London Playbook: BYOBriefing — Keir’s for beers — Red meat or dead meat? – POLITICO

Good Monday morning.


BYOBriefing: Boris Johnson enters a decisive week for his premiership hoping {that a} quickly ready populist coverage agenda will shore up assist from the appropriate wing of the Conservative Party — as Downing Street anxiously waits for civil service investigator Sue Gray to conclude her report into Partygate. The prime minister survived the weekend with no recent revelation dealing a killer blow to his place. No. 10 might be nervously consulting Tory MPs who spent the previous few days of their constituencies speaking to voters and their native occasion associations, and searching for to win them again spherical with a sequence of briefings on abolishing the BBC licence charge and calling within the navy to cope with the small boats migrant disaster. The subsequent section of the scandal is tough to foretell and occasions might unfold shortly. Playbook will attempt to lay out the place we’re as of Monday morning.

Waves and lulls: Allies of the PM have been relieved to get via the Sunday papers with out an particularly devastating new occasion story, fearing that one other bombshell might need triggered Cabinet resignations or a flood of letters in to Graham Brady, the chair of the 1922 committee of backbench MPs. Instead, Johnson discovered some house to work on his fightback. A authorities insider instructed Playbook that, as a information occasion, Partygate was creating in “waves and lulls.” Damaging revelations of latest events whip up a furor amongst Twitter, Fleet Street and Tory MPs … then there’s a interval of relative calm … then a brand new story breaks … and so forth till the Gray report is out. The supply argued that we at the moment are in a slight lull, although stated it was inevitable a improvement would happen within the coming hours or days that wreaks havoc as soon as once more.

Gray issues: The nature of this scandal, with the drip-drip of leaks, means the longer it takes Gray to finish her work, the extra harmful it arguably is for Johnson. If her probe continues into subsequent week, that leaves a very long time for new allegations to emerge. If it wraps up in days, the earlier Johnson can get on together with his much-vaunted reset by issuing an in depth apology and making adjustments, a authorities supply stated. A supply near the Gray inquiry instructed Playbook it was potential her report may very well be prepared by the tip of this week, although burdened there isn’t any estimated publication time. They warned that if additional tales come out, there’s a likelihood the report might slip into subsequent week. The Telegraph’s Ben-Riley Smith and Tony Diver hear Johnson has now been questioned by Gray.

Case for the protection: In public, the PM, ministers and Downing Street officers haven’t rebutted the particular occasion allegations. In their interviews with Gray, many members of the federal government have been far more vocal of their defenses, Playbook is instructed. A story is beginning to emerge in Whitehall that the reality of what went on in No. 10 throughout lockdown is extra nuanced than Twitter and newspaper entrance pages permit: That a few of the reported occasions did cross the road and went effectively past what was acceptable, however most remained inside the boundaries of labor (even when wine was taken) — or so Gray is being instructed, anyway.

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The argument is that there’s a sliding scale of seriousness: At the unacceptable finish is the smoking gun e mail from Johnson’s Principal Private Secretary Martin Reynolds, that authorities insiders admit deserves censure. But officers are pleading for clemency from Gray on the notorious suitcase of booze and “wine Fridays,” which they insist have been extra about workers working 16-hour days having a glass or two within the workplace whereas they labored on a Friday afternoon, one thing they argue was not in opposition to the principles. A Tory MP and Johnson loyalist complained to Playbook {that a} “feeding frenzy” on Twitter has stripped nuance from the controversy, and stated they believed Gray would have the ability to lower via the noise, whack the federal government on the extra critical fees, and present some understanding on others.

What will Johnson say? A authorities insider argued the PM ought to present contrition for the errors of a few of his workers and apologize once more for the May 20, 2020 BYOB drinks gathering within the backyard which he attended. (The Sunday Times’ Tim Shipman reported party-loving PPS Reynolds, his deputy Stuart Glassborow, and Chief of Staff Dan Rosenfield might all lose their jobs.) Another MP dubbed Johnson’s post-Gray assertion: “Groveling Up.” But a Tory MP additionally stated the PM ought to “come out swinging” on a few of the much less nailed on allegations, and persuade colleagues that the image of No. 10 as a bunch of each day boozed-up, swing-breaking shirkers is a political assault being pushed by their opponents.

