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A Sky News Analysis of the latest power play from number 10, over their pick for the powerful Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) of parliament, may expose further evidence of Dominic Cummings obsession with control over all aspects of Johnson’s Tory Government. In Sky’s piece entitled, “Why Boris Johnson’s brutal revenge could make a bad situation much worse,” they say that, “One Tory MP blames Dominic Cummings for a decision that many in parliament believe is a massive overreaction by Number 10.” At any other time, expecting members of the strategically important ICS to elect ‘failing Grayling’ as their Chair would have been seen as dangerously misguided, but we have come to expect compliant MPs being moved into positions of influence; if Johnson is hurtling towards absolute dictatorship such control is essential. Placing the notoriously blunder prone MP, who has no experience in either the Intelligence or Security sectors, as Chair of the ICS was a serious error corrected by concerned committee members.
Emily Maitlis dutifully read out the BBC prepared headline on Newsnight announcing that, “The Prime Minister loses control of the Intelligence Committee after a plot by opposition MPs. What does this mean for the long-awaited publication of the Russia Report?“ What that propaganda headline failed to address was that the PM had no right to attempt control of the Intelligence and Security Committee, the ISC were correct to agree on an eminently more qualified candidate for such an important committee Chair; they would not have needed to act in such a seemingly clandestine way if this Tory Government wasn’t so determined to deviously strengthen its vice-grip on power! In addition there is widespread agreement that Boris Johnson had absolutely no right to block publication of that controversial report due for release before the Covert 2019 Rigged Election. But the BBC tried to paint a totally different picture with Nick Watt warping the public perception in favour of the righteous Tory Government stymied by evil plotters.
Maitlis said, “It’s a plot that owes more to a Westminster box set than the minutia of a nine person ballot. But tonight after what’s been described as a last minute coup, opposition members of the Intelligence and Security Committee have installed their man as chair confounding Number 10s plans to cement former Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, in place.” Bypassing Grayling’s renown incompetence, she said, “He was beaten by the independent minded Conservative MP Julian Lewis who has now found himself on the wrong side of his party. Why does all this matter? Because the Government no longer has a guaranteed majority on that committee, meaning Number 10 may lose control of the publication of the long awaited, and much anticipated Russia Report. As a long standing critic of Russia Julian Lewis may be keen to get it out and Newsnight has learned we could see the report made public as soon as next week.” Maitlis described it as “a day of high drama” before handing over to BBC Political Editor Nick Watt.
Watt began with the quip that was supposed to be funny, saying “It’s a case of House of Cards meets Freddy Forsyth;” he then proceeded to present a lurid tale of political skulduggery. He continued, “with meetings, clandestine meetings in the corridors of Westminster; so in the last few days some Labour figures went to Julian and said would you like to be Chairman because if you would like to be, we can guarantee that there will be the votes for you because all the opposition members of the committee will vote for you. That was agreed and they all kept quiet; one Labour figure said to me, they joked to me, that we basically kept Julian Lewis under house arrest for 48 hours. So when Julian Lewis went for the security clearance that you have to have for this committee, he went there this afternoon, he said he would like to stand for Chairman of the Committee and the first that Chris Grayling knew of this was when the Clark of the committee said that there were two candidates for the election.”
Watt continued, “…the first that Chris Grayling knew that it was Julian Lewis was when he saw his name on the ballot paper. Now there is absolute fury on the Tory side and as you say Julian Lewis has had the whip, the Conservative whip removed from him. A senior Tory source is saying Julian Lewis had actually seen the Chief Whip, Mark Spencer, and said that he would support Chris Grayling as Chairman. He then colluded they say with Labour to install himself and did not tell the Chief Whip, and they say that that is showing deep disrespect to the Chief Whip and to his staff. Now tonight we have also had a bit of a fight-back from the Grayling camp and friends are telling me that he never thought that the job was in the bag and it is completely wrong to say that he was a placement of Number 10 and Dominic Cummings because he had not exactly the warmest of relations with Dominic Cummings when they were on the same side in the Brexit campaign.” Not true; it was well reported he was nominated for the post.
Maitlis interjected, “The bigger question to all this is where it leaves the publication of the Russia Report; what are you hearing?” Watt replied that, “Well as you were saying Emily this means that the Government no longer has a guaranteed majority on this committee and Labour is confident that Julian Lewis will support the publication of that report next week possibly on Wednesday. Now they believe, that without Julian Lewis as Chair there was no guarantee of when and how this report would be published. Downing Street has consistently said that there is a very simple reason for why this report has been delayed, its that the committee had to be collapsed for the General Election; they also say the report, when we do see it, is going to be underwhelming. But one source, familiar with that report, told me there is enough in the report to cause trouble for the Conservative Party.” Of course that is why the Russia Report has remained under wraps for nine months to protect the Tory Party from serious accusations of corruption!
