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The Times and Sunday Times
Friday December 1 2017
Red Box
Matt Chorley
By Matt Chorley
Brought to you by
Good morning,
You'd better sit down, for I have some news that will truly shock you.

For 35 years Ipsos Mori has been asking Britons which people we most trust, and this year's Veracity Index reveals that politicians are trusted by only 17 per cent of people, the lowest for any profession. I know, I couldn't believe it either.

Nurses are top of the chart, with 94 per cent of people able to trust them followed by doctors, teachers, professors and scientists.

Trust in journalists is at an all-time high (27 per cent), although that still means three quarters of you won't have believed a word of this.

#PoliticalAdventCalendar Day 1: The innkeeper promises a strong stable but the roof falls in and the letters drop off the wall.
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Matt Chorley
Red Box Editor
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Must reads
  • Britain First, the far-right campaign group whose inflammatory videos were shared by Donald Trump, reported a surge of "hundreds" of membership applications. Read the full story.

  • Dawlish, Britain's bossiest town, is handing in its notice after a visitor complained about the proliferation of signs that popped up telling him what to do when all he wanted to do was sit down and eat an ice cream.

  • Bored of Christmas shopping already? Soon, your face will say it all. Facebook is developing facial recognition cameras that feed shop staff customers’ profile details and facial expressions to help them identify who's in need of help or just some extra Christmas cheer.

  • Theresa May is not normally a woman to be led on a merry dance. But the PM revealed yesterday that she is a fan of Strictly Come Dancing, and is backing Debbie McGee, the widow and former assistant of the magician Paul Daniels, to win this year's TV glitzfest.
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What is May's biggest mistake?
It took Tony Blair six years to get Iraq on his scoresheet. David Cameron also had six years before dropping the ball on Brexit. Even John Major clocked up 22 months (and an election win) at the wicket before Black Wednesday.

It's only been 507 days, but Theresa May is not hanging around. She is racking up contenders to be the biggest mistake of her premiership like nobody's business.

The Donald Trump Twitter debacle has again raised questions about the PM's judgment, not just for rushing to be the first world leader to meet the new US president in office, but packing the offer of a state visit in her suitcase too.

Remember back then No10 were so spooked by the nonsense about Nigel Farage being US ambassador that they felt they had to offer him the full works on a red velvet cushion.

However, it has left May unable to really stick the boot into Trump for peddling the hate of a fringe group of unpleasantries, and she still has to say with a straight face that the offer of the full red carpet treatment stands.

May could be forgiven for wondering why Trump is picking on her. Have sales dipped at his Scottish golf course? Is he feeling unloved by the nation of his grandmother's birth? Can he just not understand what people say about him on French and German Twitter?

If she now has second thoughts about the hand-holding in January, she at least has plenty of other things to contemplate as her biggest regret. And it's still early days yet.

I asked some Times columnists what they thought had been May's biggest mistake. Without conferring they came up with a varied, and depressing, list:

