Scott Reid argues that Johnson's cabinet wipeout is of cinematic proportions, with the new line-up seemingly cherry-picked to be a coalition of Brexiteers.
Forget Macmillan’s ‘Night of the Long Knives’.
This cabinet reshuffle – nay, wipeout – was a political manoeuvring by new prime minister Boris Johnson of truly Game of Thrones-esque proportions. By my reckoning, the TV show’s famous ‘Red Wedding’ had less of a body count. Or, giving a snippet of what all this might mean, here’s another Hollywood allusion for you: The Purge: Election Year.
You couldn’t write this stuff. Eleven cabinet ministers sacked, four having resigned before they got the boot, and only three remaining in the posts they occupied at noon yesterday. All but a handful have been sourced from the Brexit-supporting European Research Group which propelled Johnson to power, with the cabinet Remainer now a species on the verge of extinction.
So who features in the new starting line-up for Team Boris? Sajid ‘The Saj’ Javid moves into No 11 as the new Chancellor of the Exchequer; Dominic Raab claims the Foreign Office; and Priti Patel makes a return to government as home secretary (a role I’m told requires fewer air miles). Other notable appointments include the replacement of long-serving Scottish secretary David Mundell by Alister Jack and the entrance of the nation’s most beloved tarantula enthusiast with a penchant for security leaks, Gavin Williamson, as education secretary. Heck, even Jacob Rees-Mogg makes his government debut as leader of the House of the Commons.
So it’s farewell to David Cameron’s ‘hug a hoodie’ liberal centrism and adieu to Theresa May’s coalition of Brexit pragmatists. This cabinet is Vote Leave in all but name, with former campaign director Dominic Cummings installed as Johnson’s senior advisor to boot. It shows that the new prime minister – far from extending an olive branch to opponents within his party - intends to stick to his ‘do or die’ commitment to leave the EU by October 31st and is willing to do anything to get there.
Still, the cynical political commentator in me (and, really, what else is left in 2019?) is begging the question: what’s he really up to? Given the facts that Brussels doesn’t seem minded to change its offer on the Withdrawal Agreement, and that so many of Johnson’s now-cabinet peers had been opponents of May’s deal, might he just setting up his new crew for a fall when he eventually asks them to back something similar? Better yet for Johnson to call an election, perhaps, making the case that a true Leave government requires a majority to see its will through when it’s thwarted by parliament.
Who knows, and quite frankly, who has the energy to care given that the gates of hell seem to have actually opened under central London today amid all this political drama.
Och, well. Such a radical cabinet may yet have an upside for those Remain-minded liberals among us who have dared to dream with their choices: a reference to my colleagues, of course, and that I have just won the office sweepstake about predicting ministerial appointments.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony to US Congress has defied Democrats and Republicans seeking to draw political capital from his report into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Speaking across two congressional hearings of the House Judiciary committee yesterday, special counsel Mueller said that Donald Trump “was not exculpated for the acts that he allegedly committed”. President Trump rejected Mueller’s testimony, claiming that he had been “totally exonerated”; “This was a great day for me.” The governor of Puerto Rico has resigned following mass protests over leaks of a profane WhatsApp conversation. Dubbed “RickyLeaks”, the 880 pages of exchanges between Governor Ricardo Rosselló and 11 senior male political allies contained sexist and homophobic comments. Rosselló has issued a televised statement announcing his intention to stand down on August 2, allowing for a transition. Spanish MPs will today vote on whether to support Socialist prime minister Pedro Sanchez’s bid to form a government after coalition talks were aborted yesterday with the left-wing Podemos party. Having failed to secure a super majority in an earlier parliamentary vote last Thursday, Sánchez now requires a simple majority of 176 seats in Congress’s 350-seat parliament, likely via the abstentions of sub-state nationalist parties. If he fails, Spain could face its fourth general election in as many years.
Business & Economy
What happened yesterday?
