web analytics
a

Facebook

Twitter

Copyright 2015 Libero Themes.
All Rights Reserved.

8:30 - 6:00

Our Office Hours Mon. - Fri.

703-406-7616

Call For Free 15/M Consultation

Facebook

Twitter

Search
Menu
Westlake Legal Group > David Mundell MP

Henry Hill: Wallace rejects amnesty for Ulster veterans, but wants inquiries restrained

Wallace rejects amnesty for soldiers but wants inquiries curbed

This week Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, revealed that he is opposed to offering an amnesty to members of the Armed Forces who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

Whilst arguing that they should receive “the very best legal advice and support”, the former Security Minister is reportedly concerned that any amnesty would also need to be extended to paramilitaries and terrorists. According to the Times, he said:

“We must make sure we don’t let off the hook the murderers that are still out there and need to be hunted down and convicted of the killings that they took part in.”

This will be controversial due to the previous scandal over so-called ‘comfort letters’, which were issued by the Blair Government and are widely viewed to have given a de facto amnesty to IRA terrorists. They came to light after collapsing the trial of John Downey, who was being prosecuted over his role in the Hyde Park bombing.

However, Wallace did offer ex-servicemen some hope. The Daily Mail reports that he doesn’t want any new investigations to proceed unless actual new evidence emerges against individual soldiers. He also stated that he did not intend to allow the history books to be ‘rewritten’, and that the Armed Forces should be proud of what they achieved in Ulster.

This is addressed directly at the concerns of many unionists, who worry that the historical inquiries process is unfairly targeting the Army and Royal Ulster Constabulary and thus bolstering a republican narrative of the Troubles.

Labour’s civil war on the Union deepens

Last week, I wrote about how John McDonnell had opened a rift in the Labour Party over their stance on a second Scottish independence referendum.

In what looked like a fairly shameless bid to woo the SNP, the Shadow Chancellor announced that a Corbyn-led government would not stand in the way of a second referendum.

This sparked huge controversy because McDonnell appeared to be unilaterally re-writing Labour policy on the issue – and cutting Scottish Labour off at the knees to boot.

Although he initially doubled down on his remarks, this week opened with Labour officially ruling out entering into any formal alliance with the Nationalists to oust the Tories, instead committing to governing as a minority government in such circumstances.

If true, this suggests a remarkable amount of strategic incoherence. Such an announcement is unlikely to undo the damage McDonnell has likely done to Labour’s standing with its unionist voters, whilst ruling out an alliance appears to rule out any potential dividend from his actions. Of course, it does invite us to speculate as to what constitutes a ‘formal alliance’…

Meanwhile the Scottish party has condemned the national leadership, and Labour MSPs have vowed to ignore the Shadow Chancellor’s new policy – although left-wing allies of McDonnell hit back at ‘kamikaze unionists’ in a leak to a separatist site. The surprise departure of Brian Roy, the General Secretary of Scottish Labour, added to the turmoil.

On the Tory front, David Mundell has cropped up to suggest that it would be very difficult for the Government to resist legislating for a second referendum in the event that separatist parties won a majority at the 2021 Scottish election. (He is mistaken.) Meanwhile a poll found that only two fifths of Scottish voters think another referendum should be granted in the next five years.

Salmond paid half a million by the Scottish Government

It is often suggested that Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP pursue independence so vociferously in part to distract from the hash they are making of governing Scotland. This week provides yet another raft of embarrassing headlines which lend weight to that suspicion.

First, and most shockingly, it emerged that the Scottish Government has paid out almost half a million pounds to Alex Salmond, the former First Minister, over its mishandling of its official inquiry into allegations of sexual misconduct levelled against him. This money was to cover his legal costs after he mounted a successful legal challenge on the matter.

That case is separate to the criminal case against the former SNP leader, who is charged with two attempted rapes, nine sexual assaults and two indecent assaults. He denies all wrongdoing, but the case remains a time bomb ticking under the Scottish Government – Sturgeon was Salmond’s protege, and it was her administration that presided over the botched inquiry into his conduct.

If that weren’t enough, elsewhere this week we learn that once again the Nationalists’ university fees policy has seen Scottish pupils missing out on places offered to applicants from elsewhere in the United Kingdom; the SNP Health Secretary has announced that an embattled £150 million hospital may not be open by the end of 2020, following concerns about the construction process and reviews of its safety; and a pro-Nationalist business magnate is furious that the Scottish Government may be about to nationalise a shipyard he rescued.

This week in commentary

There has been quite a bit of interesting commentary on Union-related issues this week, so rather than scatter them throughout the rest of the column I’ve collated them here.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Jeremy Warner suggests that Brexit has made Scottish independence more difficult (only two years after ConHome considered that point proven, but still). Rather than be bullish about the implications of this he chooses to finish on a maudlin note, but that’s unionism for you.

From his new vantage point at the Atlantic, the excellent Tom McTague (formerly of Politico) sets out why Brexiteers are right to be deeply concerned about the Irish backstop. The analysis isn’t perfect, but it’s a rare sympathetic take on the pro-UK position.

In the Scotsman, Brian Monteith – now a Brexit Party MEP – suggests that Ruth Davidson’s decisions have imperilled the UK, whilst Paul Hutcheon writes in the Herald that the biggest threat to the Union is Scottish Labour’s collapse.

Finally, Iain Martin has decided that the way to save the UK is radical constitutional reform including devolution to England, a senate, and the rest. As is traditional for advocates of this position, he appears to just assume it will work, and makes no attempt to explain why identical assumptions about the last two decades of the devolution project have all come to nothing. Sigh.

News in Brief:

  • Varadkar ‘opposed to direct rule’ as he prepares to meet Johnson – iNews
  • Controversial cybernat blogger to launch new separatist party – The Times
  • Lib Dems and Greens to join anti-Brexit alliance with Plaid – The Spectator
  • SDLP sparks row after querying Union Flags on Tesco fruit – Belfast Telegraph
  • Scottish Court to hear ‘fast-tracked’ legal challenge to Brexit – FT
  • Ex-Plaid leader criticised over comments on carrying knives – The Sun
  • RBS ‘will move to England’ in the event of independence – The Scotsman

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Henry Hill: Tories hope that ‘Boris bounce’ will save them in Brecon and Radnorshire

Welsh voters go to the polls in Brecon and Radnorshire by-election

Boris Johnson faces his first electoral test as Prime Minister today as Welsh voters head to the polls in a by-election which could cut his razor-thin Commons majority even further.

