Rudd to the Treasury, a Gove comeback, McLoughlin to quit. What may happen in the reshuffle.

So it’s mid-day on Friday June 9th. The results are in and, they may not be quite give Theresa May the landslide she had hoped for, but she is back in Downing Street, and sitting down to form her new Cabinet.

Reshuffling a top team after barely eleven months poses several dilemmas. If you make too many changes, it indicates that you made some pretty dodgy decisions in the first place. If you make too few, you fail to take advantage of the fact that you’re never more powerful than when you have won an election.

But – but – is this the situation that the Prime Minister will find herself in? Let’s hope so, but there remains a nagging doubt that this clusterfuck of a campaign will ruin it all. Having said that, lest we forget, most people thought the Conservative campaign only two year ago was boring, unimaginative and uninspiring. They also thought that a clear win was impossible, and that a hung parliament was the best that could be hoped for. Instead, the party won a majority for the first time since 1992.

For our purposes here, let us agree that Theresa May won’t carry out a night of the long knives. After all, she did that back in July.

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Morning Briefing – The Telegraph

Good morning.

Britain will soon have its second female Prime Minister. We have to wait till September 9th to find out who that is though, as the Conservatives’ 150,000 members decide between Theresa May or Andrea Leadsom. “We have an all-female shortlist with no positive discrimination or anything, isn’t that fantastic?,” declared Leadsom. “It’s only taken us a quarter of century to come around to the idea that the resident of Number 10 doesn’t need to be metrosexual, suffer from male-pattern baldness or have gone to Eton,” writes Claire Cohen about the two Prime Ministerial hopefuls, both of whom are in their 50s and were educated at state schools.

Theresa May starts off as the frontrunner, buoyed by her support from MPs in the second ballot. She won 199 votes, against 84 for Leadsom. The Home Secretary said that this proved she can help the Tories “come together” under her “strong leadership”, but her weakness in this campaign will be her support for remaining in the European Union, which may prove unpopular among the Leave-leaning grassroots. More than 40 MPs are now backing a call by former party chairman Grant Shapps to shorten the race so it concludes within weeks in order to swiftly pick someone to lead Britain in the months after the Brexit vote, but May has given that short shrift: “I have said all along that this election needs to be a proper contest.”

The Home Secretary won’t be resting easy though as the Tory leadership race has been notorious  for how rarely frontrunners go on to win, with David Davis and Michael Portillo being recent examples. She also is under fire over her continued refusal to confirm  that EU migrants in Britain as part of her Brexit talks, with Fraser Nelson taking her to task in today’s paper. “To apply to be prime minister she needs to show that she understands Brexit, she understands people – and that she’s capable of calming an unsettled country,” he writes. “Until she drops her indefensible ambivalence towards the status of Europeans, many of those who’d normally be inclined to support her (myself included) will find it impossible to do so. It would be tragic if the woman who invented the phrase “nasty party” were to end up hanging it around Conservative necks once more.”

Andrea Leadsom will be pleased to have reached the final round, after fears that questions about her CV, and the bombastic march her supporters led up Whitehall, would put MPs off at the last minute. But Michael Gove ensured she got through by coming in third with 46 votes. The Justice Secretary won two fewer votes than he did on Tuesday for the first round, in a sign that some MPs had decided to back someone else, while backers  now admit that his decision to “put the boot” into Boris Johnson cost him support. They also blamed a leaked message showing his campaign was urging MPs to vote Gove to stop Leadsom for “kiboshing” his chances of becoming Prime Minster. As the final two start their battle to be Prime Minister, follow today’s events on our liveblog.

The Home Secretary’s team will seek to hammer home their candidate’s experience over the coming weeks, with May slamming the “inexperienced” Leadsom’s plans to allow EU nationals already in the UK to remain here after Brexit, suggesting that  it meant foreign criminals could not be deported. Meanwhile Andrea Leadsom has aimed her pitch directly at the Tory grassroots by pledging a vote to legalise fox hunting, a review of the HS2 rail line and stating that she believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman, rather than between a same-sex couples. As we say in our leader: “let battle commence“.

Morning Briefing – The Telegraph

Good morning.

