“Remember when David Davis ran out on the first round of Brexit negotiations after less than an hour? Now we know a bit about what he was doing instead.

The Brexit Secretary had declared it was “time to get down to business” ahead of the talks – but then skipped the majority of the discussions.

He turned up in Brussels at 8am on July 17, spent 15 minutes having a “friendly chat” with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and another 45 minutes in a meeting with their respective officials.

After being photographed without any papers and a quick press conference, he was on the Eurostar back to London.

A Government spokesperson told the media at the time that Davis had planned to leave early but denied that the decision was connected to a vote in Parliament.

So what did he get up to upon his return to London? Something more useful than dealing with the nitty gritty of Brexit negotiations?

Transparency documents published by DExEU last night offer us an interesting insight.

They show that on July 18 – while talks were still ongoing in Brussels – Davis had dinner with Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre. …

The Brexit Secretary only reappeared in Brussels when talks finished on July 20 for a press conference which didn’t go well.

Davis was criticised by Barnier over a “lack of clarity” in the Government’s position over the divorce bill.

That’s unsurprising given the extraordinary but real possibility that he may well have spent more time speaking to Dacre than Barnier about Brexit that week.

And it might also explain why, 18 months after the referendum, he’s only just made “sufficient progress” in negotiations.

Proud of yourself, Davis?”


Tory Minister refuses to give straight answer when asked to confirm his name!

A Tory minister was so reluctant to give straight answers to questions this morning that he wouldn’t even answer ‘yes or no’ to confirm his own name.

Business Secretary Greg Clark was given a thorough going over by Piers Morgan on this morning’s edition of Good Morning Britain.

He was doing a round of TV studios pushing the Government’s new industrial strategy, which he is launching today. But the minister became stuck in a series of Brexit questions – and his evasive answers appeared to frustrate Morgan.

Clark refused to answer whether he would vote for Brexit if there was another referendum, saying it was a “hypothetical question that I haven’t given a moment’s thought to.”

Host Susanna Reid asked him if Brexit was the best thing for the UK, he again failed to give a straight answer, saying: “I believe that we have to get the best deal through these negotiations and I think it’s possible to do that.”

Morgan asked him if that was a ‘yes’, to which he repeated: “I think we can get a good deal. It’s in everyone’s interests to get a good deal.”

Finally, Morgan challenged the Tory minister to give a straight, yes or no answer to one question – “the allegation that you are named Greg Clark.”

After some laughter, and a long, uncomfortable pause, Clark said: “Well, I think you’ve got that.”

Morgan seemed satisfied with his answer, saying: “We’ve established at least one convincing answer.”

But Reid was left unconvinced, adding: “I’m not sure we did. I think there was room for doubt there.” …”


It’s a mystery

So, the Conservatives get in because, although not enough people voted for them, they could bribe the DUP with £1 billion to prop them up.

They leave it to developers to decide housing policy and the developers get mega-rich while saying they are too poor to build affordable homes and even renting a home is now beyond many (working) people.

They cut public services such as the NHS, education – to the bone.

They privatise anything that can be privatised – including the NHS and education.

What they can’t privatise, they put under the control of unaccountable quangos such as “business led” Local Enterprise Partnerships, which make Walter Mitty claims that they will get “productivity” soaring (by making sure that government money gets funnelled into THEIR companies) and councils roll over for them (they are given no choice).

Public utilities – water, gas, electricity, railways – are now all mostly owned by foreign companies which repatriate profits to their own countries.

They cut benefits whilst allowing tax dodging by rich individuals and powerful companies on a truly breathtaking scale.

They get most of their funds from donors who benefit from privatisation and austerity and tax dodging.

They say they are returning “sovereignty” to the UK but strip MPs of their voting powers.

They refuse to accept that “green energy” is now cheaper than nuclear power and fossil fuels and instead commit to a nuclear white elephant that belongs to the French and Chinese (who are ceasing building massive nuclear power stations at home and investing instead in renewables)

We won’t mention the Brexit omni-omni-mega-no-words-good-enough-for-it shambles. Except that we can, they say, rely on the United States to see us right.

