Top 3 Developments
Tim Farron reaches out to Labour voters: Tim Farron used his speech at the Liberal Democrat Conference to frame the party as the real opposition and as the only centrist party. He praised Tony Blair, called Chuka Umunna, Yvette Cooper and Caroline Flint ‘Premier League people’ and urged moderate Labour voters to switch to the Lib Dems.
Diane James starts new UKIP era: Diane James has replaced Nigel Farage as leader of UKIP. Despite recent successes, the party is divided about what direction it should take and James will need to identify a new role for a party that has achieved its primary objective.
No Brecession soon: The ONS and OECD gave further positive outlooks on the British economy, with the ONS saying there has been “no major effect” following the referendum and the OECD formally revising its UK growth forecast up from 1% to 2%.
Farron: We’re all Blairites now
The Liberal Democrats annual conference was this week and Brexit was a key issue for rebuilding the party following their huge defeat in 2015. In his closing speech, leader Tim Farron suggested the party should accept the result of June’s referendum, but should demand a new vote on the exit terms. Whilst the party endorsed this position, former BIS Secretary, Vince Cable, offered a voice of dissention saying he had ‘serious doubts’ about Mr Farron’s call for a second referendum, arguing that it would be ‘disrespectful’ of voters’ wishes.
Farron also used the speech to make a play for disaffected moderate Labour voters, claiming that the Lib Dems were now the party of the middle ground, praising Tony Blair, and criticising parts of the Labour party for using Blairite as an insult. Farron then suggested that Lib Dems could become the new Blairites as Labour has ‘left the stage’ under Corbyn.
Diane James has been named the new leader of UKIP, winning with 8,451 votes. She was the favourite and her closest contender was Lisa Duffy with 4,591 of the votes. She replaces Nigel Farage, who stepped down for the third time as leader.
In her acceptance speech she said Theresa May should ‘get on with’ getting the UK out of the EU and that she would reject any plans for ‘Brexit-lite’. James made it clear that Farage will not be a ‘back seat driver’ during her leadership, and was keen to stress that she will be making her own decisions.
Since Farage stepped down, but still remains an MEP, he has been causing a stir not only in regards to his temporary moustache, but an address that he did at a Donald Trump rally and the recent comments that he would return to politics if the Tories failed to deliver Brexit. Although he denied that he would return as leader, it would be hard for any leader to compete with ‘the face’ of UKIP. Watch this space….
Corbyn set to win leadership race
Jeremy Corbyn is set to be re-elected Labour leader and will head to conference looking at how to reunite the party and get back to the business of opposition. The rebels know they have lost, and whilst some will continue the fight (see the formation of the Labour Tomorrow group), there is a willingness among many to back Corbyn.
The conference will be a quieter affair in 2016 with over 100 less events than the Conservative conference and many choosing to stay away through apathy or fear of Momentum (who are running a parallel conference next door). Policy wise, Brexit is a dominant conference theme, with over 40 fringe events individual events, but all the talk will be around party unity and shadow cabinet speculation.
Lansley calls for £5bn NHS Brexit bonus as Duncan slams Boris
Former Conservative Health Secretary Lord Lansley called for extra NHS funding following Brexit. Lansley said that following the Leave campaign’s statement that the NHS should receive the £350m a week that is paid into the EU’s budget the public “have a right to expect a Brexit bonus for the NHS”. He added that this “should be no less than £5bn a year”.
In a documentary to be broadcast tonight, Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan states that his boss, the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, only campaigned for Leave in order to become the Tory ‘heir apparent’. In comments recorded the day before the referendum, Duncan suggested that Boris wished for a narrow Remain vote, avoiding the difficulties of negotiating the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, but also massively boosting his popularity with Conservative activists. The antipathy between the two Foreign Office figures is well known, with Duncan referring to Johnson as “Silvio Borisconi” during the referendum campaign.
Brecession to be avoided?
Suggestions of an immediate recession have been further allayed as Joe Grice, Chief Economist at the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said “the referendum result appears, so far, not to have had a major effect” on the economy, adding that economic performance “hasn’t fallen at the first fence but longer-term effects remain to be seen”. The first official estimate of the entire UK economy’s performance in the three months following the vote will be on 27 October.
Coinciding with the ONS’ assessment, the OECD revised its warning that the economy would suffer instant damage following the Brexit vote. Praising the Bank of England’s prompt action following the vote to cut interest rates, the OECD revised up its UK growth forecast for 2016 from 1.7% to 1.8% of GDP. However, the organisation did highlight that it still believes the UK will suffer a sharp slowdown next year, halving 2017’s forecasted growth rate from 2% to 1%.
Surprise: referendum campaign was negative
The Reuters Institute of Journalism studied a sample of 2378 articles from the 9 national daily newspapers to see how the British press covered the referendum campaign and some key findings were:
- 6 / 9 newspapers supported leave
- 42% of articles were pro-leave, 27% pro-remain
- Theresa May was quoted in 1% of articles
- Jeremy Corbyn was only the 8th most quoted Labour politician
- The tone overall was negative or very negative
There are some caveats though – the study didn’t include broadcast media, the BBC or Sunday papers and the results were presented at the European Parliament office in Westminster.
EU leaders, minus Britain, met in Bratislava to discuss the future of the union and ‘diagnose’ the various crises that undermined public trust in the EU. The leaders were under no illusion, with Mrs Merkel and Jean Claude Juncker saying there was ‘an existential crisis’ and spoke of the need for unity and a clear path. The discussions focused on migration, security and growth and after an embarrassing start where a river cruise had to be cancelled, the meeting ended with a declaration and a roadmap of various meetings, summits and reviews of current EU policies.
The declaration says the meeting is merely the first step in addressing concerns citizens have about the EU and lists some ‘concrete actions’, including significant new resources to protect the EU’s border, an action plan on youth unemployment and steps to create ‘a promising economic future for all’. The next meeting of the EU Council takes place in October.
Commission plays hardball with Switzerland
Switzerland has blinked first in a high stakes deal with the EU after long negotiations on implementing the 2014 referendum vote on limiting freedom of movement. The Swiss wanted to remain members of the single market, however was told this was not possible. The Swiss Government has now watered down its proposals and could indicate how the EU will handle UK demands to limit freedom of movement.
Schulz waltzes to Westminster
European Parliament President Martin Schulz is meeting Theresa May, Sadiq Khan and Jeremy Corbyn ahead of internal EU negotiations on how they will handle Brexit. Schulz will say freedom of movement is non-negotiable and urge the Prime Minister to invoke Article 50 soon. He added that the deal must be ’good for all sides’ and that the UK will remain a close partner of the EU after Brexit.
- 24 September Labour leadership election result
- 1 October Michel Barnier beings as European Commission’s Chief Brexit Negotiator
- 20 – 21 October Next European Council summit
- 23 November Chancellor to give the Autumn Statement
Party Conference dates
- Labour Party 25 – 28 September (Liverpool)
- Conservative Party 2 – 5 October (Birmingham)
- SNP 13 – 15 October (Glasgow)