PLUS: The beast is coming
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The Times and Sunday Times
Thursday July 12 2018
Red Box
Matt Chorley
By Matt Chorley
Good morning,
What a thing. What a bloody thing.

It's not coming home, but the fact that it even thought about it was nice.

While self-regarding posers on all sides have spent two years telling us what our nation is all about, it took a dozen or so men led by a man in a waistcoat less than a month to give us something to talk about, be excited about, to be hopeful about, united about.

The fact that it doesn’t really matter meant that it mattered all the more.

And it wasn’t sodding boring, bungled, contradictory, nit-picking, angry, divisive, impossible Brexit.

It’s sad that it’s come to an end. But just imagine the last four weeks without it.
Matt Chorley
Red Box Editor
Twitter icon @MattChorley
 
 
Must reads
  • President Trump stunned Theresa May and Nato allies yesterday by calling for them to double their defence spending target.

  • BBC women have attacked the corporation’s “absolutely glacial” progress on equal pay after the proportion of female presenters on its rich list fell in a year.

  • A company used by the NHS to give advice to new mothers faces a £140,000 fine for selling the personal data of one million people without their knowledge to the Labour Party.

  • A council has ordered the noise of cows mooing to be recorded for a year to settle a dispute between neighbours.
Breaking Badly
The usual refrain from pollsters is that nothing has changed: no big moves in how people say they will vote, because they are either not tuned into politics or think an election is too far off to even think about.

But public opinion is constantly shifting on one issue, and in only one direction: the proportion of voters who think that the government is handling Brexit badly. Whatever gave them that idea?

A damning new YouGov poll for The Times shows that 75 per cent think that Theresa May is making a mess of it, the highest it has ever been. It has jumped from 66 per cent at the weekend, a nine-point shift, which is not normal in two days.

Only 13 per cent of people think the government is handling Brexit well. To put that into context, that's about the same proportion of people who told YouGov this week that they often spill food and drink down themselves when eating and drinking.

When things go bad, the wise heads of Westminster like to say that out there in the real world people don't notice minor hiccups such as a complex Chequers plan being shredded by its own ministers and two cabinet resignations in 24 hours. Unfortunately for them, it seems to be getting noticed.

Yesterday at PMQs, Labour's Emily Thornberry mocked the turmoil as "Reservoir Dogs remade by the Chuckle Brothers". Except the voters don't seem to be finding it very funny.

In the polling carried out on Tuesday and Wednesday — so after news had sunk in of David Davis and Boris Johnson walking out — Labour has taken a small lead in voting intention too.

Jeremy Corbyn's party is on 39 per cent, two points ahead of the Tories. At the weekend they were level on 39; just over a month ago the Tories were seven points ahead.

More than a quarter of Tory voters (28 per cent) say that May should stand down now. That has doubled since November. Almost half of Leave voters (49 per cent) want her gone. Among the electorate as a whole, 43 per cent think that the PM should quit, up from 32 per cent eight months ago.

At Chequers on Friday May gambled. Big time. The plan to first seek agreement from the core team of the Brexit war cabinet was ditched in favour of a one-day ambush, using the Remain majority in full cabinet to bounce Davis, Johnson and other Leavers into accepting her plan as the only show in town.

It is a gamble that seems to have backfired horribly. And this is only the start.

Today No10 publishes its long-awaited white paper The Future Relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union, spelling out in more detail Brexit compromises agreed at Chequers. It seems dead on arrival. Downing Street has had to deny claims that May refused to change her policy after agreeing it with Germany's Angela Merkel. The Guardian says that hardline Tory Brexiteers plan to try to force May to publish the rival draft drawn up by Davis.

On Monday Brexiteers led by Jacob Rees-Mogg plan to challenge the Chequers plan with a series of amendments to the customs and trade bill. "It may resolve the dilemma the prime minister faces," he told The Sun. "Does she rely on Labour votes to achieve Brexit or does she change her mind and go back to Lancaster House? Will she stick to her earlier words?” The two Tory vice-chairman who quit this week are out giving the PM a kicking too: Maria Caulfield in the Telegraph and Ben Bradley in the Mail.

