Rudd demands that “ghastly” Juncker should be investigated

“Jean-Claude Juncker is “ghastly” and his “grotesque” behaviour should have been subject to an official complaint, Amber Rudd has claimed. Citing the EU Commission president’s “terrible” conduct at last week’s EU summit, when he appeared to manhandle the Prime Minister and ruffled a woman’s hair, the Work and Pensions Secretary criticised his treatment of Theresa May, saying: “(He’s) ghastly. What I minded before that were those pictures of the way he was holding the Prime Minister. I did not like that.” Referring to the hair incident, the former Home Secretary added: “It’s grotesque. I mean, if that happened in our parliament I hope there would be a formal complaint. When I used to go to the EU for meetings, I often had a terrible cold to insist that I didn’t get enveloped in a bear hug. All the EU commissioners love doing their big hugs.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Interview with Amber Rudd – Daily Telegraph
  • If the EU had been formed earlier then the Second World War would not have happened, claims Juncker – Daily Express

Conservatives face a “prolonged period in opposition” unless they adapt, warns Osborne

“The Conservative Party is heading towards a “prolonged period” in opposition unless it adapts to modern Britain, George Osborne has said. The former chancellor, who was sacked by Theresa May in 2016, said the party needed to become more socially-liberal and pro-business to survive in power. The ex-frontbencher, who now edits the Evening Standard newspaper, campaigned for Remain in the EU referendum. He added he believes a general election could be likely in 2019. Osborne was interviewed by David Dimbleby, who is guest-editing BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday.” – BBC

  • Wanted for Christmas: a Conservative Party – Leader, Daily Telegraph
  • Ministers “want May to step down” by the summer, before the Government’s spending review – Daily Mail

Grayling shelved plans on regulating drones

“Chris Grayling shelved plans to introduce laws regulating drone use in Britain despite being warned on multiple occasions about the risk they posed to airports, The Times has learnt. Gatwick was forced last night to shut for the third time in three days after another drone sighting, causing further misery for thousands of passengers. It reopened after about 90 minutes. Two suspects were later arrested by police. The army and police had appeared powerless to stop drone operators despite deploying a counter-drone system that they said was capable of jamming the devices. This year the Department for Transport quietly ditched plans for a draft bill aimed at controlling drones and developing technology to prevent them from being used near airports. The legislation, which had been due for publication in the spring, was dropped amid pressures on the department, with civil servants diverted to work on Brexit.” – The Times

  • Two arrested for criminal use of drones – The Sun
  • New high tech jamming and detection equipment promised – Daily Telegraph

Brexit 1) Gauke hints he may resign if “no deal” is backed

“Justice Secretary David Gauke has said he would be “very surprised” if the prime minister was prepared to back a no-deal Brexit, if her deal fails. Mr Gauke also said he would find it “very difficult” to stay in cabinet, if that became government policy. Cabinet splits have emerged over what should happen if the PM’s withdrawal deal is rejected by MPs next month. Andrea Leadsom has suggested a “managed no deal” Brexit while Amber Rudd said a new referendum was “plausible”. Mr Gauke supported Remain in the 2016 referendum.” – BBC

  • We are better off negotiating  a clean break – Leader, The Sun

>Today: ToryDiary: “For mighty dread had seized their troubled mind”

Brexit 2) Will Rees-Mogg be placated after Downing Street visit?

“Little more than a week ago, Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Eurosceptic MP, was calling on Theresa May to resign — even after the prime minister survived a confidence vote by the parliamentary party in her leadership. This week, however, Mr Rees-Mogg announced that Mrs May still had his confidence. Together with other Brexiters, he paid a placatory trip to the prime minister in Downing Street — at Mrs May’s invitation. According to some reports of the meeting, the two Conservatives took advantage of the occasion to commiserate with each other about hostile media coverage. The apparent volte face by Mr Rees-Mogg and his European Research Group of like-minded MPs has raised a big Brexit question. Is the ERG preparing a similar U-turn on Mrs May’s much-derided deal to leave the EU, which until now has been fervently opposed by Brexiters, seemingly dooming its chances of passage by the House of Commons?” – Financial Times

