Bradley ‘retains May’s confidence’ as DUP oppose Chequers

When Theresa May insisted on promoting another of her small band of ex-Home Office loyalists to the Northern Irish post in Cabinet, it looked at first glance as if it might be a token of how seriously she was taking the position.

But now that Karen Bradley has, like James Brokenshire before her, likely demolished her credibility after some frank admissions about her knowledge of Ulster, that idea seems harder to sustain.

Nonetheless, the Northern Irish Secretary apparently retains the confidence of the Prime Minister and will continue in post, sending a strong signal that the Government won’t be changing its “wait-and-pray” approach to resolving the collapse of devolved government in the Province.

It’s not all bad news, however: Bradley has finally done what Brokenshire should have done months ago and cut MLAs’ pay. Until now, they have continued to draw full salary even whilst the Northern Ireland Assembly isn’t sitting.

The Democratic Unionists have been quick to respond, and the Belfast Telegraph reports that they have called for Sinn Fein’s absentee MPs to have their pay slashed on the same basis. To date the Government has shown no appetite for putting any pressure on the republican party’s finances, however, even though questions have been raised over several of its income sources.

Bradley has been separately criticised for saying that an amnesty for British soldiers who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles would be a “bad idea”, according to the News Letter, on the grounds that it would require similar treatment for IRA terrorists (although many of these received de facto amnesties already, as the ‘comfort letter’ scandal illustrated). Johnny Mercer also pressed the Prime Minister to take action to prevent ex-servicemen being ‘dragged through the courts’.

Davies wins Welsh Conservative leadership contest…

Paul Davies has won the contest to succeed Andrew RT Davies as leader of the Tory group in the Welsh Assembly. The Preseli Pembrokeshire AM beat challenger Suzy Davies by a two-to-one margin on a 52 per cent turnout.

Speaking after the results were declared, Davies said that: “We have a duty at the next assembly elections to offer the people of Wales a progressive, innovative and, yes, radical alternative to more of the same”, and Wales Online reports his saying that the party has a “mountain to climb”.

Davies, who was widely considered the front-runner and a safe pair of hands, has pledged to run a ‘diverse’ field of candidates for the next Assembly elections in 2021, in a bit to reverse setbacks for the Tories in 2017 and 2016. He also reiterated his determination to give Welsh Conservative members a say on any coalition agreement the party might strike in future.

Prospects of an anti-Labour coalition between the Tories and Plaid Cymru may be boosted by the latter’s own leadership race: Leanne Wood, the stridently left-wing nationalist leader who absolutely rules out cooperation between the two parties, looks like she’s on the way out.

He also wants to push for greater autonomy for the Welsh party, although as the BBC points out the Prime Minister’s congratulatory message doesn’t hold out much hope of that.

…amidst allegations of a stitch-up in the Labour one

Wales Online reports that a fierce, behind-the-scenes battle is raging within Welsh Labour over fears that the contest to succeed Carwyn Jones as First Minister could be tainted by a stitch-up.

Members of the Welsh Executive Committee (WEC) are preparing for a special conference intended to resolve a bitter dispute over what voting system should be used.

Advocates of One Member One Vote (OMOV), who want to follow the UK and Scottish parties in abolishing the electoral college, fear that delegates may be blocked from voting for the measure, despite it commanding the support of at least three quarters of Wales’ 40 Constituency Labour Parties.

Lord Murphy, a Labour peer, has prepared a report outlining two possible replacements: either a reformed electoral college or ‘OMOV+’, wherein members of affiliated trades unions and socialist societies also get one vote. However, he has advised against both proposals being put to conference, leaving it to the WEC to decide which is put to the ballot.

In other Welsh Labour news, Jones himself has penned an op-ed in the Times calling for the UK to pursue an EU-style structure with its own ‘council of ministers’. The First Minister is one of the most strenuous – and least plausible – peddlers of the ‘fragile Union’ myth, and remains determined to use Brexit to extort more powers from Westminster.

Meanwhile the inquiry into the death of Carl Sargeant, the Welsh Government minister who took his own life after being sacked by Jones, has been suspended whilst his widow mounts a bid for a judicial review. She is angry that at present Sargeant’s family will have no legal representation and won’t be able to cross-examine witnesses.

SNP to hold ‘day of action’ over independence

The Scottish Nationalists are planning to hold a ‘national day of action’ on independence later this month, according to today’s Scotsman, in a bid to take ‘the temperature of the nation’ on the question.

Apparently MPs, MSPs, and activists will be tasked with speaking to 50,000 voters on September 29th. It certainly has the troops: apparently the SNP recently overtook the Conservatives to become the UK’s second-largest political party, with 125,000 members to the Tories’ 124,000.

Nationalist activists will also be encouraged to find out people’s views of the Growth Commission report, the party’s bid to build a new economic case for independence which was rubbished by experts. Elsewhere this week the CBI warned the SNP that business is opposed to calls for the devolution of immigration powers to Scotland.