Nick Timothy, the brains behind the snap election and the prime minister's former chief of staff, mounts a fightback of sorts in his Telegraph column. He says that No10 briefing Labour on the Chequers plan in the hope that they might back it was "stupid" and that it has made the parliamentary arithmetic worse by winding up Rees-Mogg & Co but he then declares: "The Chequers plan is the least worst option left on the table." High praise indeed.

May herself is a bit more enthusiastic in The Sun, writing: "Does it mean an end to freedom of movement? Will we be able to sign our own trade deals? And will the UK be outside the jurisdiction of the European Court? I’m very pleased to say the answers are very simple: yes, yes and yes."

The effort to sell the plan may have come too late.

In this week's Red Box podcast, my Times colleague Sam Coates said that the scale of the crisis facing May was linked to the size of the hole in his trousers. "Guess what folks," he said on Tuesday. "It’s getting bigger because I haven’t had time to repair it."

Yesterday Sam took a deep breath and bought a new suit. As the bottom continues to fall out of the polls, Tories might wonder how much longer they should wait before getting fitted out with a new leader.
Chart of the day
Power failure
An eye-popping plan to keep the lights on in Northern Ireland in the event of Britain crashing out of the EU: the FT reports that thousands of electricity generators would have to be requisitioned at short notice and put on barges in the Irish Sea.
 
Red Box: Comment
Austin Mitchell
A depressing question: Is Britain fit for purpose? Any purpose?
Austin Mitchell – Former Labour MP
YESTERDAY'S QUESTION: I asked who Theresa May should be more worried about: Donald Trump or Boris Johnson. You were pretty evenly split. Full result here
 
Thursday's best comment
David Aaronovitch
A second referendum is a dangerous gamble
David Aaronovitch – The Times
Jenni Russell
Jailing damaged women is brutal and Dickensian
Jenni Russell – The Times
Iain Martin
The EU would be mad to reject Chequers deal
Iain Martin – The Times
My Brexit plan WILL let us end freedom of movement, strike our own trade deals and be free of the European Court
Theresa May - The Sun
Damn our elite and its suicidal compulsion to defy the people
Quentin Letts - Daily Mail
Today's cartoon from The Times by Peter Brookes
    The Beast is coming
    Donald Trump stepping out of The Beast as he arrives at the Nato summit in Brussels yesterday
    Just before lunchtime today Air Force One, carrying Donald J Trump, the 45th president of the United States of America, will touch down on British soil. It has been a long time coming. This is not the full-blown state occasion that Theresa May first offered Trump 532 days ago but do not think that this "working" trip is a low-key small-scale event.

    I'm told that about 750 hotel rooms have been booked for his travelling entourage and that transport will be provided by two planes, six helicopters and up to 30 vehicles, including The Beast: the seven-seater, $2 million, black armoured limo said to be able to resist bullets, chemical attacks and bombs.

    Travelling with the president are countless Secret Service protection officers, military communications specialists, media staff, his doctor and one of five rotating military aides who carry the nuclear "football", equipped with communication tools and a book with prepared war plans.

    Oh, and his personal chef. Just in case he wants a snack at any hour of the day or night.

    To put this into context, when May went to the White House last year she travelled with about 20 Downing Street staff, with perhaps 30 in the party once they landed in Washington. "His planes are massive," says one former aide. "Ours look like Playmobil by comparison."

    May is turning on the charm: "There is no stronger alliance than that of our special relationship with the US and there will be no alliance more important in the years ahead." Tomorrow she will take Trump to the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst to show off Britain's military might just as the president tells other Nato countries to do more.