Financial markets were uneasy on the entrance of Boris Johnson into Number 10, with the top-flight London index finishing in the red, but with sterling regaining ground. Giving up some earlier gains, the FTSE 100 finished the day down 0.73% at 7,501.46 points, whilst sterling was up on both the dollar by 0.45% at $1.25 and on the euro by 0.54% at €1.12. With analysts cautioning that much of the “Boris factor” is priced in already, some of the movements originated in equity market developments. Miners including Rio Tinto (-4.60%), Anglo American (-3.25%) and BHP (-4.00%) were all down on lower iron ore prices, following an announcement that Brazilian sector peer, Vale, is set to resume operations at its Vargem Grande complex. On the FTSE250, Aston Martin Lagonda (-25.91%) nosedived after cutting its sales and profits forecasts for this year, highlighting wider economic uncertainty in its UK and European markets. On the up was television group ITV (+6.59%), which rallied after posting profits and revenues increases, but a five per cent decline in advertising revenue. Following the close of markets, aircraft maker Boeing posted losses in excess of $3 billion in the April to June period, while social media giant Facebook posted a 28% rise in first-quarter revenues at $16.8 billion.basis points to 1.515%.
Whats happening today?
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Int. Economic Announcements
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Int. Economic Announcements
Times columnist James Marriott looks to a 1985 polemic, Amusing Ourselves to Death, to point out how disruptive social media is becoming in the present day. Although the polemic was written about the harmful influence of television, Marriot suggests that the conclusions of its author, Neil Postman, were more accurate when applied to the likes of Twitter and Facebook. (£) In The New Yorker, Osita Nwanevu looks at the unwavering poker face of special Robert Mueller under the heat of the House Judiciary Committee yesterday. Nwanevu points out that shared frustration between Democrats and Republicans with Mueller’s performance has led to the claim that he may in fact be fallible as a legal counsel, revealing a hidden urge in American politics to undermine legal processes where it suits political expediency.
Columns of Note
Fraser Nelson argues in The Telegraph that the election of Boris Johnson marks the end of the old rules of politics – “caution, compromise, complaint and inaction” – and beckons a new order subject to the will of radicals and liberals. Nelson suggests that Johnson has not selected a cabinet for government, rather a campaign team for a general election, which also strengthens his hand in parliament. If parliament tries to threaten Johnson with an election, Nelson reasons, Johnson would likely be able to win. MPs may not be able to block a no-deal Brexit but this may persuade the EU to negotiate. Determined to address any and all Tory electoral vulnerabilities, the piece stipulates that Johnson has taken a note from Trump and embraces the mantra of “governing means campaigning”. Overall, Nelson views the Johnson administration as the biggest gamble in recent political history, but prefers those odds to a government resigned to failure.
The New York Times editorial board contends that although the Federal Trade Commission’s $5bn fine against Facebook is a record-breaking levy, it barely makes a dent in the company’s share price and will not thwart continued privacy violations. After posting $15bn in revenue last quarter, Facebook intentionally set aside $3bn to pay potential fines and its stock even closed higher than at opening after the FTC’s announcement Wednesday. What is even more concerning about the deal, the piece suggests, is that the settlement order grants immunity to Facebook and officers regarding a range of misdeeds committed before 12 June. Worse yet, the FTC also promised not to hold Zuckerberg or anyone else liable for privacy violations caused by Facebook. The NYT argues that the FTC’s leniency toward Facebook allows the company to continually misbehave and calls for a combination of increasing the FTC’s digital privacy division and evolving antitrust laws if any repercussions on privacy violations are to be taken seriously by tech giants in the future.order to succeed electorally.
Did you know?
In 2000, Boris Johnson made an appearance at Glastonbury music festival, reciting excerpts from Homer’s Iliad on stage.
House of Commons
Oral questions Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (including Topical Questions) Church Commissioners and the House of Commons Commission and Public Accounts Commission and Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission Business Statement Business Questions to the Leader of the House - Mel Stride Debate Matters to be raised before the forthcoming Adjournment Adjournment Treatment of spinal muscular atrophy - Sir John Hayes
House of Lords
Oral questions Introduction of Sharia-compliant student finance - Lord Sharkey Final Judgment and Summary of the Independent Tribunal into Forced Organ Harvesting from Prisoners of Conscience in China, published on 17 June - Lord Collins of Highbury Association of Directors of Adult Social Service Budget Survey 2019 on the state of adult social care - Baroness Wheeler Areas affected by the latest outbreak of Ebola which has been declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the WHO - The Lord Bishop of St Albans Short debate Leaking of confidential messages from Sir Kim Darroch and their subsequent publication - Baroness Quin Debate Needs of women in the criminal justice system - Lord Farmer Availability of NHS dentistry services - Baroness Gardner of Parkes
In recess until Monday 1 September.
House of Commons
No business scheduled.
House of Lords
No business scheduled.