Conference and Brexit 1) May warns critics to stop “playing politics”

“In an interview with The Sunday Times on the eve of her party conference, the prime minister confronted her critics, accusing those who refuse to back her Chequers blueprint for Brexit of “playing politics” with Britain’s future and undermining the national interest. In an attempt to show that she has ideas beyond Brexit, May announced that foreign buyers will face a higher stamp duty rate to stop them driving up house prices. People and businesses who do not pay tax in Britain will face a surcharge of between 1% and 3% when they buy a property, with the proceeds pumped into a scheme to combat rough sleeping….May took a swipe at Jeremy Corbyn but also warned Tory critics such as Boris Johnson that they have a patriotic duty to support her plan or see Brexit potentially betrayed.” – The Sunday Times



Conference and Brexit 2) Gove is open to Canada-style free trade option

“Michael Gove last night signalled that Theresa May is under growing pressure from her Cabinet to ditch her ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ mantra and consider a Canada-style free trade deal with the EU if Brussels rejects her Chequers plan. The Environment Secretary, who has been steadfastly loyal to the Prime Minister over Chequers, offered carefully worded public support for Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s stance last week that he was ‘not dismissing’ the Boris Johnson-backed Canada option. Mr Hunt’s remarks infuriated Downing Street, which is sticking to Chequers despite the opposition of both the EU and Brexiteers.” – The Mail on Sunday

  • Gove holds back tears as he describes the parents who adopted him – Interview, The Mail on Sunday
  • We need a deal insists Clark – BBC

Conference and Brexit 3) Chequers plan is “deranged” says Johnson

“Boris Johnson sets out his manifesto today for the Tories to win the next election, arguing that the government should stop trying to copy Jeremy Corbyn if it wants to defeat Labour. In an interview with The Sunday Times — his first with a newspaper since resigning from the cabinet — the former foreign secretary questioned whether Theresa May believes in Brexit and branded her Chequers plan “deranged”. Johnson also called for the government to be “proud” to advance Conservative ideas and far bolder in building houses and infrastructure. He said Britain should build a bridge to Ireland and put the HS2 scheme on hold so a high-speed rail link can be built across the north of England instead.” – The Sunday Times

Conference and Brexit 4) Davis criticises Downing Street officials for undermining negotiations

“When David Davis resigned from the Government in July, he was careful not to attack Theresa May personally over her handling of the EU negotiations. While furious with the way her Chequers plan was foisted on him as Brexit secretary, his quarrel, he has repeatedly said, is with the policy itself rather than the Prime Minister. Now he has unleashed a previously pent-up stream of criticism of Mrs May’s advisers, describing a failure to adequately grasp the “practicalities” of the negotiations, and tendencies to believe EU claims “that are simply exaggerations” and “quail” in front of arguments from Brussels….Last summer, he tried on three occasions to “strike out” the “new customs partnership” plan that he feared would prevent the UK from striking free trade deals with non-EU countries after Brexit. “I thought at first it was the Treasury being difficult,” he says. “It turned out it was No 10. They said we’ve got to keep it in for ‘negotiability’ reasons.” He adds: “That’s not the way you design your policies. You design your policies, then sell them, then amend them if you do have to do that but not the other way around.” – Interview with David Davis, The Sunday Telegraph

Conference and Brexit 5) The Eurocrats don’t understand the British, says Hannan

“EU leaders calculate that, if they hang tough, we might drop the whole idea of Brexit. Hence the choreographed appeals to think again from the prime ministers of countries with strong historical claims on our affection, such as Malta and the Czech Republic. The notion that we might come crawling back displays a colossal misreading of our character….We are a bloody-minded people. When someone asks us the same question again, we repeat ourselves with added emphasis.” – Daniel Hannan, The Sunday Telegraph

Ashcroft polling shows May has a better chance than Johnson of beating Corbyn…

“Tory MPs should keep Theresa May as leader for the best chance of defeating Jeremy Corbyn – and leave Boris Johnson on the backbenches, an exclusive new poll has concluded. Asked if they preferred a Conservative Government with Mrs May as Prime Minister or Labour with Mr Corbyn in No 10, voters backed the Tory leader by 54 per cent to 46 per cent. But given a choice between Mr Johnson and Mr Corbyn, the result was a dead heat – 50-50. The research, conducted by former Conservative deputy chairman Lord Ashcroft, comes at the start of the Tory Party conference in Birmingham….Lord Ashcroft’s research backs Mrs May’s often-mocked refrain that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’, with four in ten voters saying they want a hard Brexit, handing the UK complete control over borders, laws and the ability to strike free-trade deals with the rest of the world – rather than see the Prime Minister broker further compromises with Brussels.” – The Mail on Sunday

