The five things you need to know about politics today

Ah, Realpolitik. To some, that unlovely German phrase is the exercise of a necessary pragmatism, whereas to others it’s the naked pursuit of power stripped of principles. One person’s co-operation and compromise is another’s collusion and collaboration. And in today’s international relations as much as our domestic politics, the question of working with unlikely/unloved allies is as vexed as ever.

On so many levels, Theresa May had reason to loathe Donald Trump. Yet she stuck with attempts to get close to him, not least because a post-Brexit Britain will need its oldest ally more than ever. Boris Johnson made exactly the same calculation when he became Foreign Secretary in July 2016, despite just months earlier accusing Trump of a “stupefying ignorance that makes him frankly unfit to hold the office of President of the United States”.

Now that he’s on the brink of becoming PM himself, Johnson has put a UK-US trade deal at the heart of both his defining mission to deliver Brexit and his efforts to become Trump’s newest best pal on the global stage. As we reported last week, some very senior Cabinet ministers think a comprehensive trade deal “will never happen” because American farming demands make it impossible. But today the Times reports that Johnson’s team think they can strike a limited trade deal in “one area” of goods in time for October 31.

If Johnson wins the leadership, he and Trump could discuss the issue as they share the stage at the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, late next month. They would also meet at the UN general assembly meeting in September (don’t forget the pat on the back the President gave Johnson the last time they met in the UN, above). In between, there could even be a White House invite. Get ready to see a lot of this pair together (and if you haven’t already read it, check out my feature on what Trump and Johnson have in common).

During tonight’s Sun newspaper Tory leadership hustings, we may (or may not) discover more detail on what that Johnson-Trump deal could look like. With a bit of pushing, we may get Johnson’s response to Philip Hammond’s fresh warning that a no-deal Brexit could leave the UK at the mercy of the French. Yet for many Tory MPs the most fascinating thing this weekend was Amber Rudd’s change of stance on the issue. “I have accepted we now need to allow no-deal to be part of the leverage to make sure people compromise more,” she told Marr.

Many read that as Rudd’s bid to stay in a Johnson Cabinet, in sharp contrast to David Gauke, Hammond, Rory Stewart and Greg Clark. Her stance echoes Matt Hancock, another erstwhile critic of no-dealism, who has had to swallow the idea mainly because Boris will become the next PM. Both of them seem to be calculating that Johnson is best constrained from within than without (and that he’s only bluffing anyway). It’s also true that Johnson’s strongest card is he has more Remainers on his team than Hunt has Leavers on his, and as such is the one most likely to unite his fractious party.

The danger of Realpolitik is of course if it is all in vain. Losing your credibility and failing to achieve the expected pragmatism or compromise is the worst of all worlds. It happened to May with Trump (on Iran and climate change). And it may happen to Tory moderates with Johnson too, if the EU calls his bluff and theirs. Both Rudd and Hancock have warned that a no-deal Brexit could wreck the Tory party’s reputation for competence for a generation. Both will have such words stuffed down their throats if they sit in a Cabinet that authorises that outcome.

Before the Sun debate, Jeremy Hunt has his day job to keep him busy as he heads off to Brussels to meet fellow foreign ministers to urgently discuss Iran. Hunt has had to navigate the complex situation in the Gulf, working with counterpart Mohammed Javad Zarif to de-escalate the threats on all sides. The risk comes from both tyrannical elements such as the Revolutionary Guard and trigger-happy neocons and generals in Washington.

What was fascinating overnight was to see the UK, France and Germany essentially draw an equivalence between the US and Iran. The joint statement by Theresa May, Emanuel Macron and Angela Merkel warned that the nuclear agreement with Tehran may “further unravel” under the strain of US sanctions and Iran’s decision to no longer implement key parts of the deal. They urged all countries “to pause and consider the possible consequences of their actions.”

But Gordon Sondland the US’s ambassador to the EU was on the Today programme to give a chilling warning of his own: “With respect to Iran, the time for reflection is over. It’s time to act.” For those who don’t know Sondland, it’s worth pointing out is a former hotelier who donated a million dollars to Trump’s campaign. But while Trump favours pragmatic engagement with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, Iran is clearly a different category.

The latest Mail on Sunday leak of Sir Kim Darroch’s confidential cables says he viewed Trump’s tearing up of the Iran nuclear deal as “diplomatic vandalism” driven by “ideological and personality reasons” because the pact “was Obama’s deal.” Sondland this morning described that verdict as “complete nonsense”, countering the US withdrawal from the deal was instead ’a very, very thoughtful move on the part of President Trump”.

Tonight’s Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) meeting could be lively, given that the anti-Semitism issue reignited spectacularly over the past week. The most significant internal development this weekend is the Tribune Group of ‘soft left’ MPs urging a duty of care for Labour Party staff who made allegations on Panorama, as well as an independent probe into their claims and a newly independent complaints system on anti-Semitism.

The idea of a new independent system for dealing with complaints is a tricky one because of data sharing issues, but more importantly because few political parties want their own internal processes outsourced to someone else. That said, the idea of automatic suspension for any case of prima facie breaches of a code of conduct may be a concession the party’s NEC is more tempted by.

Emily Thornberry yesterday hit back at the party’s criticism of the staff who appeared on the Panorama programme (a spokesman had described them as “disaffected former officials” who have always opposed Corbyn’s leadership, and had “both personal and political axes to grind”). The party “shouldn’t be going for the messengers, we should be looking at the message,” Thornberry said.

But Thornberry backed up Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey after he branded Deputy Leader Tom Watson a “f*cking disgrace” for criticising Labour General Secretary Jennie Formby’s failure to tackle anti-Semitism. “I wish he wasn’t attacking someone who is going through chemotherapy,” she said. Watson’s allies are in turn furious that Formby’s health has been dragged into the affair, not least as it was her conduct before she was ill that was raised on Panorama.

Like Thornberry, Keir Starmer is one of those who has felt that the only way to effect change is by supporting the leader and working from within to make their case. On Brexit, Starmer (who address the PLP tonight before joining John McDonnell at a ‘Love Socialism, Hate Brexit’ event) can argue that he has indeed slowly shifted the party’s stance, not through public criticism of Corbyn but by getting him to see that party unity depends on a shift. However, some pro-referendum campaigners fear a clearer ‘Remain’ policy will be stifled by the unions both at conference and in the manifesto process. Realpolitik, again, may have its limits.

Watch Theresa May’s latest celebratory Maybot dance, reheated by the PM herself after England’s Cricket World Cup triumph.

The BBC’s superb Midlands correspondent Sima Kotecha has a Panorama special tonight, with a warning from anti-extremism chief Sara Khan that ministers were ”too slow to respond” to “mob” protests over LGBT teaching outside Birmingham schools.

You can bet that if former Education Secretary Justine Greening had been in post she would have been much more proactive on this issue. As it happens, Greening will use a speech today to try to get social mobility back on the Tory leadership agenda, urging Johnson and Hunt to tackle ‘privilege hoarders’.

Trump has plumbed even greater depths with his latest tweet suggesting that ‘progressive Democrat congresswomen’ (he meant Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan) should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came”.

Nancy Pelosi has swiftly slated Trump for racism (and he hit back in kind). But Trump is pressing on what he thinks is a Democrat bruise, where the four radical women are getting lots of media airplay for their ‘socialist’ views and policies. And a new poll of non-graduate white voters, obtained by Axios, shows that 74% have heard of Ocasio-Cortez but just 22% liked her. “Socialism is toxic to these voters,” one Democrat says. All of which sounds like an argument between pro- and anti-Corbyn elements of Labour.

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