Sunday Crunch: Braver claim — Boris ‘bombshell’ — Kwasi endorsement
Presented by Lowell
By ANNABELLE DICKSON
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Good Sunday afternoon. Welcome to another political week.
THINGS TO KNOW
BRAVER CLAIM: Britain’s Home Secretary Suella Braverman is in Rwanda this weekend and is raising expectations the first asylum seekers could be deported to the African country by the summer. She is unlikely to be leading the headlines for long though. This week will be all about Boris Johnson, again, and Brexit, again. More on that below.
Making a pledge: For now though, Braverman has secured plenty of Sunday front pages which splash on there being “every possibility” of deportations to Rwanda by the summer. The Sunday Express, Mail on Sunday and Sunday Telegraph splashed her comments, obvs.
Get cracking: Back in the U.K., in the broadcast studios this morning Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden said the government was ready to “get cracking straight away.” He cited a Court of Appeal case as the key hold up, but told Sky’s Sophy Ridge that: “As soon as that process is through — and I’m confident our policy is lawful — we will get cracking straight away with the Rwanda policy and use that as a tool in our armory.”
Making the choice: Asked about the contentious plans which could see families with children covered in the small boat plan, Dowden told Sky News he didn’t “relish any of this.” The government wasn’t “running to do this,” he insisted. On Times Radio Robin Walker, the chair of parliament’s education committee, said he would be writing to Home Office ministers to raise some of the concerns about the impact of the policy on children.
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Interior design row: Dowden was quizzed on whether Braverman’s comments about the interior design of houses constructed to potentially hold migrants was tone deaf. The Mail’s write-up describes how “seated on a beige velvet sofa with floral pink scatter cushions” Braverman said: “These houses are really beautiful, great quality, really welcoming and I like your interior designer. I need some advice for myself.” Dowden said the policy was about “people having a safe and secure place to go.”
Watch this space: The government legislation could be back before MPs next week, and the Sunday Telegraph reckons a “considerable” number of Tory backbenchers are preparing amendments, including one to “ignore Strasbourg judgments.”
Stop the stunts: On Sky, Labour’s Shadow Leveling-up Secretary Lisa Nandy accused the government of engaging in “several PR opportunities and photo ops.” Nandy claimed Labour would do the “hard yards” by setting up a National Crime Agency cell to disrupt the criminal gangs.
Lobby row: Some of the broadcasters are pretty put out that GB News got an invite to the trip when they didn’t. Sky News was among those who were NFI, and Dowden was forced to insist the guest list was a “matter for her operations teams” when quizzed on Sky about whether Braverman was running away from scrutiny. The Guardian is also not impressed that it didn’t get an invite.
Incurring the wrath: Fans of Westminster rivalries should read this yarn in the Mail on Sunday that ex-Home Secretary Priti Patel threatened to sue her successor after being told the Home Office had put the blame for overcrowding at the Manston asylum processing center in Kent on her.
BORIS ‘BOMBSHELL’: Boris Johnson’s “allies” have had a busy weekend briefing that there is a “bombshell” dossier of evidence coming which the ex-PM believes will clear him of misleading parliament over Partygate. Johnson will get his big moment on Wednesday when he appears before the privileges committee of MPs to give his evidence.
Timeline: Johnson’s legal team is due to submit his defense in writing tomorrow, and it will be made public ahead of Wednesday’s hearing, various news reports suggests.
But they said it was okay: Most papers report that the central thrust of his argument will be that Johnson was sent messages from advisers, shortly before he spoke in parliament, advising him that no COVID-19 rules were broken in No. 10 Downing Street. Johnson’s alma mater the Sunday Telegraph has lots of the detail and source quotes. The Telegraph’s Ben Riley-Smith also has an essential Twitter thread about what we can expect on Wednesday, which is worth bookmarking.
They told me to say it: A source tells the Sunday Tele: “When ministers go into the Commons, they are basically just reading out what they have been briefed to say.”
Free vote? Dowden, Johnson’s former party chairman who resigned from his government at the height of the public backlash to Partygate scandal, told Sky he was sure Boris would give a “robust defense of himself.” On the question of whether MPs would get a free vote on whether to back the outcome of the inquiry, he said it was “standard practise” not to whip a vote, but he wasn’t sure a final decision had been made.
Batting for Boris: Tory peer and Boris fan Stephen Greenhalgh was on Times Radio this morning saying he was concerned the privileges committee hearing would be a “witch hunt.” The pro-Johnson Conservative Post has called on members to email the four Tory MPs who sit on the committee, urging them to stand aside, the Sunday Times reports. Greenhalgh added that if there was not fairness in the process it “should not go ahead.”
