- Boris Johnson has been accused by the chair of the Commons liaison committee of breaking a specific promise to appear before it this week. (See 5.37pm.)
- Johnson has rejected as “nonsense” the claim that his lengthy prorogation of parliament is undemocratic. (See 3.46pm.)
- Jeremy Corbyn has promised to introduce the biggest ever extension to workers’ rights and create a ministry and government agency should he get into government.
- The EU is pinning hopes on British negotiators reverting to the Northern Ireland-only backstop previously rejected by Theresa May as a threat to the constitutional integrity of the UK. DUP leaders rejected this proposal as unacceptable (see 9.58am and 4.20pm) Within the last hour Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, has been meeting Johnson in Downing Street.
- The former Irish prime minister and joint architect of the Northern Ireland peace process, Bertie Ahern, has said it is imperative that any Brexit solution be acceptable to the DUP.
- A cross-party group of MPs has formally launched a campaign to win support in the Commons for Brexit via a managed deal, arguing both a no-deal departure or a second referendum would cement political divisions and cause endless uncertainty.
- Harriet Harman has promised to be “scrupulously neutral” as she announced her bid to become the next Speaker of the House of Commons, despite being a prominent campaigner for remain in the 2016 referendum.
- Past prime ministers, present-day parliamentarians, diplomats and armed services personnel filled Westminster Abbey to pay tribute to former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown, described as “ a man for ideals, not shabby deals”. The details of the service are on the Westminster Abbey website here.
- Johnson is being urged to withdraw Geoffrey Boycott’s knighthood over his conviction for domestic violence and the former England cricketer’s response to criticism.
- The first cracks have begun to emerge in Britain’s resilient labour market as job creation slowed over the summer months, in a sign of the stress facing the UK economy as Brexit looms.
- Britain has accused Iran of flagrantly breaching assurances it would not sell oil to Syria from an Iranian tanker released by authorities in Gibraltar on the condition that the 2.1m barrels of oil would not sold to the “murderous regime” of Bashar al Assad.
That’s all from me for today.
Thanks for the comments.
Boris Johnson broke promise to appear before Commons liaison committee this week, its chair says
Sarah Wollaston, the Tory-turned-Lib Dem MP who chairs the Commons liaison committee, has accused Boris Johnson of breaking a promise to appear before her committee this week. In an interview for Newsnight she explained:
I’m appalled. The prime minister is running away from scrutiny. We had a series of reassurances from him over the summer that he would come to the liaison committee – initially before parliament came back, so on the first Monday. He then moved that date to this coming Wednesday and we very specifically queried with him about the position of prorogation and he assured us that he would be coming to liaison.
I’m afraid that is a promise broken because he has prorogued parliament and select committees can’t sit. But in fact we decided that we would invite him anyway – that we would come back and sit on an informal basis, and I’m afraid we’ve heard today that he’s not prepared to come.
He is unaccountable. We have seen how everything has unravelled, with just a week of scrutiny in parliament. And I suspect that he didn’t want that to continue.
Employers would have to negotiate with unions on pay under Labour's national collective bargaining plans, Pidcock tells TUC
Laura Pidcock, the shadow business minister, has set out more details of Labour’s plans for national collective bargaining in a speech to the TUC this afternoon. She was fleshing out an idea that Jeremy Corbyn promoted in his own speech, in which he promised the biggest ever extension of workers’ rights.
Pidock said Labour’s new national joint advisory council would ensure the voices of workers were heard around the cabinet table. And she said that, under Labour’s plans for national collective bargaining, employers would have to negotiate pay with unions. She explained:
A Labour government will establish a Ministry of Employment Rights. The department will be responsible for transforming our workplaces by delivering a huge rollout of individual and collective rights at work and legislating for enforcement powers to make these rights meaningful.
It will establish a national joint advisory council for representatives of government, employers, unions and experts to meet and advise. Above all, this will mean that the voice of working people will be heard at the cabinet table, exactly as it should be.
The beating heart of this department will be the rollout of sectoral collective bargaining. Now, I realise that this concept may be familiar to people in this room, but people outside of this room may be wondering what on earth I’m talking about, and I don’t blame them. Because the percentage of workers covered by collective agreements has dwindled rapidly over the last 40 years.
Our Labour government will re-establish national collective bargaining between trade unions and employers in each sector of our economy. That was the British way for most of the 20th century and it still is the way that the successful economies of northern Europe manage their industrial relations.