The snap election
Her aides wanted it, her cabinet wanted it, in fact she was one of the few people who didn't want it. But a rush of blood to the head while walking in Wales saw May dramatically change her mind, and the rest is electoral history, losing a vast poll lead, her majority and her strong and stable slogan in the process.
  • Daniel Finkelstein: “Obviously it was the election. I thought it was the right decision when she made it. But calling an election when real incomes are falling is always highly risky. We should both have appreciated that more than we did.”
  • Philip Collins: “In retrospect, you mean? I didn't think the election was a mistake at the time but with the benefit of hindsight, obviously....”
The manifesto... and fashion
  • Alice Thomson: “Leather trousers and social care.”
Brexit
Just two months after becoming prime minister, May appeared on The Andrew Marr Show during the Tory conference and announced she would be triggering Article 50 to start the Brexit talks by the end of March. Why then? Who knows.
  • Rachel Sylvester: “Triggering Article 50 before she knew what she wanted the end state of Brexit to be. It was symptomatic of her belief that she needed to pander to the Tory Eurosceptics, and evidence of her weakness and lack of clarity about what she wants to do with power. She did it when she didn't need to because Nick Timothy told her to and set the clock ticking on the negotiations when she had no idea what she hoped to achieve. Although the election was a bad mistake, this is the worst because the country rather than the Tory party will pay the price.”
  • Oliver Kamm: "Mrs May’s biggest mistake is to have assumed she could ignore the views of Remain voters. Her calamities have been built on this premise. She sought an electoral mandate for a maximalist version of Brexit that no one had voted for and was rebuffed. She and her government thereby lost authority and are presiding over the diminution of Britain’s diplomatic weight and economic prospects."
First conference speech
Quite a lot happened at that first Tory conference which has come back to haunt May since.
  • Matthew Parris: "Two phrases in a speech she made as a new party leader, opening the Conservative conference in Birmingham in 2016: describing Remainers as "subverting democracy" and those who considered themselves citizens of the world as "citizens of nowhere". I suspect she didn't even write them herself and was sub-contracting her judgment to someone else; but something snapped when I heard them."
Becoming PM
One colleague made the case that her biggest mistake as PM was taking the job in the first place...
  • Melanie Phillips: “Standing for election as leader of the Conservative Party. She has some admirable qualities, but her temperament does not fit her to run the country.”
And this is without considering the personnel decisions she has made: sacking George Osborne and telling him to "get to know the party"; taking Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, who had never run anything, into Downing Street as chiefs of staff and then to run an election campaign; appointing Boris Johnson as foreign secretary, despite the list of countries he'd offended before taking the job being matched only by his gaffes since.

Let us know what you think. Vote in the poll below, tweet @timesredbox or email redbox@thetimes.co.uk
YESTERDAY'S POLL: We asked if Donald Trump's state visit should go ahead. Just 15 per cent wanted to roll out the red carpet, while 63 per cent want to build a wall to keep him out. See the full results here
Friday's best comment
Philip Collins
If the poor are to rise, the rich have to fall
Philip Collins – The Times
Edward Lucas
MI6 lays bare the growing Russian threat
Edward Lucas – The Times
Anne Ashworth
Affordability is the new buzzword
Anne Ashworth – The Times
Britain should demand an apology from Trump and cancel his state visit
Martin Kettle - The Guardian
We need a new Winston Churchill more than ever
Simon Kelner - The i
Today's cartoon for The Times by Peter Brookes
    Commander in Tweet
    Theresa May said yesterday: "I fear that this has become a bad relationship; a relationship based on the president taking exactly what he wants and casually ignoring all those things that really matter to, um... Britain. We may be a small country, but we're a great one, too.

    "The country of Shakespeare, Churchill, the Beatles, Sean Connery, Harry Potter. David Beckham's right foot. David Beckham's left foot, come to that. And a friend who bullies us is no longer a friend. And since bullies only respond to strength, from now onward I will be prepared to be much stronger. And the president should be prepared for that."

    Oh, no sorry. That was Hugh Grant in Love Actually. Instead May said Trump's tweet was "wrong" but the offer of a state visit still stands.
    Not welcome
    MPs lined up in an urgent debate in the Commons yesterday to call the leader of the free world a “fascist” and “stupid”. They also accused him of “spreading evil” and said he was “either racist, incompetent or unthinking or all three", demanding his state visit be dropped. Sam Gyimah, the prisons minister, said on Question Time last night that he is “deeply uncomfortable” with Trump coming to the UK on a state visit. Read the full story

    The Telegraph reports that American diplomats have dropped plans for Trump to visit Britain for a "working visit" to open the new US embassy in January.

    Wrong Theresa

    Spare a thought for Theresa Scrivener, the unfortunate target of Trump's cack-handed attempts to communicate with the prime minister via the @Theresamay Twitter handle instead of the PM's official @Theresa_may account. Read the full story

    Pulling the plug
    A Birmingham University graduate working as a contractor for Twitter was responsible for temporarily suspending President Trump’s account last month – but says it was a mistake. Read the full story

    The Mirror has mocked up a striking 'not wanted' poster of Trump for its front page and carries a separate story on the rows of seats left empty at Donald Trump's first White House Christmas tree lighting. Sad!
     