Despite speculation that he might avoid visiting Brecon and Radnorshire, where the incumbent Chris Davies is expected to lose after being successfully recalled over his expenses, the Daily Telegraph reveals that the Prime Minister committed to campaigning there within minutes of winning the Tory leadership.

Moreover, despite the candidate himself being accused of ducking hustings, word on the ground is that the Conservatives might have done better than expected.

Liberal Democrats are reportedly concerned that the sheer size of the rural seat has prevented them applying their usual ‘pavement-pounding’ tactics to full effect, and the party’s failure to manage expectations has elevated the contest to ‘must-win’ territory. Tories have also been given hope by the ‘Boris bounce’, a polling boost which has put them ahead of Labour in Wales’ Westminster voting intention as the Opposition record their lowest-ever result.

In fact, Labour appear to be being squeezed from both directions, losing poll position to the Conservatives at Westminster and to Plaid Cymru, the nationalists, at the Assembly. Mark Drakeford, Labour’s small-n nationalist First Minister, has responded to the latter by desperately trying to drum up the threat of independence.

Apart from illustrating once again the absurdity of claiming that devolution has weakened the separatists and strengthened the UK, the sharp divergence between these two Welsh polls also highlights a point I previously raised in my analysis of the Welsh Tories’ struggles at the Assembly: lots of pro-UK, pro-Tory voters don’t turn out for devolved elections. Leaning into this devocrats’ playground, which is the inclination of the current Assembly leadership, risks leaving space for a more committedly unionist party to start eating their vote.

But as we know, devocrat narratives exist independently of evidence or experience. Thus, two years after I asked whether Remainers would ever admit that Brexit was clearly proving much better for the Union than they had allowed, we have the Guardian’s Martin Kettle asking if Johnson might not end up being the handmaid of, of all things, Welsh independence. Spoiler: no.

Johnson vows not to be neutral on the Union as he woos the DUP

Wales wasn’t the only part of the UK to feature in the Prime Minister’s whistle-stop tour this week. He also visited Scotland (of which more below) and Northern Ireland.

His efforts in Ulster appear to break down into a few broad categories. First, the inevitable exercise in trying to get Stormont back on its feet. Second, providing another opportunity to square off against Leo Varadkar over the question of the backstop. Third, nurturing his relationship with the Government’s Democratic Unionist allies.

Devolution isn’t coming back anytime soon, and nobody seems to have squandered many column inches suggesting otherwise. At the very least, Sinn Fein have no reason to re-establish the Northern Ireland Assembly until Westminster has imposed liberalising moves on abortion and same-sex marriage.

Johnson’s tough line with Dublin hasn’t changed – and Owen Polley has mounted a strong case for it on CapX this week – but it has led to a fresh confrontation with Sinn Fein after the republicans demanded a referendum on Northern Ireland’s accession to the Republic in the event of a no-deal Brexit. They also warned the Prime Minister not to be the DUP’s ‘gofer’, picking up earlier criticisms about the close working relationship between the two parties.

In response, the Prime Minister hit back by insisting that he would never be neutral on the Union – echoing David Cameron’s language on the subject – and he denied being complacent about the peace process.

He also held a private meeting with senior DUP figures, including Arlene Foster, their leader, Nigel Dodds, who heads up their Westminster group, and Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, their Commons chief whip. The former First Minister insisted that the terms of the two parties’ cooperation were not discussed, although as I wrote yesterday they will surely be renegotiated sooner rather than later.

If so, the DUP should press the Prime Minister on his commitment to protect ex-servicemen who served in Northern Ireland. This week Julian Smith, Johnson’s uninspiring choice of Northern Irish Secretary, refused to endorse his leader’s promises on the question. Has he gone native already, at a Government ministry already accused of ‘pandering to republicans’?

Johnson and Davidson call a truce in the face of separatists within and without

Not to be left out, Scotland also witnessed its first visit of Johnson’s premiership. Here his mission was not only to face down Nicola Sturgeon but also to try and mend relations with Ruth Davidson and the Scottish Tories, who are reportedly furious after his decision to dismiss David Mundell from the Cabinet.

He hit a bad note on both fronts by ignoring his Scottish leader’s warning not to attend on the First Minister at her official residence, Bute House. This gave nationalist activists the opportunity to stage a protest and boo Johnson for the cameras, an act immediately (and inevitably) interpreted by pro-Remain commentators as a spontaneous and organic event.

Nonetheless, media reports suggest that the two Tories have managed to put together a “fragile truce”. Davidson is striking a tough line against a no-deal Brexit but, as has been pointed out elsewhere, as she isn’t in Cabinet she isn’t required to support it. Furthermore Adam Tomkins, an MSP and close ally of Davidson, has taken to Twitter to set out that the Scottish Conservatives nonetheless agree that we must leave the EU in October. ‘Pursuing’ a no-deal exit is not the same as ‘preparing’ for one.

Meanwhile, Murdo Fraser and Andy Maciver have got their 2011 band back together and once again started pushing to split the Scottish Conservatives away from the UK party. This comes off the back of several articles by Stephen Daisley in which Tory sources – almost certainly MSPs – suggest that the Holyrood (and presumably local government) divisions of the Party could split off. Coincidentally, that is also Fraser and Maciver’s new proposal.

This has the air of a solution in search of a problem – it was supposed to be the only path to a centre-right revival in Scotland until Ruth Davidson delivered one by doing precisely the opposite -but the new plan is at least less damaging to the Union than the 2011 proposal, which involved taking the MPs with it and which I made the case against on CapX this week. However, the idea that ‘federalism’ will save the UK getting another airing this week – in the Daily Telegraph, of all places.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Henry Hill: What Johnson’s reshuffle means for Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland

Boris Johnson has kicked off his premiership with one of the most brutal reshuffles in modern political history. But amidst all the bloodshed, what does it mean for the ‘Territorial Offices’: Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland?