  • Rebuilding the Conservative brand will be a tall order this week, but the work must start now – Lord Ashcroft, The Mail on Sunday
  • Stop the cuts and get ready for war – Lord Ashcroft, Sunday Express

>Today: Lord Ashcroft’s Conference Diary: How Leave voters reflect – good humouredly, mostly – on being called knuckle-dragging bigots

…but Montgomerie says it’s time for her to go

“After David Cameron won the unwinnable general election in 2015, Theresa May conspired to lose the unlosable election last year – throwing away a 20-point lead and the Tories’ majority….Tory MPs should have ended her leadership of the Conservative Party in the immediate aftermath of the election disaster. She hasn’t survived because her parliamentary colleagues believe her promise to lift them out of the mess she confessed to landing them in. She’s survived because they’re scared of a messy leadership contest and worried that the new leader may be worse than the nurse they desperately still cling to. But, at some point, they’ll have to summon up the courage to oust Mrs May. They’re kidding themselves if they think she’ll make it easy. I know via an indiscretion from one of her closest allies that she dearly wants to continue as PM even once a Brexit deal is completed (or, more likely, is fudged). No 10 is almost never vacated voluntarily.” – Tim Montgomerie, Sunday Telegraph

Hancock to produce guidance on limiting social media use by children

“The government is to produce the first official guidelines on the maximum amount of time young people should spend on social media, health secretary Matt Hancock says today, amid growing concern about the links between its excessive use and mental health problems among children. In an interview with the Observer before the Conservative party conference, which opens this weekend in Birmingham, Hancock says he has instructed the UK’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, to draw up advice as soon as possible that he hopes will become an accepted “norm in society”, like that on recommended maximum alcohol consumption for adults.” – The Observer

The Conservative Party faces a being fined for huge data breach

“The Conservative Party faces a ­potential fine of up to £2m after its software for conference delegates exposed the personal details of thousands of MPs and attendees, including Cabinet ministers. As the Prime Minister arrived in ­Birmingham for the annual conference last night, her party headquarters was scrambling to lock down a function on its mobile phone application that ­allowed anyone to log in as an MP or a speaker, exposing their private contact details. Last night ministers and senior MPs reacted with fury after the blunder was revealed on social media, where ­images posted on Twitter showed users logging in as Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary, among other senior figures. A government source raised concerns about the potential ­security implications for Cabinet ­ministers, given that mobile numbers can be used to track the location of ­associated telephones.” – Sunday Telegraph

Yesterday: Tim Bale on Comment: How the Conservatives can turn new members into activists

Prime Minister plans Festival of Britain

“Theresa May plans to evoke the spirit of the famous 1951 Festival of Britain with a £120 million nationwide celebration after Brexit. Scheduled for 2022, the event – also inspired by the Great Exhibition of 1851 – will be used to project a proud post-Brexit Britain around the globe. Speaking as the Tory conference opened in Birmingham, the Prime Minister boasted that the festival would showcase the best of the nation’s talent in business, technology, arts and sport to the rest of the world. And, with events set to take place in every nation and region of the UK, Mrs May raised hopes that the celebration would generate billions of pounds of investment for Britain and Northern Ireland.” – The Mail on Sunday

Grayling declares war on potholes

“Transport Secretary Chris Grayling pledged to give drivers a smoother ride, with a major assault on bad road repairs that cause potholes. He said: “One of the things I will be saying in my speech later this week is that an awful lot of time is taken up in this department on rail issues. But actually, we should not forget that for most people in most places it is the motor car and the roads which are the important part of their lives.”  Mr Grayling also fears petrol prices could surge to record levels next month, as the impact of US sanctions on Iran hits the international oil rate. And he attacked rail unions, saying there was a “culture of militancy in the railways and the transport sector which is damaging to Britain”.” – Sunday Express

Help to Buy is not working properly, admits Brokenshire

“The Government’s flagship scheme to help people onto the housing ladder is being used for purchases ministers do not wish to fund, the Housing Secretary has admitted. James Brokenshire said Help to Buy equity loans were financing the acquisition of leasehold properties, which can see householders saddled with large annual “ground rent” payments. In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Brokenshire said the Government was “reflecting carefully” on the scheme and would make an announcement soon on “the next steps”.” The Sunday Telegraph

Cox ordered to end “witch hunt” against troops who served in Northern Ireland

“Theresa May has started looking for a “legal solution” to end the witch hunt against elderly veterans of the Troubles. The PM has ordered Attorney General Geoffrey Cox to resolve the matter without further probes into soldiers who served in Northern Ireland. Four British soldiers have been charged over shooting incidents dating as far back as the 1970s.” – The Sun on Sunday