    Red Box: Comment
    Sir Christopher Meyer
    What does this mean for the special relationship?
    Sir Christopher Meyer – Ex-British ambassador to the US
    The Sketch
    Commons has its own Twitter storm
    Patrick Kidd
    Patrick Kidd
    The latest nocturnal emission from Donald Trump reminded me of the joke about the exasperated teacher who asks his wayward pupil: “Are you ignorant or apathetic?” To which the boy replies: “I don’t know and I don’t care.” It was a point made by Stephen Doughty (Lab, Cardiff South & Penarth) in a Commons debate about the US president spreading propaganda from a far-right group and then, having been told by Theresa May that this was not good, telling his 44 million Twitter followers at 1am that the PM should keep her nose out of his business.
    Read the full sketch >
     
    We could mess it all DUP
    Democratic Unionist Party figures threatened to bring down the government over Brexit yesterday while telling EU leaders to ignore Irish claims that the peace process could be undermined. Read the full story.

    The Times has also obtained a letter from Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, to EU heads in which she bypasses Theresa May to tell them to ignore claims that the peace process is in peril.

    In other Brexit-related news, the FT reports that the UK will need to spend £150 million a year to replicate EU regulations after Brexit with 1,500 staff needed to re-establish EU agencies and institutions domestically.

    The Guardian has picked up on a plan hatched by four pro-European Scottish politicans to ask the European Court of Justice if the UK can stop the Brexit process unilaterally.
    Red Box: Comment
    Matthew O'Toole
    The UK budget is covered in a blaze of publicity. And the EU’s, more in a haze
    Matthew O'Toole – Former Number 10 press officer
    So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu
    Net migration fell by 106,000 - the largest amount ever recorded - in the year after the Brexit referendum, with EU citizens accounting for more than three quarters of the drop, according to new figures from the ONS.
    Read the full story >
    Red Box: Comment
    Victoria Prentis
    Exchange trips are at the core of Global Britain
    Victoria Prentis – Conservative MP
    ‘No time for porn’
    Neil Lewis, a former Scotland Yard detective, has told BBC News he was "shocked" by the amount of pornography viewed on a computer seized in 2008 from the Commons office of senior Tory MP Damian Green.

    He claims there were "thousands" of images with porn being searched for several hours on some days.

    Friends of Green, the de facto deputy PM, are incredulous, telling me he is "just gobsmacked" by the claims, adding: "It is deeply concerning that a former police officer is putting these non-illegal claims into the public domain."

    The friend added that at the time Green was getting bombshell leaks from the Labour government, running campaigns against ID cards and detention without charge. "The idea that he had the hours in the day to spend doing this stuff is just ridiculous."

    The Sun says the report into Green's conduct could come as early as today, but might conclude it isn;t clear if he broke the ministerial code.
    Corbyn strikes a pose
    Jeremy Corbyn appears on the front cover of GQ this month looking very smart. Dylan Jones, the magazine’s editor, popped up on the Today programme to lift the lid on the photo shoot.

    Corbyn insisted he would only wear his Marks and Spencer suit (fair enough, Armani threads are for the few, not the many) but Jones said the whole process was “tortuous” thanks to his “very particular gatekeepers” who “didn’t seem to understand the process at all”.

    He added: "They didn’t understand that he would have to be presentable and couldn’t turn up in an anorak.... It was almost like he was being pushed around like a grandpa for the family photograph.”

    In the interview itself, Corbyn was “not fantastic on detail” and had a “strange lack of hinterland”, unable to name a book or film he’d enjoyed in the last year.

    But apart from that it all went very well. If that’s not put you off, the full shoot and interview is in the new issue of GQ out on Thursday 7 December.
    ‘Banks are right to fear us’
    Who'd have thought an attempt by an investment bank to warn people off Labour might backfire? Jeremy Corbyn has taken claims by Morgan Stanley that he poses a bigger threat to the country than Brexit, and smartly turned it to his own advantage, launching his most aggressive attack yet on international banks that “think they run our country”.
    Read the full story >
     
    Red Box: Comment
    Andy McDonald
    New rail strategy hides reality of a broken model
    Andy McDonald – Shadow transport secretary
    Red Box: Comment
    Andrew Harrop
    Seventy-five years after the Beveridge report our social security system is on its knees
    Andrew Harrop – General secretary, the Fabian Society
    Sarah Newton
    Our vision to help disabled people thrive in the workplace
    Sarah Newton – Disabilities minister
    More than a few snags
    When the new Queensferry Crossing opened this summer it was a symbol of Scotland delivering a big, impressive project. Now it has hit a few snags.

