David lidington

David Lidington’s new nickname

David Lidington found himself briefly trending on Twitter over the weekend after reports began to circulate that May’s de facto deputy was being talked up as a caretaker prime minister. The idea was that Lidington – a former Europe minister who voted Remain – could step in for May and act as a unifying leader who could reach some form of Brexit consensus in the House of Commons – later standing aside for a full blown leadership contest to take place. However, owing to the fact that Brexiteers suspected this form of Brexit consensus would involve reaching across the House and pivoting to a soft Brexit, the idea quickly fell

The Spectator’s Notes | 1 November 2018

At the Brexit-related cabinet last week — as revealed by James Forsyth in these pages — David Lidington made an intervention in support of the Prime Minister’s approach to the negotiations. He was, he said, the only person present who had been an MP at the time of ‘Black Wednesday’, when the pound fell out of the ERM on 16 September 1992. It had been so disastrous and divisive, he went on, that the government must at all costs avoid a repeat over Brexit. Many heads nodded sagely. Mr Lidington, a moderate and public-spirited man, was quite right about the pain caused to his party 26 years ago; but the

‘She will decide’

David Lidington is the most powerful minister you’ve never heard of. He is Theresa May’s de facto deputy, tasked with both supervising the domestic agenda and solving the trickiest Brexit conundrums. Much of government business is, nowadays, done through committees of cabinet members: he chairs seven such committees and sits on another 20. ‘I am the man who stands on the stage spinning plates on the top of poles,’ he says cheerfully. ‘Every now and then the PM gives me another plate and I have to keep that going as well.’ That’s hardly a metaphor that inspires much confidence in the running of the government, but everybody will know what

David Lidington’s Conservative conference speech, full text

“Yesterday morning, as Lord Chancellor, I joined our country’s senior judges and lawyers in Westminster Abbey to mark the opening of the new legal year. Then we processed together across Parliament Square to Westminster Hall – the heart of our democracy. It was a great occasion, a celebration of the long history and ancient traditions of our legal system. But at heart, what was being honoured was not wigs and robes, nor ritual and protocol, but the living constitutional principles which that ceremony affirmed. The rule of law and the independence of the judiciary underpin our democracy and lie at the heart of our way of life. They are the

Michael Gove’s agenda lives on in prisons

There’s a good reason ministerial conference speeches are often so achingly dull. Because such occasions are inevitably party political – featuring punchy attacks on Labour and so on – civil service policy experts and departmental speechwriters aren’t allowed anywhere near them, for fear of breaking various Whitehall codes. So the speeches are stitched together by the minister, his or her special advisers, and nervous party apparatchiks who are mainly focused not on policy announcements or the department’s agenda, but on making sure the Prime Minister’s team is kept happy. But though there was a faint whiff of that about David Lidington’s speech earlier today, the justice secretary made a few

David Lidington resets relations with the judges – but can it last?

As the Brexit negotiations kicked off in Brussels yesterday, an equally delicate act of diplomacy took place in London at the Royal Courts of Justice, where David Lidington was sworn in as the new Lord Chancellor. Ceremony aside, this was a big political moment, involving one of the most important speeches of Mr Lidington’s career so far. He faced a tough audience. Relations between the judiciary and the government had completely broken down before the general election, with the Lord Chief Justice going on the record to criticise ministers in brutally clear terms. So as I suggested last week, Lidington urgently needed to butter up the judges and reset relations with them. He appears to

Butter up the judges, release some prisoners: how David Lidington can survive as Justice Secretary

Liz Truss, I think it’s fair to say, was miscast as justice secretary. She was appointed only last July by Theresa May and demoted rather cruelly on Sunday night to be Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Truss is far more capable than her critics allow; but I would still argue that the job wasn’t right for her. Before her move to 102 Petty France, she had been an impressive education minister under Michael Gove and – bar one excruciating speech – was said to be a very capable environment secretary. But justice was a bad fit. There are a few reasons for this. Whitehall whispers suggest that Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, didn’t think she was ready to run such a

