PLUS: 'Not a cabinet of yes men'
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The Times and Sunday Times
Tuesday October 3 2017
Red Box
Matt Chorley
By Matt Chorley
Good morning from Manchester,
If it has been the Boris show all week, he finally takes the stage today. Will he be loyal? Will he win over his detractors? Or most terrifying, will he be boring?

He has been known to give a dull conference speech, but more often they are barnstormers. Who can forget him waving a brick around in 2014 or declaring that Ukip supporters are the sort of people who turn up at A&E “with barely credible injuries sustained through vacuum cleaner abuse”.

Theresa May's round of interviews this morning was dominated by questions about her foreign secretary and what he might say later. The prime minister insisted: "His speech has been looked at don't worry..."

I'm not sure it's us who should be worried, prime minister.
Matt Chorley
Red Box Editor
Twitter icon @MattChorley
 
Must reads
  • A 64-year-old retired accountant with no criminal record became America’s deadliest gunman yesterday after killing at least 59 people with several machineguns fired into a music festival crowd in Las Vegas.

  • Catalan leaders have stepped back from a declaration of independence as Spain struggles to come to terms with its worst peacetime violence for decades.

  • Gored on the thigh by a gorilla, bitten on the backside by a leopard and mauled by a hippo that ripped a fist-sized hole in his calf: No wonder Alan Root, the wildlife filmmaker who has died aged 80, earned the nickname “the man who was eaten alive”.
The truth about Ruth
This is not a party conference that feels packed. Speeches have been delivered to half-filled halls, there are strangely few Tory MPs in Manchester.

Amid the tumbleweed, there are two travelling circuses bowling around inside the police cordon, never quite meeting, mirror opposites of each other, both drawing in the crowds. To the untrained eye you'd think these bubbles of authenticity would tell you where the party is these days but they are opposites in almost every way.

At the centre of one is Jacob Rees Mogg, the double-breasted, double-barrelled icon of the hard right, packing in fans, one of whom fainted with the excitement of it all.

And on the other side, in every sense, there is Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tory leader. More than 300 peopled packed into the Red Box fringe yesterday, hoping to finally hear how the 38-year-old kicking-boxing lesbian ("I haven't kickboxed in years but I am still a lesbian") was going to come south to save the party, and the country.

After interviewing her for an hour I've come to the conclusion that I don't think she is going to.

I pressed her several times on the idea of running for the Tory leadership and she eventually declared: “I honestly can’t see it, I honestly can’t. I am really lucky and I am regularly behind the door of No 10 but it honestly looks like the loneliest job in the world, it really does.

“People ask me and they can’t believe I don’t want the job. I really don’t. I do want the job of being first minister of Scotland.”

In politics, whenever someone says they do not want the top job or might not even be up to it, their appeal only grows. Just ask Alan Johnson.

And there was plenty more in the interview to make Davidson fans want her to reconsider.

On the state of the party: “I don’t think the party needs saving, it needs to get over its current nervous breakdown and man up a bit.”
“We don’t just pack up and go home, we get stuck in.”

On the deal with the DUP: “I’m not sure Arlene Foster would be comfortable with the idea of being in bed with me.”

On Brexit: “I've never been to sleep under an EU duvet ... there is a general acceptance by all but the very few that this is happening, it’s going to happen and need to try to make it happen in the best possible way. The idea that they are going to wake up in the morning of March 2019 and they are going to have everything they want and everything is going to convert back to the sunny uplands of 1955, I don’t think that’s true.”

On sacking Boris Johnson:
“If I was able to interpret the actions, and the processes behind the actions of the foreign secretary, then I think I could make a better living doing that than I do at the moment. Just in case, because I have a lot of my MSPs here at conference, if you think of writing anything without telling me that questions current Conservative policy then you’re out on your ear because no one is unsackable.”

