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The Times and Sunday Times
Wednesday January 10 2018
Red Box
Matt Chorley
By Matt Chorley
Good morning,
It’s the first prime minister’s questions of 2018 today, and Jeremy Corbyn has absolutely nothing to go on.

Apart from the NHS crisis. And the John Worboys case. And the state of the railways. And the reshuffle mess.

One sobering thought for those of us who obsess about the latter. The Demos think tank asked a series of focus groups about the country, and its leaders. (Sophie Gaston writes on their findings for Red Box here)

They could name only a handful of politicians’ names. Aside from the prime minister and Corbyn, these were: Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and, to some extent, Jacob Rees-Mogg.

And he didn’t even get a job.
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Matt Chorley
Red Box Editor
Twitter icon @MattChorley
 
Must-reads
  • Times exclusive: A leading NHS hospital is delaying chemotherapy for cancer patients, and those who are terminally ill face cuts to their treatment because of a chronic shortage of specialist nurses, according to a leaked memo.

  • All small shops will be made to charge the 5p plastic bag levy under plans by Theresa May to tackle Britain’s “throwaway culture”.

  • The army is telling prospective recruits on social media that it is OK to pray, have feelings and cry.
Carrier bags/bag carriers
The 'new look' government
It tells you something about how well day two of the reshuffle went that Downing Street rushed out an announcement about charging 5p for plastic bags in small shops in a (not-entirely successful) attempt to keep the shake-up off the front page.

A hyperbolic Daily Mail splashes on the "massacre of the middle-aged men", although Times analysis of the new-look government suggests that not a huge amount has changed.

The number of men in government is down by seven but still accounts for almost 70 per cent of ministers. The number of black and minority ethnic (BME) ministers is up from five to nine. The average age has plummeted from 52 to 51, and the number of Oxbridge graduates has actually risen from 46 to 48. The number of gay ministers fell from seven to six.

Without a last-ditch bid to put six women in the most junior roles in the whips office, the gender balance would have been almost unchanged. One of them, Wendy Morton, is unpaid.

Theresa May said she had chosen a government that “looks more like the country it serves”, which is true in that the people at the very top remain unchanged and most of the women are in lower paid, lower profile jobs.

The number of women and BME MPs who are full cabinet members remains unchanged, all of the top jobs remain unchanged, and there are fewer cabinet ministers who were comprehensively educated. The Sutton Trust points out that cabinet ministers are five times more likely to have gone to a fee-paying school than the rest of the population.

So what, say some. Surely it's the best person for the job, no matter their colour or gender or background. Which is true. But if No 10 sets itself a test for a more diverse, representative government, it should be judged by it.

You needed a special kind of patience yesterday to maintain the enthusiasm for following all of the low-ranking appointments. "Where has John Glen gone?" "Who is John Glen?" etc etc.

One new MP told me they were quietly hoping they didn't get a call because they would prefer not to have anything to do with the shambles. Another more ambitious backbencher was gripping his phone, and when a withheld number came up, tentatively answered the call from the prime minister who asked: "Have you ever had PPI?"

As the dust has settled, the general feeling remains: what was the point? There has been all the hullaballoo of a major cabinet reshuffle but the PM could have achieved the same with a quick and dirty three-card shuffle the day after Damian Green resigned. If it had all gone to plan, was the big idea really a job swap between Jeremy Hunt and Greg Clark?

Some of the other appointments are just as baffling: why move David Gauke from work and pensions just after he has taken the sting out of controversial welfare changes and hand it to Esther McVey, already a hate figure for the left?

Why move Rory Stewart, a former deputy governor in Iraq and a diplomat in Montenegro, from the perfect fit of being Africa minister to prisons? Why talk up Dominic Raab, the Brexiteer who had been tipped for the cabinet, and then move him sideways to become the 15th housing minister in 17 years?

Why were Brexiteers told there would be a "minister for no deal" attending cabinet, before failing to appoint one?

Jo Johnson was ousted as universities minister the day after defending the decision to give Toby Young a job, but put in charge of the Tory party's local election campaign in London as well as being a transport minister.

In this week's Red Box podcast Chris Wilkins, May’s former director of strategy, says the government has been “afflicted” by caution.

The real error, he said, was not the bungled reshuffle but the lack of ambition and vision: “The fact that it didn’t go quite according to whatever the plan was, when your plan is quite unambitious in the first place, makes it all the worse.”