Of the three Secretaries of State for the devolved nations, Alun Cairns is the only one to continue to serve in the new administration. On the face of it this looks like quite a feat, given that he campaigned to Remain in 2016 – but as we point out elsewhere this morning, one’s stance on Brexit is less important at the minute than one’s stance on Johnson.

Cairns staying in post means that he can continue to counter the efforts of Mark Drakeford, the small-n nationalist First Minister of Wales, to use Brexit to try and wring more constitutional concessions out of London. In particular there is a fight brewing over Johnson’s plans to replace EU grants with a Westminster-operated ‘Shared Prosperity Fund’, which devocrats fear will increase the role of the British Government in devolved nations.

During the leadership election, Cairns called on whoever won to set up a dedicated Downing Street team focused on protecting the Union. Let’s hope his new boss heeds that advice.

At the Northern Irish Office, meanwhile, Johnson’s decision is surprising and, if we’re honest, disappointing. Whilst he has cleared the extraordinarily low bar set by Jeremy Hunt, who proposed to keep the disastrous Karen Bradley in post, Julian Smith is not the man I would have chosen to send to this crucial ministry at this particular hour.

Whilst there is an argument to be made that Smith will have important first-hand experience dealing with the Democratic Unionists due to his service as Chief Whip, there is little evidence that his relationship with them is particularly good. As Sam McBride points out, this is the third pro-Remain Ulster Secretary in a row, and Smith has clashed with the DUP over the backstop. He is scarcely the man to take the fight to those spinning for Dublin in the British, Irish, and European press.

This is especially disappointing because earlier reports suggested that the position was hotly contested, with the Sun reporting that “one of the most hotly fought spats is over who will get the Cabinet job of Northern Ireland Secretary.” Gavin Williamson, who negotiated the original Conservative/DUP pact in 2017, was said to be contending with Conor Burns, who would be the first-ever Northern Irish-born Roman Catholic to serve in the role.

Instead, the position seems once again to have been used as somewhere to place a minister you need to put in the Cabinet – and a role for the former Chief Whip must probably always be found – but for whatever reason don’t want to give something with a higher profile. We must hope that, should Johnson win an autumn election, he takes the opportunity to appoint someone else.

Finally, Scotland. The decision to dismiss David Mundell is an interesting one, because the former Scottish Secretary was a close ally of Ruth Davidson and the decision has reportedly strained relations (yet further…) between the new Prime Minister and the leader of the Scottish Conservatives.

Of course, there is definitely a case for a fresh face at the Scottish Office. Notwithstanding any criticism of Mundell’s tenure, and he does have his critics, it is a simple fact that he has served in the post for nine years – and for seven of them he was the Party’s only Scottish MP. A happy consequence of the 2017 breakthrough is that Johnson now has a much broader pool to draw on when it comes to staffing the Scottish Office.

There is also the fact that Mundell was one of those Secretaries of State who defied the whip on Brexit issues under Theresa May. If Johnson is looking to assert his authority, cracking down on such conduct was almost inevitable.

Although he has a lower profile than some other members of the 2017 intake, Jack is a well-respected and long-serving figure in the Scottish Conservatives. He also holds his borders seat – once the only Tory seat in Scotland from 2001 to 2005 – with a relatively healthy majority of over 5,600 votes. Perhaps most importantly, he voted Leave in 2016.

With Stephen Daisley reporting that certain anonymous “allies of Ruth Davidson” are once again talking up the prospect of splitting off the Scottish Tories – a scheme the woman herself has always rejected in no uncertain terms – Jack’s appointment once again highlights the tensions between their Westminster caucus and the Conservative leadership in Edinburgh. Given that this Government owes its existence to the Scottish Conservatives’ revival, Johnson and his allies must treat them with respect and take their concerns seriously.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

ConHome’s Ministerial recommendations: how did we do and what did we learn?

Here is our recommended Cabinet list from June 21.

  • On the credit side, Boris Johnson’s appointments and our recommendations coincided in four cases.  Sajid Javid became Chancellor of the Exchequer; Robert Buckland (pictured), Justice Secretary; Nicky Morgan, Culture Secretary and James Cleverly, Party Chairman.
  • He also kept Matt Hancock as Health, as we advised, plus Natalie Evans as Leader of the Lords, Alun Cairns as Wales Secretary and Geoffrey Cox as Attorney-General.
  • We recommended the following new or returned Cabinet members. Dominic Raab as Brexit Secretary (he was appointed Foreign Secretary).  Alok Sharma, as Work and Pensions Secretary (he was made International Development Secretary).  Theresa Villiers, as Northern Ireland Secretary (she was appointed Environment Secretary).  Gavin Williamson as Transport Secretary (he was made Education Secretary). Andrea Leadsom, as Commons Leader (she was appointed Business Secretary).
  • That’s four successes and nine part-successes.

– – – – – – – – – –

  • On the debit side, the following Ministers who we recommended for promotion or retention were dismissed: Liam Fox, Penny Mordaunt, Damian Hinds and David Mundell.
  • And the following Ministers or backbenchers who we suggested be promoted to Cabinet were not: Steve Baker, Kit Malthouse, George Eustice and Greg Hands.
  • That’s eight failures.

– – – – – – – – – –

  • Of that final group, five of the eight were Leavers. But only one of them, Malthouse, voted for Johnson – and that after he himself expressed an interest in standing.  A reminder that the most reliable key to promotion in this shuffle wasn’t having backed Leave in the referendum – it was supporting Johnson in the leadership election.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

The 17 Conservative MPs who rebelled against the Government on prorogation – and the ministers who failed to vote

In this afternoon’s defeat on the amendment intended to prevent prorogation of Parliament, 17 Conservative MPs rebelled against the government, while several ministers did not vote. One minister – Margot James – resigned after rebelling. The Government lost by 315-274.

