POLITICS
25/05/2018 09:28 BST | Updated 25/05/2018 09:38 BST

The Waugh Zone Friday May 25, 2018

The five things you need to know about politics today

1. SEE YOU LATER, PALLY DATA

Yes, May 25 has finally arrived and many of you will be hoping never to see another GDPR headline in an email subject line ever again. The missives from various organisations have ranged from the pally to the desperate, the apocalyptic to the plaintive. But what does it mean for our political parties? I’ve written a big feature HERE on the different approaches taken by Labour and the Tories and others.

Some hope the new data rules will be the 2018 equivalent of the Millennium Bug – lots of needless panic in Whitehall and Westminster, some profiteering by dodgy advisers and then a whimper not a bang as the deadline passes. Yet many others in the parties know the sheer amount of time, money and manpower that has gone into prepping for today. It’s not just emails and ‘re-permissioning’ (a delightful new verb), it’s about server security, contractual updates (Labour has a thousand third parties that use its data) and lots of other under-the-radar items.

The stakes are high. It looks like Labour is expecting to lose two million of its seven million contacts with voters. It had to re-run its NHS Baby campaign (its most clicked-on page during 2015) to craftily confirm individual details. Facebook algorithm and privacy changes also mean that all parties (like media organisations) may have to accept their social media reach will be reduced. The Tories have been more sanguine about their hugely valuable email database (built up over years), though it’s unclear if they have all the permissions needed for older entries.

But I also report on the big, big fear among some working in politics of another impact of GDPR. This is so sensitive that few want to publicise it. After today, it’s free and easier to demand a “subject access request” (SAR) on every bit of personal data that a political party has on you. The sheer time it takes to recover and redact such data is enormous, and many are hoping the Information Commissioner will help fend off malicious attacks. Still, one party’s data expert tells me: “I’m really worried political parties are going to face a weaponised use of that by campaigners and activists…If you want to screw a political party, get 100 people to send in an SAR on the same day.”  So as you wave goodbye to subscriber lists and begging missives, remember that for political parties the GDPR headache may have only just started.

 

2. FANTASY LEAGUE

It was always going to happen, but yesterday the EU finally let slip its irritation with the UK’s latest planned solutions for Brexit. “The sooner we can get out of the business of denying the consequences of Brexit, the sooner we can get on with finding solutions,” a senior official told reporters. “The sooner we move away from this fantasy, the quicker we can get to constructive discussions about how to design that future relationship.” It’s worth adding that while the official is unnamed, they clearly had the full permission of Michel Barnier.

What seemed to spark the outburst was the UK threatening to demand the return of a billion euros in contributions to the Galileo satellite project unless the European commission lifted a block on British firms being involved. Yet as I’ve written before, Brussels’ refusal to budge on this has united pro-Remain Cabinet ministers like Greg Clark with their Brexiteer colleagues. Finding a way through the impasse looks very difficult as a result. The Sun’s man in Brussels Nick Gutteridge tweeted that this boils down to the fact that the EU is a rules-based organisation. And Britain’s hopes of bending those rules look ambitious to say the least.

With Bank Governor Mark Carney again last night raising the spectre of a ‘disorderly Brexit’ (though some Brexiteers will be delighted at slashed interest rates), I wonder whether Theresa May will feel the need to listen to her own advice given in the Mansion House speech? Remember she said it was a time for ‘hard truths’ about how Brexit won’t mean we have exactly the same benefits of EU membership outside the bloc? And in Parliament, will a new hard truth be the hardening line of Tory Remainers? The Sun says their number has grown from 11 to 15 and votes on key Lords amendments could prove very tight indeed when the bill returns next month.

The PM will be pleased if the most senior resignation from a Leaver is that of junior PPS Andrea Jenkyns (she quit her bag-carrier role yesterday to allow her more freedom to speak out). Will Tory Brexiteers like Jacob Rees-Mogg keep their nerve, despite fresh talk of extending the transition period post-Brexit? It may mean swallowing some unpalatable items. The new plan for an extended timeframe is being called the Customs and Regulatory Alignment Period. Yes, that’s CRAP for short.

