paying tribute to the PM. But the man who has pulled the UK out of the EU almost by accident was still booed by even this usually genteel crowd.
Cameron can handle the brickbats, because he knows that being premier involves not just taking criticism but making big judgement calls. And on both counts, Andrea Leadsom is seen by many of her fellow Tory MPs as sorely lacking. That’s why the ‘motherhood’ row matters. Not because of its intrinsic issues, but because of what it says about her inexperience, they say.
In fact ever since her words were first splashed on the Times on Saturday, Leadsom’s leadership bid has resembled ‘Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em’, a throwback to the 1970s, featuring a hapless innocent crashing and banging their way through the Tory party’s higher ranks. Her defenders say her heart’s in the right place and she’s the victim of ‘black ops’ (copyright IDS), but critics say the incident does not bode well for a potential Prime Minister.
Leadsom tries to draw a line under the matter by telling the Telegraph “I’ve been under attack, it’s been shattering”. To which May supporters say, if you find this shattering, God help you when you have to handle matters of war and peace in No10. Even as she expresses regret for any hurt caused to Theresa May, her critics are out in force. And having attacked the Times’ ‘gutter journalism’, surely her apology proves the paper was right to highlight the quotes? The Times's Matt Chorley reports that Leadsom sent her apology by text message. Which would fall into the insult/injury category, I guess.
Leadsom backers think this all shows how scared her opponents are of a genuine Brexit candidate, in touch with the values of the party grassroots (sound like another party leader anyone knows?). But Manchester University’s Rob Ford told me last week that polling showed the Conservative membership has changed. It is now more likely to be affluent and to read a broadsheet than a tabloid, and its views are more focused on strong leadership and pragmatism. Let’s see about that.
2) MAY FAIR LADY
Theresa May, meanwhile, is just getting on with it. Which is kinda her thing. Today, she’s in Birmingham setting out her vision for the country. It’s a real One Nation message, including some policy stuff about putting workers on company boards and moves to make binding annual shareholder votes on exec pay.
Some forget that it was David Miliband who first came up with the ‘workers on boards’ idea back in the 2010 Labour leadership race. But it was Ed Miliband who really put on the political agenda globalisation’s squeeze on wages, inequality and fairness. And just as Miliband tried to nick the Disraeli One Nation tag, May today shows herself ready to nick a few of his best lines too. She will actually utter the phrase “An economy that works for everyone”. That is the key line of EdM’s 2013 conference speech.
Overall, however, today sees the culmination of May’s own answer to her famous line that the Tories were seen as ‘the nasty party’. She wants instead for her party to be helping everyone, from black people with disproportionate rates of criminal convictions, white working class boys with disproportionate low rates of university entrance, women with disproportionately lower earnings and people with mental health problems getting disproportionately poorer NHS treatment.
3) SPLITTING HEADACHE
Despite all the ‘chicken coup’ jibes, Angela Eagle is finally doing it and launching a leadership challenge to Jeremy Corbyn. Today she has a speech at noon. We could also see her MP/MEP backers and it will be yet another huge day for British politics. Owen Smith is to meet Jezza again today for one last go at truth and reconciliation. Labour just never does this stuff (or when it tries, it blunders badly, as in the ‘Snow Plot’ to get rid of Gordon).
Corbyn gave a strong hint on Marr yesterday that he would take legal action if Labour’s ruling NEC decided that he had to get nominations of 51 MPs/MEPs to stand again. General Secretary Iain McNicol is believed to strongly back that idea of further nominations, and various bits of legal advice have been flying around. Corbyn and his allies rely on a separate counsel opinion that the rules (which are unclear) implicitly suggest a sitting leader gets on the ballot automatically.
Diane Abbott said on the Today prog that 'it's contrary to all the rules of natural justice' to exclude the leader, which may be an admission that the rules of the law are less clear. She also added "Angela Eagle is the 'Empire Strikes Back candidate', she voted for the Iraq War". The gloves are well and truly off, folks.
