Rolling coverage of the day’s political developments as they happened, including Theresa May appointing Mordaunt to replace Priti Patel
Thanks for following the blog today and for all your comments. Here is a round-up of the day’s main developments:
This is the full statement by the Welsh first minister, Carwyn Jones:
This is an awful situation for everyone. I want to talk about Carl and his family today. We’re all very shocked by what happened this week. There is great hurt, anger and bewilderment.
Carl was my friend. In all the years that I knew him I never had a cross word with him. For 14 years we worked together. He was a great Chief Whip and a Minister who served his country with distinction.
The FT’s Sebastian Payne joins those who suggest that May kept the balance but stopped short of making a statement with today’s appointments.
The thirst for renewal within the Conservative party will not be wholly quenched by Thursday’s moves. “Penny was the obvious and smart choice,” says one influential Conservative MP. “But the prime minister has missed an opportunity to turn this crisis into a moment of renewal reflecting her values. Some bigger strategic cabinet moves would have shown a real determination to shape the political agenda and return every blow from her critics with a counterpoint of detoxifying modernisation”.
A wider cabinet reshuffle — along with a reboot of the government’s priorities — is risky but necessary. Her party has given her the authority to shake things up and, as we argued in a recent FT editorial, what does Mrs May have to lose? She cannot watch her authority and credibility seep away every day as new scandals and threats emerge. The prime minister must show she is first among equals.
Jones who struck a very sombre tone throughout said if answers do not come out through the inquest he will endeavour to ensure they are answered.
Carwyn Jones doesn’t quit. But suggests his own actions can be subject to independent inquiry, as well as the inquest.
Jones says he never argued with Sargeant in 14 years. “He was a great chief whip and served his country with distinction.”
Jones says there have been a lot of “inaccuracies” in the press.
The family deserve to have their questions answered.
Here is the Welsh first minister.
Carwyn Jones says he is speaking at “an awful time for everyone and I want to speak about Carl and his family”.
Labour’s Chuka Umunna has a welcome message for Penny Mordaunt:
Is that Penny Mordaunt I see standing next to Priti Patel promising to ensure £350m extra per week goes to the NHS? We look forward to seeing her use her new cabinet post to make it happen. pic.twitter.com/eZH1PoJIBk
Sorry for stating the obvious but the Welsh first minister’s statement has been delayed. We’ll be bringing you coverage as soon as it starts.
A shameless plug for my colleague Aditya Chakrabortty, who will be one of the panellists on BBC One’s Question Time tonight at 10.45pm tonight.
Also on the panel will be Justine Greening, Stella Creasy, Kirstie Allsopp and Charles Moore.
No hard feelings…
Congratulations to my dear friend @PennyMordaunt – the new International Development Secretary.
This is from the political editor of ITV Cymru Wales:
Reliable Labour sources tell me Carwyn Jones isn’t about to resign. We’ll know soon enough. He’s about to make a statement.
Writing for the New Stateman’s Staggers blog, Stephen Bush, is scathing about Theresa May’s appointment of Penny Mordaunt as international development secretary, suggesting she may be the right person in the wrong position (Mordaunt had been tipped previously to replace Michael Fallon as defence secretary).
There is disappointment …that instead of getting one of a number of talented politicians who have both experience and a passion for the brief – Rory Stewart is the most qualified, Alistair Burt another contender, Tom Tugendhat a third – they [civil servants within the department] are getting a politician with little in the way of a background or a passion for the project.
Civil servants on the whole like their ministers to have projects. Officials at Defra have been pleasantly surprised by Michael Gove, who they feared would treat the job as a bum assignment but has instead been the most dynamic minister many have served under. But Mordaunt, unlike Patel, has seemingly never expressed any views about her new brief.
The Welsh first minister, Carwyn Jones, is expected to make a statement within the next 20 minutes about his handling of complaints against the former Welsh communities secretary Carl Sargeant, who was found dead after claims of harassment were made against him.
Sargeant’s family have accused Jones of putting his own political survival ahead of the “human tragedy”.
Apparently, the newest member of the government does not share Boris Johnson’s enthusiasm for the US president:
Newest member of govt, Victoria Atkins, called President Trump a ‘buffoon and a wazzock’
My colleague, Matthew Weaver, has calculated the estimated cost in wasted air fares to taxpayers of Priti Patel’s abortive round trip – just short of £8,000.
There are a lot of comments on social media about Mordaunt’s incorrect claim during the referendum campaign that Britain would not have a veto on Turkey joining the EU.
In response, David Cameron called it “a very misleading claim” and said the leave campaign were trying to convince voters by saying something “that is not true”.