Sector-wide collective bargaining will set minimum and legally binding pay, terms and conditions for every employer and every worker in the sector.
In practice it means that rather than the employer having all the power to determine what your conditions and pay are at work, they will be legally obliged to enter into negotiation with your trade union – a giant step forward in rebalancing the unequal power relations that exist between worker and employer.
Imagine the transformative impact that would have on, say, the care sector, where the mostly female workforce has seen this highly skilled and professional area of work become a minimum wage job, where care workers are not paid for travel time between visits and can end up working 10 hours for five hours pay. What a scandalous state of affairs that the very people looking after some of the most poorly and vulnerable people in the country are being paid less than the minimum wage. And think of the effect on those in their care. Well, we are calling time on this kind of exploitative practice.
Because under a Labour government, those care sector employers would be legally obliged to come to the table and negotiate all aspects of the industry, the conditions in workplaces and, fundamentally, their pay. So, whether you are a care home worker from Dundee or Durham, you would be secure in the knowledge that minimum terms and conditions negotiated for the sector will restore dignity and a decent life to you and those you look after.
The DUP leader, Arlene Foster, and her deputy, Nigel Dodds, have arrived at No 10 for talks with Boris Johnson.
Boris Johnson has secretly ordered the Cabinet Office to turn the government’s public internet service into a platform for “targeted and personalised information” to be gathered in the run-up to Brexit, BuzzFeed is reporting.
Northern Ireland-only backstop 'simply a non-runner', says DUP
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP chief whip, was on the World at One. Like his boss, Arlene Foster (see 9.58am), he insisted that Boris Johnson would not sanction a Northern Ireland-only backstop. He explained:
I don’t see the prime minister who appointed himself as the minister for the union agreeing to an arrangement that separates Northern Ireland from Great Britain in trading terms.
So, I think that this idea that you have a Northern Ireland-only backstop where you have a trade border in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and Great Britain is simply a non-runner. In any event it would contravene the core principles of the Good Friday agreement, the Belfast agreement ...
The solution to avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland is not to create a second border in the Irish Sea because I think that would be deeply destabilising.
He also rejected suggestions the DUP was losing influence over Number 10. He said:
The idea that our influence is waning, I think, flies in the face of reality. Our leader will be meeting with Boris Johnson, we are plugged into the ongoing discussions about alternative arrangements, we have a significant role to play and, therefore, I would argue that our influence remains.
Downing Street has denied wanting a Northern Ireland-only backstop. (See 1.55pm.) But there have been multiple claims that this is the direction in which Johnson is heading, including from the EU’s new trade commissioner. (See 3.15pm.)
Select committees cannot officially sit while parliament is prorogued. But, as Yvette Cooper, the Labour chair of the home affairs committee says on Twitter, her committee held an unofficial session this morning to take evidence on Brexit.
Boris Johnson dismisses claims lengthy prorogation is undemocratic as 'nonsense'
Boris Johnson has recorded a short interview with Sky News on his visit to a primary school in Pimlico in London. Slipping into franglais (he was sitting in on a French lesson), he used the interview to dismiss claims that proroguing parliament for five weeks was anti-democratic. He said:
We need a Queen’s speech. That’s why parliament is in recess now, because you always have a recess before a Queen’s speech. And anybody who says - this stuff about it being anti-democratic - I mean, donnez-moi un break. What a load of nonsense. We were very, very clear that if people wanted a democratic moment, if they wanted an election, we offered it to the Labour opposition, and mysteriously they decided not to go for it.
Johnson is right to say that parliament always gets prorogued before a Queen’s speech, but the point about this prorogation is that it is lasting five weeks – far longer than normal. According to this House of Lords library briefing (pdf), it will be the longest prorogation since 1930.
In his interview, Johnson also insisted that he was getting on with addressing the priorities of the people - which he said meant not just delivering Brexit by 31 October, but investing in the police and schools and hospitals. (See 1.22pm.) By contrast, he claimed, Labour was just offering delay and “dither” beyond 31 October. “Nobody can see what that achieves,” he said.
As John Bercow announced his decision to step down as Speaker on Monday afternoon, Britons in Spain were also contemplating their futures. In Barcelona, a group of them held a demo outside the British consulate to protest against the decision to suspend parliament and to complain about the “enormous uncertainty” they continue to face. Many had been excluded from the Brexit referendum because they had been resident abroad for more than 15 years and so were not entitled to vote.