After poring over Sir John Chilcot’s report, and witnessing Tony Blair’s sorrowful defence of his record, Westminster returns today to the Tories’ race to find Britain’s next Prime Minister. MPs have to vote on the three candidates remaining in order to whittle them down to just two, from which members can go on to decide the winner. There’s little doubt Theresa May (who Ruth Davidson now backs) will be one of them. But the big question is whether Andrea Leadsom can keep her lead she had over Michael Gove  in the first round on Tuesday as MPs vote again on the thinner crop of candidates.

The Justice Secretary’s allies have been urging Theresa May’s supporters to vote tactically to block Leadsom, with his campaign manager Nick Boles texting MPs to tell them he is “seriously frightened” about the prospect of her entering Downing Street. Gove, he claimed, was ready to spend “two months taking a good thrashing from Theresa, if that’s what it takes”. “Are we really confident that the membership won’t vote for a fresh face who shares their attitudes about much of modern life?” he asked MPs. The message has annoyed some MPs because it seems to attack the Conservative grassroots for being potentially inclined to back Leadsom. Boles later apologised for sending the message on Twitter, stressing that it didn’t represent Gove’s views. Jacob Rees-Mogg has put a more positive case in favour of Gove in today’s Telegraph, praising his “vision” and “competence”. “He put his country before the easy life of Notting Hill friendship and when he believes he is wrong he has the courage to change his mind,” he writes. “These are the qualities needed at this most exciting of times.”

Meanwhile, the energy minister’s allies have warned that it would be an “absolute scandal” if MPs transfer their votes to Gove in order to keep her off the ballot, with one source saying “it would prevent the Conservative Party from having a proper choice”.  Leadsom doesn’t lack allies though, as her team claim that “well over 70” MPs were now backing her for the leadership. One MP noted that her performance in parliamentary hustings has “vastly improved”, so she’ll hope that helps her stop her support peeling off elsewhere. She  is also being helped by Ukip donor Aaron Banks’ Leave.EU movement, which has bombarded May’s supporters with emails demanding they back her for the leadership or face losing support in their constituencies. “There is more than a hint of Momentum going on, there have been calls of traitor – anyone who votes against her is traitor,” one MP revealed. ”It has been really quite unpleasant and has annoyed colleagues.” Leave.EU may be a mixed blessing, but I’ve pointed out that if Leadsom did become Prime Minister, she could encourage back quite a lot of ex-Tory voters who had drifted away to Ukip.

Leadsom will be more appreciative to have  support from Boris Johnson, who is introducing her at an event today. The former London Mayor has also aimed a swipe at Theresa May for calling into doubt the right of EU migrants to stay in Britain, showing that he isn’t shying away  to get in  the fray. Someone will be eliminated from the race by the end of today (at around 4.30pm), and the scale of Theresa May’s lead will be watched as it will indicate how hard she may have to fight to get into Downing Street. As the contenders make their final pitches, you can stay up to date with it all on our liveblog.

Morning Briefing – The Telegraph

Good morning.

The race to be the next Tory leader – and Britain’s Prime Minister – comes to a head today as MPs cast their votes on the current five contenders. They will aim to eliminate whoever comes last, which looks increasingly likely to be Liam Fox, as the former defence secretary is trailing in fifth place in terms of public endorsements. But nearly half the party have yet to openly declare who they’re backing, so this contest could throw up some surprises. William Hague reveals in today’s Telegraph that he made sure to beat expectations in the 1997 contest by keeping a “a solid core of secret votes in my back-pocket – not even telling my own team about some of the pledges of support I had received from other MPs”. This meant his aides “then reacted with surprised delight to the result, to a degree that could not be faked, or leaked in advance”.

Theresa May has remained the clear front-runner among MPs, boasting more Parliamentary support than her four rivals combined, while Andrea Leadsom is fast emerging as her main challenger. Boris Johnson has endorsed the energy minister, praising her “zap, drive and determination”, while a Conservative Home poll of Tory activists found that Leadsom suggested that she polled better (38%) than Mrs May (37%). But this may need to be taken with a pinch of salt as it is not a nationally representative poll, but it certainly shows that many highly engaged Tory activists are partial to Leadsom. Michael Gove may trial behind them in third place (13%), but Nicky Morgan has explained in today’s Telegraph why Tories should back him. “Michael Gove offers the change and the leadership we need if we are to meet this moment with the hard-headed response it demands,” the Education Secretary writes about her predecessor.

