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Westlake Legal Group > Sajid Javid MP

Good luck, Tim Montgomerie

Warmest wishes to the founder of ConservativeHome, Tim Montgomerie, in his new role as Boris Johnson’s social justice adviser.  He is completing his first week in the post.  Tim is out of the Cabinet Office, and reporting both to the Prime Minister and to Sajid Javid.

In one sense, this is the culmination of a life’s work.  Isaiah Berlin once wrote that “the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”  Most of us are foxes, but Tim is a hedgehog: he knows one big thing.  You might call it social justice conservatism.  You might call it “strong and compassionate”, to use one of his own terms.  You might say it’s “conservatism for the little guy”, to borrow another. At any rate, you know it when you hear about it.

Tim now hopes that you will soon know it when you see it.  Hr first started bringing it into life when he founded the Conservative Christian fellowship, and this is his first real chance to put it into action from near the centre of government – this Anglicanised Christian Democracy, as his successor thinks of it.

We hope he’s right, although there are at least two major obstacles to putting it into practice: one is very obvious, the other less so.  That first is that Johnson and his term could be forced out of Downing Street at almost any time.  The second applies if this doesn’t happen.  The Prime Minister is assembling a team of many talents in Number Ten, and not all of its members will see eye to eye with others.  It isn’t obvious how, say, the new, hard-nosed, Priti Patel-led law and order approach sits naturally with the recent Tory stress on rehabilitation and lower prison numbers.

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

Gary Porter: Reflections on four years as the voice of local government

Lord Porter is the Leader of South Holland District Council and a former Chairman of the Local Government Association.

It has been nearly three months since I stood down as the Chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA), and in that short period, British politics has experienced further dramatic change: Boris Johnson was elected as Leader of our Party and appointed Prime Minister, the Cabinet was radically reshuffled, and the brief return of Parliament after the summer recess produced more drama in one week than a full session used to in quieter times.

Although spread over four years, my time as LGA Chairman also coincided with a period of profound change: I took up the post in July 2015 just after David Cameron had secured the Party’s first electoral majority in 23 years, 2016 was the year of the Brexit vote, and in 2017, we had yet another general election, the third in seven years. The following two years saw the implications of the Brexit vote crowding out almost everything else and eventually led to Theresa May stepping down as our Party Leader and Prime Minister.

As LGA Chairman, I dealt with three Secretaries of State at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG): Greg Clark, Sajid Javid, and James Brokenshire. They are quite different characters, but all shared a willingness to listen to local government and respond to our concerns, for which I will always be grateful.

Under Greg, we saw significant progress on devolution in certain parts of the country, as well as the first serious moves towards the localisation of business rates. After he moved to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in 2016 I continued to work closely with him, particularly regarding the Industrial Strategy.

Sajid’s time at MHCLG coincided with increasing concern about the crisis in adult social care. Having listened to our lobbying on this, he worked across Whitehall to secure an extra £2 billion in funding for social care in the 2017 Budget.

Under Sajid’s leadership, we also saw a renewed focus on getting more homes built. For example, he secured £5 billion for the new Housing Infrastructure Fund, which is designed to unlock 200,000 new homes in areas of high demand. With the Government committed to building 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s, this funding is essential in ensuring that development is sustainable.

Finally, at last year’s Party Conference, with James Brokenshire as our Secretary of State, came the announcement that I had lobbied for my whole political career: the abolition of the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) borrowing cap. This simple measure, which will allow councils to borrow to build new social housing, means that local government is at last able to fully play its part in tackling the national housing shortage.

James also oversaw the creation of the Brexit Local Government Delivery Board, bring together senior LGA councillors and Ministers from across Whitehall. As we approach the 31st of October, the Board is becoming increasingly influential within Whitehall.

When I stood down as LGA Chairman, I was delighted to be succeeded by another Conservative, Cllr James Jamieson, the Leader of Central Bedfordshire and the Leader of the Conservative Group at the LGA. James was replaced as Leader by Izzi Secombe. Whilst most of us were able to take a break over the Summer, James and Izzi were busy in Westminster holding meetings with a range of new Ministers, including our new MHCLG Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick, to lobby for the LGA’s key asks ahead of the recent Spending Round.

Their efforts were rewarded with the announcement in the Spending Round of £3.5 billion in funding for local services, the largest year on year real-terms increase in spending power in over a decade. This included £1.5 billion for adult social care and £700 million for children and young people with special educational needs, two key cost pressure areas.

So the main lesson that I took from my four years as LGA Chairman is a very simple one: when Conservatives in local and central government work together, we improve lives and achieve the best results for our communities. With James and Izzi, the LGA is in safe hands, and I wish them all the best for what promises to be another eventful and dramatic political year.

