We hope you’re enjoying your long bank holiday weekend!
You might be celebrating at a street party, or taking the opportunity to have a good long rest, but whatever this weekend has in store for you, we know it’s always nice to stay informed.
So this weekend as ever, we’ve got you covered. Read on for the highs and lows of the week in politics.
Not off the hook
Just when you thought it was over, Partygate rumbled on for another week.
Over the last weekend, claims began to surface that Sue Gray had been urged by Number 10 to dilute <[link removed]> the findings of the report. In particular, questions over whether a particular party (known now as the Abba party) was deliberately left un-investigated have caused a media furore.
This party, said to have taken place on 13th November 2020 <[link removed]>, was initially earmarked for investigation by the Met police. As a result of this, Gray claims she felt it was inappropriate to continue investigating the 13th November party further. After the Met police finished their investigation and did not delve further into this particular party, Gray still did not resume investigations into it.
Less 'Winner Takes It All' and more 'Waterloo'
Increasingly, rumours are flying around that details of this particular event have been suppressed - with arch-chaos-maker Dominic Cummings coming forward to say that Abba’s The Winner Takes it All could be heard all over Number 10 blasting from the private flat <[link removed]> shared by Boris and Carrie Johnson and their children.
Boris Johnson responded to these worsening rumours by making it look like he definitely has something to hide. At the end of last week, he rewrote the ministerial code <[link removed]> so that those breaching it would not have to automatically resign, and this week he has created a rift with his own standards <[link removed]> adviser, Lord Geidt, by insisting that his Met police fine was not a breach of the code.
Yes, we were also surprised to learn that the Prime Minister had a standards adviser.
As a result of Boris Johnson’s declining fortunes, more and more members of his parliamentary party <[link removed]> have been voicing their dissatisfaction in him.
This is how it works: If 54 Conservative MPs - 15% of the parliamentary party - submit letters of no confidence in the PM to Sir Graham Brady (Chair of the 1922 Committee representing backbench Conservative MPs) then a secret ballot will be held to determine whether Conservative MPs retain confidence in their leader. If a confidence vote is called, Johnson will need 181 MPs (just over half the parliamentary party) to back him in order to retain the leadership. A tall order when Johnson has ensured that more than 170 Tory MPs are on his payroll.
The long bank holiday may offer some respite for Johnson, but it is entirely possible that the threshold of 54 has already been reached - and Brady is doing Her Maj a solid and waiting for the Jubilee to end before dropping that particular bombshell.
And yes, we are on tenterhooks.
After consulting Express readers for 'Brexit Benefits' these are *the top ideas selected by Jacob Rees Mogg*. Almost every single one is about removing consumer, worker or environmental protections. And to think that the UK sacrificed 12% of trade and 4% of GDP for this!
Even before it's started, the Tory leadership election looks like it's going to be fighting the same old Brexit battles. One leadership hopeful, Tobias Ellwood MP, made the very sensible suggestion <[link removed]> this week that the UK should rejoin the EU's Single Market. Ellwood suggested the UK could alleviate the cost of living crisis and help British businesses in one go.
Obviously Boris Johnsons's allies leapt at the chance to defend the purity of their Brexit project <[link removed]> saying Brexit wasn't safe in anyone's hands but his.
Another Brexit soldier trapped in the jungle long after the war is over, this week, is Priti Patel. She claims <[link removed]> 'activist lawyers' seeking to challenge the legality of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda is actually a "Rejoiner effort to undermine Brexit". And not, as you and I might think, a compassionate and much-needed check on her authoritarian plans.
This week, the Government announced plans <[link removed]> to open up a new visa scheme for graduates of the world’s top 50 universities. Any graduates of these universities will be granted two year work visas to apply for jobs in the UK.
This decision is both arbitrary and - we think - rather snobbish. The Government has decided which universities to include <[link removed]> and has also decided that this is a definitive listing - and a definitive means of judging talent.
There are, of course, thousands of extraordinarily capable and skilled people all around the world who will not attend any universities on the list. Indeed, many areas of the UK's economy are facing critical labour shortages for jobs that require no university level qualifications at all.
It’s also been pointed out that the plan excludes entire continents. There are no African universities on the list and South America also does not get a look in. South and Central Asia are also entirely absent.
Northern Ireland - Shhh! Tell no-one...
New ONS figures <[link removed]> this week show Northern Ireland's economy is outpacing post-Brexit Great Britain. Northern Ireland’s GDP grew 1.4% in Q3 of 2021, compared with 0.9% in Scotland, 0.6% in England and -0.3% in Wales, over the same quarter.
Northern Ireland is the only UK region still able to trade goods barrier-free with the EU. I wonder if there's a link.
Small businesses need help
The Federation of Small Businesses has warned <[link removed]> that around 500,000 small businesses could be at risk of going bust within a few weeks if they don’t receive Government support to cope with rising costs.
Production costs have gone up, energy costs have rocketed, staff costs have risen and that’s before we begin to discuss the mountains of costly red tape created by the Government’s wafer thin Brexit deal. Business leaders have said that passing all these costs onto consumers just isn’t an option when most buyers are having to tighten their belts themselves.
Small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities, and it is vital that we support local businesses and enable them to thrive. But when they need support to cope with a mess partially of this government’s own creation, Ministers continue to turn a blind eye.
Law and disorder
The Government's new Public Order Bill will attempt to reintroduce harsh penalties for protestors, proposals that were kicked out of the Policing Bill by the Lords. They’re expected to pass this time.
While it is clear the purpose of this Bill is for Priti Patel to look ‘tough on crime’, an impact report published this week <[link removed]> and commissioned by the Home Office warns the new legislation will disproportionately impact ethnic minorities and increase the inequalities that already exist in law enforcement.
Priti Patel has been warned - but will she listen? And does she even care? We’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions on this one.
Imperial measurements...something, something...dark side...nasty EU litres...something
This week’s most bizarre news came in the form of a commitment from Boris Johnson to bring back imperial measurements <[link removed]> to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
I'm not sure everyone’s been clamouring for this but this is typical of the symbolic silliness Johnson loves to dish out when things aren’t going quite so well. And it is of course another means by which Johnson can stoke the flames of the confected culture war.
Asda's Chairman (and Tory Peer) Lord Rose said this week <[link removed]> the plan was "complete and utter nonsense" and would only please a "small minority who hark for the past". Well quite.
Here's your chance to tell the Government what you think in their brand new, launched today, consultation. Just visit the Gov.uk consultation page and fill in their form. <[link removed]>
Bring back shillings too, I say!
Last weekend, our social media team asked people <[link removed]> what they wanted to bring back instead of imperial measurements, and we had some very interesting responses.
Many longed for a return to freedom of movement, others wanted government accountability back on the cards. Others had slightly less lofty aims with retro confectionary being popular suggestions. Opal Fruits, 10p Freddos and Marathon bars were key contenders for a return. Any more ideas?
And with that, that’s all from us this weekend. We hope you have a lovely time, whatever you’re doing, and we’ll be back Friday next week.
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