The Home Secretary is still centre of the Tory debate in the meantime. She will declare today that Britain must prioritise replacing Trident in the wake of Brexit with a parliamentary vote this month, and warn that it is “sheer madness” to give up the nuclear deterrent. She is also continuing to come under fire from senior Conservatives and her leadership rivals for refusing to guarantee the rights of EU nationals living in the UK in the wake of Brexit. However, supporters like Philip Hammond and immigration minister James Brokenshire have backed her line, with the Foreign Secretary saying that guaranteeing EU nationals can live safely in Britain without securing the same concession from EU states for British expats would be “selling our people out too cheap”.

Tory contenders will be hoping to have positive results they  can talk up after today  as they head towards the second elimination round on Thursday.  If Theresa May remains way out in front in both rounds, we could know who Britain’s next Prime Minister is by the end of this week. Her rivals will be doing all they can to blunt that “Maymentum”.


Morning Briefing – The Telegragh

Good morning.

The abrupt end to Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign after Michael Gove withdrew his support has caused rancour among both sides, we report this morning. The former Mayor’s allies have been talking venomously about Gove’s “calculated plot” and “midnight treachery”, with one MP saying that there was a “very deep pit reserved in hell” for the “Judas” Justice Secretary. Some Johnson allies have accused George Osborne of being involved in this “political assassination”, and Gordon Rayner has all the details about how the “cuckoo nest plot” unfolded. Johnson’s father Stanley provided a Shakespearean response to this. “Et tu Brute,” he quipped to the BBC, “and I don’t think he’s called Brutus…”

Johnson’s withdrawal from the race, and the demise of the “BoGo” ticket, will have relieved Theresa May, as the former Mayor had been indicated by polls to be the only one who could beat her. The Home Secretary has the support of more than 60 Tory MPs, while Michael Fallon and Patrick McLoughlin – who explains why in the Sun – coming out today in her favour. Many of Johnson’s supporters have chosen to join her too rather than Gove, with Nadhim Zahawi explaining his reasons on HuffPostUKMatthew Hancock, a close ally of George Osborne, has also thrown his weight behind May, which will encourage speculation that the Chancellor could soon follow. The Daily Mail has also thrown its weight behind her, declaring in an editorial that the next leader “must be Theresa“, which may well disappoint Gove’s wife Sarah Vine, a columnist for the paper.

The Tory leadership contenders have until Tuesday to build support among MPs before the first round of voting, so Gove and his fellow contenders – Stephen Crabb, Andrea Leadsom and Liam Fox – will have to work hard to catch up with May. Fraser Nelson offers a dose of optimism for the Tories as they fight for the leadership, writing in today’s paper: “When it comes to ideas for the future, the Conservatives have seldom been more united. But they may, now, be too busy fighting each other to notice.”

As Conservatives prepare to consider who could be their next leader, the next Prime Minister will know they have to go ahead and negotiate the terms of Brexit. Vladimir Putin appeared to throw down the gauntlet to British politicians to quit the European Union yesterday, questioning whether they would dare to deliver on the democratic mandate for Brexit that flows from last week’s EU referendum. “We will see how their principles of democracy get realised in practice,” he mused.

Tory contenders will want to read Tony Blair’s piece in today’s paper, in which he warns that “serious statesmanship” is needed to negotiate Britain’s exit from the European Union. The lead negotiator must have “high level sense… of the things that might be compromised” and doesn’t have to be a Brexiteer, according to the Remain-backing former premier. He rounds off: “To allow us to come safely through this we need to be adult in our politics, to proceed with calm, maturity and without bitterness; because our future as a nation in the world and as the UK itself is at stake.”


Good morning.

Ambitious Tories have until midday to get their campaigns off the ground if they want to be the next leader (and Prime Minister). Stephen Crabb made his pitch yesterday, and now the spotlight falls onto the bigger names, with Theresa May attempting to burnish her Eurosceptic credentials by announcing that she will set up a “ministry for Brexit” if she becomes Prime Minister. “The job now is about uniting the Party, uniting the country and negotiating the best possible deal for Britain,” the Home Secretary will say.