Here are the 17 rebels:

Guto Bebb

Steve Brine

Alistair Burt

Jonathan Djanogly

Justine Greening

Dominic Grieve

Sam Gyimah

Richard Harrington

Margot James

Phillip Lee

Jeremy Lefroy

Oliver Letwin

Paul Masterton

Sarah Newton

Antoinette Sandbach

Keith Simpson

Ed Vaizey

James’s resignation adds one to the tally of the ‘awkward squad’ a new Prime Minister will have to tackle – and it is that factor, and how it erodes the Government’s majority, which raises the chances of a General Election, more than an obstacle to prorogation in itself.

One Labour MP, Kate Hoey, rebelled to vote with the Government. Ian Austin, a former Labour MP sitting as an independent, voted the same way.

As ever, we must be careful in how we report on those who do not vote. Not voting is not necessarily a deliberate abstention. Sometimes MPs are ill or absent with family crises, ministers in particular often have aspects of their jobs that take them away from Westminster or out of the country without permission, and so on.

There are at least two such examples today. Karen Bradley didn’t vote, but she is in Northern Ireland on a planned trip. Jeremy Hunt didn’t vote either, but he has official permission from the Whips due to the leadership contest (Boris Johnson has this permission too, but he did vote with the Government nonetheless).

However, we do know that some Cabinet ministers are willing to deliberately defy the whip, and openly snub collective responsibility. I warned when they first did so back in March that allowing it to pass without consequence would simply lead to further breaches, and it seems almost certain that this is what has happened.

Of those who defied the whip in March, David Mundell and Amber Rudd fell into line and obeyed it today, while Greg Clark and David Gauke repeated their stand and did not vote. They were joined in their absence by Alan Duncan, Rory Stewart, and, most outrageously of all, Philip Hammond.

It’s hard to imagine a starker illustration of the utter dysfunction the May era has wrought than a Chancellor of the Exchequer junking collective responsibility while hanging onto office for as long as possible. Strangely the Prime Minister’s ‘final speech’ yesterday on the topic of “the state of politics” did not reflect on her own contribution to the problem.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Johnson’s August 1) He must spend some time in Scotland

It is now overwhelmingly likely that Boris Johnson will be the next Conservative Party leader and become Prime Minister.

He may well face a no confidence vote in September, and the Brexit extension expires at the end of October in any event.

So he and his new team will have to hit the ground running in August. We open today a brief series on what he should do during that month and late July before the Commons is due to return on September 3.

– – – – – – – – – –

Today’s papers suggest that the new Prime Minister will visit Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron – it apparently isn’t yet decided in what order – and seek to visit Donald Trump early in search of a UK – US trade deal.

He will also have to go to Dublin to make personal contact with Leo Varadkar – testing and perhaps fruitless though such a trip may be.

One can begin to see from the number of journeys that Johnson will have to make from Downing Street that he will need a strong team, with perhaps a Deputy Prime Minister or First Secretary of State in place, and certainly a capable Minister at the Cabinet Office, to run much of the Government’s new domestic policy in his absence.

The new Prime Minister shouldn’t be out of London more than is absolutely necessary – after all, the Iran standoff may suddenly flare up, in the manner of August foreign policy crises – but he will surely have to find time for a trip to Scotland.

There is evidence that his ratings in Scotland are weak; much of the Scottish Conservative Party will have voted for Jeremy Hunt; Ruth Davidson is not a fan, the SNP would undoubtedly use any No Deal Brexit to make a new push for Scottish independence – and Scottish Parliamentary elections are due in 2021.

In short, the threat to the Union “hasn’t gone away, you know”, and the new Prime Minister must seek to head some of the trouble off.  His main downside seems to be that he is seen in parts of Scotland as quintessentially English figure.

But the same could be said of almost any Tory successor to Theresa May, including Jeremy Hunt.  And some Scottish MPs and MSPs have broken for the front-runner.  Ross Thomson, Colin Clark, Douglas Ross and Andrew Bowie are now signed up.

The last is May’s PPS, and will be a useful guide to Scotland for the new Prime Minister.  Thomson is a long-standing supporter.  One of Johnson’s first decisions will be what to do with David Mundell, the experienced Scotland Secretary, who along with several of his colleagues backed Michael Gove.

Three MSPs  – Michelle Ballantyne, Margaret Mitchell and Oliver Mundell – are also doing so, though they are very much in a minority in their group.  Mundell explained his reasons recently on this site.

Johnson has dropped his original wish to recast the Barnett formula, and will now seek to be styled Minister for the Union as well as Prime Minister.

But he will need to do much more than that if he is help bolster the Union early – and rebuff claims of indulging in mere Red-White-And-Bluewash.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Henry Hill: Westminster legislating for Northern Ireland sets a useful precedent for the DUP

DUP accepts Westminster changing abortion and same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland

Sam McBride writes for the Independent that the Government’s parliamentary allies, the Democratic Unionist Party, show no sign of causing ministers much difficulty over the Commons legislating for the Province on social issues.

Although the socially-conservative party is formally opposed to extending same-sex marriage or legal abortion to Ulster, in truth many of its modernisers will be quietly pleased that these particular boils have been lanced without the Party having to risk alienating its core support by being directly involved.

Moreover, as I explained in last week’s column, the DUP will also be very pleased that MPs have blown such a large hole in the Government’s increasingly threadbare case for refusing to introduce wholesale direct rule. Just about the only remaining justification for the Northern Irish Office’s current non-solution of letting the civil service govern Northern Ireland without democratic oversight has been the relative consistency with which ministers have stuck to it.

Now that Parliament has acted directly to take important decisions in the absence of a devolved administration (and the passage of these amendments means that it is now certain not to return before their October 21 deadline, as doing so could block the reforms), it will be much harder to justify refusing to step in again. Noted unionist blogger Owen Polley has set out in a piece for the Article some areas which could do with ministerial attention.