    Well, that's how Nicola Sturgeon has tried to play down as "snagging works" months of urgent repairs just three months after the bridge was opened by the Queen.
    Read the full story >
    Also in the news
    TMS
    From the diary
    By Patrick Kidd
    Below Average
    At an event this week to mark the 75th anniversary of the Beveridge report, Jen Rogers, vice-president of the Royal Statistical Society, remarked that one of William Beveridge’s researchers was a young Harold Wilson. The future PM did not have the sharpest grasp of statistics, she said. He once declared that “the ambition of the Labour government is that every worker in the country will have a greater than average income”.
    Read more from the TMS diary >
     
    What the papers say
    The Times
    "Mr Trump is not making this work any easier by recycling propaganda that makes Muslims feel even more victimised and in greater danger of falling prey to extremists on social media. MPs called for his Twitter account to be deleted. How much better it would be for the president who mastered social media to master his more incendiary impulses as well." Read the full article

    The Guardian
    "The prime minister should go further and withdraw the invitation for a state visit. Bullies never respect sycophants. Britain should not allow Mr Trump’s racism to be dressed up in pageantry." Read the full article

    Financial Times
    "Many of the problems afflicting the UK’s railways have their origins in the privatisation of British Rail. It is 20 years since the process ended, driven through in the latter years of a Conservative government that was in a hurry to shrink the state. On Wednesday, Theresa May’s government unveiled its latest strategy to redress the chaos." Read the full article

    The Daily Telegraph
    "To personalise her response by adding that Mr Trump "was wrong" was a mistake. A good relationship with America is the very definition of the national interest. To reply to a president's undiplomatic act with direct criticism may win easy political points. But such virtue signalling is itself hardly the act of a winning diplomatic strategy." Read the full article

    The Sun
    "The best news is that we still have a steady flow of skilled EU workers arriving to a certain job offer. That's exactly what we should aim for.Brexit doesn't mean we will not need to import the brightest and best the world can offer us." Read the full article

    Daily Mail
    "No, Her Majesty will recognise that this visit is not about endorsing Mr Trump's politics, or condoning his risible tweets.It's about honouring the great and hugely important ally he represents - one that will be more vital than ever after Brexit."

    Daily Mirror
    "The PM needs to develop a backbone urgently because rolling out the red carpet for the US President next year is unthinkable.Britain must seek to sustain good relations with Americans and America but Trump is no friend when he interferes with our country in order to fuel hate."

    Daily Express
    "Workers from the EU have done well in Britain, often appreciated for their work ethic and skills. But history teaches us that immigration comes in waves and often diminishes without the host country grinding to a standstill as some have gloomily predicted."
    Agenda
    Today
    • Liam Fox, international trade secretary, visits Australia and New Zealand.
    • Jeremy Corbyn expected to attend funeral of Carl Sargeant, former Welsh Assembly member, in North Wales.
    • The Brexit select committee releases a report on the progress of the UK’s withdrawal negotiations.
    • The ONS releases a breakdown of UK foreign direct investment flows by country, component and industry.
    • Seventy five years since the publication of the Beveridge report on social insurance and allied services.
    • Deadline for EU member nations to agree budget re-adjustment payments.
    • The Educational Institute of Scotland hosts the annual conference for leaders in education in Glasgow.
    House of Commons
    • Private Member's Bills
    • Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill, second reading, Afzal Khan
    • Prisons (Interference with Wireless Telegraphy) Bill, second reading, Maria Caulfield
    • Local Authorities (Removal of Council Tax Restrictions) Bill, second reading, Christopher Chope
    • Tax Rates and Duties (Review) Bill, second reading, Christopher Chope
    • Local Authorities (Borrowing and Investment) Bill, second reading, Christopher Chope
    House of Lords
    • No business scheduled
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