Brexit 3) Gove to bring in a military planner to safeguard food supplies

“Michael Gove is expected to become the first minister to recruit a military planner to address concerns that parts of the UK could run short on food in the event of a no deal Brexit. The planner, who will be in place by January, has been offered to Defra by the Ministry of Defence to help ensure that shops in rural communities have enough food in the event of a “worst case scenario”. They will draw up contingencies based on a blueprint known in Whitehall as Operation Yellowhammer, which assumes “in extremis” that trade between Calais and Dover become severely disrupted. The planner is also expected to assess alternative routes into Britain for food supplies and to carry out preparatory work to ensure that rural communities are supplied.” – Daily Telegraph

Brexit 4) Forsyth: Cosmetic changes would not be enough for the DUP

“For what May needs above all else is a sign that the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party are prepared to back her Brexit deal.“Without the DUP, they haven’t got a chance of passing it,” warns one Cabinet minister. What, then, do the DUP need to come on board? One Secretary of State who has kept open lines of communication with them, tells me that “by grim necessity, they will need something more than cosmetic concessions to vote for the deal”. This minister explains that “the DUP want a bankable reassurance that the backstopwon’t be permanent and that there won’t be progressive divergence between Great Britain and Northern Ireland”. The good news for Theresa May is that, according to one of those intimately involved in the negotiations, “the DUP want to sort things out”. “Relations between the leadership and the DUP had been in the deep freeze, they are somewhat better,” one Cabinet minister tells me. Adding that “the carelessness with which some of the principals have been treated has been repaired”. But the bad news for Theresa May is that the changes they want are significant — and the EU aren’t going to offer them up straight away.” – James Forsyth, The Sun

Brexit 5) Oborne: Corbyn is the quiet hero

“Corbyn is the quiet hero of Brexit. But this status poses a big problem for him. He knows that his principled position on Brexit is deeply unpopular with much of his Parliamentary Labour Party. It’s not simply that many Labour MPs would like Britain to remain in the EU. So do Corbyn’s allies in the Momentum group of Labour Party activists. Normally, Corbyn can rely on Momentum for unquestioning support. However, this is not forthcoming over Brexit….the essential truth of politics is that even though people duck and dive, they must always maintain a clear, strategic objective….For Corbyn, this objective is to ensure Brexit happens. As I said, so far he has played his hand well. However, his most difficult test is yet to come. Early next month, Mrs May will bring her EU withdrawal deal back to the Commons for a vote. If she is defeated, as looks likely, Corbyn will face huge pressure from his own side to honour his party’s conference decision to back a second referendum. It will take immense willpower for him to resist.” – Peter Oborne, Daily Mail

  • If Labour won a snap election, we would still leave the EU – The Guardian

Brexit 6) Parris: We are going back to the 1970s

“I wish more of you, my readers, could remember the 1970s as I do, aged 19 in 1969, arriving here and seeing Britain with fresh eyes. That is where we’d be going after Brexit. It will be very gradual, at first hardly perceptible, as we slide gently down the league tables. Good things that don’t happen. GDP stuck. Productivity lagging further, trade unions agitating, wages not tumbling but stagnating, exports not plunging but sagging, hoped-for corners never turned, false dawn after false dawn failing to colour the sky. For ever and anon, politicians blaming foreigners, fretting at the dismal government finances, fiddling at the margins, intervening feebly because there is no money, “doing something,” doing nothing, hoping something will turn up. And abroad, contrary to the foreign secretary’s sales-executive vacuities at a reception held by the Tory Bright Blue think tank this week, a nation more or less affectionately disregarded, losing leverage in a world of great trading blocs.” – Matthew Parris, The Times

Government borrowing falls to lowest level for 14 years

“Government borrowing in November was at its lowest for the month in 14 years, thanks to robust tax receipts and lower interest payments on public debt. Public sector net borrowing during the month was £7.2 billion, according to the Office for National Statistics. This was £900 million lower than in November last year and £500 million lower than consensus forecasts. The Office for Budget Responsibility, the independent fiscal watchdog, said that borrowing for the first eight months of the fiscal year was down by 30 per cent relative to the previous year. This was the best November borrowing figure since 2004, the ONS said. However, total government debt, at £1.795 trillion, remained unchanged as a proportion of national output, at 83.9 per cent.” – The Times

Truss attacks proposed “sympathy strikes”

“Under Labour, striking workers would have disrupted people’s lives for every single month of the last year costing the country billions, fresh analysis shows. Ahead of today’s rail strikes, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss blasted John McDonnell’s backing of so called sympathy strikes across the world.She said: “This is further proof Labour would undermine everything that had made our country successful. They are anti-aspiration, anti-enterprise and anti-worker. “Instead of focusing on what matters like the growing the economy, creating jobs and boosting wages, John McDonnell would bring Britain to its knees with permanent strikes disrupting travel, schools and the NHS.” – The Sun

