The five things you need to know on Friday, September 23, 2016…
1) CHASING SHADOWS
Ahead of tomorrow’s big reveal in Liverpool (spoiler alert, Jeremy Corbyn will win), the issue of who will serve in his shadow ministerial team rumbles on.
I hear internal party data analysis suggests that Jez will win by a margin of 65% to Owen Smith’s 35%, which if true would be an even bigger landslide than the 59% of last year. And if he does get a bigger mandate, some key allies are advising him to use it to stamp his authority on the PLP.
Some ‘moderate’ MPs suspect their worst fears are being confirmed about Corbyn’s reluctance to grant them a say over the Shadow Cabinet. Late last night, despite a ruling from the NEC, the leader still hadn’t met Tom Watson, Rosie Winterton or John Cryer to discuss the Shad Cab elections idea. It could be that with everyone travelling north today, Corbyn waits until after his re-election to even hold the meeting.
A clutch of former ministers have already decided not to return if Jez bins Watson’s Shad Cab elections plan. The Guardian reports that Rachel Reeves, Ian Murray and even Lou Haigh are all ruling out a Shad Cab post without a PLP mandate. The refuseniks will “co-exist” with Corbyn but not step up to the top team, it’s claimed. However, other big names like Keir Starmer and Dan Jarvis, as I reported a week ago, are still in play.
Meanwhile, I’m told Gordon Brown has been urging Labour MPs to get on board and join Corbyn’s team, not least so they can “work from within” to persuade the leadership to broaden its appeal and craft credible policies. Plenty of Corbyn-sceptic trade unionists, council chiefs and local CLPs have also been telling MPs to swallow their objections and join the shadow team. But Unison’s Dave Prentis says in the Times that the leadership "must be open to letting the party’s best talents oppose the Tory government".
Roll on Liverpool.
2) THE INDEFINITE ARTICLE
It’s been a while since Boris has caused trouble, but rest assured he’s never far from the headlines.
Theresa May has had to issue a gentle reprimand after the Foreign Sec had told SkyNews he expected her to trigger the official Article 50 exit process “in the early part of next year”. Of course, Donald Tusk let slip that May herself had said she’d trigger it maybe January or February, but it’s still not great to hear your own Cabinet minister confirm it.
More damaging was Bojo’s fast-tracked timetable as he said she could get a Brexit deal by 2018. “I don’t actually think we will necessarily need to spend a full two years. But let’s see how we go,” he mused.
No10 sources tell the Sun: “The decision to trigger Article 50 is hers. She will be doing it at a time when she believes it is in the best interest for Britain. The Prime Minister’s position has not changed.” The Telegraph online had a joint byline on the story featuring ‘…and Boris Johnson’.
A new BBC documentary on Brexit quotes Sir Alan Duncan saying Boris wanted to lose the EU referendum narrowly so he could position himself as heir apparent to Cameron, without the mess of Brexit. Boris is on the Marr show this Sunday (as well as Jezza), so get your popcorn ready.
Meanwhile, the FT reports that when asked who was in charge of Brexit, Philip Hammond replied “It’s all very difficult”. Oh, and Nigel Lawson told LBC that Mark Carney should quit for fuelling fears of recession post-Brexit.
3) HOW MUCH ‘WOULD’, ‘I WOULD CHUCK’, CHUKA?
The shifting sands of Labour politicians trying to grapple with Brexit can be tricky to navigate. Jonathan Reynolds yesterday joined Rachel Reeves in saying curbs on EU migration were the clear demand from the voters in June.
And then Chuka Umunna stepped up, telling HuffPost “If continuation of the free movement we have is the price of Single Market membership then clearly we couldn’t remain in the Single Market, but we are not at that point yet.”
The words from the former Shad Cab minister and keen Remainer prompted a big online reaction, with some saying he may as well go and join UKIP. Some Labour MPs thought it was just a blatant pitch for Tory Eurosceptic votes ahead of the Home Affairs Select chairman election. Was he really saying he WOULD be prepared to chuck the UK out of the single market to get EU migration curbs? Or had he misspoken?
Last night, Umunna issued a clarification, which critics say sounded a bit like the cake-and-eat-it stuff he ridiculed in the EU referendum. “I have always been totally consistent in saying that Britain must be a member of the Single Market, on which thousands of jobs and rules protecting workers’ rights rely. At the same time, we need an alternative to free movement as we know it. The government should aim for both in its EU negotiations.”
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR…
Watch Prince Harry do the ‘dab’ (it’s a dance move, grandma) for some Scots schoolkids
4) DIRTY BUSINESS
Theresa May’s determination to distance herself from the Cameron era - and to be seen as an enemy of ‘irresponsible’ capitalism - continues. The PM yesterday quietly wound up the ‘Business Advisory Group’ that was established by her predecessor.
May told the dozen or so business chiefs, including Legal & General chief executive Nigel Wilson and Virgin Money chief executive Jayne-Anne Gadhia, that their advice was no longer required by No.10.
“The prime minister will seek to draw on a range of advice from businesses big and small,” one official said. Small business, many of which were more likely to back Brexit than Remain, is pleased.
5) BUTTON HOLED
It’s been a good week for Kezia Dugdale after she secured a vital place on Labour’s ruling NEC. The soft left Scottish Labour leader was delighted to also get ‘full autonomy’ for the party north of the border, with control over Westminster selection, CLPs and policy.
But Dugdale, who took the risky move of backing Owen Smith for leader this summer, is at the centre of a huge row over a Holyrood vote yesterday that saw the SNP narrowly avoid defeat on a key policy.
Plans to take £100m from council tax and give it to schools were passed on the casting vote of the speaker, after Dugdale failed to register her own vote. She says she did press the button on the electronic voting system, and her colleague saw her do it. But complaints that there was a technical fault were dismissed by the Holyrood authorities, who said: “We have checked the voting consoles in the chamber. We are satisfied that the system is working properly.”
Cue ridicule from the SNP, who say that Dugdale isn’t even competent enough to press a button. And cue muttering from Labour who find the whole thing rather suspicious.
Our weekly Commons People podcast is out. Hear us chew the fat on the Labour leadership, Tim Farron’s big day, Labour’s movement on freedom of movement and mental health spending. Click HERE to tune in.
Oh and we are taking the podcast live to Labour and Tory conferences, where it becomes a ‘CommonsPeople Pubcast’ (cos we’re doing it from a pub, geddit). Join us with Wes Streeting MP and Alison McGovern MP, at 6pm on Monday at The Crown Hotel, 43 Lime St, Liverpool, Merseyside L1 1JQ.
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