Backlash as May appoints Williamson to Defence post

“Theresa May faced a massive Tory backlash today as she made tarantula-loving chief whip Gavin Williamson the new Defence Secretary – after he was accused of ‘knifing’ Sir Michael Fallon. The Prime Minister’s bid to shore up the top ranks of her government misfired badly after she surprised Westminster by shifting Mr Williamson, 41, to the plum Cabinet post. Mr Williamson – nicknamed the ‘baby-faced assassin’ at Westminster – was branded a ‘self-serving c***’ by one female MP amid claims he paved the way for his own promotion by telling Mrs May to sack Sir Michael. A former minister told MailOnline Mrs May was ‘desperate’ and overseeing a ‘chumocracy’, adding that ‘sick’ Mr Williamson could kiss goodbye to his leadership ambitions.” – Daily Mail

  • Prime Minister’s critics smell decay in battle to bolster Cabinet – FT
  • Military and MoD officials turn to the web for info on ‘spider man’ – The Sun


  • Boy from a local comp (with a pet tarantula) – Andrew Pierce, Daily Mail
  • Ambitious fixer willing to challenge the big beasts – Jim Pickard, FT
  • Dry wit and a talent for intimidation – Lucy Fisher, The Times


  • Ally’s move into Cabinet is a gamble – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times
  • A crafty coup straight out of House of Cards? – Rosa Prince, Daily Telegraph


  • The rise of Williamson reveals much about his boss – The Times
  • He has already started a war… in his own party – The Sun


Profile of Julian Smith, the new Chief Whip

“MP for the North Yorkshire seat of Skipton and Ripon since 2010, he is in his fourth job in the whips’ office. Elected to parliament in 2010, he became a junior whip in 2015 under David Cameron and made his way to the top job yesterday. The MP, described by friends as a “very firm Remainer”, is understood to be on the socially liberal wing of the party, pointing out on his website how he has campaigned on “a fairer funding formula for rural schools and improvements in the way the Trans-Pennine route is configured”. He grew up in Stirling, Scotland, and read history and English at Birmingham University. He was educated at a comprehensive and received a sixth-form bursary to Millfield School, Somerset.” – The Times

>Yesterday: MPs Etc.: McVey – high-profile pugilist, hate figure for the Left – takes on the very private role of Deputy Chief Whip

Leadsom revealed as Fallon’s accuser…

“The former Defence Secretary was reported to No10 by the Commons Leader, who accused him of a string of offensive remarks. Delivering a damning dossier to Downing Street two days ago, Ms Leadsom insisted he must go. A source close to Sir Michael said: “He categorically denies saying something as appalling as he knows where she could warm her hands.” Allies of Sir Michael Fallon were said to be “seething” with his colleague Andrea Leadsom after she forced him to quit. The Sun has learned that Ms Leadsom was spurred into action on Tuesday after Downing Street refused to investigate Sir Michael for inappropriate behaviour.” – The Sun

  • …but he denies ever making the comments – The Times
  • Former Army chief says resignation is a tragedy – Daily Telegraph


  • May warns Green’s allies to take victims seriously – The Times
  • Davidson urges the Prime Minister to ‘clear the stables’ – The Scotsman
  • Speaker forces Tories to publish harassment policies – The Guardian


>Yesterday: ToryDiary: If Fallon’s account of why he quit is right, his exit is a mistake – and May has set a precedent she may come to regret

…as ministers ‘weigh legal action’ over dossier against ex-Tory staffer who works for Mandelson…

“Ministers believe an ex-Tory staffer who  works for Lord Mandelson  is behind  the dirty dossier on 40 MPs. They are weighing up legal action against Joe Armitage. The leaked memo, written by parliamentary staffers, has rocked Westminster. Theresa May’s  pal Baroness Jenkin said: “It is ruining lives.” Mr Armitage worked for  Justice Minister Phillip Lee for three years. He is now at  lobby firm Global Counsel, set up by ex-Labour spin guru Mr Mandelson. A senior MP named in the list said: “If Mr Armitage, who we believe was behind the slurs, did this  he should face the consequences. Given his connections to Mr Mandelson, it reeks of a  stitch-up.” – The Sun

  • No majority, sleaze, Europe. This is like the 90s, but there is hope – Gary Streeter, Times Red Box
  • Compared to now the Major years look positively halcyon – Ian Birrell, The Guardian
  • This scandal is just getting started and could bring May down – Tom Harris, Daily Telegraph
  • If Fallon-style scandal drives our politics the Prime Minister can’t survive – Martin Kettle, The Guardian


…and a Labour MP is suspended after allegations by activist

The Labour Party has suspended a senior MP after an activist claimed that he sexually harassed her. Kelvin Hopkins, a former shadow minister until last year, has had the Labour whip withdrawn after a Telegraph investigation found allegations that he sent “inappropriate” text messages and rubbed himself up against a young woman after a political event. Ava Etemadzadeh, who is now 27, said that she informed the whips office at the time of the incident and that a regional representative contacted the Leader’s office last year to raise concerns about the allegations.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Opposition must clear out its abusers too, says Phillips – Daily Mail
  • Speaker accused of silence over harassment scandal – The Sun


  • They need to shut down the Westminster bars – Janet Street-Porter, Daily Mail
  • This is far worse than the expenses scandal – Philip Collins, The Times
  • Sexual freedom is turning into sexual fear – Douglas Murray, The Sun

Ministers 1) Outcry has Hammond backtracks on self-employed National Insurance cut

