A change of heart is as good as a rest..
Former Labour Party and Change UK MP Chuka Umunna announced that he has joined the Liberal Democrats. In announcing his move to the Liberal Democrat’s Mr Umunna said, “I was wrong to think millions of politically homeless people... wanted a new party and that he “massively underestimated just how difficult it is to set up a fully-fledged new party without an existing infrastructure".
In a move that has resulted in further criticism from Mr Umunna’s former Labour colleagues, Ian Lavery MP and Chair of the Labour Party said “Three parties in as many months... who's next? Put your immense popularity to the good people of Streatham... let's have a PV [People's Vote] on you and your principles."
The future’s bright, the future’s Boris..or is it?
Tory heavyweight, Boris Johnson overwhelmingly beat every Conservative leadership hopeful when it was announced on Thursday that he received 114 votes guaranteeing him a place in the final two.
Jeremy Hunt who was second received 43 votes beating Michael Gove who got 37, Matt Hancock received 20, Dominic Raab received 27, Sajid David received 23 and outsider Rory Stewart received 19 votes just taking him over the line to remain in the competition.
Andrea Leadsom, Esther McVey and Mark Harper are out of the competition as they didn’t get the minimum votes required to stay in the race, and its speculated that most of their votes will go to Boris in the next voting round.
With growing speculation that Boris Johnson is almost certainly going to be the next leader of the Conservative Party and prime minister anything can change between now and the next vote on the 18 June.
Straight talking politics: Lorraine Kelly style
TV presenter Lorraine Kelly said what many people in the country feel about the current state of UK politics in which she said “We've had two and a half years of people going round in circles and not sorting Brexit out. And now we've got a state in Britain where people are at each other's throats and it's got to stop." Ms Kelly said she was "really, really, really disappointed" that Ruth Davidson, the openly gay Scottish Conservatives leader, was not standing in the race. When asked by Piers Morgan if she remembers Tory leadership hopeful, Esther McVey Ms Kelly said “I’ll be genuinely honest with you, I don’t remember, it was such a long time ago, my show was separate from that show and there was no kind of interaction.”
Hancock’s half hour no more
Tory MP Matt Hancock has announced that he has pulled out of the Conservative leadership contest and said he is “focused on the future but the party needed a leader to succeed in the here and now"
In an interview with John Pienaar, Deputy Political Editor, Matt Hancock said “"I've been incredibly encouraged and humbled by the amount of support that I've had in this campaign. I've tried to make the argument about the values that the Conservative Party needs to hold dear, of free enterprise and support for a free society and being open and optimistic and enthusiastic about the future."
All remaining candidates will be in discussions with Mr Hancock in an attempt to woo his votes to their campaign.
A clever move
James Cleverly MP withdrew his leadership candidacy citing a lack of support for his campaign which required “a leap of faith to skip a generation and vote for a new MP.” It is also worth noting that since then Mr Cleverly has announced that he is backing Boris Johnson for leader which makes one wonder what he has been promised in a Johnson lead administration.
Welcome to Peterborough: The mother of all marginals
In the run up to the Peterborough by-election every political pundit and commentator predicted that the Brexit Party would win the election but as luck would have it Labour held the seat with a slight increase in its majority. Whilst this is a small victory for the Labour Party the real winners are the Brexit Party who took a lot of votes from both the Conservatives and UKIP and as the mother of all marginals, its anyone’s guess how future elections and by elections will pan out.
Scottish Labour Party back a second referendum
In what many will regard as the mother of all political U turns following a poll that suggested the Scottish Labour Party faced annihilation at the next general election, the Scottish Labour Party has announced that it supports a second referendum.
This policy shift will put Richard Leonard, Leader of Scottish Labour Party at odds with Jeremy Corbyn who is still struggling to convey what the Labour Party’s position on Brexit is. /
Leonard who is a strong supporter of Corbyn has faced criticism of the policy shift with critics saying it’s an un principled move that stinks of desperation and will legitimise the prospect of a second independence referendum in Scotland, but to those in the Shadow Cabinet who advocated such a move it will be perceived as a positive turning point that will resonate well with the people of Scotland.
Scottish Labour MP Hugh Gaffney attended a Scottish Affairs Committee event in Canada in which he spoke about the possibility of Scotland becoming an independent country. His remarks sparked controversy in what many have regarded as the Gaffanator making another gaff as he did last year over comments about Robert Burns that resulted him in having to attend equality and diversity training.