Although, he says, the PM's caution is understandable: "Of course the big, bold thing she did last year was call the election and that didn’t go very well.”

I spoke to one minister who had been in No 10 since the Greening/Hunt/Clark debacle. How was it? "It was fine. I mean, there was no sick anywhere. No obvious signs of debris."

Still to come is the list of parliamentary private secretaries – the aides to ministers who act as their eyes and ears, and can't rebel or speak their minds. And bag-carriers who get nothing for it. Not even 5p.
£10,000 for vice-chairmen
Theresa May has angered MPs by paying a “top-up” fee to a dozen new Tory party vice-chairmen and women believed to be more than £10,000 in some cases, The Times reveals.
Read the full story >
 
Red Box: Comment
Ben Bradley
By playing a part in politics young people can make change happen
Ben Bradley – Conservative MP
Night of the long knife
Late to this, but it deserves a wider audience... Andrea Leadsom tweeted this picture of herself late on Monday following confirmation that she is staying as Commons Leader. She celebrated in the way that anyone would: chopping a parsnip at nearly 10 o’clock at night.
What's the big idea?
Kelly Tolhurst, one of the new female whips, appeared on Newsnight last night and was asked by Evan Davies to sum up the government’s big idea in a couple of sentences, apart from Brexit.

“The government is committed to delivering Brexit.”

Yeah, but apart from Brexit? What’s the big idea, the mission?

“Well one of the things we are doing is focusing ... as you know we have been speaking about the NHS and winter crisis over the last couple of days… We have got… something we are looking at…" Watch here from 12.20
Wednesday's best comment
Daniel Finkelstein
Backroom reshuffles can’t save the Tories
Daniel Finkelstein – The Times
Alice Thomson
Watch and learn from the best of our schools
Alice Thomson – The Times
Matthew Parris
A sobering glimpse of the pram in the hall
Matthew Parris – The Times
Theresa May's new Cabinet shows her aversion to drama has become a dangerous weakness
James Kirkup - The Daily Telegraph
Some parents call it a loving smack. I call it violence
Susanna Rustin - The Guardian
Today's cartoon from The Times by Peter Brookes
    No no no no no deal
    The latest performance by the surrealist "David Davis" has bombed in Europe just as it begins a European tour.

    It all rests on the concept of "no deal". The European Commission has been criticised by "David Davis" for preparing for a "no deal".

    But where could Brussels possibly have got the idea that, say, no deal was better than a bad deal, and the government was preparing for it? Could it possibly be performances by everyone's favourite art installation here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here?

    "Here in the European Commission we are somehow surprised that the UK is surprised that we are preparing for a scenario announced by the UK government itself," was how Margaritis Schinas, European Commission spokesman, put it.

    • Philip Hammond heads to Berlin to appeal directly to member states to agree a trade deal with Britain that includes financial services. The move to go over the head of Michel Barnier, the EU's Brexit negotiator, is not without risks. Read the full story

    • A group of Brexiteers, led by the MEP Steven Woolfe, head to meet Barnier today. The Telegraph says they will give him a hamper of British cheese and wine.
    ‘Things are fluid’
    Remember Labour? They were quite big last year. Well, The Times has learnt that they are preparing to shift their policy on Brexit, committing to stay indefinitely in a modified version of the European customs union.

    “Things are fluid,” a source said, but added that they hoped the party would modify its position by March or April.

    Luckily Theresa May hasn't created enemies this week by, say, sacking Remainers who are now free to rebel against the government on her plans for a hard Brexit.
    Read the full story >
    Red Box: Comment
    Alison McGovern and Heidi Alexander
    Britain should stay in the single market and customs union as a bare minimum
    Alison McGovern and Heidi Alexander – Labour MPs
    What sort of people do party members want to see more of in the Commons
    Red Box: Comment
    Tim Bale
    Party members hold dear their privileges in candidate selection
    Tim Bale – Professor of Politics
    Knives are out
    If Toby Young thought that quitting the Office for Students was going to end the backlash against him, he was mistaken.

    The new teaching super-union, the National Education Union, has now questioned his future as head of a government-funded charity, the New Schools Network, after the row over his sexist and derogatory social media posts.
    Read the full story >
    Red Box: Comment
    Angela Rayner
    The Young fiasco shows ministers wanted a regulator to pursue their ideological goals
    Angela Rayner – Shadow education secretary
    Cameroon vs Cameroon
    Isn’t it awful when Cameroons fight? Steve Hilton, the former policy guru best known for wearing no shoes in No10 and wanting to buy cloud-bursting technology to give us more sunshine, popped up on his Fox News show to dish the dirt on the former PM.