PMQs: Emily Thornberry’s battle over the customs union

With Theresa May away, it was David Lidington v Emily Thornberry at PMQs today. The shadow foreign secretary asked Lidington if the UK would stay in the customs union, Lidington danced round the question. But Thornberry, unlike Corbyn, kept coming back to the same question. By the end of the exchanges, it was clear that Lidington wasn’t going to answer the question. Thornberry had also armed herself with a string of pro-Remain quotes from Lidington from before 23 June, which she deployed quite effectively. But Lidington is an effective, enough, despatch box performer and managed to avoid incurring serious damage. Interestingly Thornberry committed Labour to staying inside the customs union—which would

Jeremy Corbyn is right: Cameron should have made his EU speech in the Commons

With David Cameron in Chippenham, it was left to the Europe Minister David Lidington to respond to Jeremy Corbyn’s urgent question. Cameron’s absence was poor form. Lidington manfully tried to claim that it was explained by the fact the government didn’t know when Tusk would publish the draft, but the media were only alerted that Cameron would give a speech in Chippenham after Tusk had said the deal would be announced at midday today. Number 10 is defending Cameron’s absence by pointing to the fact he’d already decided to give a statement to parliament tomorrow—once the MPs have had a chance to examine the deal. But it was entirely predictable

The Great Brussels Steeplechase: runners and riders to be Britain’s next European Commissioner

Next week, EU leaders will meet to parcel out the top jobs in the next European Commission. So David Cameron doesn’t have long to decide who he is going to nominate—and Berlin is already bugging him for his pick. Here’s The Spectator‘s run down of the runners and riders. Andrew Lansley: Until recently the firm favourite. But in recent weeks support for him has fallen away. No. 10 has been irritated by the hints he has dropped about having been offered the job. It has also grasped that nominating someone as compensation for dropping them from the Cabinet is a recipe for getting a second-tier job. David Willetts: The science

Europe Minister keeps close eye on Commissioner race

What do Foreign Office ministers think about the possibility that Andrew Lansley could be the next European Commissioner? David Lidington was clearly intrigued by Isabel’s column in the Telegraph this morning which says that Tory backbenchers are not fans at all. The Europe Minister, who would have to work closely with Lansley, retweeted the article with the headline ‘the mysterious Mr Lansley will hardly set Brussels alight’. He then realised that this might not look very good, and tweeted: ‘Apologies. Was trying to read last article not retweet it. Retweet def not my view.’ Presumably he doesn’t mean that he does think Lansley will set Brussels on fire? Of course,

Is it fair that anti-HS2 ministers could disappear for key votes?

Where will the ministers whose constituencies will be affected by HS2 be when the legislation reaches its key votes in the Commons? As I said on Friday, the chances are that some of them might suddenly find they need to travel overseas quite urgently when MPs vote at second reading on Monday, and again at report stage and third reading later on. The ministers in question are as follows: David Lidington – Con – Aylesbury and Buckinghamshire. Minister of State for Europe. Dominic Grieve – Con – Beaconsfield. Attorney General. Jeremy Wright – Con – Kenilworth and Southam. Minister for Prisons and Rehabilitation. Nick Hurd – Con – Ruislip, Northwood

What Tory ministers think about European reform: exclusive details

Remember that shopping list of EU reforms that Conservative party members sent ministers in the summer? Well, they’ve finally got a reply. I’ve got hold of a letter to members from Europe Minister David Lidington, which answers some of their concerns and gives us an interesting glimpse into where Conservative party thinking currently stands on European reform. The first point worth making is that while Lidington’s letter is very upbeat about the prospects of reform in Europe, the minister focuses on the opportunities for Europe-wide reform, rather than the likelihood of a new relationship with the EU for the UK. Of course, these changes can take place as part of