In his attempt to convey what many people in Scotland have said about the real prospect of a hard Brexiteer becoming the next PM, for some people in Scotland that will be enough for them to vote for independence, but it will up to party’s such as Labour for making the case for the union.
Since Rory Stewart’s admission that he smoked opium whilst attending a wedding in Iran every Tory leadership hopeful has come out of the woodwork to talk about their own drugs experience. First up was Michael Gove who commented that he took cocaine on several occasions as a young journalist and stressed this was before he knew he was going into public office, Andrea Leadsom said that she had smoked cannabis and that MP’s deserve to have a private life before being in office, Jeremy Hunt said he had a cannabis laced lassi whilst travelling in India as a student and Tory heavyweight, Boris Johnson said he tried cocaine and sneezed. Perhaps next week we will see a firm commitment from Tory leadership contenders to reforming current UK drug laws.
Friday 7 June - Theresa May will officially resign as Conservative Party leader in a letter to the Tories' 1922 Committee.
Monday 10 June - Leadership candidates have between 10am and 5pm to formally apply to enter the contest. Each candidate will need the backing of eight MPs in order to join the race.This is a change from the last Tory leadership election in 2016, when candidates needed the initial backing of only two MPs.
The 1922 committee will announce the final list of candidates at 5.30pm.
11/12 June - The candidates will take part in the first hustings event organised by the 1922 Committee.Only Conservative MPs will be able to attend.
13 June - The first ballot of Tory MPs will take place. Each MP will cast their vote - either in person or by proxy - by posting their papers into black tin boxes in Committee Room 14 in parliament.
The votes will then be counted in another room before the 1922 Committee's co-chairmen, Dame Cheryl Gillan and Charles Walker, will announce the results.
Candidates will be required to win 5% of votes (a total of 17 MPs) to move on from the first round. If candidates don't meet the threshold, they will be eliminated.If all candidates (or indeed no candidates) meet the threshold, the one with the lowest number of votes will be eliminated. If no candidates meet the threshold and there is a tie at the bottom, there will be a "frank discussion" with those candidates about whether or not they agree to drop out.If they don't, this could mean the ballot is voted on again.
17 June - The candidates will take part in a second hustings event organised by the 1922 Committee.
18 June - A second ballot of Tory MPs will take place with candidates this time requiring 10% of votes (33 MPs) to make it through the second round.The same rules as the first ballot on candidates being eliminated will apply.
19/20 June - A third, fourth, fifth and possibly sixth ballot of Tory MPs will be held, depending on how many rounds of voting are needed to whittle the candidates down to a final pair.At each round, the candidate with the lowest number of votes will be eliminated.
22 June - The final pair of candidates are expected to be in Birmingham to take part in the first hustings event in front of Conservative Party members.
Further hustings events are likely to be held in every region of the country.
22 July - It is expected the party's grassroots members will be asked to submit their vote for their favoured candidate by 5pm on 22 July.
23 July - This could see the announcement of the winning candidate by the 1922 Committee and might also be the day Theresa May visits the Queen to resign as prime minister in order to hand over to her successor.
As far as marginal seats go you can’t get any more marginal than the Westminster constituency of Peterborough which is currently being contested following the recall petition of former Labour MP Fiona Onasanv who was convicted of perverting the course of justice over speeding charges.
Political pundits and commentators are predicting that the Brexit Party looks set to win the seat which would see them return their first MP which would have serious ramifications for both the Labour and Conservative Parties, but the question is how so?
Firstly, if the Brexit Party wins as many expect it will, it will further reignite the narrative around the Conservative Party leadership debate to adopt a tougher stance on the withdrawal agreement with many pro Brexit candidates talking about the need to prepare for a no deal Brexit in the event of no further negotiations, but a strategy to out Brexit the Brexit Party will only divide the Conservative Party further, and may have the opposite effect for those pro Brexit candidates.
It is worth noting that over 60% of the electorate in Peterborough voted to leave in the EU referendum compared to just over 30% that voted to remain; therefore, Brexit will be a dominant factor which will shape the outcome of the by- election.
If the results from the EU election are anything to go by the Labour Party will be preparing it’s self for another electoral defeat which will result in more speculation over Jeremy Corbyn’s ability to remain as leader of the Labour Party, following the party’s disastrous performance in the EU election.
Neil Findlay MSP resigns from the Scottish Labour front bench
On Tuesday, Neil Findlay resigned from the Scottish Labour Party front bench citing internal battles as his main reason for doing so. In what can only be described as a major blow to Jeremy Corbyn and his Scottish allies, Mr Findlay was instrumental in helping Jeremy Corbyn be elected as leader of the Labour Party.