New EU trade commissioner says he hopes 'penny dropping' in UK could lead to Brexit deal
Phil Hogan, Ireland’s European commissioner, has been given the trade portfolio under the new president of the European commission, Ursula von der Leyen, it has been announced today. He has been commissioner for agriculture.
This means he will be the EU chief trade negotiator, and will take the lead in negotiating the details of a trade deal with the UK after Brexit.
If the UK had a choice (it didn’t), Hogan might not be the candidate Boris Johnson would choose. He has been more critical of the UK’s Brexit stance than other European commissioners, giving a speech last month describing Johnson as an “unelected PM” who was “gambling with peace”. As trade commissioner, Hogan is there to represent the EU, not Ireland. But if it ever gets to the point where the UK will be hoping for the EU to downplay Irish concerns in the negotiations, Hogan is not likely to be cooperative.
But, on the plus side, Hogan is sounding more positive about the prospects of there being a Brexit deal than he was last month. In an interview with the Irish Times he said the penny was “finally dropping” in the UK.
I remain hopeful that the penny is finally dropping with the UK that there are pragmatic and practical solutions can actually be introduced into the debate at this stage – albeit at the eleventh hour – that may find some common ground between the EU and the UK.
Asked if the two sides were heading in the direction of a Northern Ireland-only backstop, Hogan replied:
Yes. The taoiseach has indicated in the last 24 hours that the Northern Ireland-only backstop is quite an interesting idea to revisit.
Hogan also said Boris Johnson was shifting his stance. He explained:
Mr Johnson has made a proposal in the last few days talking about an all-Ireland food zone. That is certainly a clear indication of divergence between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the EU and the rest of the UK. This is the first time that this has been spoken about by a British prime minister where they are prepared to accept some level of divergence between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
If we can build on that we certainly might get closer to one another in terms of a possible outcome.
Hogan told the Irish Times that he would expect it to take “a number of years” to conclude a final trade deal with the EU. But he said that, because of the UK’s long membership of the EU, the process should not take as long as normal trade deals.
At the weekend there was speculation that Matt Hancock, the health secretary, might follow Amber Rudd in resigning from the cabinet. He is another remain-voting centrist thought to be suffering from extreme buyer’s remorse following his decision to back Boris Johnson for leader. During the leadership campaign Hancock endorsed Johnson, only for Johnson to then criticise a plan for a sugar levy on milkshakes that Hancock was promoting. Then Johnson decided to prorogue parliament for five weeks - even though Hancock, during the leadership campaign, said such a move would dishonour everything people fought and died for at D-day.
But, if anything, Hancock’s enthusiasm for Johnson is growing. This morning after cabinet he put this on Twitter.
Geoffrey Boycott should have his knighthood rescinded over domestic violence record, says Labour
Theresa May made sure her cricketing hero Geoffrey Boycott got a knighthood in her resignation honours list. This was controversial, because Boycott was convicted for assaulting his then girlfriend 21 years ago. Boycott did not do his case any good with the patronising and dismissive approach when asked about this by Martha Kearney on the Today programme this morning. My colleague Maya Wolfe-Robinson has written it up here.
Now Labour is saying Boycott should have his knighthood rescinded. This is from Dawn Butler, the shadow minister for women and equalities.
Celebrating a man convicted of assaulting his partner by giving him a knighthood is an insult to victims and survivors of domestic violence.
Honouring a perpetrator of domestic violence just because he is the former prime minister’s favourite sportsman shows how out of touch and nepotistic the honours list is.
Boris Johnson should rescind his knighthood today. The whole honours system needs radically overhauling, alongside peerages, so that our political system works for the many not the few.
Downing Street lobby briefing - summary
Here are some more lines from the Downing Street lobby briefing. I have already posted what the prime minister’s spokesman said about today’s cabinet meeting. (See 1.22pm.)
- The spokesman confirmed that the government intended to publish a revised version of the government’s Operational Yellowhammer report about what might happen in the event of a no-deal Brexit. But he refused to say any more about how the government would respond to yesterday’s Commons vote saying the government should publish all documents relating to Yellowhammer, as well as private messages from nine government aides relating to prorogation. He said the government would respond to the vote in due course. But he also said the request for private messages was disproportionate and unprecedented
- The spokesman dismissed suggestions that Johnson is considering a Northern Ireland-only backstop. (See 9.58am.) The spokesman said: “We are not seeking a Northern Ireland-only backstop.”
