The summer holidays are over. New uniforms and pencil cases have been purchased and timetables have been handed out. It’s double Brexit first thing, followed by access to the single market 101, a few school trips to Brighton, Liverpool, Birmingham and Glasgow, and then back to Brexit until the end of the day.
The start of a new term also means that the Intelex weekly briefing is back with a mixture of insight, puns and parliamentary goings on.
What the parties said
Senior Conservative ministers headed to the PM’s country pile, Chequers, on Wednesday to brainstorm the best approach to Brexit. May confirmed that there would be no parliamentary vote on ratifying the Referendum decision, nor would Article 50 be triggered until the start of 2017 at the earliest. In committing to making a ‘success’ of Brexit, May stated the UK would secure a ‘unique’ deal for the UK with a ‘positive outcome’ on trade. May also said this week that there would be no general election this year. Attention then turned to the junior doctors, who have called for unprecedented strike action throughout the autumn, which May denounced as ’playing politics’ and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt described as ‘devastating news’.
The anti-Corbyn majority in the Parliamentary Labour Party suffered a further blow this week with the release of a YouGov poll for The Times which suggested 62 per cent of eligible voters will back Corbyn, an increase of three per cent on last year’s vote. Worryingly for incumbent Labour moderates, nearly half of respondents also want MPs to face constituency ballots before the next general election.
The SNP renewed their bid for Scottish independence on Friday, with Nicola Sturgeon declaring MSPs, MPs and MEPs would gather in Stirling for a ‘nationwide listening exercise’, exploring how a new case for independence could be put to voters. Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, for the first time, outstripped Sturgeon in the polls, perhaps reflecting last week’s damning GERS statistics on the Scottish economy.
What the papers said
Channel 4 news presenter Cathy Newman writes in the Telegraph about Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s recent pledge to introduce all female shortlists to improve representation in the House of Commons, arguing proposed steps to improve gender parity in Parliament provides somewhat of an admission that Labour has a ‘gender problem’ under his leadership.
Andrew Gimson profiled Philip Hammond for Conservative Home, amusingly characterising him as a silky haired Goth following the admission of a school colleague who claimed the new Chancellor once ‘looked like Johnny Depp’, arriving ‘in class in a leather trench-coat with The Guardian under this arm’. Gimson describes Hammond to be fiercely private and a steady hand, with a ‘stern belief in sound money’ and ‘pro-business instincts’, predicting a sensible Autumn Statement with policies that ‘promote economic stability’ and ‘prudent public finances’.
Martha Gill for the Huffington Post writes about the problem faced by the Conservative Party with regards to its shrinking membership base, particularly amongst younger people. She recognises the recent surge in membership following the Brexit vote, but notes its concentration in the over-30s, reporting comment from those who believe the drop in youth support to be a ‘crisis’, referring also to the decision not to revive its official youth group, Conservative Future, following the recent bullying scandal earlier this year.
On the benches
MP4 to rock out
In what is exciting news for political anoraks everywhere a new political chatshow is due to begin this Autumn. Hosted by Matt Forde, former Labour adviser turned comedian the show will take a comedic look at the weeks events.
The best news though is that the MP4 will be the house band for the show. For those not in the know MP4 is a band made up exclusively former and current MPs. Members of the band are: Greg Knight, Ian Cawsey, Pete Wishart and Kevin Brennan.
Expect laughs, bad music and political humour.
Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn launched his Digital Manifesto this week at Newspeak House. However, Corbyn’s big launch was ironically marred by numerous electronic errors, including no online copy of the manifesto being made available and the live feed of the event failing. Further embarrassment followed as the graphic tweeted by Corbyn’s personal account throughout the day linked to a web domain which doesn’t exist. After the numerous failures of the day, one journalist suggested the day was more Windows 95 than 1984.
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Good week/Bad week
Good week for Ed Balls: The former Chancellor is undergoing somewhat of a revival this week, following the lows of losing Morley and Outwood to Conservative Andrea Jenkyns last year. Balls has built on previous successes on Great British Bake Off, to strut and jive his way down the Strictly red carpet before making his debut on the show this Saturday. The coverage of Balls’ memoirs this week have also been a boon to the former Cabinet Minister, revealing his challenges with his stammer as well as confusion with Gordon Brown over a joint of beef.
Bad week for Nicola Sturgeon. Its been a tough week for Nicola Sturgeon. The Tories don’t usually fare well in Scotland and yet a YouGov poll has shown the Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson polling ahead of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in personal approval ratings. Not only that, the poll showed the country would vote to remain in the union if another independence referendum was held before the UK leaves the EU, making the poll results a double sting for the leader of the SNP.
Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis, this week announced that the UK will head into negotiations with member states seeking free access to the EU single market. Davis, who will play a lead role in the negotiations, said it is in other countries interest to ‘maintain a good relationship with the United Kingdom’.
Stephen Bush wrote an interesting piece on why the PM could struggle to keep her promises on Brexit.
Two House of Lords inquiries were established this week in the wake of the vote to Leave the EU. The EU Financial Affairs Sub-Committee are to focus on the consequences of Brexit for financial services and future arrangements for that sector, whilst the EU Internal Market Sub Committee will focus on trade between the EU and the UK.
Tweet of the week
In what must be the epitome of Twitter, Jeremy Corbyn supporting, Harry Potter reading fans this week equated the man himself with, well, Dumbledore. Corbyn fans claimed that Jeremy was the equivalent of Dumbledore saying that he was another kindly, old, white haired saviour.
Ms. Rowling however was having none of it tweeting out ‘Corbyn. Is. Not. Dumbledore’ and linking to an article showing Corbyn doing work for the Iranian State Televison, Press TV. It made us wonder though, if Corbyn were Dumbledore, who is Harry?
In Focus: Back to school
With Parliament returning on Monday for a two week period before the Westminster circus goes on tour to various cities in the UK for party conference season, we look at a few issues which are sure to dominate.
Select committee changes
Both newly created Government departments, international trade and Brexit, require parliamentary scrutiny, so we will shortly see the establishment of two new select committees and jostling among MPs for chairmanships and membership. It’s also expected that the business, innovation and skills and energy committees will merge to scrutinise the newly created Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Department.
The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee requires a new chair after Jesse Norman was made a minister, as does the Science and Technology Committee after Nicola Blackwood’s elevation to the ministerial team at the Department of Health . A number of select committees also require new members following ministerial promotions.
One aspect worth noting is the role of the SNP in the select committee equation. The SNP will look keep their quota of select committee chairmanships, but there is a distinct possibility that the new Committee to shadow the BEIS department will continue to be chaired by Labour MP Iain Wright, leaving the current energy committee chair out in the cold. With the Government or Labour unlikely to want to give up chairing the new committees, space will have to be found elsewhere for the SNP.
The Finance Bill, the Investigatory Powers Bill, the Wales Bill, the Cultural Property in Armed Conflicts Bill and the Policing and Crime Bill all continue with their scrutiny over the next two weeks. With new Labour shadow ministers also still finding their feet, the Government will certainly be hoping for a relatively smooth passage for all this legislation so the focus remains on Brexit.
Despatch box debut
Next week will also see a raft of new Secretaries of State and junior ministers make their debut at the despatch box in their new positions. In the case of Liam Fox, it will be his first time answering ministerial questions since October 2011. Ministers have had the summer to become fully au fait with their policy briefs, but their performances will be closely scrutinised by the lobby journalists and sketch writers.