The five things you need to know on Monday, September 12, 2016…
1) TESTING BOUNDARIES
There’s lots of issues around today from Brexit to bad bosses to grammar schools. But for many MPs, the biggest topic of all will be themselves. Or rather, the new boundaries for their constituencies after 2018.
From midday, they get to see strictly embargoed copies of the new Boundaries Commission report (it’s published at midnight tonight, complete with whizzo interactive maps). The commission refuses steadfastly to get into the dirty business of which party gains or loses but thankfully academics have done that guesstimate: Labour will lose up to 30 seats, the Lib Dems will lose half of their 8 current seats.
Devonwall (ie a new constituency crossing the county border) is inevitable given that Cornwall is just too small for the new required minimum seat population size. But there will be lots of other local stories and battles. Labour’s reselection battles will start in earnest too, with many Corbyn supporting members seeing it as a chance to oust ‘moderates’ or ‘coup plotters’.
There are Tory battles ahead (will Andrew Percy step aside for DD, for example?). Labour is saying it’s an outrage the millions of new voters who registered for the EU referendum won’t be included, but the Commission’s hands are tied on that one. It will be upto Parliament to block this, if it so decides - and some Tories may have to be promised decent alternatives. Expect a few knighthoods as temptation for retiring grandees.
One thing’s for sure: life is going to get even tougher for Labour in 2020. Rose Winterton, in charge of the party's boundaries process, will update the PLP tonight. But will she remain in post after Corbyn's reelection...?
2) COSTA LEAVING CRISIS
Labour hasn’t been slow in claiming the Tories would slap a £50 ‘EU tax’ on family holidays to The Continent (journalese klaxon) after Amber Rudd’s Marr performance. The Home Secretary confirmed that the new visas for Brits to visit the EU were a possibility (though it’s Juncker looking at imposing them as part of a security package similar to the US’s ESTA scheme).
Of course, many voters are not naive enough to think Brexit will be easy, and some may think this is a small price to pay. Yet any new costs, on top of the poor euro exchange rate, of getting to the Costa Brava may make some think twice. (Meanwhile, all that Remain talk about mobile roaming charges being cheaper under the EU has been torpedoed by Juncker himself, which is another story).
But thinking twice isn’t the same as voting twice, and on the issue of a ‘second referendum’ Owen Smith’s pledge is not exactly winning support. Chuka Umunna is not keen and even Pat McFadden refused (after pushing by Dom Raab on The Week In Westminster) to say there should be a ‘binding’ Parliamentary vote on the Brexit deal.
Tim Roache, the GMB leader who backs Smith, was even more succinct on SkyNews: “I think that boat has sailed…What happens if that [second] vote says to remain? Do we have another one to say it’s best of three? Or another couple and best of five?” How about, rock, paper, scissors?
As for the Three Brexiteers, Boris is backing the new ‘keep em honest/hard Brexit’ pressure group Change Britain. Liam Fox has won Fraser Nelson’s backing, after the Times’ scoop on Saturday that too much British business had become “too lazy”. And DD will appear before the Lords EU Committee today at 4.05pm. And he’s up before the Foreign Affairs Committee tomorrow.
Note that this evening diplomat Julian King has a candidate hearing before MEPs, for the EU security commissioner role (the UK’s last ever such post). Politico asks if he will have to operate a Chinese Wall on non-security Brexit discussions, or recuse himself from meetings.
3) ANNIVERSARY HARD
It’s Jeremy Corbyn’s first anniversary as Labour leader and my hasn’t time flown? The Nuffield series of British General Election studies got a nicely-timed plug for its publications by revealing yesterday that Labour’s average 11% poll deficit in the past year is the worse of any leader since records began.
Still, it’s the pollsters who also say Jez is on course to romp home in the leadership race (tho Smith told Marr he himself was ’10/10’ likely to win). And quite a few former ministers who walked out are talking about possible returns. If you want a clue to who’s coming back, look at who has not really done much talking this summer. Meanwhile, Corbynistas are delighted that Dan Jarvis told Any Questions on Friday that “24th September provides an important moment for the Party to unite behind the leader – whoever it is”.
Of course, Corbyn is the one who holds all the cards should he win again, and he will decide who gets which job, if any at all. The Sun has a photo of JC’s newly trimmed beard (it looks more like stubble than a beard now).
One minister who remains in the in-crowd is Emily Thornberry. After her Murnaghan ‘sexism’/quick-fire questions clash, she doubled down last night on Westminster Hour. Thornberry said “Dermot and I have a bit of history”, after he quizzed her on her defence credentials on her appointment last year. But MPs noticed too that she backed the idea of members choosing the Shad Cab. “What are we afraid of?” she asked.
Corbyn’s tweet to mark 9/11 - his thoughts were also with those affected by “the wars and terror unleashed across the globe in its aftermath” - prompted a backlash. Meanwhile, British bankers on a stag do in New York posed for selfies with a sex doll to Ground Zero. That sentence says so much about 2016. I suspect they won’t be caught out by Theresa May cracking down on ‘white collar crime’.
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR…
Hillary Clinton has cancelled campaign events after being diagnosed with pneumonia. Watch the viral video of her dramatic collapse that sparked the attention.
4) GRAMMAR CLAMOUR
More flesh will be put on the bones of Theresa May’s grammar school revolution today, as Justine Greening publishes her Green Paper and makes a Commons statement. Many eyes will be on Michael Gove, whose own drive for more Free Schools was an attempt to lift standards without selection.
We learned this weekend that a raft of councils are drafting plans for new grammars, from Thurrock in Essex to Kent, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Sutton and May’s own backyard of Windsor and Maidenhead. But after Nicky Morgan’s Facebook slapdown for the plans late on Friday, there’s more Tory dissent.
Ben Howlett is one of a group of MPs who have been offered a meeting at Number 10 today after expressing concern about the new policy, he tells the Telegraph he will demand that the PM provides "statistical evidence" for the positive impact of grammars on social mobility.
Among the worries of Tory rebels are that May’s (and many see them as May’s, not Greening’s) reforms are too scattergun and half-baked. Will the much-heralded quotas for low income kids be left to local discretion - and if so will that fuel or defuse the criticisms?
5) COURIERING FAVOUR
The Guardian leads on a new angle on its excellent scoop on the courier firm Hermes, which has been accused of getting round minimum wage laws by claiming its staff are self-employed. Now BEIS minister Margot James (another shrewd May appointment, it’s baffling why she was overlooked by Cameron) has asked HMRC to investigate the allegations
Hermes delivers parcels for John Lewis, among others, and you can imagine that the pressure of being named and shamed may prompt the huge retailer (which prides itself on its public image) to switch contracts.
As with Sports Direct, this is another case where Select Committees have played a key part, with Frank Field’s Work and Pensions Select pushing hard. I remember Field’s particular testimony from employees who said Hermes threatened them with the axe for attending their sick son’s bedside.
As the TUC starts its congress today, unions are finding that they can effect change these days in new ways. Bad employers, plus Brexit, will dominate.
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