- The spokesman confirmed that Johnson would not be attending a hearing with the liaison committee tomorrow. Sarah Wollaston, the committee’s chair, thought she had an understanding with Johnson that he would appear on Wednesday and yesterday she wrote to him asking if that hearing could go ahead, regardless of prorogation (which means committees can no longer hold formal parliamentary hearings). But the spokesman said that Johnson would be offering an alternative debate. He said committees don’t meet while parliament is prorogued.
- The spokesman suggested that Johnson would be holding more meetings with EU leaders soon. There are reports today saying the PM will go to Brussels next week. Asked about this, the spokesman said Johnson would be speaking with other EU leaders in the coming weeks and that his travel plans would be announced in the usual way (ie, nearer the time). He also said David Frost, the PM’s chief Brexit adviser, would be in Brussels for talks with the EU’s Brexit team tomorrow and on Friday.
- The spokesman said that a new minister for women and equalities would be appointed soon to replace Amber Rudd, who resigned at the weekend. Rudd has already been replaced in her capacity as work and pensions secretary by Thérèse Coffey.
- The spokesman confirmed that Johnson would meet Arlene Foster and Nigel Dodds, leader and deputy leader of the DUP, in Downing Street this afternoon.
Boris Johnson rejects claims he is making his party extreme by telling cabinet he is liberal Tory running one nation government
Today’s cabinet sounds as if it was the first meeting of the committee drafting the next Conservative manifesto.
Brexit was discussed. Boris Johnson briefed colleagues on his “constructive discussions” with Leo Varadkar yesterday, the prime minister’s spokesman told journalists at the lobby briefing. But the spokesman said there was also a substantial discussion on domestic policy, with ministers saying what their plans were for their own departments.
Johnson’s decision last week to remove the whip from 21 Tory rebels last week, effectively deselecting them as candidates at the next election, has been seen as sign that he is making the Conservative party increasingly extreme. In her letter announcing her resignation on Saturday night Amber Rudd said the removal of 21 one nation Tories was an “act of political vandalism”. The former party leader William Hague said in his Telegraph column today (see 10.25am) that this could prompt moderate Tories to start looking for a new home. Ruth Davidson, the former Scottish Tory leader, made a similar argument in the Evening Standard yesterday.
At cabinet Johnson pushed back against this claim. According to his spokesman, Johnson told the cabinet that he would lead a one nation government. The spokesman said:
The prime minister then led a discussion on the government’s priorities for the autumn. The PM said he would lead a one nation government which would respect the result of the referendum by leaving the European Union on October 31 while energetically focusing on the NHS, tackling violent crime, education and the cost of living.
Secretaries of state then set out priorities for their individual departments.
On crime and policing, the government will begin recruiting 20,000 new police officers and progress plans to invest up to £2.5bn to deliver 10,000 new prison places. The government has also kicked off an urgent review of sentencing policy to ensure the public are protected from the most dangerous criminals.
On education, a £7.1bn increase in funding for schools by 2022-23 has been announced as the government focuses on giving all young people the same opportunities to succeed regardless of where they go to school.
On health, as well as reaffirming the five-year settlement for the NHS, with an additional £33.9bn a year by 2023-24, ministers will focus on ensuring this money gets to the front line and delivers real improvements for patients.
The prime minister concluded the meeting by saying that the government would use education, infrastructure and technology to level up across the country.
Number 10 sources are not contesting the Spectator report saying Johnson also described himself as “the most liberal Conservative PM in decades”. (See 12.43pm.)
Blair says referendum, not general election, should be used to resolve Brexit crisis
Tony Blair, the former Labour prime minister, has said it would be wrong to use the general election to try to resolve the Brexit crisis. A referendum was needed for that, he argued, because an election should be fought on wider issues. Speaking at an event at King’s College London, he said:
It is wrong as a matter of principle to mix the general election up with the specific Brexit question.
If the British people end up having a general election on Brexit you are going to mix up issues that should be kept separate.
What Boris Johnson thinks is: if I fight a Brexit general election, I can say to people: ‘Look it’s no deal or you get Jeremy Corbyn.’
You could end up with the bizarre situation where, let’s just suppose the Conservatives manage to win a majority with 35% to 40% of the vote, they will claim a mandate for no-deal when, if you add the votes for all the parties opposed to no-deal together, they will come to more than 50% of the vote. It is a completely undemocratic way of deciding it.