Keir’s for beers: Downing Street is having some pleasure with its personal MPs on the video of Labour Leader Keir Starmer sipping a beer at a neighborhood occasion assembly on April 30, 2021. The clip was taken throughout “Step 2” restrictions that stated fairly clearly: “You must not socialise indoors except with your household or support bubble.” Starmer instructed the BBC’s Sophie Raworth there was “no comparison” between that and the claims in opposition to the PM. Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, who has written a letter of no confidence within the PM, referred to as Starmer a “hypocrite” yesterday, and the Mail’s Daniel Martin splashes the story, main on Tory calls for Starmer to come back to the Commons to apologize. You can anticipate Johnson to make use of that counter-attack at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday. Starmer yesterday accused Johnson of breaking the legislation.

Why it issues: Starmer’s beer may not appear probably the most egregious offense, however that’s precisely the purpose for No. 10. Johnson’s workforce are arguing that the video provides credence to the concept drinks might be consumed at a piece occasion with out the principles being damaged, and due to this fact nullifies a lot of the “wine Fridays”-style allegations in opposition to them. The different is that ingesting at work is in opposition to the principles. “If Starmer can stand in a room drinking beer with work colleagues, what is the difference with No. 10 staff doing the same at their desks on a Friday afternoon?” one Tory supply argued.

Will this be sufficient? Of course, all these delicate arguments to Sue Gray concerning the ins and outs of what went on might simply be blown up if one thing else emerges that causes her to throw the e-book at Johnson. Dominic Lawson’s Sunday Times column contained a possible landmine: “Last week I spoke to a former Downing Street official who said at least two people had told the PM, after seeing the emailed invitation from his principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, that this was ‘a party’ and should be immediately cancelled. I was told that Johnson’s dismissive response was to say they were ‘overreacting’ and to praise Reynolds as ‘my loyal Labrador.’” In response to that declare, a No. 10 spokesperson stated: “It is untrue that the prime minister was warned about the event in advance. As he said earlier this week he believed implicitly that this was a work event.” Gray will wish to resolve this earlier than she decides how harshly to phrase her report.

Another one: The Mirror’s Ben Glaze reviews Johnson attended a leaving do for protection adviser Captain Steve Higham in Downing Street within the run-up to Christmas 2020. Johnson reportedly was “there for a few minutes to thank him for his service” as a “small number of No. 10 staff briefly said goodbye.”

Hit for 6: The variety of Tory MPs who’ve publicly referred to as for Johnson to give up now stands at six. Former Minister Tim Loughton says: “Frankly the issue for me is not how many sausage rolls or glasses of prosecco the Prime Minister actually consumed. The reason for my conclusion in calling for him to stand down is the way that he has handled the mounting revelations in the last few weeks. Obfuscation, prevarication and evasion have been the order of the day when clarity, honesty and contrition was what was needed and what the British people deserve.” Full listing through the Mirror. Veteran Robert Syms tells the Telegraph he’s additionally contemplating placing in a letter. POLITICO’s Annabelle Dickson reviews that Whitehall consultants are warning the PM that pinning the blame on his officers is unlikely to defuse the anger at him.

Where’s Rishi? As Playbook wrote final week, Partygate and Johnson’s future will finally boil down to 3 issues: the Gray report, the response of Chancellor Rishi Sunak and the remainder of the Cabinet, and whether or not Tory MPs hit the edge of letters. Not a lot has actually modified since then. The Telegraph’s Ben Riley-Smith and Maighna Nanu rely that 15 Cabinet ministers have made public appearances backing the PM since final Wednesday. Sunak is amongst those that haven’t.

Focus group bloodbath: Pollster James Johnson tweeted out the main target group from hell for Johnson yesterday after talking to first-time Conservative voters within the purple wall seat of Bolton North East. The upshot is that they stated they aren’t voting for him once more and suppose he ought to resign.

Good luck … it falls to Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi to courageous the morning broadcast spherical.

Where Britain leads, the world follows: Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has ordered an investigation right into a Champagne occasion that was held in his division throughout lockdown in June 2020. The Irish authorities has struggled to reply questions concerning the occasion, which first got here to gentle on the finish of December when the Irish Times obtained maintain of a now-deleted Twitter picture of at the very least 20 officers ingesting bubbly, whereas indoor gatherings of greater than seven individuals have been banned for everybody else. The Department for Foreign Affairs have since apologized, however that has achieved little cool the scandal. The Irish Independent’s Philip Ryan has extra.


