1. SEX CRIMES, SW1
The Harvey Weinstein scandal has shone a long-overdue light onto sexual harassment and assault in workplaces big and small. And Westminster could be the latest place where new allegations could emerge. Today, the Sun has an excellent front page exclusive that several ministers have been named by furious female staff in a secret list of ‘sex-pest MPs’ to avoid. The big names are among politicians listed in a WhatsApp group set up by women to share experiences of groping, lewd comments and worse. ‘Not safe in taxis’ is one damning verdict on one minister. The Sun hints names could emerge this weekend.
Labour has its own problems too, as the creation of a new Labour #MeToo group is revealing. The Guardian carries a damning account by an anonymous female councillor of the way she reported an assault by a Labour party member “who held a position of responsibility and was influential in the party”. “I had to repeat my story multiple times to many different members of staff, and face the direct suggestion that I might not want to pursue my complaint if I wanted a future in Labour.”
There were rumours swirling within Labour yesterday that suspended MP Jared O’Mara was set to announce his resignation, amid suggestions that yet more of his past remarks and conduct would surface. What won’t have helped his case was a Facebook post by fellow suspendee, Jackie Walker, sharing claims that the allegations against him were some kind of Zionist conspiracy because O’Mara had supported the Palestinian cause. Such claims won’t have helped her own case either: she is suspended for alleged anti-semitism, after all. Shami Chakrabarti told Question Time last night that the question for O’Mara was ‘have you really changed?’ The same question applies to Walker.
Jeremy Corbyn and Sadiq Khan have a chance to comment on the wider issue of sexual harassment (and other topics) today, as the London Mayor hosts his first LBC Radio show from 10am. Corbyn is due to join him as a guest from 12.30pm. Maybe some callers will point out that Labour is still waiting for its first ever woman leader, and London is waiting for its first woman Mayor.
2. TOWN PLANNING
We report today that Jeremy Corbyn can become Prime Minister by swinging just a few hundred voters towards Labour in 45 small towns across the UK. Analysis for Centre For Towns, a new think tank to be launched next month, suggests that JC can win the keys to Downing Street if he and his party can break out of their “Metropolitan” base in Britain’s big cities. The so-called “town seats”, a new electoral definition where most of the electorate live in a town, have average majorities of just 734 votes each.
The new centre has on board some impressive election analysts and political and social scientists, including Ian Warren, Rob Ford and Will Jennings. And its findings have won the backing of Lisa Nandy, who has been up and down the country making the case for Labour doing more to listen to voters outside its big city powerbases. “Cities have dominated decision making for decades. After Brexit it is clear that this status quo is completely unsustainable,” Nandy says. “The needs, values and priorities of the 12 million people in towns have been ignored for too long.”
The Tory party is still impressively bedded in in many town seats, and famously made gains in places like Mansfield. But micromarginals like Thurrock, Hastings, Telford, Northampton North and Pendle are now within small swings of going Labour. Expect much more from both sides in this key battleground in coming years. HuffPost UK will also be focusing closely on the ‘towns’ agenda too with projects of our own, so watch this space.
Meanwhile, Labour’s internal elections preoccupy some of its members. Eddie Izzard has confirmed he’s running for the NEC again (see his video HERE). I see that former Labour HQ veteran Mike Creighton has come out for Johanna Baxter for the NEC too. Will either get enough votes to defy the new might of Momentum and a slate that includes Jon Lansman? Dennis Skinner has done his own video clip backing leftwinger Richard Leonard for the Scottish Labour leadership HERE.
3. BORIS’S POLE DANCE
Boris Johnson just can’t help going off-script. Speaking at an event to foster UK-Polish relations, the Foreign Secretary unilaterally told EU citizens living in the UK that their rights will be protected “whatever happens” after Brexit. The line was so good he said it twice - and on cameraphone: “We have one million Poles in Britain. I have only one message for you all tonight: you are loved, you are welcome, your rights will be protected whatever happens. Yes. You are recording this? Your rights will be protected whatever happens.”