I’m just back from the Downing Street lobby briefing, much of which focused on what happened at cabinet. I’ll post the highlights shortly, but you are better off reading James Forsyth’s take in the Spectator, which is more interesting. Here’s an excerpt.
At the start of the meeting, Boris Johnson took on the argument made by many of the Tory 21 that this is an extreme government, and that he is turning the Tories into a rightwing sect. He argued that most voters want the referendum result delivered, which is what he is trying to do, and that his domestic agenda is in the common ground of British politics. He pointed out that he was more trusted on the NHS than Jeremy Corbyn, which would hardly be the case if the critics’ charge was true. He told the cabinet that he was ‘the most liberal Conservative PM in decades’. At which point, Matt Hancock interjected: ‘Don’t tell Priti.’
And here is another YouGov poll of some interest.
I’m off to the No 10 lobby briefing now. I will post again after 12.30pm.
Here is the text of Jeremy Corbyn’s speech to the TUC.
Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s powerful de facto chief of staff, was doorstepped by Sky News as he left home this morning. Asked what his next move would be, Cummings replied:
You guys should get out of London. Go and talk to people who are not rich remainers.
This seems to be a reference to the idea that London-based journalists do not realise how much support there is for Boris Johnson’s Brexit strategy outside middle-class remain circles in the capital.
There is quite a lot of evidence to support this view. Here is some YouGov polling from earlier this week suggesting that, among voters in general, people are inclined to think Boris Johnson and his government are more in touch with the public mood on Brexit than MPs in parliament are.
But Lord Heseltine, the pro-European former Conservative deputy prime minister, said it was a mistake for Cummings to claim it was the remain side who represented the views of the wealthy elite. He told Sky’s All Out Politics:
If you start talking about who are the richest influential people in this campaign – who owns the Telegraph? Who owns the Sun? Who owns the Daily Mail? People with riches, wealth, of untold millions. They are the ones who appoint the editors of newspapers that are frankly propaganda sheets for leave. And for Dominic Cummings to try to shove the blame on to individuals who want to remain because they are rich is a major slip of the tongue.
These are from Sky’s Sam Coates.
Amber Rudd, who quit as work and pensions secretary at the weekend, and also resigned the Tory whip, has written an open letter to her constituents explaining her decision.
She now sits as an independent, but she says she hopes to continue as MP for Hastings and Rye “into the next general election”.
UPDATE: A spokesman for Amber Rudd has clarified that she will not stand in her Hastings and Rye constituency at the election. I have taken out the sentence in the paragraph above saying her letter seemed to imply otherwise.
Boris Johnson chaired cabinet this morning. No 10 will brief on it at 12pm, but the Spectator’s James Forsyth has already had a read-out.
Corbyn is on his peroration.
Congress, the coming general election will be a chance for a real change of direction.
In the next few weeks the establishment will come after us with all they’ve got, because they know we’re not afraid to take them on.
We’re going after the tax avoiders.
We’re going after the bad bosses.
We’re going after the dodgy landlords.
We’re going after the big polluters destroying our climate.
Because we know whose side we’re on.
We’re creating a society of hope and inclusion – not poverty – and division.
He is now getting a long standing ovation.
Corbyn has praise for the Financial Times.
Last week the Financial Times said that Labour is, and I quote, ‘determined to shift power away from bosses and landlords and to workers and tenants’.
Well there has been no shortage of rather unkind reporting about our party over the last few years, but this time they’ve got it absolutely right.
We will put workers on company boards, and give the workforce a 10% stake in large companies paying a dividend of as much as £500 a year to each employee.
And we will give tenants more rights including caps on rent rises.
And that principle of empowering people doesn’t just apply to the workplace.
We’ll bring rail, mail, water and the national grid into public ownership, so the essential utilities that people rely on are run by and for the public, not just shareholders.
Here is a story by my colleagues Kate Proctor and Rajeev Syal about the employment rights announcement in Corbyn’s speech.
Corbyn says Labour would set up a workers’ protection agency.
Too many employers are getting away with flouting laws. Nearly half a million people are still being paid less than the minimum wage.
We’ll put a stop to that. We’ll create a workers protection agency with real teeth, including the power to enter workplaces and bring prosecutions on workers’ behalf.
If you’re a worker with a boss who makes you work extra hours for no pay or forces you into dangerous situations, you deserve a government that’s on your side and ready to step in to support you.
Corbyn says Labour would introduce equal rights for all workers from day one.
And it would end zero-hours contracts.