 

3. COP THAT

When your brother is a serving police chief and you’re the new Home Secretary, and both of you are kinda candid about the Government’s failings, it’s no wonder word gets out. The Mirror has dug out some choice quotes from Bas Javid, a chief superintendent in the West Midlands, as he gave evidence to local councillors about cuts in police numbers since the Tories came to power.

Javid said things had “changed considerably” since 2010 (which is when a certain T May became Home Secretary). “We’re all aware of the reductions that have been made in numbers,” he said. “Just to remind you, we’ve gone from an organisation of 11,000 people to 8,000. And that means we need to fundamentally review, and continue to review but change, the way we deploy resources.” It’s only fair to point out the police chief added he had recently increased numbers, and defended cuts to police stations. But Labour’s shadow policing minister Louise Haigh (one to watch folks) has seized on the wider officer cuts admission.

Meanwhile, in the Telegraph Fraser Nelson has an eye-catching piece declaring that Sajid Javid could be “the leader-in-waiting the Tories need”. Rightly, Fraser points out that a year ago there was heavy briefing that the PM was planning to sack him as part of a triumphant post-election reshuffle, once she had her whopping 100-strong majority. Instead, a weakened May recently had to promote him “through gritted teeth”. Javid has the right free-market credentials, pragmatism on Brexit and new-found confidence that could work after May’s departure, Fraser suggests.

 

BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR...

What were Harry and Megan really saying to each other during the Royal Wedding? Here’s one lip-reader’s guide. “Your present is a fail”.

 

4. HUNT THE CASH

One of the biggest decisions Theresa May has to face in coming months is just how much extra to spend on the NHS. A major increase (like the 3% plan revealed by the Spectator’s James Forsyth) could reassure all those Leave Voters that they hadn’t been conned by Boris’s bus. It could also help neutralise the Tories’ most lethal political Kryptonite with voters more widely. At an Institute for Government event yesterday, Jeremy Hunt said ‘the Prime Minister completely gets’ the arguments for a better deal. Crucially, he added he thinks the public is willing to pay more tax for the health service. And that the Chancellor also understands that and Treasury needs to understand how long it takes to get payback for investment.

But with the IFS warning that a 4% rise is needed, the Treasury is not rolling over on tax hikes just yet. And if Philip Hammond digs in against any tax rise (hypothecated or otherwise), the options to fund big NHS increases are limited. With the wider spending review due later this year, either non-health departments like defence and police will have to be squeezed or the Treasury may have to think the unthinkable: putting up borrowing. You could call it Ed Balls Day.

 

5. REPEAL DEAL

The polls have opened in Ireland’s referendum on the repeal of its constitutional curb on abortion. Women from across the world have flown in to Dublin to take part and the #hometovote hashtag has shared some powerful videos of personal stories. The result could be very close indeed and we lead our site this morning with a reminder that this is not a simple young v old issue. Millennials are as divided as other groups, with some women passionately pro-life, and some men stirred by the #metoo movement to becoming passionately pro-choice.

Those campaigning for repeal argue that the current laws don’t prevent abortion, they just make it less safe and more difficult even in cases where babies are badly deformed. We report the moving testimony of Oonagh McDermott, who found out at fourteen weeks that her baby had a fatal foetal abnormality.  “They sent me home and told me: ‘When you think it’s all gone, come back to us.’ They were expecting me to miscarry in my own home,” she says. Let’s see if such stories sway the 17% who are said to be ‘undecideds’. Counting starts tomorrow morning and a result is due early evening.

 

 

HOUSEKEEPING

We’re doing our bit to reduce your inbox overload. With the Commons and Lords in recess, the WaughZone is taking a well-earned break as we focus on the day job. See you all again on June 4. 

 

COMMONS PEOPLE

Our latest #CommonsPeople podcast is out. Hear us chinwag about Brexit bills, lessons from Lewisham, Salisbury’s survival plan + more. Oh, and Owen has the lamest excuse for a quiz. Or not.  Click HERE for iTunes and HERE for Audioboom.

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Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Paul WaughNed SimonsKate Forrester Rachel Wearmouth and Owen Bennett.

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