“Millions of self-employed workers have been deprived of a £148 cut to their National Insurance bills after Chancellor Philip Hammond went back on a pledge. Class 2 National Insurance contributions were due to be abolished next April. But yesterday the Government said the move would be delayed by a year. It is a blow to 3.4 million workers, and was last night described as a ‘slap in the face’ for the self-employed. The policy to scrap Class 2 contributions – which currently cost £2.85 a week or £148 a year – was announced by then-chancellor George Osborne in 2016. Delaying the move will save the Government around £200 million.” – Daily Mail

  • More than three million denied tax cut – Daily Telegraph
  • Treasury will hit self-employed with new tax bill – The Sun


Ministers 2) Davis mulls plan to let Britons take EU dual-citizenship

“Brits could be given an “opt-in” chance to retain dual EU citizenship after the UK leaves. Brexit Secretary David Davis promised to consider the idea yesterday. The proposal would allow UK nationals associate citizenship allowing them to work across the EU without having to gain a visa. It could see Brits who opt-in given a separate EU passport. Mr Davis told MPs he will “look seriously” at the idea after he ­discussed it with European Parliament Brexit chief Guy ­Verhofstadt, who ­proposed it. Mr Verhofstadt has put the associate citizenship plans in the European Parliament’s wider Brexit proposals and called on the European Commission to back it.” – The Sun

  • Britain has to offer more money for a smooth Brexit – Martin Wolf, FT

>Today: James Arnell in Comment: Ready on Day One for Brexit 5) Reactions, refinements – and further work

>Yesterday: James Arnell in Comment: Ready on Day One for Brexit 4) Ensuring a competitive, outward-looking UK

Ministers 3) MPs on the attack after Lidington grants some prisoners the vote

“Ministers provoked anger yesterday by scrapping the blanket ban on prisoner voting. Justice Secretary David Lidington caved into European judges by announcing that serving inmates would be allowed to take part in elections. But only convicts out of jail on day release who are still on the electoral roll will qualify – expected to be fewer than 100. Successive governments have spent more than a decade fighting a ruling won by axe killer John Hirst that the current blanket ban was unlawful because it breached prisoners’ human rights.” – Daily Mail

Ministers 4) Hunt announces new plans to fast-track drugs

“Life-saving drugs and medical innovations will be be brought to the NHS up to four years sooner, under radical fast-track plans annnounced today. Jeremy Hunt pledged “dramatic improvements” in the time breakthroughs get from the lab to the patients, vowing that “the country of Watson and Crick” should play a global role in scientific discovery. Under the plans, treatments identified by experts as having the greatest potential to change lives will be given extra support, and a faster drug approval route. Mr Hunt said action was needed to tackle Britain’s slow record at getting breakthroughs in diseases like cancer and dementia to those who could benefit.” – Daily Telegraph

  • It takes too long for the NHS to get new medicine, time to speed things up – Jeremy Hunt, Daily Telegraph

Miller demands age restrictions on tablets and smartphones

“Age  restrictions should be slapped on tablets and smartphones to stamp out a shocking rise in child sex attacks on kids as young as six. Ex-Tory minister Maria Miller demanded action today and claimed technology risked being as damaging to kids as smoking. In a moving Commons address she added that online giants should face a levy to help tackle extreme porn “fuelling” a prolific increase in child-on-child sexual harassment in classrooms. In a passionate speech in the Commons she slammed the Government and schools for failing in a duty of care to protect children across the country.” – The Sun

Corbyn addresses ‘Islamic hardliners’ but snubs dinner with Israeli leader

“Jeremy Corbyn was accused of cosying up to extremists last night after attending an event held by a hardline Muslim group accused of anti-Semitism. The Labour leader spoke at a Commons meeting staged by an organisation that attacks Israeli ‘Zionists’ on social media. He addressed the Muslim Engagement and Development (Mend) event on Wednesday – but last night snubbed a formal dinner with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Mend was this week accused of being ‘Islamists masquerading as civil libertarians’ whose senior figures have publicly expressed anti-Semitic views.” – Daily Mail

  • Harman faces backlash for reciting anti-Semitic joke on TV – Daily Express
  • Terror watchdog meets ‘Islamist group’ – Daily Mail

Sturgeon announces Scottish income tax hike

“Nicola Sturgeon has unveiled plans for those earning as little as £24,000 to pay more income tax as hard-pressed Scottish households faced a fresh double assault on their finances. Speaking shortly before the Bank of England raised interest rates for the first time in a decade, the First Minister insisted “the time is right” for income tax hikes and unveiled a Scottish Government report containing four proposals. All the scenarios suggested increasing the 40p higher rate and 45p top rate of income tax in April next year, with three of them also backing a penny rise in the 20p basic rate and a 50p top rate. One proposal argued for the creation of two additional income tax bands, making a total of six rates.” – Daily Telegraph

  • First Minister urges centre-left to back rise – The Guardian


  • SNP’s discussion paper has broken a central manifesto pledge – Murdo Fraser, Times Red Box


  • A bold bid to break austerity which could backfire – The Scotsman

News in Brief:

  • Who are the ‘sex pest’ authors trying to bring down the Government? – Olivia Utley, Reaction
  • How Britain can raise its innovation game – Madsen Pirie, CapX
  • NHS data does not support claims of an exodus of EU staff – Mark Tinsley, Brexit Central
  • Why can’t the Bank of England admit it was wrong to cut interest rates? – Ross Clark, The Spectator
  • Assessing a good Brexit deal – John Redwood, Comment Central