However John Larkin, the Northern Irish Attorney General, has raised concerns about the drafting of the abortion amendment, drafted by Stella Creasy and overwhelmingly passed by MPs, according to the News Letter. He reportedly feels that it is “is unclear and inconsistent with important human rights texts”. Lord Duncan, an NIO minister, appears to share his concerns and has hinted that the Government may try to push back the deadline.

By contrast to their relative quiescence on these issues, the DUP have not been shy about naming their price in other areas. This week Nigel Dodds, the leader of the party’s Westminster group, indicated that they were rowing behind the Sun’s campaign on behalf of veterans and would make policies for ex-servicemen and women part of the next confidence and supply deal. Unionist concern at the handling of so-called ‘legacy investigations’ into soldiers remains high.

Hunt urges Johnson to rule out more powers for Holyrood…

The Herald reports that Jeremy Hunt has called on Boris Johnson to ‘draw a line under devolution’ and rule out any new tax powers for the Scottish Parliament, in the same week that he himself pledged not to approve a second referendum on Scottish independence even in the event of a separatist majority at the 2021 Holyrood elections.

Amidst reports that the underdog is hoping to run up a “big win” north of the border, where local Tories are reportedly deeply wary of what a Johnson premiership might been for their political recovery, a story resurfaced that Johnson once asked Nicola Sturgeon if full fiscal autonomy – a confederal arrangement wherein Scotland would have its own Treasury – would “buy off” the SNP.

This comes in the same week that Lord Forsyth, the former Secretary of State for Scotland and far-sighted opponent of devolution, wrote in the Daily Telegraph that the real threat to the Union lay in constantly giving the nationalists and devocrats more powers. Stephen Daisley also penned a magisterial piece (for which I even got a little credit) for the Scottish Daily Mail on the same theme – it has been a good week for devosceptics.

…as First Minister of Wales picks new fight on ‘devolved powers’…

Meanwhile Mark Drakeford, the strongly-nationalist but technically-Labour First Minister of Wales, has attacked both candidates’ plans to replace EU funding with a UK-operated Shared Prosperity Fund.

Drakeford, who has stated that he views the UK as essentially a non-sovereign confederation, claims that Johnson’s intention for there to be a “strong Conservative influence” over the funding contradicts Labour’s motto of “Not a penny lost, not a power stolen” by suggesting a shift in power back towards London, the BBC reports.

This would, of course, be a very good thing, and entirely in line with the aims of Theresa May’s legacy-building devolution inquiry of finding ways to enhance the role of the British Government in the devolved territories. Neither Johnson nor Hunt should flinch from taking Drakeford – who has declared his party’s support for the UK to be ‘conditional’ – head-on.

…and Lidington and Mundell warn of danger to Union

On the other side of the argument, David Lidington warned this week that English ‘apathy’ about the United Kingdom risked breaking it up. According to the Times, he said:

“In England, I think that there is an indifference to the Union; a sense of taking it for granted. It is something that is there as part of the landscape rather than something that you’ve really got to make a conscious effort to work to sustain.”

David Mundell, the Scottish Secretary, also warned that a no-deal exit might strengthen the hand of the separatists in Scotland and Northern Ireland – even as his son Oliver, an MSP, has endorsed Johnson on this site on the basis that he will “deliver Brexit and secure the Union”.

Johnson has pledged this week to prioritise keeping the UK together over Brexit, although we must stress again that on the available evidence that isn’t the choice.

News in Brief:

  • Barclay warns that no-deal exit will harm Ireland more than the UK – Daily Telegraph
  • Dublin admits it will impose border checks under a no-deal scenario – The Sun
  • Reality intrudes on the Irish Government’s Brexit game plan – Irish Times
  • Johnson pledges £160 million ‘back payments’ to Scottish farmers – Daily Telegraph
  • SNP MP has made citizens’ assembly ‘ten times harder’, says adviser – The Herald
  • Davidson lashes out at Labour for letting unions set its Brexit policy – Daily Express

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Johnson is set to face an early general election. His Cabinet must be ruthlessly shaped to fight it – on a No Deal platform.

Conventional Cabinet-forming means representing as wide a Party spectrum as possible, and sending Ministers to departments that they will hopefully run for several years.

The unique circumstances that Boris Johnson will face in a month or so, if as expected he wins this Conservative leadership election, require tearing up that usual wisdom – and taking risks.

No Deal is not Johnson’s preferred option (nor should it be).  But we will all know whether he is prepared ultimately to lead Britain out of the EU without a deal and honour the referendum result by the Cabinet that he appoints.

It must be one whose members are all signed up to No Deal if necessary, and an election if Parliament prevents Brexit on October 31.

For a Prime Minister Johnson will not be able to afford Cabinet splits, resignations, noises off – or election campaign rows.

Sure, he will, in effect, have no Commons majority: but that problem will not be solved by forming a Cabinet of anti-No-Dealers-at-any-cost as well as of No Dealers-in-the-last-resort.  That way lies the fate of Theresa May.

Instead, he must throw the dice.  His Government must push for No Deal if necessary.  Or for an election on a No Deal manifesto if his Government is no confidenced while seeking to deliver it.

If an election is forced on the Conservatives without Brexit having been delivered, only the most strenuous effort to push it through the Commons, without a deal if necessary, stands a chance of warding off Nigel Farage.

It follows that Johnson must be ruthless – and move as fast as possible while the authority of his expected leadership win is fresh.  Out must go Philip Hammond, Greg Clark, David Gauke plus, it seems, Rory Stewart, and others.

It seems unlikely that Amber Rudd’s affection for Johnson will overcome her anti-No Deal convictions.  So be it.  The diciest, most difficult task of all will be squaring Ruth Davidson and Scotland’s Conservatives.

Here is the kind of shuffle that he should now start to plan.  It is drawn up to meet three non-negotiable requirements.

First, its members must be prepared to sign up to a Johnson policy of Brexiting on October 31.

Second, it should, within that parameter, be drawn as widely as possible from across the Party.

Third, its members will ideally have some experience of the department to which they will be sent.

Finally, they should also be chosen with an eye to presentation skills during an election campaign.

We suggest roughly as follows.

– – –

Deputy Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster: Jeremy Hunt.