Emily Maitlis hosted Chairman of the Defence Select Committee, Conservative MP, Tobias Elwood and former ICS Committee Chair and Tory rebel, Dominic Grieve, who was one of the 21 Tory MPs ruthlessly purged from the party by Boris Johnson for defying the Whip over Brexit. Elwood spoke first. As Maitlis asked for his response, he waffled on about the urgent need to get the committee up and running and the important work that needed to be done. He said, “It provides a unique and critical function with oversight of our clandestine agencies,” but I gagged when he said, “effective scrutiny is not just good for our democracy it actually helps raise the bar…” This was the extreme height of hypocrisy coming from a Tory MP representing a Government determined to eliminate all scrutiny who had stifled a critical report for nine months to protect their electability and their powerful interests. Maitlis tried to steer him back on track, but Elwood was focused on damage control, he had to scupper that Russia Report bombshell.
Maitlis tried again, “What we’re seeing today is a silent coup by opposition members; we’ve heard that the whip has now been removed from Julian Lewis: it looks like a setback for the Government. I’m asking for your comment on the drama…” Aside from saying it was “unfortunate” Elwood tried hard to detract from questions posed by Maitlis and downplay the relevance of the Russia Report as if it could be ditched… things had moved on. Maitlis returned to Julian Lewis and the heavy-handed tactics of Number 10, “the lack of respect they’ve show Parliament has done them no good.” Maitlis wanted to know if Elwood sympathised with the Chief Whip or Julian Lewis? Elwood had to admit that as his predecessor on the Defence Committee, “Lewis had a lot of relevant experience…” He certainly couldn’t claim Grayling was more qualified to take the Chair and his track record in Ministerial roles was abysmal. This debacle was far more succinctly articulated by Dominic Grieve when he had his chance to clarify the situation.
Grieve voiced his incredulity saying, “What it does tell me is that this Government does not understand what the Intelligence and Security Committee is there to do. This is a nonpartisan committee and I think I’m right in saying it has never, ever had a vote in its history. It proceeds by consensus. If you were to attend its meetings, obviously they take place in secret, you wouldn’t know who’s a member of which political party. So the idea that there’s something wrong in Julian Lewis getting support from Labour or SNP MPs to become the Chair cannot be right because that is to politicize it in a party political way, whereas the statute that sets this committee up makes quite clear that it is for the committee members at their first meeting to elect their Chair. It doesn’t say the party that is biggest will get the Chairmanship. Indeed, in the past, even with nominated Chairs there have been times when it has been an opposition MP who has been the chair of the committee when the Government of another party is in power.”
Grieve continued, “So what troubles me about this episode, quite apart from its utter absurdity and now withdrawing the whip from Julian, who is indeed highly respected, is the mindset it gives about what on earth is going on in Downing Street. Why did they try to manipulate this process? They shouldn’t have done; the committee can only exist, the committee be respected in the way that Tobias wants if it is seen to be nonpartisan and independent and on the whole in its previous years of existence it has succeeded in doing that.” Maitlis replied, “you will know that Chris Grayling denies that he was being manipulated or was there as a stooge of Number 10 and as we heard from Nick that the problem with Julian Lewis was saying one thing to the Whip and doing something else.” Grieve’s response was clear, “Well I think what I’m saying is that the Whip should never have asked him that question.” It was yet another classic example of this corrupt Tory Government trying to solidify their total vice-grip control over everything.
Grieve provided more insight into how the committee had traditionally always been selected. He elaborated saying that, “ultimately the Prime Minister has a considerable exercise of veto on this committee because the Conservative Party members who go on it will be nominated by him and the opposition members, he has to agree to them as well for security reasons, and he negotiates that with the Leader of the opposition. Once he’s done that, once the list has been ratified by the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the Prime Minister and Number 10 should be playing no further part in trying to steer or manipulate this committee. It should be left to its own devices to get on and history shows that when you do that it can do some good work.” So why doesn’t this Tory Government want to pick the single most qualified person for the job? Grayling was just a useful idiot that Cummings could easily control and that was more important than his experience or credentials; to secure the dictatorship they needed a loyal stooge!
