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Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.

I spent much of Monday afternoon in the Commons catching up with a few MPs. Ok, Ok – it was a massive gossip session. Very useful for getting some background info on what the next Brexit developments are likely to be.

I did have one rather disconcerting experience, though. I was walking past the tables reserved for MPs when I spied one who I have known for years and always enjoyed sharing a few words with.

The MP looked up, I smiled in acknowledgement and went to start a conversation, but the MP immediately looked down at their phone without any sign of acknowledgement at all. I was officially blanked.

I’m sure the fact that this MP is the archest of arch-remainers and no doubt sees me as the Brexit-supporting enemy had nothing to do with it…what a state of affairs.

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Like many in Westminster, I was delighted to hear that Beth Rigby has been appointed to succeed Faisal Islam as political editor of Sky News. She’s a brilliant story-getter and has adapted to a broadcast role incredibly quickly, having been a print journalist for many years.

She won’t be starting her new job until May because, I gather, Islam is on a very long notice period which Sky News has decided to enforce. She beat off a lot of competition for the role, including two very well-known names in political journalism. I think she’ll be excellent in the role.

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At some point in the not-too-distant future everyone in the political media is going to start to obsess about the date on which Theresa May will announce she’s quitting.

So let me get ahead of the pack. I have always thought that she would go fairly soon after we (ostensibly) leave the EU on March 29th. But since Conservative backbenchers can’t now force her departure until the end of the year, it’s highly possible that she many stay on quite a bit longer than that.

One senior Tory told me he expects herr to announce her departure at this year’s Party conference, with the leadership contest concluding in January 2020. It’s a reasonable prediction but, if that is truly the plan, may I suggest that in early April she conducts a Cabinet reshuffle to enable all the potential contenders to test themselves properly?

This would entail Penny Mordaunt being given a big department, Philip Hammond being replaced by Michael Gove and Dominic Raab being brought back into the Cabinet. That last one might be a stretch, but the Party needs to be given a wide choice of candidates. I could argue the same thing about Boris Johnson, but it’s difficult to see how he could be brought back in any position which he would accept.

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Why do some people pronounce Brexit as ‘Brecksit’ and others ‘Breggsit’? I’m in the former camp, but there seems to be no rhyme nor reason as to which camp someone falls into. Any explanation?

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I doubt whether anyone believes that the prospects of a deal with the EU in advance of March 29th have been enhanced this week. Donald Tusk’s merry little jape on Wednesday was clearly calculated to spook Theresa May on the day before she arrived for several hours of apparently fruitless talks with the Commission.

Despite pressure from several member states, the Commission shows now sign of budging on the backstop and, if that continues, I can see no way for anything to pass through the Commons.

ERGers were also spooked by May’s words in Belfast, where she said that she is trying to amend the backstop rather than abolish it altogether. Cue Mark Francois almost self-combusting. As of today, there are 48 days to go until we are supposed to formally leave the EU. The odds on that happening reduce by the day. Just as Brussels has planned…

229 comments for: Iain Dale: Replace Hammond with Gove, promote Mordaunt, bring back Raab

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