PLUS: Migrant plan better late than never
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The Times and Sunday Times
Thursday July 27 2017
Red Box
Matt Chorley
By Matt Chorley
Good morning,
Five years ago today saw the opening ceremony of the London Olympics celebrating these Isles of Wonder.

Rather a lot has happened in these isles since. It feels like another lifetime.
Matt Chorley
Red Box Editor
Twitter icon @MattChorley
Must reads
  • The suspected rape of a helpless autistic man by a high-risk sex offender was kept secret by the official body responsible for his safety, The Times can reveal.

  • A free school in north Devon that boasts that it offers “the very best education that the 21st century can provide” has been placed in special measures after failing to enter any of its Year 11 pupils for GCSEs.

  • Emmanuel Macron has come under fire for inviting the singer Rihanna to the Élysée Palace as a new poll shows that the image-conscious French leader is losing favour with the public.
‘Come a long way’
The Houses of Parliament lit up with the rainbow flag (Reuters)
What brings about change? Sometimes politicians follow shifts in attitudes in the world around them, and sometimes they lead them.

Fifty years ago today the Sexual Offences Act was passed. It partially decriminalised homosexuality in England and Wales.

A lot has happened in the past half century: we now have same-sex marriage, gay couples able to adopt and a clearly more tolerant society.

Nick Gibb, the schools minister, writes for Red Box today about his relationship and on how change has not happened overnight: "When Michael and I met in 1986 it was still much easier for us not to talk about or acknowledge our relationship. Not that long ago it would have been extraordinary to witness a same-sex couple walking in the street holding hands. Today it is commonplace and, for me brought up in a different time, it is a joy to see."

Theresa May acknowledges in an article for PinkNews where she and the Tories "have been wrong on these issues in the past", adding: "Like the country we serve, my party and I have come a long way."

Not far enough, though. A poll for PinkNews shows half of Conservative voters think that gay sex is unnatural. The YouGov survey found that 49 per cent of people who voted Conservative last month did not think it is natural, compared to 23 per cent of Labour voters and 19 per cent of Lib Dems.

Quite why anyone feels they need to pass judgment on what other people get up to in the privacy of their own homes is anyone's guess. I don't think watching Mrs Brown's Boys is natural but if that's what makes people happy they should be allowed to carry on.

The split on Brexit was striking: the survey found that 64 per cent of Remainers think that gay sex is natural compared to only 32 per cent of Leavers.

Benjamin Cohen, PinkNews chief executive, said: “It is depressing that 50 years on from the Sexual Offences Act that so many people still think that gay sex is unnatural and that a third oppose gay couples having children."

Sir John Major, who as prime minister invited Ian McKellen into No10 to learn about the concerns of gay people, warns: "Bigotry hasn't gone: witness the shameful hostility that was whipped up during the Brexit campaign, raising irrational fears about the effect of immigration. But, overall, such sentiments are generally in retreat and out of time."

Yet look across the Atlantic and there is a different story. Just as the UK government outlines plans to make life easier for transgender people, the president of the United States announces on Twitter that he is banning transgender people from the military.

The Ministry of Defence described it as "an American issue" and refused to be drawn into a row with the White House. However Vice Admiral Jonathan Woodcock, second sea lord, tweeted: "I suspect many who doubt the abilities of our diverse service personnel might be more reluctant to serve than they are to comment."

For every law changed, and there have been many in the past half a century, there is a much harder battle to change attitudes. Great progress has been made but as this poll shows the battle is far from over.
Red Box: Comment
Nick Gibb
This great country has made huge progress on gay rights
Nick Gibb – Schools minister
Is gay sex natural?
Monday's best comment
David Aaronovitch
Why Trump diehards are blind to reality
David Aaronovitch – The Times
Clare Foges
Gender-fluid world is muddling young minds
Clare Foges – The Times
James Kirkup
Conservatives must revive the dementia tax
James Kirkup – The Times
Time is running out for Corbyn to make his mind up about Brexit
Andrew Grice - The Independent
Trump's ban on transgender military reveals a vile truth about how society sees people like me
Paris Lees - The Daily Telegraph
Today's cartoon from The Times by Peter Brookes
Bordering on a plan
Of the many things that Britain was going to take back control of after Brexit the one that everyone seemed to agree on was our borders.

Yet more than a year after the Brexit vote nothing seems to have happened.

