The DRD Snapshot - 15 October 2021
15 Oct 2021
Snapshot begins with the terrible news that Tory MP, Sir David Amess, has died this afternoon after being stabbed earlier today during a meeting in his constituency. Clearly, any such attack must be condemned – and we note that one person has already been arrested in relation to the attack – but more broadly, questions must be asked (and answered) around what can be done to make politics a more civil discourse in this country. Recurring tragedies like this cannot become a feature of the UK’s civil society. For now, we remember the long service of a dedicated parliamentarian.
THE WEEK THAT WAS
Turf war: The Government has clearly decided that the Labour Party poses no threat to its electoral fortunes, so it has decided to fight amongst itself. When Kwasi Kwarteng asserted last Sunday that the Treasury were engaged in talks to bail out firms struck by the energy crisis, the Treasury not only denied that was the case, but decided to tell the nation that it’s ‘not the first time’ that Kwarteng has made things up. No.10 eventually sided with Kwarteng: there would be support for struggling firms, and the Treasury was to get behind it. Seeing the Treasury put in its place – by BEIS, no less – isn’t something that happens every day, much less under a popular Chancellor on the ascendancy. And therein lies the rationale for the slapdown from No.10.
Frosty reception: This week, the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator ébouriffé quelques plumes by presenting a new proposed legal text for the Northern Ireland Protocol. One of the standout proposals involves removing the European Court of Justice (ECJ) from its oversight role within the protocol, in favour of international arbitration. Many of those listening to the speech could discern the faint but distinct rattle of sabres, as Frost reminded everyone that, for the UK, triggering Article 16 remained on the table. While the UK insists the removal of the ECJ is a red line, senior EU figures are clear that access to the single market without ECJ oversight is a non-starter, as indeed is a new protocol. Of course, we’ve been here before. And whether this is all bluster ahead of the sincere negotiation remains to be seen.
Foreign football: Newcastle United has become the richest club in the world after a £305m Saudi Arabian-backed takeover. The move comes after the Premier League approved the takeover, despite public concerns that the Public Investment Fund, which will provide 80% of funds for the deal, is Chaired by Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. For many fans, the news promises to usher in a new era for the club, ending a decade of disappointment. However, critics of the deal have pointed out that this also shows signs of an increasing ‘sportswashing’ with more and more royals, sheikhs and oligarchs buying status through football. Whilst Newcastle fans celebrate, for many, the move has reignited the debate around foreign investment concerns.
THE WEEK TO COME
Back to work: Parliament resumes next week after an annual break that no one can quite explain or justify. Having spent a big chunk of the summer off work, MPs come back to Parliament for a fortnight just to break again in September for Conference season. Nevertheless, they’re back now for the rest of the year to progress the Government’s agenda, including the Judicial Review and Courts Bill (more on that below). Having delivered what was generally seen to be a good (if long) Conference speech, and making rule changes to further marginalise the Corbynites, we haven’t heard much of Keir Starmer in the weeks since. Boris, meantime, has been everywhere – including Marbella. Delivering his Conference speech in the guise of a comedian, the Prime Minister has managed to turn every terrible story – from empty shelves to cars running out of fuel to more Brexit nightmares – into a success for the Government. It’s a unique technique that he’ll be hammering home at PMQs.
Courting controversy: Next week, MPs will have their first opportunity to debate the controversial Judicial Review and Courts Bill. One clause proposes abolishing so-called “Cart reviews,” which allow those who’ve been refused appeal in upper tribunals the right to a judicial review (usually in asylum/immigration cases). With a low success rate for such claims, the Government believes that “this will free up valuable resources in the High Court and uphold the jurisdictional status of the Upper Tribunal.” Opponents say that the reviews are an essential last arbiter in sensitive human rights cases. It remains unclear whether new Justice Secretary Dominic Raab will align with the “incremental change” to judicial review preferred by his predecessor. He has acknowledged the importance of winning the support of the judiciary, but says the case for reform remains “powerful.” To coin a phrase, the jury is still out…
Short memories: Later in the week comes the motion to renew the temporary provisions of the Coronavirus Act. This will be the third six-monthly vote to renew temporary powers, and there has been some speculation that lockdown-sceptic Conservatives may defy the Government whip. Either way, one expects more strident criticism to be levied against the Government over its handling of the pandemic, coming hot on the heels of the joint health and science committees’ report on the handling of the pandemic. The Government needs to convince its backbenchers that it needs emergency powers all over again – presumably, it will be hoping that the select committees’ report wasn’t noticed by anyone.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
Say no more: Conservative MP for North West Wiltshire, James Gray, has been dropped from his ‘commander of charity’ role with St John Ambulance after something of a mix up at a recent Parliamentary event. Introducing Nadhim Zahawi to the stage, he referred to Zahawi as the Health Secretary, which is Sajid Javid’s job. The Daily Mail reports that when the error was pointed out to him, he allegedly responded: “They all look the same to me” – something Gray denies saying. Sounds like a question of ‘less is more’ for this MP.
Status Anxiety: How the Digital Markets Unit will raise uncertainty over the UK’s tech future
With Kwarteng winning his fight against the Treasury as mentioned above – and retaining his role in the reshuffle – he will be feeling a renewed strength of vigour towards his portfolio. Quite how that enthusiasm meshes with the establishment of the Digital Markets Unit, however, remains to be seen. As Cabinet’s leading free-marketeer, he is overseeing the setup of a body to sit within the Competition & Markets Authority that will have wide scope to tackle digital firms. It’s hardly free-marketeering philosophy, and may put a dent in Kwarteng’s step.
DRD Associate, Ed Bowie, examines the issues in this blog post.
THUMBS UP / DOWN
WORTH A READ
The Atlantic – Britain’s Distasteful Soccer Sellout
Politico – UK’s climate science deniers rebrand
STAT OF THE WEEK
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