One long-term decision in train – POLITICO | #ukscams | #datingscams | #european

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Good afternoon from the Conservative conference in Manchester. Fancy a scoop to lift your spirits?

KEMI’S (UNDECLARED) MURDOCH GRILLING: Tory leadership hopeful Kemi Badenoch held clandestine talks with media mogul Rupert Murdoch within days of joining the Cabinet last year — then failed to declare the meeting in transparency data, POLITICO trade hack Stefan Boscia reports. The Business and Trade Secretary — the bookies’ favorite to succeed Rishi Sunak as leader if the Tories lose the next election — met with Murdoch and other News Corp executives in New York in September 2022.

Inside the room: One of those present described the meeting as akin to a job interview. An official briefed on the meeting said a nervous Badenoch — who had not expected Murdoch to be there — asked her aides afterwards: “How did I do?”

Bang to rights: The encounter was never recorded in Badenoch’s public log of ministerial meetings. The ministerial code of conduct clearly states that “meetings with newspaper and other media proprietors, editors and senior executives will be published on a quarterly basis, regardless of the purpose of the meeting.” When contacted by POLITICO, a government spokesperson described the failure to publicise the meeting with Murdoch an as “oversight” by officials which will now be corrected. So that’s alright then. Get the full story here.


The government is expected to make an imminent announcement about junking the Manchester branch of HS2.

Conservatives wonder whether Rishi Sunak’s “long-term decisions” thing is just a slogan.

Liz Truss and Jeremy Hunt went head to head on economics at the Conservative conference in Manchester.

Nigel Farage got a hero’s welcome at the jamboree.

Anti-Brexit obsessive Steve Bray got himself into a fight.

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END OF THE LINE: The Cabinet could be about to make one of those long-term decisions we keep hearing about — to once again scale back HS2.

Yep, it’s true: The long-suffering bullet train remains the biggest headline coming out of the Conservative conference in Manchester, after Rishi Sunak refused to make a decision about its future in the run-up to the jamboree, leaving it to dominate the conversation.

Slow train coming: According to reports this afternoon, which Downing Street is not outright dumping on, the Birmingham to Manchester bit of the line has been binned off. Officials across government insisted no decision has been taken — which could just mean Cabinet hasn’t signed it off. “These reports are incorrect,” said a No.10 spokesperson. “No final decisions have been taken on Phase 2 of HS2.”

But but but: The Cabinet could still rubber stamp the decision during the Conservative bash, as revealed in the new Politics at Jack and Sam’s podcast last night, although Downing Street said there are no plans for a Cabinet.

Interesting comms plan: Conservatives in Manchester are scratching their heads about how the government managed to fumble the HS2 decision and allow it to cut across their conference slogan claiming Sunak is making “long-term decisions.”

For example: One Sunak supporting minister, in a moment of candour, said the HS2 issue was an example of the long-term decisions mantra “probably not” ending up borne out with action. A Cabinet minister, asked whether the indecision over HS2 versus the conference slogan was something of a mismatch, replied: “Hmmm.”

Weird behavior: Another Cabinet minister, asked the same question, insisted there was no mismatch, then locked eyes with Playbook PM in silence, as if winning a staring contest might prove them right.

The problem is … the indecision has sparked questions about whether the whole “long-term decisions” thing is borne out in substance, or whether it’s just another political slogan leaders like to trot out when the going gets tough, in a bid to convince voters everything will be different from now on.

On the less enthusiastic side: One MP who’s critical of the PM said the long-term agenda stuff felt like “window dressing. They’re saying the right things but no-one believes they will actually do any of it.”

Making the case: The person argued the announcement Transport Sec Mark Harper made in his conference speech, about cracking down on 20mph limits and the like, was toothless in truth, because it’s guidance rather than an outright ban. “The headlines are great. The problem is there’s a vaccuum underneath,” the person complained.

Quick digression: The North Yorkshire council in the PM’s own seat is expanding its 20mph zone, according to Richard Vaughan in the i newspaper.

Back to the matter at hand: One senior Conservative argued the announcements from Sunak 2.0 so far have been more about preventing or postponing things, rather than new ideas. “We’re rolling back a lot of what we’ve been doing since 2010,” the person said. “It’s almost as if we’re saving people from ourselves.”