Now ministers have commissioned a study on the future of EU migration in Britain, although it will report only seven months before Brexit.

Cynics wonder just what the Brexit department and Home Office have been doing when they are only now sending out a story like this.

Previously any attempt to "show workings" were stopped by Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill. Now the popular keeper of the No10 grid, Ben Mascall, is allowing ministers to make their announcements but also to show the evolution of ideas and policies.

One of the big problems the government has is that business wants certainty — to know where we will end up, even if it's a terrible deal. However the government cannot give that certainty because they do not know how this will play out.
Brits can stay
British staff in the European Commission can remain on the payroll after Brexit but could be moved to lesser roles to avoid conflicts of interest, Politico reports.
Red Box: Comment
Brandon Lewis
Controlling migration need not harm EU citizens or damage the economy
Brandon Lewis – Immigration minister
Should Britain have full control of immigration?
Chicken nuggets
Cabinet ministers are at odds over chlorine-washed chicken after Michael Gove vowed that he would not allow it to be imported from America.
Read the full story >
Disruptive startup
Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director known as The Mooch, used an interview on BBC2's Newsnight to insist that a trade deal with the US was possible. "A hundred per cent. Loves the United Kingdom. Don't you want a trade deal for your great country?" he said, sounding quite a lot like his boss.

"We want trade deals with everyone, of course we do. So think about the special relationship that we've had since the inception of this great nation. You know what this nation is, it's a disruptive startup. It was a group of rich guys that got together and said you know what, we're going to break away from the other country and start our own country. This is the disruptive startup."
Red Box: Comment
Allie Renison
Business wants Brexit to be phased in slowly
Allie Renison – Institute of Directors
Bolstering the team
David Davis has hired Stewart Jackson, a Tory MP who lost his seat in the general election, as his chief of staff in a move that has raised eyebrows in certain parts of the government. Jackson is an outspoken Brexiteer. Yesterday he officially signed off Twitter to concentrate on his new role, which is probably for the best.

Last year he tweeted: "Had enough of liberal smugness, Remoaner whining & rampant Europhilia @TheEconomist & cancelled my subscription. UK patriots should do similar." Which might come as a surprise to the UK patriot who lives in No10 and still rather enjoys her weekly magazine.

Davis also gets a new spin doctor in Tim Smith, the popular No10 press aide. Downing Street is bolstered by the arrival of Paul Harrison, Jeremy Hunt's current media spad, as political press secretary, along with Kirsty Buchanan, a former Sunday Express political editor who advised Liz Truss during her tricky tenure at justice, Guido Fawkes reports.

However, the revolving door keeps spinning: Politico and Bloomberg reveal that Chris Wilkins, May's speechwriter and strategist, has quit. Credited with writing her nasty party speech in 2002, he was also responsible for some of the PM's biggest addresses in power, including her conference speech and the Lancaster House speech setting out the approach to Brexit. Having felt sidelined during the election campaign he stayed on to steady the ship but has now jumped overboard.
In, out, shake it all about
Labour has opened the door to supporting Britain remaining inside the single market in yet another significant change of the party’s position.

Just in case you haven't been following it, Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, and John McDonnell, shadow chancellor, now say that no options should be taken off the table after other Labour frontbenchers, including Barry Gardiner, that the party was edging towards supporting a hard Brexit.

Jeremy Corbyn started it all off when he claimed, wrongly, that membership of the single market was “dependent on EU membership”.
Read the full story >
Quote of the day
"Course we should be staying in, Jeremy Corbyn's a twat ain't he?"
Charlie Mullins, from Pimlico Plumbers, unhappy with Labour support for leaving the single market
Down with diesel
This is not a good time to be a diesel driver. Having been told for years that it was the right thing to do, you now face being fined, punished and then driven off the road altogether.
Face up to train trouble
Technology that identifies faces by recognising the smallest blemish could spell the end of railway ticket barriers, with your head replacing the need for tickets.

There will be some who would rather that the government sorted out the mess on the railway network, especially outside London, where trains are old, late, full and standing, rather than worry too much about sci-fi solutions.
Read the full story >
Red Box: Comment
Jennifer Williams
Ministers should spend time on Manchester's packed trains to get the Northern Powerhouse back on track
Jennifer Williams – Political editor, Manchester Evening News
Government defeated in court
Employers are bracing for a surge in tribunal claims after the government agreed to scrap fees for them and pay back £27 million. Ministers said that they would take immediate steps to refund payments after the Supreme Court upheld a challenge by Unison that the charges were discriminatory.
Read the full story >
No such thing as a free breakfast
The Conservatives have officially abandoned a manifesto pledge to provide free school breakfasts for all primary school pupils in England, The Independent reports.

