Sebastian Payne Profile picture
@FinancialTimes Whitehall Editor and presenter of Payne’s Politics podcast. 📕 #BrokenHeartlands: Times, Telegraph, FT, Guardian book of the year https://t.co/aMiLyXcMbx
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8 Dec
🚨 SCOOP: Boris Johnson set to announce Plan B

Three senior Whitehall officials say further Covid restrictions will be announced imminently - including vaccine passports and working from home.

Ministers expected sign off proposals at Covid-O meeting.

ft.com/content/bd0a63…
Some governments officials say the timing of the further restrictions in England looks suspect, given No10 embarrassment over the leaked video:

“It looks very much like a dead cat,” one said, a reference to a media strategy to distract from bad news.

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Concern has been growing across Whitehall about omicron, with initial data suggesting the new variant is spreading much quicker.

Plan B has been ready to roll for some weeks. Cabinet Office is preparing regulations to go before parliament this week.

ft.com/content/bd0a63…
Read 4 tweets
7 Dec
💉 Tackling county lines drug gangs and crime is integral to levelling up aspirations.

And like much else about Boris Johnson's government, the policy is about reversing the last decade of austerity.

Latest @FinancialTimes column ft.com/content/a9ddc4…
Barrow-in-Furness suffers from county lines gangs, but the police have made strong but steady progress.

@simonfell: "We cut the head off the snake but another one soon appears. It’s going to take a long time and determination to work through the system"

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Towns like Barrow have a particular problem with drug gangs.

@LordWalney: "It has a relatively low crime rate but a sizeable number of people vulnerable to falling into a pattern of drug taking. It has gangs trying to access the market from the outside"

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Read 9 tweets
7 Dec
NEW: RIP LEP? Michael Gove is expected to scrap most of the Cameron-era Local Enterprise Partnerships in the Levelling Up white paper, now due in early 2022.

Govt officials say they're "weak, ineffectual and bottom up with poor geography".

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Cameron introduced the LEPs in 2011 to tie businesses and local authorities together to boost regional productivity, replacing the "wasteful" Regional Development created under New Labour.

Of the LEPs, officials say "most of them are a waste of space”

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Not all LEPs will go, but many are likely to be subsumed into democratic structures.

"The voice of business is critical to levelling up, but we’re looking to integrate them into local democratic structures such as combined authorities and county deals."

ft.com/content/044989…
Read 5 tweets
29 Nov
NEW: Ministers could introduce further Covid measures sooner than three weeks away if (big if) the omicron data looks bad:

“We could easily see further measures in the space of a few days if data looks bad.”

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Whitehall officials say contingency planning is underway in case more curbs are needed, starting with mandatory masks for all indoor settings.

Officials also examining potential WFH order over Christmas, but some govt insisters suggest it’s unlikely.

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But key thing to note is that Sajid Javid and other ministers are entirely focused on the booster campaign for all adults.

One government insider described jabs as “our primary and best weapon” against omicron.

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Read 4 tweets
25 Nov
💥 Inside No10: Conservative MPs blame drift and division at the heart of Johnson's operation for the government's recent failings.

A year on from Dominic Cummings departure, four camps have emerged inside Downing Street.

Analysis with @PickardJE ft.com/content/48eaa0…
One longstanding Johnson ally admitted “this is the first major turbulence we’ve experienced.”

Senior Tories are divided on whether this is typical for a govt two years into office, or is a sign of deeper issues regarding Johnson, and how he operates.

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Most Cabinet ministers see the current issues as "midterm blues".

One cabinet minister said: “Every government goes through a phase where something happens and the prime minister probably needs a bit of rest.”

Another added: “It’s just a bump.”

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Read 13 tweets
23 Nov
🌲 Middle England, not Nigel Farage, is now Boris Johnson’s biggest political challenge.

Thanks to the economy and the PM's governing style, the Tories should be worried about losing voters they won back in 2005.

Latest @FinancialTimes column ft.com/content/787726…
Johnson’s allies are convinced Farage and a new right wing force could pose a huge danger in splitting the vote. “The old enemy is rearing his head,” one says.

But if Farage doesn’t come back, Richard Tice and Reform have shown scant campaigning success

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Tory strategists reckon the next big battleground is a set of middle-class, middle-income, middle of the road, middle England seats which voted Tory because they were fed up with Labour. After 11 years in power, the cycle could be about to go into reverse

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Read 8 tweets
22 Nov
NEW: Senior Tories are calling on Boris Johnson to shake up No10 team after policy missteps and souring relations with MPs.

“Bojo has lost his mojo. There’s a mixture of anger and despair but the real frustration is with the operation, it’s amateurish”

on.ft.com/3cBfjef
Another close Johnson ally said fears over his standing in the Tory party were growing.

“I’m starting to get concerned. Supporters who were hitherto reliable are getting jittery.”

The MP added two upcoming by-elections “better be OK”.