Mr Findlay who was one of Scottish Labour’s strongest political campaigners spoke about the internal battles in the Scottish Labour Party and further announced that he will not be seeking re-selection for the 2021 Scottish Parliament election.
In an interview with BBC Reporting Scotland, Mr Findlay spoke about the party’s poor performance at the European Parliament election and said “I played a part a part in that election and clearly I have some responsibility and I’ve never in my life shirked my responsibility. I have a difficulty with arguing for another referendum because you then open up the whole issue of another referendum in Scotland.
If the next one goes a different way, do you think the people who lose out in that referendum will stop calling for it, we are going to be in absolute neverendum territory.
In a parting shot Mr Findlay said “they’ve never accepted that their candidate lost and its as simple as that. They think their version of politics , if we go back to the era of Tony Blair, if we don a union jack suit and take an ultra-unionist position, that will somehow be the way in which Scottish Labour comes back, we need to win back people who went from labour and voted SNP, and if they think their politics is the way in which that will come back they are seriously deluded .”
Daniel Johnson MSP quits Labour Party front bench
Once tipped as a future leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Daniel Johnson MSP resigned from the Scottish Labour Party front bench and as the party’s spokesperson on justice, following the party’s disastrous result from the European Parliament election Mr Johnson said “I represent a constituency that voted 80 per cent in favour of remain, where over 20,000 people signed the Revoke Article 50 petition and where the electorate voted overwhelmingly for parties that were clearly for remain and pro-Europe. “
This election took Labour from first at the last European election to sixth in Edinburgh. My constituents are clear not only that we must have another referendum but that we must make every effort to ensure the UK remains a member of the EU. That is a view I share.”
Richard Leonard under pressure to resign
Richard Leonard, Leader of the Scottish Labour Party faces mounting pressure to resign as leader following the party’s poor performance in the European Parliament election and the resignations of Daniel Johnson MSP and close ally Neil Findlay MSP.
Boris Johnson summoned to appear in court
On Wednesday it was announced that Boris Johnson MP has been ordered to appear before District Judge Margot Colman for alleged Misconduct in office over the claims that the UK sends the EU £350 million a week.
Those close to Mr Johnson have said the decision to summon him was “extraordinary and risks undermining our democracy.” District Judge Colman said, "The applicant's case is there is ample evidence that the proposed defendant knew that the statements were false."
She continued: "I accept that the public offices held by Mr Johnson provide status, but with that status comes influence and authority."
Alastair Campbell expelled from Labour Party
Alastair Campbell, the former spin doctor to prime minister Tony Blair announced that he had voted for the Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament election as a result of the party’s unclear stance over Brexit.
Campbell, who is a strong campaigner for a second referendum and having remain on the ballot was informed by the Labour Party that he had been expelled from the Labour Party for voting for another party.
The decision to expel Mr Campbell resulted in a backlash of former MP’s and party members announcing that they had voted tactically and using the twitter hashtag of #expelmetoo with Mr Campbell announcing that he is likely to appeal the decision.
James Cleverly MP throws his hat In the ring to become next Conservative Party leader
On Wednesday, James Cleverly MP announced that he would be standing for leader of the Conservative Party. Cleverly, former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party said, “the Conservatives needed to look new and sound different to survive.” A strong advocate of Brexit, cleverly said “once Brexit has been delivered, we need to think about how we can make the Conservatives look new and sound different.”
They say a week is a long time in politics but if yesterday is anything to go by five minutes can change everything. Following Sunday’s disastrous result in the European Parliament election for the Scottish Labour Party, party members and members of the Scottish Executive Committee took to social media condemning the leadership and looking for answers. In response to the dismal performance by the Scottish Labour Party, Neil Findlay the parties campaign chief announced his resignation from the front bench five minutes into the Labour Groups meeting followed by Daniel Johnson MSP resigning as the party’s justice spokesperson.
Findlay, who has been an MSP since 2011 and a fierce critic of the Blairite faction of the Scottish Labour Party played an instrumental role in getting Jeremy Corbyn elected in 2015 as Labour Party leader. In an interview with Reporting Scotland Mr Findlay said “I played a part in that election and clearly I have some responsibility and I’ve never in my life shirked my responsibility. I have a difficulty with arguing for another referendum because you then open up the whole issue of another referendum in Scotland.