Corbyn says Labour would introduce 'biggest extension of rights for workers ever seen' in UK
Corbyn says Labour would bring about “the biggest extension of rights for workers that our country has ever seen”.
He says he would establish a new ministry of employment rights.
He says Labour would roll out sectoral collective bargaining.
And within 100 days of taking office he would repeal the Tory Trade Union Act.
Corbyn says pay is lower in real terms than it was a decade ago, he says.
He says the last decade has been the worst for wage growth since the Napoleonic war.
Corbyn confirms that Labour will go into the election proposing a referendum on Brexit, with a credible leave option and remain as the two choices.
Corbyn says his first priority is to stop no deal. Then he wants to trigger a general election.
A general election is coming, he says.
At the election he says Labour will unleash the biggest people-powered campaign ever seen.
Corbyn says the Tories would use a no-deal Brexit to implement policies that would benefit the rich.
For the Tories this is about so much more than leaving the European Union. It’s about hijacking the referendum result to shift even more power and wealth to those at the top.
They will use a no-deal crash to push through policies that benefit them and their super-rich supporters and hurt everyone else – just as they did after the financial crash.
Under the cover of no-deal they will sell off our public services, strip away the regulations that keep us safe, and undermine workers’ rights.
He says a no-deal Brexit would be a Trump deal Brexit.
Be in no doubt, a no-deal Brexit is really a Trump Deal Brexit, leading to a one-sided US trade deal negotiated from a position of weakness.
It will put us at the mercy of Trump and the big US corporations itching to get their teeth further into our NHS, sound the death knell for our steel industry, and permanently drive down rights and protections for workers.
I am not prepared to stand by and let that happen.
Corbyn says it is absurd for Boris Johnson to present himself as representing the people against parliament
Corbyn says this time last week the Tories and the DUP had a majority of one. Now it is minus 45, he says.
He says for most people what happens at Westminster is a million miles away.
For him, real politics is not the parliamentary knockabout. It is about giving power to people.
He says Boris Johnson’s strategy is clear. He says he wants to stage a showdown over no deal, and present this as a conflict between parliament and the people.
But the idea that Johnson represents the people is absurd, he says. He says Johnson and his cabinet are not just on the side of the establishment. They are the establishment.
Jeremy Corbyn's speech to TUC
Jeremy Corbyn is speaking at the TUC conference now.
He starts by praising the TUC, and thanking trade unionists for what they do.
Hague describes Boris Johnson removing whip from 21 Tory MPs as 'disgusting act of hypocrisy'
William Hague, the former Conservative leader and former foreign secretary, has used his Telegraph column today (paywall) to deliver a damning verdict on Boris Johnson’s decision to remove the whip from the 21 rebels who voted against the government on Brexit last week. Many others have criticised the decision, of course, including Amber Rudd when she resigned as work and pensions secretary at the weekend, but given that Hague is someone whose default mode is loyalty to the party, his critique is remarkable. He describes what Johnson did as “a disgusting act of hypocrisy”.
Here is an extract.
All of us who have been Tory leader have made mistakes, but this one is the most egregious and counter-productive act of self-harm committed by the party leadership that I can recall in my lifetime. If we do not speak out about it, there is little prospect that lessons will be learned ...
It is not possible to be aware of [the] record and characters [of those who have had the whip removed] without thinking that their expulsion from the parliamentary ranks of the Conservative party, partly at the behest of people who have spent years rebelling, is a disgusting act of hypocrisy.
Space does not allow me to go through the work of each of these 21. But when I recall Nicholas Soames sitting assiduously on the backbenches and loyally supporting Tory leaders when I arrived in the Commons in 1989, and that he was still in the same spot, still supporting them, when I left in 2015, I cannot accept that he can be tossed out of the party after one rebellion on the whim of advisers who have only just turned up ...
The final problem with this whole episode is that it appears to send a signal – that if you are a “moderate” Tory, a socially liberal, fiscally responsible, internationalist Conservative who believes in the necessity of compromise and balance in our national affairs – you have to start to think about joining a new party.
Job creation across the UK has slowed... but there’s good news too – wages are picking up, my colleague Graeme Wearden writes on his business live blog, covering today’s unemployment figures. The full details are here.
Arlene Foster warns Boris Johnson that Northern Ireland backstop would amount to 'break-up of UK'
Anyone who has followed Boris Johnson’s career in detail will know that there is a long list of people who have put their trust in him and who at some point discover they have been let down. Are the DUP about to join the club?
