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In Numbers

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What the parties said

The Government began the week by launching the National Cyber Security Strategy. Chancellor Philip Hammond described how Britain will continue to be a world leader in cyber, developing the capabilities to not only defend ourselves from threats but to also retaliate in kind. Justice Secretary Liz Truss was also in the spotlight this week after announcing major prison reforms, including the introduction of a graduate scheme to encourage more young people to become prison officers. The week ended on a stale note for the Government however, as the courts ruled that parliamentary approval must be sought before Article 50 can be triggered. Number 10 has confirmed that it will appeal the decision, leading to the resignation of QC Steven Phillips MP, who, despite campaign to leave, believes parliament should vote on Brexit terms.

In a fairly quiet week for Labour, Jeremy Corbyn has said that the party will be ‘pressing the case for a Brexit that works for Britain, putting jobs, living standards and the economy first’. The Labour leader has come under criticism however, for ‘plugging’ the film I, Daniel Blake during Prime Minister’s Questions, which focuses on the struggles faced by those receiving state aid and directed by Corbyn’s friend, Ken Loach.

The SNP suffered a rare defeat in Holyrood this week on the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act. The legislation seeks to regulate chants and behaviour at football matches, although it is opposed by all opposition parties in Scotland. Outside of the policy arena, the defeat highlights the difficulties that First Minister Sturgeon will face in the coming years, with the SNP’s majority significantly reduced at the latest elections.

What the papers said

The papers were awash with articles on Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney’s decision to continue his tenure until 2019. The Spectator’s James Forsyth charts the relationship between Carney and Theresa May, noting that the Governor’s popularity with the Chancellor ‘raised questions about how Carney could fit with May’s less metropolitan, more provincial, government’. It was a mistake, writes Forsyth, for May to be so damning of quantitative easing in her conference speech as a criticism from the PM implies an impending change. However, May is not going to make one ‘because no one has come up with a practical alternative.’ Forsyth signs off warning that while the current dispute has been resolved with relative ease, ‘any repeat could be far more damaging.’

A different perspective is offered by Rafael Behr in the Guardian, who notes the cultural shift taking place in Government since 24th June, one in which the identification of ‘technical obstacles on the path to freedom is to counsel continuing captivity.’ A second issue is the lack of Treasury experience in May’s inner circle, as compared to Osborne-driven previous Government, which May go to explain her perceived intrusion of the Bank’s independence at Conference. May’s reliance on a pro-Brexit stance, is Behr writes, her only real mandate, thus she must tread a fine line between alienating the institutions that keep the UK afloat and the voters who made their voices heard so loudly in June.

On a completely different note, Alex Chalk, Conservative MP for Cheltenham, writing in The Times on Wednesday highlighted the debate he held in the Commons concerning the impact of social media on the mental health of young people. Chalk’s article stressed the ever-growing issue of cyber bullying and the negative effect this can have on teenagers, 33 per cent of which have been victims of the issue. Chalk calls for social media platforms to face up to their responsibilities in addressing the issue so we can all ‘ensure the next generation is better prepared for the digital deluge to come.’

On the benches

George Osborne takes his chance to settle some scores
The much awaited annual Spectator Parliamentarian of the Year Awards took place last night, with Boris Johnson, Hilary Benn and Jess Philips all receiving prizes. However, it was former Chancellor and host George Osborne who stole the show with his risqué speech in which he left no stone unturned, taking shots at his long standing pal David Cameron for leaving him alone with the baby, Michael Gove for his shoddy leadership attempt, and the Parliamentary Labour Party for its hopelessly unsuccessful leadership coup. Although slightly uncomfortable, Osborne’s comments were received in good humour, with Theresa May quipping ‘we’re all builders now’ when arriving on stage to receive her award wearing a high vis jacket and hard hat. 

Abbott gets her instructions
This week Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott left the chamber during a debate on the Investigatory Powers Bill to answer a call. In what one unnamed MP described as a ‘jaw dropping moment’ Abbott exited her seat after her phone rang. Ed Vaizey, who was speaking at the time, seized on the opportunity to goad Abbott: ‘I don’t know where the Honourable Lady, the Member for Stoke Newington is getting her instructions from. But clearly she will come back having taken this phone call and no doubt elucidate us perhaps on the complex issue of Scottish and Westminster relations.’ 

An apprentice husband?
Apprenticeships minister Robert Halfon appeared in front of a sub-committee this week to explain the Government’s apprenticeship reforms, however rather embarrassingly he noted that he had to work on the plans during his honeymoon! Whilst enjoying the sunny weather in Brazil, Halfon had to work on the publication of the funding structures for the apprenticeship levy. Whilst we’re sure its not the worst thing that has happened on a honeymoon, we’re not quite sure how Mrs Halfon would’ve felt about it…

Good week/Bad week

Good week for: Mark Carney. It was a good week this week for the Governor of the Bank of England, who secured an endorsement from the Prime Minister saying he was ‘absolutely’ the right man for the job after announcing he will stay on in the role until 2019. The PM’s comments came after murmurings of disquiet from backbench MPs over his perceived opposition to Brexit.  Chancellor Philip Hammond also welcomed the news he is to stay until 2019 saying it enables him to ‘continue his “highly effective leadership of the Bank through a critical period for the British economy as we negotiate our exit from the European Union’.

Bad week for: Baroness Scotland. While she claims that ‘there has been no extravagance at whatsoever’ in her spending since she became Commonwealth Secretary General, blogger Guido Fawkes and others allege that she asked for £5,000 for a vanity cabinet, amongst other allegations of overspending and accusations that she flouted procurement rules. Any sort of accusation being levelled at a person can be annoying, but imagine being accused of buying a mirror for £5,000? Damning.

Brexit bites

“The Court does not accept the argument put forward by the Government. There is nothing in the 1972 Act to support it” – From the ruling by the High Court on Article 50.

The article which reveals a leak of Liam Fox’s post-EU trade strategy.

Tweet of the week

While Theresa May took the opportunity to mock Osborne at the Spectator parliamentarian of the year award on Wednesday night by turning up in a Hi-Vis and hard hat to accept an award Osborne wasn’t about to let her have the last word.

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Yesterday Osborne replied in kind with a cheeky tweet stating ‘back with its rightful owner’ and a photo of himself in a hard hat and Hi-Vis. Senior politicians are competitive even when it comes to making jokes it seems.

In Focus: Analysis of the Article 50 ruling and its implications

After yesterday’s High Court ruling, we look at some of the possible implications.

What happens next?

The Government was given leave to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court and has announced its intention to do so. A hearing is likely to take place in early December. The Government has said it will make a statement in parliament on Monday which will provide more clarity on the situation.

If the ruling is upheld, what follows?

Assuming the ruling is upheld at appeal stage, or if the Government decides not to proceed with an appeal, then the Government will need to trigger Article 50 by means of an Act of Parliament. That means the Government will need to table a Bill, probably in January, that will be short and tightly drawn so as to narrow the scope for MPs and peers to lay amendments. The Government will also wish to timetable the Bill to expedite its progress.

However, there is a limit to how far the Government can control the passage of a Bill. It will need to go before both Houses and whatever its scope it will not be possible to prevent amendments being tabled altogether. The Government has a small majority in the Commons, where a number of prominent Conservative MPs have already expressed concern about the approach being taken to Brexit, and no majority in the Lords, where most peers are believed to have favoured Remain.

For more of our commentary on the result of the Article 50 judgement, please see here – https://t.co/XG326XGQqX 

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