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One prominent Tory MP: “The PM isn’t surrounded by people — be that cabinet ministers or advisers — able to challenge him effectively and point out when he is heading in the wrong direction.”

on.ft.com/3cBfjef
Read 8 tweets
20 Nov
Exclusive: George Osborne predicts Boris Johnson will U-turn on scaling back HS2:

“I don’t think high speed rail in the east of England up to Yorkshire is dead yet. You had a Labour party commit very quickly to build it. I think the pressure will grow”

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Osborne said on this week’s episode of Payne’s Politics the decision to curtail HS2E and Northern Powerhouse rail was “pretty disappointing.”

“It’s not often you can say this about Boris Johnson but he lacks ambition”

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Osborne said that “levelling up, at the moment, feels more like a slogan than a plan” and said Johnson needs to focus on delivery.

“You can talk about big infrastructure, but unless you actually deliver it, it’s going to sound a bit hollow.”

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Read 5 tweets
19 Nov
A "shambles", surrounded by "nodding dogs", potentially taking the Tory party into "sudden decline into defeat" - Tory MPs are deeply unhappy with Boris Johnson after a very difficult week.

Weekend analysis with @GeorgeWParker
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Tories are concerned about two growing concerns in the Johnson government. First is the Cabinet, with ministers often left out of major policy decisions.

“You need cabinet ministers who are up to the job. Are they serious or are they nodding dogs?”

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Second is the No10 operation. Johnson "thrives on chaos” but MPs feel grip is missing.

Dan Rosenfield and Simon Case are cited as having failed to avert recent political pile-ups. MPs worry Downing Street's political strategy is hard to discern.

ft.com/content/06095d…
Read 6 tweets
18 Nov
👧👴 The MPs' second jobs debate has shown the remarkable rise of the 2019 Tory intake.

The age split in the Conservative parliamentary party has become "the red wall versus red corduroy", with big implications for policy.

Latest @FinancialTimes analysis ft.com/content/63fb5f…
@FinancialTimes The 2019 intake is more diverse in sex, ethnicity and political outlook than older Conservative MPs, and represents the first generation of millennial Tories.

Alicia Kearns was not even born when Christopher Chope first entered the Commons in 1983.

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The rise of the younger intake is likely to gradually push the Tories in a different policy direction - with a focus on more interventionist economics, a liberal approach to planning reform plus a more pugnacious style of online campaigning.

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Read 8 tweets
16 Nov
As reported in @FinancialTimes this morning, Boris Johnson is set to ban paid consultancy work for MPs ft.com/content/ec3b88…
NB: these proposals do not ban MPs holding directorships or paid consultancy roles that are not deemed "political" or "parliamentary".

How is that going to be defined? i.e. if an MP is a strategic consultant to, say, a food processing firm, when does the work tip into politics?
The CSPL recommended a definition in 2018:

"MPs should not accept any paid work
to provide services as a Parliamentary
strategist, adviser or consultant, for
example, advising on Parliamentary
affairs or on how to influence Parliament and its members."

assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/upl…
Read 5 tweets
16 Nov
NEW: Senior Tories are prepared to back a ban on consultancy work by MPs - but Cabinet ministers warn could lead to a clear out of long-serving backbenchers.

"It is attractive because it would remove the lobbying risk"

Latest with @Laura_K_Hughes ft.com/content/ec3b88…
One Cabinet minister on consequences of banning consultancy work:

“I expect the people who have them [consultancy jobs] will be the people who the chief whip and others wouldn’t be unhappy if they decided they were not standing at the next election."

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A senior Conservative MP: “There are a lot of ‘former ministers’ here at the moment who seem to have lost a bit of purpose. And I’ve always been in favour of younger people being MPs.”

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Read 4 tweets
15 Nov
NEW with @PickardJE: Boris Johnson facing uproar from civil leaders and Tory MPs for watering down HS2 and plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail.

One senior Tory said that the move exposed the government “has never had a plan for levelling up”.

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@PickardJE Instead an entirely new high-speed railway from Manchester to Leeds, only some of a new line will be built from Manchester to a point close to Huddersfield.

The rest of the route to Leeds will consist of upgrades to the existing Transpennine route.

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The majority of the HS2 eastern leg is also being scrapped - a core part of the original business case for the railway.

Instead of 115 miles from Birmingham to Leeds, it will now only go 42 miles to the East Midlands Parkway.

ft.com/content/1b32c2…
Read 5 tweets
9 Nov
👨‍💼 Being an MP has become a full-time job with no room for outside interests.

The era of the “good chaps” theory government is over and its time to curtail or end second jobs, combined with a pay rise to match similar jobs.

Latest @FinancialTimes column ft.com/content/c2f963…
“There’s no way I could be an MP without my outside interests. My wife works full time, I’ve got kids and need the money for childcare.” To the average voter, a salary of £82,000-a-year might seem generous. But to listen to this MP, the struggle is real.

