POLITICAL & COMMERCIAL INTELLIGENCE

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Runners and riders

Penny Mordaunt’s elevation and Karen Bradley’s seat in the all-important marginal Midlands do nothing if not shorten the odds on the Conservatives having a third female PM before Labour has even had its first. It’s a busy field, though… After a few glasses of wine, a Cabinet Minister told us more than 20 names are in the hat for May’s replacement. The Tories will seek more consensus before acting, so as to avoid a drawn out race.

Patronage is power

Constitutionally, the Prime Minister doesn’t actually have much sway – the real power lies in the PM’s ability to determine other MPs’ careers. This is why Theresa May’s lack of room to reshuffle her Cabinet is important – and why her allies are trying to show she can still dish out jobs by appointing new ‘envoys’ to various industries this week. It is fair to question whether these newly created roles will demand as much loyalty as red boxes, though.

Local Authorities in for a shock

In answer to a Written Question, the Government confirms a new statutory code for Councils’ borrowing habits will be “in place early in 2018”. Whitehall has been careful to distance itself from some of the more ‘adventurous’ investments made by Local Authorities, especially around “land and property purchases”, saying these bets are made “without government consent”. The new code is likely to leave Councils fighting their own corner if investments turn bad – with an inevitable and significant impact on local public services.

Whitehall’s best laid plans

Single Departmental Plans (SDPs) were published with some fanfare just last year. These SDPS were due to run until 2020 and promised to “describe the government’s objectives for this Parliament and how departments are fulfilling their commitments”. Since then the Brexit referendum, a new PM, and a General Election have understandably got in the way – but that leaves an obvious question: what replaces them?

Division is not a British disease

When Donald Tusk, President of the EU’s Council of Ministers, told colleagues last night that he is worried about “the sense of powerlessness, where political interests, or bureaucratic inertia, stand in the way of achieving results”, he was not talking about the UK Government – his fire was aimed EU27 member states’ leaders.

It’s a helpful reminder that some commentators on the Brexit debate should raise their gaze to what’s happening in Brussels, too.

To address these obstructive ‘political interests’ in the Council, Tusk wants to publish ‘Decision Notes’ before each meeting, whereby he would explicitly list the divisions in the Council so that they can be addressed head on. This might or might not work but, either way, the chances of a potentially explosive document finding its way into the public domain would surely rise.

Full details of Tusk’s comments to EU leaders are here: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2017/10/17-tusk-invitation-letter-euco/?utm_source=POLITICO.EU&utm_campaign=939f38c2e2-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_10_18&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_10959edeb5-939f38c2e2-190078089

Going nuclear on Brexit

Senior figures across the EU27’s nuclear industry say they’re confident the UK can strike a deal with Euratom, essentially on the same terms as before, straight after Brexit. In our view, this reflects the most likely outcome of the wider talks – a series of independent agreements on some economic and security issues, acting as face-saving measures for what will basically be no-deal.

Entrepreneurial spirit

A junior Minister has called for the self-employed to face auto-enrolment in pensions schemes. There are good intentions behind the plan, but it has echoes of the NICs debacle – entrepreneurs tend to want less red tape, not more – and risks another wedge between the Conservatives and the aspiring working class voters who supported Thatcher and are, so far, proving most resistant to Corbyn.

Slippery boundary changes

Updated boundary change proposals will be published early next week. It’s unlikely to change much in Westminster, as they’re set to annoy all parties as much as each other. That said, boundary change is like an unpaid bill – the longer you leave it, the worse it gets – and it’s a reminder there are plenty of non-Brexit banana skins between now and 2022.

May throws her hat in the ring

The Prime Minister will appear on LBC's talk show with @IainDale today. It's not often a sitting PM takes to the airwaves to face listeners' questions - and it suggests May is not only trying to stay on through the next General Election, but would also want to fight a leadership challenge if the Conservatives try to remove her.

A little local difficulty

New DCLG figures show Local Authorities borrowed £6.8bn last year, with a large slice of that being used to buy commercial property. Aside from any moral questions about pushing up property prices, Councils face financial risks if they can’t find reliable commercial tenants over the next few decades (some of the loans are on 40yr terms, which is a long time for high street shopping to stay the same) and DCLG has made clear the loans are “not supported by central government”, so Councils will default if they can’t pay. Local Authorities need their property speculation to work out so they can pay for local services, so they’ve got a lot of eggs in one basket.


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