Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and the For the Many podcast with Jacqui Smith.
There are so many theories about Lord Frost’s appointment to the Cabinet that it’s almost worth dismissing them all.
It’s a real “what did Boris mean by that” moment, one which Metternich might have been scratching his head at.
Having replaced Frost as National Security Adviser, a job he had precious few qualifications for, Johnson certainly owed him one.
And given the number of post-Brexit deal bumps in the road there have been, there’s certainly a need to up our game in unpicking some of the more outrageous consequences of what we signed up to.
For instance, one paper reported that it’s now impossible to export trees from Great Britain to Northern Ireland if they have soil on their roots. Yet it’s perfectly OK for Northern Ireland to take trees from Spain or Sicily. Work that one out if you can.
This is but one example of UK industries which have had to take a hit as a consequence of loose drafting or things which the UK side in the talks clearly didn’t understand.
Michael Gove has been trying to unpick this sort of thing with his European Commission counterpart, but now Frost will be taking over.
So what does this mean for Gove?
People are reading this two ways. Some see it as a humiliation for the Minister for the Cabinet Office and that he’s sliding down the greasy pole to be summarily despatched at the next reshuffle. For many that is wishful thinking.
I suspect the opposite is true and that the Cabinet’s only real transformational minister is heading back to run a department, and bring his powers of reform and regeneration to either the Department of Health or the Home Office.
However, any reshuffle isn’t likely to take place before the late Spring, or even late Autumn. So the jockeying for position will continue for a good few months yet.
– – – – – – – – –
On Sunday I read that Suzanne Heywood’s biography of her husband Jeremy had entered The Sunday Times top ten non-fiction bestsellers.
Jeremy Heywood was at the centre of UK government for 30 years, and was a fascinating character, rising through the ranks to become Cabinet Secretary under David Cameron and Theresa May. He very sadly died of cancer in November 2018.
I started reading the book on Saturday afternoon, as I was due to interview Suzanne on Monday morning.
I had little expectation of being able to finish it by then, as it is a massive 540 pages in length. However, I couldn’t put it down.
Far from being a dry civil service style memoir, it’s a real page turner. I eventually got to the last page at 2.15am on Monday morning, and then experienced that slight feeling of grief I always get when I finish a book I didn’t want to end.
I can’t imagine a single reader of this column not enjoying it. I highly recommend it.
My interview with Suzanne will be on my Book Club podcast next Friday.
– – – – – – – – –
It comes to something when a government agency stands accused of “misleading” a parliamentary committee, but this is just what HMRC is facing this week.
It’s over evidence it gave on the controversial loan charge, which has affected thousands of innocent independent contractors.
HMRC was more interested in saving its own reputation than telling the truth, the All Party Parliamentary Committee on the Loan Charge told The Guardian this week.
It has emerged that HMRC is using the very same contractors that it is attempting to penalise. Hypocrisy of the highest order.
The committee concluded that HMRC had “put management of their reputation and public relations ahead of telling the truth, including to the point of providing statements designed to give a misleading impression and withholding the truth when they discovered it. This is simply not acceptable for any governmental body and may… represent a breach of the civil service code”.
In addition to this the Government is implementing its IR35 legislation in April, which will further penalise independent contractors by ruining their cashflow and forcing them to be paid as employees but with none of the benefits of being employees.
Philip Hammond is entirely to blame for this attack on entrepreneurial people, most of whom are natural Conservative voters.
It is a scandal that a Conservative government should use Corbynista type anti-business prejudice in this way. Were I a Conservative party member I would have resigned over it long ago.
If Rishi Sunak wishes to ingratiate himself with small business people he would get a lot more than three cheers if he stood up on March 3 and announced in his budget that he was scrapping both the loan charge and IR35.
It’s what any proper Conservative chancellor would do.