On votes at 16: “I think one of the things we do is we start talking to people of voting age, in England and Wales between 18 and 25 and in Scotland between 16 and 25, not as if they are a separate species. I wasn’t fully signed up to the old votes at 16 question until I saw it on the ground and operating in Scotland and I am now a convert to it. Some of the best questioning, some of the best analysis has been at schools and colleges.”

There was plenty more on what went wrong with the Conservative election campaign as she managed to position herself not just in opposition to the SNP in Scotland but to the duff messages coming from Tory HQ in London, boasting of being able to write her own manifesto without taking away winter fuel allowances from pensioners and trying to avoid the dementia tax.

"I think fighting Corbyn is important, but I'm 38 and he's what - 68? I think I can outlast him," she said, which sounded like a waiting game rather than a vow to take the Labour leader head on.

A former journalist who likes the limelight, hugely popular with the membership, prone to controversy and criticised for not always being on top of the detail, is she a female Boris Johnson? "I don't think I speak as much Greek as the foreign secretary."

Describing herself as the "Cinzano martini of politicians", she added: "I just love a fight ... any place, any time anywhere." Just not Westminster any time soon.
Quote of the day
"I haven't kickboxed in years but I am still a lesbian"
Ruth Davidson
Fit for office
A sensational spat between two of Scotland's other big personalities yesterday. David Mundell, the Scottish secretary, had described the violence in Catalonia as unedifying but said that it was for the Spanish to sort out their own problems.

Alex Salmond, who was among 21 SNP MPs to lose his seat in June, said Mundell’s reaction was “mealy-mouthed” and showed he was “not fit to be an MP”.

To which Mundell replied: “In our democracy, of course, it’s the electorate who determine who is fit to be an MP and in June they determined who was fit to be Scotland’s 59 MPs.”

Mundell 1, Salmond 0.
Read the full story >
 
The Sketch
SuperMogg puts protesters in their place
Patrick Kidd
Patrick Kidd
Look, up there. Is it a banker? Is it a stockbroker? No, it’s SuperMogg, defender of truth, justice and the British way of doing things. Mild of manner, stiff of upper lip, double-breasted of suit, with a classical quip for every occasion, the Clark Kent of Somerset conservatism may not look like much on the outside but he seems to be the right’s answer to Corbyn populism. A man armed not with a Little Red Book but a Kennedy’s Latin Primer.
Read the full sketch >
 
Tuesday's best comment
Rachel Sylvester
May’s appeasement will just embolden Boris
Rachel Sylvester – The Times
Hugo Rifkind
For Generation Rent, owning things is history
Hugo Rifkind – The Times
Melanie Phillips
Welby is deluded to think we’re a kind society
Melanie Phillips – The Times
Boris Johnson’s impatience over Brexit masks a fear of delay
Janan Ganesh - Financial Times
The problem is not capitalism. It’s that the Tories aren’t much cop at it
Aditya Chakrabortty - The Guardian
Today's cartoon from The Times by Peter Brookes
May on a mission
Theresa May had a mammoth media round this morning. Asked on BBC Breakfast about what she learnt about herself during the election campaign, the PM said: "I had set out a mission for government in July 2016. That message, that message didn't come across during the election campaign."

She returns to that mission with details of her race audit, to be published next week, which shows black, Asian and minority ethnic Britons are almost twice as likely to be unemployed as whites and far less likely to own their own homes.

Pressed on Boris Johnson's red lines, the existence of a magic money tree and her plans for Brexit, she did little to shake off the reputation for not answering questions.

Or as the BBC's Chris Mason put it: "I'm not sure the prime minister pushed back the frontiers of human knowledge vastly."

On Sky News, May was pressed on what the government was doing to tackle terrorism ahead of Amber Rudd's speech later. "We have seen an increased tempo in these terror attacks ... this is a constant battle."

On ITV's Good Morning Britain she sought to turn the Boris negatives into a positive: "Weak leadership is having a cabinet of yes men, strong leadership is having diverse voices around the table."

On Radio 4's Today programme she repeated the "yes men" line, and her insistence that she has learned the lessons of what went wrong during the election. "I got us into this situation and I'm going to get us out of it."