Labour promises to repeal Vagrancy Act

“Begging would be decriminalised under a Labour government, Jeremy Corbyn has said. The party would repeal the Vagrancy Act 1824, which criminalises begging and rough sleeping. Its powers were used almost 3,000 times in 2016 to bring criminal charges. The priority of a Labour government would be to support rather than prosecute people who were sleeping rough or begging, Mr Corbyn said. Repealing the legislation would mean that police would no longer be able to make arrests in response to complaints of aggressive or antisocial street begging.” – The Times

Corbynista withdraws backing for Holocaust denier

“An ally of Jeremy Corbyn has today been forced to say sorry twice after he defended an alleged anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. Chris Williamson was forced into two humiliating apologies after he signed and shared a petition to allow Gilad Atzmon, who is also a jazz musician, to perform at a council venue. The MP for Derby North, who has been a staunch supporter of the Labour boss during the ongoing row over anti-Semitism, tweeted a petition asking the council to look again at the case. But he was forced to say sorry when it was revealed he’s not just a member of a band but a known anti-Semite.” – The Sun

  • Corbyn “wants Pidcock to be his successor” – Daily Mail

Rise in the number of young families becoming homeowners

“Home ownership among young families is rising for the first time in 30 years but is still well behind the levels of the 1980s, research has revealed. The number of home owning families where the oldest member is aged between 25 and 34 has risen by 3 per cent since dropping to 25 per cent in 2016, according to the Resolution Foundation think tank. Analysts said that this was the equivalent of an extra 190,000 young families owning a home this Christmas. However, they said that if homeownership levels had not slipped from their 1980s peak, an additional 1.4 million more young families would be homeowners today. The level is less than half that of the late 1980s, say researchers.” – The Times

Mattis resigned “after Trump refused to listen”, over troop numbers in Afghanistan

“President Trump has decided to withdraw half the 14,000 US troops stationed in Afghanistan, despite almost daily Taliban attacks. The surprise reversal of tactics in what is America’s longest-running war coincides with his sudden decision this week to pull out all 2,000 American troops in Syria, and contributed to the resignation of Jim Mattis as defence secretary on Thursday, officials said. Mr Trump has defended the Syrian withdrawal, but there was no confirmation of the Afghanistan move from the White House. However, US officials said yesterday that up to 7,000 troops could return home by the summer; a reversal of approach from June 2017 when Mr Trump boosted troop numbers from 8,400 to the current level.” – The Times

>Yesterday: MPsETC: “My views on treating allies with respect…are strongly held.” Mattis’ resignation letter: full text

Scruton’s Christmas message

“Philosophy has been, for me, both a therapy and a consolation. I agree with the great Socrates that “the unexamined life is not a life for a human being”. And I look with gratitude on philosophy, which was not a way of life that I chose, but a way of life by which I was chosen, and from which I have never turned back. And if I ask myself what good that has done for others, I can only reply that the joy I take in understanding things is also a joy that I seek to communicate. If others, reading the result, are consoled by it, then that is the best I can do; and if they dislike it, as so many of them do, Happy Christmas to them, anyway.” – Roger Scruton, Daily Telegraph

Aitken: Why I’ve gone back to prison

“For the past six months, I have been working as a prison chaplain at HMP Pentonville and a curate at St Matthew’s Church, Westminster. And there is never a dull moment in either establishment….When I do my rounds on the wings of HMP Pentonville, sometimes I am greeted with the ‘V’ sign or shouts of ‘Wotcha Father Pie!’ (pie and liquor = vicar in con-speak)…In reply, I play my trump card and say: ‘But I am an ex-prisoner. I have been where you now are.’ Springing that surprise often starts a dialogue with troubled individuals who appreciate a touch of kindness and a prayer for themselves or their families.” – Jonathan Aitken, Daily Mail

News in brief

  • The feeble response to the Gatwick drone will encourage others to cause havoc – Ross Clark, The Spectator
  • Britain is regaining control over immigration – but do the public care? – Matt Singh, Cap X
  • Middle Eastern Wars and the US alliance – John Redwood
  • It’s no crime to come late to Dostoyevsky – Douglas Murray, Unherd
  • Mattis resignation shows the Trump presidency is collapsing – Iain Martin, Reaction