All-female Tory shortlist for Tiverton and Honiton by-election after porn scandal

The Conservatives have produced an all-female shortlist for next month’s Tiverton and Honiton by-election in the wake of scandals involving several male MPs. (Extract)

Party members in the Devon constituency will on Sunday be presented with three candidates from which they will be asked to select a prospective MP to stand in the by-election on June 23.

The Telegraph understands all three of the candidates are women from the area………

Head of the civil service to go under the Boris Bus?

Boris Johnson is expected to scapegoat the head of the civil service Simon Case this week in a desperate effort to save his own job, as both men face stinging criticism in a report into lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street.

Boris Johnson to sacrifice top official over Partygate to save himself

Toby Helm 

The long-awaited findings of the senior mandarin Sue Gray will, according to several sources, lay particular blame on Case, the UK’s most senior civil servant, for allowing a drinking culture to develop in which rule-breaking parties became commonplace during lockdowns.

One senior Whitehall figure who has seen sections of the report said it could also prove more damaging for Johnson than the fine he was given in April for attending his own birthday party, because it will make clear the PM’s involvement in several other events which may have breached rules, but for which he was not fined.

“From my expectation of what I know it will be the real deal. There will be detail. There will be evidence. She is going to say this is under your watch, this is your house, all that kind of stuff,” the source said.

Senior officials are braced for Case to be so heavily criticised that he will have to offer his resignation, or be sacked by Johnson, in order for Johnson to be able to say he has acted decisively and learned lessons.

“That is probably why he [Case] is still there [and not moved from his post already],” said one source. “Because Johnson needs a body.” If Case were to be lose his job, however, it would mean that a civil servant who has not been fined would have lost his job, while the prime minister, who has been fined, keeps his.

A friend of Gray who has worked at a high level with her in the civil service said the report would make “gruesome” reading for both the prime minister and his most senior civil servants and that Gray was in no mood to be forced into watering down her findings.

Sections of the report may prove more damaging for the PM than the fine he was given for attending his own birthday party, according to a senior Whitehall figure. Photograph: Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/AFP/Getty Images

The friend said that before the Johnson era, the only party that was ever held among staff in Downing Street was the annual Christmas one. “We didn’t have karaoke machines and suitcases to bring in drink in those days. I think it will be very difficult for Simon Case.”

Gray was appointed to take over the investigation into parties last December from Case himself, after he was revealed to have hosted an event in his own office on 17 December 2020, for which invitations were sent out saying “Christmas Party!” A government spokesman said at the time that officials in Case’s office took part in a “virtual quiz”.

It is expected that Johnson and Case, along with about a dozen other officials, will be named by Gray.

While it is not expected that she will reveal a new “smoking gun” detail or photograph that will on its own inflict terminal damage on the PM, the overall impression of those with knowledge of the report is that its criticism of leadership failings at the very top will be hard to survive without someone senior falling on their sword.

Another source with knowledge of Gray’s thinking said: “Sue is in a very good place to give judgments. She has worked at the heart of government for a very long time. I think there is a genuine question.

“What the hell was it about this time and this place that all this was allowed to go on? She has worked with any number of prime ministers so I think it will be an element of ‘What was that? Was it a broader culture?’”

He added: “What has been said to me is no one is going to come out of this looking good. So there will be damage for Johnson. In many ways it could be more damaging for him than the fine because the fine was for a relatively minor thing [his birthday party] that people were surprised he got fined for. So he was able to excuse himself.

“Whereas what is actually going to come out in Sue’s report is detail of some of the other incidents which perhaps are more difficult for him to explain. So even though he wasn’t fined for them the detail that comes out won’t look good.”

Gray has contacted about two dozen people who she intends to identify, either directly or indirectly, over their involvement in events at Downing Street. They have until the end of Sunday to respond, and many are said to be fighting to maintain their anonymity. “There is a huge issue around publicity and anonymity,” said one insider.

When Gray has considered these late representations she will take them into account before submitting her report to Downing Street. Johnson has promised to publish it in full and without delay. Publication is now expected this week, along with a statement to the Commons by Johnson.

The prime minister was under pressure on Saturday to explain a recent meeting he held with Gray. It has led to claims that No 10 had tried to interfere and water down her findings.

It is understood Gray and Johnson met earlier this month, although a Whitehall source said the report’s contents were not discussed at any point. Downing Street said that the meeting had taken place at Gray’s request, although accounts differed yesterday.