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WATCH: Javid – “Of course the government will obey the law”

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WATCH: Javid – “Of course the government will obey the law”

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Javid, Johnson, and Rees-Mogg hold their podium slots in our Cabinet League Table

Westlake Legal Group Cabinet-League-Table-Aug-19-1024x954 Javid, Johnson, and Rees-Mogg hold their podium slots in our Cabinet League Table ToryDiary Theresa Villiers MP Steve Barclay MP Sajid Javid MP Robert Jenrick MP Robert Buckland MP Rishi Sunak MP Priti Patel MP Paul Davies AM Oliver Dowden MP Nicky Morgan MP Natalie Evans (Baroness) Michael Gove MP Matthew Hancock MP Mark Spencer MP Kwasi Kwarteng MP Julian Smith MP Jo Johnson MP James Cleverly MP Jake Berry MP Jacob Rees-Mogg MP Grant Shapps MP Geoffrey Cox MP Gavin Williamson MP Esther McVey MP Elizabeth Truss MP Dominic Raab MP ConservativeHome Members' Panel Brandon Lewis MP Boris Johnson MP Ben Wallace MP Andrea Leadsom MP Amber Rudd MP Alun Cairns MP Alok Sharma MP Alister Jack MP   Last month we published our first Cabinet League Table of the Johnson Ministry. It offered a sea-change from Theresa May’s embattled government, both in terms of composition and the estimation in which party members held it.

One month on and the general picture hasn’t really changed. If anything, over August there was a general upward drift in the scores, reflecting what many commentators – including our own Mark Wallace – thought was a very strong start in the role.

It goes without saying that the data for this was collected prior to the return of the Commons and the Government’s miserable week therein. We might therefore anticipate a quite different set of results in October.

Here are a few of the details:

  • Post-Ruth politics. Our survey was front-page news in Scotland last month when it showed the Scottish Conservative leader, so often one of the most highly-rated individuals, down to a positive score of just +14. Perhaps it was an omen of things to come, because Ruth Davidson has since stepped aside, triggering a battle for the future of the Party in Scotland.
  • Javid tops the poll again. The Chancellor puts on four points to take his score into the mid-Eighties. This suggests that activists are either untroubled by the Government’s decision to move away from spending restraint, which Sajid Javid is by necessity spearheading, or are at least not holding it against him.
  • Johnson and Rees-Mogg fill out the podium. No change in the ordering of any of the top three, and both the Prime Minister and Leader of the House have put on about five points to their score.
  • Gove climbs… The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is climbing the ranks. But will his ongoing defence of May’s deal, and reports that he is leading the charge against Johnson’s disciplining of anti-No Deal rebels, put a dent in his score next month?
  • …as does Cleverly. Of course small changes in position may not be terribly significant, but the Party Chairman is nonetheless one of the most popular politicians in the survey. If this continues it can’t hurt his chances of being offered a Cabinet brief in a future reshuffle.
  • What happened to Wallace? In a survey which generally saw very little movement – save for two outright departures – there are a couple of obvious exceptions. Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, has seen his score drop by over ten points and now languishes near the bottom of the table.
  • Williamson wins members over. The other is the Education Secretary, who has seen his stock rise from +27 to +45 and gone from being close to the bottom of the table to comfortably in the middle.

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

Javid’s spending speech will have been uncomfortable viewing for his predecessor

It’s been a pretty rough 24 hours for Philip Hammond. After losing the Whip last night, he had to sit and watch his successor as Chancellor deliver today’s spending round.

It won’t have escaped his notice that Sajid Javid – meticulous as ever – was effectively standing up not to praise Hammond but to bury him. It wasn’t an assault, in intent, tone or rhetoric, but nonetheless the implicit effect of the statement was to sprinkle earth over the ex-Chancellor’s approach.

As a former goth, he might in the right circumstances have appreciated the funereal drama. It didn’t look like it today.

Javid informed the House that he was able and willing to do what Hammond was either unable or unwilling to do – namely increase spending across the board, delivering at least the rate of inflation for every department. Although the Chancellor has delayed the full Spending Review, and thereby maintained his predecessor’s fiscal rules, the game certainly seemed to have changed.

A shift in policy might be uncomfortable but expected. But Javid, it turned out, was changing policy to deliver something that Hammond previously said was his aim: an end to austerity.

I asked at last year’s Conservative Party Conference what the definition of such a thing might be. Now we have Javid’s answer: “No department will be cut next year…that’s what I mean by the end of austerity.”

It’s starker and simpler than the principles laid out under Hammond and May. You might almost say it is the kind of clear message you’d need going into an election.

And there’s the final reason Hammond might have found the statement somewhat aggrieving to watch. It’s no fault of Javid’s, but while the Treasury was almost absent from the 2017 election campaign, it will evidently underpin the police and hospitals message that is set to be central to General Elecfion 2019.

