Still wavering? “Boris Johnson pulls out of another BBC interview on day before election”

“Boris Johnson has ducked out of another high-profile interview as the general election vote looms, it has been claimed.

The prime minister’s team had told BBC Radio 2 he would “very likely” sit for an interview with Jeremy Vine, but on Wednesday backed away from the idea, the broadcaster said in a tweet.

Mr Vine tweeted: “Boris Johnson has refused to follow the other six leaders who have taken part in the leader interviews @BBCRadio2.

“His staff constantly told my producers – until this morning – that he was ‘very likely’ to come on. Today we were told he couldn’t, and no reason was given.”

The claim came less than a week after Mr Johnson was lambasted live on air by Andrew Neil, the BBC’s attack-dog interviewer who he had snubbed previously….”

“UK’s post-Brexit trade at risk as WTO’s top court shuts down” (thanks to Trump)

“The UK is at risk of being left at the mercy of the EU in its trading relationship in a year’s time after Donald Trump engineered the shutdown of the World Trade Organization’s top court.

The US president’s refusal to approve the appointment or reappointment of any judges on the appellate body has left it unable to function.

From midnight on Wednesday, the WTO court will no longer adjudicate on trade disputes, putting the world at risk of a free trade free-for-all in which the largest blocs have greater freedom to use their economic weight to do as they wish.

Countries or trade blocs who have not negotiated bilateral trade deals containing dispute resolution mechanisms will have no independent means for resolving their problems with each other.

If the UK leaves the EU on 31 January, Johnson has said he will not extend an 11-month transition period in which he wants to negotiate a comprehensive free trade deal with the bloc.

A failure to complete those complex talks by the end of that period would result in the UK trading with the EU entirely on WTO terms, including the imposition of tariffs and quotas, from 1 January 2021.

Under the terms of the transition period, the UK is to remain in the single market and EU customs union temporarily.

Should the UK, once outside of those structures, come to believe that the EU is imposing vexatious barriers to trade, there would be no recourse to legal redress for the British government.

The CBI has said the shutdown of the WTO court will leave global trade “like a football match without referee”. André Sapir, a senior fellow at the Brussels-based thinktank Bruegel, said the UK would be left in “legal limbo”. “It is in the UK’s interests for a solution to be found,” he said.

“Relying on WTO rules doesn’t look so great this morning,” one EU official said. “The WTO buccaneering Brexiteer alternative looks like hubris.”

A number of senior Conservatives, including the former cabinet minister John Redwood, have previously championed leaving the EU without a trade deal.

The EU is looking at building a shadow arbitration system as an interim solution but there is no agreement as yet within the bloc or internationally.

The WTO was established in 1995 to deal with trade disputes. The UK will become an independent member if it leaves the EU.

Phil Hogan, the European commissioner for trade, who will oversee the EU’s negotiations with the UK, said: “With the appellate body removed from the equation, we have lost an enforceable dispute settlement system that has been an independent guarantor – for large and small economies alike – that the WTO’s rules are applied impartially.”

“Boris Johnson ‘hides in fridge’ to avoid Piers Morgan interview”

And now another example!

“Boris Johnson retreated into a fridge to avoid a TV interview, amid rattled nerves at CCHQ over a narrowing in the opinion polls.

The prime minister was ambushed by the Good Morning Britain producer, Jonathan Swain, during a pre-dawn visit to Modern Milkman, a business in the Tory-held constituency of Pudsey, in Yorkshire.

When Swain first approached Johnson, he asked: “Morning prime minister, would you come on Good Morning Britain, prime minister?” Johnson’s aide can be heard mouthing “oh for fuck’s sake” in response.

The show’s hosts, Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid, appeared shocked by the aide’s reaction. Swain goes on to say: “I’ve just had a reaction from one of the minders. OK, no need to push, thank you very much,” with Reid exclaiming: “The look on his face, that minder.” The aide was then named on air as the PM’s press secretary, Rob Oxley.