Mrs May will seek to depict herself as the ideal candidate to unify the party, although her campaign is already preparing for a fierce contest against Boris Johnson for the top job. One friend of the Home Secretary told the Telegraph that he was the “most divisive person in British politics” and is not “credible” enough to run the country after Brexit. Mrs May develops that theme in the Times, writing that “what the government does isn’t a game; it’s a serious business that has real consequences for people’s lives”. May won’t try to fight Johnson in the charisma stakes, so she is setting out a stall for competence instead. May also ruled out doing any “deals” with Johnson in order to pave the way for a quick coronation. A spokesman explained she would “rather lose” than compromise with him. Michael Gove seems to be more amenable towards Boris Johnson, although a leaked email his wife sent to him suggests that there is an element of pragmatism behind his support. Sarah Vine insisted that her husband obtained “specific” guarantees on immigration controls before throwing his weight behind the former Mayor. We’ll be liveblogging today’s developments in the Tory leadership race here.

Liam Fox is also entering the leadership race, and has written in the Telegraph a stirring case for why Britain should seize the opportunity of Brexit. “We are right to take control of our own destiny,” he says. “We should never forget that we are a special country. It is time to feel special again.” Brexiteers will be encouraged by France’s finance minister Michael Sapin, who appeared to break ranks with EU leaders by suggesting the country was prepared to reach a deal to allow Britain to limit free movement of EU migrants while retaining access to the Single Market.

Nigel Farage must be torn over who he would want most to win, writing in today’s paper that the next Prime Minister should be “someone who intends to help fulfil this country’s potential as a self-governing nation” and doesn’t indulge in “backsliding” on Brexit. Allister Heath agrees, writing: “We need determination, discipline, cool under extreme pressure, grit and seriousness; we also need a national leader who can inspire the country and hopefully reunite the centre‑Right political family.”

Unity looks much harder to aspire for in the Labour party right now, as Angela Eagle is preparing to fight Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership after he defied calls from Tom Watson and Ed Miliband to stand down. 50 Labour MPs are now set to back Eagle, while Owen Smith is also said to be contemplating a challenge.David Cameron even weighed in, telling Corbyn to go “for heaven’s sake”, which may ensure he becomes harder to dislodge, as Corbynite activists would loathe to help a Tory Prime Minister.

Much of the moderates’ anger stems from Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to get enough Labour voters out to back Remain. Alan Johnson derided his “risible” efforts, while Vice News has released new video showing how Corbyn’s aides were struggling to get him to fight a “high-energy” campaign. Sadiq Khan told Al Jazeera yesterday that “Labour supporters weren’t aware of what our position was” when he went campaigning in areas like Manchester, Leeds, Oldham and Bradford. So they are preparing to exploit the party’s pro-EU campaign machine to target pro-Remain members, but can they defeat the tidal wave of £3 temporary members Corbyn plans to recruit? As Eagle prepares to lead the charge against Corbyn over the next 24 hours, you can stay up to date with all this on our liveblog.


Morning Briefing – The Telegraph

Good morning.

David Cameron must be feeling rather demob-happy, as he used his final meeting with EU leaders yesterday before standing down as Prime Minister to tell them they must change the bloc’s fundamental free movement rules if they are to keep close economic ties with Britain after Brexit and to avoid any other nations following them out the exit door. He admitted at a press conference later that night that talking about Brexit had been a “sad night” for him as he “didn’t’ want to be in this position”, but his successor will be no doubt grateful to him for laying the groundwork. Boris Johnson, currently considered the frontrunner in this race, has stressed that he wants Britain to have continued access to the single market and a controlled immigration system, with a source close to him saying:  “He would end free movement, what we need is to take back control.”

Back in Westminster, Conservatives are jockeying for position as nominations for the leadership of the Conservative party open from 6pm today. Boris Johnson’s private polling suggests he is the only candidate who can win enough support from ordinary votes to ensure the Conservatives win the next election, we report, with the former Mayor believing he is best-placed to build a strong party machine thanks to the support of crucial donors. He has been given by a boost by Environment Secretary Liz Truss, who has used an article in today’s Telegraph to become the first Cabinet minister to declare for a candidate, saying that Johnson and Michael Gove, the Justice Secretary, can “bring the country together“. Johnson also stands to be helped by Sir Lynton Crosby, the election mastermind who helped him twice become Mayor, once he declares his candidacy. However, a poll of Tory activists by Conservative Home found that he’ll be in fierce competition with Theresa May, who is narrowly ahead of him in their poll of who should be the next leader (29 per cent to 28).

