Michael Gove ‘tells Lords they should sit outside London during refurbishment’

Southwest loses out again. – Owl


The House of Lords should relocate outside of London rather than moving to a building nearby during refurbishment works, Michael Gove has reportedly told the Lord Speaker.

The Levelling Up Secretary is said to have written to Lord McFall of Alcluith suggesting locations including Stoke-on-Trent, Burnley and Sunderland.

In the letter, reported in the Sunday Times, Mr Gove said he knows “cities and towns across the United Kingdom would be pleased to extend their hospitality to peers”.

He is quoted as saying that having “carefully reviewed the proposed arrangements”, he “will not support the use of the QEII Centre as an alternative location”.

The Queen Elizabeth II Centre conference and exhibition space is just a few minutes’ walk from the Palace of Westminster in London.

In the letter, which the Sunday Times said was also sent to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, Mr Gove suggested a move elsewhere in England, Scotland or Wales.

He is reported to have written: “As the minister responsible for levelling up, it is clear to me that the House of Lords moving elsewhere, even for a temporary period, would be widely welcomed.

“I have carefully reviewed the proposed arrangements and… I will not support the use of the QEII Centre as an alternative location.

“I propose to establish dedicated liaison points for you in my department to support you in identifying a suitable location for the House of Lords in the North, Midlands, South West, Scotland or Wales. I would, of course, be happy to meet you to discuss this.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities declined to comment.

Earlier this year, a report showed that restoring the Palace of Westminster without finding a new home for MPs could take up to 76 years, with a repairs bill reaching £22 billion.

The project’s sponsor body and delivery authority said the cheapest option would involve a “full decant” of the palace for between 12 and 20 years, with the work costing in the region of £7 billion to £13 billion.

In this scenario, with MPs elsewhere for much of the time, the report estimated the restoration would take between 19 and 28 years.

A House of Lords spokesperson said: “The Lord Speaker has just received this letter from the Secretary of State. We will respond to it in due course.

“In March the House of Lords and House of Commons Commissions reaffirmed their united commitment to preserve the Palace of Westminster for future generations.

“Both Commissions will meet in June to consider future arrangements for the restoration and renewal programme and proposals will then be put to both Houses of Parliament. This process will set the way ahead.

“Any decision about whether and where to relocate the House of Lords, whether on a permanent or temporary basis, is ultimately a matter for the House itself.”

Pressure grows on Labour and Lib Dems to agree joint anti-Tory strategy

The Lib Dem leader, Ed Davey, told the Observer on Saturday that his party would concentrate on the Devon seat of Tiverton and Honiton because it believes it can pull off a sensational win against the incumbent Conservatives in the south-west, where it has traditionally been strong.

Toby Helm www.theguardian.com 

The Liberal Democrats will put all their campaign efforts into only one of two crucial byelections this summer – leaving Labour to fight the Tories in the other – as pressure intensifies on leftwing parties to work more closely together to oust the Conservatives from power.

The Lib Dem leader, Ed Davey, told the Observer on Saturday that his party would concentrate on the Devon seat of Tiverton and Honiton because it believes it can pull off a sensational win against the incumbent Conservatives in the south-west, where it has traditionally been strong.

But with resources and money limited, the Lib Dems know they can maximise their chances there only if they limit help for their candidate in the other contest, in Wakefield, where Labour is the traditional incumbent but was pushed into second by the Tories at the 2019 general election.

The two byelections – caused by the resignations of Tory MPs Neil Parish and Imran Ahmad Khan over sex-related sleaze scandals – are likely to be held on the same day on a byelection “super Thursday” in late June or early July. The double election is seen as a potentially critical moment for Boris Johnson’s administration.

If the prime minister were to lose both it would be another blow to his chances of surviving in office, showcasing his vulnerability to twin Lib Dem and Labour recoveries in their respective heartlands, following the Partygate scandal and with a cost of living crisis raging.

Without mentioning the Wakefield contest, Davey said: “Political parties always put resources where they can win, so we will be working incredibly hard to take the fight to the Tories in Tiverton and Honiton.”

With Labour certain to do the reverse, prioritising Wakefield while backing off in Tiverton and Honiton, there is now a growing focus on how far the parties on the centre-left should go in terms of cooperating – whether it be informal “one-off” arrangements, or more organised pacts, in order to dislodge the Tories.

A special constituency-level MRP survey of 10,000 voters, commissioned and published on Sunday by the pressure group Best for Britain, has found that if Labour, the Lib Dems and Greens came to formal agreements not to fight each other in 119 English seats at the next general election, they would be able to form a coalition government without relying on MPs from the Scottish National party.

However, if such pacts only happened between parties on the right and no such arrangements were made on the left, then Labour would fall short of that majority and could govern only by relying on the SNP.