    His wife Melania will stay in London for a visit with Philip May. There is talk of 100,000 protesters. We shall see. That was the number that turned out for the anti-Brexit march a couple of weeks ago and that had the advantage of a clear message and being held on a Saturday.
    Red Box: Comment
    Kate Allen
    It’s time for Theresa to stand up to Trump on human rights
    Kate Allen – Director of Amnesty International UK
    Today's schedule
    • 12.30pm Donald Trump arrives to be met by Liam Fox, international trade secretary
    • 3pm “Town hall event” at Winfield House, US ambassador’s residence in London
    • 7pm Helicopter to banquet at Blenheim Palace for 150, including business leaders and cabinet ministers. Helicopter back to Winfield House for overnight stay
     
    Twitter
    Tweet of the day
    Presidents have been trying unsuccessfully for years to get Germany and other rich NATO Nations to pay more toward their protection from Russia. They pay only a fraction of their cost. The U.S. pays tens of Billions of Dollars too much to subsidize Europe, and loses Big on Trade!
    @realDonaldTrump
    Red Box: Comment
    Sir Christopher Meyer
    If Trump smashes the crockery at Nato, May will have to pick up the pieces
    Sir Christopher Meyer – Ex-British ambassador to the US
    Meyer attacked
    Sir Christopher Meyer, the former British ambassador to the US, often writes for Red Box and does so today in advance of Trump's arrival.

    However, last night I was shocked to learn that Sir Christopher was in hospital after a brutal attack by two youths at Victoria station. We wish him a speedy recovery.
     
    The Sketch
    Commons yo-yo fails to impress pop royalty
    Patrick Kidd
    Patrick Kidd
    John Bercow was very excited. Up in the gallery, watching the Speaker’s big show — I mean, watching prime minister’s questions — were two members of the Osmonds, all gleaming teeth and enormous hair and vice versa. Never mind Donald Trump, we had been visited by American pop royalty.
    Read the full sketch >
     
    Ones to watch today
    • Michael Gove, who has been strangely silent since the resignations of fellow Brexiteers David Davis and Boris Johnson, faces Defra questions in the Commons from 9.30am.

    • Andrea Leadsom, the Commons leader, takes questions at 10.30am. Don’t be surprised if she is quizzed about the revelation that her new system for investigating claims of sexual harassment and bullying by MPs will not look at allegations dating back to before the general election. Read the full story

    Red Box: Comment
    Jim McMahon
    This government is indifferent to the crisis in local councils that is about to hit us
    Jim McMahon – Shadow local government minister
    App, app and away
    Matt Hancock, the new health secretary, has been urged not to let his enthusiasm for the latest technology blind him to its drawbacks after it emerged that he used a smartphone app as his NHS GP.

    This is different to the smartphone app that Matt Hancock uses to update fans of Matt Hancock with news of Matt Hancock, known as the Matt Hancock app.
    Read the full story >
    Naughty Nigel
    The rock band Rage Against the Machine have sent a cease and desist letter to Nigel Farage demanding that he change the name of his podcast from Farage Against the Machine, The Guardian reports.

    When the podcast was launched in March the band tweeted: “This pissweasel IS the machine — peddling the sort of inane, blame-heavy bullshit that the guys in @RATM have been raging against since day one.”
    Cox caught out
    He is one of the most eminent barristers in the country, at the very top of his profession before being appointed attorney-general by Theresa May on Monday.

    Yet Geoffrey Cox, 58, an MP with the highest outside earnings of anyone in the Commons, has been left red-faced by a 14-year-old schoolboy. Toby Berryman interviewed his local MP for a school radio club last year and asked him how he served his constituents, given the £460,000 he earned from his legal work. "Good question Toby. The truth is you shouldn’t believe all you read in the newspapers about the highest earnings of an MP."

    The Times has been passed the recording, which hasn't gone down brilliantly well with other Tory MPs.
    Ringing the changes
    The refurbished tower housing Big Ben is returning to its original Victorian colour scheme, including six St George’s Crosses above each clock face.