The Home Secretary has meanwhile been accused by Johnson’s supporters of using the Government machine to strong arm Conservative MPs into voting for her to become Prime Minister. One Conservative MP said he had been collared by his whip earlier this week while he was voting to ask if he was voting for Mrs May, who will position herself as a leader for “difficult times” when she sets out her case to replace David Cameron on Thursday.

As May and Johnson supporters fight, other Tories are offering their own views on what the Conservatives need to do in the future. Stephen Crabb has set out his case for becoming the next Prime Minister in today’s paper, offering a path of “optimism and pragmatism” towards “better days”. Crabb, who was brought up in a council house, boasts the support of Sajid Javid, son of a bus driver, so can fly the flag for blue-collar Conservatism. Meanwhile Nicky Morgan, who is “actively considering” whether to throw her hat in, has tld james Kirkup that the Tories need to do more to make the “positive case” for immigration and must not be “pushed aroud” by Nigel Farage.

The Tories will have to be confident that David Cameron’s successor can win the next election, as Jeremy Corbyn’s increasingly perilous position means they could face a different Labour leader in 2020. In the meantime, Corbyn is expected to continue his battle for control of the Labour Party after losing a vote of no confidence in his leadership (172 votes to 40 among his MPs). “It’s not the Tories who will be destroyed, but the Labour Party itself if Jeremy refuses to stand aside,” warns Chris Bryant, the former Shadow leader of the Commons in today’s paper. “If he does so, history will look kindly on him.  If not, he will be remembered as the man who broke the back of the party.” Angela Eagle is emeriging as a likely challenger to Corbyn, with Tom Watson considered another contender, although the devotion Corbyn still inspires from his activists should help him survive any leadership contest that arises.

For now, he has a session of PMQs to face (which you can follow on our liveblog), and David Cameron has quite a few resignation letters he can merrily quote if he needs material. The Prime Minister may of course be tempted to spare his blushes, knowing  his party wants Corbyn to remain in place for as long as possible.

Bravo Boris Johnson and Michael Gove on Brexit

We have been reading reports for a week or more over whether Michael Gove and Boris Johnson will join the Leave campaign. It has clearly worried the Remain campaign a lot, and they seem to have been briefing about their negotiations with the two men. Given their concern, to lose one was careless, but to lose two is bad news indeed for them.

Michael Gove followed up his decision with a magnificent statement setting out why many of us think the only course of action for the UK must be to leave the EU. He explained why our democracy matters, and why it is incompatible with the current commitments and legal entanglements of the EU treaties.

We can now look forward to Boris’s journalistic abilities also helping our just cause.

The Remain campaign is much keener on arguments by endorsements, because their campaign is so thin on any good reasons for the course of action they are taking. In contrast the Leave campaign has a wealth of material of how things will be better when we are out, and much to explain to voters about how we are currently badly governed from Brussels.


A swing of the handbag reveals Mrs May’s ambition

The fall of Tim Yeo is a bleak parable of political ambition and the fractional differences between a career that leads to a crack at the top job and one that descends to humiliation and a battle to clear one’s name. There was a time when Yeo saw himself as a potential contender for the Conservative leadership, a moderate Tory with broad experience in the shadow cabinet, celebrated for his annual Westminster parties.

Now he has been forced to stand aside as chairman of the Commons energy and climate change committee, while allegations that he exploited his role to help a private company influence Parliament are properly investigated. In my experience, there is a pocket of impermeable self-belief in the psyche of each and every MP that says: “I could be party leader.” Indeed, it is one of the secret affirmations they whisper to themselves when the going gets tough. In 99 per cent of cases, of course, it is pure delusion. But it is part of the senior politician’s psychological profile: a necessary component to keep them toiling away, holding surgeries on wet winter evenings, trudging into the division lobbies as the whips instruct them, driving to down-at-heel venues to eat rubber chicken with angry men in cummerbunds, rarely seeing their families.


Ed Miliband is a blancmange in a hurricane

In the past 10 days the Prime Minister has been busy. As well as responding with maturity, proportion and resolution to the jihadist atrocity in Woolwich, he has been advancing on a broad front. He has secured a major negotiating success in the EU – allying with France to lift the arms embargo that hindered Syria’s democrats. He has also secured the opening of 102 new free schools designed to help children in need, ensured gay men and women at last enjoy full equality before the law and won an endorsement for his economic strategy from the IMF and the OECD – as inflation and the deficit both fell.