As my colleague Lisa O’Carroll wrote in a post on this blog yesterday, there is increasing speculation that Boris Johnson is moving towards accepting some version of a Northern Ireland-only backstop as a solution to the Brexit crisis. Newsnight’s Nicholas Watt went into this in more detail in a report yesterday. Here is an excerpt from a blog setting out his understanding of Johnson’s thinking.
The Tories familiar with Boris Johnson’s thinking say he is now willing to contemplate a version of the so-called “Northern Ireland-only backstop”. Under this plan Northern Ireland would be closely bound to the EU on areas where there are already elements of an all Ireland economy – agriculture and electricity.
But Great Britain would be free to chart its own course. That would free GB to have a free trade agreement with the EU but would create a border down the Irish Sea. All of that could be achieved by amending the backstop in the Brexit withdrawal agreement to apply only to Northern Ireland. The separate political declaration would be amended to say that a Canada-plus trade deal would be negotiated for Great Britain. The government would be wary of calling the new mechanism a backstop, because it regards the current backstop as anti-democratic.
Downing St confirmed that a backstop in any form is unacceptable to the prime minister. But he is willing to recognise, as he told MPs last week, that “agri-food is increasingly managed on a common basis across the island of Ireland”.
But there is potentially a big problem with this plan. The DUP would oppose anything that would create a new regulatory border between Britain and Northern Ireland (although Watt, in his blog, quotes one source explaining why a version of this proposal might be acceptable to the unionists).
This morning Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, spoke to Sky News before flying to London. She said she would be speaking to Johnson later. Asked about the suggestions that Johnson was planning a Northern Ireland-only backstop, she claimed this was “very wide of the mark”. Perhaps she is right, but it did sound a little as if she was not 100% convinced and as if she was seeking to lay down a marker to the PM.
She told Sky News:
There’s been a lot of speculation about that ... What we’re focused on is about getting a deal that works for the whole of the United Kingdom, one that works for Northern Ireland, one that does not have Northern Ireland hived off into a different customs union than the rest of the United Kingdom, breaking up the single market of the United Kingdom. That would be unheard off. To think that any United Kingdom prime minister would be involved in that sort of thing would just be an anathema. Jeremy Corbyn has said that in the past, our own prime minister has said that. So I think all of this speculation is very wide of the mark.
When it was put to her that some people might think she was being naive, and that Johnson was more committed to delivering Brexit than to sticking with the DUP, she replied:
What people are talking about is not delivering Brexit; what people are talking about is the break-up of the United Kingdom. That is not something that any prime minister in the United Kingdom is going to in any conscience go along with.
Agenda for the day
Parliament is not sitting, but there is still plenty of politics around. Here is the agenda for the day.
9.30am: Boris Johnson chairs cabinet.
9.30am: Tony Blair, the former Labour prime minister, gives a speech at the launch of the King’s College London International School for Government.
10am: A new group, MPs for a Deal, to give a briefing. Its members include Stephen Kinnock, Rory Stewart, Norman Lamb and Caroline Flint.
12pm: Downing Street lobby briefing.
After cabinet Johnson is due to do a school visit to promote government plans to open more free schools.
And Sky News is reporting that Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, is coming to London today. It is thought she will be meeting Johnson. I will post more on that shortly.
Harman says Speaker should 'stand up for parliament' as she confirms she will stand for role
Here is more from what Harriet Harman, the former Labour deputy leader, told the Today programme about how she would conduct herself if elected Commons Speaker. (See 8.27am.) She said:
I think the Speaker has to be scrupulously neutral as between different views within the House.
The Speaker doesn’t vote, doesn’t take sides in debates.
But, the Speaker is not neutral as between parliament and the executive.
The Speaker has to be on parliament’s side and stand up for parliament.
Asked about John Bercow’s conduct as Speaker, Harman said:
He has been right to say to ministers: ‘You have got to come to the house. You have got to account for yourself.’
Bercow condemns decision to prorogue parliament for five weeks as 'act of executive fiat'
John Bercow, who is effectively working his notice as Speaker now, delivered a short speech from the chair as the prorogation ceremony was beginning early this morning condemning the government’s decision to prorogue for five weeks.
Here is an extract from Hansard.
I have already made the point that if people have the manners to listen, which they have not, that I will play my part. This is not, however, a normal prorogation. It is not typical. It is not standard. It is one of the longest for decades, and it represents, not just in the minds of many colleagues but for huge numbers of people outside an act of executive fiat.
