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No 10 refuses to deny Johnson referred to Tory MP as ‘Pincher by name, pincher by nature’ before promotion – live


No 10 refuses to deny PM referred to disgraced MP as ‘Pincher by name, pincher by nature’ before making him deputy chief whip

And here is a fuller summary of what was said at the Downing Street lobby briefing about the Chris Pincher scandal.

  • No 10 admitted that Johnson was aware of some misconduct allegations against Chris Pincher before he appointed him deputy chief whip in the February reshuffle. (See 12.20pm.)
  • But the PM’s spokesperson said it was not thought appropriate to block Pincher’s appointment as deputy chief whip on the basis of “unsubstantiated allegations”. This is from the Mirror’s Pippa Crerar.

NEW: PM’s official spox defends decision to appoint Chris Pincher dep chf whip.

“At the time the PM was not aware of any specific allegations. In the absence of any formal complaint it wasn’t deemed appropriate to stop the appointment because of any unsubstantiated allegations.”

— Pippa Crerar (@PippaCrerar) July 4, 2022

  • The spokesperson said Johnson did seek advice about Pincher before appointing him as deputy chief whip in the light of the allegations he had heard. Asked if Johnson tried to find out if the allegations were true, the spokesperson said:

I can’t get into too much detail but he did take advice on some of the allegations that had been made, but there was no formal complaint at that time and it was deemed not appropriate to stop an appointment simply because of unsubstantiated allegations.

The spokesperson said that advice would have come from political colleagues and the civil service. He went on:

[The PM] was aware that there had been reports and speculation over the years with regards to this individual, but there were no specific allegation. There was no formal complaint at that time.

  • The spokesperson said no one in government should behave as Pincher was alleged to have done last week. Asked if the PM regretted appointing Pincher, the spokesperson said:

Clearly, we wouldn’t want anyone working in the government to behave in the manner as he is alleged to have done so. That is not the behaviour that you’d want to see in any walk of life.

  • The spokesperson refused to deny a claim that Johnson used to refer to Pincher as “Pincher by name, pincher by nature” before making him deputy chief whip. (See 10.26am.) Asked about the claim, the spokesperson said:

I’ve seen those unsubstantiated source quotes and I don’t intend to respond to them.

When it was put to the spokesperson that the quote was not unsubstantiated, but something that Dominic Cummings, the PM’s former chief adviser, seems to have heard first-hand, the spokesperson replied:

I’m simply not going to comment on content of what was or wasn’t said in private conversations.

Boris Johnson’s Commons statement

Boris Johnson is making a Commons statement on the Commonwealth, G7 and Nato summits he attended over eight days before he returned to the UK at the end of last week. It is normal for a PM to make a statement after returning from a summit, and normally the opening speech sums up what was announced at the meeting.

Johnson says that at the three events he met 80 leaders, representing almost half the countries in the United Nations, and he says he had 25 bilateral meetings with other leaders.

Here are tweets from two SNP MPs responding to Anas Sarwar’s speech earlier. (See 1.25pm.)

From Gavin Newlands:

Is this not the same Anas Sarwar that said Scottish Labour would not enter deals, pacts or coalitions with the tories following the Council elections but just suspended two Cllrs for not backing a tory deal?
Am I missing something here, or does he really think we’re that stupid? https://t.co/nK3RggQ8tN

— Gavin Newlands MP 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿🇺🇦 (@GavNewlandsSNP) July 4, 2022

Newlands is referring to the fact two Labour councillors were suspended by the party in Edinburgh recently for failing to back a deal with the Conservatives that would allow Labour to run a minority administration.

From Tommy Sheppard:

How many times have Labour promised to abolish the House of Lords now?

A desperate attempt to get a hint of radicalism into what he’s saying, whilst denying the democratic aspirations of people who live in Scotland.https://t.co/QPRgSyiJR8

— Tommy Sheppard MP (@TommySheppard) July 4, 2022

Mike Pompeo, who was US secretary of state when Donald Trump was president, was speaking at the Policy Exchange thinktank this morning. In a Q&A he defended the UK government’s approach to the Northern Ireland protocol, saying it was trying to defend the Good Friday agreement. He said:

The truth of the matter is that the United Kingdom is actually driving to uphold the Good Friday accords and delivering good outcomes. The British people, the people of the United Kingdom, should be the ones that drive this.

Pompeo also criticised Democrats such as Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives, who have accused the UK government of undermining the Good Friday agreement. “It saddens me that we have American leaders coming here and undermining that central feature of both Brexit and the Good Friday [agreement],” he said.

Here is the Conservative party’s response to the speech from Keir Starmer on Brexit.

❌ Keir Starmer voted to block Brexit 48 times.

