Andrew Mitchell caught with cabinet papers on show

International Development Secretary photographed holding confidential papers on Afghanistan.

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The International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, has become the latest cabinet minister to be caught walking out of Downing Street with confidential papers on show (Danny Alexander was another recent victim). Sky News has blurred out the text but the notes reportedly refer to the government "welcoming" the news that Hamid Karzai will not seek a third term as Afghan President. His departure means the country's politics will be in "a better place," the papers state.

The government's distaste for Karzai is hardly a state secret but it's still an embarrassing gaffe by Mitchell.

Update: It's also worth noting that the papers refer to the endemic corruption of the Afghanistan financial ministry. It's a boon to those who argue that we shouldn't give any aid to the country.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Jeremy Corbyn secures big victory on Labour's national executive committee

The NEC has approved rule changes which all-but-guarantee the presence of a Corbynite candidate on the ballot. 

Jeremy Corbyn has secured a major victory after Labour’s ruling executive voted approve a series of rule changes, including lowering the parliamentary threshold for nominating a leader of the Labour party from 15 per cent to 10 per cent. That means that in the event of a leadership election occurring before March 2019, the number of MPs and MEPs required to support a candidate’s bid would drop to 28. After March 2019, there will no longer be any Labour MEPs and the threshold would therefore drop to 26.

As far as the balance of power within the Labour Party goes, it is a further example of Corbyn’s transformed position after the electoral advance of June 2017. In practice, the 28 MP and MEP threshold is marginally easier to clear for the left than the lower threshold post-March 2019, as the party’s European contingent is slightly to the left of its Westminster counterpart. However, either number should be easily within the grasp of a Corbynite successor.

In addition, a review of the party’s democratic structures, likely to recommend a sweeping increase in the power of Labour activists, has been approved by the NEC, and both trade unions and ordinary members will be granted additional seats on the committee. Although the plans face ratification at conference, it is highly likely they will pass.

Participants described the meeting as a largely low-key affair, though Peter Willsman, a Corbynite, turned heads by saying that some of the party’s MPs “deserve to be attacked”. Willsman, a longtime representative of the membership, is usually a combative presence on the party’s executive, with one fellow Corbynite referring to him as an “embarrassment and a bore”. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.