 

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WATCH: Javid – “No department will be cut next year…that’s what I mean by the end of austerity”

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How long will the snap ‘one-year’ Spending Round really last?

The speech on fiscal priorities which the Chancellor was due to deliver today was cancelled at 2.36pm yesterday. In its place, a ‘fast-tracked Spending Round’ on 4th September was announced by press release at the, ahem, unusual time of 10.42pm.

The round takes the place of the planned full Spending Review – on the basis that, as Sajid Javid’s Telegraph article (published at almost exactly the same time) explains, ‘it would be a distraction to start debating every line of government funding’ at this crucial Brexit juncture.

That can be true in a number of possible ways: it could be distracting to the Treasury in the midst of complex negotiations, and labour-intensive preparations for deal or No Deal scenarios; it could be distracting for ministers to force them to fight one another for money just when Downing Street needs them to be completely disciplined and obedient; or it could be distracting for voters when the Prime Minister wants and needs to communicate a very clear message to them, not least for the election which is inevitably on its way. Or all of the above.

In a way, this is a compromise – or at least a hiatus – in a fiscal dispute. One reason a lot of ministers in the fag-end days of Theresa May’s administration were concerned and annoyed about her attempts to make financial commitments in the search for a legacy was that they felt it was pre-empting the necessary and imminent full Spending Review planned for the Autumn.

Postponing that review restricts the new Government’s freedom of action by effectively continuing Philip Hammond’s top-line rules for fiscal policy, but, as ever, such ‘rules’ are often in practice mere guidelines. Hammond’s successor writes himself new space: ‘Thanks to the hard work of the British people over the last decade, we can afford to spend more on the people’s priorities – without breaking the rules around what the government should spend.’

That might sound a little uncomfortable, but ministers will likely be able to live with it for the good reason that it won’t last very long. Officially this Spending Round ‘will give Whitehall departments certainty over their budgets for next year’, but will it really last that long?

Consider the possible scenarios. Either the Conservatives deliver Brexit, then win an election. In which case they’d have a new mandate, potentially a real majority, and Javid would have a good basis to introduce a proper, wide-ranging Spending Review and full new Budget, setting a new agenda for himself and Boris Johnson, finally free of May and Hammond’s hangover. Neither man is likely to want to wait until next year’s official Budget date – some time in mid-to-late Autumn 2020 to do things their own way/

Or the Government collapses, and is replaced by the mish-mash of separatist/unionist/socialist/liberal/conservatives we saw yesterday parading their fragile agreement on not liking Brexit. They’d want to try to do things differently, whether they were able to reach agreement or not.

Or the Conservatives lose an election, in which case some variant of Labour, in majority or in a coalition of some sort with the Lib Dems and/or the SNP, come in – and they’d certainly want to crack on sharpish with fulfilling whatever exciting form of job-destruction and asset-seizure that John McDonnell was dreaming of for all those backbench years. Again, bye-bye one-year Spending Round.

So in practice, this change may be frustrating or restrictive to some degree, but it isn’t likely to be something ministers have to suffer for very long. For good or ill.

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Is Patel’s pledge to “end freedom of movement” merely smoke and mirrors?

Priti Patel has stolen at least two days of headlines – far from all of them positive – with the announcement that she intends to end freedom of movement at the very moment of Brexit in the event of No Deal. What is not clear, however, is what exactly this means.

In theory, it means (or at least sounds to casual ears like it means) bringing EU nationals under the UK’s existing visa arrangements for people from the rest of the world. But even the positive write-ups can’t avoid alluding to the fact that such a policy seems impossible to reconcile with the Government’s commitment to giving EU nationals currently resident in Britain up until the end of 2020 to register for so-called ‘settled status’.

Were the Home Office to simultaneously honour this pledge and bring freedom of movement to an immediate end, there would be a period of more than a year when EU nationals eligible for settled status would be theoretically free to move in and out of the UK at will, but EU nationals ineligible for it would not – with no means of distinguishing between the two.

This is why Sajid Javid, Patel’s predecessor, went on the record as saying that an immediate end to freedom of movement was impractical, and called for “some kind of sensible transition period”.

Nowhere in the papers is an answer to this conundrum offered. Instead, there are reports that Home Office officials have been sent to Singapore to see how their ‘tough’ immigration computer system operates. But it isn’t obvious how ‘counting people in and out of the country’, the task the city state has apparently solved, addresses the core problem with an immediate end to freedom of movement outlined above.

It is also worth noting that, rigorous as it might be, Singapore’s system is geared towards admitting an exceptionally high number of foreign ‘workers’ and ‘talents’ – a policy in keeping with Boris Johnson’s decision to tear up Theresa May’s net migration target, but scarcely something voters might characterise as ‘tough’.