    He claimed David Cameron privately believed that Barack Obama was one of the “most narcissistic, self-absorbed people” he had ever met.

    To which Andrew Cooper, former Cameron pollster, replied on Twitter: “Think Steve Hilton is muddling up what David Cameron thought of Barack Obama with what he (& most of his team) thought of Steve Hilton.”
    Read the full story >
    Tweet of the day
    You're joking? Not another one!
    If feels like we've only just packed the decorations away before it comes around again: are we about to get another Ukip leadership contest?

    I won't embarrass you by reminding you who the current leader is, but he is under investigation by the party over the revelation that he left his wife and started an affair with a topless model half his age who once described nurses as “just posh cleaners”.

    A Ukip spokesman said: “No, Henry Bolton is not going to go.” So he'll be gone within a week.
    Read the full story >
    Breaking the code
    Theresa May has introduced “Priti Patel and Damian Green” clauses into the government’s code of conduct banning the type of behaviour that led to their resignations.

    So no more funny holidays or telling porkies.
    Read the full story >
    I'm an embassy, get him out of here
    Officials at the Ecuadorean embassy have asked for help to prise Julian Assange from the premises five years after he took refuge there.
    Read the full story >
    Around the world
    President Xi’s explanation of his road and train-building plans are yawningly good
    CHINA: If lullabies are failing to get the little ones off to sleep, a more unusual soundtrack is gaining unlikely popularity: President Xi’s musing on China’s ambition to expand its political and economic might. Read the full story

    US:
    Steve Bannon was forced out of his job at Breitbart News last night after a vicious feud with President Trump. Read the full story

    POLAND: The head of the European Commission has accused Poland and other countries in eastern Europe of racism, telling the Polish prime minister that his country must accept refugees under European Union migrant quotas. Read the full story

    ITALY: Italian supermarket shoppers reacted with such horror at a two cent charge on biodegradable plastic bags for loose fruit and vegetables that the government has offered a compromise. Read the full story

    SOUTH KOREA:
    North Korea will send a delegation to next month’s Winter Olympics in the South marking a diplomatic breakthrough that promises to complicate President Trump’s efforts to isolate the rogue regime. Read the full story
    Also in the news
    • CRISIS CASH: Labour to force vote demanding extra NHS funding for 'appalling winter crisis' (The Independent)

    • STURGEON REBUFFED: Scots reject the SNP call for immigration powers (The Times)

    • FREE PRESS: Peers hijack data bill to attack free press through back door (The Times)

    • STAR PAY: Male BBC stars face salary cuts as equality row flares (The Times)

    • PUNISHING CHILDREN: Plans to ban smacking in Wales go to consultation (The Sun)

    • COP OFF: Top anti-terror officer Mark Rowley to quit after 31 years (The Times)

    • OFF TRACK: Worst rail service, Govia Thameslink Railway, will be given more money (The Times)

    • RAIL REPORT: Transport secretary 'should be accountable' for rail network delays (The Guardian)

    • PAPER TRAINS: Daily Mail cries censorship as Virgin Trains halts sales (The Times)
    What the papers say
    The Times
    "The sum total of the work of ambitious ministers hungry for improvements could yet provide Mrs May’s government with the purpose that she is unable to offer herself. If nothing else, it will be a fascinating audition for the top job in which some incidental good may be done for the nation." Read the full article

    The Guardian
    "The new Northern Ireland secretary, Karen Bradley, will be judged above all by whether she can help to undo this logjam. This is a tall order. The logjam is not her fault. Time will be needed for her to master her new brief and exert her influence. But the priority of the task cannot be doubted. The clock is ticking. The lack of progress is a scandal." Read the full article

    Financial Times
    "A positive outcome to the next phase of Brexit talks is by no means guaranteed. It is conceivable that the British electorate will have second thoughts when they see the final deal." Read the full story

    The Daily Telegraph
    "It is a rich irony that [Toby Young] has been undone by the very problem he might have been in a position to remedy. A campaign by Left-wingers to get him removed was fuelled by the discovery of some injudicious, jokey and sometimes tasteless remarks he had made on Twitter some years ago." Read the full article

    The Sun
    "One question: some plainly have the talent for the top jobs. Why were they not propelled straight into the Cabinet on Monday? It would have shown more intent, imagination and courage than the haphazard tinkering we got instead." Read the full article

    Daily Mail
    "The Mail doesn't seek to defend the puerile tweets and articles written in the past by the journalist and free school champion Toby Young. But the storm of virtue signalling outrage whipped up by shadow education secretary Angela Rayner and the Labour hate mob reeks of hypocrisy."