Yet, come the time when it looks like their “leader” is on her last legs and a snap election may be on the horizon they tell people they are going to do “something” about housing and the NHS – as if the mess they are in is not their fault. Perhaps a commission, perhaps a policy paper, perhaps a “consultation” … perhaps.

A little money will be shaken from the magic money tree (soon to be swallowed up by not-so-magic higher prices).

And thousands of people will say “Good enough for me – I’ll vote for them again”.

Truly we live in strange and frightening times.

Would you trust Gove on the environment?

So, Gove has a “green plan” for Brexit.

Let’s none of us forget the state in which he left education:

A primary school teacher wrote:

“The most shocking thing about Michael Gove’s reign as education secretary was that one individual was able to change the system so much for the worse, writes this primary teacher
Dear Mr Gove,

I see that you are driving yourself back into the public eye. You came back on to my radar with your scoop of an interview with Donald Trump. I noted the grin, the twinkle in your eyes (à la Nigel Farage in a gold-plated lift) as you posed for a “thumbs up” photograph with the then president-elect. Your mutual appreciation was evident and hardly surprising, given that you appear to share many of the same ideas and core beliefs.

Firstly, Michael, you and Trump both appear to share an insatiable need to be in the public eye. How else to explain Trump’s early morning tweets? How else to explain your rapid return to the spotlight after such an ignominious debacle in the days following the Brexit referendum?

Moreover, both of you share a belief in belittling the opinions of experts, whether they be civil servants or career professionals in a specialised field. We all know Trump’s views on the “swamp” of the Washington bureaucracy and his views on environmentalism, despite the accepted wisdom of a vast majority of scientists. In recent days, you have argued that your anti-expert rhetoric during the referendum has been misconstrued. However, as long as seven years ago, you were already demonstrating, by your actions, a deeply held distrust of expert educational opinion.

As you embarked on your role as education secretary, you set out to put to one side the views of civil servants within the Department of Education, to disregard the prevailing wisdom of the teaching profession, in order to oversee an overhaul of the national curriculum. The new document proved to be, to an almost fantastical degree, the personal educational manifesto of a single individual. By dint of the fact that you had been to school, by dint of the fact that you had experienced the power of an inspirational teacher or two, and by dint of the fact that you had (to your credit) a daughter in a state primary school, you had the arrogance, Michael, to believe that you alone had the expertise to design a curriculum for all.

What followed was the publication of a curriculum that included some good ideas – who could argue with the oft-quoted aim of desiring to expose children to the “great thinkers”? However, in reality it was a massive missed opportunity to deliver a truly outstanding education system for the future. Through your fundamental misunderstanding of education, you increased (or in some cases, merely reorganised) the content of the curriculum, reducing it, in the process, to what is most easily measurable. Michael, it would have been much more innovative and powerful to refocus education on principles rather than facts. What we needed was an educational system which strove to be exceptional within a rapidly globalising world; which promoted understanding rather than recall; which used everything that we have learned from educational research to optimise children’s learning; which promoted sustainability rather than short-term performance. It took over 20 years for the original national curriculum to be modified – unfortunately, we are going to have to live with your version for a long time.

A ‘damaging’ new leadership culture
What is most shocking about your reign in education, Michael, was that one individual was able to impose his own beliefs and prejudices to such an extent, virtually unimpeded. For this, David Cameron must take the bulk of the responsibility. Your appropriating of power to deliver a personal agenda, albeit on a smaller scale, cannot fail but to remind one of somebody across the pond. We can only hope that the oft-quoted “checks and balances” of the US’ political system are more effective in curbing the excesses of Trump, than Cameron was in curbing yours.

Another damaging product of your period in education, Michael, has been a change in the culture of school leadership, which corresponds to your own style of leadership. Much has been spoken of legacies in recent weeks. Well a legacy of your period of office has been a change in culture within schools, which has been at best unhelpful and at worst downright damaging. This change is characterised by a movement away from collaborative endeavour, and a corresponding movement towards autocratic decision-making – a change which reflects the political move towards greater individualism.

One of the most powerful products of the Blair government’s education policy was the focus on collaborative endeavour. Education ministers actively sought the opinions and advice of experts in the field. This was manifested through the primary strategies which sought to collate and disseminate good practice. Basically, good practice was developed by teachers and advisers, shared between schools and modified accordingly. The culture in schools was much more inclusive; headteachers were actively encouraged, through the National College of School Leadership, to use more distributive models of leadership.