When Swain presses the prime minister, stating he was live on the show, Johnson replied “I’ll be with you in a second” and walked off, before Piers exclaims “he’s gone into the fridge”. Johnson walks inside a fridge stacked with milk bottles with his aides. One person can be heard saying: “It’s a bunker.”

Conservative sources subsequently insisted that Johnson was “categorically not hiding” in the fridge, from which Johnson emerged carrying a crate of milk bottles – but instead his aides were taking a moment to prep the PM for a separate, pre-agreed interview.

During the exchange, Swain asked if Johnson would come on the programme and “deliver on your promise to talk to Piers and Susanna. We’re ready to go, we’re live on ITV right now. Prime minister, we have an earpiece in my pocket. You are more than welcome to come on.”

Swain told Morgan and Reid that he was being pushed and shoved by one of the minders. “It’s a very frosty reception we’ve had so far,” Swain said after Johnson disappeared, to which Morgan responds: “That was heroic work.”

Tory aides have closely controlled the PM’s appearances since a chaotic day on Monday. Johnson pocketed a journalist’s phone during a TV interview rather than look at a picture of four-year-old Jack Williment-Barr, asleep on the floor at a Leeds hospital.

Later that day, the Conservatives were accused of fabricating a story about an assault on an adviser to the health secretary, Matt Hancock, which they later conceded had not taken place.

After the visit to the dairy, Johnson delivered a crate of milk to a house in nearby Guiseley, where the homeowner, Mrs Monaghan, appeared delighted to see him. “It’s so nice to meet you prime minister: what are you doing up so early?” she asked.

Johnson will criss-cross the country throughout Wednesday on a series of final campaign stops, visiting Derbyshire, Wales and Essex.

Johnson has been heavily criticised for refusing to do interviews with broadcasters. Last week, Andrew Neil laid down the gauntlet to Johnson by challenging him to do the BBC interview he has so far refused to commit to, saying it was “a question of trust” for the prime minister.”

What can an Independent MP do in Parliament?

In response to this:

by Paul Millar, in his personal capacity and as a former parliamentary aide to an MP:

One of the most common questions I’ve been getting on the doorstep and seeing on social media from voters who are interested in politics is, ‘What can an independent MP achieve in Parliament?’.

Some are curious; others present this question with a tone of cynicism, as though they’ve been told already by Claire’s rivals that an MP can achieve nothing without a party. There is no evidence to suggest you can’t and no elected independent MP who has been ineffective.

There is a difference of course when a party MP gets kicked out of their party for bringing their party into disrepute; often this is against their will and they lose credibility.

But elected independent MPs tend to be refreshing free thinkers, who vote on issues, rather than party loyalty. To be in the position of beating well-funded political parties requires a high level of political astuteness and endeavour.

The people of Tatton begged the elected independent MP to be elected in England, Martin Bell, to return after one term in 2001 because he did such an amazing job. Richard Taylor was the last elected independent MP in Kidderminster, he served in Kidderminster between 2001 and 2010.

Some of the most important laws this country has passed – decriminalising homosexuality, for example – happened because political parties put aside their differences and worked together.

I found this when I worked on a Bill for two years to create an opt-out situation for organ donation in England. This was a moment which saw genuine respect and mutual understanding shared between Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, Health Secretary and Shadow Health Secretary – not something you’d see at Prime Minister’s Question Time!

Here are five ways in which Claire Wright has an equal chance to any other MP in the House of Commons:

1. The Speaker gives an equal opportunity to all constituency MPs. Speaker Hoyle won an election on the promise he would stop the convention of calling senior MPs before junior MPs.

2. If the Tories are elected to government, they won’t deliberately neglect East Devon because Claire isn’t a member of their party – they’ll want to win the seat next time (and claim credit for any investment put in). So, there is little merit in the argument that Claire would not be influential. Hugo Swire could’ve been influential; he chose not to be.