May also had a nice line about how she had least turned up for a media round. "I understand Jeremy Corbyn was not able to join you at the Labour conference..."
Read the full story >
Amber light
While all the leadership focus is on the Borises and Ruths of conference, is Amber Rudd quietly preparing her own bid?

A cracking scoop in The Times by Lucy Fisher, who reports that the home secretary has hired the pollster Sir Lynton Crosby to help to craft her next election campaign. She needs to prove she can hold Hastings & Rye (maj 346) to convince Tories she could hold the country too.
Read the full story >
Many ways to skin a cat
Why won't she just sack him? It's not because she is too weak, insist allies of the prime minister, but because keeping Boris Johnson in his job is better than making him a "martyr", believing his rebellious interventions are having less impact each time.

A senior ally of the PM told me: "There are better ways to cause someone misery ... There are more ways to skin a cat.”

As if to confirm the idea that Johnson does not know what he is doing, and does not have a plan, last night he back-pedalled over his moves to disrupt a Brexit transition deal, telling Newsnight that the cabinet was "totally united behind every comma, every full stop, every syllable" of the Florence speech.

So where did all those Johnson Brexit red lines come from? "Search me Guv!"

Give me strength.
Read the full story >
Boris backlash
The cabinet is still sticking it to the foreign secretary. Asked if Johnson is eyeing the top job, Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, tells The Guardian: “What do you think?All I would say to anyone who might be eyeing a different job is that Jeremy Corbyn is also eyeing a different job. And if they don’t swing behind Theresa, who I think is doing a fantastic job in very difficult circumstances, they will just open the door to Jeremy Corbyn and probably the most dangerous leftwing government this country has ever seen.”

Asked whether it was sustainable for a cabinet minister to continue speaking out, Amber Rudd, the home secretary, tells the Daily Mail: "Well, every time he stops making interventions we all breathe a sigh of relief and think, 'Now we can get on with the business of government without a distraction'.”

Nick Timothy, May's former chief of staff, writes in The Sun: "Instead of debating the future of the country at their party ­conference, the Tories have been ­distracted by Boris Johnson’s leadership ­ ambitions. The party needs to get its mojo back, and fast."

The foreign secretary has one fan in cabinet. The Independent reports that Andrea Leadsom, the Commons leader, told a fringe event: “I think he is fantastic but I would love him to go to the parliamentary hairdresser.”
 
Retirement plans
In keeping with the tradition of people walking away from their jobs over Brexit, the Telegraph reports that David Davis is preparing to retire in 2019 to leave Boris Johnson to steer the UK through the transitional period.

Brexit means Brexit, and someone else can make a success of it.
 
Red Box: Comment
Carole Walker
Blond agitators and Europe: these are familiar Tory conference tales
Carole Walker – Political commentator
Today at conference
Online terror ban
Amber Rudd,
the home secretary, will announce that watching streamed terrorist content online is to become a criminal offence under plans for a crackdown on radicalisation. Read the story

Carry on nurse
Jeremy Hunt,
the health secretary, will today pledge the biggest expansion of nurse training in NHS history, with 5,000 extra trainees needed to “jump-start” the process after a fall in new nursing students. Read the story

Restoring military security
Sir Michael Fallon
is being challenged to fight for money for defence or risk a further erosion in the armed forces ahead of his speech today. Read the story

