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The Smith Square Review - 12 January 2018

Fri, 01/12/2018

Nick-ing the spotlight

Theresa May’s decision to axe Justine Greening as Education Secretary and force her exit from the Cabinet prompted a huge outcry, particularly from moderate members of the Conservative Party who suspected the shadowy hand of the former No.10 Chief of Staff Nick Timothy in the decision. This meant Timothy’s use of his Telegraph column to launch a further attack on Greening sparked intense criticism from many Conservatives.

Mr Timothy denies any involvement her sacking, but still accused Greening of being unpopular with officials, of failing to progress the creation of more free schools and of blocking the Prime Minister’s attempts to cut the cost of university tuition fees.

Whether or not there is any truth behind these allegations, the sticky truth for Theresa May is that Timothy’s words do nothing to quell speculation that he is still calling the shots in No.10.  They all mysteriously concern opposition to pet Nick Timothy policies, and it has also not escaped notice that the university tuition fees row relates to policy decisions taken after Timothy’s resignation from No.10. This all adds up to some awkward questions for a Prime Minister who should not be discussing policy with ex-advisers at all, and has infuriated many Conservatives who still haven’t forgiven Timothy for his role in the disastrous election campaign.

Timothy’s comments also provoked a strong response from former Universities Minister Jo Johnson, another minor casualty of the reshuffle, who used Twitter to label the allegations “so wrong”. Another vocal critic was the already rebellious Anna Soubry, who also swiftly sprung to Greening’s defence on Twitter and was later seen welcoming her to the naughty corner of the backbenches. Whatever the rights or wrongs of the Timothy vs Greening drama, Theresa May looks set to regret creating another ready-made backbench rebel. Watch this space.

 

I heart Nick Clegg

Following the reshuffle shambles of earlier this week, Nigel Farage has made a desperate grab for end-of-week headlines by calling for a second EU referendum to give the British public a chance to solidify their support for Brexit.

Farage’s move marks an incredible U-turn on his insistence that the original outcome of the referendum should be respected. Clearly the man has seen Nick Clegg’s sold-out event at UCL later this year and thought he might take a punt on the same theme. Farage claims that a second referendum would wipe out ‘Remoaners’, specifically Tony Blair and the afore-mentioned ex-Lib Dem leader, as well as ‘kill the issue for a generation’.

Ironically, this very move has created a new and unforeseen Clegg-Farage marriage, leading to the unlikely tweet from Clegg stating “I agree with Nigel”. Credit to Nick for his sense of humour – he will doubtless be sending Nigel a thank you note for boosting PR for his own longstanding second referendum campaign.

Farage is clearly missing the spotlight. Since resigning as UKIP leader, he has been filling his time with far right rallies in Germany and campaigning for alleged child-molester Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate elections. Maybe it’s time he finds a hobby.

 

House of Lords cocks up 

Evil liberal columnists at the New York Times and Washington Post may soon be joined in exile by British journalists. This week, the House of Lords has incurred the ire of new Culture Secretary Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, as the Government was defeated in a vote in the upper chamber to further investigate the behaviour of the press by 29 votes (238 to 209). An amendment to the Data Protection Bill (the same bill which will bring the EU’s general data protection regulation into force in the UK), the clause will effectively open Round 2 of the Leveson Inquiry. 

The former Minister for Digital and a big proponent of “uninterrupted, unhindered free flows of data,” Hancock has warned that this amendment represents “a hammer blow to local press” and “high quality journalism”, and will be hard fought by the Government in the Commons.

One supporter of the amendment, Liberal Democrat Lord McNally, argued “This victory will send a message to those whose privacy was trampled on by press hacking and other criminality that we are serious about protecting their rights.” In response to naysayers fearing further regulation will ‘blackmail’ the media, Gary Linecker has kicked off on Twitter, tweeting about the need for more honesty and decency in the press.   

The Leveson Inquiry was first launched in 2011 under David Cameron, after a series of phone hacking scandals broke the News of the World; so far it has cost the taxpayer £49m.

 

No Health Service

Christmas was meant to be the season to be jolly - not for those who ended up stuck on an NHS trolley! It has emerged that the NHS is facing its worst winter crisis to date.

The BBC has published statistics that claim that only 77.3% of A&E patients were met within its four-hour target in December. Some 60,000 patients (up by 9,000 since last year) are reported to have waited between 4 and 12 hours before they were assigned to a hospital bed, also known as the “trolley wait”. 

Yes, it is only a year since the last worst crisis ever experienced in the history of the NHS’s. The seasonal pressures on the service are increasing, with an aging population putting more demands on an allegedly underfunded and understaffed NHS. Apparently the Government is finding this reality a rather hard pill to swallow, especially when 68 of the most senior emergency medicine specialists from across England and Wales wrote a letter to the Prime Minister describing the severity of the situation.

In response, the Department of Health is hiding behind a technicality, stating that the BBC’s stats aren’t the same as Official-with-a-capital-O Government statistics. In the same vein of cyclical repetition, Mrs May attempted to reshuffle the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt (as she was encouraged to do last year) but lacked the gumption. Instead, she tacked on Social Care to the Department of Health’s brief – a logical move in the long term, but in the current context, more like putting a bandage over a bullet wound.

 

Trump off

Donald Trump has sensationally called off a proposed visit to the UK after he branded his new embassy in London a “bad deal”. Our sympathies are with him - worn out from the victory of the GOP tax reform bill which will save the Trump corporation many hundreds of millions of dollars, all Donald wants is an embassy befitting of his stature.

The $1.2 billion facility, known as Nine Elms, was designed by Kieran Timberlake of Philadelphia, following an Obama initiative to launch a design competition to redevelop US embassies around the world to cater for the White House’s security paranoia.

This opulent development features a Varsace high-rise tower, five-star hotel and two glass-bottomed swimming pools, the Vauxhall complex was built with the proceeds of land sales around London. It is packed full of progressive environmentally friendly innovations, “cutting edge features” and demonstrates “exceptional environmental leadership” – surely, then, a personification of Trump if there ever was one?

 

Souvenir of the week

Read our very own James Hargrave's blog spot on this kerfuffle of a reshuffle.