Europe Minister won’t give renegotiation specifics

There’s ‘no secret plot to get Britain out of the EU’ declared David Lidington on the Sunday Politics. In an interview with Andrew Neil, the Europe Minister was determinedly vague on the issue of what powers the next Conservative manifesto will seek a mandate to repatriate. But he made clear that the free movement of people is not going to be part of the renegotiation nor will Britain seek the right to strike its own trade deals with other countries. Having given the speech, David Cameron and his team don’t want to give a running commentary on what they might or might not seek to change about Britain’s terms of

Pressure on Cameron for reshuffle red meat on Europe minister

As he relaxes on a Majorcan beach, David Cameron might find his mind wandering to his plans for next month’s reshuffle. The latest demand from ‘influential figures’ is, according to Tim Shipman in the Daily Mail, that he replace Europe Minister David Lidington with a more Eurosceptic minister. Supporting those influential figures from the sidelines is a hefty group of Conservative backbenchers who want to see a bit more welly on the European issue. Some of the names mooted by the Mail – Graham Brady and Mark Francois – would certainly do that but they are no friends of the current leadership. Shipman’s story does not say whether Cameron will

Britain: a European pariah?

The British government has worked hard to counteract any perception that it is being marginalised in Europe. Before the election, the Tory party went around to different capitals to assuage any fears that may have existed. The message: despite the Conservative departure from the EPP, and their anti-Lisbon Treaty remonstrations, they would not be a problem. They would be businesslike. Once in power, David Cameron unleashed his charm, showcased his polyglot Deputy Prime Minister and sent William Hague out to make everyone feel that they had a partner not a pariah in London. Further, the energetic and amiable David Lidington replaced the combative Mark Francois as Europe Minister. Links with

Ellwood returns as PPS to the Minister for Europe

Tobias Ellwood has been appointed as PPS to the Europe Minister David Lidington. The vacancy had been created when Adam Holloway decided to resign from the job so that he could vote for the EU referendum motion. This appointment is a nifty piece of party management. Ellwood was Liam Fox’s PPS but when Fox resigned, the new Defence Secretary Philip Hammond decided, to the resentment of some Tory backbenchers, not to keep him on. Instead, Hammond chose to appoint Clare Perry, a member of the 2010 intake who had worked for George Osborne and Hammond in opposition. Some Tory MPs, and particularly those who felt passed over, saw this as evidence that

Europe Minister’s PPS quits over referendum vote

Adam Holloway, PPS to the Europe Minister David Lidington, has just effectively quit his job by giving a speech setting out his intention to vote for the motion. That the Europe Minister’s PPS is walking over this issue is an embarrassment for the government and a sign of how strongly opinion on this issue is running. The most striking thing about William Hague’s speech was the near silence in which it was listened to on the Tory benches. When Hague mocked the motion, he didn’t draw laughs from even the most sycophantic backbenchers. Whatever happens tonight, this debate has widened divisions on the Tory side. There is a real danger

Remember this?

“We will want to prevent EU judges gaining steadily greater control over our criminal justice system by negotiating an arrangement which would protect it. That will mean limiting the European Court of Justice’s jurisdiction over criminal law…” That was David Cameron a year ago when he presented the Tories’ EU policy ahead of the General Election. As we all know, much has changed since then. The pledge to ‘repatriate’ powers has been dropped, a victim of the Coalition deal. But despite this, MPs now have a huge opportunity to make good on pledges to regain control over EU justice laws, and even to repatriate powers should they want to –

The broken Lib Dem pledge that didn’t provoke riots

Coalition politics sure does throw up some peculiar situations. Take today’s vote on the EU Bill. As part of the horse-trading that’s going on around it, Tory Eurosceptics have put forward a series of amendments to mould the Bill more to their liking. Of these, the most striking is Peter Bone’s suggestion that Parliament should legislate for a referendum, not on this minor constitutional change or that, but on whether we should leave the EU altogether. So far, so unsurprising. But the curious part of all this is that the Lib Dems once offered an in-out referendum on Europe themselves. If you remember back to the row over Lisbon, Clegg’s