RICHARD PORRITT on the week’s big stories, including a chaotic reshuffle, an unlikely resurrection and criticism of Portuguese parenting
For a time this week Wikipedia listed among Chris Grayling’s roles ‘Conservative Party Chairman January 8, 2017 – January 8, 2017’.
Conservative Campaign Headquarters veteran Iain Carter was the man at least partly responsible for the blunder which saw a picture of Grayling sent out to MPs offering him congratualations.
Lots of MPs subsequently tweeted the picture which must have been very confusing for poor Brandon Lewis, who was inside Number 10 at the time awaiting his appointment to the role.
One Conservative staffer, head in hands, said: ‘Poor Iain. He is deemed a safe pair of hands, and rightly so. It seems though that the gaffes are becoming endemic. Pretty soon everyone is going to be infected.’
The reshuffle continued as it began: in chaos.
First Jeremy Hunt refused to budge. Then Greg Clark. And then Justine Greening took her bat and ball home, and quite rightly so as one of Theresa May’s more able Cabinet members. Coming into this week May was seen as having got back some of her authority. That’s gone again now.
One former Tory minister said: ‘She ended the year in not a bad place, to the point where she was making a virtue of her ability to walk through fires.
‘The ability to come out the other side of a burning building, which is I think the way she looked at the end of last year, isn’t enhanced by an ability to walk into a burning building deliberately.’
Brexit foes David Davies and Philip Hammond travelled to Berlin in a show of unity to persuade business leaders the UK should be afforded the most comprehensive agreement possible. In a joint letter in the Frankfurter Allgemeine the pair wrote: ‘It makes no sense to either Germany or Britain to put in place unnecessary barriers to trade in goods and services that would only damage businesses and economic growth on both sides of the Channel.’
The plan is, as Davis has stated, for Britain to get an even better low-tariff deal than Canada. But on the same day the FT reported how the EU was ‘systematically warning’ UK companies of a ‘regulatory chill’ post Brexit. Nothing ever goes to plan for this Government does it?
Norwegian politics has been rocked by claims of sexual misconduct.
The deputy leader of the Labour Party Trond Giske was forced to step down after a raft of allegations against him were made public.
The 51-year-old, who had served in numerous ministerial roles including as trade minister most recently, was accused by one former colleague of pressing her against a wall and kissing her while the pair were on an overseas trip.
In a statement Giske – who is in a high-profile relationship with Norwegian singer and journalist Haddy N’jie – said he was stepping down as ‘the burden has become too heavy and it weighs down on those I love the most and who have not themselves chosen a political life’.
He added that he plans to address what he says are ‘inaccurate’ about the claims.
This is just the latest bad news for Labour – a party that prides itself on being at the forefront of equality issues – after disappointing results in elections in the autumn. Many in the party are now calling for an overhaul with new faces being promoted and a new direction embraced.
Snoring is universally hated but for one chap in Spain it prevented him waking up during his own post-mortem.
Prisoner Gonzalo Montoya Jiménez was found unresponsive on the floor of his cell by guards and subsequently checked by three doctors. They all declared the 29-year-old dead. RIP Gonzalo.
Death certificates were signed, shocked family were told the bad news and his body was transferred from his cell in Asturias to a morgue in Oviedo for his autopsy.
But just moments before the doctors were about to plunge their scalpels into Gonzalo’s chest they heard snoring coming from the body bag. The doctors woke him up and helped him to his feet.
Doctors now believe he was suffering from catalepsy, a condition which causes rigid muscles regardless of stimulation. His father said: ‘It’s a miracle. A miracle. And a huge negligence.’
Meanwhile in neighbouring Portugal parents are giving their children cigarettes to celebrate Epiphany.
The village of Vale de Salgueiro allows the practice each year, causing an outcry among outsiders.
Locals say the tradition is centuries-old, but nobody is sure what it symbolises or why parents buy ciggies for their kiddies. Mum Guilhermina Mateus said: ‘I don’t see any harm in that because they don’t really smoke, they inhale and immediately exhale.’ Sounds exactly like smoking to me.