The Waugh Zone Friday January 26, 2018


This morning’s Waugh Zone was written ’very modestly’ by Ned Simons. Paul is away.

Philip Hammond used a speech in the ski slopes of Davos yesterday afternoon to say he wanted the UK economy to only move “very modestly” apart from the EU after Brexit.

Pro-Brexiteer Tory MPs promptly lost their cool. The chancellor should “put a sock in it”, said Andrew Percy. “Not sure why some don’t seem able to grasp the policy” added Conor Burns. Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Tory backbench Brexiteer-in-chief, used a helpfully well distributed speech to accuse ministers of having been “cowed” by Brussels. Former Tory cabinet minister Lord Forsyth told BBC Question Time last night that May “needs to get a grip on her Cabinet”.

Hammond then quickly found himself with a metaphorical ice pick in his head from No.10. “Whilst we want a deep and special economic partnership with the EU after we leave,” a Downing Street source said. “These could not be described as very modest changes.”

Sent out to defend the prime minister this morning amid suggestions she is in danger of a facing leadership challenge sooner rather than later, Jeremy Hunt told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme that May had given the country “absolute clarity” about Brexit. “Anybody who uses the word timid about this prime minister is absolutely wrong,” he added. “The big thing that is happening that is absolutely not modest is we will be able to take a sovereign decision as a country as to where our regulations do or don’t diverge,” he said.

Hunt also told Today it was “a pleasure to talk about something different” than health. Which is a tad confusing given he resolutely refused to be moved out of the health secretary job a couple of weeks ago.

Fresh from getting pretty much utterly Mogged at the Commons Brexit committee on Tuesday, David Davis will this morning use a speech to remind Brexiteers why the planned two-year transition period is not de-facto EU membership. “For the first time in more than 40 years, we will be able to step out and sign new trade deals with old friends, and new allies, around the globe,” he will say.



Donald Trump has told Piers Morgan in an interview for ITV’s Good Morning Britain that he is ready to say sorry for re-tweeting Britain First. “I know nothing about them,” he said.

In a preview of the full interview due to be broadcast on Sunday evening, the US President told Morgan: “If you are telling me they’re horrible people, horrible, racist people, I would certainly apologise if you’d like me to do that.”

British and American officials, we are told by No.10, are “finalising the details” of a Trump visit to the UK “later this year”. Which probably seemed like a good punt if you’re the prime minister’s team given it’s still January. We can all look forward to a presidential visit on December 31, 2018. As long as everyone promises to be super nice to him.

Trump attempted to fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel overseeing the FBI’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, in June, The New York Times reported Thursday. The Washington Post later confirmed the report.

The president is due to address the World Economic Forum in Davos at 1pm (UK time). Also due to speak to day is Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell.

Sitting alongside May after their private meeting in Davos yesterday, Trump said he had no idea where the “false rumour” that he did not like the prime minister came from. “We are on the same wavelength in every respect,” he added. Shortly before meeting the president, the prime minister said women should be “respected” and not treated as “objects”.



Last night Jeremy Corbyn removed Lord Mendelsohn from his front bench. The Labour leader’s spokesman on business and international trade in the House of Lords was effectively sacked for having attended the Presidents Club fundraiser. The decision puts pressure on Theresa May over her decision to stand by education minister, Nadhim Zahawi, who was at the gala. But Lord Forsyth, who while highly critical of the event, said it was a “bit childish” to call for Zahawi to resign.

Four male star BBC presenters, Jeremy Vine, John Humphrys, Huw Edwards and Jon Sopel have all agreed to take a pay cut, the BBC reports. Their decision follows the huge row over equal pay for men and women at the corporation. The move comes ahead of an appearance by Carrie Gracie, who resigned as the BBC’s China editor, at the Commons culture committee next Wednesday. The Guardian reports this morning that sports minister Tracey Crouch refused to be interviewed by the BBC’s Today programme after a leaked recording emerged showing Humphrys making fun of the gender pay row.



Baroness Tessa Jowell was given an emotional standing ovation in the House of Lords after making a moving speech about her battle with cancer. You can also read her speech in full on HuffPost here.



Jon Lansman, the Momentum founder and now Labour NEC member, used an interview with BBC Newsnight yesterday evening to welcome the “new spirit of unity” within the party. “Am I the radical man? I think I’m the mainstream man. Momentum is the new mainstream,” he added.

The theme was being repeated at the same time over on Question Time, where Chris Williamson, the Corbynista MP who was recently basically sacked by Corbyn for being too Corbynista, told the audience that “the Labour Party is under new management”. He added: “Momentum are not extremists.”

In other Labour news, an investigation into Len McCluskey’s re-election as Unite general secretary will begin today. Gerard Coyne, who lost the recent race, has complained the union’s rules were broken in the contest. “This was an election called by Len McCluskey, largely stage managed by Len McCluskey, for the benefit of Len McCluskey – and which he won only by a very narrow margin,” Coyne says.



It’s Friday morning which means the latest HuffPost UK Politics podcast, Commons People, is out. This week Owen, Paul, Rachel and I have a chat about the Presidents Club, why David Davis finds it physically impossible to appear before a parliamentary committee and not commit news and what Boris Johnson was up to with his NHS cash demand. There is also a quiz about terrible what music DD likes.


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