Headline of the day: Goes to the Sunday Mirror which says Boris Johnson could finally face his “Waterloo” in Partygate grilling over ABBA bash. Mickey Smith says committee members are expected to ask him about the now infamous “ABBA party” in November 2020 on the day Dominic Cummings was forced out of No. 10.
BREXIT SHOWDOWN: And while all that is going on, MPs will also on Wednesday be debating and voting on one of the central planks of Rishi Sunak’s Brexit deal with the EU to reform the Northern Ireland protocol — the so-called Stormont brake, which allows Unionist politicians a potential block on new EU legislation.
Confidence high: On Sky, Dowden said he was “confident” that the vote would pass, and that he hoped the Democratic Unionist Party would “come on board.”
But but but: The Telegraph says DUP MPs are preparing to vote against the deal. That won’t be a surprise given their recent utterances, but could have an impact on the all-important number of Conservative MPs who don’t back the brake.
Not looking good: Saturday’s Times reported a “highly critical” report by the ERG is expected to claim that the legal text of the prime minister’s deal would effectively stop the U.K. from diverging from the EU because it would result in new barriers between Britain and Northern Ireland. In today’s Sunday Express, ex-Cabinet Brexiteer Liam Fox makes a valiant effort to sell Sunak’s deal to colleagues.
Labour backing: On Sky, Nandy reiterated Labour’s support in the vote, telling Ridge it was a “step forward. “There’s no question that this is something that is now urgent. It’s incredibly important, and trying to remove some of that friction, some of those barriers on the island of Ireland has long been our priority,” Nandy said.
KWASI ENDORSEMENT: Former Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, of KamiKwazi budget fame, was on Camilla Tominey’s GB News show this morning and told her he thought his successor Jeremy Hunt’s budget last week was a “good budget.” He said he disagreed with the corporation tax rise, which went ahead, but told Tominey: “What we can’t do is pretend that last [September] didn’t happen.” The full exchange is worth listening to — a rare example of political humility.
POWER COUPLE GONE: SNP leadership candidate Kate Forbes told the BBC “decisions within the SNP have been taken by too few people” after the dramatic resignation of Nicola Sturgeon’s husband Peter Murrell as the party’s chief executive yesterday. It marks the end of a chapter in which the power couple were arguably the most dominant political figures in Scottish politics in recent years. Forbes also told Laura K in her leadership interview that her Christian faith had seen a “stunning” level of scrutiny in the campaign.
SHARP MATE: The Richard Sharp stories just keep coming. Now the Sunday Times is reporting the BBC chairman put forward Caroline Daniel (at whose wedding he was an usher) for a paid advisory role at the Beeb in 2021. The BBC says it is “completely satisfied” all process and procedure was complied with in full.
At the Sharp end: Dowden, who was culture secretary at the time Sharp was appointed, unsurprisingly said he had “every confidence” in the process he oversaw. “I’m confident that we chose the right person to do the job of chairman of the BBC, and I continue to have confidence in him,” Dowden told BBC’s Laura K.
DAVEY TAKES TO THE STAGE: The Lib Dem spring conference has just finished. Lib Dem leader Ed Davey told members his party would seek a closer economic relationship with Europe to “fix Britain’s trade” if it was in government, and would take action against sewage spills. The BBC has more on the speech.
HEALTH WARNING: The health crisis has largely dropped out of the top of the headlines, but the Sun on Sunday highlights the case of a patient who was stuck in the back of an ambulance for nearly two days waiting for a hospital bed. It emerged in Freedom of Information figures requested by Labour, and Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting said it showed the NHS was in a “desperate crisis.”
HIGH ALERT: Dowden was also on the Sunday shows this morning raising awareness for a new emergency alert system to mobile phones which will be tested next month. Dowden said people would only receive alerts in the “most serious” of circumstances, and he didn’t expect it to be used very often. On Sky he cited severe flooding as an example of when it might be used.
STRIKE TALKS: Dowden got a rough ride over the government’s approach to pay talks with the unions this morning, after ministers finally struck a deal with trade unions representing health workers in England last week. Dowden told Sky News the funding would have to be “delivered through efficiencies” or “wider savings across government,” but insisted it wouldn’t affect “front-line services.”
Why so long? On the BBC, Dowden unsurprisingly came under fire over why the government had wasted so much time saying these type of pay talks were impossible. He insisted the Royal College of Nursing had “moved” and the government had been willing to move to “reward nurses properly.”