More than half a million primary school children in England are being taught in “super-sized” classes , The Sun reports.
Podcast special
Joining me to examine the big beasts and small fry who make Westminster tick are three professional prickers of political pomposity:
  • Jan Ravens, the impressionist who has given voice to the likes of Theresa May, Diane Abbott and Ann Widdecombe on Spitting Image and Dead Ringers.
  • Patrick Kidd, The Times sketchwriter and diarist who gives them a kicking in print.
  • Peter Brookes, The Times cartoonist who mocks the mighty in beautiful watercolours.
Listen to the podcast:
I can't believe it's not Butters
Tim Farron's departure from the Lib Dem leadership robs Westminster of one its best operatives: Paul Butters, his long-suffering press man.

When not churning out outlandish press quotes that the MP in question had never seen before, Butters made sure that Farron was always in the right place at the right time.

At the 2015 party conference, Farron's first in charge, the introduction to the leader's big speech began, the music played but the man of the moment was nowhere to be seen.

Butters rushed backstage, stormed into the gents toilets and called on Farron to finish up. When no response came he kicked down the door only to find an elderly steward midway through passing an emergency conference motion.

"I'm not Tim Farron," the man insisted quietly, just as the dulcet tones of the dear leader were echoing around the conference hall.
Also in the news
From the diary
By Patrick Kidd
A date with 007
Theresa May will welcome the news that Daniel Craig is to make a fifth Bond film. The prime minister is a fan of 007. At a reception for MPs before the recess she gestured at Mel Stride, the former pairing whip and now a minister, and said: “This is the man who wouldn’t let me go to the last James Bond premiere. I promoted him anyway.” Surely Mrs May can arrange government votes so that she doesn’t miss the next one — that is, if she is still there in 2019.
Read more from the TMS diary >
What the papers say
The Times
"Britain has joined the club of nations that have pledged to remove internal combustion engines from new cars and vans by a specific date, and not before time. The date chosen by the environment secretary, however, is 2040, and that is not soon enough." Read the full article

Financial Times
"What could boost confidence is for the government, rather than posturing over citizens’ rights and the exit bill, to get on with securing the closest trading relationship possible with the EU following its departure. That the UK economy has not suffered more from Brexit uncertainty comes more by luck than judgment." Read the full article

The Daily Telegraph
"Wednesday's announcement that new petrol and diesel car sales will be banned by 2040 in order to improve the quality of our air is not inherently outrageous. The original sin lies at the door of the Labour government, which heavy-handedly encouraged consumers to buy diesel vehicles more than 15 years ago." Read the full article

The Sun
"Michael Gove has tossed a grenade into the lives of 99 per cent of Britain’s drivers. The government now needs to clean up the mess." Read the full article

Daily Mail
"The independence of the judiciary is sacrosanct. But the Mail can't help wondering whether our top judges have meddled in matters which should be the preserve of elected ministers."

Daily Mirror
"The judgment is the latest humiliation for hapless Chris Grayling, the justice secretary who brought in the fees. One by one his callous and slipshod reforms, from banning books for prisoners to criminal court charges, have been ditched. The only mystery is how someone so useless remains in post."

The Guardian
"Clean air zones may not sound as flashy or exciting as the distant vision Mr Gove has expertly promoted but they would mean purer air and healthier residents – not in 23 years’ time but now." Read the full article
  • David Davis, the Brexit secretary, visits Bavaria
  • Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, and Sir Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, visit Australia
  • More than half a million pupils are in overcrowded classrooms, according to the Labour Party
  • Young workers in temporary jobs are 29 per cent more likely to experience mental health problems, according to an IPPR report
  • The Taylor Review recommendations would pass costs on to employees and customers, according a report by the Institute of Economic Affairs
  • A record number of antisemitic hate incidents was recorded across UK in first six months of 2017, according to the Community Security Trust
  • 9am Boris Johnson delivers a speech at the Lowy Institute in Australia
  • 9.30am Energy trends and prices statistics published
House of Commons & House of Lords
  • Parliament is in summer recess and will return on Tuesday, September 5.
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