On the more enthusiastic side: “There’s real meat in this long-term agenda,” said Cabinet-attending minister Andrew Mitchell, sipping an extra hot hot chocolate in the iNHouse lounge marquee outside the Midland Hotel. “Rishi is on top of the detail and good at the management. He understands issues and he grips them.”


LATEST THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS: Liz Truss went head to head at Conservative conference with the man she was forced to appoint as chancellor 12 months ago.

Eager believers: The queue for the former PM’s fringe, starting just 90 minutes before Jeremy Hunt took to the stage in the main conference hall, stretched around corners and up the stairs in the Midland Hotel. Her media aides told hacks to push to the front through the throng of salavating activists, ensuring widespread coverage. Those who voted for Truss in 2022, plus others looking to satiate a grim fascination with the “human hand grenade” herself, piled into the hot Trafford Suite at the back of the main hotel bar.

Bulletin hunters: The Truss machine was loving it. In case there was a shred of doubt about her motivations as an agent of chaos, Playbook PM hears her team briefed broadcasters she would be arriving via the back entrance — interesting stuff for someone who decries the reportage of politics as a soap opera.

Setting the scene: It was a packed house, including the likes of former Boris Johnson spinner Guto Harri, ex-Vote Leave chief Matthew Elliott and Mr. Brexit himself Nigel Farage. The cameras thronged around Truss and her husband Hugh O’Leary — almost as if it were a leadership launch event (although allies of Truss insist she harbors no such ambitions.) A huge circular light fitting, the centerpiece of the ceiling, cast a dim glow over the plastered floral trimming and green silk curtains.

Slogan stealing: Truss said her growth group (now boasting around 60 MPs and being talked up as an anti-government voting bloc) wanted to “make Britain grow again” (geddit?) “What we need to acknowledge is government is too big, taxes are too high and we are spending too much,” she said to applause, suggesting Britain should build 500,000 new homes a year and slash corporation tax to 19 percent. “I want everyone in this room to unleash their inner Conservative.”

Grave chat: Her close pal Ranil Jayawarenda told supporters the tax man “is breathing down our necks from the cradle to the grave,” while Jacob Rees-Mogg and Priti Patel offered similar crowd-pleasing patter.

A different world: It was an alternative scene to that of Hunt addressing a polite crowd of seated volunteers in the darkened and air-conditioned main conference hall.

Top lines: Hunt argued Britain needs “a more productive state not a bigger state” and said he would freeze civil service expansion. He pleased the crowd with a line about “de-banking” (which, despite the Farage noise, the FCA isn’t convinced is a thing) while adding a few gags about the SNP needing a bank for their motorhome fund — at which the PM, sat in the front row, clapped and guffawed with glee.

Missing in tax-ion: He didn’t set out a clear path to tax cuts as he promised in an interview with Radio 4 this morning, during which he said raising taxes now would be inflationary, although he did promise a more efficient state.

The big speech finale: “It’s time to roll up our sleeves, take on the declinists and watch the British economy prove the doubters wrong,” Hunt concluded. One member turned to another: “Is that it? That was a load of shit.”

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NIGEL MAKING PLANS FOR HIMSELF: Farage struggled to carve a route out of the Midland after the Truss event due to the throng of Conservative members wanting to grab selfies or shake his hand. He said Truss was “talking the language” of Conservative members and said Rishi Sunak’s conference speech this week is his “last chance to turn the ship around.” Clip here.

Media round: Farage was at the conference for something to do with his GB News show. The channel was getting big love from the Truss fringe, with the ex-PM herself insisting: “We need more GB News … long may it continue.” Farage was vox popping Conservative members near the GB News stand.

ELSEWHERE ON THE FRINGE: It wasn’t just Truss et al drawing crowds. The so-called New Conservatives fringe was packed too, with former Chair Jake Berry urging MPs to sign up and act as a voting group that can block a budget that tries to raise the overall tax burden. The event was opened by such bright young things as John Redwood and Bill Cash.

TINKERING WITH THE REAL FRINGES: Speaking at an Institute for Economic Affairs and TPA fringe event, Conservative MP Danny Kruger talked about “a huge movement going on globally to create essentially a world government that will have power to dictate to national governments what they should do in anticipation of another pandemic.”

