Boris Johnson news – live: No 10 insists PM ‘well’ after speech and Rayner pans ‘tax on north’ care plans
MPs vote to approve controversial social care proposals
Downing Street has said Boris Johnson “is well” amid concerns for his welfare following a rambling speech he gave to business leaders on Monday, in which he went on a tangent about the Peppa Pig theme park.
“He seemed to have lost the plot,” a Tory MP told The Independent. “He has obviously been under a great deal of stress for the last fortnight, and I think he needs a break.”
Meanwhile, Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner earlier branded the government’s changes to England’s social care system a “con” and a form of “inheritance tax on the north” – accusing ministers of making her “constituents and the poorest pensioners lose their homes to protect millionaires’ mansions”.
Changes to the health and care bill, pushed through in the Commons last night by a slim majority of 272-246, will save the government £900m a year by making a proposed cap on lifetime social care costs significantly less generous for poorer pensioners, while allowing wealthy home-owners to pass the majority of their assets on to their children.
‘I wasn’t calling Laura ridiculous’: Dorries defends tweet to BBC’s Kuenssberg
Back to Nadine Dorries again, who is being cross-examined by SNP MP John Nicolson for her infamous history on social media.
Being reminded about multiple instances in which she tweeted “inappropriate” messages, Dorries largely refuses to answer, saying she “isn’t here today to answer questions about tweets I sent out years ago”.
Asked about one particular incident, which happened just last week, and saw Dorries quote tweet the BBC’s political editor and criticise her reporting, Dorries defended her actions.
Laura Kuenssberg had tweeted: “After PMQs, then liaison committee, the prime minister then went to face his own MPs at the 1922 committee – one texts to say, ‘he looked weak and sounded weak’, ‘authority is evaporating.’”
The cabinet minister replied and said: “Laura, I very much like you and respect you, but we both know, that text is ridiculous although nowhere near as ridiculous as the person – obviously totally desperate for your attention – who sent it.”
Grilled about the now-deleted tweet on Tuesday, Dorries said she “wasn’t calling Laura ridiculous” – and insisted Ms Kuenssberg is “probably the best in the business” – and said she was in fact calling the content of her tweet ridiculous “and the source it came from”.
The exchange between Dorries and Nicholson got pretty heated and ended with the former pulling up a tweet by the SNP politician in which he accused her of being “unstable” – despite claiming he refrained from tweeting rude or inappropriate content.
Dorries vague on potential privatisation of Channel 4
Back to Nadine Dorries now, who is being asked about the BBC and Channel 4. The culture secretary tells the DCMS committee it is the government’s “responsibility to check the viability” of public service broadcasters.
“I think what we are doing in terms of looking at the future of Channel 4, we are doing the same thing [as when we scrutinise the BBC],” she said.
“I know there is all this speculation about ‘the decision has been made’ and ‘they are going to privatise Channel 4’ but we are not. We are evaluating the future of Channel 4 and whether it is a sustainable model.
“A decision has not been taken. When we get to the point of possibly taking a decision, when we get to the point of considering all the evidence, then we can probably have this discussion.
“But at the moment I think it is right and proper we evaluate the future of a public service broadcaster.”
Asked whether there was more or less chance of Channel 4 being privatised following her appointment in the reshuffle, she said simply: “I am not going to answer that question because I can’t give you an answer because I haven’t made a decision.”
French fishermen warn of fresh protests in licence dispute
Stepping away from Westminster, French fishermen have warned of the “imminent” resumption of disruptive protests in the English Channel, as talks over licences to operate in UK territorial waters drag on without resolution.
The chair of the Northern France regional fisheries committee, Olivier Lepretre, said that sailors were ready to “cut off” UK access to European markets, but refused to spell out how this would be done.
One French fisherman awaiting a licence suggested it could involve an attempt to block British vessels’ access to French ports from Friday this week, writes our political editor Andrew Woodcock.
Asked what a “snowflake leftie” is, Nadine Dorries joked: “Probably my kids.”
Asked what an “Islington leftie” is, she replied: “Again, one of my kids.”
Ms Dorries denied she uses the terms “quite a lot”, adding: “I think I might have used it once in a general term. I’ve certainly never used it as a secretary of state, which is what I’m here as today.”
Discussing the response of the arts sector to her appointment, she said: “The arts sector is a pretty huge sector, I don’t think they all opposed my position, but there were certainly a vocal number, mostly, possibly wholly male, who quite used to and quite frequently comment and continue to do so.
“Were they all from the left? Yes, I think there were a number of people who sadly used my appointment as a means of political attack and that did happen.”
Dorries denies govt changed job description for Paul Dacre
Culture secretary Nadine Dorries is currently being grilled by MPs about ongoing work at her department.
Quizzed about rumours circling in the media about former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre, Ms Dorries says the government did not “alter” the job description to aid Mr Dacre in the application process for chairman of Ofcom.
It comes after the government previously decided to rerun the process after an initial round of interviews failed to find a new chair.
“My predecessor in my post, before I arrived, decided to rerun the competition, quite rightly, for the head of Ofcom, and that process ran,” she told MPs on the digital, culture, media and sport committee. “There is no way we can exclude anyone from applying whether they were found unsuitable first time round or not.”
Mr Dacre yesterday withdrew from the race and announced he was returning to the Mail as editor-in-chief at the newspaper’s publisher.
PM not unwell, says No 10 after shambolic CBI speech
Downing Street has insisted Boris Johnson is well, after his stumbling delivery of a speech to the CBI prompted questions over whether he was suffering the effects of stress or ill-health.
The prime minister was asked by an ITV reporter if “everything was OK” in a TV interview following his shambolic address, to which the PM said his address “went over well”.
Meanwhile, a Tory MP told The Independent the PM’s demeanour during the speech – when he fell silent after losing his place and stumbled over words – was “very worrying” and that he “seemed to have lost the plot”.
Downing Street reiterates warning over ‘some’ Christmas gift shortages
Turkey supplies are safe this Christmas but shoppers could still face “some issues” getting all the presents on their lists, Downing Street has indicated.
Boris Johnson’s cabinet discussed the potential issues facing the country this winter, ranging from pressures on the NHS to what would be on festive dinner tables.
The PM’s official spokesman said that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Stephen Barclay, had told ministers the country faced a combination of the usual winter pressures and the pandemic.
Mr Barclay, who is leading cross-Government work on the issues, told ministers: “We face the dual challenge of managing the regular pressures the colder and wetter months can bring alongside the additional challenge of an ongoing global pandemic and the knock-on effects this is having, including on global supply chains and energy supply,” Downing Street said.