3. All MPs are treated equally with regard to putting questions to the Prime Minister. Claire would be treated exactly the same as any other MP. She would also be treated equally in terms of putting forward her own Bills, Oral Questions to any Minister on any subject (which are decided by Clerks putting MPs’ names into a raffle and drawing them out – every MP has 1/650 chance – the probable reason Hugo rarely spoke in Parliament was because he rarely put in for questions because he couldn’t be bothered to raise constituency issues in Parliament).

They can also serve on Select Committees, as the last elected independent MP Richard Taylor did for many years in the two terms he served between 2001 and 2010.

4. As the only elected Independent MP in the House of Commons, and the only independent MP elected in post-war British political history on a broad manifesto rather than a single issue with no candidates standing down in her favour, Claire would evoke a considerable amount of curiosity and attract a huge amount of publicity which she would use to promote the interests of East Devon.

Caroline Lucas is a lone voice for the Green Party but, having lived in her constituency of Brighton Pavilion when I attended university, I saw at first hand the massive amount of work she managed to get done for her constituents. MPs are often the last resort for people in crisis in terms of assisting them with appeals for disability benefits; these interventions as I learned were crucial; it could genuinely be the difference between a life of comfort or misery, or in rare cases, life or death.

As I found when I tried to contact him to help with a desperate housing and benefits case of a young family in Exmouth shortly after being elected, Sir Hugo did not see intervening as part of his role, it appeared to be beneath him, and there is no reason to suggest Simon Jupp will consider this part of his role either given his clear ambitions for high office and lack of local roots.

5. Major issues like the NHS have become a political football, with Labour and Conservatives simply resorting to tribal attack lines on each other, on who is funding the NHS the most, without offering the mature, genuine analysis of how to fix the crisis.

It’s not just how much is being spent; it is how that money is being spent. Claire will be looking for these solutions and will be fighting to prevent any further reductions in hospital beds in East Devon, which Hugo never did. In fact, Simon Jupp is claiming that his party saved Ottery hospital – they didn’t, the beds have gone, and now it’s a mere community health hub which does not offer the hospital beds East Devon needs. Not the same as a community hospital.

In conclusion, it is not only the fact that Claire Wright will be free to speak and free to act which should inspire us into voting for her this Thursday. On the contrary, it is that in addition to being free, she would also have genuine power and have a perfect vantage point to bring about meaningful, positive change – to be that much-needed honest broker between the two tribes of Labour and Conservatives in Parliament on issues ranging from how we properly fund, plan and manage the health service and social care, to how we fund, plan and manage our schools, university and economy.

Claire didn’t need any help from a political party to come up with the excellent manifesto she has. She makes pledges to work across party to achieve realistic goals which will improve this area, from reforming business rates, to bringing back student maintenance grants.

Claire is by far the most serious candidate East Devon has. Let’s get her over the line.


From a correspondent:

Some voters may still be reluctant to vote for an independent. However, Claire Wright has done more than anyone for the Devon East constituency, at town, district and county level, fighting the serious consequences of the Conservatives’ callous austerity policy. Independents can have significant influence in Parliament, as Martin Bell, who is supporting Claire, has noted. She is the only genuine challenger for a seat held by the Conservatives for 150 years.

Claire knows the area and understands the problems because she has taken the trouble, over the years, to ask people.

Now the Tories say that they will reverse some of the cuts that they imposed.

Do we believe them?
Can we believe them?

The region cannot afford another dose of Conservatism that treats the South West with contempt: Devon East must have a knowledgeable and caring MP who has lived in the constituency for many years and who has fought hospital closures and who has done so much to try to save social services.

Please, please, Liberal Democrats, Labour and Greens lend your vote to Claire on this occasion unless you want Johnson and his right-wingers to inflict more hardship on those least able to bear the burden. Claire will not let you down and, for a change, you will have an active MP who will work for all of us and ensure that this constituency’s problems are heard in Parliament.