    The decision to include England's flag on all four sides of the tower, announced on the day of the World Cup semi-final, has not gone down well with some Scottish MPs, you will be surprised to hear.
    Read the full story >
    Around the world
    THAILAND: The men who led the rescue operation that saved 12 young footballers and their coach from a flooded cave revealed last night how fearful they had been about the fate of the boys and how close the operation came to disaster. Read the full story

    RUSSIA: The Israeli prime minister flew to Moscow yesterday to discuss what President Trump could offer President Putin in return for his help in pushing Iranian forces out of Syria. Read the full story

    PAKISTAN: A suicide bomb attack on an election rally in northern Pakistan has killed at least 20 people, including the senior leader of a secular party that has long been a target for Islamist militants. Read the full story

    FRANCE: The Gare du Nord, which serves the cross-Channel Eurostar rail service, has long shamed Paris. The terminus, overloaded with more than 700,000 passengers a day, is to triple its space and turn into a vast “culture and leisure experience” in time for the 2024 Paris Olympics. Read the full story
    Also in the news
    • TAX BILL: Freelancers in tax avoidance schemes hit with bill for £1bn (The Times)

    • WINDRUSH SCANDAL: Hundreds are granted British citizenship (The Times)

    • OUT-OF-DATE: NHS is still reliant on fax machines (The Times)

    • MORE SPACES: Bumper year for university places after fewer students seek a degree (The Times)

    • KIT MALTHOUSE: May's new 'part-time' housing minister refuses to give up lucrative second job (Daily Mirror)

    • FOOD FIGHT: Gove says Britain won't be able to ban foie gras after Brexit (The Sun)
    TMS
    From the diary
    By Patrick Kidd
    It's all gone bong
    Little is known about Geoffrey Cox, the new attorney-general, other than that he earns buckets as a barrister and once tried to claim 49p for milk on his parliamentary expenses. He arrived in Westminster in 2005, eager to show off that he was now an MP as well as a QC. To do this, he recorded a message on his answering phone while standing beneath the chimes of Big Ben. “BONG! Hello, this is Geoffrey Cox,” he boomed. “BONG! I can’t come to the phone right now. BONG! Please leave a message after the . . . BONG!” If his name also rings a bell, you may possibly be confusing him with the Geoffrey Cox who founded the News at Ten for ITN. That, too, uses Big Ben’s bongs to promote itself.
    Read more from the TMS diary >
     
    Agenda
    Today
    • Michael Gove, environment secretary, attends the Yorkshire show.
    • Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority publishes MPs' expenses claims
    • 8am Woody Johnson, the US ambassador to the UK, speaks at Chatham House.
    • 9.30am Critical care bed capacity and cancelled operations statistics published.
    • 10.30am Robin Walker, Brexit minister, and Mel Stride, treasury minister, give evidence to the Lords EU external affairs sub-committee.
    • 12.30pm Sam Gyimah, science minister, gives evidence to the Lords EU internal market sub-committee on the impact of Brexit on space co-operation.
    House of Commons
    • 9.30am Defra questions.
    • 10.10am Questions to Church Commissioners and House of Commons Commission and Public Accounts Commission and Speaker's Commission on the Electoral Commission.
    • Business statement and questions.
    • Select committee statement: tenth report of the foreign affairs committee, global Britain and the western Balkans.
    • Backbench debate: practice of forced adoption in the UK.
    • Backbench debate: lessons from the collapse of Carillion.
    • Adjournment: passenger comfort specifications in railway rolling stock procurement (Iain Stewart)
    House of Lords
    • 11am Introduction: Baroness Boycott and Lord Anderson of Ipswich.
    • Questions on how many Sure Start centres have closed in the past two years; reviewing the ten-year limit on the storage of frozen eggs for social reasons under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008; contribution of Home Office funding to Operation Conifer conducted by the Wilshire police; promoting personal saving and its role in building a stronger and fairer economy.
    • Short debate: gender recognition process and the government's LGBT action plan.
    • Debate: engaging with small charities and faith-based organisations in delivering UK aid overseas
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