When the NEC meets this week, it’s a huge call for them to make on the leadership election rules. Unite’s Len McCluskey has let rip at his old friend Tom Watson, and many Corbyistas think the union talks were all part of the plot to make it seem like one final effort was made to find compromise. Corbyn was Zen-like on Marr and didn’t look to be on the point of caving in. He also hit back at rumours that he was under intense stress. "There's no wobbles, there's no stress, there's no depression”.
Corbyn denied Owen Smith’s suggestion that he had said he was prepared to split the Labour Party. Smith went on Twitter to say he asked the question three times and got no answer. In he adds that in that June 27 meeting John McDonnell “shrugged his shoulders and said 'if that's what it takes.’” McDonnell hit back saying that was ‘complete rubbish’, but Kate Green, another former Shad Cab minister, Tweeted “I was in that meeting John. I heard you say it.”. From years of Blair-Brown behind-the-scenes infighting, we now have senior Labour figures battle it out online and in pubic view. Quite amazing.
If Corbyn doesn’t get on the ballot, we may see other candidates come forward. If Corbyn does get on the ballot (and many ‘moderates’ want to see him beaten ‘fair and square’), there will be questions about which side gets more new members to defend/oust Corbyn. I reported last night on concerns the party just can’t cope with the 128,000 new members to check if they are in other parties or don’t sign up to the party’s ‘aims and values’.
While the #KeepCorbyn campaign has been signing people up, there’s also the rival #SavingLabour doing the same. Today, the latter are pushing a bid to use savinglabour.com to get a million Labour members. They say that their influx of members stems mainly from ‘the 48%’, those people outraged by the Brexit vote who want to do something to get the Tories out (and who think Corbyn didn’t do enough to stop it).
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR…
Watch this video from an African-American country singer on what to do when pulled over by the cops. No wonder it’s gone viral.
4) WAGES OF THIN
Away from leadership stories, the real world keeps on turning. And today the Resolution Foundation think tank reports that firms have not cut jobs to pay for the new National Living Wage (NLW). They have instead been raising prices or reducing profits.
The Office for Budget Responsibility predicted the NLW would lead to 60,000 job losses by 2020, so this may be yet another forecasting blunder (though it’s only a snapshot so far). Then again, the Res Foundation warns that the uncertainty of Brexit plus sterling’s fall could actually hit wages by 40p an hour.
Meanwhile George Osborne (whose fate in Government may or may not be sealed by a T May win) is heading to the US, pledging a “more outward-looking, global-facing Britain" once we quit the EU. He writes in the Wall St Journal that "we are not quitting the world”.
Just as Cameron is rapidly drafting his own version of Tony Blair’s ‘legacy tour’ (ending with the G20 Summit in Shanghai on Sept 4/5), the Chancellor has what could be his last high profile series of events. He will be visiting New York, Singapore and China for talks with major investors in the coming weeks. I guess overseas there’s less chance of any Wimbledon-style moments…
5) BLAIR DITCH PROJECT
Jeremy Corbyn rarely joins cross-party campaigns, as the EU referendum underlined. But it seems he’s not unhappy to to back Tory David Davis and the SNP’s Alex Salmond in a move to find Tony Blair in ‘contempt’ of Parliament over the Iraq War.
In the final seconds of his Marr interview, Corbyn said he “probably would” back the Davis move, which will see him table a motion this week (although it’s unclear if it could be debated before the summer recess). There are claims that the Privy Council could then ditch Blair. I think the last time this happened was over Chris Huhne, which is kinda surreal given his misdemeanour centred on a driving offence.
Davis says that if the Parliamentary motion is passed, MPs would try to get “the authorities to take the next step”. John Prescott finally declared he felt the Iraq War was ‘illegal’ yesterday. But amazingly, that didn’t stop him from serving as Deputy Prime Minister for the rest of Blair’s term.
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