WORTH A READ: Cabinet-attending minister Andrew Mitchell told the Guardian that colleagues should hold off on the leadership peacocking and get behind Sunak. “As you’re about to go into battle you don’t start arguing the toss with the commanding officer,” he said. He also contradicted his colleague Suella Braverman on quitting the European Convention on Human Rights, telling Times Radio doing so would “pull a piece of thread out of the international system.”

Speaking of Braverman … Jeremy Hunt was the latest to avoid endorsing her speech about multicultralism having “failed,” telling TalkTV this morning: “Suella Braverman wouldn’t use my words, I wouldn’t use her words.”

HALL ROUNDUP: Business Sec Kemi Badenoch quoted Nigel Lawson and got the biggest applause for her culture wars lines … Energy Sec Claire Coutinho announced more funding for social housing insulation and solar panels on industrial rooftops … Transport Sec Mark Harper said councils could be blocked from the DVLA database which is needed to impose fines on drivers … Education Sec Gillian Keegan said she would consult on imposing minimum service levels in universities, amid ongoing strikes.

Speaking of Coutinho … she made a couple of passable gags about Labour: “It’s no wonder Labour seems so relaxed about taxing meat. Sir Keir Starmer doesn’t eat it and Ed Miliband is clearly scarred by his encounter with a bacon sandwich,” she said. “Keir Starmer’s only green credential is his recycling of Ed Miliband, a man already binned off once before by the great British public.” Not side-splitting but could be worse. Labour would, of course, reject the sentiment.

IT’S ALWAYS 5 P.M. AT CONFERENCE: The earliest booze klaxon came from the Guardian’s Helena Horton, who tweeted at 12:46 pm that she’d found wine at a British Association of Shooting and Conservation event. Playbook PM advises against drinking and shooting.

STILL TO COME AT CONFERENCE: Tech Sec Michelle Donelan is on a panel talking tech right now in the CPS theatre of the Charter Foyer of the convention center … Food Sec Thérèse Coffey will appear at an NFU event in the Halle Suite of the Edwardian Manchester Hotel from 5.30 p.m. … Labour’s Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham will appear at an HS2 event at the Hilton Hotel from 6 p.m. … Security Minister Tom Tugendhat submits to a Q&A with Onward from 6.30 p.m. at the think tank’s marquee.

MICHAEL GOVE, MATCHMAKER: Advertising the LGBT+ disco happening tomorrow (9 p.m. Be At One in Deansgate), Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove branded it an “opportunity to meet the man, the woman, WHOEVER, who can be that special person.”


IN AMERICA: Former U.S. President Donald Trump arrived at New York Supreme Court for the opening of his civil fraud trial. Before entering the courtroom, Trump declared the case was “a scam” and “sham” — the BBC has a live blog.

IN UKRAINE: The EU’s foreign affairs ministers and chief diplomat Josep Borrell visited Ukrainian capital Kyiv to meet the country’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba — my colleagues have more. It comes as a confidential strategy document obtained by POLITICO suggests the U.S. government is more concerned about corruption in Ukraine than it publicly admits.

GLOBAL RECOGNITION: Two scientists — Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman — won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for creating the technology behind mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. The Telegraph has a write-up.

IN AUSTRALIA: Australia recorded its driest September since records began way back in 1900. It comes as fires rage in Victoria and New South Wales — via the Guardian.

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LEADING THE NEWS BULLETINS: Channel 5 News (5 p.m.) leads on Tory conference and the future of HS2 … BBC News at Six focuses on Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s speech at Tory party conference and speculation over HS2’s future … Channel 4 News (7 p.m.) leads on Tory conference including Liz Truss’ speech.

Tom Swarbrick at Drive (LBC, until 6 p.m.): Consumer Council for Water Chief Executive Mike Keil (5.05 p.m.) … BMA consultants committee Deputy Chair Mike Henley (5.35 p.m.).

BBC PM (Radio 4, 5 p.m.): Energy Minister Andrew Bowie … Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen … CBI Director General Rain Newton-Smith.

News Hour (Sky News, 5 p.m.): Pensions Minister Laura Trott (5.05 p.m.) … Tory peer David Willetts (6.30 p.m.).

