Ben Riley-Smith Profile picture
Political Editor, The Daily Telegraph. Previously on the Trump beat in Washington. DMs open.
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May 17 5 tweets 1 min read
A few very top-down thoughts on Northern Ireland Protocol move today

1/ For 18 months UK has been mulling over unilateral action. Now they've properly fired the starting gun. So a significant moment. But... 2/... No legislation has been published (was speculated it would be in Queen's Speech, then coming today, but nothing yet.) Nor has it been laid before Parliament.

So it remains a rhetorical warning... which means EU response likely also to remain rhetorical, for now.
May 5 7 tweets 2 min read
I talked to a load of Tory MPs / councillors / activists today who have knocked doors in recent weeks

Amid varying reflections some common ones kept being made. In no particular order…

1/ partygate + new scandals put off scores of voters from the Tories 2/ cost of living and what was being done to help was one of the most common issues raised

3/ the PM’s standing with voters is not what it was in 2019 (which matches approval ratings)
Apr 21 5 tweets 1 min read
Some of the key questions now which will determine how bad the partygate fallout could get…

1/ How impartial will the Standards Committee be, specifically the Tory MPs on it? (Ie is it realistic they could conclude PM did mislead Parli) 2/ How many more fines (if any) will the PM get? He was at up to 6 of the events being investigated by the Met.

The bday bash sounds like on the milder end of those six per sources familiar. One was the gathering in his flat.
Apr 5 6 tweets 2 min read
💥A new No 10 - No 11 clash over the energy security strategy is emerging tonight…

No10 / BEIS wanted hundreds of millions spent on upgrading households’ energy efficiency to drop down bills… but Treasury said no.… The proposal was to expand the Energy Company Obligation scheme.

The Eco scheme pays for insulation / new boilers / other energy efficiency measures for the poorest households.

Number 10 and BEIS wanted it increased with taxpayer cash…
Apr 4 4 tweets 2 min read

Covid fines have been issued over a ‘boozy’ leaving party for the civil servant in charge of writing the rules.

Event for Kate Josephs, who led Covid-19 Taskforce, on 17 Dec 2020. Means three partygate events have now triggered fines.… Two sources familiar with developments told @Telegraph Fixed Penalty Notices over the event have been issued in recent days.

Dozens of officials said to have attended and alcohol was served. At the time indoor socialising in London was barred beyond household / support bubble.
Apr 4 8 tweets 2 min read
Breaking: Channel Four will be put up for sale by the Government. Sold before the 2024 election. Planned timeline:

End of month - White Paper confirming plans
April 2023 - Get 'Media Bill' proposing it into law
Late 2023 - Sale
Early 2024 - Completion

[Next election due May 2024 at latest]
Apr 1 7 tweets 2 min read

Plans being worked up for the energy strategy due next week would see UK onshore wind power **treble**.

Ambition passed to officials is to hit 45 gigawatt capacity by 2035. Today it’s 15 gigawatts. Equals thousands more onshore turbines. The detailed work was commissioned after meetings b/w Boris Johnson and Kwasi Kwarteng last month.

The big final decision on onshore wind (+ entire energy independence strategy) expected next week.

PM yet to make his call, said to be “conscious” of past Tory criticism.
Mar 19 15 tweets 3 min read

This week I talked to a load of people close to Rishi Sunak + Boris Johnson to work out the state of their relationship. There have been strains. Some intel:

1/ Rishi told an MP earlier this year he was considering resigning as Chancellor… Was at the height of the PM’s leadership wobble, with partygate spiralling + Boris thinking of scrapping the National Insurance rise.

Sunak thought ditching a policy agreed just months ago for party reasons was wrong. “This is not serious government” he keep saying (per source).
Mar 12 7 tweets 2 min read
1/ A defence spending row in Cabinet is emerging and a big one to watch in the coming week.

We reported today Treasury is holding firm against calls for an increase. But MOD pushing for a permanent rise in the Spring Statement, with support from others deps. The political mood… … makes rejecting those calls tricky. Just take a look at who is publicly backing an increase. Cabinet figures (Liz Truss keeps saying West failed to spend enough). Labour (Keir Starmer wants the 10,000 troop cut scrapped). And yes Tories and ex-military chiefs, but… 2/
Mar 8 12 tweets 3 min read

Boris Johnson has opened the door to a return to fracking in the UK, The Telegraph understands.

Wants his ministers to look again at whether it can play a part in improving UK energy independence.… The shift in position is nuanced but has been playing out behind closed doors in the last fortnight, we understand.

For two+ years the PM has been full square behind the “moratorium” on fracking. But he is understood to be reassessing given the Russian situ.
Mar 7 6 tweets 2 min read

The UK is considering giving Ukrainian fighters weapons for years after any Russian takeover to spur on a “resistance” movement.

Any puppet regime installed by Putin would not be recognised by London. A government in exile - perhaps Poland - would continue. So-called “scenario planning” for what could happen in the weeks and months ahead has featured at recent Cobr meetings.

