With the summer recess now in swing, the Intelex weekly briefing will be taking a couple of weeks well deserved rest. Have no fear however, we’ll be back with our mixture of insight and questionable punning later in the month.
What the parties said
Theresa May’s European tour continued this week as she met with fellow heads of Government to discuss the initial stages of the UK leaving the EU. This week the Prime Minister visited Italy, hosted the Irish PM at Downing Street and held talks in Poland and Slovakia. The Prime Minister has stated that she wants EU nationals currently living in Britain to remain. However this, she added, is dependent upon British nationals living in EU members states having their rights guaranteed.
An ICM poll this week compounded Labour woes as it found that 2.5 million Labour voters would prefer Theresa May as Prime Minister when the alternative choice is Jeremy Corbyn. The poll found the Conservatives have opened up an almost unprecedented 16 point lead over Labour with that figure rising to a massive 21 points in the Midlands. The Conservative lead over Labour is now the largest since 2009, one year after the global financial crisis.
The Speaker of the House of Commons was forced to step into a dispute between Labour MP Seema Malhotra and the party’s Leadership team this week. In what was described as a ‘petty’ row Malhotra claimed that members of Corbyn’s staff had ‘broken into’ her office. After receiving a letter form Malhotra John Bercow poured cold water on the complaint saying that he was not satisfied there had been a breach of Commons rules. Regardless, the incident served to reinforce the level of distrust between many MPs and Corbyn’s top team.
North of the border, Nicola Sturgeon was dealt major domestic blow this week, as the UK supreme court deemed her Government’s child protection policy to be illegal under the European Convention of Human Rights. The SNP’s ‘named person’ policy seeks to assign a teacher or social worker to every child under the age of 18 in order to protect their wellbeing. The Supreme Court ruled that it was an unwarranted invasion into family life and stated that the sharing of information about children’s wellbeing, without their parents knowledge, is indeed illegal.
What the papers said
The Financial Times pondered on Jean-Claude Junker’s decision to appoint Michael Barnier as the European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator. While the appointment was met with incredulity by many in the City, the FT argues that Barnier and his opposite number in the UK, David Davis, have much more in common than first appears. Both seasoned negotiators whose reputations for testiness belie a track record of striking deals with mutually beneficial outcomes, Barnier and ‘Monseiur Non’ as he was known in the early nineties face the unenviable task of conducting talks with the constant fear of being overruled by their superiors on either side.
Thursday’s edition of The Times featured a foreboding column from Birkenhead MP Frank Field, one of the spattering of pro-Brexit Labour voices. Regardless of who becomes the next Labour leader, Field warns, a far greater concern for the Party is who will next lead UKIP. Labour voters are ‘interested in their sense of identity, how it links to their country and their country to the security of its borders’, a question on which Labour, unlike UKIP, no longer has anything relevant to say. Should Corbyn, a lifelong internationalist with no understanding of the connection between this creed and the detrimental effects of globalisation win in September, the Party is finished.
Martin Robbins, writing for the New Statesman, considers the bunker mentality adopted by Corbyn’s team, the genius of which, he writes, is to extend it to ‘accommodate tens of thousands of their followers’. Corbyn’s leadership has been marked by a sense of paranoia and conspiracy theory, sometimes against the very institutions traditionally seen as friends of the left. Thus the BBC, long bemoaned by the right for being a socialist mouthpiece, is viewed as the mouthpiece for the Conservative establishment. Like Field, Robbins fears for the future under Corbyn, as for he ‘there is no compromise, only purity and a Red Labour party with 50 MPs is better than a centrist party with 400.’
On the recess benches
Things went from bad to worse for Labour this week when they lost their only seat on South Hams Council ward as a result of not being able to find a candidate to field. The Momentum-dominated local Labour branch instead backed an independent candidate, who had attempted to run for Labour but was ineligible due being a member of the party for less than a year. After the seat was lost to the Liberal Democrats, many Labour MPs reacted furiously, arguing the Corbyn support group is doing the party a disservice.
With recess now in full swing, MPs have been taking the chance to have some well earned time off. A certain David Cameron was spotted ordering a macchiato and lobster in Dorset this week, Broxbourne MP Charles Walker was in Perthshire buying fishing attire and Hywel Williams was retweeting pictures of local ice cream in his constituency.
Corbyninside so strong
Regardless of the troubles engulfing the PLP, it is difficult to deny the enthusiasm Jeremy Corbyn creates among the grassroots of the left. The near-evangelical fervour Corbynistas have for their leader was taken to new plateaus this week with the release of Jeremy’s Standing Strong, an inspirational reworking of 80s hit ‘Something Inside So Strong’. Further reworks may include Paul Young’s ‘Love of the Corbyn People’ Karma Corbelion by Culture Club or even Madonna’s ‘La Jeremisla Bonita’
Good week/Bad week
Good week for Gladstone. New kitten on the block, Gladstone has been installed at the Treasury as the Chief Mouser. The former stray has gone from rags to riches gaining the top job and a red bow tie. It remains to be seen how Gladstone will get along with his neighbours at the Foreign Office and Number Ten…
Bad week for Larry. Both Larry and Palmerston, now ousted from importance, have become entangled in a turf war in Whitehall. Chief mouser under Boris Johnson at the Foreign Office, Palmerston, was refused entry into Number 10 this week. Following an earlier spat with Downing Street fixture, Larry, which resulted in an injured paw, Palmerston was forcibly removed from the premises by Downing Street security guards after being caught slipping through the front door earlier that day.
Tweet of the week
With the arrival of Gladstone the cat at the Treasury, could we see a unlikely Foreign Office/Treasury alliance to team up against their Number 10 counterpart?
In Focus: The China Syndrome
Parliament has risen. Voters have gone on holiday. Exhausted by a month of politics more intense than we usually see in a decade, journalists and political commentators were winding down for August when the new Government last night turned another decade-long political certainty on its head when it ‘paused’ the multi-billion pound nuclear investment at Hinkley Point. The decision is important for business not just for reasons to do with energy policy but because it signals that the previous two governments’ trade-focused detente with China is under review. While the Hinkley Point deal is primarily with the French energy giant EDF, it also involves the China General Nuclear Power Corporation.
The decision to review the deal, according to the official line, is about costs but anyone who doubts there is a serious China angle would do worse than read a little-noticed article at the time in Conservative Home by Theresa May’s new chief of staff, Nick Timothy, in October 2015. He attacked the then Chancellor’s approach warning that ‘rational concerns about national security are being swept to one side because of the desperate desire for Chinese trade and investment’. Fortified over six years at the Home Office by security service worries, Mrs May and her circle are well-known Sino-sceptics.
This is but the latest example of Theresa May stamping her prime ministerial authority on post-Brexit politics and signalling that her administration is far from being continuity Cameron. Surprise decisions such as this may add to business uncertainty at a time when confidence is already fragile, but Number 10 is clearly prepared to overrule the Treasury. It underlines how far business will need to go to in engaging not just economic departments but Downing Street and the wider Whitehall network.