In the conference hall
  • 10.30am Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary
  • 11.05am David Lidington, the justice secretary
  • Noon Amber Rudd, the home secretary
  • 2.10pm Liam Fox, the international trade secretary
  • 2.25pm David Davis, the Brexit secretary
  • 2.50pm: Priti Patel, the international development secretary
  • 3.15pm Michael Fallon, the defence secretary
  • 3.40pm: Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary
Pick of the Fringe
  • 9am Robert Halfon, chairman of the education select committee, speaks at an apprenticeships forum fringe debate
  • 10.00am Liz Truss, chief secretary to the Treasury, speaks at Reform fringe event
  • 12.45pm Karen Bradley, the culture secretary, speaks on "Facing the dark side: creating a self-sustaining local authority"
  • 2.00pm Jacob Rees-Mogg, George Freeman, Owen Jones and Nicky Morgan at a Policy Exchange debate asking "Is the intellectual momentum all with the left?"
  • 3.45pm Priti Patel speaks at Conservative Voice discussion session
  • 4pm: Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, speaks on house building at a Conservative Home fringe event.
  • 5.30pm Michael Fallon speaks on future challenges in defence at a PoliticsHome event
  • 5.45pm Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the CBI, speaks on industrial strategy at an IPPR event
  • 6.00pm Boris Johnson speaks on "global Britain" at a UK finance fringe meeting
  • 6.00pm Jacob Rees-Mogg speaks on Brexit at a BrexitCentral fringe event.
Slim pickings
Business leaders have accused Philip Hammond of doing too little to revive the faltering economy, dismissing the chancellor's conference speech yesterday as "slim pickings".

Hammond also used his speech to say: "Look, I have kids; I understand we will not engage them simply by droning on about some previously fought war, 'I remember the Winter of Discontent!'”

Before droning on about the Winter of Discontent. “I think we owe it to the next generation,” said the 61-year-old. “To show how Corbyn’s Marxist policies will inevitably lead us back to where Britain was in the late 1970s.”

His younger colleagues were unconvinced. “It’s like asking me to remember what happened in the corn laws,” said Sam Gyimah, a 41-year-old justice minister told a fringe on winning over da yoof. "It’s not a reference point people have in their daily lives.” Unless you’re chancellor, apparently.
Read the full story >
Tweet of the day
Number-crunching
One of the stats which has been doing the rounds endlessly this week is that the average age of Conservative party members is 71.

Except it isn't true. This study by Dr Monica Poletti of Queen Mary, University of London, says it is only 57.
 
red box: comment
The Tories’ problem with young people is one of attitude, not of policy
Mason Boycott-Owen – Journalist at the News Academy
Warwick Lightfoot
What politicians should do to kickstart renewal in Britain
Warwick Lightfoot – Head of economics at Policy Exchange and former special adviser to three Conservative chancellors
Fringe interests
Bored Tory MPs seem to be having a private competition to see who can say the daftest thing at a fringe meeting.

Craig Mackinlay, who beat Nigel Farage to become the MP for South Thanet in 2015, said young people should get on their bike and take farm jobs working with “gorgeous EU women”. Read the story

Then Phillip Lee, a junior justice minister, popped up to brand the NHS and pensions “a Ponzi scheme” about to collapse, The Sun reports.
Red Box: Comment
Matthew Elliott
Is there still space in British politics for a Ukip-style party?
Matthew Elliott – Senior fellow at the Legatum Institute
Got bottle
Deposits could be introduced on plastic bottles across Britain after Michael Gove signalled his support for the schemes. Read the story

Gove also showed that the Brexit debate had reached a new low/high (depending on your point of view), telling a fringe: "By selling more sows’ ears to China, we can buy more silk purses for British farmers.” Read the story

The environment secretary was up early to make the case for Brexit to farmers at the Countryside Alliance breakfast fringe.

The small, warm room was so packed that the excitement proved too much for one young delegate who, with his face pressed against a door, had somehow fallen asleep while still standing up.
 
Life of grime
Jeremy Corbyn thought he had the grime scene sewn up after winning the backing of Stormzy, but the Tories have a secret weapon to woo rappers: Matthew Hancock is speaking to their mums. The culture minister tells Bright Blue’s Centre Write magazine he met Skepta’s parents at the Mercury awards and had “clicked” with them.