The expected runner-up must be bound in completely to the Johnson administration.  The new Prime Minister should delegate much of the day-to-day running of the Government to him.  Hunt will be reluctant to leave the Foreign Office, but could not refuse the promotion, unless he is determined to resist the October 31 deadline.

Brexit Secretary: Dominic Raab.

The EU must be sent the clearest possible signal that Britain intends to leave the EU at the end of October.  There could be none less ambiguous than sending Raab back to his old job.  That he knows the department is another advantage.

Chancellor of the Exchequer: Sajid Javid.

The present Home Secretary is committed to that October 31 deadline, can be relied upon to swing the Treasury behind No Deal preparation, is economically literate, and in an election campaign would be an aspiration icon as well as an attack dog.

Foreign Secretary: Liam Fox.

The International Trade Secretary isn’t a Johnson fan, but he voted against the extension of Article 50, is a very experienced Minister…and not at all someone you’d want loose on the back benches in current circumstances.  He could hold the fort in the Foreign Office during an election’s duration.

Home Secretary: Penny Mordaunt.

The doctrine is that a woman must hold a great office of state, and it justifies moving Mordaunt out of defence, and promoting her.  Though a Hunt supporter during this contest, she opposed extension in the Commons lobbies, and was part of the 2016 Vote Leave team.  She is well placed to strike the right balance on immigration policy.

Defence Secretary: Michael Gove.

There is a strong case for sending him to the Foreign Office, to try to help heal the wounds of this contest.  But defence will be an important element of any election campaign, and Gove could be relied upon to make the most of it.  He may have no experience of the department, but he has certainly pondered the role.

Business Secretary: Liz Truss.

The Chief Secretary is naturally combative, gutsy and a reformer..  She would therefore be a risky fit in an outward-facing, voter-sensitive department such as education – at least during an election.  But as a critic of the Business Department, she would run it will an exacting eye, and treat the corporate lobbies with a healthy scepticism.

Justice Secretary: Robert Buckland.

The Prisons Minister is, in Tory terms, well left-of-centre – a stalwart of the Tory Reform Group.  He is also capable, a Johnson backer, and a realist.  Geoffrey Cox should go to the Justice Ministry soon, but is needed for continuity in the Brexit talks.  Buckland, a lawyer and former Minister in the department, will do very nicely in the meantime.

Trade Secretary: Greg Hands.

It may be that Government policy on Heathrow would prevent Hands’ return, but he was a Minister of State in the department, understands trade policy, and is one of the Party’s best-briefed opponents of a customs union, against which he has written frequently on this site.

Health Secretary: Matt Hancock.

He is running the department with an absence of fuss, has avoided NHS disputes, understands the relationship between technology and healthcare, brings enthusiasm to everything he does – and has therefore written the case, despite his Treasury ambitions and leadership campaign, for staying exactly where he is.

Education Secretary: Damian Hinds.

It is very tempting to give a new policy (showering the department with money) a new face.  The itch should be resisted.  In an election campaign, it is best to have someone in place who understands the department and the issues – and who can present calmly and clearly, as Hinds does.

Work and Pensions Secretary: Alok Sharma.

The Work and Pensions Minister knows his way round the department as a senior Minister in it, is a Johnson backer in this contest, and has been unlucky not to make it to the top table before.  If Rudd won’t serve or is too risky an appointment, Sharma would slot straight in.

Environment Secretary: George Eustice.

Like Ed Vaizey (never appointed Culture Secretary) or Nick Gibb (never appointed Education Secretary), Eustice is one of the club of Ministers-Or-Former-Ministers-Who-Know-Their-Subject.  An honourable and prescient resigner over Brexit policy, he is well-known to the farming lobby and would be all over No Deal preparations.

Housing Secretary: Kit Malthouse.

Now purged, at least for a while, of his own leadership ambitions, Malthouse served under Johnson during the latter’s Mayoral period. He understands the brief, is in place at the department, and would offer, as he would put it, “a fresh face”.  Bring the Malthouse Compromise into the Cabinet.

Culture Secretary: Nicky Morgan.

Talking of Malthouse, let’s reinvent Morgan.  Our columnist is the ultimate Good Egg, having both a strong sense of Party unity and a willingness in extremis to back a No Deal plan.  We don’t want to lose her, but she would be a more-than-useful ambassador from Johnson to the Party’s centre-left.

Northern Ireland Secretary: Theresa Villiers.

This is one of the most daunting appointments of all, given the challenge of dealing with Ireland’s Government.  Villiers is a Brexiteer who understands Northern Ireland, having served there as Secretary of State, and knows the players.  If anyone can square conviction, knowledge and diplomacy, it is Villiers.

Transport Secretary: Gavin Willamson.

Johnson has little choice but to return to Cabinet the man who has successfully managed the whipping of the first stage of this leadership campaign.  It is a very fine judgement as to whether to send him back to head up the Whips’ Office.  On balance, we think it best he be given a department of his own that he will run with enthusiasm.

International Development Secretary: Priti Patel.

The new Prime Minister will need supporters in Cabinet, and people who are committed to Brexit.  Patel fits both categories.  She understands the department, grasps the need for aid money to be spent wisely, and would slot in neatly back there.

Scotland Secretary: David Mundell.

This is arguably the most crucial appointment of all.  No Deal, or a No Deal election, presents particular challenges in Scotland.  Johnson’s support among Tory Scottish MPs has been minimal in the Parliamentary stage of this contest, and he should must be prepared to give the experienced Mundell as much leeway as possible.

Wales Secretary: Alun Cairns.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Party Chairman: James Cleverly.

Cleverly radiates a sense of confidence rare among top-flight politicians, understands social media, is calm on TV, has CCHQ experience, and is itching to do the job.  Now that his own leadership campaigning has calmed down, he can be expected to work well with Lynton Crosby, who will surely return.

Leader of the Lords: Natalie Evans.

Again, if it ain’t broke, etc.

– – –

Entitled to attend –

Leader of the Commons: Andrea Leadsom

Continuity knocks.  Leadsom has blossomed as Leader of the House.  There’s no reason to move her.