Three broad scenarios being looked at - a total Russian military victory, a partial victory where fighting grinds on or a defeat for Putin.
Feb 15 4 tweets 1 min read

Scotland Yard will reveal how many people are fined at each ‘partygate’ event they are investigating.

From a leaked Q&A sent to civil servants. It means we will know how many (if any) are fined for the alleged Downing St ‘Abba party’.… It had been unclear if the public would know the scale of any fines, given individuals fined won’t be named.

But Q&A says:

The Met’s “approach during the pandemic has been to confirm the number of FPNs issued at particular events and to explain what those FPNs were issued for”
Jan 31 5 tweets 2 min read
Breaking: Scotland Yard just said they've been handed more than **300** photographs as part of their partygate probe. Wow. Met Commander Catherine Roper: "We had a bundle of material provided to us just Friday which is well over 500 pieces of paper, about a ream and a half, and over 300 photographs." [Via PA]
Jan 31 5 tweets 1 min read
*Sue Gray’s partygate findings*

:: Behaviour 'difficult to justify’
:: ‘Failures of leadership and judgement’
:: Some events shouldn’t have taken place
:: ‘Excessive consumption of alcohol’
:: Inappropriate use of Downing St garden
:: Staff felt they couldn't raise concern *Details of Sue Gray's partygate probe*
:: More than 70 people interviewed
:: Photographs obtained
:: Emails, Whatsapps and texts obtained
:: Entry and exit logs obtained
:: All not published, will be kept private for now
Jan 30 5 tweets 2 min read

The Government is set to DROP its legal requirement for NHS and social care workers to get Covid jabs.

Final decision on about-turn due at Covid-O meeting tomorrow. Huge change in vaccination policy. With @GabriellaSwerl.… The legal requirement for NHS workers to be double jabbed was due to kick in this April.

Which meant that the unvaccinated had to get their first jab on Thursday (Feb 3) or face the sack.

Had been warnings this would force out 80,000 NHS workers.
Jan 30 5 tweets 1 min read

Downing Street officials filled a suitcase full of booze under not one but THREE Tory prime ministers.

Multiple sources in No10 during the Cameron and May premierships tell all about its use for Friday drinks.… How it would work, per multiple former Downing Street officials:

:: Suitcase was black with wheels and a handle

:: Was hand luggage sized, so could fit around six bottles of wine

:: Was often kept in the cupboard in press officers’ area of Downing St
Jan 29 4 tweets 1 min read
EXC: David Canzini + Antonia Romeo are in talks to join Downing Street as part of Boris’s staff shake-up

Canzini, a Lynton Crosby ally + former Tory exec, lined up for senior political adviser

Romeo, Justice perm sec, may become top civil servant in No10… Canzini’s been around Tory politics for 20yrs. Ex-director of campaigning for party

First floated for a No10 job late last year, now close to happening

More likely as adviser than chief of staff. Could rebuild ties with Tory backbench. (Was part of DD’s 05 leadership campaign)
Jan 21 6 tweets 2 min read
EXC: Email leaked to Tel shows Boris Johnson’s chief of staff cancelled his regular Friday meeting with special advisers today.

Speculation mounts he (Dan Rosenfield) could be gone with other senior folk next week as PM shuffles his inner circle after Sue Gray report. Image The cancellation - done supposedly on the grounds of Covid rule changes meaning a virtual meeting wasn’t worth it - has set tongues wagging.

One source due to attend: “There are lots of rumours about what that means. Silence speaks louder than words at a time like this.”
Jan 21 7 tweets 2 min read

The Telegraph can reveal new details of the Downing Street parties the night before Prince Philip’s funeral.

Texts we’ve seen indicate staff were still going at 1am (so 7hr drinking session). Photograph confirms staff gathered in the basement.… Eyewitness claims include:

:: Wine was spilled on office printer, so much some feared it was broken

:: Some attendees late at night had a go on Wilf Johnson’s garden slide

:: Takeaway was ordered, with four large pizzas handed round in garden
Jan 13 9 tweets 3 min read

Downing Street staff drank into the early hours at two leaving dos the night before Prince Philip’s funeral.

April 16 2021. UK in public mourning. Indoor mixing was barred. The next day the Queen sat alone as she mourned. (With @Tony_Diver)… The two events began in separate parts of Downing Street.

One was for departure of James Slack, then Boris’s director of comms. The other for one of Mr Johnson’s photographers.

We have talked to eyewitnesses.
Jan 12 6 tweets 2 min read
What on earth could the PM say at PMQs? We don’t know. But to speculate, some options. 1/ A major mea culpa. Accept gatherings happened that looked inappropriate, possibly someone goes. Say sorry, even while arguing somehow rules weren’t broken on work grounds. 2/… Argue that PM was not aware of the invitation or organisation of the May 20 drinks. Theoretically could try to repeat defence from the Guardian photo gathering - thought it was in work talking about work with drinks. We don’t know yet for sure PM knew about Reynolds email. 3/…