BEEB BASHING: “Operation Save Big Dog” is, Playbook is assured by each outstanding No. 10 individual he spoke to over the weekend, not a phrase anybody senior has ever used. “Operation Red Meat” is nevertheless very a lot a factor. Boris Johnson is hoping {that a} sequence of sops to the appropriate of his occasion will assist stem the movement of letters into Graham Brady — and so they’re not refined. The Mail on Sunday’s Glen Owen obtained the inside track on Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries’ plan to freeze the annual BBC licence charge at £159 for the following two years, which means the Corporation should discover £2 billion in financial savings. Owen reported that in 2027 the licence charge would then get replaced with a brand new funding mannequin.

Subscribe now: Playbook is instructed by a authorities official that the MoS report is in the appropriate place, though discussions over the licence charge are ongoing. Dorries tweeted yesterday: “This licence fee announcement will be the last. The days of the elderly being threatened with prison sentences and bailiffs knocking on doors, are over. Time now to discuss and debate new ways of funding, supporting and selling great British content.” She later added that there’s a “huge debate and much to discuss” about how the BBC must be funded.” The Guardian’s Andrew Sparrow, Josh Halliday and Heather Stewart splash on the PM concentrating on the Beeb to avoid wasting his premiership.

More BBC News: The race to switch Laura Kuenssberg has been blown huge open after the new favourite Vicki Young pulled out yesterday. She tweeted: “Been getting lots of nice messages about BBC Political Editor job so wanted to let you all know that for personal reasons I won’t be applying. But look forward to supporting whoever gets this incredible role.” Here are Playbook’s runners and riders for the job.

Our boys shoot cat: The subsequent rushed-out coverage announcement comes on the entrance of the Times, the place Steve Swinford and Matt Dathan report the navy might be put accountable for stopping small boats from crossing the Channel. They additionally say Ghana and Rwanda are being thought-about as offshore areas for asylum processing. The Sun’s Kate Ferguson additionally has the story.

A Whitehall supply tells Playbook: “Priti [Patel] first called for military involvement back in August 2020 and after months of cross-government wrangling the PM has agreed with her that it’s the right thing to do.”

Is the reset going to appease Tory MPs? The i’s Chloe Chaplain and Francis Elliott quote Defense Committee Chair Tobias Ellwood {that a} “flurry of initiatives” and “sacking No. 10” workers gained’t lower it: “His entire senior team requires overhauling, enabling responsible command, strategy and standards to significantly improve.” The paper splashes on “Operation dead meat.” Cracker of a quote from a senior Tory MP too: “The whole operation is sh*t, talk about ‘Night of the Long Knives’ it should be ‘A Week of Machetes’ because it’s a shambles. I stayed home and voted for these rules, to be loyal, and these little b*stards were partying in Downing Street in lockdown. They’ve got to be cleared out.” The same quote seems within the Sun through Kate Ferguson, so it feels like at the very least one Tory MP is having fun with themselves.


HOUSE OF COMMONS: Sits from 2.30 p.m. with Home Office questions, adopted by any post-weekend UQs or statements … The principal enterprise will see MPs transfer via the remaining levels of the Elections Bill, which accommodates the federal government’s controversial plan to introduce obligatory voter ID … after which Tory MP Siobhan Baillie has an adjournment debate on the experiences of midwives within the NHS.

FROM TODAY: In England, for those who take a look at optimistic for COVID, now you can depart your self-isolation for those who take a look at unfavourable on days 5 and 6.

What might need been: With case numbers effectively down once more, and deaths remaining a lot decrease than feared by authorities scientists, in an alternate universe Boris Johnson might need been having fun with a ballot surge after claiming he referred to as Omicron proper. So a lot for that. Saturday’s Telegraph reported that the present Plan B measures can be scrapped on January 26. The i’s Hugo Gye reviews: “There are 608 covid patients in ventilated beds in England, which is the lowest number since 21st July last year (peak last January was 3,736).”

