Failure to pass the snooper's charter would be a "resignation issue"

Alan Johnson throws his support behind Therasa May, in a potentially unwelcome way.

Theresa May is pressing forward with attempts to use the events of last Wednesday in Woolwich to revive the ill-fated "snooper's charter", if her appearance on this morning's Andrew Marr show is anything to go by.

The policy – officially called the Communications Data Bill – was left dead in the water last month after Nick Clegg withdrew his support for it, but the changed atmosphere could provide May with a chance to bring it back to life. She told guest presenter Nick Robinson that "Intelligence agencies need access to communications data. It is essential to do their job."

The bill would force internet providers to keep much more information about phone calls and online communications, and for greater periods of time, than is currently the case.

Later, on the show, former Labour Home Secretary Alan Johnson supported May, although it was a double-edged sword. Johnson, who garnered the displeasure of many civil-liberties groups during his own time in cabinet, said that "We need to get this on the statute book before the next general election, and I think it’s absolutely crucial". But he added "Indeed, I think it’s a resignation issue for a Home Secretary if the Cabinet do not support her," a statement of "support" which May might wish had been left unsaid.

That's because even in the changed climate, the Cabinet is by no means united about the necessity of the Snooper's Charter as a response to the Woolwich attack. The Guardian's Alan Travis reports:

None of the measures in the "snooper's charter" bill would have prevented the savage murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, the communities secretary, Eric Pickles, has said.

The cabinet minister, who attended an emergency Cobra meeting on Thursday, defended the role of the security services, saying they had been "very successful at stopping a number of similar plots".

If May does stake her role on the bill, the fight could get nasty indeed.

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Recess confidential: Labour's liquid party

Sniffing out the best stories from Westminster, including Showsec, soames, and Smith-side splits.

If you are celebrating in a brewery, don’t ask Labour to provide the drinks. Because of the party’s continuing failure to secure a security contractor for its Liverpool conference, it is still uncertain whether the gathering will take place at all. Since boycotting G4S, the usual supplier, over its links with Israeli prisons, Labour has struggled to find an alternative. Of the five firms approached, only one – Showsec – offered its services. But the company’s non-union-recognition policy is inhibiting an agreement. The GMB, the firm’s antagonist, has threatened to picket the conference if Showsec is awarded the contract. In lieu of a breakthrough, sources suggest two alternatives: the police (at a cost of £59.65 per constable per hour), or the suspension of the G4S boycott. “We’ll soon find out which the Corbynites dislike the least,” an MP jested. Another feared that the Tories’ attack lines will write themselves: “How can Labour be trusted with national security if it can’t organise its own?”

Farewell, then, to Respect. The left-wing party founded in 2004 and joined by George Galloway after his expulsion from Labour has officially deregistered itself.

“We support Corbyn’s Labour Party,” the former MP explained, urging his 522,000 Facebook followers to sign up. “The Labour Party does not belong to one man,” replied Jess Phillips MP, who also pointed out in the same tweet that Respect had “massively failed”. Galloway, who won 1.4 per cent of the vote in this year’s London mayoral election, insists that he is not seeking to return to Labour. But he would surely be welcomed by Jeremy Corbyn’s director of communications, Seumas Milne, whom he once described as his “closest friend”. “We have spoken almost daily for 30 years,” Galloway boasted.

After Young Labour’s national committee voted to endorse Corbyn, its members were aggrieved to learn that they would not be permitted to promote his candidacy unless Owen Smith was given equal treatment. The leader’s supporters curse more “dirty tricks” from the Smith-sympathetic party machine.

Word reaches your mole of a Smith-side split between the ex-shadow cabinet ministers Lisa Nandy and Lucy Powell. The former is said to be encouraging the challenger’s left-wing platform, while the latter believes that he should make a more centrist pitch. If, as expected, Smith is beaten by Corbyn, it’s not only the divisions between the leader and his opponents that will be worth watching.

Nicholas Soames, the Tory grandee, has been slimming down – so much so, that he was congratulated by Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, on his weight loss. “Soon I’ll be able to give you my old suits!” Soames told the similarly rotund Watson. 

Kevin Maguire is away

I'm a mole, innit.

This article first appeared in the 25 August 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Cameron: the legacy of a loser