If the next one goes a different way, do you think the people who lose out in that referendum will stop calling for it; we’re going to be in absolute neverendum territory.
In a parting shot Mr Findlay concluded by saying “they’ve never accepted their candidates lost and it’s as simple as that. They think their version of politics, If we go back to the era of Tony Blair , if we don a union jack suit and take an ultra-unionist position, that will somehow be the way in which Scottish Labour comes back, we need to win back people who went from Labour and voted SNP, and if they think they’re politics is the way in which that will come back they are seriously deluded”.
So, what does Neil Findlay’s resignation from the front bench mean for the Scottish Labour Party? Firstly, Richard Leonard will be tasked with finding a replacement for Findlay and this won’t be an easy task.
Last year, Richard Leonard sacked Anas Sarwar and Jackie Bailie from the front bench and its unlikely that former Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont will serve in his cabinet. So that leaves Mark Griffin MSP, Jenny Marra MSP and Neil Bibby MSP as the only contenders to fill the current void, but irrespective of who is selected for the positions, one thing that is certain is that Richard Leonard will continue to face mounting pressure for his resignation with strong rumours of a leadership challenge in the coming weeks.
When it comes to elections clarity of message is everything and it has never been more important than now. Tomorrow the United Kingdom will vote in the forthcoming European Parliament election with many suggesting that the outcome of the election will be a pre-cursor for the outcome of a second referendum.
To others, and arguably most of the electorate, this election is about identity in which both leavers and remainers argue that this election is the single most important election in a generation which could dictate the UK’s future relationship with the European Union, but will it do anything to help overcome the Brexit deadlock and the short answer is no.
Yesterday, Theresa May announced the government’s new Brexit deal which was quickly slammed by MP’s from all sides of the chamber and in an attempt to gain support for the proposed withdrawal agreement it was suggested that if MP’s supported the agreement they would be allowed to vote on the prospect of a second referendum.
In short, the impasse continues, and the Brexit deadlock tightens even more which will put more pressure on Theresa May to announce her long awaited departure date or if the withdrawal agreement is voted down to resign with immediate effect.
This in turn will result in a Conservative Party leadership contest with Brexit being the main topic of debate at any leadership hustings, and whilst the media has often commented that Boris Johnson, former foreign secretary is the likely frontrunner to succeed Theresa May, its too early to make any solid predictions, but the reality is that a Boris Johnson lead Conservative government would potentially damage the Tory party brand in Scotland that Ruth Davidson successfully de-toxified.
So, what’s likely to be the outcome of the European Parliament election for Scotland? The Scottish National Party (SNP) have been consistent in their pro Europe message and are expected to win three seats in Scotland. Like the SNP, the Scottish Liberal Democrat Party has consistently projected a pro Europe message and are expected to win one seat, with the other two seats split between the Scottish Green Party and the Brexit Party, whilst the Labour and Conservative Parties are expected to not make any gains in tomorrows election.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats have announced their list of MEP candidates for the forthcoming European Parliament election.
Sheila Ritchie - A solicitor and former leader of Gordon District Council and Convener of the Scottish Liberal Democrats tops the list. A life long supporter of the European Union, Sheila spent two decades supporting small businesses in the Aberdeen area through her work with the Elevator scheme, Enterprise Trust and Business Gateway.
Fred Mackintosh - Edinburgh based human rights lawyer and advocate and a former councillor at Edinburgh City Council is also standing.
Catriona Bhatia - Former Deputy Leader of Scottish Borders Council and daughter of Liberal Democrat peer, Lord Steel, Catriona Bhatia will be standing as a candidate in the forthcoming election.
Vita Zaporocenzko - Case worker for Alex Cole Hamilton
John Edward - Director of Scottish Council of Independent Schools and previously the head of office for the EU Parliament in Edinburgh and chief campaign spokesperson for Scotland Stronger in Europe.
Clive Sneddon - Former Leader of North East Fife District Council and local government representative in Europe, Clive previously stood as a Lib Dem candidate in 2017 for the Westminster constituency of Angus.
The Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party has announced its list of EU candidates who will take part in the forthcoming EU parliament election:
Nosheena Mobarik – the current incumbent, she is also a life peer and former Whip in the House of Lords.
Iain McGill – a businessman contesting his 13th election, McGill was on the Scottish Euro list in 2014. He has told the Edinburgh Evening News that he hopes that the MEP role will be abolished by the UK leaving the EU “very swiftly”.