Less spectacular: The Treasury is anticipated to put in writing off an astonishing £4.3 billion in COVID fraud, in keeping with the Times’ David Byers. Leveling Up Secretary Michael Gove is within the Mail promising to dam second house homeowners from abusing COVID money schemes.

YESTERDAY’S UK COVID STATS: 70,924 optimistic instances. In the final week there have been 754,054 optimistic instances, ⬇️ 463,043 on the earlier week … 88 deaths inside 28 days of a optimistic take a look at. In the final week 1,834 deaths have been reported, ⬆️ 539 on the earlier week. As of the most recent knowledge 19,539 COVID sufferers are in hospital.

COST OF LIVING SQUEEZE: Nearly one in three households will battle to afford their power payments when the brand new power worth cap comes into impact in April, in keeping with new analysis from the Resolution Foundation. The suppose tank’s examine predicts that from April, 27 % of households will expertise gas stress — an indicator of discovering power payments unaffordable — treble the 9 % who at present expertise it now. The rise is anticipated to hit areas within the north-east and Midlands probably the most, together with pensioner households. The BBC’s Michael Buchanan and Eleanor Lawrie carry putting interviews with some people who find themselves at present fighting their rising payments, together with 54-year-old Thelma Spalding, whose month-to-month fuel and electrical energy invoice has greater than doubled from £44 to £99 within the yr since she needed to depart her job within the NHS. She asks: “I live in this one room. There’s only me and the dogs, so why am I being charged this much for electricity and gas?”

At least he says ‘order’ humorous and hates Brexit although: Disgraced former Commons Speaker John Bercow will quickly be discovered responsible of 21 counts of bullying by Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone, the Sunday Times’ Tim Shipman reported.

COMMITTEE CORRIDOR: The Scottish affairs committee will have a look at issues with entry to money for Scottish communities, with commerce unions and ATM community operators among the many witnesses (3 p.m.) … The Treasury committee will study monetary regulation post-Brexit (3.15 p.m.) … The leveling up committee begins an inquiry into regulation of social housing in England, with witnesses representing tenant teams and personal suppliers of social housing (4 p.m.) … and the general public accounts committee will query senior HMRC officers on tax debt, which has doubled through the pandemic (4 p.m.).

FACTCHECK UK: Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has a genuinely fairly readable op-ed in in the present day’s Times on Ukraine/Russia, the place he seeks to counter a few of the Russian president’s current explanations for his actions on Ukraine. Wallace argues the Kremlin has used an concept of an offensive NATO as a straw man to advance its personal goals and writes which you can higher discern Russia’s goals from a 7,000 phrase essay Vladimir Putin revealed himself final yr that “puts ethno-nationalism at the heart of his ambitions.”

A BRIDGE TOO FAR: Tory MP Andrew Bridgen took money from a timber agency then lobbied the federal government to assist it with its tax affairs, the Times’ George Greenwood reveals. Another for Kathryn Stone.

HOUSE OF LORDS: Sits from 2.30 p.m. with questions on assist for individuals with consuming problems, the National Living Wage and vaccines for faculty pupils … Followed by Day 6 of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill’s report stage.

Late Lords motion: Late tonight the federal government will introduce a sequence of amendments to the PCSC Bill which might usher in new powers for police to manage protests, together with a brand new prison offense for “locking on” — the method utilized by Insulate Britain protestors to nice chaotic impact final yr. Labour indicated Friday it might be a part of Lib Dem and Green friends in opposing the measures, that are prone to be voted on in a sequence of divisions probably going into the early hours.

Slightly earlier on: Peers may also vote round 8 p.m. on a Best for Britain-organized modification regarding the appropriate to protest outdoors parliament, which the marketing campaign group says can be successfully banned if the invoice passes. (Clause 59 within the invoice would deem unlawful any large-scale demo within the space which makes the passage of a car tougher.) As it tries to persuade friends to again its modification, Best for Britain is exhibiting off new polling from Opinium indicating that 79 % of the general public consider peaceable protests must be allowed outdoors the Houses of Parliament.

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Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi broadcast spherical: Sky News (7.05 a.m.) … Times Radio (7.20 a.m.) … LBC (7.50 a.m.) … Today program (8.10 a.m.).