We have swapped one International Development Secretary who said untrue things regarding Israel for one who said untrue things about Turkey. https://t.co/8akBfXnS5W
Penny Mourdant staunchly defended this poster. Claimed Turkey was joining the EU, & UK had no veto. Both plain lies pic.twitter.com/TsAc2nlTqv
Most important thing about Penny Mordaunt is her outright lie on @today that Turkey would join EU and UK did not have veto. Unanimity required on any new EU member state. Done deliberately to frighten voters 75 mn Turks about to pitch up. Contemptible @janemerrick23 @stephenkb
Good afternoon, this is Haroon Siddique taking over from Andrew.
Former David Cameron speechwriter Ian Birrell makes an interesting observation about what Mordaunt’s elevation says about her previous post.
.@PennyMordaunt‘s promotion means there will now be 7th minister for disabled people in 7 years. This underscores the political disinterest in the post, let alone actually helping people with disabilities achieve anything close to equality
This is from the FT’s Sebastian Payne.
Good response from range of Tory MPs about @PennyMordaunt’s appointment (contrast with Williamson):
“Penny is excellent, a really able person.”
“Very well deserved – delighted for her and for DfID.”
“She’ll be a perfect fit”
As my colleague Jessica Elgot writes in her Penny Mordaunt profile, the new international development secretary once hit the headlines with her participation in the ITV’s celebrity diving show Splash!. She donated £7,000 of her fee to the renovation of a lido in her Portsmouth North constituency.
Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin, who campaigned to leave the EU and backed Andrea Leadsom in the Conservative leadership contest, said Penny Mordaunt’s appointment was “very well deserved” and said he was delighted for his colleague.
Another senior Brexiter, the former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, also welcomed the move. “Penny deserves it – she is very good, competent, very presentable, and has a lot of common sense. She is very calm,” he said.
It is a good appointment in terms of her capability and gives her balance and stability to get on with business.
Downing Street has announced two more appointments.
Here is a profile of Penny Mordaunt by my colleague Jessica Elgot.
Here is Labour’s Kate Osamor, the shadow international development secretary, on Penny Mordaunt’s replacement.
We congratulate Penny Mordaunt on her appointment as the new secretary of state for the world class department for international development.
The new Secretary of State faces an immediate challenge of restoring integrity to British international development policy after the actions of Priti Patel.
Number 10 has just sent out this press notice.
The Queen has been pleased to approve the appointment of Penny Mordaunt MP as secretary of state for international development.
This follows the departure from government of the Rt Hon Priti Patel MP.
Penny Mordaunt’s appointment as the new international development secretary has not been confirmed yet, but already organisations are offering comment.
This is from Alex Thier, executive director of the Overseas Development Institute, an aid thinktank.
Congratulations to Penny Mordaunt MP on her appointment as secretary of state for international development.
We look forward to working with her and her team to ensure DFID and the UK continues to play a leading role in tackling global challenges such as extreme poverty, conflict and climate change.
We welcome the appointment of Penny Mordaunt MP as secretary of state for the department for international development. The department for international development is recognised across the world as one of the most effective, efficient, and innovative development agencies in the world.
As the UK seeks to establish a new global identity there has never been a more important time to lead the department for international development. Much has been achieved through DFID thanks to the generosity of the British taxpayer, including the UK’s commitment to accelerating the end of catastrophic epidemics such as AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria; tackling famine in East Africa, and responding to the Syria conflict.
This is from the BBC’s Vicki Young.
Victoria Atkins MP elected in 2015 has just entered Number 10. Could be new minister? #reshuffle
Here is Penny Mordaunt arriving at Number 10, where Theresa May is due to appoint her international development secretary.
Penny Mordaunt has just gone into Number 10.
It looks certain now that Penny Mordaunt will be appointed as international development secretary when she gets to London. The suggestion is that her train is delayed.
Mordaunt is a high profile Brexit campaigner – who was Andrea Leadsom’s campaign manager in the leadership bid.
This is from the Sun’s Steve Hawkes.
Rumour is Penny Mordaunt’s promotion being held up because she’s .. oh yes .. delayed by the train
Here is the full quote from Boris Johnson on Fox News about President Trump. The presenter put it to Johnson that Trump was getting a lot of negative press in the US, and he asked how people outside America saw him. He replied:
I think you’ve got to realise that the American president is just one of the huge, great global brands, and he is penetrating corners of the global consciousness that I think few other presidents have ever done. So his method of tweeting earlier in the morning, no matter how rambunctious those tweets may be, they are communicating with people. And, yes, a lot of people don’t like it. But a lot of people relate to it. And in an age when people have been turned off politics, it is more direct and it’s more communicative than a lot of previous presidents have managed.