Under your leadership, Michael, the culture of leadership within the Department of Education changed, and this has filtered down into schools. Heads, for example, are now expected to be seen to “lead” on everything, especially on “teaching and learning”. Modern heads feel it incumbent on themselves to be seen to be the one making decisions, to be seen to be leading from the front. This change in emphasis may seem small but it has led to a decline in interest in headship, a lowering of teacher morale (since their voices are less valued) and a subsequent increase in the numbers taking time off for stress-related illness or, even worse, leaving the profession. Such leadership affects teachers’ lives; it affects their mental wellbeing.

Cultures of leadership matter. Perhaps Obama’s greatest legacy is the culture of his leadership – a leadership characterised by honesty, dignity, humility and grace; characterised by listening and by collaboration. The culture of your leadership in education mattered, Michael – it will take a significant time before it is replaced by a more effective one.

It is also a culture that appears to be about to be repeated in Trump’s administration. No wonder, in that photo, that the two of you look so at ease with each other – a mutual admiration society. You have much in common.

David Jones”


“We want our Brexit cash boost – NHS boss”

“The health service should get the cash boost it was promised during the EU referendum, the head of the NHS in England is expected to say later.
Simon Stevens will use controversial claims used by Vote Leave to put the case for more money in a speech later.

With waiting times worsening, he will say trust in politics will be damaged if the NHS does not get more.

During the referendum it was claimed £350m a week was sent to the EU and that would be better spent on the NHS.

The claim was widely contested at the time and ever since – it did not take into account the rebate the UK had nor the fact the UK benefited from investment from the EU. Some argued it proved highly influential in the referendum result.

‘Honour the promises’

The speech by Mr Stevens at the NHS Providers’ annual conference of health managers is highly political, coming just a fortnight before the Budget.
And it is being made as three highly-influential health think-tanks – the King’s Fund, the Nuffield Trust and the Health Foundation – publish a joint report calling for an extra £4bn to be given to health next year. That amounts to eight times more than health spending is due to rise by.

Mr Stevens is not expected to say exactly how much he wants, but instead will argue the health service needs a significant boost in funding beyond what has already been promised by ministers.

He will tell delegates gathered in Birmingham: “The NHS wasn’t on the ballot paper, but it was on the Battle Bus. Vote Leave for a better funded health service – £350m a week.

“Rather than our criticising these clear Brexit funding commitments to NHS patients – promises entered into by cabinet ministers and by MPs – the public want to see them honoured.

“Trust in democratic politics will not be strengthened if anyone now tries to argue: ‘You voted Brexit, partly for a better funded health service. But precisely because of Brexit, you now can’t have one.’

“A modern NHS is itself part of the practical answer to the deep social concerns that gave rise to Brexit.

“At a time of national division, an NHS that brings us together. An institution that tops the list of what people say makes them proudest to be British. Ahead of the Army, the monarchy or the BBC. Unifying young and old, town and country, the struggling and the better off.”

Targets ‘being missed’

NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson has also given his backing to extra money. He pointed out key targets for A&E, routine operations and cancer care were now being widely missed.

“The Budget is an important opportunity, at the beginning of this Parliament, to protect care quality for patients and service users and help the NHS break out of the downward spiral in which it is currently trapped.
“There isn’t enough funding to cope.”

The government has promised the NHS frontline budget will be £8bn a year higher by 2022 – once inflation is taken into account – than it is now.
But that does not take into account the whole health budget – which also includes spending on things such as training and healthy lifestyle services, like stop smoking services.

Once that is factored in, the current average annual increase are running at less than 1%.

Historically, the service has enjoyed rises of around 4% to cover the cost of the ageing population and new drugs.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “Research shows spending on the NHS is in line with most other European countries, and the public can be reassured that the government is committed to continued investment in the health service.”


Public spending jeopardised by Brexit uncertainty

“Philip Hammond, the chancellor, has been warned by Whitehall’s spending watchdog that continuing uncertainty over Brexit could jeopardise the public finances.

