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4 November 2019

Introducing Evening Call: Where the New Statesman follows the news so you don’t have to

A new email condensing the day's events into a roundup for your journey home.

By Jonn Elledge

Tense, nervous headache? Overwhelmed by the non-stop tsunami of stuff the world is throwing at you? Well, Evening Call, our new round-up of the day’s big news, is here for you. Writing about politics in 2019 often involves staring mouth-open at Twitter anyway: we might as well offer it as a public service and/or monetise it, too.

The big story in Westminster today is the election to be the next Speaker of the House of Commons. Seven candidates, including the former deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman and current deputy speaker Lindsay Hoyle, were in the running for the post. At time of writing that’s already been whittled down to five. The final result isn’t expected until some time this evening.

There are three reasons this matters. The obvious one is that outgoing speaker John Bercow – who the good people of Edenbridge, Kent, are burning in effigy tomorrow, incidentally – has played a big role in setting the tone of this Parliament, deciding which amendments MPs get to vote on and so forth: the choice of his successor will likely play a big role in the next Parliament, too.

A second is that, because of the convention that the major parties don’t stand against the speaker, the result will effectively take a seat out of contention in December’s election – and in a narrow result it will matter which seat that is. Bercow’s former constituency of Buckingham effectively gives the Conservatives another safe seat. Unless there’s an upset, it seems fairly likely that Labour will be losing a seat, too. It’s not likely that this will be enough to affect the next government, but it’s not impossible either.

The other reason the speaker election matters is that, as our political editor Stephen Bush told our morning meeting, this would be the last act of the 2017-19 Parliament. That makes it the only thing still standing between us and the full horror of the election campaign. May God have mercy on our souls.

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Elsewhere, the Guardian reports that Downing Street has blocked the release of a parliamentary report on Russian intelligence activity in Britain until after the election. Dominic Grieve, the independent conservative chair of the committee responsible, has described the decision as “jaw-dropping”.

Meanwhile, everyone’s favourite blog named after a religious terrorist Guido Fawkes has tweeted that there are now a million more landlords in Britain than there are members of the trade union Unite, as if this isn’t in itself a terrible indictment on the state of this country and its politics. And the Tory PPC for Gower has been forced to apologise for saying the cast of Channel 4 reality show Benefits Street needed “putting down”. One suspects she won’t be the last candidate at this election who rues the day they forgot to delete their internet history.

Good day for…

The Brexit Party, whose campaign launch seemed to go uncharacteristically well, and which saw MEP Richard Tice gleefully hold up a copy of today’s Evening Standard splash (“Farage pushes the Tory campaign off track”) with the words, “It’s not often that George Osborne does us a favour”.

Fans of the Matthew Goodwin school of psephology* shouldn’t get too excited, however. As Stephen noted earlier Farage’s outfits have not historically been very good at getting their voters out. This could be as good as it gets.

Bad day for…

Conservative dignity, after the party replaced its “countdown to Brexit” clock with one counting the days, hours, minutes and seconds “since we should have left the EU if Labour, LibDems and the SNP hadn’t blocked Brexit”. This was, as has been widely noted, more of a count-up clock. It’s also, as TV writer Toby Early pointed out, counting the time since the point at which Boris Johnson had promised he would be dead in a ditch.

Everybody’s talking about…

Whether NHS hospitals should be allowed to charge for parking or not. The story involves three things that tend to make good copy – the NHS, some form of threat to the god-given right to use cars, and a left-on-left fight as the Labour party and the Greens bash their heads against each other about the most socially responsible choice here – so you can sort of see why. Nonetheless, this has, dispiritingly, been going on for days. More from the Mirror here.

Everybody should be talking about…

The Remain alliance in Northern Ireland, where the SDLP and Sinn Féin have agreed to stand down in three key constituencies. That could decrease the DUP’s representation at Westminster, where the party has been nearly unchallenged as the voice of the six counties since 2017. More on what it all means from Patrick here.

Quote of the day

It’s tempting to put the text I received earlier from my largely apolitical, largely offline friend Brad earlier (“Election? Oh yes, another one of them”). But let’s go with this from a spokesman for Boris Johnson: “The government will not be extending the transition period.”

Given that the transition runs out at the end of 2020, regardless of when Brexit actually takes place, that gives us little more than a year to hammer out a new free trade agreement with the EU. Remember how we weren’t supposed to have an election until No Deal was off the table? Oh, how we laughed.


Questions? Comments? Firm but respectful abuse? Tell me.

Also – the plan is for Evening Call to become an evening rush-hour email from next week. If you want this stuff direct to your inbox, you can sign up here.

*Professor Goodwin has been in touch on Twitter to note that he’s been documenting the squeeze in the Brexit party’s vote share for a month, and to link to his own newsletter.

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