To this week’s Boris Johnson charge sheet, we can now add shameless, appalling obsequiousness https://t.co/RpzxdCvZII
Evening Standard editorials are always worth a read now that George Osborne is editing the paper. Today’s has a striking intro.
Here’s a test for you: what was the last interesting thing the prime minister said? The thing we noticed, that stood out, that took a stand and risked controversy in pursuit of a cause?
The answer is: you can’t recall. Since the general election debacle earlier this year she has been largely irrelevant to the political conversation in this country.
As the Guardian reports, Iranian state television has been reporting that Boris Johnson’s comment last week about the British-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe “teaching people journalism” before she was detained in Iran amounts to proof that the Iranian allegations against her are true. Johnson has refused to admit that his comment was wrong, but in the Commons on Tuesday he claimed that his comment had been misinterpreted and that the Iranian foreign minister had told him that what he said would not exacerbate Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s plight.
My colleague Saeed Kamali Dehghan says this shows Johnson has not been able to rectify his mistake.
The Iranian state TV’s programme last night shows Boris has not been able to make up for his mistake. It cited his misleading remark as an inadvertent confession. Programmes of such nature are sanctioned by senior officials, in this case the Iranian judiciary.
Iran’s “dual” system means that Iranian foreign minister has little or no say in decisions made by hardliners like provocatively locking up/framing innocent dual nationals. Basic stuff. Does Boris know that?
Well, we have some difficult consular cases in Iran and we are working on all of them.
ITV’s Amber de Botton says Penny Mordaunt will be the new international development secretary.
Hearing, as expected, @PennyMordaunt to be made new international development secretary. Will be heading to Downing St shortly.
Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, is in America where he has just told Fox News that President Trump is “one of the huge, great global brands”.
.@BorisJohnson: “The American President is just one of the huge, great global brands, and he is penetrating corners of the global consciousness that I think few other presidents have ever done.” pic.twitter.com/WJnNil3am6
Here is the key extract from Michel Barnier’s speech. (See 12pm and 12.30pm.) The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator says the UK has to decide whether or not, after Brexit, it will retain the European regulatory framework.
When I hear the US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross call in London for the British to diverge with Europe to better converge towards others – towards less regulation, environmental, sanitary, food, probably also financial, fiscal and social – I’m wondering.
The United Kingdom has chosen to leave the European Union. Will it also want to move away from the European model? That’s another question.
Guardian Comment have got a panel with four writers addressing the question: Can Theresa May and her government survive? The contributions are from Sonia Sodha, Andrew Gimson, Steve Richards and Ellie Mae O’Hagan.
They all, more or less, think the answer is – yes.
My colleague Jennifer Rankin has been taking a look at the Michel Barnier speech. (See 12pm.)
1. The government is weak, but the Brexit clock is still ticking – thread on what is/is not happening
At the Make Homes Safe event Jeremy Corbyn was also asked if he thought that Carwyn Jones, the Welsh first minister, should resign because of his handling of the Carl Sergeant case. Sergeant is the Welsh government minister who apparently killed himself after being forced by Jones to stand aside because of unspecified harassment allegations about him.
Corbyn declined to back Jones, saying he thought it was best to await the outcome of the inquest.
[Sargeant’s] death is a terrible tragedy. His family is devastated. He was suspended last week. This tragedy happened a few days later.
Clearly an inquest will follow. Inquiries will then follow. We will have to await the outcome of those. It would be wrong for any speculation by me or anybody else to take place on those circumstances.
Earlier I previewed Jeremy Corbyn’s speech on Grenfell Tower. (See 9.24am.) Here is the full text, and here is another extract where he explains why Labour wants £1bn spent retrofitting council and housing association tower blocks with sprinklers.
The evidence is clear: where sprinkler systems have already been fitted, injuries sustained from fires have been cut by approximately 80 per cent and deaths from fires have almost been eliminated entirely.
But don’t just take my word for it.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, has given a speech in Rome. I can only find a text in French so far, but his tweet suggests it includes a renewed call for more clarity from the UK as to what it wants and what it is offering regarding Brexit.
This is from the Evening Standard’s Joe Murphy.
Friends of Priti Patel tell me she may speak in next week’s EU Withdrawal Bill …confirming she will be a combative force outside Govt
Nick Boles, a Conservative former minister, has said the government should stop trying to balance the budget. He is publishing an online book with policy proposals, Square Deal, and he was on the Today programme this morning talking about his latest instalment. Dozy listeners could have been forgiven for thinking they were listening to an interview with John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor.