Leadsom wants HS2 scrapped

“A senior minister has launched a devastating attack on the Government’s £56 billion high speed rail scheme, insisting it should be scrapped. Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the Commons, told the Cabinet that HS2 represented poor value for money and the funding would be better spent elsewhere. Her intervention, during a discussion on the future of the country’s rail network last week, will add to growing pressure for a review of the scheme, amid concerns about its mounting costs.” – The Sunday Telegraph

Labour MPs speak out against a “purge” as Chris Leslie loses confidence vote

“Labour MPs have rallied around Chris Leslie, describing him as the latest victim of a “purge” after he lost a no-confidence vote brought by local party members. On Friday night Mr Leslie, a vocal critic of party leader Jeremy Corbyn, became the latest parliamentarian to be censured and the first since the party’s annual conference in Liverpool. Similar action has been taken against Labour Friends of Israel chairwoman Joan Ryan, Luton South MP Gavin Shuker and the Labour Brexiteers Kate Hoey and Frank Field.” – Sunday Telegraph

Lawson: When it comes to expropriation, the Conservatives have form

“The Conservative Party has been strangely mute in response to Labour’s proposals — announced by its Marxist shadow chancellor, John McDonnell — to expropriate the owners of capital and to impose worker representation on the boards of Britain’s largest companies. But maybe this near-silence is not strange at all, just the embarrassment that comes from knowing that this is actually a mimicking of past and present Conservative policies. The idea of forcing companies to put employees on their boards was embedded in the 2017 Conservative election manifesto as part of Theresa May’s attempt to persuade voters that under her the party was not in hock to business interests. It was not notably successful — that manifesto, I mean. Her decision to abandon the policy does not change the fact that it is now all but impossible for her to criticise Labour for adopting a more radical version of it.” – Dominic Lawson, The Sunday Times

Baker: Alternative is needed to the CBI

“The CBI is a grave menace to the political stability and economic prospects of the UK. I choose that term deliberately. When Hayek attacked economists for making the intellectual error of concentrating on superficial short-run effects at the expense of the long-term forces of economic life, he called them “a grave menace to our civilisation”. So it is with the CBI….We need a voice for business, one that is innovative and optimistic, one that lives in the real world of an increasingly horizontal, dynamic, global and changing economy, not one that is merely reactionary. I look to the rapid establishment of the Alliance of British Entrepreneurs and see the voices of the hierarchical, statist past are on notice. A future without them cannot come too soon.” – Steve Baker, The Sunday Telegraph

Colville: The Conservatives need to back up the language of opportunity with substance

“A message of continuity, of strong and stable leadership, lets Labour claim the mantle of change – as does the Tory tendency to photocopy large chunks of Ed Miliband’s manifesto, offering Diet Labour to voters who have the option of the real thing. The best answer to a Labour agenda based on talk of ownership, opportunity and control of your own life is a Tory agenda based on exactly the same thing – one that delivers substance rather than just form. And the good news is that there are enormous opportunities for the Tories to do so….There is nothing more likely to flip a voter from Labour to Tory than owning a home.” – Robert Colville, The Mail on Sunday

Young: The hypocrisy of highly paid headteachers marching against austerity

“A  head teacher – this one at a primary school in Theresa May’s constituency – has written to parents asking them to pay for toilet paper. So, is it really the case then, as any neutral observer might conclude, that budgets have been savagely cut by this heartless Tory government? In fact, the opposite is true. The last school year, for example, saw the Government devote an enormous £39 billion to education for five to 16 year-olds in England, up from £37 billion the year before. This is the highest amount ever spent on schools. Protesters claim the figure is misleading because it doesn’t take into account rising pupil numbers and inflation. But the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), a politically independent economic research body, insists that spending on schools has doubled in the past two decades, even allowing for those factors… if, like me, you’re wondering where all that extra money has gone, here’s a clue: 1,300 head teachers in England are paid more than £100,000, and 600 are paid more than £110,000. If they’re really so concerned about money for toilet paper, maybe they should pay themselves a bit less.” – Toby Young, The Mail on Sunday

News in Brief

  • Stop squabbling about Brexit says Damian Green – Independent
  • The Tories need a domestic agenda – James Forsyth, The Spectator
  • The inside story of May’s desperate fight to save her job – Buzzfeed
  • The Kavanaugh hearings mark a low point in a low era of American politics – Alex Massie, CapX
  • Why is Ireland the rock on which the Brexit talks could founder? – Daniel Moylan, BrexitCentral