Chief Whip: Steve Barclay

This is a hard call, and there are arguments for sending for Williamson, or taking a quite different tack and approaching Graham Brady.  Barclay is a Leaver and an ex-Whip – at one point the only Brexiteer in the office.  He is calm, methodical, well-liked…and was a Johnson voter this week.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury: Julian Smith

Never sack a former Chief Whip.

Brexit Minister of State: Steve Baker

Johnson should cut the number of Ministers entitled to attend Cabinet, but he could do a lot worse than put Baker, under Raab, back in his old department in charge of No Deal preparations, and allow him to contribute when Brexit policy is being discussed.

Attorney-General: Geoffrey Cox

See “Justice Secretary”.

– – –

So that’s –

23 full Cabinet Ministers, as now (including Johnson).

Six women full Cabinet members. There are five now.

Three visible ethnic minority members.  There is one now.

Eight original Johnson voters in this contest plus four people who switched to back him.

– – –

There are a mass of Ministers and others who would need care and attention.  With no majority, Ministers leaving through the exit door, Team Johnson members queueing at the entrance, other Ministers champing at the bit for promotion and other leadership candidates’ backers to keep quiet, this will be the devil of a shuffle to manage.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Mordaunt leads the pack in our latest Cabinet League Table

Westlake Legal Group Cabinet-League-Table-May-19-1024x965 Mordaunt leads the pack in our latest Cabinet League Table ToryDiary Theresa May MP The Cabinet Steve Barclay MP Sajid Javid MP Ruth Davidson MSP Rory Stewart MP Philip Hammond MP Penny Mordaunt MP Paul Davies AM Natalie Evans (Baroness) Michael Gove MP Mel Stride MP Matthew Hancock MP Liz Truss MP Liam Fox MP Karen Bradley MP Julian Smith MP Jeremy Wright MP Jeremy Hunt MP James Brokenshire MP Highlights Greg Clark MP Geoffrey Cox MP David Mundell MP David Lidington MP David Gauke MP Damian Hinds MP ConservativeHome Members' Panel Chris Skidmore MP Chris Grayling MP Caroline Nokes MP Brandon Lewis MP Amber Rudd MP Alun Cairns MP

*Note: Theresa May scored -68.7, and Chris Grayling -72.4.

This month’s Cabinet League Table is very much a snapshot of the end of a regime. With the race to succeed Theresa May as leader of the Conservative Party about to begin, there is very likely to be a substantial reshuffle in the near future.

A glance at the above chart suggests why one is needed: only eleven Cabinet ministers record positive scores from our panel, and even the top-rated minister has barely hit +50. Here are some takeaways:

  • Mordaunt tops the poll. Our last two surveys both had her in fourth, so the Defence Secretary’s leap to the top of the podium will do nothing, so soon after she wrote for us about the leadership, to cool speculation that she might be about to enter the competition herself.
  • Truss holds on to second place. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury has endorsed Boris Johnson, so no leadership speculation here, but her energetic championing of small-state, pro-freedom Conservatism is clearly striking a chord with the grassroots.
  • Davidson is back. Ruth Davidson’s return to the front has been noted, and rewarded with a 16-point increase in her positive rating. Were she in the Cabinet, she would have taken the silver medal position from Truss.
  • In fact, all three podium slots are held by women. Mordaunt, Truss, and Davidson are the three most popular Conservative politicians with our panellists. At present not one is running for the leadership, but it nonetheless challenges lazy stereotypes about the Tory grassroots and should give those MPs in the leadership race food for thought.
  • Although May’s score remains Stygian. Although she is at least scoring better than Chris Grayling this month, this score is a sour note on which to depart Downing Street and will cast a shadow over those candidates trying to carry forward aspects of her legacy.
  • Gove, Hunt, and Javid have respectable scores… Of the leadership candidates running from the Cabinet, these three are clustered together near the top of the table. Ratings in the low-to-mid 20s would not ordinarily look like endorsements, but alas these are not ordinary times.
  • …whilst Hancock and Stewart struggle. The Health Secretary is at least in the black, with a score of 5.6. The International Development Secretary however is on -18, scarcely an auspicious jumping-off point for any leadership bid.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Profile: Amber Rudd – moderation-preaching, whip-defying, No Deal-opposing. And sought by leadership contenders for support.

Amber Rudd this week downplayed reports that she will back Boris Johnson in the Tory leadership race. She is unlikely to make a public declaration of her preference until the race is under way and we can see who the candidates are.

But she makes no secret of the considerations which will guide her choice. Since her return in November to the Cabinet, its soft Brexiteer members have looked much better organised.

Rudd, David Gauke, Greg Clark and David Mundell together broke a three-line whip and refused to vote against a motion to take no deal off the table. They defied collective responsibility and got away with it.

Their refusal to vote with the Government upset a considerable number of colleagues, and almost certainly leaves Rudd out of contention as a figure who could reunite the party when Theresa May steps down.

But whoever does take over as leader will need a team that embraces both wings of the party. And as one of the leading figures in the One Nation group, whose formation was announced by Nicky Morgan in her piece on ConHome on Monday, Rudd has a representative value, even if, as is probable, she could not persuade its 40 or so members to vote as a bloc.

A week before Morgan’s piece appeared, Johnson wrote in his Daily Telegraph column that “we need to get back to explaining our One Nation Tory approach, and the vital symmetry between great public services and a dynamic free market economy….business can only flourish if the public sector creates the right seed-bed for growth: safe streets, high skills, good health care and the rest. One Nation Tories understand the need to satisfy both sides of the equation, and it is a profoundly moderate creed”.

He evidently proposes to unite the party by reaching out to One Nation Tories like Rudd. And she has indicated a certain receptivity to such an approach, for example in an interview for The Mail on Sunday last November, when she described herself and Johnson as “good friends”, and added that unlike Jacob Rees-Mogg, he is “not socially illiberal”.

She backed Johnson during his brief, ill-fated leadership bid in 2016 – having been deployed by the Remain campaign in the ITV television debate only a few weeks earlier, when she tried to derail Johnson by saying of him: “He’s the life and soul of the party, but he’s not the man you want driving you home at the end of the evening”.