Boles said the government should accept that “the age of austerity” is over and that, while said austerity was the right policy when the annual deficit stood at 10% of GDP, but it was “absolutely fine” for it to remain at its current level of around 2.6% indefinitely. He told the programme:
We should stop trying to cut [the deficit] any further. We should drop our surplus target because the urgent priority now is to get productivity up and to get real wages up.
The only way to get productivity up is by increasing investment. I think we now need to make that the focus of government.
The government can’t, after seven or eight years, say that the policy we had eight years ago is going to be the only policy we can offer to the British public for another eight years.
We can’t expect to be re-elected if we have no new story to tell and no new direction.
Government should set new priorities: increasing productivity and improving real wages. https://t.co/keksR9ltLE
Chancellor should drop surplus target but retain target of cutting debt as % GDP. Best way to do so: increase GDP https://t.co/keksR9ltLE
1. If you don’t want to talk about reshuffle or Brexit, how about the Budget? Nick Boles, Tory moderniser, says govt should forget about paying down the deficit…. claiming ‘austerity’s worked’
2. Might make Philip Hammond splutter into his coffee, but Boles’ trying to fill vacuum where Tory new thinking should be and…
3. His broader take, set out in new book, will be seen by some as something of a manifesto for the (eventual) candidate from his side of the Tory party who’ll run to replace May (2018? 2019? Who knows)
4. Boles thinking is laid out here…. https://t.co/DMDTs1OmPF
Whatever you think of his ideas, its a reminder that Budget is very very soon and is both huge opportunity and risk for govt
The FT’s Henry Mance reckons that if Theresa May wants to replace Priti Patel with a pro-Brexit woman with minister of state-level experience (ministers of state are senior non-cabinet ministers, unlike parliamentary under secretaries who are the most junior form of ministerial life), there are just four non-cabinet candidates.
Priti Patel’s successor – by my count, there are only 4 female Conservative MPs who backed Brexit and have served as at least minister of state:
(Plus Andrea Leadsom who is already in Cabinet)
The Conservative MP John Redwood has joined those claiming that Priti Patel was the victim of a Whitehall briefing campaign. He is suggesting that civil servants (from the Foreign Office?) forced her out. Here is is, taking full advantage of the new 280-character Twitter regime.
It is clearly best if Ministers can work well with their officials but it can also be the case that sometimes officials have their own reasons for wanting to criticise their Minister through unofficial and anonymous briefings, or by report to the Prime Minister.
Various officials in Whitehall clearly do not like Priti Patel for whatever reason. They started briefing against her, claiming she had held meetings when on holiday in Israel that should have been reported to the Foreign Office, and cleared in advance of holding them.
Establishing control when something has gone wrong is not easy. Some say sacking the Minister gives the PM control, but it also gives a win to the officials who wanted the Minister out.
In the comments BTL Dan Hunt asks who the contenders are to replace Priti Patel.
Here is a list the Press Association pulled together yesterday.
Sir Alan Duncan – Currently Boris Johnson’s deputy in the Foreign Office, Sir Alan was at Oxford University at the same time as May and preceded her husband Philip as president of the Oxford Union. He has previously been a minister in the department for international development (DfID). As a remain supporter, his appointment could upset Brexiteers.
Penny Mordaunt – The work and pensions minister had been viewed as a contender for the Defence Secretary role and would give May the opportunity of replacing Patel with another female Brexit-backer, maintaining the sensitive political balance in cabinet and the current split in terms of male and female ministers. The Portsmouth North MP wore her swimsuit to appear on ITV diving competition Splash in 2014 to raise money for charity.
This is from Channel 4 News’s Michael Crick.
Of the 7 International Development Secretaries since the post was created in 1997, four have been women – Short, Amos, Greening & Patel.
ITV’s Robert Peston reckons Penny Mordaunt, the work and pensions minister, is a shoo-in to replace Priti Patel.
Tory MPs seem to expect Penny Mordaunt to be Patel’s successor. After furore over Williamson’s appointment last week, I would say that makes her a shoo-in!
The Telegraph’s Anna Isaac, an economics correspondent, was the only journalist tagging along with the Liam Fox/Priti Patel official ministerial visit to Uganda. The small party flew to Kenya , and yesterday morning they were due to board a flight to Entebbe. She has written a lovely piece (paywall) about what happened as they all sat on the plane before takeover and realised that Patel, who was not answering her phone, was missing.
Here’s an extract.