What detail we have suggests that Patel is employing smoke and mirrors: the Guardian reports a ‘senior Home Office source’ as claiming that “the only change that had so far been confirmed by the Home Office was additional criminal record checks on those entering the UK, while other potential changes were still being assessed.” The Daily Express also reports that Patel intends to introduce tough new criminality rules and at least implies that this will not affect those EU nationals eligible for settled status – although again, the question arises of how the new system will recognise these as such.

One can therefore see the germ of a strategy here: tough talk, and a high-profile crackdown on obvious abuses, providing cover for a general shift to a more liberal (but perhaps better-regulated and more rigorously policed) system. Alternatively, this is simply intended to sit alongside more police officers and a boost to NHS spending in a whirlwind of retail offers the Prime Minister means to bank sooner rather than later, and help him buy the political breathing room for a more considered alternative.

The danger is that by talking grandly of ‘ending free movement’ the Government ends up raising expectations it cannot meet – or sowing chaos and uncertainty in the attempt to meet them.

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Javid pips Johnson and Rees-Mogg to the top of the podium in our first Cabinet League Table of the new Government

Westlake Legal Group Cabinet-League-Table-Jul-19-1024x955 Javid pips Johnson and Rees-Mogg to the top of the podium in our first Cabinet League Table of the new Government ToryDiary Theresa Villiers MP The Cabinet Steve Barclay MP Sajid Javid MP Ruth Davidson MSP Robert Jenrick MP Robert Buckland MP Rishi Sunak MP Priti Patel MP Paul Davies AM Oliver Dowden MP Nicky Morgan MP Natalie Evans (Baroness) Michael Gove MP Matthew Hancock MP Mark Spencer MP Kwasi Kwarteng MP Julian Smith MP Jo Johnson MP James Cleverly MP Jake Berry MP Jacob Rees-Mogg MP Highlights Grant Shapps MP Geoffrey Cox MP Gavin Williamson MP Esther McVey MP Elizabeth Truss MP Dominic Raab MP ConservativeHome Members' Panel Brandon Lewis MP Boris Johnson MP Ben Wallace MP Andrea Leadsom MP Amber Rudd MP Alun Cairns MP Alok Sharma MP Alister Jack MP

When Mark predicted last month that it would be the last Cabinet League Table with that line-up, he was more right than he might have expected. Boris Johnson ushered in the new era with one of the more brutal reshuffles in modern political history.

A glance at last month’s table illustrates how the clean break has certainly restored the Cabinet’s standing in the eyes of the grassroots: every single member has a positive rating, nearly all of which would have put them comfortably in the top ten during the ancien régime.

But how much of that is due to unfamiliarity? This isn’t usually something we scrutinise, but no fewer than 16 of the politicians above-listed had ‘Don’t Know’ as their highest single response, with a couple more avoiding that fate by a bare handful of votes. A blow to the egos of a few, perhaps, but it does also mean that those ministers still have plenty of scope to make a positive impression.

Here are a few of the other takeaways:

  • Javid leads the pack. The Chancellor holds onto the position he took last month, and continues to enjoy the dividends of a good leadership election. Remarkable to think that two months ago this spot was held by Penny Mordaunt, now on the backbenches.
  • Johnson in his prime. Theresa May departed our table with a score of -61.2 (that’s lower than Chris Grayling), so Boris Johnson’s +77.2 is a happy contrast. However, he ought to recall that at one point his predecessor recorded record-breaking positive scores too. Fail to deliver and his standing will fall, fast.
  • Rees-Mogg makes the podium. Perhaps unsurprising, but the titular star of our Moggcast is a hit with the membership. Leader of the House is a good position for retaining their favour too, as Andrea Leadsom discovered, as it offers numerous opportunities for scoring points off John Bercow.
  • Brexiteers on top. Also unsurprisingly, Leave-backing MPs dominate the top of the table – it isn’t until Liz Truss, in seventh place, that we find a minister who backed Remain in 2016. Amber Rudd, one of the surprise survivals of the reshuffle, is at the bottom of the table. Except…
  • Davidson in the doldrums. The Scottish Conservative leader has previously been relatively shielded from the ups and downs of the Cabinet, often chalking up podium positions as she focused her fire on the SNP. She is currently the lowest-ranked politician in the entire table, most likely fallout from her highly-publicised split with the Prime Minister and hostility to No Deal.
  • Survivor spread. Interestingly, there doesn’t appear to be a particular position pattern for those ministers who did appear in our previous table (apart from the generally improved scores). Truss, Michael Gove, and Steve Barclay are at the upper end of the table, Rudd and Brandon Lewis near the bottom.

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