✅ Conservatives got Brexit done and we’re seizing the opportunities pic.twitter.com/2H5THJlda5

— Conservatives (@Conservatives) July 4, 2022

As a line to take, it is not particularly effective because it does not engage with Starmer’s main argument, which is that the Tories have botched Brexit. (See 11.20am.) Starmer has the advantage because, on this, the public seem to agree with him. (See 2.38pm.)

Ahead of Keir Starmer’s speech later, YouGov has highlighted some polling from last week showing that more than half of Britons think Brexit is going badly. Only 16% think it is going well.

The Liberal Democrats are the most pro-EU of the three parties in Britain-wide politics, but even they are not keen to talk up their desire to rejoin the single market. In a statement on Keir Starmer’s speech (see 11.20am), Sarah Olney, the Lib Dem business spokesperson, described her party’s current policy towards Brexit in similar terms to Labour’s. She said:

Boris Johnson’s botched deal with the EU is bad for British families, bad for British businesses and bad for British jobs.

It has done enormous damage to farmers, fishing communities and small businesses up and down the country, and that’s why the Liberal Democrats voted against it.

We need a pragmatic approach that works for the UK, cutting pointless red tape, reducing costs for businesses and making people better off as a result.

Jeremy Hunt, the Conservative former foreign secretary and health secretary, and a probable candidate in the next leadership contest, has said the next election will be decided on the economy, not Partygate. Speaking in a Q&A at the Institute for Government, he said:

The next election won’t be decided on whether or not there were inappropriate parties in Downing Street during the pandemic.

I think the next election will be decided on the economy. And the core reason that ordinary voters vote Conservative is because they think that we will look after the economy better and therefore there’ll be better prospects for them and their families.

But at the moment, because of all the global shocks that we’ve had, people don’t feel that confidence. So I think that the biggest single challenge is to get the economy growing again.

Asked if he would stand again for Tory leader, he said: “We have to see what the circumstances are and then make the decision on that one.”

SNP claims Labour now ‘indistinguishable from Tories on Brexit’ after Starmer’s ‘hard Brexit U-turn’

Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminster, has accused Keir Starmer of performing a “hard Brexit U-turn”. In a statement responding to what Starmer will say in his Brexit speech (see 11.20am), Blackford said:

Keir Starmer has strengthened the case for independence by embracing the Tories’ hard Brexit. It is now beyond doubt that independence is Scotland’s only way back to Europe and the only path to economic prosperity.

Scotland didn’t vote for Brexit but under Westminster control it has been imposed against our will, costing the Scottish economy billions of pounds, inflicting long-term damage to economic growth, trade, jobs and the NHS, and making the Tory cost of living crisis much worse. It is frankly astonishing that Keir Starmer can look at all the catastrophic damage Brexit is causing and decide to become a Brexit supporter.

The Labour party are now indistinguishable from the Tories on Brexit. By running scared of the Tories and mutating into a pale imitation of Boris Johnson, Starmer is offering no real change at all.

With this hard Brexit U-turn Keir Starmer has perfectly encapsulated why Scotland needs to escape from Westminster control. Regaining Scotland’s place in Europe will be at the heart of the independence referendum.

Starmer has performed a U-turn in the sense that, in the last parliament, he strongly opposed leaving the single market and the customs union. When he stood for Labour leader in early 2020 he also promised to “defend free movement as we leave the EU”, without actually defining what that meant. But making Brexit work, and not rejoining the single market or customs union, has been firm Labour policy now for a while.

Labour says it wants England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to meet as equals in new devolution cooperation body

Here is the full text of the speech by Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, on Scotland and constitutional reform this morning. And here are the highlights.

  • Sarwar said Labour wanted England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to be represented as equals in a new devolution cooperation body. Setting out plans to reset the devolution settlement, Sarwar said:

First, we are proposing a legal duty to cooperate. This would require joint working between governments in areas of shared interest.

Secondly, we are proposing new joint governance councils – or whatever we ultimately decide to call them. They would be designed to heal the bad relationship that exists today and provide a constructive forum for dispute resolution

Too often the current UK government keeps the Scottish government in the dark. And too often the current Scottish government deliberately seeks disagreement with the UK government. This does not lead to good governance – it undermines the union. And the Tories and the SNP do it day in, day out.

Instead, the joint governance councils we are proposing, would be set out in statute and replace the consultative joint ministerial committees, which have failed and collapsed. They would be designed so that every nation operates as an equal. They would bring together the leaders of the UK and the nations on an equal footing, with a finance council to explore the economic challenges we collectively face and a trade council to unlock opportunity and growth.

The political game-playing of recent years has wounded the devolution settlement. We need these new rules of engagement to heal it.