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said Johnson had been talking “in his own inimitable way”, which is the latest Whitehallspeak for ‘Boris is Boris’. Given that unilateral rights for EU citizens is a Labour policy, not a Tory one (though many Brexiteers do back the idea), it’s no wonder there was no further elaboration. Rising star Tom Tugendhat tells The House magazine that Boris’s gag-laden approach to diplomacy “carries a lot of noise” that’s unhelpful. Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Tugendhat is refreshingly honest too that he wants to be PM one day.
David Davis was grilled during an Urgent Question yesterday on whether or not Parliament would get a ‘meaningful’ vote on any final Brexit deal. Lead Tory Remainer Nicky Morgan warned him ‘we are deadly serious’ about insisting the vote is written into the EU Withdrawal Bill. But as I’ve been saying for some time, Government whips think the rebellion can be bought off with a few promises and tweaks on Henry VIII powers. Shadow Lords Leader Angela Smith has long called for a Committee of both Houses and Newnsight’s Nick Watt suggested that may now happen. But rebels like Dominic Grieve can forget about reviving the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
Yesterday, Andrea Leadsom announced the bill’s committee stage would start on Tuesday, November 14. But it looks like it won’t be out of committee by the Budget and won’t be out of the Commons before Christmas. But in another bid to placate her own backbenches, Leadsom also yesterday revealed ministers would have 12 weeks to respond to Opposition Day defeats. Labour told us that still sounded suspiciously like the PM was ‘bypassing Parliament’ yet again. As for DD’s tactics this week, read our latest Brexit Briefing.
4. JF CAMBRIDGE
Well, the Cambridge Evening News has its front page splash sorted out after the latest secret JFK files were released overnight. The local paper (which once had a young Alan Rusbridger on its books, if I recall rightly) features in the mass of declassified documents as it received an anonymous phone call 25 minutes before the assassination, warning something “big” was going to happen. “The caller said only that the Cambridge News reporter should call the American Embassy in London for some big news and then hung up,” CIA deputy director James Angleton wrote. “The Cambridge reporter had never received a call of this nature before and MI5 state that he is known to them as a sound and loyal person with no security record.” Don’t you love that phrase - ‘sound and loyal person’?
Hacks are still sifting through the 2,800 records (hundreds more are being held back), but among the other more serious highlights are claims that Lee Harvey Oswald met a KGB agent responsible for assassinations around two months before the killing. A CIA source also quotes Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev saying he didn’t believe American security was so “inept” that Kennedy was killed without a conspiracy. Khrushchev believed the Dallas Police Department to be an “accessory” to the assassination.
Fittingly enough, the Dallas Morning News has a neat summary of the latest revelations. There’s also the eye-catching revelation that the CIA planned to assassinate Fidel Castro by contaminating his skin-diving suit with TB. They also wanted to booby-trap a seashell in an area where Castro went diving - but officials determined that there was no shell in the Caribbean ‘large enough to hold a sufficient amount of explosives’.
5. ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT
The Daily Telegraph splashes on figures showing the number of arrests in England and Wales has nearly halved in the past decade to under 780,000. It reports that the drop is partly due to a police strategy to “keep young children out of jail by giving them cautions and warnings”. The paper adds that with certain types of crime - including violent offences - on the increase, “someone has lost a sense of priorities”.
The Mail too devotes its front page to claims of ‘soft justice’ from the cops, and points to recent ‘soaring rates of crime’. Given that a certain Theresa May was our longest serving Home Secretary for much of this period, No.10 may decided it has to quickly defend her record. But any criticism of the cops by the PM will surely be countered by complaints that forces have been overstretched by job cuts and other austerity measures.
Our latest Commons People podcast is out. Hear us chat about Jared O’Mara, meaningful Brexit votes + university free speech. Oh and there’s an Alan Partridge homage in the weekly quiz. Guess which university courses are real or bogus: UCAS or UCANT? Listen on Android/audioboom HERE and on iPhone/iTunes HERE.