    Daily Mirror
    "Appointing despised Esther McVey as Welfare Secretary with orders to impose savage benefit cuts has exposed the rancid underbelly of Theresa May’s rule." Read the full article

    Daily Express
    "It should be no surprise that David Davis has now been forced to consult Government lawyers over threats from Brussels over Brexit but the sheer gall of EU commissioners never fails to shock."

    Evening Standard

    You have to hand it to this Prime Minister: she’s given us the hat-trick of the worst reshuffle, the worst party conference speech and the worst manifesto in modern history. If they were not facing one of the worst oppositions we’ve ever had, the Tories would be finished." Read the full article
    Agenda
    Today
    • Philip Hammond, the chancellor, speaks at Die Welt economic summit in Berlin.
    • Michel Barnier, the EU chief negotiator, meets Steven Woolfe, MEP, Lord Digby Jones, John Mills, chairman of Labour Leave, and John Longworth, co-chairman of Leave Means Leave in Brussels.
    • HMRC releases UK overseas trade statistics covering trade with both EU and non-EU countries.
    • The public administrations and constitutional affairs committee releases government response to its report on the lessons to be learnt from the Chilcot inquiry.
    • Margaret Thatcher Day, commemorating the former prime minister’s 1983 visit to to the Falkland Islands.
    • 9.45am The Higher Education Policy Institute and Kaplan publish report on the costs and benefits of international students.
    House of Commons
    • 11.30am Cabinet office questions
    • Noon Theresa May takes prime minister’s questions
    • Planning (agent of change) - John Spellar
    • Opposition day debates on: (i) the NHS Winter Crisis (ii) Rail Franchising (Jeremy Corbyn)
    • Adjournment debate on the academisation of primary schools in Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner)
    Westminster Hall
    • 9.30am Mental health in prisons (Marie Rimmer)
    • 11.00am New offices for Warwick district council (Matt Western)
    • 2.30pm Disability Confident scheme (Luke Graham)
    • 4.00pm Patient travel times for cancer treatment (Tim Farron)
    • 4.30pm Growth and noise reduction at Gatwick airport (Tom Tugendhat)
    Select committees
    • 9.15am Brexit: Professor Richard Whitman, professor of politics and international relations at the University of Kent, Dr Stephen Woolcock, associate professor in international relations at the London School of Economics, and Frederik Erixon, director of the European Centre for International political economy, on the progress of the UK’s Brexit negotiations.
    • 9.30am Northern Ireland: Richard Harrington, the Conservative MP, Amanda Brooks, director of trade remedies at the department for international trade, and Paul Griffiths, head of civil aerospace, department for business, energy and industrial strategy, on Bombardier.
    • 9.30am Work and pensions: representatives from care services on support for care workers and relatives.
    • 10.00am Business, energy and industrial strategy: Dermot Noland, chief executive of Ofgem, on scrutiny of the draft domestic gas and electricity bill.
    • 10.00am International trade: Lord Hannay of Chiswick, the former UK ambassador to EEC and the UN, and Lord Price, the former minister of state for trade policy, on the continuing application of EU trade agreements.
    • 10.15am Women and equalities: equalities and human rights professionals on older people and employment.
    • 2.30pm Public accounts: Stephen Lovegrove, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence, on non-competitive procurement of defence equipment.
    • 10.00am Therese Coffey, the environment minister, on the impact of Brexit on the UK’s trade in waste.
    • 3.30pm Public accounts: Rear Admiral Richard Stokes, the assistant chief of naval staff, on re-use of components in the Royal Navy.
    • 3.15pm Human rights: Baroness Amos, the director at SOAS University of London, and university vice-chancellors on freedom of speech in universities.
    House of Lords
    • 3.00pm Oral questions on agency nurses in hospitals; investment in roads; Russian actions in Georgia; pausing nominations to the House of Lords.
    • Data Protection Bill - report stage (Lord Ashton of Hyde)
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