Ever the optimist, Dr Fox decided to do what we all do if we feel something has been lost on an aeroplane: he got up from his seat in business class and carried out a thorough sweep of all the rows. Perhaps she had boarded early and sat in a quiet corner, he reasoned. It is an image that will stay with me – Dr Fox hunting through the seats for his ministerial colleague as if she’s a missing Gameboy.
Alas, no Ms Patel in sight, and the plane was about ready to leave. We all knew about Ms Patel’s inclination for misadventure abroad, but this took the biscuit.
In his Today interview Iain Duncan Smith, the Conservative former leader and Brexit enthusiast, urged Theresa May to replace Priti Patel with someone equally pro-Brexit. (See 8.46am.) But there were some other lines too.
That fact is, I think it is a bit rich of them to speak about this. When you look, the Dutch government after months only just managed to find its own feet; it hadn’t formed a government. Germany still doesn’t have an official government. You have chaos in Italy, elections coming up, real problems over the banks. And in Spain, pretty much arrests taking place on a daily basis of people who wanted to split the country apart. I think it’s a bit rich of the EU to lecture [the UK].
Fears are growing in Brussels that the instability of Mrs May’s government raises the real prospect of a change of leadership or elections leading to a Labour victory.
One European leader told The Times that officials were planning for both scenarios. “There is the great difficulty of the leadership in Great Britain, which is more and more fragile,” the leader said. “Britain is very weak and the weakness of Theresa May makes [Brexit] negotiations very difficult.”
Whether others took a view about that and briefed against her, that’s something you can make a judgment about that as well as I can.
Theresa May is the one person that can actually unite the cabinet, unite the party, and make sure that whilst we are leaving the European Union, the party itself stays at ease with her domestic agenda.
Jeremy Corbyn is giving a speech on housing later. According to the advance briefing, he is going to say the government should use the budget to commit to spending £1bn installing sprinklers in all council and housing association tower blocks.
He will say:
Five months on from the Grenfell Tower fire, still only 2% of tower blocks have sprinklers and councils claim they have been denied funding for these vital measures.
The government is failing to learn the lessons from this tragedy. I urge the chancellor to use the budget to urgently provide the funds needed to retrofit sprinklers, ensuring people in thousands of tower blocks across our country are living in safety and with peace of mind.
Firefighters across the country have faced the harsh reality of politically driven austerity. Along with the other emergency services across the country they have been forced to deal with repeated budget cuts since 2010.
In the last seven years, 10,000 frontline firefighter jobs have gone – equivalent to one in six positions.
Last night Tom Watson, the deputy Labour leader, wrote an open letter to Theresa May asking her to confirm a report he he has heard saying Priti Patel did meet British consular officials when she was in Israel in August.
I’m told Priti Patel *did* meet FCO officials during her trip to Israel. I’m writing to Theresa May to get clarity. pic.twitter.com/gSrlAcIpgh
I would like to know the facts of this case, because it is very unusual. I was told that the Foreign Office deliberately asked Downing Street to remove details of the briefing she received from Foreign Office officials when she was in Israel.
If true, it shows that there was knowledge that Priti Patel was running a sort of independent foreign policy earlier, and that she’s not been sacked for breaching the ministerial code in doing that, but she’s been sacked because it became public that she was doing that.
On the Today programme this morning Sandro Gozi, the Italian Europe minister, said he thought it would be possible for the UK and the EU to agree a trade deal within the next year. He said:
I do believe there is a chance. I think there is a chance in December of starting negotiations for a positive trade relationship.
I also think that we must start to talk as soon as possible about the transition period, which is very important for the business sector – the UK business sector, but also the EU business sector.
“I think there is a chance of getting [a trade deal] in the next year.”
Priti Patel has posted a message of thanks to her supporters on Twitter this morning.
An enormous thank you to friends, colleagues, constituents & the public for the support & kindness you have shown me over the last few days
For the second Thursday in a row Theresa May wakes up knowing she has to fill a cabinet vacancy. Two resignations within eight days is not exactly an advert for stable government, but the one consolation May has is that it will be almost impossible for today’s mini reshuffle to go as badly as last week’s.
Priti Patel, who resigned last night as international development secretary, was one of the most fiercely pro-leave members of the cabinet (during the EU referendum David Cameron’s team nominated her the “most obnoxious” campaigner on the Vote Leave side – see here, para 22) and May is under pressure to replace her with another hardline anti-European.
I don’t think it has to necessarily be somebody who campaigned for Brexit, but it does have to be somebody who is enthusiastic about Brexit.
I think we are all Brexiteers now. So the question is to what degree do you want someone in that job to be in support of David Davis and others, and I think therefore the balance on having strong Brexit views is one that in all probability that the prime minister will certainly look for.