Drive with John Pienaar (Times Radio, 5 p.m.): Tory MP Priti Patel (5.05 p.m.) … Laura Trott (5.40 p.m.) … former Downing Street Director of Communications Guto Harri (6.15 p.m.) … Security Minister Tom Tugendhat (6.25 p.m.) … Development Minister Andrew Mitchell (6.40 p.m.) … Children’s Commissioner for England Rachel de Souza (6.45 p.m.) … Onward’s Sebastian Payne and the Times’ Rachel Sylvester (7 p.m.).

The News Agents (Podcast, drops at 5 p.m.): Andrew Mitchell.

Tonight With Andrew Marr (LBC, 6 p.m.): West Midlands Mayor Andy Street (6 p.m.) … Rain Newton-Smith (6.15 p.m.) … Rachel de Souza (6.20 p.m.).

Iain Dale (LBC, 7 p.m.): Andrew Bowie (7.20 p.m.) … Tory MP Kit Malthouse (7.35 p.m.).

Farage (GB News, 7 p.m.): Tory MP Miriam Cates … Tory peer David Frost … academic Matt Goodwin.

Politics Hub with Sophy Ridge (Sky News, 7 p.m.): Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho … Foreign affairs committee Chair Alicia Kearns Guto Harri.

Cross Question with Iain Dale (LBC, 8 p.m.): Tory MP Anthony Browne … former Tory MP Justine GreeningSebastian Payne.

Peston (9 p.m. on Twitter, 10.45 p.m. on ITV): Foreign Secretary James Cleverly … Women and equalities committee Chair Caroline Nokes … Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham … Labour MP Rebecca Long-Bailey … Money saving expert Martin Lewis.

Newsnight (BBC 2, 10.30 p.m.): Treasury Minister Gareth Davies … Tory MP Danny Kruger.


REVIEWING THE PAPERS TONIGHT: TalkTV (10 p.m.): Comedian Geoff Norcott and the Evening Standard’s Emily SheffieldTimes Radio (10.30 p.m.): The Telegraph’s Annabel Denham and the IEA’s Reem Ibrahim Sky News (10.30 p.m. and 11.30 p.m.): The Guardian’s Pippa Crerar and the Mail’s Jason Groves.


LET THE PROPER BOOZING BEGIN: Foreign Sec James Cleverly appears at the EU delegation to the U.K. reception at Charter 4 from 6 p.m. … He’s also at a Conservative Friends of Israel reception from 8.30 p.m. in the Alexandra Suite A and Petersfield Suite of the Midland Hotel … Former PM Theresa May is speaking at the Conservative Environment Network’s environmental leadership reception from 7 p.m. in Manchester Central rooms 3 and 4 … Northern Research Group MPs launch their “manifesto for the north” in Central 5 of the convention center at 7.30 p.m. … PoliticsHome hosts its drinks event with former Conservative Chair Jake Berry at 9.30 p.m. … Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt appears at a Next Gen Tories event in the Victoria Suite of the Midland Hotel from 10.30 p.m.

Invites needed: There are also IEA drinks with Kemi Badenoch, Onward drinks with Gillian Keegan and receptions with the CPS, POLITICO and Sky News, among others.


IN THE MAIN HALL: Health Secretary Steve Barclay (11 a.m.) … Science and Tech Secretary Michelle Donelan (11.15 a.m.) … Communities Secretary Michael Gove (11.30 a.m.) … Justice Secretary Alex Chalk (3.05 p.m.) … Home Secretary Suella Braverman (3.25 p.m.).

BEST OF THE FRINGE: Foreign Sec James Cleverly submits to a Q&A with Chatham House from 8 a.m. at the Lancaster room in the Midland Hotel … Education Sec Gillian Keegan is among those speaking at a Conservative Women’s Org event from 9 a.m. in the Thatcher Theater of the Exhibition zone of the convention center … Foreign affairs committee chair Alicia Kearns appears at a New Statesman event about Ukraine from 9 a.m. in the Chadwick C room of Hotel INNSiDE Manchester … Education Sec Gillian Keegan talks apprenticeships on a Policy Exchange panel from 10 a.m. in Cobden 3 and 4 of the convention center …