Cllr Shona Haslam – a former charity manager, Cllr Haslam took on the role of leader of Scottish Borders Council as soon as she was elected for the first time in 2017
Cllr Iain Whyte – the leader of the Conservative group on Edinburgh City Council, Cllr Whyte also sits on the board of Police Scotland
Andrea Gee – a former staffer to Nosheena Mobarik, Gee now works for Paul Masterton, Conservative MP for East Renfrewshire.
The Scottish Labour Party has announced its list of candidates who will take part in the forthcoming EU Parliament election.
Top of the list is David Martin who has been an MEP since 1984 followed by Jayne Baxter who was a member of the Scottish Parliament from 2012 to 2016 representing the Mid Scotland and Fife region and Craig Miller who currently works for Richard Leonard, Leader of the Scottish Labour Party and was number five on the Mid Scotland and Fife regional list during the 2016 Scottish Parliament election.
The other three candidates are : Amy Lee Fraioli, Calum O’ Dwyer and Angela Bretherton.
In what promises to be another rollercoaster and unpredictable week for politics, one thing remains certain is that Theresa May’s time in office is diminishing by the second and the Labour Party has emerged as the facilitators of Brexit.
In these unprecedented, never seen before times, were government ministers argue for one thing and vote for another or were the leader of the opposition wilfully ignores a policy decided by Labour Party members, its not just the constitutional question that has parliament in deadlock, but the responses from the two main parties.
This week will see Theresa May attempt to muster support from Conservative Party colleagues to back her deal, which also entails the possibility of more money going to the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to secure their support, but as the Beatles once said “ money can’t buy you love” and if there is one thing the DUP loves more than money is Northern Ireland’s close affinity to the UK.
This is likely to be a tough week for Theresa May as she attempts to secure enough buy in to get her Brexit deal passed by parliament this time, but at what cost. There is mounting speculation that in return for her Brexit plan receiving support she would have to agree to step down as Prime Minister and make way for someone else to take over but is this one of the many rumours floating around the Westminster bubble or is there something in it.
Theresa May is stuck between a rock and a hard place and it could be that she will succumb to pressure from the Brexiteers in her party in order to get her Brexit deal through parliament which would see a new leader elected by the summer.
This would result in a push from opposition parties to hold a General Election, whatever way you look at it, the likelihood of a General Election seems more credible as parliament remains in deadlock over Brexit or if May steps down.
After weeks and months of speculation, Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie, Luciana Berger, Mike Gapes, Angela Smith, Ann Coffey, Gavin Shuker, Joan Ryan and Ian Austen all resigned from the Labour Party citing a culture of bullying, intimidation and a lack lustre effort over the party’s stance on Brexit.
Similarly, pro-European Union Conservatives, Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston, resigned the whip from the Conservative Party with Anna Soubry stating that the “hard right, anti-EU awkward squad that have destroyed every Conservative leader for the last forty years are now running the Conservative Party from top to toe, with too many former colleagues fearing their local Conservative Association more than the electorate- the people they’ve been voted to represent.”
In an upbeat tone, Heidi Allen said “I feel excited, so excited in a way that I haven’t since I was first elected and a sense of liberation. I believe the United Kingdom deserves better, we might fail, but isn’t the prize worth fighting for and I sense the country wants us to fight for it too, and I for one are prepared to give it everything.”
Last week’s split has resulted in many political pundits and commentators making comparisons between the current split and the split that resulted in the formation of the Social Democrat Party in 1981.
So, what does this mean for UK politics? Although they say a week is a long time in politics, it’s too early to predict what is likely to happen, but the main difference between last week’s split and the split in 1981 is that it affects both the Conservative and Labour Party.
Like the SDP, The Independent Group has spoken about politics being broken and the dominance of the two main party structures coming to an end and politics as we know it no longer fit for purpose. Critics of the Independent Group have said like UKIP the new group is a one-party issue, and once that issue is resolved, the independent Group will be irrelevant.
However, that may not be the case and both Chuka Umunna and Heidi Allen have spoken about the bigger picture and the need to offer the electorate something more and better. Arguably, this is in line with the mood of the country and the electorate, who for some time have felt politically homeless and disillusioned with UK politics.
There is no denying that the political narrative in the UK has been overshadowed by Brexit and the ongoing constitutional crisis the country finds its self in, with important domestic issues being cast aside, but if the Independent Group is to have any longevity it will need to adopt policies that not only resonate with the British public, but also offer hope and incentivise people to vote for a new party and split with traditional ties.