Since the 2015 general election she had been Energy and Climate Change Secretary, her first Cabinet post, but she did not demand the promise of a job in some future Johnson administration.

She wanted a commitment on climate change, which Johnson was happy to give, though after her request was fed in to his chaotic campaign, nothing happened.

Some Conservative MPs, especially those who are likely to support other leadership contenders, regard the idea of a Johnson-Rudd alliance as a cynical ploy, comparable to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, as one of them put it, and no more likely to work than the alliance between Ken Clarke and John Redwood in the leadership contest of 1997.

Once Redwood had been knocked out, most of his supporters refused to transfer to Clarke, whose views on Europe they found repugnant. They instead decided to back William Hague, who came through and won.

But while it was hard to imagine that Clarke and Redwood had ever enjoyed each other’s company, Johnson and Rudd are old friends.

This opens them to the accusation that they would form, as another observer with a deep knowledge of the party puts it, “a poshocracy”.

It is certainly true that like Johnson, Rudd possesses, through her family, a remarkable range of connections. But she also wins golden opinions from a considerable number of Conservative MPs.

As Keith Simpson, a Norfolk MP since 1997, says:

“I think she is a highly intelligent, feisty woman, with great courage, wonderful and classy, descended on her mother’s side from an illegitimate child of Charles II. One can imagine casting her as the headmistress in a 1950s St Trinians film. She was very much part of the Cameron/Osborne group, but that didn’t really damage her with Mrs May. A lot of them were put to the sword, but she impressed by her command of detail, and was very good at baiting Boris during the referendum campaign. She’s like Michael Gove – she’ll happily stop and chat to you, ask you what are you doing, what are you reading. She passes the dinner party test – would you want to go to a dinner party with them – because it wouldn’t just be about her. She has a genuine interest in other people.”

Poshness, as long as it is progressive, can still work in the Conservative Party, as David Cameron demonstrated.

In January 1957, Harold Macmillan, a businessman by profession, a member of the ruling class by education and marriage, a progressive and an Anglican by conviction, an opportunist when required, seized the Conservative leadership from under the nose of Rab Butler.

Tory MPs of an imperialist outlook wanted to believe that the Suez debacle of late 1956 had not been a fatal blow to British prestige, and Macmillan managed to give them the impression that some kind of victory had occurred, and that they could still win the next general election.

Harold Wilson, who within a few years would become Labour leader, watched the new Prime Minister’s performance with admiration: “Macmillan is a genius. He is holding up the banner of Suez for the party to follow and is leading the party away from Suez. That’s what I’d like to do with the Labour Party.”

It is possible that the next Conservative leader will need, after the humiliations of Brexit, to do something similar. Macmillan led the party to a great general election victory in 1959, when it won almost 50 per cent of the vote by appearing more modern, and more efficiently devoted to the people’s welfare, than Labour did.

Rudd belongs in that progressive Conservative tradition, and is acutely aware of the need for an election victory, her majority in Hastings and Rye having shrunk in 2017 from 4,796 to 346.

Momentum activists from all over the south coast see the chance to turf her out by converging on Hastings.

In an earlier profile for ConservativeHome, I sketched Rudd’s early life, but omitted to mention that like her parents, she is an Anglican, who worships at St Mary Abbots in Kensington.

Her marriage to A.A.Gill, which ended in divorce but not acrimony, suggests she would not be deterred by the challenge of managing a highly gifted but not entirely reliable man.

Rudd is now, as Work and Pensions Secretary, in charge of the implementation of Universal Credit, a task to which she seems to be bringing a certain realism.

As Home Secretary, the post she occupied from July 2016 to April 2018, she was unseated by the Windrush scandal, during which it looked culpably naive of her not to have realised that her department would set targets for the removal of immigrants, and would try to meet these by picking on people who in no way deserved to be treated harshly, having lived peaceably and lawfully in this country for  half a century.

She said she was unaware of any targets, after which a memorandum surfaced which had been copied to her office and which set “a target of achieving 12,800 enforced returns in 2017-18”.

The Guardian also published a letter from Rudd to the Prime Minister in which she spoke of an “ambitious but deliverable” target for deporting migrants. As soon as this came out, Rudd resigned.

Her defenders observe that the Home Office is an exceptionally difficult department to get any sort of control over, as shown by the large number of ministerial resignations from it over the years.

They add that it was her predecessor, May, who in 2010 established the “hostile environment” policy for immigrants, in the expectation that they would find it very difficult to prove that they had the right to remain, and could be pressured into leaving of their own accord.

Rudd’s critics say that because of her privileged background, she failed to understand the horrible predicament in which members of the Windrush generation had been placed, and the quite unreasonable demands for documentary evidence being made by the Home Office. Certainly the Home Secretary’s inexperience had been exposed.

It is by no means certain who Rudd will end up backing in the leadership contest. She could start by backing a member of the One Nation group, and switch in a later round to one of the other candidates.

But her endorsement will be eagerly sought, for she is respected beyond the circle of those who agree with her views on Brexit. Rees-Mogg told Sophy Ridge at the weekend: “I’ve always thought highly of Amber Rudd. She’s a long-standing friend of my sister’s as it happens and a person of first-class capabilities. I happen to disagree with her on the European issue.”

Not all Tory MPs are as charitable as Rees-Mogg about colleagues with whom they disagree. Rudd has deeply annoyed some on both the Remain and the Leave sides by that recent refusal, while a Cabinet minister, to vote with the Government.

Nor will some of her One Nation allies regard the prospect of Johnson as the next leader as in any way tolerable. And she herself might in the end decide to support Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt or some other contender.

Tory leadership contests are very seldom predictable, and a relatively untried and unknown figure such as Matt Hancock could come through, in a John Majorish way, as the stop Johnson candidate.

But Rudd is one of the few members of the present Cabinet who does not give the impression of having had her personality flattened by the sacrifices demanded by a ministerial career. Her support is worth having because she is her own woman.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com