The five things you need to know on Monday, October 10…
1) NOTHING LIKE A DANE
Theresa May’s visiting Denmark (and Holland) today to rally support for her vision of a Brexit Britain which has curbs on migration but as much access as possible to EU free trade. Danes love a bit of exceptionalism themselves, yet it’s unclear if they or any other states will dare challenge Merkel and Hollande after their warnings that freedom of movement is central to the bloc’s future.
On the vexed topic of ‘name-and-shame’ lists of firms with foreign workers, a swift U-turn was executed yesterday as the idea was killed off by not just one but two ministers simultaneously. Michael Fallon (on Pienaar) and Justine Greening (on Peston) said that the plan would not be happening. The strangest thing about this whole row is that the list plan was a briefing note to Amber Rudd’s Tory conference speech, not the speech itself. Which just goes to show that in politics the devil really is in the details.
Ed Miliband floated the idea of telling job centres which firms had more than 25% foreign staff but his aides insist those lists would never have been made public. Under the latest Tory plan it seems the foreigner-friendly firms info would still be collected but stay private. So May’s nicked not just Miliband’s ‘an economy that works for everyone’ slogan, but his migrant policy too.
One outcome of the Tory conference is that the penny has indeed dropped (not as fast as the pound, mind) among those in denial that Brexit really is going to happen. That’s not to say everyone likes it, and business is in full backlash mode. The British Retail Consortium is warning Liam Fox of the damage of tariffs, the CBI’s chief has told the Times the dangers of migration crackdowns, 100 firms have written to the Telegraph to condemn May’s ‘anti-business’ rhetoric - and the FT says Frankfurt is stepping up efforts to woo banks from London.
On Today, Anna Soubry said there seems to be a rush towards a hard Brexit and the voice of business and Parliament was being lost, while Sir Peter Lilley said Remoaners can't accept they lost.
2) ABBOTT'S HALE
In her new role as Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott made hay with the Tory U-turn on name-and-shame lists last night. But Labour MPs who remember the ‘name-and-shame’ list of their own colleagues put out by the Jeremy For Leader campaign are still bruised, if beaten, by this summer.
On Radio 4’s Westminster Hour, Abbott denied PLP chairman John Cryer was not consulted over the Shadow Cabinet changes last week (despite his angry letter to fellow MPs). She said “we haven’t written off the idea of elections, we just want to discuss the question of elections in a wider democratic context”, which sounds very much like the members-can-choose idea that MPs think would kill off the whole plan.
Abbott then summed up the uneasy truce in Labour right now: “What we’ve got on the front bench is a very broad range of people and maybe they don’t support Jeremy as a person but what they do do is they support the party.”
The Corbyn reshuffle is set to continue in the lower ranks. I’m told that as of this morning there are still 54 vacancies unfilled on the shadow frontbench. Tom Watson seems to be building up his own core team at Shadow DCMS, with Kevin Brennan and Rosena Allin-Khan combining the best of the old hands and rising stars. Shadow whips Conor McGinn and Holly Lynch quit yesterday but Abbott said “there is no question of us [note the ‘us’] forcing Conor McGinn out…his wife is expecting a new baby and that’s why he chose to step down”.
Keir Starmer yesterday underlined some of the policy differences we’re going to have to get used to. He told Marr that immigration ”should be reduced” in his view. Corbyn, however, is “not concerned about the numbers”, we were told at Labour conference. Abbott said last night ‘you cannot pluck numbers out of thin air’.
3) TRUMP GLOWERS
Just when you think the US Presidential race can’t get any more crazily surreal, along comes the second TV debate. With only 29 days to go, Trump came off the ropes with a series of low blows about Bill Clinton’s alleged rapes. Hinting that Hillary was somehow anti-women is a tough sell, even for a real estate salesman. His defence-into-attack line may not have been the best way to convince half of the population that he’s not a misogynist. HuffPost’s Howard Fineman’s take is HERE.
The way Trump creepily circled behind Clinton during the debate also underlined how bizarre his conduct can be. How ironic that America’s culture wars, so long the preserve of the anti-abortion, moral majority, are now a powerful weapon in the hands of those highlightling Trump’s sexism. Will it be the factor that blocks the billionaire economic populist’s tilt at the top job? Let’s see. His fans loved his performance on jobs and on Obamacare, and his threat to send Hillary to jail over her emails is dominating the news Stateside, so he can’t be written off yet.
Trump dissed his running mate Mike Pence’s call for the US to take action against Putin and Assad in Syria: “I don’t like Assad at all, but Assad is kiling ISIS, Russia is killing ISIS”. Our own Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon (he was knighted in August, robbing me of my long-held ambition to headline it ‘Fallon Gong’, damn) told Marr he was “not going to intervene in the US election”. But Justine Greening was not so shy about Trump’s boasts about groping women, telling Peston: “As a woman I felt they were utterly crass”. Oh, and Nigel Farage says Trump ‘dominated’ Clinton because he was a ‘silverback gorilla’.
BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR…
Watch Ed Balls do the samba, wearing green facepaint. I can’t believe I just typed those words
4) SHAMI’S TAKE SURELY?
On Peston on Sunday, Shami Chakrabarti declared that she has “real concerns” about grammar schools because they enforce “segregation” in schooling. But within seconds she was also defending her decision to send her own son to the highly selective, £18,000-a-year Dulwich College. Shome mishtake surely?
When put to her that she may be guilty of hypocrisy, she replied: “People on the left have often had charmed and privileged lives” and added she was “someone who is trying to do their best, not just for my own family, but for other people’s families too”. “And this thing about selection – if you’ve got money you will always be all right. If you don’t have money in this country you are increasingly not all right, and that is why I have joined the Labour party.” So that’s cleared things up then.
Imagine if Chakrabarti had attacked the evils of privatisation of the NHS, while using BUPA for her own family's healthcare to jump an NHS waiting list queue? Tories would of course argue there's nothing wrong with using your wealth to help your nearest and dearest, but for a Labour politician this is tricky territory indeed. No one can accuse Jeremy Corbyn of not being anti-selection (one of his marriages broke up over it), but his Shadow Attorney General’s own take on public/private (in more ways than one) provision risks sending out, at the very least, mixed messages.
5) FOR WHOM THE BELL TROLLS
Internet users who post derogatory hashtags or humiliating Photoshopped images could face prosecution under new legal guidelines unveiled by the Crown Prosecution Service today. The urgency of this for female MPs was underlined by a Today programme investigation that found that 39 out of 51 MPs had been victims of online abuse.
Jess Philips told the programme that she’d received 600 rape threats in one night and on another occasion one YouTuber created a hashtag that he and others ‘wouldn’t rape me’. I wonder if the CPS will be looking at the latest abuse piled on Phillips by the leftwing website The Canary, with its latest idea of ‘satire’?
The balance between tough action online and civil liberties can in some cases be tricky, however. The Investigatory Powers Bill is back before the Lords this week (tomorrow is Report Stage). Labour feels ministers have moved quite some way since the Bill was in the Commons - thanks partly to Keir Starmer in his old job. Expect more concessions. I hear the Goverment could have 250 amendments of their own for the three days of Report.
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