In a report released on Tuesday, the National Audit Office (NAO) says high levels of government borrowing since the financial crash meant there are already significant risks to the UK’s finances.

Sir Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO, said these risks could be exacerbated by “unexpected developments”, including any unforeseen consequences of leaving the European Union.

Auditors said that borrowing had increased since 2009-10 by 61%, while interest payments on the UK’s debts had cost the government £222bn. Over the same period, managing the public finances had become more difficult since the global financial crash of 2008.

The NAO pointed to an increase in the use of index-linked gilts to finance the government’s debts which meant a rise of just 1% in retail price inflation could add £26bn in interest costs between 2016-17 and 2020-21.

The latest warning comes after the trusted Institute for Fiscal Studies warned last week that Hammond could be forced to abandon his target of eliminating the deficit by the mid 2020s when he delivers the budget on 22 November.

Morse said uncertainty over Brexit, as well as the eventual unwinding of the Bank of England’s programme of “quantitative easing”, meant it was essential the Treasury kept the risks under constant review.

“Put simply, public and private borrowing are high, kept affordable by record low interest rates, and quantitative easing continues 10 years after the crisis it responded to,” Morse said.

“There are significant risks to the public finances and any unexpected developments, potentially including consequences of leaving the EU could exacerbate them. In these circumstances, the Treasury needs to constantly monitor these risks and be ready to react quickly and flexibly. It has taken steps to increase its capacity to respond. …”


How to solve the housing crisis – give more money to developers!

Oh dear, more changes to the planning rules… no mention of stopping the Big Four developers from land banking and claiming that each and every development will not be viable, so no affordable housing…

“Chancellor Philip Hammond puts homes at heart of budget”

Construction companies will be boosted by the scrapping of a planned 3.9% rise in business rates

Theresa May and Philip Hammond have agreed a deal to make housebuilding a centrepiece of the budget this month after crisis talks last week.

The prime minister held a “trilateral summit” on Thursday night with the chancellor and Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, in an attempt to cut through cabinet divisions over housing, and agreed there would be new money, reforms to planning and incentives for the construction industry to build homes.

The Sunday Times can also reveal that Hammond will give a boost to companies by scrapping a planned 3.9% rise in business rates, set to cost firms £1.1bn next April. Instead of increasing rates by the retail prices index measure of inflation, the chancellor is preparing for an increase in line with consumer prices, which stands at 3%.

Hammond has ditched plans to offer lower tax rates for young people, after internal Tory polling showed that the idea was not hugely popular with the young and was strongly opposed by older voters.

Sources in the Treasury and Downing Street say the chancellor and prime minister are committed to finding a package of measures on housing which will include more cash, alterations to planning rules and other “supply side” changes to increase Britain’s brick-making capacity and train bricklayers and electricians.

May is still understood to be resisting plans to build on the green belt, which have widespread support from other cabinet ministers. The prime minister’s Maidenhead constituency borders the green belt.

Hammond is reluctant to agree huge new sums and has rejected calls for £50bn of borrowing, but has concluded he will have to find some money.

A senior figure said: “The general election sent some political warning signals, which need to be responded to. We are going to tackle intergenerational unfairness and the obvious dysfunctionality in the housing market.”

The plans have the strong support of Gavin Barwell, the former housing minister who is May’s new chief of staff.

Hammond has privately argued that the construction industry is stretched to the limit and wants to uncork the problems. “We import 100m bricks,” said a source.

“There are not thousands of unemployed bricklayers sitting around waiting to build. We need supply-side reforms as well as money.”

Hammond and May are understood to recognise that they have to signal to voters under 40 that they are on their side, having failed to do so during the general election and the party conference last month.

Any tax rises are likely to be confined to asset-rich older voters and those with pensions. “Raising tax is always difficult, but it depends who you are taxing,” said a senior source.

Hammond is examining plans to provide better transport links around London to make more areas viable commuter towns.

He is also drawing up a package of measures to train young people for the hi-tech jobs of the future and plough money into research and development in sectors such as artificial intelligence and robotics.

The chancellor will also outline plans to improve productivity, which he regards as the most important factor in boosting growth in the years ahead.”

Source: Reuters