I quite understand. I have already said that I respect Black Rod, who is doing her duty. The Queen’s Commissioners are doing their duty, and I will play my part. I completely understand. [Interruption.] It is not disorder. I do not require advice on order from you, Mr Stuart. You are a master of disorder, man. I completely understand why very large numbers of Members are much more comfortable staying where they are. Mr Stuart, if you do not like it, you are perfectly entitled to your view. I could not give a flying flamingo what your view is. [Interruption.] Thank you very much indeed.
And here is some video.
Good morning. I’m Andrew Sparrow, taking over from Patrick Greenfield.
If you are interested in all the chaos and protest that erupted in the Commons in the early hours of this morning as parliament was prorogued, here is our overnight story.
But if you want all the details, including the best tweets and the most candid pictures, do have a look at yesterday’s blog. My colleagues Mattha Busby and then Kate Lyons kept it going until 3.30am. It is a terrific read.
Labour veteran Harriet Harman to stand for Speaker
The mother of the house, Harriet Harman, has told the BBC that she will stand for the position of Speaker after John Bercow announced he would stand down on October 31. Harman insists that she would be a neutral figure in the house despite her support for remaining in the European Union.
Theresa May accused of cronyism over resignation honours list
Theresa May’s former advisers Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill have been included on her resignation honours list, provoking accusations of cronyism. They’ll both get CBEs while Robbie Gibb, her director of communications, will received a knighthood. You can read the full list following the link below.
NI police: New IRA bomb was an attempt to murder officers
Restoring power sharing in Stormont will surely be on the agenda in cabinet following a violent night in Derry on the Creggan estate. Police were attacked with petrol bombs and a device found in the city was an attempt to murder officers by the New IRA, according to the PSNI.
Officers were carrying out searchings targeting dissident republicans.
Yesterday, Boris Johnson and the Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar clashed on the prospect of resorting direct rule in Northern Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The Taoiseach said his government would oppose direct rule from London as it would violate the Good Friday agreement that ended decades of violence in Northern Ireland.
Letwin urges Boris Johnson to back second referendum if he cannot pass Brexit deal
The prime minister will host a cabinet meeting later today and there is be plenty to discuss with just 51 days to go until Brexit.
Former conservative MP Sir Oliver Letwin has told BBC Radio 4 that Boris Johnson should turn his attention to reaching an agreement with the European Union. Letwin says he would vote for “literally any deal” the government manages to agree with Brussels and he believes a large part of the house would also back an agreement. If he cannot get a majority to vote for the deal in the house, the prime minister should hold a referendum, Letwin adds.
He also suggests that Johnson could back a second referendum, despite the fact that he opposes one now. Letwin explains:
Boris has often changed his mind about many things. And that’s one of his advantages, that he is very flexible.
Boris Johnson suspended parliament amid chaotic scenes in the early hours of Tuesday following his sixth parliamentary defeat in six days, as MPs voted to block a snap election and to force the publication of No 10’s secret preparations for a no-deal Brexit, writes our Rowena Mason.
Welsh Labour MP Anna McMorrin had the tweet of the night from the house.
Our data team have made a useful graphic that tells you which way your MP voted on calling a general election.
Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of the day’s political goings-on. I’ll be bringing you the latest political developments this morning until Andrew Sparrow is ready to take charge.
MPs met until the early hours on an another dramatic night in Westminster as parliament was suspended for five weeks at the request of Boris Johnson. The consternation of many MPs and the Speaker of the House, John Bercow, was clear, with the outgoing speaker describing the prorogation as “not typical”, “not standard” and as representing “an act of executive fiat”.
There were chaotic scenes in the house as Bercow began proceedings to prorogue parliament, as a group of opposition MPs carrying signs reading “silenced” drowned out Black Rod as she tried to address the Speaker, the ritual that initiates the suspension.
Several MPs were also involved in altercation near the Speaker’s chair, as they attempted to prevent him leaving his seat and attending the House of Lords, the next step in the formalities required for the suspension of parliament.
Cries of “shame on you” rose from the opposition benches as government MPs left the chamber. Labour MPs, who remained in their seats after government MPs and the Speaker had left to attend the House of Lords, sang Jerusalem and Bread of Heaven.
Parliament won’t sit today, or for the next five weeks, but we’re anticipating a lot of furious reaction. Join us as we bring you that and all of the day’s other news.
Tweet me at @pgreenfielduk if you have any questions.