PUTIN A SHOW ON: Russian President Vladimir Putin has been in the captured city of Mariupol this morning. His trip comes after news yesterday that a deal allowing Ukrainian grain exports to pass through the blockaded Black Sea has been extended.
V is for victory: Lithuania’s foreign affairs minister Gabrielius Landsbergis has written about the seven myths standing in the way of Ukraine’s victory for POLITICO this morning. He says that if Kyiv is forced to settle, it will bring neither justice nor peace.
TICK TOCK FOR TIKTOK: After announcing a TikTok ban on government devices last week, Dowden this morning insisted viewers should be free to make their own choices and shouldn’t take TikTok off their phones. But he did warn the public to be “cautious” about the amount of data being harvested by social media apps. “People need to take appropriate precautions across the board,” he said. On GB News he said it was up to his Cabinet colleague Grant Shapps whether he used the app. Press Gazette reports the BBC has advised staff against using TikTok on corporate devices, unless for “editorial and marketing purposes.”
FOOD TSAR QUITS: Leon co-founder Henry Dimbleby has quit as the government’s so-called food tsar so he can speak out about the government’s inaction against obesity. The Sunday Times got the scoop and spoke to him.
Ayesha Hazarika on Times Radio (4 p.m. to 7 p.m.): Conservative MP Peter Gibson; Labour’s Nick Thomas-Symonds; SNP MP Marion Fellows; the Speccie’s Freddy Gray.
Gloria Meets on GB News (6 p.m.): Labour MP Dan Jarvis, Conservative MP Mark Fletcher; Conservative MP Peter Gibson.
The Andrew Neil Show (Channel 4, 6.15 p.m.): Former Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls; former Chancellor George Osborne; Shadow Leveling-up Secretary Lisa Nandy; the Telegraph’s Madeline Grant; the FT’s Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe.
Westminster Hour (BBC Radio 4, 10 p.m.): Former Tory minister Conor Burns; Labour Shadow Cabinet Office minister and peer Jenny Chapman; Lib Dem MP Sarah Olney; the Mail’s Jason Groves.
— ECONOMY: Office for Budget Responsibility Chairman Richard Hughes to speak at Centre for Policy Studies event, 4 p.m.
— SCOTLAND: LBC SNP leadership debate hosted by presenter Iain Dale, 7 p.m.
— SCOTLAND: Outgoing Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to speak at the Royal Society of Arts, 2.30 p.m.
— FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Chinese President Xi Jinping to a pay state visit to Russia.
— COMMONS: Sits from 2.30 p.m. with Home Office questions followed by more budget debate.
— UKRAINE: U.K. to host conference on war crimes in Ukraine.
— STRIKES: University staff to walk out on strike.
— WAR: 20th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War.
— COMMONS: Sits from 11.30 a.m. with Treasury questions followed by the last day of budget debate and vote.
— HOME AFFAIRS: Independent report into the Metropolitan Police due to be published after public outcry at the murder of Sarah Everard by serving Met officer Wayne Couzens. Deputy Commissioner Lynne Owens, who has seen the report, tweeted about it.
— ECONOMY: Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to give evidence to the Lords economic affairs committee, 3 p.m.
— ECONOMY: Economic think tank wonks give evidence to the Treasury committee on the budget, 9.45 a.m.
— TECH: Tech minister Paul Scully up in front of the digital, culture, media and sport committee talking about misinformation, 10 a.m.
— COMMONS: Sits from 11.30 a.m. with Northern Ireland questions followed by PMQs and a debate on the so-called Stormont brake negotiated in the Northern Ireland protocol deal with the EU, plus debates on Lords amendments to the Public Order Bill, Trade (Australia And New Zealand) Bill and UK Infrastructure Bank Bill.
— ECONOMY: Latest inflation figures published, 7 a.m.
— EX-PM: Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson to give evidence to the privileges committee on whether he misled parliament over Partygate, 2 p.m.
— LEVELING-UP: Leveling-up Secretary Michael Gove to give evidence to the public administration committee, 3 p.m.
— ECONOMY: Office for Budget Responsibility Chairman Richard Hughes at the Treasury committee, 2.15 p.m.
— COMMONS: Sits from 9.30 a.m. with business and trade questions followed by the business statement and debates on Down Syndrome and energy.
— ECONOMY: Latest Bank of England interest rate decision, 12 noon.
— COMMONS: Private Members’ Bills.
— TORIES: Conservative Spring Forum kicks off in Birmingham.
Thanks: To Jones Hayden for spending his Sunday whipping Crunch into shape.
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