The five things you need to know on Wednesday, September 21, 2016…
1) CLOSURE MOTION
A bitter split, rumours of affairs with unsuitable partners and rows over who looks after the kids. The rocky marriage of TomJezzina didn’t quite knock Brangelina off the front pages, but Tom Watson and Jeremy Corbyn’s NEC showdown looked like a divorce lawyer’s dream.
But after that marathon meeting (8 hours 24 minutes), Tom and Jeremy have at least agreed to keep talking on the vexed issue of giving MPs a say over who’s in the leader’s Shadow Cabinet. Talks will take place between Corbyn (and his office, note), his deputy, Rosie Winterton and John Cryer. The plan is for the NEC to discuss it again on Saturday - after the leader election result.
Some Jez allies were pleased at that outcome, and it’s still possible there will be no agreement at the weekend, allowing Corbyn’s more hardline backers to say he’s not being ‘boxed in’ by the PLP. Others around him just want a truce to get the party united: will an ‘indicative’ ballot of MPs work?
John McDonnell last night attacked Watson’s plan to restore the electoral college as “unacceptable”. He also embarked on a bit of expectations management on the leadership result, saying it would be ‘tough’ to get the 59% of last time because of the ‘purge’ by Labour HQ (and by implication Iain McNicol)
But ‘moderates’ were delighted at what they saw as the big victory at the NEC: getting two extra places for Scottish and Welsh party members, a move that shifts it from a narrow pro-Jez majority to an narrow anti-Jez one. “Iain [McNicol] is safe now,” one ally told me.
Note that the focus is now about Watson v Corbyn, not Owen Smith v Corbyn. And last night in his final message before close-of-poll, the leadership challenger sounded like a man who knew the game was up. His statement, claiming he’d at least put some new policies on the table and started a debate, sounded like a valedictory. His conscious uncoupling with Corbyn started weeks ago. The leadership ballot closes at midday, but there won’t be ‘closure’, as the Americans put it, for some MPs.
Last night Corbyn addressed his final phone bank, which also screened a new Jeremy for Labour video, directed by award-winning filmmaker Ken Loach, on how the leader interacts with supporters (we have an exclusive preview today). Corbynistas won’t be happy at the Times report that £330k has been donated to the Smith-supporing Labour Tomorrow.
Jeremy Corbyn thinks the media don’t report council by-elections enough, but he won’t have liked last night’s result in Cardiff. Labour lost a seat to the LibDems, who surged as the Green vote plunged. The absence of the student vote (uni is not back) was a factor, but all that talk of Jez attracting Greens may be misplaced…
2) PASS THE DUCHY
The FT splashes on one of the key worries in the Treasury about ‘hard Brexit’: that quitting the single market will hit the City of London and hundreds of thousands of jobs that rely on it. The paper quotes the official financial watchdog’s report warning of a “significant” risk to 5,500 UK-based firms that benefit from ‘passporting’ to do business in other EU states.
US, Swiss and Japanese banks and asset management firms use London as a hub as passporting allows them to operate without having to get individual licences in each EU state. But post Brexit, Luxembourg is already seen as a new home for many of the firms (JP Morgan is considering relocating its Euro HQ there).
Treasury Select Committee chairman Andrew Tyrie is very worried indeed. The good news for Philip Hammond is that 8,000 firms across the EU also rely on UK passporting to do business, so the feeling is that Brussels won’t cut off its nose to spite our face. Let’s see if we can surpass the Duchy on the Brexit side (don’t shoot me for that one).
Meanwhile, Theresa May has told Amercian radio “Boris is making an excellent job as foreign secretary”. Making/doing, hey, it’s a compliment.
3) CHARITY BEGINS AT TONE
Ever since he left office, Tony Blair has been dogged by claims that his globetrotting has helped him trouser large sums advising dodgy regimes and companies. But yesterday he announced that he was closing Tony Blair Associates, the business consultancy arm that handled most of his deals.
And as well as winding up financial structures that many have claimed are too opaque, the ex-PM announced he was ‘gifting’ £8m in reserves built up by TBA to a string of ‘not-for-profit’ ventures.
Those ventures just happened to be run by one T Blair, so a cynic may say charity began and ended at home. But the cash given to his African governance project, his inter-faith foundation and his Middle East peace ‘initiative’ is proof that Blair wants to shrug off the idea of him as a money-grabber. Allies point out he’s personally funded his sports foundation and donated the substantial proceeds from his memoir to the Royal British Legion.
TB will spend 80% of his time on non-profit work, which of course means that 20% of the time he could be working on his bank balance. Trips to the Gulf, as well as Israel, look likely to continue. Those who want him to atone for his 'sins' on Iraq may never be satisfied.
As it happens, Liam Fox is visiting the Gulf this week to strengthen trade ties. Officials from Qatar, UAE and Bahrain will be met, and it looks like he’ll visit Saudi too, despite the Yemen arms sales controversy.
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR…
Watch the Liberal Party video that got Labour’s Jess Phillips wanting to emigrate
4) THE HUNGARY GAMES
Newsnight’s Evan Davis lost his usual trademark cool last night as he confronted Hungary’s foreign minister with a leaflet put out by the country that maps out ‘no go zones’ across the EU where migrants are keeping out locals.
Hungary is holding a referendum on mandatory EU quotas for relocating migrants. And the leaflet - obtained by the programme - tries to rouse opposition by suggesting that London, Peterborough, Paris and other places are kinda unsafe for the indigenous population because of an influx of migrants. Call it playing the Trump card.
Anyway, Davis called it ‘an inaccurate slur’ and ‘false and defamatory of a nation’. He asked Péter Szijjártó if he’d actually been to London to see for himself. “You can use your eyes, it’s ridiculous”. The foreign minister replied, smiling “Of course I can, and I usually do.” But he admitted the UK’s ambassador in Budapest had complained too.
Tim Farron roused his conference yesterday with a clarion call for his party to occupy the ‘hole’ left in British politics for a centrist, evidence-based party. And his quote of an aid worker in Greece ‘take more effing refugees’ was one of the clearest messages to Theresa May on the topic.
Meanwhile May has signalled Stateside that she plans to deter migrants from Europe by pledging £100m in extra aid to Africa and sending troops (her first military deployment) to Somalia. Times have changed, but I wonder if she’s watched Black Hawk Down?
5) STONEWALL PENALTY
Stonewall has published an ICM survey into homophobic, biphobic and transphobic attitudes and experiences among sports fans and found that those at football matches are the most likely of all fans to be exposed to homophobic language. Some 72% reported hearing homophobic abuse while watching live sports in the past five years.
And 22% of young people – aged 18 to 24 – say they would be embarrassed if their favourite player came out as gay. And the same percentage said that the chants were ‘harmless’ if intended as ‘banter’.
But across the broader population nearly 9 in 10 people [88%] would be either ‘proud’ or ‘neutral’ if their favourite player came out as gay. And 63% of young people told the charity that they wish more sports players were open about their sexual orientation.
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