Shadow Culture Secretary Lucy Powell broadcast spherical: talkRADIO (7.05 a.m.) … GB News (7.45 a.m.) … Sky News (8.05 a.m.) … Times Radio (8.20 a.m.) … Today program (8.40 a.m.).

Also on the Today program: Crossbench peer and former No. 10 Policy Unit head Camilla Cavendish (6.50 a.m.) … Labour peer Shami Chakrabarti and former Justice Secretary Robert Buckland (7.30 a.m.) … Former BBC Chairman Michael Grade (7.50 a.m.).

Also on Sky News breakfast: Defense committee Chairman Tobias Ellwood (8.30 a.m.).

Also on Nick Ferrari at Breakfast (LBC): Former David Cameron adviser Philip Blond (7.05 a.m.) … Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins (7.10 a.m.) … Former ITN Editor Richard Tait (8.35 a.m.) … Phone-in with Labour chief Keir Starmer (9 a.m.).

Also on Times Radio breakfast: Polling guru John Curtice (8.05 a.m.) … Actor George MacKay (8.50 a.m.).

Also on Julia Hartley-Brewer breakfast present (talkRADIO): Former No. 10 Director of Communications Jonathan Haslam (8.05 a.m.) … Tory MP Richard Graham (8.50 a.m.) … Tory MP John Redwood (9.05 a.m.) … Unaffiliated peer Kate Hoey (9.33 a.m.).

The Briefing with Gloria de Piero (GB News 12 p.m.): Tory MPs Peter Gibson and Richard Fuller … Labour MP Tonia Antoniazzi … DUP MP Jim Shannon.

Politics Live (BBC Two 12.15 p.m.): Northern Ireland Minister Conor Burns … Shadow Commons chief Thangam Debbonaire 

Cross Question with Iain Dale (LBC 8 p.m.): Tory MP Craig Mackinlay … Bright Blue founder Ryan Shorthouse … Former Channel 4 Editor at Large Dorothy Byrne … Columnist for the i Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.

Reviewing the papers tonight: Sky News (10.30 p.m. and 11.30 p.m.): The Sun’s Harry Cole and the Mirror’s Pippa Crerar.


(Click on the publication’s title to see its entrance web page.)

Daily Express: PM — Fightback plan to degree up Britain.

Daily Mail: Starmer should make an apology for drinks in lockdown.

Daily Mirror: Johnson’s scapegoats.

Daily Star: Totally odd bloke who does completely odd issues says he’s, er … extraordinary.

i: Operation dead meat — Boris Johnson’s plan to avoid wasting himself doesn’t go far sufficient, warn senior Tories.

Metro: Go pack Djokovic.

POLITICO UK: Boris Johnson’s blame recreation over lockdown events might backfire.

PoliticsHome: Oliver Dowden says Boris Johnson ‘dedicated to addressing tradition’ of ingesting in No 10 after occasion allegations.

The Daily Telegraph: Johnson questioned by Gray over ‘partygate.’

The Guardian: PM accused of attacking BBC to avoid wasting his personal pores and skin.

The Independent: Fears for youngster refugees wrongly deemed adults.

The Sun: On yer personal Harry — Queen gained’t assist in row.

The Times: PM calls in navy to stem movement of migrants.


WESTMINSTER WEATHER: ☀️☀️☀️ Sunny however with gentle winds. Highs of 7C.

NOW HIRING: The Cabinet Office are recruiting for a head of reports to run the division’s media workforce and act as a press secretary to CDL Steve Barclay. Best of luck with that — particulars right here.

IN MEMORIAM: Former City Minister Paul Myners has died on the age of 73. Myners, a veteran of the monetary companies business, was introduced into authorities by Gordon Brown in 2008 to assist sort out the monetary disaster — Brown final night time described him as a “tower of strength” through the disaster. The Guardian’s Richard Partington has a write-up.

BIRTHDAYS: Ashford MP Damian Green … Shadow Schools Minister Stephen Morgan … Lords Opposition Deputy Chief Whip Denis Tunnicliffe … Stormont Deputy Speaker Christopher Stalford … U.Okay. Ambassador to Vietnam Gareth Ward … Former BBC tech correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones … and former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama.

PLAYBOOK COULDN’T HAPPEN WITHOUT: My editor Zoya Sheftalovich, reporter Andrew McDonald producer Grace Stranger.

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