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, called on the PM to “urgently explain” why the “secret meeting” had taken place. She said public confidence in the process had already been damaged.

“Boris Johnson must urgently explain why he held a secret meeting with Sue Gray to discuss her report despite claiming her investigation was completely independent,” she said. “Public confidence in the process is already depleted, and people deserve to know the truth.

“This is a prime minister incapable of taking responsibility for the rotten culture he has created in Downing Street or of doing the decent thing. The Sue Gray report must be published in full and with all accompanying evidence.”

Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine also called on the PM to throw light on the meeting. “Any whiff of a stitch-up would make an absolute mockery of the report,” she said.

East Devon offers housing for around 300 Ukrainians

Nearly 100 East Devon households have come forward to offer homes to Ukrainian refugees, potentially enough to accommodate up to 300 people.

Joe Ives, local democracy reporter 

Speaking at East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) annual meeting, chair of the council Cllr Ian Thomas (Independent, Trinity) announced that approximately 95 households have now offered homes as part of the government’s ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme.

EDDC, which is responsible for assessing the suitability of the accommodation, has completed 56 property inspections and has a further 29 scheduled.

Twenty-two families in East Devon have applied for a government support payment of £350 per month to help pay for the costs of hosting.

The council will work with the Citizen’s Advice Bureau to support the refugees. It is also in talks with Devon County Council to formulate a policy for finding new hosts for refugees should a housing sponsorship arrangement break down.

Cllr Thomas said: “We recognise the need to do everything we can to prevent homelessness.”

Almost 13 million people are believed to have fled their homes in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began in April, according to the United Nations (UN).

More than six million have left for neighbouring countries and at least another 6.5 million people are thought to be displaced inside Ukraine itself.

New Council Cabinet is elected for East Devon District Council

Council Chair, Ian Thomas was re-elected and Council Leader, Paul Arnott, was re-elected for new terms at East Devon District Councils Annual meeting yesterday (Thursday, 19 May). In the coming year fresh impetus would be given to address the shortage in the supply of homes, deliver an improved service for housing tenants and encourage new projects to build attainable homes.

Julie Green

Council Chair, Ian Thomas, re-elected for new year

“Last year I was honoured to be elected the first non-aligned Independent Chair.  

To be unanimously re-elected at Annual Council, with support from Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, Green and Independent colleagues is a humbling experience I will never take for granted.  

I recognise this unique trust brings with it additional responsibilities and will continue to perform all my duties to the best of my ability, with an even hand and open mind.”

Council Leader, Paul Arnott, re-elected for new term

Councillor Paul Arnott was re-elected at the Annual Council meeting yesterday (Thursday, 19 May) for his third consecutive year. In his acceptance speech Councillor Arnott highlighted some of the achievements of his administration which included securing the finances to enable the completion of Cranbrook’s Town Centre, the great collaboration work that has taken place in the Enterprise Zone, and the analytical work that has been carried out in Tourism, Cultural and Leisure by the council to help create growth in these important sectors.

In the coming year fresh impetus would be given to address the shortage in the supply of homes, deliver an improved service for housing tenants and encourage new projects to build attainable homes. There will also be an increased focus on climate change with joined up policy making and engagement on this important topic.

New Council Cabinet

Cabinet 2022/23:

LeaderPaul Arnott
Deputy LeaderPaul Hayward
Climate ActionMarianne Rixson
APHDenise Bickley
Coast Country and EnvironmentGeoff Jung
APHEleanor Rylance
Council and Corporate Co-ordinationJohn Loudoun
APHEileen Wragg
Democracy, Transparency and Communications Sarah Jackson
Economy and AssetsPaul Hayward
FinanceJack Rowland
Sustainable Homes and CommunitiesDan Ledger
APHSarah Chamberlain
Strategic PlanningPaul Arnott
Tourism, Culture, Leisure and SportNick Hookway


Owl’s advice to the Tory by-election selection panel

Nomination papers must be delivered to the Acting Returning Officer, Phoenix House, Phoenix Lane, Tiverton, Devon, EX16 6PP on any day after the date of this notice between the hours of 10am and 4pm but no later than 4pm on Wednesday 25 May 2022.

Might be worth name checking candidates against Sasha Swire’s ‘Diary of an MP’s wife’ (aka ‘The secret diaries’). Her waspish insider account of the Tory ruling clique included descriptions of several East Devon activists. Her memorable epithets included describing those who kept popping up and down at meetings as “toilet seats”.

On the other hand, do you want to select a complete unknown?