And there’s more: New Conservatives MPs Anna Firth, Nick Fletcher and Miriam Cates chat tax in Alexandra A of the Midland Hotel from 10.30 a.m. … Cates, Jacob Rees-Mogg and ex-Brexit negotiator David Frost appear at a Legatum event for Conservative hardliners from 10.30 a.m. in the Trafford Room of the Midland Hotel … Ministers Tom Tugendhat and Victoria Atkins join a panel discussing fraud at 11 a.m. in Exchange 11 of the convention center … Tech Sec Michelle Donelan chats AI on a panel from 11 a.m. in Central 7 of the convention center … Housing Minister Rachel Maclean speaks to Young Conservatives about the “long-term plan for housing” (no sniggering at the back) from 12 p.m. at the Young Conservatives Theatre in the Exhibition zone of the convention center …

It goes on: Jeremy Hunt submits to a CPS Q&A at the CPS Theatre in the Charter Foyer of the convention center at 12.30 p.m. … Culture Minister John Whittingdale discusses the future of journalism at an IEA event from 12.45 p.m. in the Think Tent Marquee of the convention center … Polling pro Conservative peer Robert Hayward and pollster James Johnson talk public sentiment from 1 p.m. in the Trafford Room of the Midland Hotel … Conservative Deputy Chair Lee Anderson submits to a Q&A at the ConHome marquee from 1.30 p.m. … Former PM Theresa May will be signing copies of her book from 2 p.m. in the Exhibition Area of the convention center … Transport Sec Mark Harper chats aviation in Central 5 of the convention center from 3 p.m. …

Make it stop: Jacob Rees-Mogg is among MPs speaking at an IEA event which is (no joke) titled “is a Whitehall blob thwarting reform” at the Think Tent marquee in the convention center … Health Sec Steve Barclay is on a panel discussing how AI might save the NHS from 3.30 p.m. in Exchange 11 of the convention center … Conservative West Mids boss Andy Street is doing a Q&A with the Center for Cities from 3.30 p.m. in Room G1 of the Friends’ Meeting House Manchester … Security Minister Tom Tugendhat submits to a ConHome Q&A from 4.15 p.m. in Central 5 of the convention center … Communities Secretary Michael Gove joins former Downing Street aides David Frost, Nick Timothy and Katie Lam for a Policy Exchange debate about Conservatism from 4.15 p.m. in Cobden 3 and 4 of the convention center …

[Wails in anguish]: Health Sec Steve Barclay submits to a Policy Exchange Q&A from 5.30 p.m. in Cobden 3 and 4 of the convention center … Gove, Frost and Timothy, this time with MP Laura Trott, are doing another big-picture panel about reducing the demand for government from 6 p.m. in the ConHome marquee in the conference center … Business Sec Kemi Badenoch submits to a Q&A with the Spectator from 6.30 p.m. in Exchange 11 of the convention center.

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PANDEMIC LESSONS: Hearings for the second module of the pandemic inquiry begin. 

GET THE POPCORN OUT: Partygate: The True Story, a dramatization of the triggering saga, is due to air its first episode on Channel 4 at 9.30 p.m.


PACKED LUNCH OR PARL LUNCH: The lunch menu listing is taking a break while most of Westminster is shut down for conferences. Get some steps in and check the menus outside each cafeteria.

SPORTS NEWS: Protester Steve Bray was bundled out of a fringe event at the conference. POLITICO write-up (and clip) here.

DON’T YOU KNOW WHO I AM? Conservative MP James Daly got his just desserts from a guard when he tried to jump the queue, as Global’s John Sopel tweeted.

WHAT I’VE BEEN READING: Polling veteran Peter Kellner digs into the data for a blog post arguing “Sunakism” isn’t working. Meanwhile, Andrew Gimson writes for ConHome about how speakers in the main Conservative conference hall are struggling to rouse the thin smattering of listening activists.

ON THIS DAY IN POLITICS: On October 2, 2019 Boris Johnson announced plans to prorogue parliament for a second time (the first time was ruled unlawful) to hold a fresh queen’s speech and set out a new agenda.


THANKS TO: My editor Matt Honeycombe-Foster, reporters Noah Keate and Bethany Dawson, and the POLITICO production team for making it look nice.

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Emilio Casalicchio

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