Maitlis shifted back to the Russian Report and Grieve was right to point out that it was ready for release before the Covert 2019 Rigged Election, which begged the question why was it suppressed? The suspicions grow stronger with every manoeuvre that the Tories pull to keep the information hidden, but Elwood sticks to his, ‘old news, redundant, nothing to see here’ lame, guilty stance.
Maitlis was under orders, she has been slapped down in the recent past for daring to ‘tell it like it is’ in her presentation over the Dominic Cummings breach of lockdown. The public outrage over the gross injustice of Cummings remaining in post led to a really forceful push-back as people rallied in support of Maitlis concerned over her unscheduled absence from Newsnight. The BBC had not anticipated such a strong reaction which escalated into a huge embarrassment for the BBC. She got a strong warning; her wings clipped as they couldn’t just fire her, but the strength of the public response may mean Maitlis is no longer totally gagged.
However, according to Sky, “Mr Grayling and the government whips had both made a major blunder. Neither had sounded out the senior Tory backbencher Dr Julian Lewis and made sure that he was going to vote for Mr Grayling.” When asked by the committee Clerk, “if there were any more nominations for chairman, Dr Lewis nominated himself and was immediately backed by the three Labour and one Scottish National Party member.” Sky revealed that the, “Result: 5-4 to Dr Lewis, leaving Mr Grayling – cruelly lampooned as ‘failing Grayling’ after his accident-prone cabinet career – and the prime minister humiliated, and the Number 10 machine who were so desperate to see their loyalist nomination elected absolutely furious. ‘Grayling is the only person ever to have lost a rigged election,’ said one Tory MP.” Sky News claim that, “Chris Grayling thought he had the chairmanship in the bag.”
Sky said, “Mr Grayling had been ambushed. It had been a bloodless coup. But that was about to change. Within an hour of the decisive vote in the Macmillan Room, it emerged that the committee would meet again at 10am the following morning and almost certainly agree to publish the committee’s long-suppressed report on allegations of Russian meddling in UK politics. Dr Lewis had the whip withdrawn government sources told Sky News, ‘for working with Labour and other opposition MPs for his own advantage’. The decision sent shockwaves through Westminster. ‘This is gangster politics,’ one member of the committee was reported to have said. The consensus among many MPs was that Number 10 was guilty of a massive overreaction which has made what was only a moderately bad situation much, much worse. Dr Lewis has suffered the fate of the 21 pro-Remain Tory MPs who defied Mr Johnson in Brexit votes last year, including – in a delicious irony – the former chairman of the ISC, Dominic Grieve.”
Sky News report of one senior MP saying: “Removing the whip from Julian also massively strengthens his authority and boosts his independence from the government. ‘He is also very popular with the Tory old guard on the backbenches, the old knights of the shires, the Thatcherites and the veteran Brexiteers. He’s one of them and they won’t like it.” Sky concur that, “Dr Lewis is indeed popular with MPs on both sides of the House. He was a successful chairman of the Defence Select Committee for four years. He is independent-minded and, despite being a Brexiteer, was a big defender of John Bercow during the former speaker’s battles with Mr Johnson last year.” According to Sky, “MPs blame the prime minister’s controversial adviser, Dominic Cummings, for Number 10’s brutal revenge on Dr Lewis. ‘This isn’t the Chief Whip’s decision,’ one senior MP told Sky News. ‘It’s Cummings, and it’s absolutely bonkers.’ Number 10’s retribution against Dr Lewis may not be over, however.” Cummings must be removed ASAP!
Today there was a clumsy pre-emptive strike with the regurgitated accusation that Russia had leaked details on the US Trade deal to the Labour Party during the Election campaign. This was a blatant attempt to convince the public that the ‘Russian interference’ in UK elections was all about Labour gaining an unfair advantage with help from Putin. It was really important to get that accusation in well ahead of any revelations that Russian Oligarchs are bankrolling the Tories and buying their support for the destabilization of the EU; an agenda that has successfully gone into overdrive with Brexit. Cummings, who spent three years living in Moscow and almost certainly speaks Russian, is hip deep in this scandal; so will he be exposed? Cummings must submit to questioning and we need a full investigation into the Covert 2019 Rigged Election. Spoiler alert: an angry Tory Lion is on the prowl; anticipate a really massive ‘Dead Cat’ to detract from the damage of the Russian Report. Cummings is the grenade, oust him and you pull the pin! DO NOT MOVE ON!