This week in politics: Arnie, Austen and ambitions
The Week in Numbers
The week that was
After weeks of near apocalyptic civil war in the cabinet it was reported on Friday that Philip Hammond has devised a plan for a UK transitional deal which would allow freedom of movement into the UK for two years after the day the UK leaves the EU. The news came after David Davis spent a week in Brussels with his negotiating counterpart and long-time sparring partner Michel Barnier after which the latter stated there were still ‘fundamental divergences’ between the two sides. In the UK, Culture Secretary Karen Bradley told Parliament that she had still not made a decision on the Sky/Twentieth Century Fox merger, and was ‘still minded’ to refer the case to the competition watchdog.
On the other benches the Labour Party were forced to admit that Jeremy Corbyn’s pre-election pledge to eradicate student debt, viewed by many as instrumental in winning over a considerable proportion of the youth vote, was in fact simply an ‘ambition’ and no promise had ever been made, despite John McDonnell stating to Andrew Marr a week previously that Labour was exploring the idea with economists. Elsewhere, the Party confirmed which of its MPs would make up the Party’s proportion of parliamentary select committees (we’ll have to wait until September for the Tory membership lists).
The Scottish and Welsh national governments began a formal dispute with the UK Government over the £1bn DUP funding deal, demanding extra cash for their respective countries. Finally, the Liberal Democrats elected Sir Vince Cable as leader, who immediately pledged to reverse Brexit and promised that he could offer the same formula as centrist French President Emmanuel Macron.
On the benches
Come with me if you want to leave
After David Davis was criticised for spending just a few hours in Brussels for negotiations this week, DexEU Minister Baroness Anelay of St. Johns took inspiration from the Governator to defend him and told the Lords that, while she wouldn’t ‘say that he is the Terminator – he will be back’.
Nonsense and Sensibility
After Shadow Leader of the House Valerie Vaz paid tribute to a number of inspiring women during Thursday’s Business Statement, Andrea Leadsom decided to add her own tribute to Jane Austen, who will feature on the new £10 note. However, a slip of the tongue resulted in Leadsom calling Austen ‘one of our greatest living authors’. Leadsom was widely mocked over the mishap, although we’re still waiting for Shakespeare’s reaction.
Fashion on the terraces
SNP MP Hannah Bardell caused a stir this week when she turned up to Prime Minister’s Questions wearing a Scotland football top, ahead of the match between Scotland and England in the Women’s European Championships. Bardell was also seen outside Parliament doing keepy-ups before sending a message to the Scots team. She was, however, less chippy the following day, although we’re sure the 6-0 defeat Scotland suffered at the hand of the Lionesses had nothing to do with that…
Good week/Bad week
Good week for: Jane Austen. Unveiled as the face of the new £10 bank note by Bank of England governor Mark Carney, Jane Austen became the first female author to feature on a British bank note. She also received the ‘Georgian equivalent of an airbrushing’, with the less flattering features omitted from her sister’s 1870 drawing that the picture was based on. Her week of felicity extended when she was resurrected by Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom, who described her as ‘one of our greatest living authors’. We want whatever Jane’s been using – she’s 242! At least she can retire now.
Bad week for: the BBC. BBC faced backlash from across the political spectrum this week, after its gender pay gap was revealed. The public discovered that only one third of the corporation’s top 96 earners were female, with its top 7 highest paid employees all found to be men. The highest male earner, Chris Evans, cashed in a BBC pay packet of an estimated £2.2 million this year, whilst the highest ranking female on the list, Claudia Winkleman, received less than a quarter of that sum (£0.75m). Unsurprisingly, this sparked widespread criticism, with Labour MP, Harriet Harman, furious that the BBC was home to ‘clear discrimination’. The Commons DCMS committee will soon question the corporation on the issue, but with committee Chairman, Conservative MP Damian Collins, already saying that this pay discrepancy ‘can’t be right’, the BBC may have more bad weeks to come…
Tweet of the Week
‘A clarification of the UK position is essential, if we are to have any progress. As soon as the UK is ready to clarify its position, we will be prepared to have these discussions.’ EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier on talks over the financial settlement and the Irish border
‘Olly Robbins is formidably intelligent and quick to master a brief. He holds a lengthy meeting each week on Brexit with the prime minister and has a lot of access to her. But he holds a lot of the detail in his head. He is good at the upward management bit of the job but not the downward and lateral management.’ A senior civil servant quoted in the FT this week on Olly Robbins, Permanent Secretary, DExEU
‘It is incumbent upon all developed nations to extend the benefits of free trade to emerging economies, and offer them a route to prosperity. That is why it is so concerning to hear the voices of protectionism growing louder.’ International Trade Secretary Liam Fox MP on the UK’s international outlook post-Brexit