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Owen Paterson showed the checks and balances work. No10’s efforts to scrap the standards system to save him failed and the court of public and parliamentary opinion did for him. But the more voters hear of MPs’ side gigs the greater the clamour for reform

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Read 13 tweets
3 Nov
As you may have possibly heard, the @FinancialTimes paywall is down so it's #FTfreetoday! Here's some top political reads:

- @PickardJE and yours truly on Hartlepool and whether Labour can win back its lost heartlands (with some stunning photography)

ft.com/content/23a35c…
- Inside Boris Johnson's money network. @GeorgeWParker and our crack investigative network take you into how the Tory party transformed its fundraising operation

www-ft-com.ezp.lib.cam.ac.uk/content/8c6041…
- The new north: my essay from Consett on Labour's lost northern heartlands and how England has changed since the age of deindustrialisation

ft.com/content/929022…
Read 14 tweets
29 Oct
💥 FT Exclusive: @EmmanuelMacron warns Boris Johnson the UK’s international “credibility” is on the line in the Brexit disputes over fishing rights and Northern Ireland.

“Make no mistake, it is not just for the Europeans but all of their partners.”

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Macron tells @labboudles he was sure of “goodwill” but:

“When you spend years negotiating a treaty and then a few months later you do the opposite of what was decided on the aspects that suit you the least, it is not a big sign of your credibility.”

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Macron said there had been “no provocation, no tension” over fishing rights, but added “we need to respect each other and respect the word that has been given”.

The president said he had “never created pointless controversy” with post-Brexit disputes.

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Read 5 tweets
26 Oct
‘Levelling up’ 🤝 'science superpower'

These two policy goals naturally chime together, which shouldn't be forgotten in tomorrow's Budget. Without Dominic Cummings, No10 shouldn't resile from a bold R&D spending strategy.

M'latest @FinancialTimes column ft.com/content/d35851…
@FinancialTimes “Go and do something that will actually get you a job,” my school tutor advised me before university. I duly went off to gain a BSc in Computer Science,

Although I displayed limited scientific aptitude, CompSci was one of the best decisions of my life.

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Our leaders have strained relations with science. Wilson embraced “the white heat” of change, but failed to see it through. Thatcher sounded the alarm on climate change but didn't act. Now Boris Johnson now wants to follow the success of the AZ vaccine.

ft.com/content/d35851…
Read 6 tweets
22 Sep
I'm perplexed as to why so many in Westminster (especially in Labour) think Boris Johnson will call an early election.

#1: The Tories' polling lead is quite soft, as seen in the dip over the NI tax rises. It would be very May '17/Trudeau to go to the polls in such circumstances
#2: Things are about to get dicey for Johnson. A difficult winter for the NHS lies ahead with flu and Covid. Plus energy quandaries. Plus inflation and cost of living.

In the words one of former Tory cabinet ministers, "this is about as good as its gets for Boris"
#3: Johnson has done very little on Levelling Up, in part due to the pandemic. The formation of @luhcgovuk last week is an attempt to resolve.

As the PM told me in #brokenheartlands, he needs as much time as possible to fulfil pledges to 2019 first time Tory voters.
Read 10 tweets
21 Sep
🗳 Levelling Up shouldn’t just be about rebalancing England’s economy, it’s about the big democratic deficit too.

So Boris Johnson should replace the House of Lords with a chamber of mayors and reps from devolved parliaments.

@FinancialTimes column ft.com/content/269eb4…
@FinancialTimes The departure of @DanJarvisMP from South Yorkshire shows why mayors need and deserve a national platform. Our most compelling politicians are now found outside on Westminster, yet they lack influence in power and policy.

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Robert Jenrick pledged more devolution and mayors to fulfill Levelling Up, all eyes are on whether Michael Gove will do the same.

One MP who knows him well thinks so. "Michael is a big believer in localism, even when it’s uncomfortable for Whitehall"

ft.com/content/269eb4…
Read 4 tweets
8 Sep
NEW: Ministers and officials are braced for ‘catastrophic’ end to Universal Credit uplift next month.

Government’s internal analysis suggests homelessness and poverty will rise and food bank use will soar. But insiders say no U-turn.

ft.com/content/ea096a… via @financialtimes
One well-placed Whitehall official on ending the £20 a week uplift:

“The internal modelling of ending the UC uplift is catastrophic. Homelessness and poverty are likely to rise, and food banks usage will soar. It could be the real disaster of the autumn”

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One minister agrees: “There’s no doubt that this is going to have a serious impact on thousands of people and colleagues are really worried, I think it will definitely eclipse social care as a political problem. It’s not just red wall MPs.”

ft.com/content/ea096a…
Read 6 tweets
7 Sep
🦠 Britain’s approach to the pandemic has become see no Covid, hear no Covid, speak no Covid.

Boris Johnson hopes to avoid further measures with vaccine passports but can he win the argument with the Tory party and beyond?

Latest @FinancialTimes column ft.com/content/f82929…
@FinancialTimes Whitehall is focused on how to get through the winter, but there's "almost zero chance" of October lockdown.

If the situation worsens, Johnson would first try everything else: mandatory masks, then social distancing, then limits on indoor gatherings.

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Vaccine passports are the govt's most immediate tool, deemed discriminatory by some, common sense by others. They clash with conceived notions most Britons hold about their relationship with the state, but Johnson is still pushing ahead regardless.

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Read 5 tweets