Rees-Mogg cheesed off
For many, conference is a jamboree of fine dining. Not the Rees-Moggs. Three years ago Jacob took Helena, his wife, to McDonald’s. “Mrs Rees-Mogg was less than impressed,” he told Nick Ferrari on LBC. “For good, quick, perfectly edible food, it is not bad. But I wouldn’t want to give the impression that I am a regular . . . I don’t like cheese on it, either.”

Red Box: comment
Sir Michael Arthur
Boeing welcomes competition, but the playing field must be level
Sir Michael Arthur – President of Boeing Europe
TMS
From the diary
By Patrick Kidd
Streets ahead on pillow talk
Andy Street, elected Conservative mayor of the West Midlands in May, was told to expect a call from Downing Street soon after Theresa May became prime minister last year. He briefly wondered if she wanted him to oversee Brexit but it was a far more important job. Street, then managing director of John Lewis, was asked whether he could arrange for the prime minister and her husband to have a private bounce on his beds in the nearest store to her Maidenhead constituency. The four-poster that David Cameron had got for the flat above the office was not to her taste and rather uncomfortable. Street was happy to arrange for them to test-drive one in High Wycombe, making him perhaps the only senior Conservative who allows the prime minister to sleep easy at night.
Read more from the TMS diary >
 
What the papers say
The Times
“It is clear to any reasonable observer that the United States needs sensible gun-control laws, yet the country’s lawmakers have proved as impervious to the advice of outsiders as to the lessons of their bloodstained history.” Read the full article

The Daily Telegraph
“Mr Hammond made an important point. This is not about Conservative versus Labour values; this is a conflict between what had been the economic consensus under both parties for nearly 30 years and a Socialist economic model that has failed miserably wherever it has been implemented.” Read the full article

The Guardian
“Nor did Mr Hammond mention the virtues of the market when he confirmed that an extra £10bn would be available for the government's help-to-buy scheme. Not even he could pretend this will amount to anything other than an unjustifiable bung to developers that will stoke up house prices without increasing supply, making it even harder for the first-time buyer” Read the full article

Daily Mail
“ For all their lofty rhetoric about protecting fundamental rights and freedoms, the EU commissars don't just despise democracy - they positively fear it. If Catalonia strikes out for independence, then who next - the Basques, the Bretons, the Walloons?”

The Independent
“Hearts and minds can be changed. Many Americans are already persuaded of the need for tougher gun controls, and more could be persuaded, both by force of argument and the emotional response to events such as those in Las Vegas.” Read the full article

The Sun
“What radical, practical solutions did Mr Hammond offer to the generation priced out of the housing market and emerging into low-paid jobs with nearworthless degrees and a mountain of student debt? None we could see.” Read the full article

Daily Mirror
“Mourning the dead slaughtered in the worst mass shooting in modern American history is not enough when only tough gun control will prevent future massacres.”Read the full article

Financial Times
“Mr Hammond acknowledged that the Brexit vote has curtailed investment. This will impose costs on the economy. Stifling free markets will make those costs more difficult to bear. Embracing free markets requires political will, however. The government needs a clear plan to take on entrenched interests within Britain if the country is to thrive globally.” Read the full article

Daily Express
“The American people are right to take their constitutional rights seriously. It is staggering though that so many consider this more important than the lives of the innocent people routinely gunned down with weapons of a power and capability unimaginable to those who wrote the Bill of Rights back in the 18th century.”
Agenda
Today
  • Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, begins a three-day trip to Dubai and Qatar
  • Mark Field, the Asia and Pacific minister, travels to India and Sri Lanka
  • Dara Khosrowshahi, chief executive of Uber, meets Mike Brown, the Transport for London commissioner, to discuss the cab firm’s licence
  • Having workers on company boards helps regulate executive pay, according to a report by the Class think tank
  • Jo Cox Commission on loneliness launches a 60-second film on the physical and mental effects of loneliness.
  • 9.50am Guy Verhofstadt, chief Brexit negotiator for the European parliament, gives a press conference before a vote on the state of play of Brexit negotiations.
House of Commons & House of Lords
  • Both houses are in recess for party conferences and return on Monday, October 9.

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