Ukip stood down in seats where it risked splitting the rightwing vote when Theresa May was prime minister in 2017, and the Brexit party stood down for Johnson in 2019.

If past behaviour is any indication, Reform UK, the successor to the Brexit party, is likely to stand down to help the Conservatives if a Labour-led government looks likely at the next election.

The Best for Britain polling found that if the 2017 and 2019 situation were to be repeated with no similar arrangement on the left, then Labour would win 307 seats, the Tories 261, SNP 52, the Lib Dems 7, Plaid Cymru 4 and the Greens 1. This would not be enough for Labour to govern without the SNP.

However, if Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens were to play the rightwing parties at their own game, and agree to stand down candidates in order to maximise their chances of winning against the Tories, then Labour would win 323, the Tories 239, SNP 52, the Lib Dems 13, Plaid Cymru 4 and the Greens 1. Under this scenario Labour would be able to govern with the Lib Dems but without the SNP.

Naomi Smith, the CEO of Best for Britain, said: “To win, Labour needs to do what the Conservatives most fear them doing, and that’s working with the Lib Dems and the Greens at election time.

“The parties on the right stand down for each other to secure majority governments on a minority of the votes, and our data shows that the safest way for opposition parties to defeat this corrupt and failing government is to stand aside for one another in the seats they can’t win.

“We saw last week in the local elections that voters up and down the country are already collaborating to get rid of this government. Their party leaders need to catch up.”

Layla Moran, the Lib Dem MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, added: “In an election where the opposition vote is split, many voters will want to back the candidate who is most likely to win and deliver change. To this end we must be honest with each other about the situation in each constituency and ensure that the voters have the information they need to lock the Tories out of power.”

Caroline Lucas, the Green party MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: “This polling shows that in many constituencies, the Green party holds the key to beating the Conservatives, a point underlined by our strong performance in the recent local elections.”

Torbay Council Conservative leader ‘breached code of conduct’

The leader of the Conservatives at Torbay Council has been found to have brought the council into disrepute.

Does the Conservative sense of entitlement lie at the heart of these breaches of conduct? – Owl


David Thomas was also found by the council’s standards committee to have used his position as a councillor to improperly gain an advantage.

It comes after a procedural row during a meeting in September last year descended into disarray, with one clerk too upset to continue their duties.

Mr Thomas was told he must write an “unequivocal” apology to the clerk.

The incident happened during the opening meeting of the council’s housing crisis review panel, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

An administrative error led to the panel being top heavy with Conservatives, not reflecting the political make-up of the council which is run by a coalition of Liberal Democrats and independents.

Fellow Tory councillor Hazel Foster, who was also found to have breached standards by bullying an officer, refused to accept a change that would have led to a more balanced panel.

An hour-long debate ensued and one clerk became visibly distressed and left the meeting.

On Friday, the standards committee found Mr Thomas had exacerbated problems and contributed to disorder at the meeting.

The standards committee deemed this was a breach of the council’s code of conduct as it brought the authority into disrepute.

Commenting on the accusation, Mr Thomas said: “I believe this meeting didn’t show [Torbay] council in the best of lights. It is certainly not the council’s finest hour.”

He said he honestly believed that when he spoke at the meeting he only did so to keep the meeting on track.

“I believe and I still believe there are lessons to be learned across the whole of that meeting,” Mr Thomas said.

In its conclusions, the standards committee recommended that training was provided to all councillors and relevant officers to prevent administrative confusion.

Watch: Reactions as PM dodges question on Russian money donated to Tory party

There has been another scandal involving Russian money allegedly flowing into the Tory party.

By AMERICAN EXPRESS www.thelondoneconomic.com 

In February 2018, a donation of $630,225 was made in the name of wealthy London art dealer Ehud Sheleg, who was most recently the treasurer of the UK Tory party.

However, an alert that was filed by Barclays bank last year with the National Crime agency – which has been seen by the New York Times – say that the money originated from the bank account of Sheleg’s father-in-law, Sergei Kopytov.

Kopytov is a former high-ranking pro-Kremlin Ukrainian politician who now owns hotels and real estate in Crimea and Russia.

Via a statement issued by Sheleg’s lawyer, Kopytov said he was a Ukrainian citizen and had not made any such donation.

He said: “I have no interest in British politics whatsoever.

“Any donations made by my son-in-law to a British political party have nothing to do with me or with the money I gifted to my daughter.”


Sky’s Sam Coates asked the PM about the breaking scandal.

He said: “What’s your response to allegations in the New York Times that the Conservative Party took donations from a donor with links to Russia & money linked to a Russian bank account?”

The PM gave a non-reply and eventually said: “You’ve got to be from the UK to give donations.”


Go to www.thelondoneconomic.com to read more