In a policy document published alongside the speech Labour says the joint governance councils will replace the joint ministerial committees (JIC) that sat in the past. But at JIC meetings England was represented by a UK government minister. Labour says at joint governance council meetings England should be represented by a minister from the UK government given the job of representing England. And at leader meetings, although the prime minister would be there, they would be there to represent the UK; another minister should be there to represent England, Labour says. It also says chairmanship of the joint governance councils should rotate between the four nations.

  • He claimed all layers of government in the UK were flawed, not just Westminster. More devolution was needed, he claimed.
  • He claimed Labour was the only party committed to devolution. He said:

Labour will always be the party which champions devolution. Today, that is more important than ever when we are up against two parties that want to end it – the SNP in Edinburgh and the Tories here in London, whose leader, Boris Johnson, called it a “disaster”.

Devolution should not be about gamesmanship or dispute. It should be about cooperation and shared responsibility. Unfortunately, today, devolution is being undermined by bad actors – the SNP and the Tories. I acknowledge that you could have the best system in the world but if you have bad actors on either side with a vested interest in not making it work, then good government is harder.

  • He said future Labour policy papers would set out plans to make the Scottish parliament “stronger and more accountable”.
  • He claimed the SNP wanted another Tory government – and that Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, would talk up the prospect of a deal with Labour during the election campaign to damage Labour’s chances. He said:

We know the Tories ruthlessly want to hold on to power. But another Tory government is precisely what the SNP wants too. Because it allows them to continue their grievance campaign.

  • He restated Labour’s opposition to doing any sort of deal with the SNP. He said:

It doesn’t matter what Nicola Sturgeon demands. Regardless of the outcome of the next UK general election. Labour will do no deal with the SNP. No deal. No pact. No behind-closed-doors arrangement. No coalition.

  • He criticised Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, for pushing plans for an independence referendum. He said the “pandemic Nicola”, who said she would focus on Covid recovery, had been replaced by “partisan Nicola”.
  • He insisted the SNP was “not a progressive party”. He said:

Just look at its record in power. There are more than 700,000 Scots on an NHS waiting list – that is one in eight Scots waiting for appointments and treatment. More than 10,000 children and young people are waiting for a mental health appointment. There are almost 20,000 fewer business in Scotland today than when the pandemic began. The highest drug deaths rate in Europe. Climate pledges broken and our NHS on its knees despite the incredible efforts of the workforce.

Anas Sarwar.
Anas Sarwar. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA

No 10 refuses to deny PM referred to disgraced MP as ‘Pincher by name, pincher by nature’ before making him deputy chief whip

And here is a fuller summary of what was said at the Downing Street lobby briefing about the Chris Pincher scandal.

  • No 10 admitted that Johnson was aware of some misconduct allegations against Chris Pincher before he appointed him deputy chief whip in the February reshuffle. (See 12.20pm.)
  • But the PM’s spokesperson said it was not thought appropriate to block Pincher’s appointment as deputy chief whip on the basis of “unsubstantiated allegations”. This is from the Mirror’s Pippa Crerar.

NEW: PM’s official spox defends decision to appoint Chris Pincher dep chf whip.

“At the time the PM was not aware of any specific allegations. In the absence of any formal complaint it wasn’t deemed appropriate to stop the appointment because of any unsubstantiated allegations.”

— Pippa Crerar (@PippaCrerar) July 4, 2022

  • The spokesperson said Johnson did seek advice about Pincher before appointing him as deputy chief whip in the light of the allegations he had heard. Asked if Johnson tried to find out if the allegations were true, the spokesperson said:

I can’t get into too much detail but he did take advice on some of the allegations that had been made, but there was no formal complaint at that time and it was deemed not appropriate to stop an appointment simply because of unsubstantiated allegations.

The spokesperson said that advice would have come from political colleagues and the civil service. He went on:

[The PM] was aware that there had been reports and speculation over the years with regards to this individual, but there were no specific allegation. There was no formal complaint at that time.

  • The spokesperson said no one in government should behave as Pincher was alleged to have done last week. Asked if the PM regretted appointing Pincher, the spokesperson said:

Clearly, we wouldn’t want anyone working in the government to behave in the manner as he is alleged to have done so. That is not the behaviour that you’d want to see in any walk of life.

  • The spokesperson refused to deny a claim that Johnson used to refer to Pincher as “Pincher by name, pincher by nature” before making him deputy chief whip. (See 10.26am.) Asked about the claim, the spokesperson said:

I’ve seen those unsubstantiated source quotes and I don’t intend to respond to them.

When it was put to the spokesperson that the quote was not unsubstantiated, but something that Dominic Cummings, the PM’s former chief adviser, seems to have heard first-hand, the spokesperson replied:

I’m simply not going to comment on content of what was or wasn’t said in private conversations.





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